Updated: Aug 18, 2020
The start of a new year means new resolutions and goals, many of which revolve around health and fitness. It is no secret that come January gyms are significantly busier, which can make us all feel a little overwhelmed at times. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to talk gym etiquette and tips to help you navigate the system a little better. Whether you are trying out a gym for the first time or are a frequent flyer, we can all use a little refresher on proper etiquette for the start of the new year.
Let me start off by saying this list is based entirely on my own opinion. Keep in mind that every gym has its own set of written rules, so either way make sure you are adhering to those rules at all times. This list is based on the unwritten rules of the gym (and all of these are based on REAL things I have seen while there). It might seem like common sense to some of you, but I can guarantee we all are guilty of breaking these rules every now and then.
Proper Etiquette for Cardio/Free Weight Space:
1. Clean the equipment when you are finished with it.
It is the peak of cold and flu season, need I say more? Then again, we don't need to all be swapping sweat and germs at ANY point in the year! Some gyms also allow chalk for weight lifting. If this is the case be sure to clean chalk off the weights and surrounding areas when you are finished, so the next person doesn't end up with white marks all over their clothes.
2. Clean up after yourself.
Always be courteous and put your equipment back in the right place when you are finished with it. When you don't clean up your space, it means someone else has to do it. It also is a huge safety hazard when pathways are not kept clean and open. One of the most common things I see people not cleaning up are the attachments for the pulley systems. They are often left all over the floor which makes for a good tripping hazard, as well as frustration when you cannot find the attachment you are looking for.
3. Re-rack your weights (and in the proper location).
This goes along with the idea of cleaning up after yourself, but I felt it was important enough to deserve a title all its own. When you are finished with the squat rack or bench press, it is common courtesy to re-rack your plates so the next person does not have to do it. Although it may not always seem like it, there is a organizational system with the weights so it is easy to find the correct amount, so make sure you are placing them back where they belong.
This topic frustrates me quite a bit. Last week, I wanted to use the sled and was not thrilled that someone had left a stack of 45 lb plates on it- 8 in total. Guess who had to take them all off?? My thoughts-- if you have time and energy to put them on there, you most certainly have the time and energy to take them back off. Keep in mind, not everyone may be as strong as you and cannot move 360 lbs at a time. It is important to be polite and re-rack those weights so someone else doesn't have to.
4. Don't hoard weights/equipment.
There are instances when you will need more than 1 set of dumb bells if you are switching between exercises, but keep in mind that there is a limited number of each weight and we all need to share. If you won't be using a weight right away or have just finished using it, be smart and put it back so that others have access to it. Only keep with you what you need for that particular exercise versus what you need for your entire workout.
5. Save social media for later.
I don't think anyone has a problem with you snapping a quick gym pic for instagram, however be aware of your surroundings. If you are taking extra long to finish your sets because you are checking your social media accounts, others may be waiting on you. This rule also goes for talking on the phone in general. If you do need to talk on the phone, find a quiet place away from other gym goers so that you do not disturb them with your conversation.
6. Respect the equipment.
Always treat the equipment like it is your own. The gym is not a playground and the equipment needs to be used properly at all times. Not only is it dangerous to you, but you could also be putting others in danger by not using something properly or breaking it.
7. Set your weights down gently when possible.
I'm sure by now we have all heard of the Planet Fitness "lunk alarm" that goes off when someone drops a weight too hard. Most gyms do not go to that extreme, but it is still rude to drop your weights repetitively (It can be quite startling actually!). Occasionally when lifting heavier weight, such as with a deadlift, it is difficult to not make some noise BUT avoid doing it excessively with every exercise.
8. Allow others to "work in" with you if necessary. When the gym gets crowded it can be difficult to get on a piece of equipment you need. If you notice someone waiting for the equipment you are using, you can ask them if they would like to "work in" with you. This means that while you are resting they can do their set and vice versa. Also, don't be afraid to ask someone if you can work in with them if you notice they are taking breaks between each set. I find that most people are more than willing to do so.
