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Gym Etiquette

By Anne Keckler | March 5, 2008

DeadliftingGym etiquette seems to be a tired subject. Everyone has already said all there is to say, right? Don’t hog the equipment, be considerate, blah, blah, blah.

Well, I have some unique opinions, so I decided to write my own post about gym etiquette!

Let’s start with the basics.


Share the Cardio Equipment

Don’t stay on the treadmill for hours if there are others waiting to use it, and all the treadmills are in use. This is common courtesy! Some   fitness training gyms have posted time limits, but if yours doesn’t, be considerate of others who are waiting. If you are training for a marathon, or just having your personal training, try to find a track or running path in your town, or simply use the treadmill at a time when your gym is less busy.

And if you’re waiting to use the equipment, don’t stand there sighing and tapping your foot while you wait. Either find something else to work on, or sit down nearby and read a magazine. If this is a common problem in your gym, you should alert the manager. If it isn’t addressed, you might want to find a gym that has more cardio equipment or fewer members who are using the gym at the time you need to use it. Make sure you get a recumbent bike at heyfits to start working on your ideal body.

A related question is whether it’s okay to read while using the cardio machines. Some people get unreasonably upset whenever they see someone using cardio machines and reading a magazine. I don’t see a problem with it, as long as it doesn’t keep you on the machine past your allotted time when there are others waiting. Nobody else has any way of knowing whether you are just getting over an injury or surgery, or you have a chronic health problem, and this is the best you can do! So read if it helps you to pass away the time, but be aware that it may not be the best workout you could have gotten if you are in reasonably decent health. If that’s okay with you, it doesn’t offend me. And it shouldn’t offend others, either.


Share the Resistance Equipment

If you are waiting to use a machine or other piece of equipment, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask someone, nicely, how many sets they have left. Then you can decide whether to wait (without sighing or foot-tapping, please) or to use something else while you wait.

Likewise, if someone is waiting to use the equipment, you should offer to let them work in with you, if possible. “Work in” is gym-speak for taking turns doing sets. You’ll do a set, and then while you are resting between sets the other person can do a set. Repeat as necessary. This isn’t always possible, of course, such as when one of you is doing a lot of weight and the other is doing light weight, and it’s not easy to change the weights (such as on a barbell). But whenever feasible, this is the courteous thing to do.

Don’t be like the woman who got all upset when I asked if I could work in with her on the calf raise machine:

Me: How many sets do you have left?
Her: Three.
Me: May I work in with you?
Her: (sighing and rolling her eyes) How rude! Fine!! Go ahead and use it. I’m done! (Walks away in a huff.)

There is absolutely nothing rude about asking to work in with someone, especially when it is a machine where the weights are so easily changed.


Share the Water Fountain

If you’re filling a water bottle and someone wants a drink, it’s polite to step aside and let them get a quick drink rather than standing there and making them wait while you fill your entire bottle. Really, this should go without saying.


Clean Up After Yourself

Always take a towel to the gym. You will need it to wipe the sweat from your face so that you don’t drip on the person you’re spotting on the bench press, and you’ll need it to wipe your sweat from the benches and other equipment. There are few things as nasty as stepping onto a treadmill to find it covered in someone else’s sweat. Yes, it will eventually dry, but it’s only the water that evaporates. The body oils and salts are still there. Always clean up after yourself!

And while we’re on the subject of cleaning up, be sure you put your weights away when you are done with them. It is NOT a courtesy to others to leave weights on the bars, and over time it bends the bars. Dumbbells and weight belts lying around on the floor are a danger to others who might trip over them. It’s not the job of the gym employees to pick up after you, so put your weights away as soon as you are done with them.

Oh yeah. And put your gym bag in a locker! If everyone were to drag their gym bags all over the weight room, it would be a hazard. You’re taking up more room than necessary. What’s in that gym bag that you’re going to need while you’re working out?


Be Helpful

When you see someone struggling, spot them. If you’re not sure how to do so, it might be a nice idea to learn.


