If you’ve been in the gym for longer than 10 minutes you’ve probably experienced some form of bad gym etiquette. Whether it be heading to a bench only to find the remnants of a sweaty head left behind, or arriving at the leg press and in dismay, realizing that you apparently missed a Conan the Barbarian sighting based on the amount of 45’s piled on the machine. Clearly Conan was too fatigued from his presses to be bothered with putting everything back. Poor guy, sure hope he’s okay. Lack of gym etiquette is everywhere. But I’m going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume that in all of their time spent in the gym, no one ever bothered to teach them proper etiquette. And if you’re new to the gym scene, I’m going to share some basics on how things should be done. This blog is going to be in several parts because there are simply too many things to cover in one post and you’d get bored and we can’t have that….


Let’s start with an easy one…sweat. We all do it, some more than others. Personally, I sweat A LOT. My gym provides towels, which is an awesome service by the way, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting one. However, if your gym does not, then you need to bring one. The towel is to put down on the bench, machine, whatever, to absorb your sweat and also to protect you from gym cooties if that’s a concern of yours. Any residual sweat should be cleaned up with the paper towels and the spray that the gyms provide. And please take the extra 5 seconds necessary to throw your paper towel away and not just leave it by the machine. Okay, easy one and that pretty much covers that subject in it’s entirety.
Next let’s discuss re-racking weights. It may come as a shock to you, but not everyone is planning on using the exact weight that you have on the equipment. I may want to use less, use more, or use none. I would like the option of starting with a blank slate, unless requested otherwise by me as you are abandoning the equipment. This often means that an additional amount of caloric expenditure may be required in order to return the weights you used to their proper place. Perhaps this needs to be worked in as part of your exercise program. If you were to figure out the calories burned while re-racking and multiply that times every exercise done throughout the year, I’ll bet it would add up to a fair amount and might possibly buy you some room for a couple of cheeseburgers during the year…just a thought.

messy gym

Now, let’s take that one step further and add that re-racked weights should be returned to their proper place. That means that the 120 lb. dumbbells shouldn’t be racked in the 5 lb. space. If those weights are too heavy to walk them back where they belong, then you probably aren’t worthy of them anyway. And if you’re simply not racking them correctly because you’re lazy and arrogant, then you need a home gym where your bad attitude needn’t affect others. You’re probably that person that is always posting about all their haters at the gym. (By the way, if you have that many “haters” it’s probably you…but that’s a subject for another blog.) Stacking the plates against the wall is not putting them away. Rolling the dumbbells under the rack is not putting them away. And perching a 45 lb. plate on that teeny tiny bit of space at the end of the storage bar is a bad and also a sign of laziness. Have you ever had a weight plate fall off onto the top of your foot?? I have. NOT FUN.

weighted leg press

Lastly, let’s talk about equipment sharing. This is one that requires you to be a little bit outgoing, which for some is a challenge. Some people prefer to stomp around the gym sighing loudly and throwing nasty glares at people on the equipment they want to use. (I’ll share a little story about this in a bit) Some hover….awkwardly. Some just take your weights when you leave to get a quick drink of water from the fountain, that’s always fun. It needs to be made clear that unless your name is on the door, it’s not YOUR gym. You are not special and just because you’re training for something doesn’t make your workout more important than anyone else’s. That being said, if you want to use a piece of equipment you have a few options.
1) Keep your eye on it and do other things until it opens up.
2) Do a different exercise. Sometimes I’ve discovered cool new things because I couldn’t get to a piece of equipment I usually use.
3) Ask if you can work in. Now, if some dude has 57 plates on the press and you want to load up a 10 on each side, that’s clearly not an option, I’ll refer you back to option 1 or 2, and hope he has read this blog and is mindful of the first 2 paragraphs above regarding re-racking. But if you see someone using a machine and they are doing sets with a couple minutes of rest/texting/newspaper reading in between, don’t be afraid to ask if you can work in.

hogging equipment

Here’s the clincher though…if they say yes, MEMORIZE their settings and if you change things for your set, return everything back to their settings before you get up. Why?  Because it’s the classy thing to do and the world can definitely use more classy people.  Wow, things just got more complicated right? (If they say no, then my only advice is to walk away and go back to option 1 or 2. They don’t play well with others and that’s their issue. No need to mess up your gym zen because of someone else.) So, if all of that is too much for you, then once again, refer back to 1 or 2. But, DO NOT be that person that asks to work-in, changes the settings and weights, sweats all over the equipment, then takes off. You want haters? You’re on the fast track for some new ones with that move.
We all have our moments, but most gym people are great, especially the ones that have been around a few years. And for a few of us, it’s almost a home away from home. I love my gym family and I also have respect for the equipment that is there and strive to do my part to make sure I take care of my own space. It’s like an eco-system all it’s own with a bunch of individual species trying to cohabitate in one small space. If we’re all respectful of the equipment, the other people, and our attitudes, then it becomes a haven. It’s one of the few places where you can go and it’s 100% okay to focus on yourself and leave the outside world and it’s stresses behind. Any kind of exercise can have that ability. But just because you’re in that place mentally, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have respect for everyone else trying to enjoy the space, too.
Alright, enough for today, stay tuned for Part Deux of Gym Etiquette……