Unwritten Gym Rules You Might Be Breaking. So Stop. ~The Rest of Us

Photo via Fitness First Gym


It’s a new year! Did you make a resolution to lose weight? Exercise more? Maybe join a gym? You’re in good company. I don’t have actual statistics, but I would venture to say that about 5.3 million people join the gym I belong to each January. Gym life gets back to normal by the 3rd week in February.  I have belonged to a gym for 20 years now and, though you can’t tell by looking at me, especially after this particular holiday season, I regularly go to the gym 3-5 times per week. Anyone who goes to a gym was new at one point and I applaud anyone who has made a commitment to his or her health. Most gyms have rules that deal with hygiene and machine use (wipe down machines, throw away towels, re-rack weights, etc), but there are quite a few unwritten rules that everyone should know. Though I’m no expert, I do feel semi-qualified based on experience to offer the following tips to those who have just joined a gym on some basic etiquette that may not be posted in the gym’s contract.


Honor Personal Space

Just like in life, being considerate and aware of other people goes a long way at the gym. This is especially true in kickboxing classes where people are punching and, you know, kicking. I have unfortunately and inadvertently taught more than one newbie this lesson. I understand that when you are new to a class and are focusing so hard on the instructor and the moves, you may lose track of where you are in the room. But don’t. It annoys people around you and could be disastrous for you and the person who now has a bruised fist from hitting you in the side of the head. Sorry about that. 

When using the equipment, unless there is no other alternative, DO NOT get on the machine right next to someone else. A strict every other machine rule should be utilized at all times when possible. I have been on a treadmill at 11:00 at night with no other treadmill in use in the entire gym when a man has gotten on the machine right next to mine. It was creepy.


The Gym is Not Social Hour 

I absolutely support joining a gym with a friend. Having someone to hold you accountable to get there, and having a friend with you as you maneuver new, and sometimes overwhelming, territory can be the difference between being a mid-February gym drop out and a long time survivor. Chatting with your friend as you use side by side stair steppers or treadmills? Cool. Talking so loudly about your crazy weekend that I can’t hear my music through my headphones? Not cool. 

Also, talking and giggling after the class starts so that others can’t hear the instructor’s directions will result in glares and loud sighs. Don’t do it. 



The problem with 5.3 million people joining a gym means that the parking lot gets a little crowded. Here’s the deal, though. Driving slowly around the parking lot and waiting for a spot closest to the door, or, worse, stopping and waiting for a close spot and holding up the line behind you is not cool. You are going to the gym. To exercise. Park a little farther and walk to the door. It’s good for you. 


Tissue Use

I totally understand that sometimes you need to go to the gym if you have a cold. Those suckers can last for weeks and you will need to exercise during that time. Sometimes it even helps to sweat out some of those bad germs. BUT, if you use a tissue (and I hope you do) please, please, for the love of all that is holy, throw the tissue away! In a trash can! And wash your hands or at least use hand sanitizer before you touch anything that anyone else will use. 


Cell Phone Use

Just like socializing, cell phone usage is fine. I just don’t need to hear every word. If you can’t talk on your cell in a normal talking voice, please refrain from using it while others are trying to concentrate on their workout. If you are texting, make sure you are not hogging equipment, interfering with someone’s workout, or blocking the path that people are trying to walk through.


Do Your Thing

The last “rule” I want new gym members to know is this: if you are being courteous, respecting the rights of others, and have good intentions at the gym, all of us “old members” will support you and be glad that you are there. I know people feel self-conscious about joining a gym or trying a new class. I promise you, there is no judgment, at least not from me. It is my experience in group classes that most people are concentrating so much on what they are doing, that NO ONE is watching you. So, do your thing, have fun, and please remember to stay out of my way when I am flailing about in kickboxing.