Gym Etiquette: Are you “that annoying person”?

Let’s be honest, for some of you this will be a head-nodding, amen-sister, comical read.  For others, a shocking awakening of self-awareness.  Let’s do the world a favor and share this post far and wide to spread the message ever-so-tactfully to those who need it.

I brought this up on our Fit Club Instagram account recently, asking for your biggest pet peeves at the gym, and boy did you all have a lot to say!  With so many people with so many of the same pet peeves, it kind of baffles me that there still so many offenders!  Let’s get right to it.  Here are some general rules of gym etiquette, or in other words, things you should do (or avoid doing) so as not to be labeled “that one annoying guy/girl at the gym.”  Plus a few funnies to keep the mood light.

I’d like to make it VERY clear that this is a list compiled directly from our thousands of fans on Instagram.  I’m not just a grumpy hater.  I’m a pretty tolerant person in general, but when when it comes to gyms, it seems like most people have the same gripes, so let’s laugh about it together!

1.  Do: Clean up your stuff.  
This is probably my #1 personal pet peeve.  And sorry boys, but you are usually the worst offenders.  I have a very limited time to spend at the gym, and the last thing I want to be doing is wasting my time racking all of YOUR weights so I can use the space.  I sometimes wonder if these people grew up with their Mom always picking up after them or if their spouse does it currently because seriously, put your stuff away.  I’m not your Mom.  If you get something out, put it away when you’re your done.  Stack up plates on a machine?  Put them back on the rack before you walk away.

2.  Do: Wipe down your Machine.
But I was only on it for 10 minutes!  But I didn’t break a sweat!  Listen very carefully:  just wipe it down anyway.  Every time.  Leaving a machine sweaty is definitely gross, but even if you don’t feel you left your mark, germs are everywhere.  Who knows what you’ve got on your fingers that pushed those buttons.  Just keep everything sanitized and we all win.  PS: wiping down the machine with the same towel you used to wipe your sweaty face doesn’t count.


3.  Don’t: Wear cologne or perfume.
Heat, sweat, and increased heart rates accentuate all the smells.  Please for the love- skip the perfume and cologne.  You don’t need it.  You need deodorant, period.  You think you’re making yourself more attractive at the gym with the smelly stuff, but really it’s probably making the people around you gag.

4.  Don’t: Talk on the phone while working out.
This is what started this whole conversation on Instagram.  The girl on the treadmill next to me was yapping on the phone SO loud for a full 30 minutes.  Keep in mind the entire gym can hear your conversation when you’re doing this.  It’s distracting (and mildly awkward) so maybe have a text convo, or tell them you’ll call back after your workout.  Because let’s be honest, if you are carrying on a conversation, you’re probably not working out very hard.

snooze button meme

5.  Don’t: Be an equipment hog.
What’s an equipment hog?  Do you sit on the same piece of equipment waiting 5 minutes playing on your phone between sets?  Do you workout with friends and rotate through the same few pieces of equipment for a full 30-60 minutes so no one else can come near it?  Do you grab weights and carry them to another part of the gym and then keep them there for your whole workout?  Do you plan your entire workout around one piece of equipment?  Do you lean on a machine while you visit with people so no one else can use it?  If you answered yes to any of these questions then congratulations!  You’re an equipment hog!   Now stop.

6.  Don’t: Offer unsolicited advice.
Unless someone asks you for advice, or is in serious danger of injury, keep your helpful commentary to yourself.  Most people, even if they really do have bad form, will be super annoyed by your telling them.


7.  Do: Leave a buffer zone.
Guys, it’s just like the urinals.  Or so I’ve heard.  If there is an entire row of treadmills open and one person is running, don’t hop on the one right next to them.  Respect the buffer.

8.  Do: Use headphones
It surprises me that people do this, but they do.  Don’t play music from your phone speaker. If you want to listen to something, for pete’s sake, bring some headphones.

9.  Do: Use your inside voice
I can’t even tell you the kind of personal information I learn about random people at the gym because they practically yell it.   Remember that people go to the gym to focus and maybe even relax a bit and both of those are hard to do when you’re talking like you own the place.  Socializing is also super fun, heck I love to chat with my friends, and lots of people workout with a partner.  Talking and visiting at the gym is great, just be respectful of the people around you and maybe find an empty corner if you want to have chit-chat hour or get extra rowdy.

