Gym gentility: manners matter when it comes to fitness etiquette

Don’t put your elbows on the table.

Always say “please” and “thank you.”

Cross your feet at the ankles.

Don’t double-dip a chip.

If these little rules sound familiar, mom taught you well, and you’re savvy to the code of social etiquette and good manners. Just as we have rules for dining, conversing and modesty, so do we have rules for proper gym conduct.

Although they’re mostly unwritten, there is a canon of gym etiquette that all gym-goers should recognize. Whether or not others do so is beyond your control! You can avoid committing a fitness faux pas by following a few simple guidelines.

Work It In

The gym has only so many machines, and if you go during peak hours, most of them will be occupied. If someone is using a machine you’d like to use, ask if you can ‘work in.” Working in is a way for two people to share the same equipment: One person rests while the other does a set. Approach the other person while he or she is resting and politely ask if you can work in. Be prepared: The person might say no. But don’t stress over his or her rudeness; simply move on and find something different to use. If the person agrees to let you in, it’s a nice gesture to return the weight setting and seat adjustment to what he or she was using once you finish your set. Hopefully, that person will be just as courteous to you.

Noise Pollution…

Although you may think the latest Eminem tune is da bomb, someone trapped on the treadmill next to you may not share your passion for pop. Turn your headphones to an acceptable level and enjoy your music solo.

Neither is the gym a place for karaoke or personal cell phone conversations. People in your proximity probably won’t appreciate your chortling or chatting while they’re trying to concentrate on their workout. Save the cell colloquy for later, and preserve your pipes for open-mic night at your local bar.

And even though this applies more to the male gender, refrain from grunting, shouting profanities, and banging and dropping weights when you’re lifting. Not only do your boisterous inclinations distract others and disrupt their workouts, but you also sound like Rambo giving birth.

…And Nose Pollution

Although women invariably smell like roses (yeah, right!), even the most delicate of flowers can get pretty ripe on occasion. Remember to use deodorant and wear clean clothes to the gym. Also, keep your perfume and cologne usage to a minimum. Many people are allergic to fragrances, so refrain from bathing in Chanel No. 5 before your workout.

Pick Up the Pieces

When you’re finished using it, put your equipment back in its appointed place, and if you see something lying around, courteously put it away to save someone else the hassle of hunting for it later. This includes machine handles, dumbbells, floor mats, magazine racks, weight plates and anything else not bolted to the floor.

Look Before You Leap

Before jumping onto a piece of equipment or grabbing a pair of dumbbells, make sure it’s free to use. Someone may indeed be using it, and may have stepped away to get a drink of water or visit the restroom. Ask others in the immediate area if the equipment is being used. If not, go for it; if so, ask if you can work in.

Mirror, Mirror

During an exercise, especially one using free weights, people watch themselves in the mirror to check their form and execution. If a weight or machine you need is in front of someone performing a set, wait for him or her to finish. But if someone’s simply checking out his or her butt, pecs or new nose job, barge in freely and take what you need!

Sweat Hog

Nothing’s quite as nauseating as lying on a bench sodden with a stranger’s sweat. So if you tend to “glow heavily,” bring a towel to the gym and thoroughly wipe off any piece of equipment you’ve rained upon after you’re done. If you see someone leaving a moist impression on something you intend to use, politely ask him or her to clean it off before departing, Again, prepare yourself for discourtesy, for the sweat hog in question may take off without concern for the leftover perspiration. Arm yourself with a wad of paper towels and a bottle of cleaning fluid, if your gym provides them.

Share & Share Alike

Realistically, you can use only one thing at a time, so don’t hoard an entire rack of weights with the intent of using them sometime in the next hour. Share with others what you aren’t using at the moment.

Curtail the Cardio

If a time limit is posted for cardio equipment during peak hours, heed the stipulation. You’d be annoyed if someone was on the treadmill for two hours while you waited; so should they be as irked with you.

Bathroom Beautification

We’re assuming you don’t leave towels and wads of used tissues, tampons and toilet paper on the floor of your bathroom at home, so why do it in the gym? Clean up after yourself and put trash in its appropriate containers.

Class in the Classroom

You may be legitimately late for kickboxing class, but don’t make a spectacle of yourself upon entering, plowing to the front of the room, wedging yourself in and assuming your usual spot, and disrupting the whole class. Enter quietly and take a place in the back, and next time leave for the gym earlier!


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