Should cameras be banned from gyms altogether?

As one Aussie gym bans camera tripods, Lollie Barr wonders if all cameras should just be axed from the centres.

Unless you're a fully-fledged gym baddie, gyms can feel like pretty intimidating places with all that loud grunting, skin-tight lycra, muscle shirts, six-packs and bootylicousness in your face. Now, regular gym goers have to contend with ending up as background extras in someone's live stream, video or selfie, or, worse, being called out as a #gymcreep as #gymfluencers flex for their social media clout.

With the recent explosion of the use of mobiles or professional camera equipment and tripods regularly turning up in the gym, there's a point of contention as to whether muscle-bound gym bros and brosephines should be able to film their workouts, gains, or form, or even shoot themselves in mirror selfies in locker rooms. One Aussie gym with locations in Melbourne and Perth recently went as far as banning tripods, citing concerns about privacy and safety.

Three stills of three TikTok workout videos.
The trend of influencers filming themselves in the gym has exploded recently. Photo: TikTok

If you don't go to the gym and your social media feeds are already full of your sweaty mates working out or engaging in some po-faced posing, I can hear your deafening "Ban them!" all the way over here on the other side of the internet. Sorry, fitness freaks, a straw poll amongst my mates found no one is thrilled to watch that kind of content unless they are on some kind of "fitness journey" themselves.

For gyms, though, the rise in filming is a blessing as it brings the kind of free marketing that most businesses can only dream about. Golds Gym in Australia is firmly in the love cameras camp. "We're all for our members filming their workouts and taking selfies!"

"Documenting and snapping away while working out creates personal rewards and motivations for members, and we embrace the positive outcomes it can bring," said Jess Maudsley, Brand Manager Gold’s Gym Australia and New Zealand.

A man lifts weights (left) and a woman demonstrates a workout with a dumbbell (right).
You may think you're helping to inspire others, but you could just be annoying them. Photo: TikTok/ Getty

Look, I can see their point. Most filming is innocuous. Who hasn’t seen a phone secretly propped up against a water bottle as someone bashes out a set? “Some people take 'progress shots' and videos of themselves to see their form and how they've changed physically if the scales aren't representing their hard work; others do it just to 'show off'. They're proud of their physiques and want others to see,” says Rachel Ashton, Master Instructor for Rumble Boxing and CycleBar.

TikToker calls out bad behaviour in gyms

However, it’s when people treat the gym as their photographic studio to create content for attention that it is super cringe. That’s when Joey Swoll, a man with arms the size of your head, steps in.

US fitness influencer, bodybuilder, and gym positivity advocate Swoll, who has over 6.5 million followers on TikTok, is the internet's most famous gym cop who calls out all kinds of bad behaviour in the gym. Swoll always ends his rants with a scathing “Mind Your Own Business” and "Do Better", and netizens love him for it.

Swoll was understandably livid in May last year when Chelsea footballer Mykhailo Mudryk posted a picture of an older chap with his bum crack exposed on Instagram. "Pardon my language, but what the f**k is wrong with you?" ranted Swoll at Mudryk on Twitter.

Swoll is also known for going off on #gyminfluencers who post videos of people in the gym who happen to commit the heinous crime of walking in front of their camera as they're filming. Or worse, glancing in their general direction only to get called out publicly as a #GymCreep and #GymWeirdo.

"There is a big difference between staring at somebody and simply looking or glancing at them," said Swoll. "Why did this man look at you? Well, you're in front of him, a little off to the side. You're in his peripheral. You're also taking a video with your camera pointed directly at him, and you're talking to yourself."

While Swoll often appears mainly to be correct in his assumptions, it is also worth noting that in 2021, a US company, Run Repeat survey found that 56 per cent of women had faced some kind of harassment while working out, so there is also that to keep in mind.

Remember not to interrupt another person's workout

Maudsley has some good advice on cameras: "Remember not to take photos or film if other people are recognisable in the shot - unless you have asked their permission prior and they know what you are using the content for". She added that people should also be "mindful of ensuring your filming or photo-taking doesn't interrupt another person’s workout.”

As to whether we’ll ever see the end of mobiles in the gym, probably not, but I leave the final word to Ashton: "At the end of the day, do what makes you happy, as long as you're not hurting anyone, but know the rest of us in the gym see you full-on posing, and we are all cringing a little inside!" True that.

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