A Beginner’s Guide to Gym Etiquette

Article posted in: Fitness
man working out with an exercise band

Winter’s coming faster than you think, and with it, less movement. But exercise can help reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease and even death—not to mention fend off unwanted holiday weight gain.

Beat the New Year’s rush and find a gym nearby that you love now—see if they’ll give you a deal or a free month for joining during a slow season. And resolve—a few months in advance—to make the gym a better place for everyone by following some easy, polite gym etiquette.

These 10 rules will make sure you keep the gym safe, efficient, hygienic and comfortable for everyone around you.

1. Wipe it down.
For you, your glorious glow is a sure sign that you’re working hard. For others, it’s a slimy way to feel uncomfortable or catch and pass on germs. Bring a towel to wipe down benches and machines after you’ve finished with the exercise. Most gyms have paper towels and cleaning spray readily available. Do the next machine-user a favor and use them.

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2. Re-rack your weights.
Every gym has signs that ask members to put weights back on the rack in numerical order—and they’re ignored more readily than a stop sign on an empty back country road. Don’t add to the garbage dump of dumbbells and weight plates that make it harder for others to find the weight they need, and creates more work for the clean-up staff. If you can do the math to figure out how much weight you can lift, you can match the 25 dumbbell back with the little 25 sign on the rack.

3. Don’t sit on a machine you’re not using to use your phone.
Resting between sets of an exercise is necessary—in fact, in some studies, longer rest periods have been shown to increase muscle size. But resting on a piece of equipment you’re not using, engrossed in Facebook, is not necessary. Rest on equipment you’re using, and be attentive: If someone else is waiting to use the same machine or bench, make sure they know your rest periods and the number of sets you have left. Or, better yet…

4. Let others “work in.”
If someone is waiting to use the machine you’re on and they ask to “work in,” they’re asking to alternate sets with you so they can work during your rest periods. Unless you’re using incredibly short intra-set rest periods (say, 30 seconds or less), say yes. If you’re using those short rests, let them know you’re timing your rests and will be done shortly.

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5. Don’t do sets right in front of the dumbbell rack.
You’re getting in shape, and look great in front of the mirror. Just don’t stand so close to it: Doing a set directly in front of the dumbbell rack impedes others’ ability to get the weights they need to do their exercises, slowing their workout down. It could also create a hazard for you: If they try to brush past, you could stumble, drop a weight, or otherwise get injured. So back it up a few steps and stay safe.

6. Don’t slam weights on the ground or on the machine.
Letting weights drop can break the floor, mess up machines for others, or send dumbbells flying into an ankle or foot. But bailing out at the end of a set is also dangerous: The weights can wrench your joints into odd angles, causing pain or injury. Use a weight you can control, and get strength from the lifting and lowering portions of the exercise by doing the move under control.

7. Help your instructor help you.
The leader of your favorite class isn’t just there to make you sweat, but to make sure you do so safely. But she can’t keep you safe if you don’t let her know what you need. Arrive early to class to let the instructor know of any lingering injuries, chronic pain or discomfort, or other limitations that preclude you from doing certain exercises or movements. That way, instead of shouting at you to go harder during class, she can give you alternative movements or special attention to help get you through tough spots safely.

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8. Give your neighbors some space.
Especially in yoga and pilates classes, you’re going to wind up using a space much larger than the size of your mat. Make sure you’re a little more than an arm’s length from your neighbors (and any walls) in the front, back and on the sides of your mat. If the class will be crowded, your instructor will likely help place you in a closer—but still comfortably distanced—spot.

9. Be punctual.
There’s nothing worse than closing your eyes and settling into your opening pose in yoga class only to be jolted back to reality by a late-comer’s mat slamming on the floor. And anybody who took our tip above is going to be annoyed when a late arrival means a cramped workout space. So make sure you show up on time to whatever class you intend to take. And if you do happen to be running a little late, be mindful of others.

10. Lay off the cologne.
Come on, man. You’re grossing everyone out.