Whether you’re a frequent gym-goer or you just started working out at your local community center, there are a few do’s and don’ts you’re probably aware of. For example, you likely know you should wipe down equipment when you’re done with it and avoid hogging a machine when you see someone waiting patiently.
Using common sense and courtesy when working out in a public gym will give you (and everyone else) the best experience. But if you feel confused about what to do and what not to do, these seven gym etiquette rules should help!
Wearing the wrong clothing to the gym can actually hurt you, or at least negatively impact your workout. Here are a few things you should leave at home, according to Women’s Health:
And once you’ve found the best exercise outfits, make sure you’re wearing fresh gear to each workout. You don’t want moist, sweat-filled clothes to grow bacteria in your gym bag!
Group fitness classes are a great way to meet people at the gym or connect with the community you already have there. It’s good manners to arrive on time (and better manners if you can be there early!).
We suggest skipping classes like restorative yoga if you think you’ll be late; you’ll probably disrupt the quiet atmosphere of the group if you come in 10 minutes after it starts. But if you’re late to a cardio class, you can quickly sneak in the back and set up quietly before catching up with the others.
Before hopping on the treadmill or picking up those weights, check to make sure the equipment is free. If not, ask if you can “work in” with someone, which means trading off sets of cardio or free weights with the other person. But if the other gym-goer is almost finished, he or she may decline your request to work in. Just be patient and give them space until they’re ready to pass the machine or weights off to you.
When you’re using the gym equipment, it’s important to remember that—like you—other people are working out on a tight schedule. So, if you need to use the restroom or grab a drink, drape your towel over the machine and come back quickly (after a minute or two, not 10). And once you’ve finished with the machine, move on. Sitting on equipment you’re not using to text, scroll social media, or take the perfect selfie is disrespectful to the people waiting on you.
Gyms can get busy, but it’s polite to give other gym-goers as much space as you can. Try not to get on a bike or treadmill right next to someone if other machines are open. If you do have to squeeze in your cardio next to another person, keep your eyes on your own machine, TV screen, and workout stats. Your neighbor doesn’t want you watching over his or her shoulder!
Similar gym etiquette rules apply in the weight room: Keep a wide berth around the heavy lifters to keep them (and yourself) safe. You also want to stay out of their line of sight; while this may seem counterintuitive, it’s distracting to weightlifters when they notice someone close to their bench or bar.
And regardless of where you are, don’t flirt with others who are trying to exercise. The gym is a great place to meet new people, but it should also be a safe space to work out, not a place where people worry about being harassed.
Using your phone for anything other than music at the gym can be pretty disruptive to others. That’s why you shouldn’t make any calls—or keep them in the lobby, locker room, or community area. If you do have to take a call, try using headphones and excusing yourself from the crowded cardio or weights room.
Speaking of headphones, you should use these whenever you listen to music or stream a TV show during a workout. But it’s also important to pay attention to others who are wearing them; they may be intently focused on their exercise or jamming to loud workout tunes. For this reason, don’t startle or quickly approach someone with headphones in, even if you know them. You don’t want someone to lose control of their equipment just because you wanted to say hi.
During your workout, it’s best to keep your water bottle, towel, mat, and other items close to you instead of spreading them all over the place. This helps other gym-goers know which equipment you’re using and which spaces are available for them to exercise in. And if you spill your water or protein shake, clean it up immediately so nobody slips and falls.
Once you’re finished your reps, put away any weights, mats, or exercise balls you borrowed. And while we mentioned this before, please wipe down any and all machines you used! Bacteria can live for several hours on sweaty gym equipment (and viruses can last several days), but when you use disinfectant spray and paper towels, you’re fighting these germs and helping your gym stay clean.
It’s perfectly fine (and kind!) to introduce yourself to new members or people you keep running into or seeing at the gym. However, it’s important to only give these new friends workout advice if they ask you. Avoid telling them things like their form is wrong or they should be running faster; comments like these only make people feel judged and unwelcome.
This also applies if someone gives you unsolicited advice. You can just nod politely and move on while continuing to exercise like you were before. If you still have issues with your well-intentioned neighbor, you can always ask a staff member for help. And if you’re unsure about any of these rules, or you’re looking for exercise or form-related tips, your gym’s staff is here to assist you!
Now you’re ready to follow these gym etiquette rules—and you’re one step closer to reaching your fitness goals! But if you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. A fitness coach or other staff member can provide tips for a great workout while helping you feel more at home.
With two locations in Lafayette, Indiana, the Lafayette Family YMCA is a community committed to healthy living and social responsibility. For more fitness tips and to stay up to date about YMCA events, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, or visit our website here.