Where is Shakespeare when we really need him? The gym equivalent of ‘to be or not to be’, grunting has become a nuclear lightening rod with the power to polarize membership and leave management scratching their heads about how to respond.

On the one hand, gyms are spaces that require users to exert personal and social responsibility. Like the lawlessness of yelling fire in a theater, the greater good’s wellbeing is a priority. Grunting can be disconcerting, especially when followed by weight dropping. Net/net, it can be annoying AND startle the heck out of you!

On the other hand, assuming accountability for personal hygiene, safety and social appropriateness, does the behavior of your fellow gym member really matter? And considering that 75% of US adults don’t get ANY exercise, much less the recommended minimum for health protection. Perhaps there are bigger fish to fry.

Personally, I’m Switzerland without a strong opinion either side, but from the perspective of motivation there is more to it than the power struggle, drama-factor intrigue. If it seems to be attention-seeking behavior, ignoring it—just like with your 2-year old—tends to extinguish its fuel source. This type of behavior needs some reaction from others to sustain. Don’t feed it and it eventually goes away.

But extinguishing the emotion that exercise invokes is a motivational risk. If grunting is an organic response to full-on exertion then grunt away. NOT grunting is an affront to the natural emotion of exercise that shouldn’t be feared, nor avoided. Nor should genuine grunters be
scolded, or worse, regarded as perpetrators.

For the sake of fostering resilient motivation, embracing the emotion of exercise stokes adrenaline that can make the difference between hitting the gym and hitting the couch. Looked at from this perspective we ought to carefully nurture whatever can help us stick to and grow our routines.

Attention-seekers will look around to see the crowd they have attracted. Exerters will move on to their next set, completely wrapped up into their own repetition-focused world. To that, ‘to grunt or not to grunt’ seems much ado about nothing. Wait, where have I heard that before…