Gym Etiquette 101

It’s never a good idea to gym-bully. It’s just not cool. I’ve written about this subject before and read a few excellent blogs about it. I’m a huge fan of uplifting and encouraging others in their personal wellness journey. I am not a fan of total eclipses of common sense, bad-assery for the sake of getting attention and blatant lack of respect for self or for others.

We all start somewhere, we’re all at different stages and phases, abilities, healing processes and knowledge bases. Sure, I have my personal opinions about some types of exercise protocols that I think are horrendous as far as encouraging actual wellness and are more focused on causing injury, self-loathing and disordered eating. Generally speaking, even those types of “athletics” training or forms of “exercise” I speak of, have me curious and I try to keep an open mind when asked about their pros and cons. I think it’s important to be objective about those things I am not familiar with or have never or barely tried.

Take crossfit for example. I’ve participated in only a handful of classes or group sessions in my entire fitness career. Each one left me feeling inadequate, concerned about my own health and that of the most of the other participants. At the very least, I could barely move post-workout since both my joints and muscles had sustained a variety of overuse injuries and strain. Yet some folks swear by it, it’s principals and training methods. Great. Go on with your sloppy-form-speed-kipping-spine-popping-ACL-tearing nonsense. Here’s an article I read years ago after nearly dying from an acute case of rhabdomyolysis. Since I had no idea what the hell rhabdo was, and since I was a guest of the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, Alberta for over  two weeks, I had time on my hands to research important stuff like this. Keep in mind that in my case, my life-threatening case was not caused by Cross fit, but by a variety of factors like over-training, over-supplementation and a very unbalanced competition diet.. (You can read about my experience with rhabdo by clicking here.)

This article is about gym etiquette and not about what you should or should not do as far as exercise goes. That’s totally up to the individual of course. That being said, at least look into what-the-actual-fuck purpose that exercise format has as far as maintaining your overall health, wellness and safety. (F-bombs in some cases are necessary. Thanks for knowing that.)

Having spent over a decade in a variety of gyms and fitness centers, I’ve had a solid amount of time hanging around a variety of gym-goers. Fitness pros, trainers, athletes, coaches and anyone aspiring to be any one or all of these, to the average person just coming in to get their groove on, all have at one point, discussed pet-peeves, the do’s and the don’t and everything to do with gym etiquette.

I’ve often thought it would be so cool to write a book about it, but I have way too many projects on the go (including a book!). Just like any public arena or facility that is shared and used by so many, there will always be behaviors and opinions that may or may not be agreed upon. Some things, however, must absolutely be pointed out for the sake of world peace among gym-goers, while other things must be pointed out simply because they’re funny as shit. Here goes, in order of what I’ve most often heard over the years and which I’ve actually kept track of (yes, in a real paper-type diary):

  1. Sweaty, stinky, rank clothes are really, REALLY not okay. This came in first place in my log book of gym no-no’s. Rankness is even worse when you try to cover it up with perfume or cologne. It’ gross. Just shower, launder your clothes and we’ll all breathe easier. Here are SUPER effective and natural ways of getting rid of that “hockey-bag-smell” as I like to call it.
  2. Wipe down the equipment. Even just a little, and especially if you’ve secreted nearly 3 liters of salty fluids from your body onto the surfaces others will come into contact with. There are towels, sprays etc. Use them. No one wants to sit in your swass puddles or grip your palm-puke covered weights.
  3. Dropping weights and slamming machines wrecks equipment. Period. Never mind the fact that all members pay to use it, no one enjoys paying for premature overuse and abuse of equipment. Broken equipment means unavailable or even dangerous equipment. Dropping weights can be dangerous. If you can’t control it, you could easily hurt someone around you.  In some situations, it can startle other members and even discourage them from coming back. YES, there are gyms that allow it, there is a style of lifting and a type of equipment designed to be dropped, but it’s not dumbbells, cable stacks or strength machines.  If you want to look like He-Man, throw big heavy things around and have every one watch and marvel at you, may I suggest entering some heavy lifting competitions. (Interestingly enough my survey resulted in this type of equipment abuse tied for 3rd place with following point.)
  4. Stop being an equipment hog, a bully, a bitch or an asshole. Seriously. If you are a MEMBER of the gym, you SHARE the equipment. It doesn’t matter if you were birthed on the same sacred soil as that location’s mortar and brick. It doesn’t matter that you donated a squillion dollars last year to the facility. You do not own that bench, that spinning bike or that 4 ‘ by 4 ‘ square piece of gym floor in the yoga room. Get over yourself. Remember, you can always NOT be a member and train at home.
  5. Speaking of playing nice and being all grown-up-like… put your toys away. No, the staff or the other members are not your mommy. You set up, picked it up and moved it, you put it back. Just think of it as part of your workout. It’s a bonus set.
  6. Give people space. If they’re in the middle of a set, a good cardio workout or a solid yoga pose, for the love of all that is healthy, NAMASTE-the-frick out of their way! Unless they make obvious eye contact, a smile or pop their music out, there is no reason to interrupt or engage them in conversation. This includes the group-fitness chatterboxes and last-minute entries. Show up early or on time, and if you’re late, don’t make a habit or a scene of it. Focus on your workout. Not everyone wants to hear your babbling during THEIR workout time. If you need to powwow with your bestie beside you, please do that before or after the class.
  7. The gym is not a trolling platform, a pick-up bar or a dating site. Ok. Maybe there are some clubs like that, but be aware that for the most part, it’s a sacred place that folks go to work on themselves. Some gyms are community or family-inclusive. The facility offers members a place to unwind, get in some me-time and not to be accosted or harangued. So while you’re at it, be classy and keep that mouth filter in place.
  8. Respect the rules of the facility. That includes respecting the staff who enforce the rules. Yup, there are going to be jerks on staff too. Smile, nod, ask questions, acquiesce, then bring it to the manager’s attention if you’re nose is still bent out of shape. Your facility’s guidelines are there for a reason. Things like chalk, footwear, music, cell phones, attire or even water bottles could be allowed in one gym, and not the other. (I’ve been asked to throw away/put away a clear, 1 liter milk jug I was using for water at one gym. Yet the dude next to me was allowed to use his 1 liter brand-name water bottle. I never did a reasonable answer when I inquired about that, so I found a new gym.)
  9. Attend Karaoke or Toastmaster, instead of using the facilities as your practice space. RIGHT??! This point was brought up enough to note it in this blog! If you love to sing along with Madonna, Slayer, Al Green or Steve Akoi & Machine Gun Kelly, that’s your prerogative. Lip-syncing is welcome in all gym facilities. The same rule applies to having full-on conversations using your cell phone, with an interesting exception pointed out by a few people I’ve asked: Having a quiet phone conversation is no different than two gym goers conversing between themselves. Just keep in mind that it can be distracting if the topic lacks respect or is generally questionable. Use yours or your granny’s judgement.
  10. If you’re sick, stay home. It’s just not cool to share your bugs. You don’t look like a hero while sneezing and snotting all over the atmosphere and equipment while working out. Generally, keeping your kids home if they’re sick, is hugely appreciated by the gym’s childcare team and all the other families who enjoy the facilities.

What are your biggest pet-peeves when you’re at your fitness facility? Did I miss anything?

Thanks for reading!



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