As I’ve mentioned, I like to exercise in the park near my home. The paved path loops around in a respectable half-mile loop, which means it requires multiple laps to get a proper workout. What this also means is that you might repeatedly pass an oncoming jogger who is out doing the same thing you are. And this presents the question, what is the proper interaction etiquette for multiple encounters with the same person in a short period of time? I don’t believe a list of appropriate behavior exists, so I came up with my own set of rules and I am passing them along to you in case you ever find yourself in a similar quandary.
Passing an oncoming park-goer the 1st time – I believe it’s polite and right to issue a quick hello. Who knows? They might live down the street from me. I make exceptions for inclement weather, however, as no one is interested in talking when snow is being inhaled through their nostrils.
2nd pass – A quick acknowledging nod is acceptable, no words are necessary. A tight pursing of the lips would also be fitting. Not a smile, yet not a complete dismissal.
3rd pass – I am no longer interested in being polite, but I also don’t want to feel like a jerk. At this point I employ a few strategies. First is a method I call the B.H.S. or the Back-Hand-Swipe. At the moment where eye contact feels obligatory, simply raise the back of your hand to your forehead and swipe your brow as if the workout is really starting to get tough. Second is an avoidance strategy I call “All of the sudden I need to change the song on my iPod”. Third, look at your watch and then grasp it between your fingers as if you are pressing the side buttons. They will think you are timing yourself, which not only serves the purpose of avoiding eye contact, but also makes you appear really goal oriented.
It should be noted that many of these tactics are only necessary when exercising alone. Walking or jogging with a friend is a strategy in itself because you can always appear to be engrossed in conversation. Also, if you happen to be on a path where you are not likely to pass the same people over and over again, I have a game I like to play. It doesn’t have a name, but it’s highly entertaining. Last summer my friend and I were tracing a path that winds around the lake across the street from where I live. I saw an approaching jogger; I waited for the right moment when they were within earshot and just about to pass us when I said, “So, what exactly does gonorrhea feel like?” Another jogger approached, and I went for it again, “I guess it’s the best you can hope for when you’ve only got one ovary.”
Remember: these are exercising tactics, not a list for making your parents proud. Doesn’t it just make you want to go running?