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Proper Gym Etiquette: 11 Dos and Don'ts in the Gym

Don’t be one of “those” people at the gym… Learn the dos and don’ts for gym beginners, novices, and the alike!

Proper Gym Etiquette: 11 Dos and Don'ts in the Gym

Going to a new gym, especially when crowded, can be intimidating. There are some unwritten proper gym etiquette rules that can help everyone get the best experience from working out at a gym. However, what not to do at a gym may not be clear.

Wondering what are considered the dos and don’ts in the gym? Here is a breakdown of what not to do at the gym and proper gym etiquette all can follow.

11 Things to NOT Do at the Gym (& What to Do Instead!)

Following these proper gym etiquette guidelines can help ensure everyone has a pleasant and the greatest experience from working out, no matter what experience you have going to a gym.

1. Avoiding an Area of the Gym

The weight room can definitely be intimidating for a woman and the cardio workout section probably feels a lot more like home, but strength training is a key part of everyone’s workout—both male and female—and should not be ignored.

If you don’t know how to use the weights, ask your personal trainer or staff member for advice; ask your friends; or ask someone in the weight room—gym-goers are normally very friendly and if you have a willingness to learn, they should have no problem taking the time to show you what to do.

On the other hand, some may feel intimidated by the cardio section and working the various resistance machines. No matter what area of the gym you feel uncomfortable around, try it out. Give yourself kudos for trying something new! Likewise, ask others for tips for working with various machines that are unfamiliar; they will not look down on you!

2. Not Doing a Balanced Fitness Routine

It’s awesome if you’ve found an exercise routine that resonates with you! However, doing the same routine over and over again can increase your risk of injury, create a lack of motivation, and the dreaded fitness plateau.

Instead of staying in a limited fitness routine, challenge yourself and include each of these components into your workout:

Cardio-respiratory endurance—Aerobic exercise includes brisk activities like walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, or kayaking. The key to a successful workout is building up your intensity over time.

If you’re a treadmill addict, spinning is a great alternative.

Muscular strength—It’s important to get in a well-rounded workout and muscular strength is key.

Try lifting weights like free weights or dumbbells or you could even try a weight machine.

Muscular endurance—Improve your endurance through conditioning exercises, weight training, and activities like running or swimming.

Flexibility—Work to increase your level of flexibility through stretching exercises that are done as part of your workout or through a discipline like yoga or Pilates.

Following a balanced workout plan can help ensure you are getting a well-rounded routine and utilizing all aspects of the gym.

3. Not cleaning equipment when you’re done.

Maybe the most basic proper gym etiquette is leaving the equipment clean for the next person. When you are finished, clean off parts of the equipment you have touched with your hands or sweated on. 

If you are unsure if a piece of gym equipment is clean before using, you can also spray and wipe it down before using if desired. No one will notice or mind.

Spray bottles and towels are usually all-around various parts of the gym. If you are unsure where cleaning materials are kept, simply ask a fellow gym-goer or staff member.

4. Not putting equipment back when you’re done.

Similar to not cleaning equipment, a don’t for working out at the gym is not putting things back. For example, if you are loading weights on a machine, put them back on the weight rack when done. Don’t leave it for the next person to do! 

If you are stepping away for a quick minute but are not done with a piece of equipment, it is typically proper gym etiquette to leave weights on a machine until you get back. Weights on a machine can indicate to others the machine is in use.

However, it is not proper etiquette to leave weights on a machine or “claim” a piece of workout equipment while you are clearly not using it or taking long breaks in between.

If you see someone leave a workout station you want to use and are not sure if they are done, simply ask them if they are finished. Telling someone you just have a set left (or a few minutes) is considered proper gym etiquette. It can also indicate other people are waiting for equipment that is all being used.

5. Not giving the proper rest and recovery needed.

If you start working out too soon without doing the proper research, you can become overly sore, lose your motivation, and develop symptoms of fatigue.

