On a perfect day, you walk into a gym and have it all to yourself. The reality--you’re more likely to enter a scene filled with the sound of whirring cardio machines and the clang of equipment as your fellow gym-goers burn those calories and shed some sweat. Whether you’re a gym newbie or you and that gym are old friends, it’s never been more important to employ some etiquette in these public spaces. As our gyms reopen to the public after their Covid-19 closures, here are some best practices for navigating these spaces with other gym-goers in mind...
Most gyms, during registration, will have you sign a liability waiver and some form of agreement that lists their rules. These rules will usually ask that you wear clean exercise shoes, minimize your noise, and clean the equipment after you use it. Don’t disturb the people around you by having loud phone conversations in the gym or blasting your favorite Beyoncé playlist through your cellphone speakers. Indoor voices and a stellar set of headphones are the way to go. And ladies, make sure you know whether or not your gym allows exercising sans-shirt. Most won’t allow you to only wear a sports bra, sorry. These, like the suggestions to follow, boil down to respect--respect the space and the other people using the gym. We know you got this!
How do you respect the people around you while getting the most out of your workout? To start - return the equipment to its home when you’ve finished using it. You’ll get bonus points if you find an abandoned piece of equipment out of place and put it away before it trips someone. To that end, be efficient with the equipment you’re using. Be mindful of others that might be waiting to use what you’re working with, and don’t hang on a machine while you strike up a conversation with your gym buddy.
Especially in small gyms, it can be difficult to share the limited number of machines. Try to determine if the machine or piece of equipment you’re eyeing is already in use. If someone has just stepped away for a moment, they’ll usually leave a placeholder like a towel or water bottle. And if you aren’t sure, feel free to ask the previous user if they’re finished.
Besides respect for other gym users, exercise some respect for the equipment you’re using. You want this equipment to last so that you aren’t waiting around for the gym to fix or replace it when it’s out of commission. They say to treat others like you’d want to be treated. Well, treat the gym equipment like you bought it with your hard-earned dollars.
Gyms can be breeding grounds for germs, so it’s important that each individual do their part to keep the equipment clean. Wipe down the machine or equipment after your session, including the buttons you’ve pushed, the handles you’ve grabbed, and the general surfaces that might be landing zones for flying sweat droplets. It’s also a good idea to bring your own towel in case the gym runs out. Use the gym’s disinfectant, and be diligent about it. There are usually one of two systems in place: sanitizing wipes or spray. With the wipes, sometimes the first one out of the dispenser has been exposed to the air and dried out, causing it to lose its effectiveness. If that’s the case, use the second one that’s still moist with disinfectant. If you have a spray and paper towel situation, then saturate the towel enough to transfer to the machine’s surfaces, otherwise you’re just wiping that sweat around.
Last, but not least, avoid bringing food into the gym. You don’t want to grab a sticky dumbbell or do your stretching on a mat full of crumbs.
We aren’t all privy to gargantuan gyms, so move around the space with awareness of others and the equipment. There are a whole lot of moving machines and people parts going on in these spaces. Give a wide berth when walking past someone on a machine, especially if you aren’t familiar with how the machine extends during the set. Also, be mindful if you’re impeding someone’s mirror view. People use mirrors to check their form, so try not to stand in the way. Speaking of standing in the way--back off from a dumbbell rack once you’ve selected your pair. If you’re standing right in front of the rack while you do your curls, others won’t be able to grab the weights in front of you. Finally, when you’re doing a circuit between multiple machines, select machines that are close together. It will be difficult for others to know if you’re using a machine that’s on the opposite side of the room.
Literally and figuratively. First, do your stretching in the area that is designated for that, rather than a walkway. Second, and perhaps more importantly, be flexible in your routine. You could have your heart set on starting on the treadmill, but if you walk in and find them all taken, don’t sweat--start off on a different machine or try a new one! Pro tip: If you really have your heart set on that treadmill, eye the timer on those in use. If the timer is counting down, you might be able to estimate when that machine will be opening up.
Once you’ve joined a gym, the odds are good that you’ll see the same people coming in and out during your workouts. They will notice if you start slacking on your sanitation or are constantly abandoning equipment in the main thoroughfare. Stay in their good graces, practice basic gym etiquette!