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Tips and Rules for Good Gym Etiquette

Updated on July 23, 2011
Photo via Creative Commons
Photo via Creative Commons | Source

An exercise routine at a popular fitness venue or at your private club should be a chance to build up and wind down. The only stress you expect is the resistance of the stationary machines or the weight of barbells. But, a survey of just a few gyms shows the results of careless and inconsiderate members. There are some rules in gym use that assure a more comfortable, sanitary, and civil environment. For the hour that you are there, the gym is your community. Here are some of the rules to keep in mind:

Keep it simple:

Do not bring more than you absolutely need to the gym. All you need is a towel. If you have to have an iPod or other music player, fine. If you want to read while on the treadmill or stationary bike, okay, but put it away when done and do not carry it from machine to machine. Use the water fountain, so you do not have to carry bottled water around.

Dress for Work:

The idea is to dress comfortably with shoes appropriate to your task, cotton or nylon gym shorts or pants, and cotton t-shirts. Snug clothing does not permit you the necessary freedom, but some new shorts and bras – those made with spandex, Lycra, and/or microfiber - can provide support and style. Sleeveless t-shirts are okay for those who find sleeves restricting. Fabrics should be absorbent enough to help you avoid perspiring on equipment.

Take Your Turn

Share the time and equipment. Go at off hours if you can, and this will not be a problem. Otherwise, treat the room and the equipment as if was shared property and not your own. Use bikes, treadmills, stair-climbers, and other stationary machines for as long as the gym rules state, certainly not more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time – according to posted rules. If there is a sign-up list, honor it.

When you use universal machines and weights, share the equipment and the spot. Do not just sit there; finish a set move on and let someone else move in. Better yet, team up with a buddy to take turns and share equipment. (If using free weights, return them to their place.) Do not expect club staff to pick up after you.

Keep It Clean:

Keep a towel handy. Wipe down seats, bars, and any area where your sweat has pooled. There are increasing concerns about sanitation, so wipe down surfaces before and after you use them. Where possible and convenient, use hand sanitizer regularly.

Take a Drink:

Stay hydrated with regular water intake. Use the water fountain, but do not start a line. Do not spit gum or phlegm into the fountain. Do not eat in the gym.

Keep It Quiet:

Set your cell-phone on vibrate, and take in-coming calls outside. Do not use Bluetooth device that expects you to talk to yourself. Do not grunt or groan loudly. Do not start a conversation with someone working on a machine or in a lifting mode. Try not to drop weights or sing along with your music.

Ask for Help:

If you need help on using a machine, ask the staff. If you need someone to spot you with free weights and staff is not available, ask someone lifting to buddy with you.

At gyms with locker rooms, take advantage of this benefit, but behave. This is not your private bathroom and should not be treated that way. It is also wrong and simply not fair to act like it is the staff’s job to clean up after you. Remember, the maintenance staff members are not servants.

Use One Locker:

Do not use more than one locker. No one should have that much stuff. Do not take up more than your share of bench space. Lock the locker according to club policy. (Only the most exclusive membership clubs assign permanent lockers; most fitness clubs or Ys empty lockers at night.)

Cover Your Stuff:

There will be nudity in a locker room. Still, people who want to be seen nude probably have an eqo problem. Try to cover yourself simply with a wraparound towel on the way to and from the shower or at the mirror working on your beard, make-up, or hair. Most people would find it uncomfortable to strike up or hold a conversation in the nude.

Do not sit on stools, benches, or seats – even in sauna or steam room – when you are naked. Place a towel between your butt and the surface to protect others and yourself from germs that grow in moist conditions.

Shower Completely

The shower does not belong to you. Take the shower you need to maintain your personal hygiene, but do not spend the day there. If toiletries are provided by the club, use your share; if you bring your own, make sure you take them when you leave.

If the shower is communal, stay in your space and avoid initiating conversations in the nude. While you might chat with a buddy while showering, that is not the same as a full frontal conversation. Do not urinate in the shower. And, wear clogs to avoid foot infections.

At the Mirror:

Use the locker room mirrors to finish up. Work with a towel on. Use hairdryers briefly, especially if there is a waiting line. Clean up the counter with a paper towel. Avoid more personal habits, such as cutting toe nails or body hair. Try to be discrete about applying medications for conditions, such as athlete’s foot or chafing.

It is tough to follow all these rules when, as most people, you want to get in and out of the gym and be on your way. If these behaviors are part of your personal discipline, there is no problem. If they are not, practice until they become second nature. You will be healthier, wealthier, and wiser.


Submit a Comment

  • CarolineVABC profile image


    7 years ago from Castaic

    Great article, Kathryn! I do agree with you that sanitation is becoming an issue with gyms. In fact, besides from being time constraint, sanitation was one of the issues that we've faced while attending a gym, which is why we stopped going altogether.

    Also, I've encountered many gym members who would benefit from reading this article!:-). Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Kathryn-it's greatly appreciated. Keep at it. God bless!

  • muscledouble profile image


    7 years ago from United States

    "Keep a towel handy. Wipe down seats, bars, and any area where your sweat has pooled. There are increasing concerns about sanitation, so wipe down surfaces before and after you use them. Where possible and convenient, use hand sanitizer regularly."

    Highly recommended! I hate it when people leave everything wet. It's like you don't want to touch anything anymore!

  • Elizabethvano profile image


    7 years ago from Carlisle, PA

    I would just like to say, as a past gym employee, that what you said is all true. There were so many times I'd be trying handle business at the front desk when someone out on a treadmill somewhere would start having the loudest conversation ever on their phone. Plus cleaning up after people got ridiculous very quickly - very often people bring way to much (book, water bottle, ipod, phone, towel, sweater/jacket, spare headphones, etc.), and then when they moved to another machine they'd just leave everything at the first machine thinking no one would mine. Excellent advice, thank you!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    If my feet ever find the gym, this is great advice and informative.


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