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How to Handle Unsolicited Advice at the Gym

How Should I Handle Unsolicited "Advice" at the Gym?

I'm all for helpful tips when it comes to working out, but unless you are my personal trainer (disclosure: I don't have a personal trainer), I don't really want to hear your best "advice" in the middle of my workout. First, it's distracting: if I'm focused on a run, the last thing I want to hear is someone's voice behind me, especially if I'm wearing headphones and they need to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention (yes, this has happened).

Second, he or she may not know what I'm hoping to achieve with my workout. Once, when I was nursing an injured knee back to health, a gym employee came over and increased the incline on my treadmill without asking, thinking she was helping my workout when I was just trying to get my endurance back without re-injuring myself. And finally (and slightly indignantly), if I want help, I'll ask!

After the break, three suggestions and potential outcomes on different ways to handle that friendly-but-unsolicited "advice."


Response 1: Smile Politely
This is how I usually handle getting advice I don't want to hear, however helpful. I smile politely, and then direct my attention back to working out. Most people get the hint.

Response 2: Thanks, but no thanks
I'm nonconfrontational, but have daydreamed about retorting with an, "Actually . . . I'm training for something specific," and completely shutting the advice-giver down. But it's also fine to say, "I appreciate your advice, but I'm OK, thanks."

Response 3: Ignore
Keep your headphones in, stare straight ahead, and pay no attention. They'll get the point.

A notable exception
If a gym staffer corrects your form for safety purposes, the above don't apply. For example, if you're struggling through a set of crunches with poor form, save yourself tomorrow's backache and listen to their suggestions.

When to ask for help
If the "advice" is ever malicious, makes you uncomfortable, or is just plain rude, enlist the help of a gym staff member. It's not worth getting upset about, and it's certainly not worth getting angry about.

Have you had to deal with something like this? How did you handle it? Did it work out?

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
TheLittleMonster TheLittleMonster 6 years
I always see the same people week after week using bad form, but there is no way I will ever say anything. If I certified trainer wants to politely intervene, then that's up to them. It's none of my business so I keep my nose out of it. That trainer changing your incline though--- that's ridiculous and just plain unacceptable!
SaraJeanQueen SaraJeanQueen 6 years
1) I've never had anyone come up to me except asking if they can change the channel on a nearby TV. If I'm not enjoying the show I don't care.. then they put it on the Food Network. WTF!? How does watching food help you work out? It's boring and makes no sense to me. 2) Sometimes I wish I could approach other people at the gym and say something (this is rare though) -- but I never do it. For example the woman who runs on the treadmill gripping it with her hands. You're not doing your heart any favors. Or this one gal who insists on running for 2 minutes, getting off and doing crazy 80s moves with light weights and jumping back on for 2 minutes. I just want to scream -- you're distracting to everybody behind you, and you're NOT getting a good workout! 3) I too am wondering what you said to the trainer who turned up your resistance!! I've had runner's knee before and incline is NOT good, you're right.
HollyJRockNRoll HollyJRockNRoll 6 years
This post is awesome!! This is one of the reason I totally and freaked out by trainers!!! I once had a trainer come up to me on the elliptical and tell me, "You know you don't have to do so much cardio. Are you trying to lose weight? You don't have a weight problem." At the time I was in the throws of a SEVERE eating disorder. I knew then his comment was to make me feel better about myself but it made me just paranoid that any time a trainer looked at me they were judging me, my weight, or reasons for being at the gym. I think that is one of the reasons to this day (though the ED is pretty much under control), I still wear HUGE workout clothes. I've had trainers try to pressure me into weight lifting-like many of you, I do free weights in my own house because I do not want to deal with the weight room that is filled with ogling men. I've had trainers come around me and check my form-WTF. Like, the literally just stare, which makes you completely self conscious. My biggest pet peeve??? At my gym there is a women's workout room. I tend to hide out in there, but male trainers still come in OR the new trainers they recently hired, who have no clients, come in and circle around like vultures trying to find someone to work with or correct, and its like "BACK OFF!! If I wanted a trainer I'd get one." Oh, and years ago, when I went to a gym as a guest, they gave a complimentary trainer-which was forced on. Um, the jackass forced me to get on a scale before we started. I was 17, and had no clue how to put my foot down in a situation like that, but it really makes you wonder who the hell are training these people. They are so freakin abrasive.
Spectra Spectra 6 years
Luckily, I've never had this happen. I usually only do a short cardio segment at the gym at work because I do most of my workout at home. I try to keep it a little on the easy side because I don't want to get TOO sweaty during my lunch hour. If someone came and changed the resistance on my machine, I'd be extremely upset.
guavajelly guavajelly 6 years
wow! I never knew someone would actually change your resistance! I would not know what to do but change it back and say I'm fine, thanks!
amber512 amber512 6 years
That's insane! If anyone came near my machine to change the resistance I'd probably be too shocked to do anything. But later I know I'd wish I'd kicked them! How unsafe!
elle-dub elle-dub 6 years
This happens to me too! Several times I've had gym employees make comments about how I only do cardio. What they don't know is that I do a weight lifting class at another place (in addition to doing them at home) so I only go to my gym for the treadmill, elliptical, etc. As someone who has a decent amount of anxiety, their unsolicited opinions really discourage me from going back, and I wish they'd keep their comments to themselves. If I want your help, I'll ask! Geez....
CupcakeLuv CupcakeLuv 6 years
This has happened to me plenty of times. I usually result to ignoring them and that does the trick :)
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 6 years
I'm really curious how you handled the gym employee that upped your workout! Did you just drop it back down when they walked away or did you say "Thanks, I'm actually nursing an injury and my doctor recommended I keep resistance down"?
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