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Machine hogs, people who pull up their mat right beside yours, that guy/gal giving you the once-over in the communal shower … the gym is a social environment and, as such, involves interacting with your fellow man and woman in sticky (and/or sweaty) situations. Some dos and don'ts of exercise-related etiquette.

Handling gym-based deviants

One of the most common irritants is people who stay on a machine for longer than is appropriate (20-30 minutes during peak hours). If you're on the wrong end of this infuriating scenario, try standing right beside the machine, making it clear that you are waiting. Go ahead and throw in an impatient foot tap, though at this stage there's no need to glare – Sir-Runs-A-Lot may have no idea that he's overstayed on the exercise bike.

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In cases where a piece of equipment can be shared (anything that involves weights/sets), Brad Lindsay, manager of member experience at GoodLife Fitness, recommends politely approaching the monopolizer in question, to ask if you can work in a set. Tone is key: "The only time we tend to get incidents is when people forget to be courteous," he says.

When dealing with less easily divvied equipment (treadmill, bike, StairMaster), Mr. Lindsay suggests letting a staff member do your dirty work, both for facility and safety. In general, taking your concerns to management is an easy way to avoid conflict – you're there to fine-tune your quads, not your conflict-resolution skills – and is definitely the way to go when dealing with a fellow member's embarrassing infractions like failing to wipe off a machine (you're basically accusing a person of being gross, so they're likely to get their back up).

Also keep in mind that the people at your gym are likely your peers, and for all you know that woman who just took a sweat shower on the Gravitron will be conducting your job interview tomorrow.

Firing your trainer

Personal trainers are like massages – some of us like them soft and soothing, while others respond to aggressive, almost pain-inducing treatment. When signing on with your gym's personal training program, you won't necessarily know who you are getting, so after a couple of sessions, feel free to assess the effectiveness of the match.

This is absolutely okay, and even set out explicitly in GoodLife's literature. "Ultimately it's about customer service," says Mr. Lindsay, agreeing that trainer/trainee chemistry is very important. If you want a "get down and give me 20" style drill sergeant, be sure to say so, as the staffer in question may be unaware of your masochistic streak. If that doesn't work, just approach the manager and ask to try someone else.

Even if you're crunching in the minors, you deserve to be working with someone who meets your great expectations. And don't stress about getting the cut eye from the trainer you cut loose. "We want people to be satisfied, and there is certainly no need to worry about hurt feelings," says Mr. Lindsay.

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Using the gym as a dating pool

After a certain age and possibly a certain number of drunken disasters, many of us give up the idea of meeting a mate on the bar scene and instead relocate our romantic quest to the gym. It makes sense – where else, besides work, are you surrounded with so many possible Mr./Ms. Rights, and in terms of those all-important common interests, you can tick off "commitment to healthy living" (or at least "commitment to toned booty").

But how to successfully charm a person who is wearing headphones/dripping sweat/holding 100 pounds of iron over her chest? For best results, don't approach someone when they are mid-anything. Instead try the casual (if blatantly contrived) "bump in" when the object of your affection is heading to the next station or, better yet, completing a workout (i.e., had a chance to towel off).

Generally speaking, even the most dedicated exercise fiend will be more comfortable and open to suggestion if he or she does not feel like a disgusting, smelly pig, though if your advance isn't reciprocated, "be prepared to hit the back-off immediately," says Mr. Lindsay.

Both sexes may feel more vulnerable than usual when dressed in body-hugging exercise gear, and what you view as admiring glances may feel more like unwanted ogling. Above all, if you're male and plan to play Romeo, don't do it in bike shorts – some things are better left to the imagination, or at least the third date.]]/note>

And don't do this: Play your headphones really loud. Just because Gaga gives you energy doesn't mean everyone else in earshot feels the same way.

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Special to The Globe and Mail

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