Gym Etiquette: The Dos And Don’ts of Working Out
So you decided it was time to join a gym. Great! For some, that’s the hardest part—but for others, they can dread stepping into the gym for their first time. New people, tons of equipment, and loud noises as a gym-newbie can be intimidating enough, but then add-in the set of secret, unwritten gym rules you need to somehow figure out and follow? We get it—the stress is real! The good thing is that we’re here to crack the code so you don’t have to.
But before we go any further, let us just make this one thing clear: proper gym etiquette doesn’t just apply to gym-newbies, it also applies to avid gym-goers, too. So just because you’ve been working out in a gym for years, doesn’t mean you’re not being that guy. We all know that guy, and nobody wants to be him.
In a perfect world, we would have the gym and equipment all to ourselves and we would never have to worry about said gym rules, but as we know, that’s not the case—especially during peak times. (We can still dream though, right?) Learning to navigate the gym, and coexist with other gym-goers without invading their personal space is important, and these simple “dos” and “don’ts” of proper gym etiquette can help avoid any problems or issues. Note: if you’re new to the gym or looking for more information, this Beginner Strength Workout is a great place to start.
- Dress appropriately for the gym. First, find out if your gym has a dress code. It’s common for schools and universities to enforce a dress code policy for students in their athletic facilities, but other gyms might have a dress code in place, too. For instance, they may require shoes in the weight room, where other gyms might not. Some gyms may consider a sport bra as a shirt, and others may not. If your gym doesn’t have a dress code policy, you should implement your own gym dress code in your mind. Now, to be clear, we’re not suggesting that you should wear uniforms or wear especially fancy clothes to come to the gym, but you should try to dress appropriately—and by that we mean both respectfully and tactically. We won’t go into too many details, but both men and women should aim to keep their imaginary dress code policy G-rated. Rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t wear it to your grandma’s house, it’s probably not a good idea to wear it to the gym.
- Wear sweat-wicking apparel. We all sweat, especially when you’re putting in hard work at the gym (which you should be! ). Wearing light, sweat-wicking t-shirts and lower body apparel can be an instant game-changer, even more so for those who get extra sweaty. It may seem like cotton t-shirts (or a cotton sports bra for women) may be the play here, but we promise that it’s not. Although cotton is breathable when it’s dry, its issue is that it can get heavy and weighed down as soon as you break a sweat, causing the material to stick to you and can cause chafing. Ouch!
- Grab a sweat towel—even if you don’t think you need one. You might not believe us now, but your sweat towel will be your best friend. Laying a towel down on a bench or machine before you use it can save you the embarrassment of leaving a puddle of sweat for the next person. If you happen to sweat through the towel (no problem, it happens), be sure to wipe down your equipment with disinfectant spray and paper towels. Nobody wants to sit in someone else’s sweat! *shivers*
- Practice good hygiene inside and outside of the gym. This probably goes without saying, but just incase, let’s talk about good hygiene. Wash your hands or use sanitizer before and after a workout, and be sure to germ-proof gym equipment by wiping it down after you use it. If you choose to shower or change in the locker room, we recommend keeping a pair of “shower shoes” because, well, you can never be too careful. And don’t forget, proper gym etiquette doesn’t stop the minute you walk out the door. You should wash and dry your workout clothes each time you wear them—that includes shirts, sport bras, shorts or leggings, and socks.
- Be conscientious of gym equipment and machines. This tip is all about being aware and knowing your surroundings. The gym can get busy, and it’s realistic that you may have to share a piece of equipment from time to time. But before you go to snag a piece of equipment, look to see if someone is currently using it. Is there a towel draped over the bench, weight plates on the bar in the squat rack, or a water bottle on the floor nearby? If so, be sure to ask whether you can “work-in” with them, or ask how much longer they’ll be using it. With that being said, when you’re using a piece of equipment, make sure to know who’s possibly waiting to use it next, and how long you’ve already been using it. You want to be sure that you’re not spending too much time with a certain machine or piece of equipment if others are waiting to use it. We’re not saying that you need to give up your machine, but it’s important to be mindful of others who are trying to get a workout in, too. Sharing is caring!
- Be polite. Use basic manners like, “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” Be sure to clean-up after yourself (and others), in the weight room and in the locker room. Remember to put each piece of equipment back into its proper place when you’re done using it. Respect others and gym equipment—it’s that simple!
- Ask for help if you need it! Don’t be afraid to ask an employee, personal trainer, or fellow gym-goer if you can’t figure out a machine or need more information. And don’t be shy about asking for a spotter if you need a little extra muscle while performing difficult or heavy lifts, like squats, bench presses or deadlifts.
- Camp out in unwanted areas. We understand that it can be hard to find space to yourself during busy times at the gym, but that doesn’t mean you should block space in common areas. Walkways, next to the water fountain, or in front of dumbbell or squat racks are all bad places to set up shop. Also, believe it or not, gym mirrors exist in weight rooms for more than the gym selfie and checking out your muscles. Be careful not to block someone’s view of themselves in the mirror—they may just want to look at themselves for vanity reasons, but they also may be trying to make sure they have good form while doing exercises for their upper bodies.
- Hover while waiting for equipment. One of the biggest no-no’s in the gym is hovering while waiting for someone to be done with equipment. Nobody likes to be rushed, and no one likes someone in their personal space either, and hovering does both of those things.
- Worry about what you look like. It’s normal for both men and women to have anxiety over what they look like at the gym and when they’re working out. There’s pressure to feel like you need to have the nicest shoes and trendiest outfit in the gym, but in reality, plain t-shirts and sneakers will work just as good. Remember, the only person that is worried about what you look like is, you! (Unless you’re breaking the gym dress code, then go back up and read our first point about dress codes in the gym.)
- Try to do too much, too soon, just to impress people around you. It’s a good thing to be a try-hard in the gym, but just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s fine to pretend to race the woman on the treadmill next to you for extra motivation, but don’t push it if it’s your first time on the treadmill or you’re new to high-intensity cardio. Same with weight lifting, don’t try to show-off your muscles by lifting too much weight, too fast if you’re not ready—especially without a spotter. Lifts like the bench press can be very dangerous with too much weight, and you may end up needing someone to help you lift the bar off your chest. Save yourself the humiliation and take it slow.
- Be on your phone. Whether you’re blabbing on the phone, trying to get the perfect gym selfie to show-off your muscles, or mindlessly scrolling social media in between bench press sets or while in the squat rack, chances are you’re not paying attention to what’s going on around you and you’re most likely wasting not only your time, but others’ time, too. Plus, if you’re looking to get the best results from a workout, phones are the ultimate enemy. Not only do they cause you to lose focus, they also lower the intensity of your workout, too. Oh, and by the way, don’t even get us started on phones in the locker room—that’s an even bigger no-no.
- Show up late to fitness classes, Team Workout or group training. Your personal trainer or coach showed up on-time and prepared a workout for you, so out of respect, you should be on-time. Schools don’t allow students to be late and we’re guessing your boss doesn’t just let you skip the beginning of a meeting either.
- Be too loud. You don’t need to whisper and tip-toe around like you’re in a library, but no matter how big your muscles are, you should still try to keep all grunting, groans, and self pep-talks to a minimum. Don’t drop expletives, and don’t drop your weights either.
- Stare or gawk at other gym-goers. This seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve all found ourselves accidentally looking at the dude with big muscles at the squat rack doing lower body exercises, or super-speedy women on the treadmill. Just remember that most people are there to get in the zone and focus on their workout, so you should be focusing on yours, too!
TL;DR: respect others and respect the equipment. It’s that simple!