How should you conduct yourself while working out in a big building with a bunch of strangers? Why does gym etiquette matter?
Gym etiquette is a mix of three main factors: respect, common sense, and experience. Respect for the facility, yourself, and the other gym-goers is really what it all boils down to. Common sense enables you to figure out how to behave in the gym. Experience teaches you the specific actions you should or should not be doing in the gym that don’t necessarily fall under common sense.
Gym etiquette matters because a) it’s how you show you’re a nice, respectful person, and b) so you don’t annoy everyone else/ make them uncomfortable for no reason. So, with all that being said, here are a few gym etiquette tips to start with.
Put Weights Away
Pretty self explanatory, put your weights away so someone else doesn’t have to. The other day we went into the gym and someone had left like 270 lbs on the barbell, on the floor. Our gym is great, but one thing it’s missing is bumper plates. So, that makes it more challenging to get the weights off and on. On some machines, you can leave weights on just because it is unlikely anyone will use anything less than that. However, we’ve talked to other people about that and we’ve all experienced a time where we left on what we thought was the base weight anyone could do, but then a really small person comes in and has to take all the weight off.
So, basically just use your judgment on that or put all the weights away just to be safe. If someone is waiting to use something after you, you could also just ask them and see if they want the same weight or less.
Wipe Down Machines and Benches
You sweat. I sweat. We all sweat. You don’t want to sit on a bench someone else just sweated on and didn’t wipe off. The same goes for whoever uses it after you. Basically, just make it a habit to wipe off machines seats, benches, and anything else you think could use a cleaning.
Don’t Sing in the Gym
So, there’s two guys in our gym that are truly excellent examples of everything you should not do in the gym. I don’t think either of them have ever heard of gym etiquette. We groan every time we see them through the window as we’re going inside. One of the things these two dudes have in common is they both sing. Badly. They also have questionable song choices, but I can’t really judge on that. I’m not sure why you would think that the gym is an appropriate place to sing, but if you were considering it, I think the other people at your gym would appreciate if you didn’t. Lip-syncing or dancing a bit if you’re really into your music probably wouldn’t bother anyone though.
Don’t Slam Weights
I’m not Planet Fitness here to stop you from making any noise whatsoever. Weights are heavy and they are noisy, so you can’t help but be loud sometimes. But we’ve seen a lot of people who honestly just throw weights around, drop them, and bang them together just for attention. It’s annoying. Avoid using weights in a loud way just for attention. Impress people with your lifts instead.
Don’t Do Circuits with 10 Different Things
So, if you’re into circuits, that’s awesome. You’re in a routine and it works. We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t do circuits. Just be aware of other people. There was another person at our gym who had a circuit of 10-12 machines, but would not let anyone else use any of the machines in that circuit. Incredibly disrespectful and meant a bunch of people were just standing around or changing up their workout routines just so this guy could do his routine without having to wait. Not the kind of guy who would let you work in. If you’re on maybe two different things and switching back quickly, it’s definitely more understandable if you ask someone to wait to use a machine or weight till you’re done. Ten is a bit excessive though.
If You Think Someone Else Might Be Using Something, Ask
Most people tend to do this anyway because they’ve learned how to share and don’t act entitled to everything. But there are times when I get up to spot Evan for a minute and leave my water and stuff next to a machine, then come back to a person using it, so there are a few people out there who don’t follow this gym etiquette rule super well. Leaving your belongings next to something or leaving weights on are typically two signals people use to claim machines/weights/benches, etc.
Don’t Bug People with Headphones On
In general, don’t deliberately irritate anyone. But in particular, if people are wearing headphones, they don’t want to be in a conversation. If someone is wearing headphones and we want to ask if they’re using a weight or bench, we just kind of wave to get their attention and point to the thing. It’s easier than getting them to take their headphones out just to say yes or no.
Give People Personal Space
We don’t really have an issue with this at our gym because it’s never too crowded, but in bigger gyms, it can be a problem. Nobody wants to be close enough to someone to be able to smell them or feel them breathe. Your personal bubble should be larger in the gym than in other situations. Safety is one of the reasons for this. If you’re standing too close to someone, you might end up getting smacked with a dumbbell because they were in the zone and didn’t see you.
Don’t Hog Machines (Especially to Use Your Phone)
So, if you’re doing 10 sets on a machine or in the squat rack, don’t take 5 minute breaks in between. Our gym is small enough that we do our long deadlift workouts on Sundays when there’s often no one else there. But we wouldn’t do the same workout on like a Monday when there’s 20 other people in the gym because they might want to use that space too. Just be respectful and don’t use the same thing for ages if there’s only one of them.
If your gym has like 20 squat racks, then it’s more ok to use one for longer compared to if your gym is like ours and has 1 regular squat rack. But basically, be efficient in your workouts and don’t waste time. At other gyms, one thing that annoyed me was when people would hog a bench or machine and just sit there on their phone for 10 minutes, then do a set for 30 seconds. If you’re going to be at the gym, you may as well use your time wisely and work out rather than using your phone constantly.
Yeah, just don’t be stinky. People don’t want to be around that.
Don’t Make Loud, Obnoxious, Unnecessary Noises
Referring back to the two loud guys at our gym who sing, both of them also make loud obnoxious noises for no reason. One of them is so loud we can hear him over the gym music and over whatever we’re listening to on our headphones. It’s not even like he just makes noise when lifting heavy. He could just be standing and would grunt for no reason. The other dude screams and tries to do screamo music sometimes. Make noise when you’re putting in effort if you have to, but it’s really annoying to everyone else if you’re just constantly loud when you don’t need to be.
Don’t Hit on People
This really makes people uncomfortable. The gym is not the place to try to get in a relationship. Respect why people are there. They want to get in shape/lose weight/get gains, just improve themselves. Hitting on someone can make them feel self-conscious about what they’re doing or how they’re appearing at the gym.
Don’t Give People Unwanted Advice
I feel like everyone at some point has been given advice in the gym from a stranger. Some people like Evan would take it graciously. I get defensive and cranky. There have been so many times when random men would tell me what I was doing was wrong, that my first reaction to anyone giving me advice, even Evan, is to immediately shut down and ignore it. Just because someone else is doing an exercise differently than you do doesn’t mean what they are doing is actually incorrect.
Unless you’re a personal trainer or a weightlifting expert, you don’t really have authority over anyone else. You might know more than another person, but you also might not. Don’t make assumptions. If you already know the person, it’s ok to talk about how you’re doing exercises and make suggestions, but it’s much less acceptable to go up to random people and give them unsolicited advice on how to lift.
Don’t Talk on the Phone
When I was conducting my research study on interpersonal interactions at the gym, I found a lot of people talked on the phone. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t seem to be as common here. People are often a lot louder on the phone than in normal conversation, so it’s more bothersome than just talking to other people who are at the gym too. I also personally believe that if you are able to hold a conversation while working out, then you’re doing something wrong. You’re not focused and you’re not physically exerting yourself enough. If one of us gets a call, we go outside to take it. Talking on the phone in the gym is like talking on the phone in a restaurant. Yes, there are other conversations going on, but it just isn’t polite.
After you’ve been in a gym environment for awhile, you’ll pick up on a lot of other little things that aren’t listed here. If you’re especially observant and aware of others, following gym etiquette should be an easy task for you.
What other behaviors would you consider gym etiquette? Do you have any pet peeves at the gym? Do you think you follow the guidelines of gym etiquette?