The Etiquette of Walking in Circles

Over the last couple years, I have had a great location to do my walking and running (when I’ve managed to pull that off).  Just a few miles away is a great local park with a small lake in the center.  Given the Scottish history of the name of the town where I live (Midlothian), I love that the lake is named Loch Lothian.  There is a paved path around the lake that covers 1.14 miles.  It’s a beautiful little walk that is convenient.  So it’s the perfect exercise location.

CirclesThe difficulty of a circular exercise path is that folks walk in both directions and that means you keep passing the same people over and over.  Which creates some etiquette problems.

Here’s the Craxy, Mized Up World Etiquette for Walking In Circles.

The first time you pass someone you have to acknowledge them.  If it’s a guy, then you give the “nod”.  (When I was younger I know the “nod” made some of my female friends crazy.  Like it or not, it is part of the universal male language.  A short downward nod for someone you don’t know, a quick upward nod for someone you know or have a connection with.  For example, someone else with a Pittsburgh sports team logo will get the up nod, even if I don’t know them).  For the ladies, I need to be a bit more circumspect.  You don’t want to come off creepy, so a closed mouth smile is what I go with.

The second time around is just a variation on the first, but smaller.  It comes with a “Yeah, we’ve done this already” kind of vibe.  After the second time, you can politely ignore each other.

There are a couple other variations that need to be acknowledged.  Teenagers can be different.  If a teenaged boy acknowledges you at all, they can be dealt with like any other guy.  Just the nod and you’re good.  Teenaged girls have an even lower threshold for “creepiness” for a middle-aged man than adult women.  In general, I will just glance at them, to let them know I see them.  If they say something to me I will give them a quick “Hi” and go back to ignoring them.

The other unique group is small children.  If I see a child is zeroed in on me I will give them a smile and a wave.  Otherwise, just a smile.  You need to watch the reaction of the adult with them.  Most of the time saying hello is just fine, especially since you’re moving and not hanging about.  Sometimes the adult really is heavily into the “stranger danger” mode, so I shift my focus to dealing with the adults.

I don’t have earphones in as a general rule.  It’s thinking time and I don’t want the outside distraction.  The general etiquette rule seems to be that if you’re listening to something you can go straight to ignore mode.

If you’ve ever wondered what “over-thinking an issue” looks like, this is probably it.  It’s also the kind of thing I think about while I’m exercising.

Maybe I’d be better off with something to listen to!

If you have thoughts on exercise etiquette, feel free to drop me a comment below.


2 thoughts on “The Etiquette of Walking in Circles

  1. Fun workout story about running in kinda-circles. I was at one of the larger running loops in the city, with a racing bib on and headphones in. (One might think this is enough to warrant an assumption that I am not available for conversation.)

    Apparently not. This woman gestured to me, but I smiled and nodded and kept running, since I was running a timed 5k so…yeah. Next time around she starts gesturing sooner and looks angry. I take out an earbud and slow to a jog, asking her to repeat herself. I then get a lecture about ignoring people and how I clearly need to turn my music down. And then proceeds to ask me a thousand questions about my run, the bib, etc.

    I am baffled still, some months later, as to how she ever thought that was reasonable behaviour–and still insisted that I was being the rude one. RACING BIB. NUMBER. TIMED RACE. REALLY?!


    • Yeah, that’s not right. It’s one thing if they want to tell you you’re being stalked or your hoodie is on fire. But just to satiate their curiosity? You don’t owe them that.


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