In some ways, the gym is like a foreign country. It has its own code of behavior and social norms. From overstaying your welcome on the treadmill, to answering your phone mid-workout or being less-than-modest in the locker room, there are a myriad of faux pas that ride a fine line.
It’s natural to have plenty of questions concerning the unwritten politeness rules of the gym. How long should I stay on a machine? Is competing with my treadmill neighbor rude? Can I take selfies? To put these questions to rest once and for all, Lisa Gaché, SheKnows Etiquette Expert and C.E.O. and founder of Beverly Hills Manners, dished with us on the dos and don’ts of gym etiquette.
DO: Respect the time limit
We all know the rush hour gym struggle is real, guys. If someone is waiting to use the treadmill or weight-lifting machine you’re on, make sure to respect the gym sanctioned time limit for your machine. Say it’s a 30-minute cap. Lisa Gaché tells us to be “very punctual” with getting off the machine in time. “Regulars watch the clock like hawks,” Gaché says, “so it is best to use your code of honor and stick to the allotted time.”
DON’T: Snap any #selfies
Hate to break it to you, folks. You should probably save your #fitlife Insta-pic for when you get home. Gaché says you should never take selfies at the gym. “People go to the gym to sweat it off, not pose for unlimited photos to post onto social media.”
DO: Feel free to take any spot available
There’s no assigned seating at the gym. Even if you attend the same cycling class weekly with the same crop of regulars, you should take whichever spot you like — even if it’s usually someone else’s home base. After all: “We’re not in kindergarten and no one owns that space,” Gaché says. However, if you feel like the person may get a little territorial (as folks often do at the gym), Gaché recommends taking an alternative space to avoid unnecessary confrontation. In other words, use your best judgment.
DON’T: Be a locker-room exhibitionist
As Gaché says, changing in the locker room isn’t an excuse to “parade around in the nude,” so don’t linger in your birthday suit. For changing in the locker room, she recommends the following: “Use a towel. Change quickly. Keep naked body parts off of gym benches, counters, etc. Cover up at least with a bra and panties to spare those who may be more modest.”
DO: Exercise discretion with your phone
Gabbing endlessly on your cell while someone is trying to concentrate on lifting right next to you isn’t a good look. While you should avoid personal calls at the gym, Lisa says that if it’s an absolute emergency or a super important call, you should feel free to remove yourself quickly from a class or workout space to deal with it. Just keep it brief.
DON’T: Compete with your fellow gym goers
When setting your pace on the treadmill or deciding when to wrap up your workout, it’s natural to get curious about your neighbor’s speed and compare yourself. Still, you shouldn’t overtly compete with others at the gym. As Gaché says, “While competition is flattering, it can be equally annoying. Set your own pace and respect your fellow runners’ space.”
DO: Respect personal space
Are you the only person who gets miffed when there are six treadmills open next to you, and the next person to walk in decides they want to be your neighbor? Absolutely not. Surveys have found that “getting too close” was a top pet peeve amongst those polled. If it’s possible, try to give your gym peers some breathing room. “If there are multiple treadmills available,” Gaché tells us, “avoid snuggling up right next to your fellow gym goer and select a treadmill that is at least one space over.”
DON’T: Correct other people without a good reason
If someone’s form on an exercise machine isn’t up to your own standard, it’s, “best to keep your comments to yourself,” Gaché tells us. She says that the only proper occasion to give “unsolicited advice” is if someone is misusing the equipment in a way that may cause themselves accidental harm.
DO: Always wipe down equipment
This one is nonnegotiable, guys. When your workout is over, use those gym-provided moist towelettes to wipe down your machine. “There is nothing worse than touching equipment that is filled with sweat beads from the previous user,” Gaché says. “Be mindful of others and clean up your mess.”
Now, sally forth and be an exercise etiquette whiz! We’ll just call you the Emily Post of fitness.