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The New Rules of Gym Etiquette

gym etiquette todayI have been a self-described gym rat for the better part of a quarter century (dare I date myself by saying that?) and over that time I have seen the evolution of the modern fitness industry. When I first started working out at the gym, it was with a bunch of sweaty, loud guys in a gym that was out in and industrial area in what had been a warehouse. No one really used a towel, most of the guys didn’t put away their weights and man did they grunt up a storm or yell when they were lifting heavy. The gym smelt like smelly sweat socks or bad aftershave (LOL). The other part of the gym was where the women were segregated so they didn’t have to be subjected to the fore mentioned issues. I must admit I always worked out with the boys in the sweatshop because I found it motivating to try and keep up with them.

Jump forward several years and people realized there was this thing called decorum or gym etiquette, where people needed to put away their own weights, men stopped wearing Old Spice to the gym, people stopped letting everyone else know how heavy they could lift by how loud they could yell and thank goodness other women started to come out of hiding. Some people still forgot to bring a towel to clean up their own sweat soaked benches and left their water bottles in the most inconvenient places.

Now, most people know the finer points of normal gym etiquette in the weight room, such as:

  • Bring a towel and wipe up your sweat
  • Put the dumbbells and plates away after you have finished a set
  • Don’t drop the weights or slam them against the floor
  • Don’t yell, grunt or make random sex sounds (you have all heard them)
  • Don’t take up the entire mirror by admiring yourself
  • Most people appreciate if you pass wind elsewhere

Basics of Gym Etiquette in the Modern Age

These points are just the basics of gym etiquette in the modern age. However, there are new ones that we need to remind people about in the fitness industry especially as a Personal Trainer.

Talk to anyone today in a fitness facility and they have a whole new host of pet peeves that we need to add to the gym etiquette list. Yes, we all deserve to be comfortable and enjoy our workouts, so this isn’t about telling fitness fanatics they can’t have fun. I am the first to admit I am part of the loud family in general and I have been known to bust a move to a favorite song or sing on a rare occasion. However, there are certain new habits that people find to be extremely obnoxious and these things need to be addressed.

The reality is, most of these new gym etiquette rules are related to one thing – Technology, plain and simple. People are using their new “fandangled” cell phone devices in a variety of inconsiderate ways that is neither respectful nor appropriate gym etiquette.

I feel, as a part of the new “techo” gym culture and also a fitness professional, it is time that we set new standards and rules for proper gym etiquette.

Cell Phones and Conversations

Yes, I admit it, if there was an addiction recovery program for cell phone use; I would be its number one member. It is hard to disconnect in the digital world. We are always “on” and clients, customers or bosses expect to be able to get a hold of us at a moment’s notice.  So, it is understandable why so many people use their cell phones during their workouts.

However, we also need to take a step back and look at one of the main reasons why people exercise – stress relief.  Many health professionals suggest that we sometimes need to “unplug” and take some time for ourselves, away from our phones.

Now beyond the fact that you need to take care of yourself and cut the illusionary “umbilical cord” to the cell phone, no one wants to hear your conversation while trying to work out or unwind. Common courtesy or appropriate gym etiquette should be to leave the cell phone locked in your locker. Most things can wait for 60 minutes. However, if it is absolutely imperative that you take that important phone call, then I suggest you set your ringer to “vibrate” and walk off the gym floor to have your conversation in private.

Cell Phones and Messaging or the Internet

Back to my previous point of unplugging … just put the cell phone down and back away. People will continue to message you and Google won’t disappear because you are gone for an hour.

In the facilities I work out in and train my clients, there is nothing more frustrating than waiting for a piece of equipment. I can move on and do something else, if a member is using the piece of equipment I want to use. However, it is poor gym etiquette if you are simply “using” the piece of equipment so you can sit and answer text messages or surf the net.

It is polite and respectful to keep internet use away from the gym and answer text messages off the gym floor.

Unnecessary Use of Equipment

It happens all the time and people don’t mean anything by it. We all need to stop using equipment to hold things other than ourselves.  It is a good idea to find somewhere else to stash your water bottle, instead of on a piece of equipment that you are not using. Towels shouldn’t be on the floor or hanging on another piece of equipment, a towel should be on the bench under you to soak up your hard-earned sweat.

Seasoned fitness enthusiasts and professionals (i.e. the gym rats and trainers) all avoid using gym equipment inefficiently.  For example, occupying a squat rack unnecessarily when performing bicep arm curls, shoulder shrugs or push-ups, all of which can be done elsewhere, freeing-up the rack.  No one needs to be doing these sorts of exercises in the squat rack. Let’s try to lead by example and teach the new people the right place to be when doing an exercise.

Share the equipment with other people and let them work in. Do not occupy the equipment between sets.  In fact, you might even make a new friend, if you take the time to share the equipment.

Personal Music Choices with Personal Devices

We all have a different music selection that moves or motivate us. Personally, I have a different genre of music I like to listen to based on my activity. Rhythmic EDM at the gym helps me keep my pace if I am running, while some loud, angry music makes me push more weight. Personally, I also like to have my headphones on because they help block out distractions all around me.

Now although I love my music and it helps me push through my workout, I am not sure everyone else wants to listen to my music too. I don’t want to hear your music either. We all need to use common sense for the health of our ears, but also be cognizant of the people around us. Keep the volume on your personal devices to a reasonable level where you can hear it, but everyone else in the gym doesn’t.

Cell Phone … Selfies and Taking Candid Camera Pictures

We all have that little moment where we feel like a superstar and want to stop and take a selfie. Feeling good about yourself is a beautiful thing! There are many people I know who also use social media as a way to keep them honest by posting workout pictures.

That being said, there are some rules of gym etiquette when taking pictures. Don’t walk in front of a mirror where someone is doing a set and block his/her view. Don’t block equipment while taking the photo so others can access it.  I say keep the duck face to a minimum, but hey what do I know?

Above all else, don’t be rude to people who are honestly trying to make a difference in their own life. What does this mean? Don’t take pictures of other individuals in the gym and post it on social media making fun of them. This is very rude and immature behaviour, so cut it out! No one likes a bully.

Just remember that in the end, gym etiquette is all about respect. Respect others, respect the gym equipment and respect yourself. Everyone is there to try to make a difference in their health and life. Do your best to a good example, make other people feel welcome and follow the rules of gym etiquette!

Cathie Glennon – BCRPA/SFL, Rehabilitation Specialist, Pharm Tech (Level 3)

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