Proper Gym Etiquette – How To Behave When You’re in a Gym


Every gym has its own set of rules. These are likely listed in the contract you signed, and possibly posted on the walls throughout the facility and even in the restrooms. There are also unwritten rules. In some ways, the unwritten ones are more important as they are what your fellow gym-goers, group classmates, and trainer want you to know ahead of time to help you and them have a positive and rewarding experience. Take a look at the items below and see if you’re breaking any of these gym etiquette rules!

Personal Care

1. Wear appropriate clothes. This is not the shirt you pulled off the top of the dirty laundry stack. Change your socks daily. Women should wear sports bras. Jewelry can get caught in machines so leave it at home. Wear shirts that don’t bring unnecessary attention to your cleavage. This is a gym, not a bar or nightclub!

2. Wear appropriate shoes. These are not the shoes you wear when mowing the grass or painting your house. Instead, these are likely cross-trainers, unless you are taking a spinning class or only going for a run on the treadmill.

3. Use deodorant. Keep some antiperspirant or deodorant in your gym bag for days that you need to re-apply it before starting your workout. When in doubt, make sure to put some extra on just in case.

4. Yes, we can smell the alcohol on your breath, even if it’s from the night before. In fact, the stale smell lingers after you leave an area of the gym. Use some breath mints or gum.

5. Some shorts and pants are much more sheer than you think. We don’t want to see that you are going “commando” or that you are wearing a thong. Similarly, some shorts are much tighter or shorter than you realize and perhaps you should consider wearing another pair of shorts on top of either of these.

6. We are well aware when you wear too much perfume or cologne. Neither covers up body odor or stale alcohol. Don’t spray it in the locker room or in the hallway leading to the locker room where other people will walk into the “cloud of scent”. Aside from the coughing spell many people will likely get, others may simply be allergic to it.

7. Everyone gets nicks and bruises. Use a band-aid to cover up yours. If it slips off, pick it up and dispose of it in a trash can. Don’t leave it on the weight machine or bench you just used.

Gym Conduct

1. Be considerate of others. Don’t sit on a machine or bench and check your phone or smartwatch for emails or texts. Don’t make phone calls on the gym floor. Leave your phone in a locker. If you absolutely have to make a call, do so in the locker room or better yet, go outside and have an uninterrupted conversation.

2. Wipe off the weight machines and benches after you use them. Most people sweat while exercising, and some sweat more than others. Don’t use your sweaty towel or stretch your shirt out to do this.

3. Respect the equipment. Don’t throw or drop barbells, dumbbells, or other pieces of exercise equipment on the floor. When using a machine, understand how to properly operate it by reading the placard or asking an employee for guidance. Don’t be embarrassed to do this. Don’t assume the guy who used it before you knows what he is doing. Better you use it correctly than injure yourself.

4. If you wear headphones, remember that you are not in your shower or driving in your car, belting out a duet with your favorite band. Singing aloud, humming to yourself, or dancing is going to bring you a lot of unwanted attention.

5. If you have brought a mat, inspect it. If it leaves little pieces behind, replace it. Other gym-goers don’t want your little pink mat pieces stuck to their sweaty bodies during their workout.

6. Don’t eat while using the equipment. Protein bar crumbs and pieces of banana peels have no place in the gym. If you spill your drink, clean it up with a disinfectant spray and rag or a towel. Do not use your shoe to “wipe it up” off the floor or your sweaty shirt to clean off a bench. It will only smear it.

7. If you carry your gym bag with you and the gym is busy, don’t leave your bag on a bench to “save” it until you return from using another machine or to take a phone call. The same goes for your towel and water bottle.

8. Mirrors often line the walls to help you watch your form and technique as you perform an exercise. Standing in front of one and flexing like you’re on stage at the Mr. Olympia is distracting to others. Find an unused group fitness room if you want to practice your poses.

9. When you are finished with the dumbbells and weights, put all of them away. Don’t leave dumbbells sitting on the floor, or a plate on either end of a barbell or on a machine. Not everyone lifts what you do.

