Gym Rush Hour Survival Guide

It’s 6:00pm. Classes are ending for the day and students all flock to the gym like it’s the hottest new nightclub. The back-to-school gym rush at Florida State is always overwhelming, masses of students matched only by the the week before spring break. As an incoming senior and avid gym-goer, I’ve developed key strategies over the years for navigating a packed gym during rush hour. 

Here they are:

1. Ask to work in.

I know this is easier said than done. But 99% of the time the person is going to say yes. Empathy is a powerful thing: the other students are probably just as annoyed as you are with the overcrowded gym, and most will gladly allow you to hop in during their rest periods.

Keep in mind, though, that you also have to be friendly and reasonable. If you stand around for ten minutes tapping your foot and rolling your eyes, the person using the equipment is much less likely to let you work in than if you simply approached them with a smile and a polite request. 

Keep gym etiquette in mind, too:

  • Always wait until the person using the equipment is done with their current set before asking to work in. No one, including you, wants to be distracted on that last rep to failure.
  • Be considerate of the weights that the other person is using. For example: I am not going to ask someone who is deadlifting 315 to work in because we would have to un-rack multiple plates between each set, taking up valuable time and energy.

In all honesty, it took me years to feel comfortable asking others to work in. Even now, intimidation sometimes gets the best of me. But I’ve realized that if I don’t ask, I take the risk of spending most of my workout standing around waiting. So just ask– you might even make a friend!

2. Stand your ground

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pressured to finish my sets, incessantly asked, “Are you still using that?” when I clearly am, and even blatantly lied to about another persons use of equipment.  You have as much of a right to finish your workout as anyone else. Don’t give in to gym bullies. 

3. Have a back-up plan

If you come into the gym with a workout plan that you refuse to deviate from, you’re in for a world of waiting. Be flexible. If I start with my heart set on barbell squatting but find that the squat rack line is more than 5 people long, I’ll switch to the Smith machine or hack squat. Sure, it’s not ideal, but it gets the job done and is far preferable to spending an extra hour at the gym because of wait time.

Flexibility is key. For almost every machine exercise there is an equivalent dumbbell or cable variation. If you have an arsenal of alternates for every exercise you had planned, it’s likely that at least one will be available and you will still have a killer workout without unbearably long rest periods.

4. Switch up your training split.

Everyone knows that Monday is international chest day. And don’t even bother trying to secure a squat rack on humpday.

Sticking to a conventional ‘Bro Split’, i.e., chest/tris followed by back/bis followed by legs, will leave you training those body parts on the same day as the majority of other gym-goers. By switching up the order you train each body part, not only will you be amazed at the availability of equipment, but you may even blast through a training plateau.  

5. Don’t contribute to the mayhem.

If you are serious about your workouts, then you know that time spent at the gym is not social hour.

Try not to train with more than two other people, since your group will likely be hogging a piece of equipment for an extended period of time. If you do train with a group, be sure not to stand around idly, chatting it up between sets– especially if other people are waiting.

Even more crucial: definitely don’t spend extended periods of time engrossed in your phone or taking ‘swolefies’ in the middle of a crowded gym floor. Not gonna lie– I love my swolefies as much a the next girl. But I try to be polite about it: I take them in a secluded area or snap a quick photo during my rest period. By paying attention to your phone instead of your surroundings, you are a hazard (and annoyance) to yourself and others. 

6. Always use basic gym etiquette.

Be considerate of others’ personal space, use equipment as it is meant to be used (ie. don’t curl in the squat rack), put used equipment back in it’s place, and don’t be that 1% that refuses to let others work in. 

Contributing writer: Serena Baldwin

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