Along the same lines, if you are working out in a group of 3 or more, it might be wise to not all do the same exercise at once. There are usually others waiting for the equipment you are using, so if 5 people are all working in together it can take a really long time and be frustrating to those who are waiting. Try breaking up into smaller groups and rotating your exercises instead.
9. Make sure the equipment is free before you start using it.
If you notice a towel or water bottle near a piece of equipment, chances are someone has just stepped away but is still using it. I usually stand in the general area for a moment to see if anyone comes back. If you are still unsure, don't be afraid to ask someone near by if they know if the equipment is free or not.
10. Do not block someones view of the mirror.
This can be difficult if your gym gets crowded, but it is common courtesy to not pick a spot that is directly in front of someone who is using the mirror. Chances are that person was standing there so they could watch their form. Sometimes when really crowded, you may need to stand in front of someone. In this case, do your sets while they are resting, and vice versa, so that you can alternate use of the mirror.
Proper Etiquette for Classes:
1. When entering and exiting a class, be conscious of the people in the class whom you are crossing paths with.
At my gym, it is standard practice to not enter a room until someone from the previous class has already exited. Does this always happen? Absolutely not, but it should! It can be very distracting to a class that is in session to enter before the class has ended. On the other end, when you have just finished a class, do not linger in the room afterwards so that the next class can start on time.
2. Arrive early.
This one is pretty self explanatory, but it can be distracting to the instructor and others in the class when you enter late. Some classes can be crowded, so to avoid having to re-arrange spaces during the middle of the class be sure to get there on time and be ready to go!
3. Clean the equipment and floor around you.
Classes can produce a lot of sweat, so make sure you clean up after yourself as you would in any other area of the gym. This includes yoga mats you borrow, weights etc. I also know that I am someone who sweats a lot during classes so the floor around me often gets some drops on it. Don't forget to clean that up as well. There is often no time to clean the floors between classes and that can just get gross!
4. Silence your phone
Nothing is more distracting than a phone going off during class, especially if it is a quiet class like yoga. I was definitely guilty of this one-- and I can assure you, I only made that mistake once!! It is rude to your class mates and instructor; so either leave it outside or be sure to silence it.
5. It is not social hour.
Classes can be fun to attend with friends, however it is not the appropriate time to socialize. It can be distracting to the instructor and those around you, so take the class time to be fully present and focus on YOU! Socialization can be done once the hard work is over.
A Few Helpful Tips:
1. If you don't know how to use something, don't be afraid to ask! At one point or another, everyone has needed to ask for help because they weren't sure about something. It is much better to use it correctly then get hurt trying to figure it out on your own!
2. For my new gym goers-- Don't let others intimidate you. Focus on YOU! I used to get so intimidated in the gym, especially if I was the only girl lifting weights. Once I realized everyone is only focusing on themselves it made my gym experience much more pleasurable. You are doing this for YOU, don't second guess yourself and keep going!
3. For my frequent flyers-- Don't be the one intimidating someone else!!
4. Do what your own body can handle. Don't lift heavier or run faster just because the person next to you is. A little healthy competition can be motivating but don't over do it. Again, focus on yourself and know your limits. If you push yourself too hard, too fast you can end up hurting yourself.
5. Be dedicated. Don't let yourself quit in 2 months, even if it is tempting. New year's resolutions are great and motivate us to be better in the upcoming year, however it can be hard to keep it up. Stick with it and soon enough you will actually start to enjoy working out... I promise ;-)
6. Be friendly and have FUN! This should go without saying but its always a good reminder! Everyone is at the gym for the same reason, lets all make it a more pleasant experience for each other. Don't be afraid to smile and say hello to friendly faces :-)
If there are other unwritten gym rules you have, comment below! As always, I hope you pass this information along to a friend who may find it helpful. I hope you all have FUN, work hard and meet your fitness goals this year!!