Gym Etiquette: 10 Rules We Wish All Gym-Goers Would Follow

Listen up, post-New Year’s gym rats. These rules are not optional.


Yup, it’s happened: My gym has officially been overrun by the post-New Year’s crowd. While I’m thrilled that more people are trying to get on the fitness wagon (go you!), it’s sometimes cause for more than a little annoyance. Like, suddenly there’s a long line for treadmills. And now I’m spending five to seven full minutes opening and closing unlocked lockers to try and find a free one. (Why don’t people always lock up their stuff, by the way? Maybe I’m particularly untrusting person, but I’ve never understood this.)

So while I have the attention of the class, I’d like to take this opportunity to review some Unwritten Rules of the Gym. These are rules of conduct and implicit understanding that you won’t find plastered on a plaque in the locker room or next to the cardio machines. These are gripes about unseemly habits and behaviors that everybody wants to say to everybody else, but nobody actually has the stones to.

Well, Philly, I have the stones. And I asked a bunch of local trainers and gym owners for their input, too, so consider what follows to be straight from the horse’s mouth. Capisce?


1. Don't Slam the Weights

Honestly, nobody thinks you're being macho when you drop a weight oh-so-dramatically on the floor. At best, it makes us think you were probably lifting too much to begin with and lost control. At worst, we find you incredibly annoying.

2. Leggings Are Not Yoga Pants

It's safe to assume that if your stretch-pants are made of cotton, we can see your entire rear. Don't believe me? See here.

3. Keep the Grunting to Yourself

Please don't try to prove to your fellow gym-goers that you're working harder than them by grunting at top volume. We get it—you're a stud in your own mind. Honestly, Planet Fitness's grunt-free policy is on to something.

4. If You Feel Like You Need to Let One Rip, Well, Don't

Look, everybody farts. But when farts mix with heat and sweat, like, say, in a spin class, they become particularly lethal. So please do everything within your power to avoid unwanted gym flatulence. Ideas off the top of my head: don't eat beans for lunch. Slow down when you eat to avoid excess air. Pop a Gas-X. And for the love, just hold it in.

5. Wash Your Gym Clothes

You'd think this one was so obvious that it wouldn't need to be said, right? Wrong. Several trainers I queried included this on their list, which means it's a problem widespread enough that it warrants some attention. So: please remember that gym clothes should be worn only once between washings. Your sweat sinks, and old, set-in sweat is even worse. Don't make me remind you again, please.

6. Shirts On, Please

This goes for both sexes. If you're nursing a beer gut or rocking a six pack, we really don't want to see it. And yes, the eye-rolling is directed at you.

7. Clean Your Machine

In most gyms, this rule is usually posted on a plaque somewhere, but it's ignored so frequently that I'm including it here. Guys, it seriously takes 10 seconds to wipe down a cardio machine, and it won't kill you to do so. What might kill me is stepping on to your sweat-flecked machine after you get off without wiping it down, and proceeding to get all up-close-and-personal with your germs. {Shudder}

8. Don't Spit, Sicko

Who spits indoors? Apparently, a lot of people. When a gym employee sent along this suggestion, it reminded me of an old basketball teammate who used to spit on the gym floor during games—enormous, gooey loogies littered like land mines alllll over the floor. She did not win MVP.

9. Don't Be a Loud Talker

This sounds like the premise of a Seinfeld episode, but the truth is nobody wants to hear your conversation—with your girlfriend on the next bike, with your mom on the phone, whatever. Fair warning: if you annoy me enough with your incessant talking during a spin class, I might publicly lambast you on this blog. Oh wait, that already happened.

10. Return the Weights From Whence They Came

How annoying is it when you go to grab a set of weights and only one is there? I've seen so many people use a rack's-worth of free weights, then leave them strewn all over the floor. Guess what? Your maid took the day off. Put 'em back.

>> Tell us: What bad habits of your fellow gym-goers really bristle you? Vent—er, share in the comments.

  • Suz

    I don’t understand why people don’t lock up their clothes either. I do not trust that my phone or wallet will be there when I get back! It’s also annoying to open 10 lockers before you find an open one.

    I want a good, snappy comeback for when someone slams their weights down. One I just thought of: “wow, with a bang like that I would have thought someone just died.” Unfortunately those guys always have their headphones in.

    Can’t wait to see all the newbies when I go tonight! Though it’s Friday, so maybe they all took the night off as their reward. ha.

  • Sue

    Hey, along with cleaning the machines should be a note about cleaning the mats. Doesn’t matter if you didn’t ‘sweat’ on them, they still need to be wiped down.

  • Lynne

    I’m thinking people who don’t lock their lockers are the same people who don’t lock the stall door in the bathroom and are annoyed when you walk in on them.

    The good news is that 95% of these new year’s resolutioners will be out of our gym in a few weeks!

  • Jackie

    There are some people who go to the gym to socialize. They want to hold long conversations about whatever is on their mind at the moment. I have a certain amount of time to exercise, and then I have to leave. How do I get them to go away without seeming rude?

  • kamen

    people who hog the machines. Texting, chatting to others. It’s rude!!!!

  • Angie

    People who asks for a sip of water ’cause thay already finish theirs and don’t want to buy an entire new bottle or walk all the way to refill theirs at the lobby because they “just want a sip”. Seriously, even if you just ask to pour some water from another person’s bottle to yours, it’s annoying.