It’s a soapbox kind of day. Think of it as another “What Grinds my Gears” posts.

Robert Preston says "hang it the hell up."

Robert Preston says “hang it the hell up.”

To put it simply, we’ve got trouble everyone.

Right here in River City. Trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “phone.”

(Yup, that’d be a MUSIC MAN reference).

Most states have enacted policies regarding texting and driving or talking on cellphones and driving. For whatever reason, people can’t seem to put their phones down when they get behind the wheel. Therefore the government has stepped in and made it illegal. “Distracted driving” is indeed bad.

I’m here wondering if that scope shouldn’t be broadened to include gyms.

Here beginneth the rant…

Unplug while you sweat.

Unplug while you sweat.

I’ve been a member of LA Fitness for almost 19 years now. I typically hit the gym 5 days a week (M-F), either to lift weights, run on the treadmill or do other cardio work.

And I’ve noticed at my particular gym (it’s a big one by the way) that cellphone usage by people during “workouts” has steadily increased over the years. You might say it’s now reaching epidemic proportions.

I’ve seen people using their cellphones on the racquetball courts (while supposedly playing), while on weight machines and even right by the lap pool. The worst offenders though are those on the cardio machines: Treadmill, elliptical, stationary bikes.

Now I know running on the treadmill can be a little boring to some (personally, I’m fine with it). That’s why my gym has TVs at each machine that you use with headphones. Or you could listen to music on your iPod. Heck I’ve even seen some people try to read on their Kindles (the way Shakespeare was meant to be read).

But there are people who seem to be so scared to be “unplugged,” even for a moment, that they think it’s the perfect time to text some juicy gossip or “reach out” and call every single person on their contact list.

Bad idea.

Really bad idea.


Let’s do a little list, shall we?

HAZARD AHEAD: For starters, it’s potentially dangerous. If you’re splitting your focus between texting/talking and another activity, you certainly aren’t paying enough attention to the important task at hand. It can be deadly if you do it while driving. Not so much at the gym, but you still can get hurt.

I'm fine as long as you don't ask me to chew gum too.

I’m fine as long as you don’t ask me to chew gum too.

I’ve witnessed several people texting/talking while “working out” on treadmills drop their phones, only to see it hit the belt and launch like a wingless bird. And to make matters worse, the “phoneless” fools quickly turn, forgetting they are on a moving belt. It’s made for some “Three Stooges” like moments of painful hilarity. And there are those who are so engrossed with their phones that they forget they are on the aforementioned moving belt and accidentally step on the treadmill’s frame. This leads to another pratfall… more akin to Benny Hill, I think.

FUTON FUTILITY: For those of you who have ever had a futon, you know that it’s a device that doubles as two things: an uncomfortable sofa and an equally uncomfortable bed. Basically it doesn’t do either thing particularly well. The same holds true for working out while on the phone. Either you’re working out so hard that you can’t really enunciate, or you lessen your workout (in order to be heard) to the point that you’re not really working out, but rather just going through the motions. I’ve even seen people just stand still on treadmills or ellipticals and have 10-minute conversations. I don’t think they’re able to feel the burn.

CLOSE QUARTERS: Here’s one that really bothers me personally. It’s one thing to talk on a phone while you are away from prying ears (they can pry, can’t they). It’s another thing when you’re squashed together like sweaty sardines. At most gyms, treadmills or ellipticals are stacked next to each other, so we all have very little “private space.” And some people don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about yours.

Yup, you get to hear your temporary gym neighbor ramble on until they use up all of their cell plan minutes.

No, I'm not busy.

No, I’m not busy.

That’s why gyms require you to wear headphones, so the poor bastard next to you doesn’t have to hear your godawful taste in music (hey, mine is bad too). Well, I’d rather hear Taylor Swift “ad nauseum” than be a “forced eavesdropper” on half of an electronic chat session. And unfortunately, no matter how fast I run on a treadmill or how hard I “ellipticate” (ooh, made up a new word) I won’t get any further away from your self-important conversation. Let’s be honest, I’ve never heard a person on a phone on a treadmill recite a beautiful poem or come up with the equation for cold fusion.

This is one of the main reasons why the FAA hasn’t allowed people to use cellphones on airplanes. Simply because we’d have some air rage where people might (forcibly) ask the person on the phone to step outside… at 30,000 feet.

So, is that enough reasons?

Apparently my gym agrees that talking on the phone while working out does no one any good. As a result, they have enacted a “no talking on cell phone” policy.

Actually, according to the manager it’s more like a “gym etiquette suggestion.” And their enforcement has been a little spotty at times. But at least it’s a start.

