10 Unwritten Rules of the Gym for the Post-New Year’s Crowd

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Guys, can you feel it? It’s about to happen: Your gym will soon be 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!), the influx of bodies can be cause for, well, more than a little annoyance. Like, suddenly there’s a long line for treadmills. And don’t get me started on how long it takes to find a free locker.

So while I have the attention of the class, I’d like to take this opportunity to review a few 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 guts to.


Well, Philly, I have the guts. 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. Cotton 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. True story: I once spent an entire yoga class staring at the undies of the girl in front of me because every time she bent over they were clearly visible through her cotton leggings. (In case you are wondering, they were black with white polka dots.)

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 Bikram 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, Dammit.

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.

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. {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.

» Related: 11 Rules We Wish All Yogis Would Follow

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  • Kristen N’ Jay-Jay

    You’re forgetting “keep your phone in the locker room.” There is no reason to be on your phone and on a machine or even worse a Spin bike at the same time. It’s rude and disrespectful.

  • Bill Conn

    I’d like to add “Minimize your naked time in the locker room.” I have seen way too many people discussing politics with their junk out.

  • John J Michael

    Ridiculous rules for a gym: Don’t grunt, don’t slam weights, don’t sweat, don’t wear uncoool stuff?? Just get out there and work out people! Enjoy the process of getting better every workout, just getting there is a victory so what you do after that is icing (sorry – no pun intended)! Don’t worry what others may think of you, just keep going and getting more fit, stronger, better balanced, whatever it may be! Don’t waste ANY time on worrying what other people are doing!

  • Ryan

    Can I add one? Please don’t dry your um….private areas with the hair dryer. The hair dryer is meant for the hair on your head, not underneath or between the cheeks. Nobody wants to see this.