Fitness & Fresh Starts: Gym Etiquette

Now that the holidays are over, you may find yourself among the stampede back to the gym! Whether we realize it or not, the exercise and fitness community has many stated and unstated rules of etiquette. For example, swimmers coexist in close proximity in lap lanes. Observe them swim up the right side of the lap lane and return on the left side. Bicyclists in our beautiful Hill Country not only maneuver our Capitol City streets with cars, they also share with each other. Cyclists have developed a form of communication including letting other cyclists know when they are approaching to pass by calling out “on your left.”

So why has so much been written in recent years about the challenges with etiquette in our fitness facilities? Even personal trainers admit it can be an intimidating experience to return to the gym. Whether you are an exercise novice or a fitness buff, you want to avoid a gym faux pas!

The following tips may ease your fresh start and make it just that much more enjoyable for you and your fellow gym members. Your Fresh Start Tips to Fitness in 2012:

  1. Fitness Attire: Be sure your athletic attire covers what needs to be covered and fits properly.  Certain strength and Pilates exercises require work on a bench or the floor. Be sure that bottoms are not so loose as to be revealing when you are bending over or prone.  Wear a proper sports bra and clean athletic shoes. Learn the fitness facility boundaries for sport-specific athletic shoes (such as spin shoes).
  2. Fragrance: Be sure to wear antiperspirant. Avoid perfume and heavy make-up while working out.  If a fellow exerciser’s fragrance is overwhelming, visit with the front desk, email the club or slip a note in the suggestion box.  Arrive clean, not covered in mulch from gardening!
  3. Perspiration & Anti-bacterial Wipes: Wipe the equipment before you sit down, and be sure to wipe down the machine when you finish, regardless of whether you perspired. Many fitness facilities provide anti-bacterial wipes or towels to wipe the machines when finished.  This includes the spin bike at the end of spin class!
  4. Share: Cooperation is the key here. While resting between sets, do not stay on the machine. Allow others to work into your sets. Ask politely if you wish to ‘work in.’ Return equipment such as BOSU balls, mats, bands, unload weight bars and re-rack free weights. Leaving weights on the floor is unsafe may cause others to trip. Limit exercise on cardio equipment to 30 minutes during peak hours. Turn off any electrical equipment that you used such as the elliptical TV, lights in the BMI room, or portable fans.
  5. Facility Layout: Before your first workout, go exploring! Returning to the gym? Learn the layout to increase your self-confidence and create mental energy. Walk around like one of the ‘regulars’ who knows the answers to the following questions: day care options, services offered, hours most crowded, location of towel and antibacterial wipes, water, and restrooms.
  6. Introductory session: Be honest and ask yourself if you know what you are doing? If you are unsure about the equipment, or how to get started, one of the best things you can do is hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to get you started.  Do not feel obligated to sign-up for a year of classes. Keep in mind that the vast majority of personal trainers do not offer free sessions.
  7. Noise: Remember the goal is to focus on the workout without distractions. Keep your headphones and personal music tuned to an acceptable level so you may enjoy the music solo.   People focusing on their routines do not appreciate singing, karaoke, personal cell phone conversations or loud discussions in the fitness facility. Use your inside voice at all times.
  8. Respect: The only person who should correct another’s form is a personal trainer or a gym employee.  Working out is a great place to meet people; however it is not a singles club. If you wish to mingle, wait for a cue (eye contact) to strike up a conversation. Do not bore other people about how well you are doing with your workout or diet. Only share if others inquire; too many people go on for too long when discussing fitness.  For long discussions, go to a café.
  9. Mirrors: During an exercise, people watch themselves to monitor form and execution. If a weight or machine is in front of someone performing a set; it is polite to wait for them to finish. Avoid primping, hair design and preening in front of the mirrors as others observe this behavior, and you do not want to be ‘that person.’
  10. Locker Room: Remember this is shared space for a large number of people. Avoid placing your items all over the bench provided for sitting to change. Place clothing directly in the locker. Be sure your cell phone is turned off or to ‘silent’ when placed in the locker. Remember to clean make-up from the counter. Refrain from walking around naked; the majority of people feel a little uncomfortable being so close to someone who is baring it all!

Observing these tips will help with your fresh start to fitness in 2012. Avoid being ‘that person’ at your club or gym.  Enjoy your work out and and all the best to you in the New Year!

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

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