Fitness Articles

Proper Gym Etiquette

How to Play Well with Others While Working Out

I hadn’t been to the gym for a few days and was really looking forward to a good workout. It was just after six in the evening and the place was packed but a recumbent bike was available so I signed up for 30 minutes and hopped on, anticipating a nice cardio workout. Imagine my disgust when I sat back against the seat and was immediately soaked with the previous user’s sweat. Yuck!

Just like you had to learn good table manners as a child, there are also some firm rules to follow for sharing a workout space with others. Even if you feel like you’re in your own little world when you’re exercising, keep in mind that others are trying to use that space too. Here are some general guidelines that will make your next gym experience pleasant for everyone:

Equipment Etiquette
  • Clean up after yourself. Always bring a towel—and use it. There’s nothing worse than getting covered in someone else’s sweat. Towels help keep surfaces clean, dry and germ-free. Most gyms have cleaning supplies available—use them to wipe down your equipment before heading off to the next station.
  • If you take something out, put it away. Have you just finished using a set of free weights? Then put them away. Leaving dumbbells, bands, exercise balls and other equipment on the floor is a tripping hazard and makes it difficult for other members to find the equipment they need. Don’t drop the weights when you’re done either—it’s loud and very distracting for others around you.
  • Learn to share. Don’t hog the equipment for yourself. If you’re in the middle of a circuit but taking a short break, let others slip in between sets to save time. Don’t leave your towel on the machine and walk away expecting the machine to still be available when you return. Everyone has a right to use the equipment, not just you.
  • Practice patience. Don’t rush others. If someone is obviously using a piece of equipment, don’t ask if they are almost done. Wait until he or she takes a break and be prepared to wait or use something else in the meantime.
  • Be on time. Many gyms lightly enforce 30-minute time limits for cardio machines during peak hours. If your gym is busy, respect that limit and don’t go over. If you want a really long cardio workout, avoid the gym during the busy times, like the after-work rush between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Continued ›
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • Your first tip is 100% WRONG!!!!

    Do NOT use your own towel to wipe down a machine after using it! That is so unsanitary. The gym should provide spray disinfectant and paper towels.

    I've seen people at my gym wipe their own sweat, then wipe their noses, THEN wipe down the machine handles, seats & backs. I don't want to use that machine afterwards.

    Because I don't watch everyone who used the machine I want before me, I solved the problem by using the disinfectant and paper towels to wipe down the machine BEFORE and AFTER I use it.

    Several years ago, I got a very bad case of bronchitis after using the gym. There are too many people who think the rules are for everyone else but them. - 1/13/2014 11:36:43 AM
  • I actually quit going to a particular gym because there were people there who would come up and try to chat with me while I was working out. At 6:00 a.m. every day they would be at my treadmill visiting. Here I am, hair a mess, no makeup in my workout clothes trying to get my workout in before I had to get to work - not the ideal time for a leisure stroll and a chat! - 8/2/2013 6:30:36 AM
  • Every gym should have this article printed, framed and hung up at the door. If you walk through the door and cannot follow these common-sense etiquette guidelines, you can turn right around and leave!!

    Yesterday I saw a girl wearing "shorts" that, I kid you not, were smaller than the underwear I had on (which are called "cheeky" style!) ... She was doing squats. So in addition to cheek down below, and crack up top, everyone on the line of treadmills got to see a hungry butt gobble up the "shorts" with every downward motion. But it gets worse. For reasons unbeknownst to me, she gets on the floor, grabs her feet, spreads her legs and just rolled around. That's when I decided I'd seen enough and went into the other room. It might have made more sense if we were in the general area where creepy men might look her way (if thats what she wanted..? But we were in the women-only room...)

