I recently joined a gym in Spain. I call it a gym, but by UK standards it is more of a leisure center. In fact, when you walk through the double doors, if it weren’t for the blazing sun through the glass, you could easily be back in the UK. The gym itself is packed with the same equipment as UK leisure centers. There are no televisions but the radio is playing in the background. Although Spaniards are more open and tend to talk, in the gym they just get down to business like in the UK. Everyone is focused on his body and his machine, and there is little interaction between gym users.
I go during the morning. They tend to be mostly older people, retired men and women in their fifties and sixties. There are some young people who seem of student age. You can also see the strange thirty-something moms or two.
Gym etiquette is not much different than in the UK, although you do have to be a bit more aggressive as people can be quite inconsiderate. You must bring a towel for hygiene reasons. There is a fifteen minute timer on each team. If you are not careful or assertive enough, people will take advantage and stay longer, pretending you are not there.
The same goes for waiting for teams. You must be on your guard as people are rushing to show up and jump on a machine that you have been waiting on for ten minutes. Pretending they didn’t see you is their trick. Sometimes I wonder how they can miss me with a lime green top and rear that could be considered an obstruction, but they do.
Although I have improved. The first gym session I had lasted almost three hours, two of which I spent waiting for the equipment. I soon realized that I would have to stop being so polite and let people know that I was serious. By the time you’ve experienced a couple of people breathing down your neck or distracting you by poking your head into their space to check your timer, you’ll simply join the club.
Women are particularly mindful of cleanliness. In fact, I think they have some guilt for neglecting their homes while spending time in the gym. So while they’re at the gym, they’re always grabbing piles of cleaning paper and detergent to scrub the equipment. Always be sure to get a woman’s outfit next, as none of the men get upset. They probably think that’s why there are women in the gym, to clean the equipment after them.
As for the changing rooms, there is usually a lot of exposure. If he’s shy, prepare to be the only one who walks around a lot with the towel wrapped around him. I don’t know what happens in men’s locker rooms, but in women’s locker rooms there are all kinds of naked bodies floating around. Spaniards are very comfortable with nudity regardless of their age or shape.
All in all, it’s not much different from UK gyms and you get the same stereotypes, including the types of serious bodybuilders who huff and puff at the same time during the day. I have yet to try the exercise classes so it should be an experience!