For anyone, walking into a new gym is as intimidating as being told by an ageing wizard that you need to destroy a magical ring while an army of invisible goth-men nefariously stalk you down.
But at least Frodo had Sam holding his hand.
You’re most likely alone, confused and feeling slightly dizzy and nauseous due to the stringent scent of one part sweat, one part ammonia and one part pheromones.
Neckless men communicate in nothing but grunts and as they slap each other on the back and lift all the weight, they look in your direction and you feel less significant than Pluto when Nasa decided it wasn’t a planet anymore.
Turn around though and toned gym bunnies are giggling and jumping up and down, performing HIIT cardio sessions, their makeup perfectly applied, eyebrows on fleek and their fake breasts pushed up so far that you wonder how their diaphragm can actually expand.
You’ve only been in the gym for all of five minutes and you’re sweating, out of breath and feel like passing out- you haven’t even touched a weight yet.
If you are to survive, you need to know how to navigate the jungle:
1. Putting a towel on a piece of equipment is the equivalent of a dog peeing on a tree
It doesn’t even have to be a towel, any of your possessions will work; placing something of yours on a piece of equipment tells everyone in the gym you are using it.
Forget to put something of yours on a bench or weight machine and it will disappear faster than Deadpool when he smells chimichangas; you’ll only have yourself to blame and your lack of awareness has lost you the right to ask for it back.
2. You’re workout is no more important than anyone else’s
Everyone in the gym is there to better themselves.
Maybe you’re one of those people whose mum fed them with a silver spoon and, every night, patted you on the head and told you that you were special but in the gym you’re no more important than anyone else and neither is your workout.
Take up an acceptable amount of space (approximately an arms length away from anyone else) and respect everyone no matter what they’re lifting or what type of exercise they’re doing.
3. If you use your phone, be mindful
Five years ago, if you used your phone on the gym floor you became a pariah, your muscles atrophied and the thought of dead animal flesh, cooked medium rare, made you gag.
Now, if you workout but never post it to Instagram, what’s the point?
Your bulging muscles won’t appreciate themselves and if nobody sees you squat past parallel then it never actually happened.
People have their phones with them for a myriad of reasons: life struggles, exercise diaries, work, social media, distractions, music.
Whatever it is, it’s not your place to judge someone for using their phone on the gym floor and if you’re using your phone it’s your responsibility to make sure your head is up and you’re paying attention.
If you get hit in the head by a barbell while posting to Facebook, it’s you’re own fault.
4. Have fun
Like Cyndi Lauper pined, “girls just want to have fun” and so does everybody else in the gym.
You may have a masochist or sadistic streak but everybody else is just in the gym to have fun and maybe make a gain or two, that’s why they work out in pairs and talk and dance around the gym whilst singing to pop songs.
Similar to Rule Two, don’t take away someone’s happiness; you don’t know them, you don’t know their motivation for working out and you don’t know what they’re escaping from.
And make sure you’re also having fun.
5. Be sociable
In time, the gym will probably become your second home; a bio-dome where the outside struggles fade away and become nothing more than a speck on the horizon.
Because of this, gyms can either be incredibly isolating or sociable.
Choose isolation and you may get some mental reprieve from the hustle of your day to day life but if you choose to be sociable, you’ll learn from those who are stronger, fitter and faster.
You’ll grow as a lifter and as a person because where else in your life can you immerse yourself in a smelting pot filled with people from all different professions, social economic classes and levels of experience and expertise.
Of course there are other rules, the cliched ones, the ones that belong in a romantic comedy where a man falls in love with a dumbbell, cheats on it with Crossfit, only to be taken back when he stops eating sugar and starts cleaning all of his food before he eats it.
(That’s what ‘eating clean’ means, right?)
But these are the rules people don’t think about because they’re too concerned with how their perceived by the people around them, too obsessed with the image they’re portraying than the person they’re becoming and while it might be tempting to be that person that does nothing but grunt at other members or perfectly applies their makeup, please don’t be that person.
Nobody really likes that person.