Unsolicited advice at the gym. You almost always know when it’s going to happen. First, you feel their eyes watching you. Second, you feel them come up next to you. Third, you hear, “Excuse me, but…” followed by a (probably) well-intentioned but totally uninvited suggestion.
Excuse me, but did you know that you are squatting too low?
Excuse me, but you really need to keep your shoulders up when you run.
Excuse me, but you shouldn’t train two body parts per day because your protein gets confused and doesn’t know where to go.
Excuse me, but stop.
The first thing to know about unsolicited advice is to not give it. Why? Because not everyone agrees on the best way to exercise, and the individual may actually be following the advice of their trainer or doctor. Because you may actually embarrass someone who is already uncomfortable or insecure about exercising in front of strangers. Because they’re probably going to think you are a dick, and won’t listen to you.
Having said that, there is one exception. It’s appropriate to intervene if – and only if – the person is doing something that’s potentially dangerous. In this instance, notify a gym employee of the situation – and let that person step in and do their job.
The second thing to know about unsolicited advice is how to respond when you receive it. The truth is, most of us don’t like receiving fitness advice from strangers. We tend to take such instances personally, but remember that it usually comes from a good place. Here are a few suggestions:
- Laugh it off. I know of someone who says, “Thanks, but I’m trying to stay amateur. I’m not trying to go pro.” And then get on with your workout.
- Listen to it. Sometimes they might actually have a point. For example, I had someone point out that I was cheating on my barbell bicep curls by using momentum. In fact, I was. I didn’t like receiving the advice, but I knew he was right. And I adjusted myself accordingly.
- Smile and say no thanks. If being more direct is your style, just smile and say, “Thanks, but I’m training for something specific,” or “Thank you but I’m good.” Most people will get the hint and move on.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear your approach to unsolicited gym advice. Do you think it’s appropriate to give it? How do you respond when you receive it?
P.S. For some very solicited advice on building mass, download Size Matters: Davey Wavey’s Foolproof Guide to Building Muscle. It’s a simple, step-by-step guide to building muscle and increasing strength.