Etiquette expert backs yoga teacher fired by Facebook
Yoga instructor Alice Van Ness is seen Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at Lifestretch Yoga in Milpitas, Calif. (AP / Ben Margot)
Amy Carmichael, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, July 15, 2012 6:30AM EDT
A U.S. yoga instructor isn’t alone in expressing concerns about cellphone use at the gym.
Both a personal trainer and an etiquette expert say it’s a problem and that Alice Van Ness, the yoga instructor at Facebook who says she was fired after trying to stop a student from texting in class, was doing the right thing.
“People think their life is so much more important than others and that they can disturb a class or other people in a gym. It’s completely out of control, in my opinion,” says Melissa Wessel, who specializes in strength training and leads boot camps in Toronto.
Van Ness wrote about her experience at Facebook for elephantjournal.com. Van Ness said management at the Facebook gym encouraged her to let students do whatever they wanted, including come in late and take phone calls. In June, she glared at a texting student while she demonstrated a difficult pose. This, she says, prompted her firing.
Van Ness writes: “I said nothing, but I’m sure my face said it all. ‘Really? Your email is more important than understanding your body? It’s more important than taking time for you? It’s more important than everyone else here?’”
A Toronto etiquette expert sides with Wessel and Van Ness on the issue of phones in gyms and fitness classes.
“Rude,” says Louise Fox, an etiquette expert certified at the prestigious Protocol School of Washington, host of mannerstv.com and owner of The Etiquette Ladies.
Wessel has her clients leave their phones in their locker. But she says that many gym clients and trainers are phone addicts who can’t detach for a workout.
“I personally think it’s ridiculous,” Wessel says.
“I also see number of trainers on the phone when they are training people. It’s disruptive and very unprofessional.
“One girl who comes to my gym doesn’t even work out, she just takes up machines and talks on her phone.”
Wessel says she has no problem asking the phone obsessed if her clients can use the machine or equipment while they finish their conversation elsewhere.
Fox says multitasking is out of control and just because we’ve learned to do it, doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to be disruptive.
“If the class or the gym has a no-phone rule, people should absolutely respect that. Stay at work if you are expecting an important call,” she says.
Fox says it’s reasonable for gyms to allow cellphones to be used in designated areas only.
Fox says her own gym, Toronto’s Verity, employs such a policy.
“If you have to take a call during a class, you should tell people at the start, keep your phone on vibrate and leave to speak in a private or designated space -- not the bathroom.”
As commuters held captive on streetcars and busses know all too well, it can be irritating to have no choice but to listen to a loud, one-sided phone conversation.
“You just have to have a sense of humour about these things or else you are going to be so stressed out,” Fox says.
“I was working on my computer at the airport once when I heard a man on his phone. He was so loud he really interfered with my concentration.
“The conversation got kind of interesting and one point the man said, ‘What is it about me that you don’t like?’ I felt like saying, ‘the fact that you talk so loudly on your phone.”