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Melanie Morris: Guys, for the last time, when I'm working out back off

After seven years in the fitness wilderness, I've done something I never thought I'd do again ... I've joined a gym. Call it the big pre-wedding build up, a last stab at youth or just a chance to test Energie gym's six-week Empower programme (final results in three weeks and I'm feeling good!), but I'm in their Ballsbridge premises four or five times a week, feeling the burn.

Not only had I forgotten how sore torn muscles feel, causing me to walk like John Wayne with a dirty nappy most of the time, and the mess sweating makes of my hair, but I'd also forgotten the huge importance of good gym etiquette.

There's a complicated code of behaviour that we all seem to instinctively conform to when sharing work-out space. Like, when it's quiet, to leave a treadmill free between you and your neighbour, not to stay on anything cardio for more than 30 minutes if it's busy, and to always wipe down a machine with a towel after use.

These are things you learn along the way. Others just conform to regular good manners. So who the hell did the bloke think he was who approached me while I was puffing along on the leg press, to ask if I wouldn't mind if he "jumped in, just for one set". Er, hello?

I'm the bigger fool, because in shock, I got off the machine and told him he was welcome. Then, about 10 minutes later, further through my workout, another bloke came over and asked the exact same question. "Er, you wouldn't mind if I just hopped on there for a sec ... " And you guessed it, idiot me let him.


Okay, I'm not Elle Macpherson, and with my puce face, and well upholstered behind, I'm possibly invisible to these fitness gods, but that's just plain rude. Especially as I'm not one of those people who lingers on a machine. I go on, do my reps with the appropriate short rests in between, and get off.

What makes their workout any more important or urgent than mine?

It has to be said, men aren't the only culprits who believe, just because they look good, they can trample over the rest of us more imperfect mortals. Women can be just as bad, like the ones in changing rooms whom I've seen just too much of. I'm all for loving the skin you're in, but these women saunter around with no clothes, then dry off with one leg on the bench while you sit, at an inappropriate eye level, trying to lace up your trainers.

There are also the members who grunt just that little bit too exuberantly ... the ones who sing along loudly to their iPods putting everyone else off their stride ... the friendly sorts who attempt to engage you in conversation ... the spanner who decides to fill a two-litre bottle from the (only) water fountain straight after spin class ... not acceptable, any of it.

Nor is it on to trample on the mat that someone else is about to lie down on -- we're in a gym, for God's sake, do some exercise and walk around it. And, as for the bespectacled bloke in Energie, Ballsbridge, I was checking my form in that mirror, before you positioned yourself bang in front of it, and proceeded to squat, right in my line of vision. A new definition to 'rear ending' someone.

But the ultimate award for bizarre gym behaviour goes to the American woman I saw in a hotel gym who, I swear, ate a carton of McDonalds fries whilst on the treadmill.

Like most things in life, and in every gym in the world, a little consideration for your fellow muscleman, or sweaty Betty goes a long way. She should at least have shared.