Gym Advice

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These are some guidelines for basic gym etiquette.

November 29, 2016

How not to be a jerk at the gym

As the new year approaches and winter weight gain sets in, more and more people will be flocking to the gym. This influx of energy and attendance will test more than your strength and endurance — it will test your patience. Whether you’re a gym regular or a newbie, it’s worth keeping this simple piece of advice in mind: Don’t be a jerk.

Here are some guidelines for basic gym etiquette that everyone should know:

Sweat ethics

OK, you’re there to break a sweat — we get it. Just know that the only person who is excited about your sweat is you. If you’ve been using a machine, wipe it off! Your gym should have bottles of cleaning spray (often near the trash cans, or just ask!) to help you keep shared equipment clean for the next user. Don’t be the person who leaves a puddle behind.

And if you’re really moving and the sweat is flying off you, bring a towel to mop it up, or consider using a sweatband to keep your personal moisture under control. Breathable or moisture-wicking fabrics may also help. People won’t judge you for sweating, but they might be less forgiving if your sweat is landing on them.

Carry that weight

Re-rack those free weights! If you take something — anything — from its place, put it back when you’re done. It’s that simple. This includes dumbbells, mats, ab-rollers, plates...it should be clear where they belong, and if it isn’t, just ask! You may be able to lift a ton, but the next person on the machine may not. Follow the classic rule your mother taught you: Treat others’ (equipment) like you want to be treated.

Limited time only

The gym is a shared space. People will be using equipment you want to use when you want to use it, and vice-versa. Rather than letting frustration take hold, remind yourself that the gym belongs to everybody; it’s no more your machine than theirs. There are often posted time limits for popular equipment — usually about 20 minutes — so stay within these guidelines. If there aren’t time limits posted and equipment hogs are an issue at your gym, you can ask management to consider posting some.

Mix it up

There are also ways to manage your workout flow that benefit your fitness goals and sharing the space. One method to consider is “working in.” When you are doing repetitive sets, it is often necessary to rest for a minute or two in between your sets. Rather than resting on the equipment, you can “work in” with someone, meaning you lift while they rest, and they rest while you lift. This way, you both get to use the equipment and practice good technique by resting between sets.

Another option to break up your use of a machine or piece of equipment is called “super-setting,” which means that instead of resting between sets, you alternate exercises. For example, take a break from leg curls to work on pushups, repeating for as many sets as necessary in your routine.

Phone drones

It’s so difficult to put them away, but here are the basics:

  1. No loud conversations, even if everyone seems to have headphones on. 

  2. No selfies! Ugh, save it for another time and place — especially if you’re flexing. 

  3. Never take pictures of other people — it’s incredibly rude and a huge violation of privacy. It undermines everyone’s sense of safety at the gym. 

  4. If you’re listening to music, save the sing along for karaoke or the car. 


Many people use the gym not only for fitness but as a restful third space — it’s not home, not work, it’s a place where the only demands coming at them are the ones they voluntarily put on themselves. Being considerate of these tips can help you maintain a positive relationship with your gym community.