10. Don’t: Bare it all (or at least be mindful about it.)
Several people mentioned this on the Instagram thread so it’s worth a mention here.  Be mindful that just because you’re comfortable with yourself in your birthday suit, it doesn’t mean other people are.  Obviously locker rooms are for changing and showering, but cover up when you can to be respectful of the people around you.  I will say I still have VERY vivid memories from the shower room of our community swimming pool when I was only 4-5 years old.  That goes to show you that those images are burned into your eyeballs and you can’t un-see them!

What are your pet peeves?  Any general etiquette rules we missed??

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Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. So I actually had a question. Sometimes when I am at the gym, I have headphones on and I find a song that just gets me really into the rythum and I start dancing on the treadmill, is that considered rude? I don’t go all out of anything its mostly just moving my body and walking to a pace of the rythm and mouthing the music. I’ve had personal trainers tell me they enjoy seeing it as it pumps them up, but I just wanna make sure its not rude as it helps me with cardio.

  2. There are 2 ladies in my gym that chat non stop and very loudly. It is very disturbing and extremely annoying. Even with the music on in the gym plus i was wearing my headphone watching a movie, I can still hear them loud and clear. After many times I decided to tell them off and both of them were so angry that they shouted at me instead. This are 2 adults that has no common sense and etiquette. They are very selfish people.

  3. Love these towels – they are just large enough to work perfectly as a gym towel. Wish there were better color options. Recently ordered another set for my son who used mine while visiting. He sweats a lot when working out at the gym and made several comments about how well the microfiber towels work. They do not hold odor either!
    Ramona Tralork

  4. Oh man, where do i start. I have “gym friends” who come up to you while you are going for it on the cardio machines and think that it’s a great idea to start a deep and meaningful conversation. You don’t want to be rude, you drop a hint about wanting to finish your run but they just stand there talking to you even when you have headphones on. They have been allowed to finish there work outs in peace and so now out of sheer boredom, they want to ruin yours. People, please just leave the the talk for an appropriate time, when we ave all finished our individual work outs.

  5. I had a douche recently violate two at the same time. Pardon my words but the dude was talking loudly from his ear piece (everyone nearby could hear) AND said yes, he was using those weights when two guys asked him. Pssssh HOG and a DOUCHE.

  6. You should get a home gym if you’re so concerned about people and germs. Hopefully you’ll post my comment this time.

  7. We moved from Utah to the Midwest a few years ago. We’d never had gym memberships (not in the budget) but the local YMCA offers scholarships, and we recently got a membership for our entire family. I love that place! I honestly can say I haven’t been bothered by anything on that list. The Y (that’s short for YMCA here, not BYU) is really an important part of our community. There are all sorts of people who come in, from the young adults who are obviously there all the time and like to socialize in their clique, to the pickleball teams, to the people who meander in with sodas in hands and talk to their friend next to them while they walk on the treadmill, to the senior citizens who barely make it in on their own two feet for their physical therapy. Families with young kids come in for preschool, karate, and swim lessons. Dads teach their 13 year old sons how to use the equipment. That’s why I love it there. I never feel intimidated or like I’m not doing it right. I can workout as intensely as I want, or let myself take it slower on the elliptical and enjoy the people watching. The place is always clean, members and staff are always friendly, and the community takes pride in it. Is it just my city, or do others who use the YMCA have the same experience?

    1. Our YMCA is really nice, too. At church, I’ve heard people testify that they feel the Spirit at the YMCA. Everybody isn’t perfect, but, you know, it’s the same at church!

  8. Great list. I cannot STAND the hogs and the unwanted advice. Also, bare bums on benches must stop. I can’t even come close to figuring out why a person would do that. Another one is that some people are completely incapable of putting things away in their right places. I detest mixed up hand weights and bars all out of order so I have to search for the one I want because I accidentally grabbed the wrong one. (sigh) Why can’t all the gym goers be perfect like us? 😀

  9. I’m not going to worry about “7. Do: Leave a buffer zone.” I’ve chosen machines because of placement of the TV to the machine – two in my last gym would give me a headache because of how I had to turn my head. I’ve chosen some because I preferred one machine over another – sometimes even when they are the same machine they work differently. I’ve chosen them because of their placement – I have balance issues and stepping off the end the treadmill in my current gym is not always easy so I try to always get the one next to the wall.

    If someone else gets next to me then I don’t really care. There may be any number of reasons for it even if it is only because they are a creature of habit. No big deal.

  10. One of the reasons I don’t use the weight machines at my gym is because I don’t understand the cleaning etiquette. If I want to do a circuit using several machines for two or three sets, do I have to wipe down each machine every time I use it? That’s a lot of time spent spraying and wiping equipment! I just stick to the cardio machines at the gym and use resistance bands at home.

