After finishing up three different leg and glute-focused exercises—squats, hip thrusts, and donkey kickbacks—I headed toward the hip abductor machine on the first floor of my gym. Hip abductions were my final exercise, and hopping on the machine meant that I could wrap up my workout after a long day of work.
To no surprise, it was already taken by a gym-goer and their partner, as many of the machines typically are during peak times in New York City (and just about every other populated city). So I decided to ask, “Excuse me, how many sets do you have left?” Usually, if the reply goes something like “I’ve got 30 minutes left” or “Ten more sets,” I’ll bounce to another machine before returning. But the person on the hip abductor machine replied: “Sorry, I just got here.” Flustered, I just said “Okay,” and left.
As a weightlifter who frequents the gym often, I find this response to be super frustrating. In all reality, “Sorry, I just got here” is simply code for, “I’m going to be here for a while, so you can leave.”
While people aren’t technically required to respond (rude if you don’t, IMO), it’s an unspoken rule and considered proper gym etiquette to inform others how many sets we have left. This way, people aren’t left guessing on whether they should wait or go forward with their routine.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this response. Of all the gyms I’ve been to in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Wisconsin, “Sorry, I just got here” has been a common response among them all.
In one of the gyms in Queens that I used to visit, I witnessed people not only giving me attitude when I asked how many sets they had left, but also hogging weights, not wiping down their equipment, and even walking out of the bathroom without washing their hands (gross, I know). Instead of feeling amped about going to the gym, I had so much built-up anxiety that I dreaded it, so much so that I created excuses in my head to skip gym days because I didn’t want to deal.
On days that I nudged myself to lift, I listened to an annoying amount of “Sorry, I just got here,” often waiting 30 minutes to an hour for a squat rack, cable machine, or bench. By the time I finished waiting, my muscles had cooled down and I had to restart my warmup—or worse, the gym was closing.
Gyms are supposed to be spaces where people can destress and unwind from a long day. But the atmosphere is only as good as people make it. By sharing how many sets we have left, or better yet, offering people the chance to work in if we’re going to take a while, we’re in turn creating a healthier and friendlier environment where everyone can lift, sweat, and work out without wasting their time.