I’ve recently started back to the gym, and even though I was a regular before I had my kids, I still felt like a freshmen walking into a lunchroom full of seniors those first few weeks. Part of my nervousness can be attributed to that spoken (and unspoken) gym etiquette that may be unknown to people hitting the gym for the first time or going back in the New Year after a hiatus. If it’s been a while or you’ve never tried it, brush up on some simple rules that will help you feel at ease at the gym.
1. Wipe down the machines. Whether running on the treadmill or toughing it out on the elliptical, working out is bound to make you sweat. And sweat. And sweat. But even if you don’t create puddles on and around your machine, it’s common courtesy to wipe it down when you’re done using it. Many gyms have antibacterial wipes or paper towels and sprays that you can use for a quick clean up, or in a pinch, use a towel.
2. Don’t talk on your phone. Many people think of their time at the gym as their “me time,” a break from home, kids, work and the world. When you engage in a conversation on the phone, you’re not only impacting your own workout but everyone else’s around you. Send a text instead.
3. Put the weights away. It may seem obvious, but if you’re going to use the free weights, put them away when you’re done.
4. Don’t hog the equipment. This goes for cardio, free weights and weight machines—if the gym is crowded, be mindful of other people wanting use the same equipment as you. Don’t run on a treadmill for an hour, don’t take all of the free weights to save for later use and don’t sit on the weight machine between reps if someone else wants a turn.
5. Don’t hover. However, if you’re waiting to use a machine, it’s impolite to loiter around, putting pressure on another gym member to hurry up with their workout. You can always ask someone how long they think they’ll be, or simply do another activity until your desired equipment is free.
6. Don’t curse or yell. This is more common with serious lifters, but there are occasions where people grunt, yell or shout expletives after completing a set. Don’t be that person.
7. Don’t give your advice unless it’s asked for. As I’ve said, going to the gym can be intimidating for some. Telling another exerciser that they have bad form will only compound their insecurities and ruin their workout.
8. Dress appropriately. You don’t have drop a mortgage payment at Athleta, but you should wear appropriate gym clothes including athletic shoes and a sports bra. Skip the jeans and potent perfumes.
9. Don’t throw your clothes all over the locker room. Some people view the locker room as their second bedroom, draping their clothes on one bench, their towel on another and then brushing their hair at a third. Keep your stuff tidy and try to take up an appropriate amount of space.
10. And don’t get too naked in the locker room. How naked is too naked? That’s subjective. At the gym today, I had a woman next to me blow drying her hair in the buff—I could have cared less. But some people are less comfortable with that level of exposure. There’s no need to be a never nude, but maybe skip the extended conversations in your birthday suits.