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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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??

37 comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

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