Whether it’s your first time at the gym or you just need an etiquette refresher, there are habits that nobody likes and can be avoided. Consequently, I have compiled a list of the 10 most common gym mistakes that were voiced by fitness club regulars.
- Hogging the machine. How many times have you heard as a child, “Be nice and share”? Maybe a few individuals missed that lesson in kindergarten. Generally, in most health clubs and gyms, there is a sign that indicates a 30-minute time limit for cardiovascular equipment. However, inevitably, there is always one guy or girl who feels privileged and remains on the elliptical for 45 minutes or even an hour during busy times, without consequences. If you feel like 30 minutes isn’t enough cardio, then split up your workout. You can either jump on another piece of cardio equipment, like the treadmill or stepmill, for the additional time. Or, you can go to the weight room and do some strength training. Remember, you can also share in the weight room. Only take the dumbbells that you are actually going to use and try not to stockpile your weights.
- Stealing a machine. Sometimes, you may leave a piece of equipment to go make a quick trip to the restroom or for a sip of water. When you return, you find that someone has jumped onto your machine. This is a pet peeve for any gym regular! If you plan on leaving your piece of equipment, keep your eye on it or leave your water bottle. Try to return within a minute or two to ensure that you still have possession. If someone leaves his or her piece of equipment, be mindful and wait a few minutes before you take it over.
- Leaving your stamp of bodily fluids on the equipment. It is not only disgusting to think about sharing your sweat with others, but it can also spread serious germs, including cold viruses, the flu, and nasty staph infections. An easy solution would be to put a towel between you and the equipment and then wipe it down after, regardless of whether you’re profusely sweating or not. Another suggestion would be to do a preliminary wipe-down. Remember, not everyone cleans up after they are finished on a machine.
- Not re-racking your weights. This question often comes to mind for those who frequent the gym: “Do you think that the weights are going to rack themselves?” When you are done with your selected pieces of equipment, the proper etiquette is to return them to the same place you found them. No one should have to clean up after you, and no one should have to wander around looking for a piece of equipment, like a 12-pound dumbbell. Returning gear to its rightful home is helpful, in order to keep the floor space clear of hazards.
- Unnecessary grunting, loud music, and dropping of weights. If you always wear headphones and listen to music at the gym, you may or may not notice the loud grunting noises coming from the weight room. However, it may hit you one time when you have a “stage-four screamer” on the squat rack. This is disturbing for anyone in the gym. If you’re grunting or slamming weights on the ground, reconsider how heavy you're lifting. Realistically, you want to use appropriate weight so that you can control the weight through the whole range of motion of the exercise and control it safely as you put it down. Otherwise, you may end up hurting yourself or someone next to you. Also, make sure the volume of your headphones is at a level that only you can hear. Again, the idea is to preserve your own eardrums and spare your fellow gym-goers the aggravation.
- Talking on the phone. In most gyms, you will see a sign prohibiting cell phone usage in the workout areas. This is simply recognized as proper gym etiquette. Obviously, talking on your cell phone can be really distracting and disruptive to other people who are working out. Check your cell phone conversations at the entrance.
- Hoarding the space around you. Between the extra equipment and your personal belongings, you may have managed to take up the majority of the floor space. Try using a locker, which most gyms have, for your personal belongings. But you might need to bring your own lock or consider leaving valuables in your locked car or at home before you head to the gym. However, it’s not just your gear that might get in people's way. Think about how close you are working out to the person next to you. Many people will take weights off a rack and use them directly in front of you. Think of yourself and carefully stake out your real estate when it’s really busy. Be mindful about where you actually are in the space at the gym.
- Gym eavesdropping and social hour. Have you ever noticed, while on the treadmill, that the person next to you may be eavesdropping on your conversation with your friend? One surprising pet peeve is when that strange person makes a comment or facial expression in response to your discussion. Bug off! Or how about the water cooler group hanging around the leg press and leg curl machines? The common misconception in this situation is that the machines are designed more for talking than exercising. This is not social hour, although many people may use the equipment like a couch at a coffee shop. Keep moving! The idea is to keep your heart rate up while you exercise, not your mouth moving.
- The omnipotent workout person. There is always one person at the gym who may look like the fitness guru and readily gives recommendations to those gym irregulars. Don’t be fooled! Your individualized exercise program may not be up to par in that person’s opinion, but remember your body is different than his or hers. You should follow your own workout plan and seek the right advice from a professional personal trainer.
- Excessive locker room nudity. Maybe you’re in the habit of walking around naked at home, but please do not feel that this is appropriate behavior in the gym’s locker room. A quick change of clothes is seemingly harmless. But, flagrantly walking around in your “birthday suit,” sitting your bare bottom on the bench, and carelessly flashing your private parts to all in the locker room, is unacceptable. Stay mindful of others and their comfort level in the gym.
Although the gym may be an intimidating place, there is a secret code of conduct. Checking off and avoiding these peeving behaviors before you head to the gym may help. These solutions to common gym mistakes are meant as a way to keep you and other gym-goers safe, to help you feel more confident and comfortable, and to help you get the most out of your gym visit.
Celeste Turner is a writer, blogger, and fitness guru who was born and raised in New Orleans. Please email comments, suggestions, or ideas for articles to ([email protected]) or check out her website at celestefit.com.