If you’re heading to the gym for the first time—or you’re going back after a long layoff—you might be a little nervous about feeling like you don’t belong. And the gym can be an intimidating place to a newbie. You’ll feel more comfortable if you know these unwritten rules of gym etiquette:
Clean up after yourself. Failing to wipe off after you sweat all over it isn’t just gross—it’s a rule violation at most gyms. Grab a towel at the front desk, and if your gym doesn’t provide them, make sure you always stash one in your bag.
Stay clear of the weight rack. Free weights are arguably the best way to build a killer bod; just be sure not to block access to them in the weight room. Grab what you need and then step away from the rack so other people can help themselves to the equipment.
Find the right spot. Taking a group exercise class? At most clubs, “regulars” have their preferred spots at the front of the class, and as a newbie, it’s a no-no to show up and take one of “their” places. Find a place away from the front, but where you can still see and hear the instructor until you get the lay of the land.
Keep the volume down. Plenty of us enjoy rocking out to our tunes during workouts and music is a great motivator. Be sure, though, that your volume isn’t so loud that you can’t hear what’s happening around you—and that you’re paying attention to others, especially in the weight room.
Share the equipment. Using a Nautilus machine for more than one set? The rule of thumb is to let other people “work in,” or share the machine with you, when you’re going to perform more than one set. If someone’s waiting for equipment, ask if they want to work in—or feel free requesting the same. And if the gym is packed with people waiting for cardio machines, keep that in mind and opt for a shorter session.
Let voice mail get it. Yes, the invention of the smart phone has made us more accessible than ever before, but taking calls in an exercise class is another no-no. It’s a distraction to the other attendees and can be dangerous as well. On the exercise floor, it’s okay to take a call but keep it short. People want to enjoy their workouts, not be forced to hear all of the details of your personal life.
Save chatter for later. Same as above—it’s okay to chat in most classes during the warm-up. But most instructors frown on talking during the class itself; it distracts your attention and possibly that of others around you. Save the gossip for post-workout.
Consider your criticisms. You think that Tabata class you tried is way too challenging, or you don’t care for instructor’s musical choices. Instead of muttering complaints during class, talk to the instructor afterwards about your concerns. Instructors want participants to want to come back—and that means listening to criticism from members. And don’t be afraid to offer positive feedback, too—instructors like to hear what they’re doing well.
Keep your opinions to yourself. At nearly every gym, you’ll find a wide variety of body types and exercisers. Some will be fitter than you; others may be much less so. Either way, keep your opinions to yourself—making negative or snide comments about your fellow exercisers is not only bad manners, it’s downright mean. (On the other hand, a genuine compliment—“wow, you have great arms,” or “I love that workout tank” is almost always appreciated.)
Any gym is a community, and when you act like you belong, you’ll start to feel like you belong, too. That sense of belonging will make you more likely to hit the gym—and more likely to reach your fitness goals.