Written by Lisa Allen | Edited by Dr Mark Kapnoudhis
Some gyms are bright and shiny, with a huge staff of trainers and other employees who can answer any question you have (or may ever think of having) with lots of large printed signs telling you everything you can do, can’t do, should do and shouldn’t do – all the while affirming you and motivating you to work your hardest to whip your flabby body into the shape of those anatomy charts with skin that they use for models (and sometimes trainers).
Other gyms are darker, with fewer employees and the rules aren’t as brightly colored or as prominently displayed – in fact, some of these are inhabited by people who carry more than one ounce of excess body fat.
Regardless of which end of the spectrum your gym is on, there are some universal rules of gym etiquette that apply across the board – whether you are sweating with the stars of stage and screen or working out with the guys from the loading dock.
Rule #1: Keep Your Sweat To Yourself
You can’t turn holiday fruitcake into beach-ready thighs without sweating. A lot. And it’s OK to sweat (celebrities do it too; we just don’t get to see it). But for us mortals, there are some rules. Your gym probably has this one posted somewhere – wipe down the machine when you’re done. No one wants to get on that stair climber after you sweat out last night’s garlic chicken fettuccine.
Most gyms not only provide ample paper towels, but also bottles of cleaning solution throughout the place for this purpose. Another good habit to get into is to carry a towel and use it to wipe yourself down before you even transfer that sweat to the machine.
Tip: Don’t use your personal towel to wipe down a gym machine. Your sweat is one thing, but mixing it with everyone else’s? Eeewwww….
Rule #2: Be Courteous With Cardio
Most of the frustration that takes place at the gym is over cardio equipment. You just don’t see the same kinds of likes at the squat rack as you do at the treadmill. So be sure to limit your cardio time to a reasonable duration.
Many gyms will have this rule posted as well, asking you to limit your cardio time during peak hours to 30 minutes or so. Don’t worry, if you had your heart set on 60 minutes of cardio, just break it up in the middle. Your heart rate will stay elevated longer than you think. So step off the stair climber and give someone else a turn while you hit a few weight machines.
Tip: Incorporate your cardio break into your circuit training. For instance, if you’ve been working your lower body on the treadmill, work your upper body on some of the strength machines or free weights before returning to the cardio area. Also, be sure to vary your cardio workout to maximize your results.
Rule #3: Work In To Work Out
Most of us like to work out alone. And, to be honest, one of the main reasons were working out in the first place is that we’d like to improve something about ourselves. So what we end up with is a gym full of moderately self-conscious people who really just want to get in, work out, and get on with their days.
Since we’ve all got the same goals, we can work together (we CAN all just get along). If someone asks to work in with you on a machine, let them. You need to rest between sets anyway and (more importantly) you never know when you’ll have to ask that same person the same question. Plus, you could make a friend out of the deal.
Tip: A workout buddy can help keep you accountable and make it less likely you will skip a workout – skipping your own workout is one thing, but inconveniencing someone else – well that prospect might be all it takes to get you to reconsider and start lacing up those running shoes.