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The Zen of the Gym (part2)–What I’ve learned about workplace conflict resolution at the gym

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal

I wrote a blog post a while ago about entering into the Zen of the Gym.

Rather than trying to micromanage and control when I got to use the weight machines or a bench, I decided to “enter into the flow, the energetic river, moving from one machine to another, and if there were ‘rocks’ (ie people), I would simply flow around them to another machine.” I wanted serenity and harmony instead of getting my way at others’ expense.

Making the same mistake (again)

I remind myself of this every time I go to the gym, and it has helped my experience there a lot. But recently I made a similar mistake and had the opportunity to deepen my understanding.

One of the machines I use is the leg press.  On a recent visit to the gym, every time I approached the leg press machine, someone else was just getting on. Finally, I had completed my whole circuit, and only the leg press was left.

This time, a young woman was on the leg press, using it for several different positions. People usually do one or 2 sets at most, but while I watched and waited, she did at least five sets and still wasn’t done. When she finished the sixth, I asked her politely, as per the rules posted on the wall of the gym, if I could work in a set. She’s very coldly and bluntly said “no.”I was determined to finish my routine, so I waited, impatiently, until she finished all 9 of her sets.

In my frustration, I momentarily forgot all my Zen resolutions, and decided to “set her straight” about the “working in” rule. She got very angry and told me I should be using other machines first instead of bothering her. She didn’t want to hear that it was my last machine; she just put her earbuds back in and stalked off. I felt agitated, and close to tears.

What would I ask a client in that situation? As I was doing my stretches, it occurred to me to explore, as I would with a client, what I had expected to happen when I did that.

The answer: If I was honest with myself, I had known nothing good would come from lecturing this woman about the rule. I done it to others before (see Zen of the gym part 1) and had never had a good result.

So, why, I asked client me, had I ignored my inner wisdom and proven highest good this time?

The answer was immediate: I was acting out of fear and a rigid belief that if I skipped this machine I would instantly be physically unfit, bad, wrong, and 100 pounds heavier. I had in that moment chosen obsession and frustration rather than peace, ego rather than letting go. And,  I had paid an uncomfortable price for it. I laughed and instantly felt some relief when I saw my part. I wasn’t just a victim of unfair circumstance anymore.

I vowed that next time, I would choose my serenity over using one particular machine on one particular day.  Clearly my distress about the interaction caused me far more harm than any benefits from the leg press.

Being human and subject to mistakes, my clients have also jumped into the same kind of dangerous and unnecessary situations in workplace interactions. Maybe you have, too?

With help and support, we don’t have to stay stuck there. It is possible for all of us to change our thinking and response. We can learn to avoid unnecessary conflict and choose more harmony in life, at work, or at the gym.


Lorraine Segal

After surviving the 50's and 60's, as well as twenty years in toxic academia as a tenured professor, Lorraine Segal was inspired to started her own business, Conflict Remedy (, happily teaching, coaching, blogging and consulting around workplace conflict transformation. She is addicted to reading novels and enjoys walking and… MORE >

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