    Another pet peeve of mine is this one woman who insists on being naked ALL the time in the locker room. 30 minute conversations with her friend completely naked? Every day! Doing her hair before a shred of fabric covers her body? All the time! And here's the worst...I walked in once to see her completely naked, save a pair of underwear at her knees...and she was changing her maxi pad....NO ONE ---EVER---- WANTS TO SEE THAT, EVER. - 2/22/2013 10:20:10 PM
  • I would like to add. Yes, BO is gross, yes, you should wear deodorant, but please, PLEASE don't flood the gym with perfume or cologne. One of my biggest pet peeves is having someone come in wearing an axe bomb or having just showered in perfume while I'm running. Not only is it gross, but some people have allergies to things like that and they can trigger an asthma attack. - 12/3/2012 6:20:14 PM
  • As an owner of an independent small fitness gym, I want to make gym etiquette intuitive as possible. I provide free towel service and disposable wipes to clean off the equipment before and after use. I also keep a keen eye on any members that may be a bother to others. I also have my staff follow a detailed cleaning checklist everyday (downloadable version is available on my blog). I would greatly appreciate any other advise that would help me help my members to have great gym etiquette!

    Great article and thanks for posting it! - 10/30/2012 4:03:23 PM
  • I'd like to add something to this list: The gym is not the place to try to hit on people. It's inappropriate and rude. I don't know anyone who thinks it's cute or flattering when someone ogles them and comments on how their butt or their boobs look, or tries to strike up a conversation when they're very obviously working on a challenging set or trying to pick up their pace on the treadmill or something. Just because I have on yoga shorts and a tank top/sports bra doesn't mean I'm trying to get picked up. I'm trying not to have a heat stroke or have my clothes getting in my way and distracting me. - 8/15/2012 3:46:00 PM
    Oh lord I wish some people in my gym would follow these rules!! - 8/15/2012 1:55:15 PM
  • Children in the gym annoy me to no end - 7/7/2012 4:42:22 AM
    Ewwww @ jujubetoo and twoofthree. You don't wear deodorant! NASTY!

    Nobody wants to smell your stink. Get over yourself and slap some Sure on those pits. - 5/31/2012 12:57:01 PM
  • My last job was as a night serviceman at one of the city's rec centres (didn't pay much but paid the bills til this one came along) and they had a weight room you would be surprised at HOW LAZY these so-called "fit" people were when it cam to putting away weights or benchs -DISGUSTING - 12/14/2010 8:17:30 PM
  • If you are sick, coughing, sniffling, have a cold, ... Please STAY HOME! - 12/14/2010 4:09:47 PM
    One other item that should be mention is people having personal conversations. Iíve seen people standing around free weights or even sitting on machines talking about their weekends or whatever. Not working out.

    Iíve been in the cardio area where people are very casual with their workouts and holding conversations while on a treadmill. Itís obvious they are not working hard enough. Need to work hard enough to answer a simple question but not easy enough to hold a conversation.

    I belong to the YMCA. There area a couple areas away from the weights and machines where people can rest and talk. These areas need to be used.

    Thanks for letting me vent. This is a real pet peeve of mine. - 12/14/2010 3:18:50 PM
    Very practical "meat and potatoes" advice for working out in the gym! This is one of the reasons that I wear work-out gloves, in addition to protecting my hands from blisters. It helps to know that at least parts of my hands are averted from rubbing in someone else's sweat ! I think the core value of your article is something we all need to be reminded of, and that is, treat others in the way we want to be treated. My gym provides wet wipes and antibacterial wash, and I use them. The world can be a much better place when we think of others and not just ourselves ! I cancelled my membership to one gym partially because of the poor cleaning habits and bad hygene of the facility. Thanks for speaking the truth ! - 12/14/2010 9:07:40 AM
    Good advice. It's only missing one point: Don't sweat the small stuff. Yes, some of these habits are annoying but I can only control myself, not others. If somebody does something really ignorant or dangerous I will tell the staff. Otherwise I'm there for my workout and afterward I go home.

    - 12/14/2010 7:34:41 AM
  • Great article! It amazes me that some adults still need to be taught manners towards others. The last point especially, It is so hard to exercise and breathe deep when the person next to you has a strong odor of any kind! - 9/26/2010 1:03:55 PM

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