10. If you change clothes in the locker room, remember that it is not your private restroom. Don’t leave your clothes or towel on the bench. Leave room at the sink for others. Turn off your hair dryer when not in use.

Working with a Personal Trainer

1. Your trainer asks you questions to learn the answers. They are not judging you. Reading your mind is not one of their skills, and making assumptions is never a good idea.

2. Your trainer views your health and wellness very seriously and expects you to do the same. This is why you hired them.

3. Your trainer wants to help you reach your goals. If you aren’t honest with them, they can not help you and you almost certainly will not reach your goals. This makes the trainer feel like they failed you. In addition to the trainer’s interest in you as a person, they also have a business interest in your success. If you fail, you’ll be upset and you won’t refer your family and friends to them. Referrals are how personal trainers grow their business.

4. Your trainer will help motivate you but they can’t do it alone. You have to want to change. Saying you want to change is not the same as behaving as if you want to change.

5. Proper nutrition is the key to changing your physique. Proper nutrition is not, however, what is posted on Facebook or Instagram next to booty photos! Diets have end dates. Lifestyles do not. Choose a way of eating that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

6. Your trainer wants you to become friends with your training partner or classmates, but if someone is asking for clarification of an exercise, be considerate and stop talking so everyone can hear the question and answer.

7. Arrive ready to work! That means to be on time and properly fueled with enough rest to work hard in the gym and also be properly hydrated.

8. When your trainer asks for progress photos or measurements, it is an effective method of documenting your progress, and to set up your future workouts and nutrition plans. Don’t ignore these requests. They are not intended to embarrass you. Instead, they are to benefit you and help you be successful.

9. There are modifications to exercises for many minor injuries. Being injured is not a reason to cancel your training sessions.

10. Trust the process and you’ll reach your goals. Be patient and stick with the plan!

11. “No pain, no gain” is an awful motto. Soreness is to be expected. Pain is an indication that something is wrong. It’s extremely important to know the difference.

12. If you are sick, stay out of the gym! Exercise is a stressor, and when you are sick, your body needs to focus on recovery or your illness will linger. And, none of the people at the gym want to catch whatever you have.

13. If your watch receives emails or texts, turn it off. Better yet, take it off and store it in your locker next to your phone so you aren’t tempted to look at it. Make sure to bring a lock to secure your personal items.

14. Take your personal belongings and your lock home every day. We don’t want to smell your sweaty clothes or the banana you forgot in your gym bag the next morning.

15. The latest fad exercise or diet is likely not as effective as the tried-and-true basics. Stop jumping from one to the next. Follow a structured workout program designed for you and stick with it.

16. Accept the fact that you aren’t perfect. Everyone has flaws and you are no different.

17. Acknowledge how you are feeling and accept being anxious or nervous. Change usually causes this. It is normal. It is uncomfortable. Channel your extra energy into your workout.

18. Everyone has off days, so just do the best you can. What’s important is that you are at the gym and not sitting on a couch eating chips or at happy hour getting drunk.

19. Laughing at yourself is a good thing. Focus on your goals but don’t be too serious all of the time.

20. Your mind is very powerful. Don’t let your thoughts of self-doubt or low self-esteem sabotage your efforts. Clear your head of negative energy and focus on the positive!

21. Celebrate all of your successes, whether they are big or small. Make sure to reward yourself with something other than food. Go on a shopping spree, schedule a day at the spa, or get a full body massage.

22. Be patient! It took you awhile to look the way you do now, and it’s going to take a while to look the way you want to look so be focused and stay on track for the long haul.

23. Every decision you make – in the gym and in the kitchen – will either help you get closer to your goals or move you further away from them.

Most people would agree that many of these items on the list are basic common sense, but it is truly amazing to see how many people choose not to follow them. Keeping these in mind will help you and everyone around you to focus on the job at hand and follow proper etiquette when you’re training in the gym!

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About Author

From an early age, Sharon was encouraged to participate in competitive sports including soccer, basketball, track, softball, and volleyball. She has been an athlete and fitness enthusiast ever since. She explains that her parents instilled in her a level of self-confidence that has touched everything she does. See my profile page for more information!

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