    1. I am not that big of a germaphobe, so I never clean my equipment before I use it. I just follow my rule of not using my hands to touch my face until I have washed them. Go ahead and do your circuit and clean all of your equipment up after you last set with that equipment. If someone wants to “work in” on the same equip. you are using, they will just have to deal with your sweat. If you are using the same weights or cables to do 3 sets of 3 different excersizes, for example, then clean them after you are done with your last set before you put them away.
      Don’t let all “the rules” scare you away from adding weights into your routine! Weight training is one of the best things you can do for your body. Good luck, hopefully you will feel brave enough to take the leap into weight training soon!

  11. My biggest pet peeve at the gym is when someone comes in late to a full class and expects to work her way to the front row. Those of us on the front row get to the class 10 minutes early to save our spots. So someone who is late should go to the back. Also that person who comes in late, if she sees the class is full then she probably should choose to workout somewhere else that day instead of squishing in somewhere.

    Thanks for your post about the gym. I agree with all of them!

  12. There are signs all over about keeping machines clean and the time for acceptable use of the machines and weights. People pay attention to the time but keeping the machines clean just goes over most peoples heads. A gym is one of the dirtiest places there is.

    It just gags me to watch this one particular idiot at the gym who uses the sweaty and I mean sweaty towel he wipes his face with to wipe down the treadmill. Then we have the ones that don’t wipe down before or after. When I first started go to the gym one of the workers there told me wipe the machine down before you use it and wipe it down after. You can’t trust people to do it.

    Thanks for posting!

  13. I must say, your post on Instagram and the comments that followed have caused me to do several days of soul searching. When I first read your pet peeve request, I had a couple experiences come front and center to mind, but as I continued to read down through the comments, it caused me to feel sad. Several of the comments seemed to be getting nit picky with those around them. Things were being listed that in no way affect anyone’s workout. I was sad, because it was causing the gym to feel like a very unwelcoming and judgmental place to be, which is the opposite of what we want for ourselves and for others. Thus the soul searching.

    My personal conclusion is like James Paul’s comment above, I am in control of only myself. It is my responsibility to read through my gyms’ rules and etiquette lists, and follow them! I then need to learn to work around others or how to kindly ask them for what I need, and to let the other stuff go. My soul searching brought me to the conclusion that there were only a small handful of things that other gym goers could do to truly affect if I could have a sucessful workout or not. The perfume you listed above being one of them. (I don’t work out well if I am physically ill.) The rest were just me wanting others to change so I could have a happier time at the gym, which I decided, for me, wasn’t fair. I’m in no way saying that we should each do whatever we want and let those around us deal with it. I just think that for me, I’m going to do my best to be thoughtful to those around me and not worry so much if they are doing the same for me.

    A sincere thank you for your question, surely not the answer you were looking for when you posted your question, but a much appreciated mental shift for me. I feel at peace with my gym:)

    1. Very well said, Jenny. Sometimes people are lazy and have bad manners, but sometimes they’re just innocent of the effect they’re having on those around them. A little kindness and tolerance are definitely needed when dealing with crowds of people in an interactive situation like the gym.

  14. Okay, maybe this one I need help with. I get interval training but one time the lady on the treadmill next to mine would rev it way up and then back off (or stand on the side rails), for like 30 seconds at a time, and this went on for several minutes. It was mildly annoying. But then I see those workouts where this is recommended, so I try to be tolerant….

    And amen to the clean the machine thing! I clean my treadmill before AND after just because I see way too many people just walk away.

  15. I have to tell you, this post gave me a good laugh. It was written with such humor and insight that it was a great mood lifter this rainy afternoon. I totally agree with all the etiquette rules. Now if we could only get people to observe those phone rules (conversation and audio files) in general public situations, I would be a very happy camper!

  16. I have one to add – Don’t leave your sweaty gym clothes in your locker and wear them day after day without washing them. Ugh!

  17. Yes! And one thing that really bugs me (but maybe it’s just me) are the people are clearly there just to get attention. The woman who is all made up, hair just so, wearing the “can’t possibly be comfortable” leggings and bra just walking around and trying to flirt with my husband right in front of me. Yeah, that pisses me off. It’s a gym, not a bar. You are there for a workout, not a date. Keep your distance woman.

