Gym Etiquette for Dummies

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Let’s face it, annoying people are everywhere. Whether it’s the obnoxious neighbor making too much noise at night, or the babbling co-worker who talks endlessly about nothing, or the crazy driver who cuts you off in the middle of Lakeshore Drive, we can’t escape the reality hat there is always going to be people who drive us crazy. Unfortunately, the same is true in the gym. Over the years, I have come to notice many undesirable behaviors from certain people that can sometimes make our gym experience less than perfect. There is such a thing as gym etiquette and we should all be practicing it. Throughout this article, I will be discussing some of these behaviors and why they are not only obnoxious, but also disrespectful to other gym patrons.

The following behaviors will be discussed:

  1. The sweat factor.
  2. The laziness factor.
  3. To grunt or not to grunt?
  4. The entertainment factor.
  5. Is this a gym or a lounge?

The sweat factor.

In the gym, one thing that is a certainty is that people sweat. Sweating is good. Not only does it show that you are working hard, but it is also the body’s way of cooling itself. With all that hard work, it boggles my mind that some people can’t seem to clean up their own sweat. We’ve all seen it before. Someone is running on the treadmill for a good 45 minutes. They are sweating profusely, but they seem to have forgotten to bring a towel with them. Therefore, all of that sweat drips on to the treadmill itself, leaving a lovely present for the next person who uses it. It also makes it a not so joyous task for the person who has to clean it later. Even more amazing is that some gyms will even have towels and cleaning spray spread randomly throughout the gym for people to use, and even then some people will not use them! So here is the general rule of thumb: If you are going to do cardio in the gym, bring a towel. Mop up your own sweat so that others won’t have to do it for you. It’s just polite.

The laziness factor.

Laziness doesn’t just happen on the cardio machines; it happens on the gym floor as well. To this day, I am utterly shocked at how many people still leave weights on machines after they are finished using them. In case there is any confusion, if you put weights on a specific machine, you are indeed expected to remove them once you are finished. This is especially true if you are packing on several weight plates. The next person to use that machine might be someone who does not have a lot of strength. And now they have the lovely task of removing what someone else put there before them. If someone goes to the effort to load on all of those plates, it should be no problem to remove them as well. It shows simple respect to other gym members. And speaking of putting weights back, please make sure to return them to their proper place. 10lb plates should not be returned to a rack that is holding 25lb plates.

This creates disorganization and clutter in the gym and also makes it very difficult for the people who work there once they have to return all of the weights back to their proper spots. It is important to show respect not only to the gym members, but also to the people who work there as well.

To grunt or not to grunt.

It’s no secret that Planet Fitness has caused a stir with their “no grunting” policy. Personally, I think this policy is going a little too far. Grunting in the gym is usually a completely normal thing. It is very common when doing heavy lifting and it shows that oxygen is being released along with certain “feel good” endorphins. Having said that, there are certain people who do tend to take grunting to another level. If it is so loud that other people in the gym cannot hear themselves speak or think, you’ve taken it a little far. The gym is not a place for circus acts and it is not a place for theatre. If we wanted that, we would go to the Steppenwolf. So by all means, grunt. It’s healthy and normal. But leave the theatrics at home.

The entertainment factor.

Tagging on to that last behavior, some people also feel the need to entertain. Let me say that I think apps like Spotify are great. You can listen to the music that inspires you and that tends to increase motivation significantly. However, the idea is to listen to the music, not sing along with it. Sometimes people can’t hear themselves and they don’t realize how loud they are singing. Singing loudly is disrespectful to other gym members because it creates a distraction form their workouts. So do everyone a favor, and save it for the shower.

Is this a gym or a lounge?

One thing that personally drives me crazy is when people sit at a machine without using it! They will load on the weights, do one set, and then sit there for an eternity while they thumb through Facebook on their IPhones. There is most likely other people who would like to use that machine. But because someone is just sitting there without actually using it, they can’t. Please show respect to other gym members and only take a machine if you are actually going to use it. The same is true for stretching areas. I have seen some people who just sit and talk endlessly as they take up precious floor space. Take the conversation outside. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if someone asks you to move.

In short, it is important to show respect in the gym. And showing respect means practicing proper gym etiquette at all times. It’s important that we all strive to help each other out inside the gym as well as outside. It creates a clean and clutter- free atmosphere where distractions are absent and determination and hard work can thrive. After all, isn’t that why we’re there in the first place?


By Michael Elder. Created on Aug. 24, 2020. Updated Oct. 26, 2020. From Health & Fitness.

About the Author

Michael Elder is a former competitive gymnast and has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. He is certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He can be contacted by email, through his Facebook business page, or through his website, all listed below. He is currently available for one on one training sessions.

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