Everyone gets annoyed by other people from time to time, and the gym is a place where our criticism of others ramps up. We all have our preferences and routines when it comes to getting a workout in, and the mood can easily be ruined by someone clanking weights around or grunting like they’re bench-pressing a car.
While some people are able to tune things like this out, the truth is that there really are certain rules that everyone should be following in the gym, and they’re not just based on preference—we’re talking about the things that make the gym a more dangerous and gross environment for all. Like it or not, here’s what you need to stop doing while working out.
Sorry to burst your (personal) bubble…
We get it—when you’re working out in a certain area of the gym, or just if your gym is small, you might be in close quarters with other people. To some degree, it’s bound to happen at any gym, but the problem is when people make no effort to maintain any sort of distance between themselves and others. You might not think anything of it, but an unexpected bump could result in being elbowed, a dropped weight, or a fall that could cause serious injuries.
You might not think anything of it, but an unexpected bump could result in being elbowed, a dropped weight, or a fall that could cause serious injuries.
Next time you’re in the gym on a packed day, just remember this mantra from trainer Bret Contreras’ Commandments of Commercial Gym Etiquette: “Thou shalt respect other individuals’ space and maintain adequate distance from other lifters while they’re lifting.” Or while they’re doing anything else, for that matter.
Enough with the dramatics.
Are you a heavy weightlifter? If so, we’ll give you the occasional pass on throwing down a weighted barbell at the end of your set. “At the end of a very heavy set, [it’s] sometimes unavoidable,” said Men’s Fitness training director Sean Hyson in an interview with Daily Burn. However, he went on to add, “if you see a guy doing it repeatedly, he’s either desperate for attention or very careless.”
According to Hyson, dropping weights can not only damage them, but also the floor you’re dropping them on. Dropping a barbell even once could actually warp it and give it a slight bend, making the weight distribution unstable and more likely to cause an injury. We’re all for lifting heavy, but if you constantly find yourself unable to hold on to the equipment at the end of your set, it might be time to swallow your pride and lift just a little less weight.
Being sanitary isn’t just smelling nice.
Sometimes, all the deodorant in the world won’t prevent you from smelling at the end of a gym session, and most people won’t fault you for that. What they will fault you for, though? Sweating all over the gym equipment and moving on without wiping down what you used. “You accept a level of grossness in most gyms, but have a little respect,” said strength coach and owner of The Fort NYC, Dan Trink.
How someone smells should be the least of anyone’s worries, though. Things like ringworm, jock itch, body lice, and even MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, can be spread quite easily when personal hygiene isn’t taken seriously in a gym. For the sake of everyone who’ll use that equipment after you, take five seconds to clean it when you’re done.
Speaking of wiping things down…
Don’t use the same towel that you’re cleaning machinery with to wipe off your face! We assume you wouldn’t touch your skin with the same towel that you spray chemical cleaners on, but many gym-goers choose to lay down a towel on the equipment before they sit on it.
If the person who used it before you didn’t wipe that machinery down and then you wipe your face with that towel afterward, you’re putting your skin into contact with some gnarly things, mainly butt sweat from both you and who knows how many other people. Carry three different towels with you if you have to, but make sure only one of them is for your face and body.
Keep the coughs to yourself.
We know what you’re thinking and, yes, we know that research has shown exercise can reduce the time someone stays sick, along with the severity of their symptoms. However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to exercising while sick, and certain people should be avoiding it, not only to get themselves well, but to avoid getting anyone else sick.
First, consider the “above the neck” rule—if you just have mild symptoms like a dry cough, sneezing, and a runny nose, you’re okay to hit the gym. However, anything more severe that affects your lower body, including muscle aches, fever, congestion, and digestive issues, means you should take a few days off from working out.
Secondly, you’ll need to take it down a notch if you’re working out with a mild illness, especially if you feel worse after exercising. Raul Seballos, M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic recommends going in with around 75 percent of the energy you normally would, and gradually ramp up to 100 percent as you begin to feel better.
Consider keeping your mouth shut.
There are clearly some exceptions to this rule, like if you see someone doing a certain move in a way that you know will injure them. However, giving someone advice just because you’re not a fan of what they’re doing? Not cool. “I see it happen a lot at various gyms I train at, and have yet to witness anyone who appreciates a total stranger giving them advice that they didn’t even ask for,” said Tony Gentilcore, co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance, located in Hudson, Massachusetts.
The bottom line? Ask why someone is doing something the way they are before you jump into giving them advice. Sometimes, they may not know they were doing it wrong and your help will be appreciated because it spared them from a strained muscle or broken bone.
However, you might also find out they’re doing something under the recommendation of their doctor or trainer, or that they’re doing a modification of a similar exercise because the standard version causes them discomfort or pain.
“There are a million reasons why a trainer—or non-trainer—might be doing something, and presuming that you know why they’re doing it is condescending,” said creator of Remodel Fitness Jessi Kneeland.
Stop playing pick-up artist.
Research shows that the average gym-goer spends approximately 35 percent of their time at the gym on things other than exercise. One of the non-exercise activities they participate in the most? Talking. In fact, 32 percent of people surveyed admitted that they regularly stop their workout to chat with others.
Now, we’re not saying that talking to a friend should be forbidden at the gym, but if the conversation can’t take place while you’re exercising, respect others’ time and back away from the equipment so someone else use it if you’re not.
Speaking of social interaction at the gym, stop making it weird by peering at people you find attractive. Author of The 30-Second Body, Adam Rosante, told Daily Burn that staring, especially when it comes from men, is “one of the biggest reasons women tell me they’re intimidated by the weight room.”
Man or woman, if you really feel like you need to talk to someone who’s caught your eye, don’t interrupt their workout to do it—there are few things more awkward than striking up a conversation while someone’s out of breath, bent over a weight bench, or deep into a squat. If they’re not into it? Well, it’ll be rather convenient that you’re in a place to help you blow off some steam if you’re rejected.