A gentleman can be any shape or size. However, it is more likely that you will find them to be in good, but not stunning, shape. Why good? Because the root of being a gentleman is discipline, self-restraint, and self-respect, all key factors in taking care of your body and your appearance. Discipline is keeping to a certain way of life based on your values, and is also the key to maintaining a fitness program. A gentleman acts in a considered way, not on the spur of the moment, and this is why you’ll rarely find a gentleman going through a bag of Doritos and a whole ice cream container.
A gentleman likes to take a reasonable amount of pride when he looks in the mirror; what he sees is a reflection of who he is, and a waistline that falls over the belt just does not mesh with a gentleman’s idea of proper appearance, or his values of restraint and discipline. However, concern with appearance is moderated by the knowledge that what is on the inside is more important than what is on the outside. Just as you will rarely find a true gentleman who is a Beau Brummelist clothes-horse, so to will you rarely find a gentleman who is a champion bodybuilder; there is certainly nothing wrong with the perfect body, but a gentleman has to have time both for exercise and for cultivating the inner man through reading, music, conversation, etc. On the other hand, if you can look like Arnold in his Austrian Oak days with just an hour or less exercise per day, more power to you.
In the gym, as in other places, the gentleman is courteous and respectful of the rules. It’s interesting that most traditional, male oriented, high testosterone places, such as gyms and gun clubs, tend to be pretty civilized places, perhaps because it’s so obvious that you really don’t want to anger people who happen to have heavy weights, or guns, in their hands. Also, it tends to be pretty clear that the alpha males who predominate in such places are not going to put up with rude behavior.
The rules in a gym are pretty basic: you take the weights off the barbell when you’re through, so the next person does not have to do this; you leave things the way you found them. If you sweat profusely, it’s nice to wipe down the padding on the equipment after you’re through. The more serious the gym, the more likely it is that there will be very attractive woman there. But, just as you take your own workout seriously, you should assume that everyone else does, including the really hot girl doing barbell curls. You should not have any more conversation with a woman working out than you would with a man; of course, if the woman initiates conversation that is another matter. (But simple courtesies, like asking if you’re through with a machine, don’t really count.)
For some exercises, most often the bench press, you may need a “spotter” if you are using more weight than usual or trying to test your limits. “Can you spot me over here?” is the correct way to ask whoever is closest and looks like they speak English. If someone asks, you should always promptly and cordially agree. This is one of the few areas of basic civility that men have not yet managed to screw up. But if you need a lot of spotting, more than a couple sets, you should work out with a partner, or hire a personal trainer. The best spotters help as little as possible so that you can work as hard as possible. Too much help defeats the purpose of the lift.
Being a gentleman, you will, of course, avoid excessive noise while working out, and generally avoid being exhibitionist or calling attention to yourself. You’ll dress in whatever way is most conducive to having a good workout, exposing no more, or less, of your body than makes sense for the purpose at hand. It’s interesting as a general rule that the strongest guys in a gym are often the most covered up; learn from them.
Probably the most frequently violated rule of good behavior in gyms is that you don’t hog machines. You will not sit on a machine while resting between sets. If someone is waiting to use the machine you are using, you will invite them to share, or, in the language of they gym, “work in”. This is especially important at times of peak usage, such as right after work. Your object is never to show someone else how much weight you’re lifting; there will always be someone bigger and stronger; usually much bigger and much stronger. Your object is to use good technique, avoid injury, and get your ,done.
You should never offer advice to someone if not asked, unless it’s absolutely obvious that someone is using a piece of equipment in the incorrect way, and likely to injure themselves. And even then, only offer advice reluctantly.
The locker room is not the place to exhibit your manly body, though for some reason many fat and hairy men seem to think otherwise. Put on a towel, get dressed, and get out.