workout etiquette

It may not be posted, but workout etiquette essential

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Just joined a gym for the new year? Most gyms have rules posted on the workout floor. But there is a list of unspoken etiquette guidelines you’ll never see on a wall. And they’re probably the ones that will make your life at the gym much more enjoyable, especially if you’re a new member. At the very least, it will keep you from being on the receiving end of gym rage.

I asked gym-goers what other people’s habits and actions annoyed, horrified, grossed them out or angered them. Here’s a survival guide, based on their comments:


  • Use a workout towel. We know that the gym is sweat city, but finding someone else’s body fluids on circuit machines, benches or indoor cycling bikes is plain yucky. Bring a towel for yourself and bring a small rag in case you’re about to use sweaty equipment.
  • Re-rack your weights. A special request to “The Rock” wannabes: If you’re strong enough to put those several 40-pound weights on a barbell set, you’re strong enough to take them off.
  • Keep the grunting and groaning to a minimum. So, you’re bench-pressing an impressive weight. A few grunts and groans are OK. But delivering a workout aria with every rep is obnoxious.
  • Allow people to work in if you are doing many sets. Monopolizing a set of weights for 20 minutes will quickly earn you a reputation of hog among regulars.
  • Ask nicely. The gym may be a place where you release work or home pressure, but avoid blowing off steam on your workout colleagues. When asking someone if you could work in or how many remaining sets they have, keep hostility out of your demeanor and tone. Be nasty and the other person may just take even longer to use the machine or weights to spite you.
  • Arrive on time for a class to get a good spot. If you’re late, be considerate of the early birds. Try to avoid disrupting other people’s workouts. If you’re late and heading for a spot in front of someone, it’s a good idea to let him or her know you are planning to do that. This is not necessarily a request for permission, but it seems to mollify people when you are courteous.
  • Be aware of and stay within your “air space” in group exercise classes. Avoid “migrating” and invading other people’s space. This is especially true for high-low impact, dance classes, and cardio-kickboxing classes.
  • Be aware of how you smell. While mild sweaty odors are common in close quarters in gyms, once in a while, a particularly odoriferous person comes along and clears the floor. Sometimes, the reason for the stink may be a medical problem or diet effects of which you are not aware of. But here’s a sure sign: In a crowded class, no one comes within 20 feet of you. As for temporary bad breath and other effects, this is a no-brainer: Choose food and drink that won’t make you gaseous later while you’re in the gym.
  • Dispose of your bath items in the trash can. Leaving your used razor tucked into bath stall crevices or behind shampoo dispensers is dangerous to others. Place your used towels in the appropriate bins. Naked women, avoid shaving or applying lotion to your body parts in front of a sink or vanity counter for all to see. These are tasks best done in private, others say.


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