workoutWorking out is supposed to be many things: challenging, cathartic, fun, difficult, inspiring, and the list goes on. What it’s not supposed to be is stressful.  Bullying is a very hot topic amongst adolescents and there is no disputing how horribly wrong it is. But there is also a kind of bullying that exists among adults and I have seen it first hand. The workout bully.  Not to be glib, but bullying exist everywhere.  It’s likely that workout bullies probably show evidence of this in other aspects of their life.

The Equipment Bully

You know who they are. If you go near their machine when they are ‘using it’ (even when not physically on the machine and may not be anywhere near it) you will get a glare so hard that you want to run away. Or, the bully may even say ‘I’m working on that’, when they really aren’t, they just want to treat their public gym as their own personal domain.

The Space Bully

This person likes to be in the same spot every time they workout. If you dare to go in their space-watch out. I’ve even overheard someone say they would ‘make it very uncomfortable’ for someone if they tried to ‘take’ their space in class. Really? That seems a little extreme. But this person was dead serious. Secretly I wanted to try to ‘take over the space,’ but the self-preservation side of me won out and really, it actually didn’t matter. Her space wasn’t better than mine and vice versa.

The I’m The Only One In The Room Bully

Similar to the Space Bully, this person thinks they are the only one present so they take up an unusual amount of space. Weights, phone, towel, etc spread out all over the place limiting the ability for others to use surrounding equipment. The other type in this category uses their body to take up way too much space. Flailing the arms or kicking the legs with ferociousness that they actually assault you or you can’t get within ten feet without ducking.

So why is this? I have a couple of theories. 1) Just general nastiness. This type of person has a sense of entitlement and is likely used to getting their way in all situations, why should this be different? Perhaps they are in really good shape, so they need to monopolize the equipment or be front and center because well, they think they are better than you.  2) This is the only forum where they can assert control and feel important. Maybe they are passive everywhere else and this is the only arena where they feel confidence so they take it to the next level. The latter is probably the rarer of the two, but it definitely exists.

So how do you deal with this type of person? If you want the space they usually occupy, try getting to class earlier and claim that space or machine first. If they come up to you and complain, simply say ‘I didn’t realize we could reserve specific space here.’ That will usually stump the bully and they move on. If they get pushy…

If they get downright nasty (which I have seen), move.  It’s not worth getting into a verbal or physical confrontation-but then go to the manager or owner of the establishment. If you hint that you may take your workouts elsewhere any business that cares anything about customer retention will take care of the matter for you.

When it comes down to it; aren’t we all here for the same reason? To exercise, be healthy, support each other and get a little socialization in the process? Why does it have to be territorial? And, I hate to be cliche here, but can’t we all just get along and sweat in harmony?

Jessica Kuiken is a Los Angeles based Pilates instructor. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram

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