Ah, January...every gym or fitness studio’s favorite month. Memberships increase, attendance increases, and people excited and rejuvenated by the new year bombard the closest exercise destination ready to tackle their new fitness goals. Enter irritated gym regulars. Why the irritation? Because, understandably, gym newbies aren't hip to general gym etiquette.
Why should they be? Gym etiquette is usually something you learn from experience...or from someone who is compassionate enough to school you before you walk into the sweat shop. So, if you’re one of those gym newbies, here are some compassionate tips to help you avoid embarrassment as you embark on your new gym experience!
- Pay attention to time limits. Cardio machines (e.g. treadmills, ellipticals, stair climbers, stairmasters, rowing machines, etc) are a popular choice among gym goers, especially first-timers and especially in January. Most gyms have a 20-30 minute time limit on these machines, so check for a sign up sheet before hopping on. This can save you the awkward moment when someone taps you on the shoulder, mid stride, and tells you to hop off the machine because 'it's not your turn;' and it can also prevent someone else from walking up and hopping on the machine when you've been waiting for 15 minutes. Many gyms have that one member who polices the machines making sure that people don’t go over their time limit, and you certainly don’t want a run in with them. Be mindful of these time limits, they are set for a reason.
- Don’t be a squatter. It’s fine if you need to do three sets on one piece of equipment, but if you’re resting for a long time between sets, allow someone else waiting for the equipment to work in. Otherwise, lift or get off the pot.
- Wipe down your machines. This cannot be stressed enough. NO ONE wants to touch your nasty sweat. I don’t care how clean you are, your sweat is just plain nasty to everyone else. Few things can provoke gym anger more quickly than someone hopping off a machine and leaving it dripping wet. Most gyms have spray and paper towels or sanitizing wipes that you can use to wipe down your machine. This goes for both cardio machines and nautilus machines. Another solution is to bring a towel and lay down it down on the machine you're using (not a cardio machine, of course). This will help the machine stay dry to begin with.
- Stay off your phone. It’s fine if you use your phone as a music listening device, but there is no need for you to be yapping away or texting while working out. If you are doing these things, you’re wasting your time. Not to mention, no one wants to hear your plans for the weekend or the awesome vacation you just returned from, or how bad your date was last night.
- RERACK YOUR WEIGHTS! This is in all caps because it is my BIGGEST gym pet peeve. If you use a set of dumb bells or a bar bell or weight plates for your exercise, PUT THEM BACK! Not only is it rude to not put your equipment away, it is dangerous. If you used a weight that is too heavy and you can’t put it back, you have two options: 1) Use lighter weight next time or 2) Ask for help. If you don’t want to ask another gym member, there are plenty of employees who can help you. It is not embarrassing to ask for help, you’re working out, you get fatigued, it happens. It’s embarrassing if you’re the jerk that leaves 5, 45 pound plates on either side of the bench press bar for the next person to deal with, or dumbbells sitting in the middle of the floor for everyone to trip over.
- Keep talking to a minimum in group X classes. Group exercise classes are an incredibly fun way to get your workout in, but all it takes is one person to ruin the entire classes’ experience. Be respectful of the teacher and other students by keeping your mouth shut and paying attention. An occasional “Woo!” is acceptable and it’s okay to respond if the teacher asks a question, but a group X class is NOT the place to hold a gossip fest.
- Speaking of group X, be mindful of your classmates’ personal space. If you’re in a class of 5 and you’re in a giant studio, then you better work that grapevine!! But, if you’re in a class that's packed to the gills, where space is limited, you need to be aware of your personal bubble. A few examples: do not stand directly in front of someone who has already picked their spot; do not go to the bathroom and return to a different spot; if you are late, do not walk to the front of the class, unless it is obvious that there is room up there for you.
- Speaking of being late, try to be on time! Most teachers prefer you to get to class a few minutes early so you can claim your spot, get settled, etc. I, myself, do not mind a late comer as I know life gets in the way, but many teachers expect you to be on time. If you have a teacher who prefers this, be respectful of their policy.
- Choose your clothing wisely. Some gyms have dress codes (e.g. no tank tops, no half tops, no jeans, etc) so you’ll want to abide by those rules, but you also want to be aware of clothing that might be distracting to others. You might have a fabulous tush, but not everyone wants to see your cheeks or your crack when working out. A couple of other clothing items to be aware of plus solutions to the problem: see through leggings (solution: tie a shirt around your waist); loose shorts that bare your undies, or lack of undies (solution: wear bike shorts underneath). If you absolutely insist on wearing any of the aforementioned items, don’t be offended if you get a few stares.
- Keep it clean. This is a tough one to discuss, but let’s talk about hygiene. Gyms are full of sweaty, nasty, smelly people. It’s just how it is, working out --> sweating --> body odor. If you are a naturally pungent person, perhaps a quick shower or sink bath would make the gym experience more comfortable for you and those surrounding you. Side note: if you ate a giant bean-filled burrito for lunch, you might want to skip the heavy lifting that night.
Good luck! And if you haven’t been active in recent years, check with a doctor before beginning your new, healthier lifestyle.