Welcome to Don't Be That Guy, where we answer all of your most pressing, weirdly specific questions about what type of behavior is — and isn't — OK at the gym.
Last winter, I took a bootcamp with a guy who was one of the most notoriously brutal instructors at my gym. During the class, he'd shout things like, "I'm the captain now!" or "God's got you!" which were meant to be motivational, but only added to everyone's frustration. By the end of the class, we'd all be panting, dripping in sweat, and in no way feeling supported by any sort of deity.
I often fantasized about walking out of this class, but I never did. Chalk it up to pride, or a desire to not be outdone by a guy wearing Lululemon pants, but I just couldn't bring myself to leave. I was worried the class instructor would think I was rude or inconsiderate. It just seemed like something you shouldn't do. And as it turns out, other people feel exactly the same way about leaving a group fitness class, too.
Like any social ecosystem, a group fitness class is not without its own unspoken rules and taboos. You're not supposed to stand in the front of the room if you're a newbie. You're not supposed to hit on other members of the class (seriously, this is almost never a good idea). And you're not supposed to leave a group class early.
There are a few reasons for this, depending on what type of group class you're in. Leaving early can cause a minor scene (wiping down your spin bike or weaving through rows of downward doggers isn’t the most subtle of tasks). You run the risk of disrupting the class, insulting the teacher, and facing judgment from other students.
Of course, if you're not feeling well or if you fear you've injured yourself, it's totally fine to leave a group class. But if you want to duck out for less urgent reasons — say, if you're not a fan of the instructor, or if another student is irritating you — your fellow classmates could perceive your exit as a broach of class etiquette.
"If you bought the class, you should stick it out."
Michael and Zach Zakar, Detroit-based twin brothers and models, regularly purchase group classes on Groupon. Michael views communal workouts as social activities, with their own unique social codes. He believes in a strength in numbers mentality: If the entire posse you arrived with wants to leave class early, then that's fine, but if one weak link pal wants to duck out, they suggest encouraging the friend to take a little break instead of bailing completely. “I don’t think it’s not not OK [to leave early]. I just think if you bought the class, you should stick it out,” Michael says.
Zach agrees. He doesn't think an aggressive instructor or an annoying classmate is a compelling enough reason to duck out early. "I’m there to get a body," he says. "So if there's someone I don't like, I’m just gonna focus on myself."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, trainers in particular hate it when you leave a group class early. In a 2015 poll of fitness instructors, Women’s Health found that one of their biggest pet peeves was students leaving a class before cooldown.
“As a trainer, I know that the 30 minutes or hour that I have with you is crucial, so I need to use all that time to work you out,” Sam Brown, a co-owner and trainer at Supreme Body Training, told MensHealth.com. “So I don’t recommend ever leaving early. With any trainer, they design a workout for you for that day, and they don’t want it to be cut in half.”
That said, some instructors think it's kosher for a student to leave a class — to a point. Jeremy Levison is the owner of Burn Studios, a fitness center in Atlanta offering spin, kickboxing, and yoga group classes. He's seen his fair share of walkouts, and generally speaking, he's OK with it — in fact, he’s even left class early a few times himself. “20 minutes in the class, I was like, ‘F*ck it, I’m out,’” he says.
Levison's one gripe, however, is when new students show up late or cut out early during the first class. With regulars, he’s usually aware of their health history or injuries, but with new students, an early exit raises concern about a person’s wellbeing. He suggests that new students get there early, meet the trainer, and let them know if you’ve got to bounce before the class is done.
That said, if you show up and you feel like you 100 per cent can't make it through the class for whatever reason, do everyone else a favour and try to leave as quickly and quietly as possible. (Trainers will be able to see through your excuses or lies, anyway.) Sure, it may be a little bit awkward, but rest assured that you're far from the first person in Spin Class History to do this.
Levison, for instance, has one client who cuts out of every single class before the last song without fail. To this day, it mystifies him. “She doesn't really have a reason,” he says. “Why would you do that? With four more minutes left? No idea.”
This article was originally published on Men's Health US.