Don’t be that person who ruins everyone else’s workout.

By Samantha Zabell and Maggie Seaver
Updated July 19, 2019
Credit: Natalya Danko / EyeEm / Getty Images

In the world of modern manners, there’s one subset of protocol you might not consider until someone else breaks them in front of you: gym etiquette. Everyone’s gym membership entitles them to use the space as they please—to an extent. It is a shared space after all, and the importance of gym decorum is heightened due to the very, um, intimate (and rather sweaty) nature of the atmosphere. Follow these 10 basic gym etiquette commandments so you never turn into that person someone else hates at the fitness center. (And when in doubt, stick to the good old Golden Rule).

1. Contain Your Exercise Equipment

Don’t leave your water bottle, towel, weights, and other equipment strewn about the shared stretching area. That may fly in your bedroom or living room, but others won’t appreciate navigating an obstacle course on their way to work out.

2. Don’t Socialize

This sounds harsh—and it doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to speak. But while working out with a friend is a great motivator, it’s difficult for others to focus when you’re chatting loudly on the treadmill, or worse, standing on the machine next to them but not actually using it. That heat you feel on your back is people shooting you serious side-eyes.

The same goes for socializing on the phone. It’s incredibly rude to talk loudly on the phone—especially on speakerphone or via FaceTime—while working out next to others. If you need to answer a phone call, be kind and take it outside (or simply wait to chat until after your gym session). At the very least, keep your voice down and always use headphones—no one wants to hear either end of your personal calls while sweating it out.

3. Respect Others’ Headphones and Personal Space

If you see someone you know at the gym, by all means, say hi! But don’t try to strike up a long conversation with anyone in the zone. In fact, approaching someone with headphones can even be dangerous. Tapping them on the shoulder could startle them enough to lose control, a bad idea for anyone on fast-moving exercise equipment.

4. Share With Others

We know it’s tempting to hoard the only set of 8-pound weights for your circuit routine, but there’s a gym full of people who likely need to use some of the same equipment as you. If the gym’s pretty empty, you can probably go for it. But otherwise, think about how annoying it is when someone else is hogging the one set of equipment you need—and behave accordingly.

5. Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Machine and TV Screen

You know that feeling you get when someone is looking over your shoulder and you can’t get anything done? That’s how it feels to have someone watching your channel on the elliptical television, or even worse, checking out the stats on your machine.

6. No Loitering and Texting on a Machine

If you need to catch up on emails or text messages, do so off the equipment. Sitting on a machine texting, unfortunately, doesn’t count as working out, and nothing’s more annoying than watching someone sit and text on the exact machine you’re trying to use.

7. No Loitering by a Machine You Want Next

Even if you’ve been waiting a long time for the elliptical by the window, it’s not your place to hover next to the person using it until they surrender. Go do some stretches or warm up moves in another spot until they’re finished. Who wants someone breathing down their neck when they’re just trying to exercise?

8. Arrive on Time to Group Classes

If you’re late to a cardio class, politely set up in the back, and try not to disturb others. If you’re running late to yoga, know you’re likely disrupting people’s practice when you enter 10 minutes after it starts. Things come up and you won’t be early all the time, but be as prompt as possible when your tardiness could affect others (and the experience they probably paid for).

9. Always Wipe Down Your Machine (or Mat)

We know—you think that the next person will just wipe down the treadmill before they start their workout. Nope. Make cleaning the equipment you just used (aka sweated and breathed all over) a part of your workout routine. No exceptions.

10. Easy on the Perfume

Perfume and sweat is not a great combo in an already smelly gym. But while you should skip the perfume, please don’t skip the deodorant.

11. No Staring

No, there won’t be a private little changing room just for you in the locker rooms. Keep your eyes to yourself, please.

  • By Samantha Zabell
  • By Maggie Seaver