And when you come down to it, can’t that phone call wait until your in a more private location… say like waiting in line at Starbucks.

Here endeth the rant.

Unplug… and Run on!

Posted on March 2, 2015, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. The only time I really have a problem with it is when someone is sitting on a workout bench or machine, not using it, and just talking on the phone. If you want to have your conversation, fine, but don’t keep someone else from actually using the equipment. Get up and walk to the lobby for your chat.

    To make it fun (and there’s a guy who has a YouTube collection of this prank) sit next to the person on the phone and have the other half of their conversation with them. See how long before they notice.

    • That’s funny stuff. Actually, I did something similar once. I made an imaginary phone call (I was wearing headphones) and started having a faux conversation about how inconsiderate it is to have a conversation on the elliptical. It took quite a while before the person next to me realized they were the butt of the joke.

      I brought this all up because I’ve had two people get pissed and aggressive when I politely reminded them of the club etiquette and asked them to step away to finish their calls (one happened last week). One guy actually wanted to fight. I simply had a manager come over (along with a trainer) and then that guy started cursing at them (clearly he had issues). He ended up getting his membership canceled for his outburst.

      I have since found out that the “phone” thing has become a major issue at my particular club (guess LA Fitness was getting a little too LA).

  2. I don’t have a gym membership, but I can relate to what you are saying. Was this piece designed to elicit humor, or was I not taking it serious enough? (I caught myself laughing throughout.) What about mobile phones while running? Another can of worms: I witnessed a guy apparently trying to close a deal on a house while running a marathon almost collide with a bicyclist while running a marathon on the Long Beach Bike Path.

    • Thanks for reading. I try to inject humor in just about everything I writer/do, so I’m glad it made you chuckle. It is a serious issue though and as you’ll see from my comment above I’ve had people get aggressive about it (not cool).

      I do think running while on the phone can fall under this topic. Now I follow pacing where I need to be able to speak while running (it shows I’m not going too fast). And I run with a group so we all talk to each other. It helps build camaraderie, especially on long runs.

      I don’t have a problem with someone talking on the phone when they run, provided it doesn’t bother others or put anyone’s safety as risk. If you’re out on your own (with no one next to you) and you want to talk as opposed to listen to music or concentrate on running, that’s up to them.

      As for your examples, that’s a definitely no-no, because they just were oblivious to everyone around them. When you run, you need to be aware (even if you’ve got music playing). When running on a street or path, I’m constantly scanning my surroundings and looking for cars, bikes and pedestrians. That was a slip-up on that person’s part. Hope they got a good deal on their house.

      And to me it seems that exercise should be one time that you unplug and focus on something else. All of those calls could probably wait until you’re done.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor

    That would frustrate me too. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I’ve belonged to two gyms here and I’ve never seen this problem. In fact, it’s rare that I’ve seen a phone out on the floor of either gym. I guess people just have more shame in my neck of the woods? The other night I was at my gym’s indoor track and I really wanted to snap a pic of my shoes between the track lines as a graphic for my blog, which is harmless enough, but I ended up not doing it because I was embarrassed and didn’t want to look like one of “those people.”

    We’ve become a society of people who cannot tolerate even a moment of boredom. It used to be that at the gym, on the treadmill, waiting in line, driving in your car – it was boring but you just sucked it up. Now we can’t do it without some sort of distraction or multitasking so that our time isn’t “wasted”. It’s kind of sad, actually.

    • Agreed. I like the “wasted” in quotes. Why not spend the time to actually learn something about the person ahead of you in that line that has a common interest rather than running your soup cooler while using the phone.

    • Yup, everyone seems to suffer from the “shiny red ball” complex. We seem to need to be constantly stimulated. And multitasking often just causes people to end up doing multiple things… but all poorly. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Excellent use of the word ellipticate. I go to the college gym of my alma mater and about half the girls who come in walk around or sit around on their phones or preen in the mirrors. I really don’t see the point of going to the gym since they can do that at home. I did love the recent encounter I had with a treadmill neighbor screaming into her phone in Chinese. Eventually management asked her to go outside.

    • Don’t you know that chatting on the phone burns almost as many calories as P90X. I am amazed by the amount of people who “dress up” with full make-up to workout. Perhaps they feel you can get a burn by osmosis. That is a bummer that your treadmill neighbor’s angry rant was in a language you don’t understand. Now you have to make a guess as to the subject. I believe it was about whether toilet paper rolls should be installed “out” or “in.” Wars have started for less. Thanks for commenting.

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