What is Gym Etiquette and Why is it Important?

I have been a member of a gym for three years now. Before that, I primarily ran at home and lifted weights or used our Bowflex. As time went on, I realized the benefits of being a gym member went far beyond just having access to heavier weights or a fun yoga class. Gym memberships provide motivation, a reason to work out that sometimes our own inner-voice just doesn’t do. Problem is, they can sometimes be crowded and that requires us all to work together. In other words, we need to follow gym etiquette…but what is it and why is it important?

The Importance of Gym Etiquette

gym etiquette

Most gyms and fitness centers have rules posted on the walls. Many of the rules are the same but the problem is that we don’t all take the time to stop and read those rules, and we get in such a hurry, we don’t think about them. What gym etiquette is the stuff we really can’t ignore though? How do we make our gym visit productive yet keep it pleasant and fair for everyone else?

Here are some top gym etiquette guidelines to follow that will make the gym a better place for all of us!

Clean up your mess! When you are done using a piece of equipment, use your personal towel or the provided paper towels and spray. It takes five seconds to wipe down where you sat and wherever your sweaty back leaned against. The next person to use the machine will appreciate you big time.

Don’t sit on top of people in the sauna. This is a HUGE one for me. My gym has three saunas, and they are all clean and large. However, some times the gym is busier and there isn’t enough room for everyone to sit. This does not mean it’s okay to squeeze between people. You may have to stand or just wait until someone leaves. It is not good gym etiquette to squish between two people, so <sweaty> body parts are touching. It may be okay for you, but the people next to you may want personal space. Also, don’t guilt trip someone else into being okay with it. Forcing someone else to rub arms or thighs isn’t your choice to make. Wait your turn or stand. Also, if you do decide to stand, consider how close you put your backside to someone’s face. (True story: two weeks ago, there was no space so a woman stood in front of me. I had to move my feet under the bench, her legs rubbed my knees and her backend was at my eye level, inches away. No, just no. Everyone deserves a level of personal space, even if you are okay with not having one. I had to ask her to move so I could leave. I don’t cuddle with strangers.)

On that same note, don’t take up more space than you truly need to. Laying down in the sauna is great if there’s space or it’s a slow day, but not when others want to sit down. *This goes for laying down in the nude on the bench in front of the lockers, too. This puts people reaching to get into a locker in a realllllly awkward spot.* (No, this did not happen to me but to a friend of mine! I was rather shocked but maybe I shouldn’t be?)

Don’t interrupt someone’s circuit training rotation. My gym has an oval set of weight machines designed to provide a 30-minute workout if you follow it completely. Use a machine for 45 seconds, move to the next one during the 15 second break, and so forth, going around the circle three times until you have done each machine three times. Simple, right? EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. I go to do this at the gym, someone bops in right as the time changes and goes in front of me, when there are six other machines open that would not block people. Instead of going behind, where they do not interrupt the routine for others, they make you have to skip a machine. Or, they stay at the machine longer and again make you skip. My favorite though? The random machine user who follows the 45-second workout time, but hops from machine to machine in no order whatsoever, ruining the circuit for multiple people. This one’s easily solved. GO IN ORDER. There, rant over.

Keep your voice down and remember it’s a gym, not a club. There’s no issue with talking or socializing, but a sauna or steam room, or a hydro-massage room where people are trying to relax is not the place for you to have a loud rousing phone call. If you’re going to chat, on the phone or with someone there, get off the equipment rather than hold it up from someone else. That leg press is not for you to lean against while you talk about last week’s Tinder experience. Disclaimer here: in-between sets on a machine, do whatever you like. Facebook. Check email. Send a tweet about how much you love your gym. Stare at the wall. Whatever, but when you’re done, move on. Others are waiting.

Don’t tell others to hurry up. It’s surprising I have to say this one. It’s one thing if someone’s been sitting on a machine — think about that Tinder discussion above — and you can’t use it and they aren’t using it either. It’s entirely different to tell someone who is observing a 45-60 second break between sets to get off the machine because they’re “just sitting there.” Back away, buddy…just back away, lots of machines available, wait your turn. Gym etiquette, it’s a real thing, just like manners outside the gym.

Be kind to the staff. They are there doing their job. I’ve seen several staffers get chastised by customers for menial things. A lady ordered a smoothie the other day, didn’t pay, walked away. Then I went to the counter, along with two other people. The poor guy behind the counter made her smoothie, but then made mine and the two others. She came back as he was finishing them. He goes to hand her the smoothie and she tells him loudly that since she was there first, he shouldn’t have helped anyone else and she no longer wanted the smoothie. She huffed away while he stood there, bewildered. So unnecessary. It’s a gym, he’s not your personal chef.

Help, don’t critique. A friend of mine was with me as we were working through a difficult weights workout which included 15 sets of 10 push-ups each. She was on her 15th set of 10 push-ups when a guy walked by, apparently just arriving, and told her she wasn’t straight enough. Dude, this is push-up 140+….she’s kicking ass and you are offering unsolicited advice without being aware her form has fallen due to quantity of push-ups. (I had stopped, I didn’t even make it as far as she had.) It’s one thing to help when someone asks, or when you see someone struggling with a piece of equipment but refrain from random critiques. Everyone’s there doing their own thing and deserves it to be a judgment-free zone.

The words “excuse me” go a very long way, and a little patience is very helpful. Locker rooms can get crowded sometimes, so if someone’s trying to open their lock and you need to get to your locker above them, give them a few seconds before you push past and block them from their own locker. Or a gentle “Excuse me” if they appear to just be hanging out…but there’s no reason to be rude. Again, public gym, lots of members, everyone pays to be there.

You’ve probably picked up that these are mostly from firsthand experience, and you’re right. I love going to my gym. It’s clean, it’s well-furbished and well-maintained, but they aren’t in control of people’s behavior for the most part. I hate to be that one to say “hey, do you mind following the circuit in order, please?” but it gets old having it take longer or having to miss a machine because someone else is lacking in courtesy. (The sign is large, lit and facing both sides of the oval so there’s really no excuse, particularly when you see everyone else following the oval.) I also don’t want to have to say “could you keep your voice down please? This is a massage area and we’re trying to relax,” so instead, I deal with it or leave…but I shouldn’t have to.

gym etiquette

As much as I love going to the gym, there are days where people make me sad. I work at home full-time, so I’d hoped to maybe meet a few people or at least enjoy getting out around people more. Not so much on some days. The loud pro-gun conversation a couple of weeks ago in the sauna was discouraging, but that was also “butt in my face” day so I may have been predisposed to annoyance….

Following good gym etiquette is better for everyone, and it’s also healthier and safer. If we all work together, we can get in a good workout and enjoy it!

gym etiquette

What are your thoughts on gym etiquette? Did I miss anything?

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