Gym Etiquette: Workout Dos and Don’ts

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You exercise to get one step closer to your definition of “fit and healthy”—whether it’s losing 30 pounds, being able to run a mile, pumping out 20 push-ups, or simply being able to walk for an hour without pain or dizziness—but the gym isn’t a place where anything goes.

There are a few “unspoken” rules that I’ve coined after being a member, employee, and instructor at several gyms. As a rule of thumb, when you go to a gym…

DO

  • Where breathable clothing and bring a sweat towel. It usually gets toasty in a gym, especially if you’re working hard, and you should be! Wearing light, sweat-wicking clothing is always smart. Workout tank-tops or cut-off shirts aren’t a bad idea, if you’re prone to overheating while workin’ it out. And if you’re a major sweater (like me), do everyone a favor and bring your own sweat towel, because no one wants to put their hands where your bodily fluids have been. Shiver

  • Be conscientious of your time on machines. Whether you’re jammin’ to “Moves Like Jagger” on a cardio machine or using one of the weight machines, make sure you’re aware of who’s possibly waiting to use the equipment. And how long you’ve been using it. Don’t let someone pressure you into giving up your machine 10 minutes into your cardio, but be mindful of others needing and wanting to get a workout in, too. Some general rules include: stay on cardio machines no longer than 30 minutes, unless someone isn’t waiting; re-rack your weights when you’re done; and be flexible enough to let someone step in and borrow your machine or free weights in between your sets. It’s everyone’s gym.

  • Be polite. Like I said, it’s everyone’s gym, so be friendly. It’s nice to use “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” Plus, watch how much and how loudly you grunt (especially while lifting weights), don’t turn your music up too loud, and don’t swear audibly. That’s common courtesy.

  • Ask for help if you need it! Don’t be afraid to ask an employee, personal trainer, fitness instructor, or fellow gym-goer if you can’t figure out a machine. And don’t be shy about asking for a spotter if you need one while lifting heavy weights! This will help keep you safe.

DON’T

  • Stretch or do any awkward movements/poses in front of the cardio machines or weight-lifting areas. Some people are extremely uncomfortable with that stuff, which is why most gyms have a designated area for stretching/yoga/etc.

  • Try to do too much, too soon, just to impress people around you. It’s all good to pretend that you’re racing the woman on the treadmill next to you, but don’t push it if you’re new to fast-paced cardio or have already been workin’ it for a while. It’s all fun and games until someone falls off the treadmill. Same with weight lifting. Don’t lift a weight you’ve never done by yourself—always have a spotter. It’s not only embarrassing to get sick doing a workout, it’s also distracting to others if you’re throwing up in the trash next to the drinking fountain or some guy has to stop his workout to come over and lift the bar off your chest because you’re struggling and flailing.

  • Talk on the phone or gossip loudly. If your mother didn’t like to hear or put up with it at the dinner table, then don’t bring it into the gym.

  • Show up late to fitness classes. The instructor showed up on-time to teach and prepared music and a workout for you, so it’s courteous to be on-time. You wouldn’t show up late to a work meeting, would you?

  • Stare or gawk at other gym-goers. This seems like a non-brainer, but we’ve all found ourselves looking at the super-ripped dude curling with 100s or a super-speedy lady on the treadmill. Just remember that most people are there to get in the zone and focus on their workout, and it’s hard to when you have multiple people staring at you.

What are some of your gym etiquette tips?

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