  18. Haha this was great! The last one doesn’t bug me too much. I try to stay relatively decent, but it is a locker.

  19. My favorite (or not!) was the woman who used one of two (!) spin bikes to hang her coat. While she used the treadmill. Seriously? There’s a coat rack for your coat.

  20. I haven’t been to a gym in forever – sounds like that’s a good thing – but my comment is directed at my town’s community pool: please fix the showers – small children use them, I use them, older (naked and sometimes scary) people use them, and no one wants to be scalded like that!

  21. I agree with these especially the one where a person has to get on a machine right next to me when there are several others available! One thing that happened in the gym recently was a woman listening to music on her phone while being in the Cardio Cinema!!! I’m watching a movie – if you want to listen to music, do as you said and get headphones or go out to the main gym. Why would someone even do that?!

  22. I think that #10 is a bit out of line. My thought is that if you are uncomfortable with nudity in a locker room that is specifically there for showering and changing then perhaps you should go home to shower. I think its unfair to ask someone to hide their body or act like nudity is in some way shameful for your benefit. I understand that it can be awkward (above commenters’ experience with the nude woman painting her toes, that is out of line) but that is not a good reason to shame other peoples bodies just because they have different comfort levels than you.

    1. I totally get what you’re saying. Showers are definitely for showering. I always warn my little kids about it so they don’t stare, or say something out loud that I know they’re thinking because everyone has the right to dress down to their comfort level in a space like that. I don’t think people need to feel shamed (or rather, people definitely shouldn’t shame those that choose to get all nude-y,) but I also feel like it’s a mutual respect sort of thing. Like, if it’s an option to conveniently get dressed, or prance around topless for a little while longer, chances are most of the other people in the locker room would vote for you getting dressed, haha. Great thought though, appreciate the insight!

    2. #10 is a big pet peeve here. My problem isn’t the nudity required to bathe, briskly dry and dress. It’s the naked people lounging or flitting around from one end of the locker room to the other sans towel. Or, I swear, with their foot on the countertop as they shave their legs. That can be done in the privacy of your shower. And, please, just hold a towel to your backside if you’ve gotta bend all the way over right in front of me. I’m not your gyno or proctologist and don’t need that view.

      1. Nobody is body shaming. Whenever I see anyone working out my thoughts always go to the positive. I just agree that there is a difference with somebody showering or changing and someone lounging around naked with all their parts on display. That goes for any size and or shape of the person.

  23. ha thanks for that post! I read it to my husband and he kept saying “Yes! that drives me crazy!” I think it got him a little worked up, we had a good laugh!

  24. My gym is a pretty friendly place. There’s a little note on each machine about respecting others by letting them use equipment between your sets. I prefer to do one set of each, then go around again. But equipment hogging, in all its forms, is still rampant. I’ve also quit using one machine because of unwanted advice.

    Those most guilty of #10 are the older ladies from the water aerobics classes. Oh, my! I guess that’s why there are separate locker rooms for children. I just go home to shower and change. At first glance, though, I thought of the buxom babes who compliment each other’s bras in the (coed) weight room, or leave their cell phones and other personal parts sticking out of said clingy workout apparel. Maybe that would be a corollary to #10–cover your bust.

  25. Along the same lines as the last one, when I take my girls to swimming lessons there is ALWAYS some naked old lady walking around the locker room! I really didn’t want to see that especially when they do have curtained off areas for changing.

  26. I go to Planet Fitness, which I love! What I don’t love is when I do the 30-min circuit, there are a few (mostly men) who come to use that one machine – for half my workout, and sit on it when it’s obvious I would be using next in line. I have even heard the comment ‘that I don’t really want to use that machine anyway, since they are using it.’

    1. OH MY GOSH!!!!! I totally get you! And the sign that says that it is only for 30min circut use, and it is regularly monitered- LIES!! We talked to the staff about it, and they told us that when that happened that we should come and get them. Like little children tattling to Mommy.

    2. Nothing will beat the guy who wandered around the 30 minute circuit at my PF taking selfies to “prove” he went to the gym. Best/worst 15 minutes of my life.

  27. Yes to all but I have found workarounds for many of them. Like using a headset to tune out others and not to use highly sought after equipment. I also try to avoid crowded zones.

    I have never used the shower at gym. But guys who do seem to bare all. I thought that was normal. I try not to go the locker room during that time when everyone is changing and showering.

  28. YES to all, and especially that last one. I will never forget the time I walked into the locker room only to come face to, er, face with a woman who was butt-naked, painting her toenails. That’s a sight I really just wish I could un-see. (And that was about 8 years ago. The memory lingers.)