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modern ms manners: how to sweat politely, the delicate art of exercise etiquette

Being somewhat slow to get on any band wagon, I have recently been enjoying the amazing world of smart phone technology. Initially sceptical, I failed to see the use of a phone covered in fragile glass and struggled to understand how it could work without clearly defined buttons. Five minutes in and I became a convert. Happily tapping away, I have since discovered how portable music can actually be without a discman and have been happily exploring the facility of “apps”. It was on one such adventure that I discovered an app which encourages even the most slothful user to gradually build up the fitness to run five kilometres.

Three weeks later and I am pleased to report that whilst my dreams of entering a triathlon might still be misguided, I am now what I would classify as an “exerciser”. I am not naturally a super sporty person. A self-confessed gumbie, I am the first to admit the limit of my sporting prowess and can admit the greatest injury I have ever sustained was whilst running down the stairs in inappropriate footwear. I am very much an exercise-loner; outside of certain social situations I fail to see the appeal of sweating in such close proximity of another human being and find myself increasingly frustrated at those people at the gym who never appeared to be out of breath.

Recently whilst happily pounding on the pavement (read: shuffling ever so slightly at a semi-frequent pace) I began to see an increasing need for exercise etiquette. Sweaty, out of breath people are rambling around like lost Lemmings, completely oblivious to their fellow exercisers (hereafter referred to as “flexercisers”). Joggers, runners and shufflers alike were all scrambling for their patch of the footpath, along with cyclists, prams and those unruly youths on their skateboards.

Not to mention the car full of teenage boys who deemed it appropriate to suddenly stop in the middle of the road and just yell inaudible caveman sounds in my direction (tip – I am literally running in the opposite direction of you so I am probably not running up to your car to flash you my breasts).

What I found most awkward however is the fact that is that when one exercises in public, one is inevitably sweating and panting and just plain shambling around in the presence of others. Yet, despite this intimate sharing experience, it has become practice not to acknowledge your flexercisers. Indeed I have found myself shuffling by many a stranger without even having been able to make eye contact.

I grant that the reasons for this may be plentiful, not least the fact that the visual sight of yours truly attempting to jog whilst maintaining a regular breathing pattern so as to not just keel over and DIE –like my body is telling me to- is not the most beautiful sight to behold. I accept that. But is a little nod of acknowledgment too much to ask? Hell, let’s go further and institute complimentary high-fives as we pass one another.

Putting this idea forward to my lovely housemate and I learn that her experience is quite the opposite, namely that her flexercisers not only make eye contact but openly stare as she runs past. That she is a total babe who runs fast is apparently superfluous, which leads me to the conclusion that there is an appropriate “stare window” within which to make the appropriate amount of eye contact that says “Hey I see you running there – great job” without adding an insinuation of “How about I just chase you?”

Taking this idea to the pavement, I can report that the stare window is approximately three point seven seconds and is enhanced by an eyebrow raise which can be used instead of trying to recover one’s breath enough to hold a conversation. I’m yet to receive a high five but just like my running style, everything takes small steps.

Oh and attention teenage boys: unless you are actually offering me a lift, then get the hell out of my way.

(Image credit: 1.)

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