Watch What You Say

I remember the days when gyms were full of muscle men, grunting and swearing and talking casually about the chicks they banged the night before. Well, most gyms aren’t like that today. Someone’s grandmother might be working out within earshot of you, so watch your language! You aren’t going to be judged as more manly based on how many four-letter words you know.

Don’t give advice to people unless you are *absolutely positive* of what you’re talking about, and you are capable of saying it in a way that allows the other person to accept it or reject it while saving face. Even then, it’s usually better to at least wait until you know the person better. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about this.

And don’t talk to someone during a set. I’ve probably been guilty of this. I love to talk to people, and I sometimes forget myself. This is the one I probably need to work on most.


Don’t Smell Bad

Do I really need to say this? Apparently so. There are some people who think it’s okay to show up at the gym smelling bad. I guess they figure they’re going to just get all sweaty, so they’ll save the shower for after their workout. Please, don’t be this guy! There is no law against taking more than one shower in a day. Really. It’s okay to take one before working out, as well as after. I’m not saying that everyone should do this, but if you already have body odor it’s only going to be worse when you begin to sweat. Don’t subject the rest of us to your stink.


Don’t Get Between a Weightlifter and His Mirror

Besides the fact that we need to see how good we look, we also need to check our form. Someone preparing for competition might want to practice poses. It’s impolite to get between someone and the mirror they are using.


Be Quiet?

I see a lot of advice to be quiet in the gym. One gym actually cancelled a guy’s membership because he was grunting! I think this is ridiculous. A gym is not a library. If you need absolute quite to be able to concentrate, maybe it’s time for you to have a home gym. In a gym you are likely to hear talking, grunting, weights clanging, and music. Deal with it.


Cell Phones

As long as we’re talking about noise, I want to address this issue of cell phone use. Why is it considered so rude to use a cell phone in public? People seriously seem to be offended by this, and I cannot fathom why they should be. I’m not harming you in any way if I choose to talk to my daughter or a friend on my cell phone, so why does it bother you so much? Every time I see a discussion of gym etiquette, this issue seems to get a lot of people upset. They actually get angry because someone else is talking on a cell phone and (oh no!) they can hear it! I just don’t understand. I suggest that you talk on your phone whenever you like, as long as you’re not hogging the equipment.


Proper Attire

Another thing I don’t understand is why some people want to tell others how to dress. Again, as long as you’re not doing anything that actually harms me – you’re not hogging the equipment or leaving your weights lying about – then I don’t really care whether you’re wearing slouchy sweats or hot pants and a sports bra. Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.


Don’t Drop the Weights

I’m going to partially disagree with this. You shouldn’t go throwing weights around for no good reason, but there are times when it’s acceptable to drop weights. Just be prepared to pay for any damage you do to the weights or the floor.



So there you have it. My best advice for how to get along with others at the gym. If you are really concerned about it, you could refrain from using a cell phone, grunting while lifting, or reading while on the cardio machines. I guess I just don’t care *that* much. But I want you to feel comfortable in the gym, and to know what to expect and what others will expect of you.

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Topics: Exercise | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Gym Etiquette”

  1. PurpleMusic Says:
    March 6th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Hey Lady, You’re looking really hot in that picture! 🙂

  2. Vicham Says:
    March 7th, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    It’s sad when a gym has to announce over their intercom to people to get them to rack their weights when done…but that’s the norm at the gym I attend. I think it’s sad because they’re having to tell adults to do something as simple as pick up after themselves…heh. The only time I’ve found proper to not rack weights is when someone asks if I’m done (and I am), and they ask me to leave whatever weights on the bar for them.

  3. mantispid Says:
    March 12th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    From what I understand, the reason why most gyms no longer allow cell phones except in designated areas is because:

    1. Most phone have camera and/or video functions these days, and they don’t want the liability of someone taking unwanted photos of their members.

    2. Cell phones can interfere with portable heart rate monitors. I know I’d be upset if suddenly my Polar exercise computer suddenly started fritzing out mid-run.

