Proper gym etiquette

Sunday December 16 2018


By Jackson Biko

I joined the gym this year because it was one of my New Year resolutions. I said I’d work out until end of November, which I have, so I’m feeling proud of this achievement.

I thought I’d lose my small paunch; that hasn’t happened. But my cholesterol isn’t bad and my BMI is normal, so who cares if I can’t bench-press 85kgs? At what point in life will I be required to lift 85kgs of anything? I don’t work in a warehouse in Industrial Area.

But gym was interesting. If you are planning on joining next year, here is some of the things I have learnt that might help you.

Type of gym

I went and joined a sort of showbiz-y gym. There were men in love with themselves. Men who went to the gym with cameras to record themselves for purposes of social media. And gym instructors who were too posh to speak to you. Everybody had an attitude, including the cleaning staff.

But you can’t blame them; the music was hip, the water bottles folks came with matched their clothes, dreadlocked men stared at themselves in mirrors, the ladies wore matching exercise gear. Some wore tumbo cuts . The vibe was uppity.

If you want to get to a gym to work out and not be seen, pick a gym where instructors scream, “Goddamnit, John, if you can’t do another set, go home and drink milk from a bottle,” and people punch and skip and box and sweat and nobody has time to admire themselves in the mirror.

Right gear

Invest in the best gym gear; it will not only help you in getting your workout done the right and safe way, but you will enjoy the experience. To mean, you can’t sweat well in a promotional t-shirt. You can’t run well on the treadmill in shoes meant to visit in-laws in. The right quality gear lasts forever. Which means you need to know a guy who sells mitumba. You are never too important for mitumba. Nobody I know is.


Avoid airing your political views in the changing room, like some people do. You will only end up annoying other gym members, especially if your position is clear.

But your position will be picked even if you don’t say it; people will simply look at your nose, or how you are built at the waist, your accent, or the colour of your gear. Being vocal in the gym with your politics means that one day a weight might “accidentally” fall on your leg. Because people take these things to heart.

The weight contest

Women make men do foolish things. Like lift weights that they can’t handle. Or run faster on the treadmill. I once saw a man fall off the treadmill and nearly break his neck because he was showing off. And there is nothing as tragic as watching a grown man, someone’s father/uncle, fall off a treadmill.


Sometimes you will make great contacts in the gym. Or hear profound words of wisdom in the changing room. One time when I was changing a guy was saying, “ ...when I went for my further studies to do my PhD, I didn’t know how I was going to survive in Russia, but I went because I knew I was going to figure it out while there. And I did, after a while.” I went and took a shower and when I came back I caught the tail end of his story.

He was saying, “...when you have a loan of Sh18 million how can you sleep comfortably? It means every end of the month you have to have at least Sh250,000 in your account for the bank to take theirs. Look. We are young (he looked 45-ish) so there is no reason we should sleep comfortably. If you take small risks you will just be doing small things. Take risks that make you wake up very early... we can’t afford to sleep too comfortably at this age.”

Those words stayed with me for many weeks. Happy gyming next year! This month we binge on carbs and feast on festive food! Daily Nation.