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Gym Smells — What They Mean

Courtesy of Richard Heathcote, Getty Images.

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog about cardio machine etiquette and how it is not polite to stare at someone else while they work out.  Many of you agreed with my fustration — some also knew exactly what I had experienced, having experienced it themselves.

I now write to you about something else at the gym — something that affects not only the guilty party, but the innocent bystanders.  Everyone who works out should be aware of  gym smells and what they mean.  I was working out with my good friend, the Arc trainer, once again on Friday afternoon, minding my own business with my workout time set and iPod in place.  When about half way through the workout (25 minutes left to be exact) a woman gets on the vacant machine to my right.  Now of course, I was in “the zone” and otherwise would not have paid much attention to her, if it weren’t for the aroma that I began to smell.  I understand people change in the locker room after coming from work or some sort of other commitment, but this smell was some sort of mixture I could not put my finger on until after a few minutes.

Unfortunately, I almost gave up on my workout because not only was the smell unbearable, but it was gasly.  This smell made it very hard to breathe, let alone concentrate and I almost pushed “stop” so that I could move to another machine in the gym and finish up my cardio.  However, I’m too stubborn for that and also knew that if I broke my workout now, it was all over.  Luckily for me, her workout only lasted ten minutes and I was eventually free from the stench.

Now to describe what I smelled in further detail, it was some sort of a mixture involving cheap, stale alcohol — almost the smell the day after drinking all night (Do you know what I mean?) mixed with extremely unbearable perfume.  Who wears perfume to the gym? Seriously — are ya kidding me?  If you are trying to impress someone, then go buy a sexy little gym outfit and parade around the weight area.  Instead, don’t ruin other cardio freaks’ workouts by collapsing their airways.  This type of person obviously is not a true gym rat.  If they were, they would know better and not care about smelling like anything other than sweat.

Another gym smell that gets me every time, is the smell of cleaning products.  I use to work at a gym when I was in college and was adamantly told NOT to use cleaning solutions near people that were working out, especially on the cardio machines.  If you absolutely had to, then it was common courtesy to ask the gym member if they minded you cleaning beside them.  On Saturday night, I was back at the gym, an hour before they close, doing only 45-minutes of cardio mind you.  The gym employee proceeded to use a very highly concentrated bottle of cleaning solution to wipe down machines around me.  Trust me, I’m glad the machines are getting so thoroughly disinfected, but again, no one can breathe with such potent smells in the air.  Especially when you’re already short of breath — it almost makes you feel suffocated. 

What does this smell mean?  I’m glad you asked.  This smell means this person has plans for their Saturday night when they’re done working; wants you to take the hint you shouldn’t have come to the gym this late in the day; is underpaid and doesn’t care who they insult; and/or wants your lungs to be too scared to come back.

I’m sure there are many other smells in the gym I could have also included in today’s blog, but I think we can all imagine or at least guess what smells do belong in the gym and the two forementioned smells do not fit.

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