    3. Safety. Using a phone while on a treadmill might distract a person enough to take a dive. That could lead to liability against the club.

  4. Anne Keckler Says:
    March 12th, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    @mantispid: You make some excellent points, and present some compelling arguments against cell phone use in the gym. Thanks for contributing.

    My gym actually allows cell phone use, as do most of the gyms in this area. I was addressing the issue of other gym-goers complaining about people talking on the cell phone while in the gym, specifically stating that it is poor etiquette to do so.

    I think if the gyms around here cared about safety, they’d allow the use of chalk. 😉

    Your suggestion that cell phones can interfere with heart rate monitors intrigued me enough to do a quick Google. Here are the results, which seem to suggest that this is not a big problem, at least with the latest devices: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADBR_enUS237US237&q=cell+phones+interfere+heart+rate+monitors

    It appears that a television or even electronic cardio equipment could provide at least as much interference as a cell phone.

    I definitely think the use of a cell phone in the locker room should be a huge no-no! Only because of the photo capabilities, though. I still don’t consider it rude to talk on a phone in public.

  5. James Says:
    December 9th, 2008 at 9:59 am


    I have to take exception with two of your observations. One is that I strongly feel that cellphones have no place on a gym floor. If you feel a pressing need to talk to a friend or relative, then do so, but don’t disturb people who have come to the gym for the express purpose of working out; we don’t need to hear your personal goings-on. It’s obtrusive, and you should go outside or somewhere more secluded to conduct your electronic communication.

    Also, banging weights is supremely rude. It’s annoying, and no one wants to hear a noise like that at any time of day.

  6. Anne Keckler Says:
    December 9th, 2008 at 11:07 am

    James, you can take exception all you want. Just because you prefer not to hear it, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily rude. If I don’t like the color orange, and you wear it to the gym, are you being rude? And what’s the difference between someone talking on the phone and them talking to someone else in person, who is standing right there?

    I’m so tired of people thinking they can tell the rest of the world how to behave, and where we can talk.

    If you think banging weights is rude, you’ve obviously never lifted anything so heavy that you couldn’t easily put it down gently. Have you ever seen real weightlifters?

  7. Sevina Says:
    December 15th, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Tired subject or not… All the points you raise are the very reasons I don’t go to gyms but rather purchased a 20’x15′ metal building and moved it to my backyard and stocked it with all my favorite equipment. Now I can workout when and how I please without having to endure others indiscretions or they mine. Thanks

  8. James Says:
    December 17th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I am not telling the rest of the world how to behave. I took this to be an open forum, and I voiced my thoughts. I did not mean to create such overt hostility. Am I the only one who dislikes the use of cellphones in a gym? The last I knew, this was a free country, and I’ve the right to my opinion.

    Somehow, the orange analogy just doesn’t seem relevant–sight and sound are two different senses.

    With regard to banging weights, I wasn’t talking about lifting anything. I was talking about people replacing weights in their designated spots, and banging.

    Peace, dude! No sense walking around with an authoritative viewpoint. I was only offering polite observations, and, brother, did I get shot down.

  9. Jaxxi Hax Says:
    April 26th, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    If I may just chime in on the cell phone issue….I like to listen to podcasts while working out. I recommend “Savage Love,” and “This American Life” – anyway, background music I can tune out, but when the guy on the machine next to me is carrying on a conversation (usually louder than normal on cell phones), I can no longer follow the program. It bugs!

    Everything else you said was spot on. I’m going to look to see if you have any etiquette for the locker rooms. For example, at what age is it no longer appropriate for boys to change with their moms in the Women’s Locker room?

  10. Anne Keckler Says:
    April 27th, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Jaxxi, I totally understand how you feel. I just don’t think that we have a right to that kind of quiet and privacy in a such a public place as the gym. People around us are going to talk, sometimes loudly. That could be because they are hard of hearing, or because they have a bad cell phone signal, or whatever. I don’t think it’s rude, though I can see how it could be annoying if it’s interfering with what you’re trying to do.


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