It’s been a few weeks since the New Year, New You crowd invaded the gym, which means the grace period for poor gym etiquette is drawing to a close. As accustomed as the old guard is to the annual January flood of exercise newbies, there comes a time when missteps in decorum are no longer forgiven.
To be fair, most gyms do a lousy job of educating their members on how to foster a safe and welcoming workout space. A few strategically placed signs outlining one or two basic guidelines is the standard approach, but it’s violations of the unsaid rules that cause eyebrows to raise and words to be exchanged.
So to clear up any confusion around what’s kosher and what’s not, here are nine rules to live by.
Respect personal space. Most people try to get into the zone during a workout, which means focusing on the job at hand with earbuds in and playlist setting the mood. Be sure to give your fellow exercise enthusiasts enough space to do their thing and refrain from striking up a conversation, commenting on their form or peeking at their workout stats from a neighbouring treadmill, bike or elliptical. Above all else, no matter how funky the workout, don’t stare.
Clean up after yourself. Workouts are sweaty endeavours that call for wiping down machines, mats, balls, weights and benches after use — particularly during flu season. But that’s not the only chore you’re expected to perform. Re-rack your weights, remove the plates from barbells and return any other pieces of equipment to their rightful place. As for your personal equipment — water bottle, towel and any other accoutrements — keep it with you, not littered around the gym. And for everybody’s sake, stay away from the gym if you’re sneezing or coughing.
Leave your phone — and yourself — on silent. It’s fine to use your phone to play music (earbuds only, please), but not to FaceTime friends and family, text while exercising, take workout selfies or upload pictures of those working out around you to Instagram. And while you’re keeping your phone out of sight, put it on silent so it doesn’t ring, ping or otherwise disrupt the workout of the person next to you.
Keep it scent-free. Strong scents are particularly annoying at the gym, where respiration rate is ramped up and sweaty bodies are working out side by side. That’s not an excuse to dial back on the deodorant — just avoid flowery or heavy scents that linger. Speaking of unpleasant smells, don’t make the mistake of squeezing in one more workout before throwing your favourite gym T-shirt, shorts or leggings in the wash. Nobody likes to exercise beside someone with overripe gear.
Indoor shoes only. Hey, it’s Canada, where snow, salt and other abrasives cling to all outdoor footwear. And no matter how hard you try to wipe the outdoors away, dirt, grit and moisture get tracked into the gym and locker room, and then transferred to machines and other equipment. Leave your boots at the door, and don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get from the parking lot to the front door in your gym shoes without bringing the outside in.
Don’t hog the equipment. Gyms are communal spaces, which means equipment is shared, not monopolized. This is especially relevant during peak hours, when there aren’t enough machines and pieces of equipment to go around. Limit your time on a cardio machine to 30 minutes, and give a nod to indicate it’s OK for someone to use the weight training equipment when you’re between sets. Just make sure you put a towel down on the weight bench so you’re not sharing more than a set of dumbbells.
The locker room
Cover up. You may be comfortable in your birthday suit, but not everyone is cool with people walking around in the buff. That doesn’t mean you can’t expose any bare skin, but throw on a towel while heading to and from the shower. And remember the rule about personal space, making sure not to spread your discarded workout clothes and toiletries around the locker room like it’s your own bathroom.
Cover your feet, too. Locker rooms and showers are breeding grounds for germs. Even the best clubs struggle to keep up the cleanliness of showers, toilet stalls and floors during peak hours. Opt for flip-flops or slides instead of bare feet, and that includes in the shower.
Get in and get out. Locker rooms aren’t the place to loiter, catch up with a buddy, talk on the phone or grab a quick bite to eat. Nor are they a place to take selfies: understandably, cameras make people nervous when they’re used in a locker room. And gawking is never cool.