Remember that it’s not always about speed! Going through your reps at lightning speed does not mean you are working out harder, better, or stronger. It means you are likely not working through the full range of your muscles. 

Most people don’t know about proper form and posture at the gym, whether it’s doing a chest press or in the squat rack. A good practice at the gym is to check with the front desk to find a trainer who can show you how to get the most out of your workout and how to do it correctly.

Incorrect weight lifting can be just as bad as flying through your reps. Many people make judgment errors when lifting weights. You should choose a weight that you can lift 30 times to start, but afterward can lift only 15 times more. You never want to feel completely exhausted after you’re done.

6. Forgetting your water bottle.

It’s important to stay hydrated while at the gym. A good rule of thumb is to drink 2 cups (16 ounces) of water about 15 minutes prior to your workout and another 6 ounces after you cool down. Also, a quick sip every 20 minutes will help keep you hydrated while you’re pumping the iron.

Make sure to keep your water bottle with you and not leave it at an empty station, as that could give a false message to other gym-goers a machine is being used. 

7. Following the no pain, no gain philosophy.

Forget no pain, no gain. If your body starts to hurt during your workout routine, that is not a good thing and you should NOT keep going. It is normal for your muscles to feel sore 12-24 hours after you’ve worked out but if any pain occurs during your workout or immediately afterward, consult your doctor. 

The same goes for muscle soreness that persists for more than a week. Also, don’t work out when you’re extremely tired or not feeling well. If you exercise smart and gradually increase the length and intensity of your training sessions, you’ll stay challenged and safe.

8. Not warming up or cooling down.

This is something many people ignore but your body cannot just go from 0 to 60 without risk of injury. It needs to wake up and do 5 to 10 minutes of low-level aerobic activity before you stretch it. 

To get the most out of your pre-workout stretch, perform each stretch slowly and hold for 30 seconds. Never bounce during a stretch - relax and ease into it. If you feel any discomfort, you are likely pushing too hard.

9. Ignoring signs of equipment being used.

As mentioned, putting equipment back when done is proper gym etiquette. If you see equipment out or weights on a machine, it is generally an indication the equipment is being used. Before changing the weights or using a piece of equipment that looks like it may still be in use, ask anyone standing by it if they are done with the equipment. 

Alternating with someone for sets on a strength machine can happen if communicated or you can indicate you are almost done with a machine, will wipe it down, then it is free to be used by someone else.

When in doubt, use pieces of equipment first that are clearly not being used. This may take some flexibility in doing your desired exercises, but keeping personal space and not interfering with someone’s workout unnecessarily can go a long way with gym etiquette.

10. Hogging multiple stations at a time.

This tip for what not to do at the gym is especially timely when a gym is crowded. Be mindful of how many machines or pieces of equipment you are using at one time. If the gym is crowded, consider sticking to one piece of equipment at a time. 

Additionally, avoid sitting on gym equipment if not using it. If you want to take a break, chat with someone, or talk on the phone, do so away from the equipment for the best gym etiquette everyone will appreciate.

11. Not fueling properly before and after a workout.

Working out and successfully losing weight is all contingent on a healthy diet and how much you put into your exercise routine. Properly fueling before and after exercise can help you get the most out of your gym workouts.

If you’re looking for something fast and convenient without the hassle of going to the grocery store, bistroMD offers a diet delivery program that can help you successfully lose weight while exercising! 

Dos and Donts of the Gym Recap

Trying to get a workout at a gym can feel intimidating, especially when crowded. However, it is possible to get a healthy workout in while following proper gym etiquette for yourself and others.

Make sure to take care of yourself before, during, and after exercise with proper fueling, hydration, warming up, cooling down, resting when needed, and following a balanced workout plan. 

Proper gym etiquette includes cleaning equipment after use, putting things back, paying attention to cues a piece of equipment may be in use, and asking others for guidance when needed. Do not feel embarrassed to ask for help, and likewise help others when requested without passing any judgment!