I recently joined a gym in Spain. I call it a gym, but by UK standards it is more of a leisure centre. In fact, when you enter the double doors, if it wasn’t for the blazing sunshine through the glass, you could easily be back in the UK. The gym itself is full of the same equipment as the leisure centres in the UK. There are no televisions but the radio plays in the background. Although, the Spanish are more open and tend to be talkative, in the gym they just get down to business just like in the UK. Everyone concentrates on their body and their machine, and there is little interaction amongst gym users.
I go during the morning. It tends to be mostly older people, retired men and women in their fifties and sixties. There are a few young people who look like student age. You can also spot the odd thirty something mum or two.
Gym etiquette is not that much unlike the UK, although you have to be a bit pushier as people can be quite inconsiderate. You must bring a towel for hygiene reasons. There is a timer of fifteen minutes on each piece of equipment. If you are not careful or assertive enough, people will take advantage and stay on longer, pretending that you are not there.
The same goes for waiting for equipment. You must be on your guard as people are quick to turn up and jump on a machine that you have been waiting at for ten minutes. The pretending that they didn’t see you is their trick. I sometimes wonder how they can miss me with a lime green top and a backside which could be considered an obstruction, but they do.
I have got better though. The first gym session that I had lasted nearly three hours, two of those were spent waiting for equipment. I soon cottoned on that I would have to stop being so polite and let people know that I was serious. By the time that you have experienced a couple of people breathing down your neck or distracting you by poking their head into your space to check your timer, you will just join the club.
The women are particularly clean conscious. In fact, I believe that they carry some guilt about neglecting their homes whilst spending time at the gym. So whilst they are at the gym, they are forever grabbing clumps of paper and cleaning detergent to scrub the equipment Always make sure that you get a woman’s equipment next as none of the men bother. They probably think that that’s why there are women in the gym, to clean the equipment after them.
As for the changing rooms, there tends to be a lot of exposure. If you are shy, prepare to be the only one doing a lot of shuffling about with your towel wrapped around you. I don’t know what goes on in the men’s changing rooms but in the women’s there are all kinds of naked bodies floating around. The Spanish are very comfortable with nudity regardless of age or shape.
All in all, it isn’t a lot of different from the UK gyms and you get the same stereotypes including the huffing and puffing, serious bodybuilder types at the same times during the day. I am yet to try out the exercise classes so that should be an experience!