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Shape Up: The Essentials Of Basic Gym Etiquette

Aaron BW SMALL-with-logoJanuary has been flying by, which means your local gyms, bootcamps, and fitness centers have seen their usual influx of members, both old and new, working to make those New Year’s resolutions a reality. To keep the gym an inviting, safe, and fun experience for everyone, this is an appropriate time to discuss some general gym rules to ensure that endorphins remain high while tensions stay low. I’ve been in the fitness industry for almost 15 years and have been working out as a regular gym member even longer. Over the years, I have seen the good, bad and the ugly of gym etiquette, including minor tiffs and full-blown arguments. The truth is, if everyone follows a few simple and courteous guidelines, many of these issues can be avoided and everyone can use the gym as it is intended: a shared space for people to meet their health and fitness goals. 

Share: This basic principle is something we all learned at an early age and should carry through our adult lives. Depending on your gym, there may be limited equipment, many members, or any combination of variables that make certain pieces of equipment and space prime real estate. If you’re in a highly valued area like a squat rack or a bench press, use the equipment as effectively as possible so that others have access to those machines. We all take rest intervals, but make sure they are reasonable timed, and be prepared to let someone work in with you if you require longer periods in between sets. My general rule of thumb is: If I have more than one more set of an exercise left, I will always allow another member to work in with me. This being said, if you do a superset or circuit program that requires several pieces of equipment throughout the gym, don’t expect people to not use your equipment when you step away from them. When you return from your previous exercise, simply ask that person if you can perform your set and carry on with your circuit as planned. I once witnessed a member doing a circuit-style training workout in the only squat cage available, which included pull-ups, box jumps, burpees and virtually every other exercise other than a squat in the squat cage. As you can imagine, it was super frustrating for someone who wanted to do legitimate squats using the squat rack.  If you’re going to do a high intensity, body weight, superset/circuit focused workout, there are generally better areas of the gym to do this effectively without commandeering a single piece of equipment for everything other than it intended use. On that same note, utilizing a single piece of equipment during peak times for your entire workout is both rude and unnecessary. Remember everyone is paying to use all of the same equipment. If you’re going to be on your phone in between sets, taking selfies in the mirror, or having extensive conversations, be prepared to share.  Other people aren’t running their workout schedule based on your entertainment, photo shoot, and social schedule. 

D4Q2580_V1-360x240-360x240Cleanliness: As the old adage says, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Gyms are full of sweaty people touching and sitting on equipment. Just as you don’t want to be sitting in someone else’s pool of wet exertion, others feel the same way about your sweat too. Make sure you carry a towel to wipe down your equipment. Many gyms provide towel service so you don’t even have to worry about bringing one from home or laundering. Cleanliness isn’t just limited to sweat. Re-racking your weights is probably the biggest cleanliness issue at the gym and also a major factor in safety. Nothing is more frustrating than a gym floor littered with weight plates, barbells and dumbbells. Not only is it frustrating not being able to find the weights that you are looking for, but misplaced weights are also a danger for people to trip on. It’s a pretty simple concept. When you are done using your weights, re-rack them in their designated spot and make sure that any other equipment that you used is placed out of the way and in a safe, appropriate location. You came here to lift weights and get stronger, so think of the re-racking process as part of the exercise. You’ll also be able to find those 45lb dumbbells the next time you need them, because they have been placed where they belong. It’s a win-win situation for everyone at the gym.

Odors: We all sweat — some of us more than others — and with that can come smells. It’s completely normal. We have all had days where we might have to take a second whiff to see if a smell is coming from our body. Thankfully, most people follow basic hygiene practices. However, I have come across people that I can smell from several feet away or coming down the hall. If this is the case, you may want to invest in a new brand of deodorant, or start washing your gym clothes more often. Synthetic fabrics that wick away sweat can often hold on to stench more so than other fabrics, so don’t let those gym clothes sit in your gym bag and stew. Make sure you have enough gym clothes to change them regularly, or step up your laundry game to keep those clothes smelling Tide fresh. On the flip side, there are also overpowering colognes and perfumes.  Colognes and perfumes are great for late night gatherings and social events, but not so much at the gym. Many people might love your choice of fragrance, but others may find it distracting, overpowering or even allergy-inducing in a gym environment. Keep up the basic hygiene at the gym, but leave the spritzing for post-workout festivities. 

Social skills:  We all have busy schedules, and getting in our due time at the gym can be a challenge in and of itself. Remember that the next time you see someone you know at the gym. I’ve worked in gyms for so long I generally know a vast number of the members, trainers and staff. It’s always nice to acknowledge people with a friendly hi or head nod, but it can be stressful when someone wants to command all of your attention while you’re trying to get in a good workout on a time schedule. Be friendly and courteous but save the deep chats for post workout lunches and social gatherings. Many people, like myself, use the gym as a time to decompress. Many people put on their headphones, get into their zone and like to knock out their workout. Don’t take offense if someone keeps the chit-chat to a minimum. On the flip side, if someone takes the time to say hi to you while you’re working out, be kind and return the favor in a brief exchange. 

These are some of the several basic gym etiquette guidelines that can make the gym going experience enjoyable for everyone, specifically this time of the year when we see a rise in gym attendance, but also during the rest of the year.  These best practices are simple to incorporate, easy to execute and intended for all gym goers from novice to expert levels. 

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The Phoenix Effect, a functional group fitness studio that gets you in shape fast, is offered exclusively at 7264 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA.

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