As part of my responsibilities working in the weight room as a student I suppose to try to keep the plate weights, dumbbells, and other equipment in some kind of order. This was usually a never ending task given how zealous people could be about loading their machines and doing their reps then walking away. (And holy excercise balls rolling everywhere! Why do people find it so difficult to return the exercise ball to the rack they got it from?) It really annoyed me when the same person who would be too lazy to unload the leg press after using it would have the audacity to approach me while I was tidying other weights and ask “Hey, can I help you with that?”. My response was always a polite “No. Thank you, this is part of my job. Thanks for offering”. Because that was what was expected of me, but I what really wanted to say to that person was “No. I don’t need any help thank you, but that little old lady over there who wanted to use the leg press after you really could have benefited from you unloading machine when you were done.”
Being asked “do you need help with that” in the gym environment also sometimes felt like some kind of commentary on my strength and/or ability to lift the weights in question. I admit some of the really large dumbbells were tough because I couldn’t always grip them with two hands and my greatest limiting factor is my grip strength. But I generally managed. Moving the 45lbs plates was no problem (the shape made them easy to grip). But guys would see me begin to shuffle the plates and interrupt me to offer help as if they didn’t think it was possible for me to do it. (And holy crap people, if you put your weights away properly to begin with I wouldn’t have to.) I was always polite of course, and in the case of the really large dumbbells that needed to be moved I occasionally accepted their help.
The question also gnawed at me because of the possible sexist connotations it hid. I didn’t accept the occasional bit of help because I was “weak little girl”. I accepted help because I acknowledged that there was a limit to my personal strength and some of the weights were past that limit. One male co-worker actually complained about how the girls were offered help but he wasn’t. The point is that if these helpful patrons were really just being helpful then 1) they would have put their weights away to begin with and 2) they would offer to help all staff not just the ladies.
I also had a female co-worker who never put weights away herself. The guys working during her shift did it for her. She would brag “my boys are well trained.” Although whether that worked because she was gorgeous or because they were afraid of her (she was a scary type A personality) I was never sure. Or maybe her thinking was simply that these guys used the weights so she was going to teach them put them away properly.
A friend whose girlfriend had complaints about guys getting in her way at the gym asking if she needed help when she clearly didn’t, suggested that next time someone asked us if we “needed help with that” we should turn them down then later accidentally drop the weight on the guy’s foot and say “Oops. I guess I needed help with that after all.”