Ever since we were kids, the rules of basic etiquette have been ingrained in (most of) us: say please and thank you, hold doors open for people behind you, chew with your mouth closed. Yet when it comes to the gym, our manners muscle is often the last one to be flexed. We’re often putting so much energy into just getting through our workout that common courtesy can get left behind.
How can you make sure your behavior isn’t messing with someone else’s gym experience? Mike Silverman, CPT, a senior instructor at Living.Fit and master trainer at OneLife Fitness in Bethesda, Maryland, shares the worst gym etiquette mistakes and bad habits that he wishes members would stop doing based on what he’s seen over the past 26 years that he’s worked in the industry.
Common gym etiquette mistakes, according to a senior trainer
1. Not racking your weights
Silverman sets the scene: “You get to the bench, you’re ready to lift… and there are weights on the bar. What’s even worse is when you go to put them away and the storage rack is a Christmas tree: There’s 10s with the 45s, and those are under a 25. C’mon!”
Unfortunately, this scenario is not exactly uncommon. Too often, people leave their weights on the barbell, next to the bench on the floor, or stick them in the wrong place on the rack.
But nobody wants to do a workout before their workout by having to un-rack and re-rack weights, and the staff certainly doesn’t want to pick up after you either. “As a trainer, I probably pick up and re-rack 3,500 pounds a shift,” says Silverman.
Returning your weights to their proper home can be one last lift (think of it as a cooldown!), and you’ll earn yourself some good gym karma as well.
2. Taking up equipment while you film (or watch) TikTok content
Sure, taking pictures and videos at the gym may help hold you accountable. But using your phone to film content can be an annoyance to other members if you’re not doing it considerately. “Setting up a tripod in the middle of the walk path and reshooting single reps 30 times so you get the best shot of your butt is just not cool,” says Silverman. “You’re jamming up the equipment and taking up a ton of room.”
That doesn’t mean you should never film your workouts. But choose low traffic times and be courteous of others who may also want to use the equipment. If you know it’s going to take a while to get the perfect shot and someone is waiting, step away so they can do their set first.
Even if you’re not filming content, be aware of hogging equipment while you’re on your phone in general. “We all understand recovery between sets is important, but there’s no way that your bench press needs 6 minutes of YouTube videos and a half-dozen TikToks for your pecs to be ready,” says Silverman. There is nothing worse than wanting to use a machine and seeing someone there texting away or scrolling social media. “Watch videos at home. People come here to put in work and go about their day,” Silverman says.
3. Not using headphones
We can all agree that the right playlist is imperative for a tough workout, but you are the only one who should be able to get pumped up from your jams. Silverman says, “This has got to be a top annoyance for the staff and members alike. No one is trying to hear the latest Lil’ John blasting across the place or a meme video on loop. Put your buds in, throw your headphones on, whatever; but turn off your speakers.”
This also includes phone calls. Speakerphone or FaceTime at the gym is a big no-no. People don’t want to hear your conversations, so please don’t make them. If you have to take a call during your workout, step out to the lobby or a hallway, then come back when you’re done.
Luckily, there are many great headphones on the market, whether you prefer one that’s wireless or wired (which are coming back in style thanks to their sound quality).
4. Not sanitizing equipment when you’re finished with it
We’ve all become well-versed in the art of sanitizing over the past few years, and cleaning your equipment in the gym is no exception. There is nothing worse than walking up to a piece of equipment and seeing someone else’s body print etched there in sweat.
All gyms have stations with wipes and/or spray bottles with disinfectant and paper towels that you should use anytime you’re done using a piece of shared equipment. This is not just about weight benches. This includes dumbbells, barbells, cardio machines (handrails and foot rails), and anywhere else your sweat may have ended up. Silverman’s advice when it comes to taking care of your workout space is, “Spray it down, wipe it off, pick it up. Nobody wants your funk on their body.”
5. Crashing (or not showing up) for reservation-based classes
Booking a spot in a reservation-based group fitness class is a great way to hold yourself accountable. It’s like setting up a meeting with yourself that you can’t cancel. But you’re only welcome if you’ve actually booked that spot.
“My club has a ton of small studios, and some classes are tight, like 10 people. When someone shows up who’s not registered, someone who did sign up gets bumped. Seriously not cool,” says Silverman. Equally frustrating is when people sign up for a class, but don’t attend. Because when the class is full and you don’t show, someone who could have taken it loses out, Silverman adds.
He also mentions how your attendance may financially affect your favorite instructors. “Another thing to consider is that some places pay instructors by sign-ups or attendance, so if you don’t sign up or you don’t show up, they may not get paid.”
Of course, life happens and our schedules aren’t always predictable. But don’t sneak into a class unless you’ve signed up in advance, and if you can’t make it, cancel so that someone else can.
6. Being turfy about “your” spot
While there are some types of classes that allow you to pick a certain spot in the room when you sign up, most group fitness classes are first-come, first-served. People tend to have a favorite spot, which is totally fine. What is not fine is getting “turfy” about it.
Silverman says he sees this a lot in yoga and certain group fitness classes. “People charge the door the split second the studio opens and set up every possible piece of kit they may consider using. There’s a pile of weights, steps, bars, dumbbells, yoga blocks, double mats, you name it. It’s like they’ve moved in for a week. But that one time they run a couple minutes behind, and someone gets ‘their’ spot? Oh, man! I’ve seen members nearly come to blows over it.”
If you don’t get to work out in your favorite part of the room, it might throw you off for a bit, but take a step back and ask yourself how much it will really affect you. “It’s just a few feet of floor space, and you’re there for an hour. You’re going to get just as sweaty on the left side second row as you will in the center third,” says Silverman. Show up earlier next time if you’re dead set on a certain spot. And if someone else is already there, maybe it’s time to find a new favorite spot in the room.