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The 9 unspoken rules of the gym that trainers want you to know


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You’re at the gym, and by the end of your 60-minute HIIT session, you’re feeling swole. So yeah, you get a little distracted during the cool-down stretch and snap a few selfies in the studio mirror. The workout’s pretty much done, you’re feeling motivated and psyched—what’s the harm, right?

Well, your instructor might disagree. According to trainers, this offense is a double-whammy. (Skipping the cool-down plus busting out your phone during class equals no chance of being the teacher’s pet.)

So how else might you be (unknowingly) driving your fitness guru insane?

Here are the 9 unspoken rules of the gym that you need to know, according to trainers who have seen it all.

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1. Stay focused

“Ask yourself why you go to the gym,” says Callie Gullickson, coach at Tone House in New York City. “Is it to blow off some steam, to improve your mental and physical health, or to not feel guilty about some things you ate and drank over the weekend? Whatever it may be, you made the conscious decision to show up at the gym—now you might as well make good use of everyone’s time by being as efficient and focused as possible,” she says.

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2. Tell the instructor (before class) when you have an injury

“Even if they don’t ask about injuries at the beginning of class, be forthcoming about yours,” says Ryan Wilke of NYC’s Throwback Fitness. “This will lessen the interruptions during class—both for the instructor and for yourself—and will ensure the instructor can provide a thoughtful modification before the exercise begins rather than forcing him or her to think on the fly.”

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3. Don’t just stand around waiting for class to start

“You’re doing a disservice to yourself by coming from a complete sit-still into this intense HIIT workout,” says Barry’s Bootcamp instructor Josey Greenwell. “Stand up, walk around, hold a squat, get your body ready and flowing so that when class time starts and those doors fly open, your body’s able to handle what’s about to happen as opposed to wasting the first 10 minutes of your workout trying to wake up.”

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4. Always use a spotter

“You can ask any gym staff member to spot you if you’re lifting heavy weights,” says Nikki Warren, founder and co-CEO of Kaia FIT, a West Coast chain that’s spreading eastward. “Most people won’t ask and don’t take advantage of having a spotter, so they’re putting themselves in compromising positions and don’t get out of their comfort zones in the right way.”

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5. Put away your phone for the entire sweat sesh

Workout selfies aren’t trainers’ only enemy—there’s also texts (and Snapchat, and Insta Stories, and…). “The purpose of your workout is to disconnect from the day and apply that focus to build up and improve your mind, body, and spirit to be better,” says Greenwell. “You can’t achieve the results you want when you never completely disengage with your social media and distractions in your daily life.”

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6. Drop heavy weights carefully

“Form should never be compromised when picking up or putting down weights,” says Warren. “Never just drop free weights or kettlebells to the ground. Lower and lift with control, a good squat, and an engaged core. This will prevent straining or tearing of muscles after strenuous activity.”

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7. Keep going until the countdown is fully finished

“My biggest pet peeve is when people finish before the countdown. The countdown is to motivate those extra reps—and those are the ones that count! It’s not so you can get a head start on quitting. Every second counts,” says Greenwell. “Do we celebrate New Year’s Eve when the ball is dropping on seven or on one? Exactly! Finish the exercise.”

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8. Be the hardest worker in the room

Greenwell says she constantly sees people who could easily up their speed on the treadmill, but choose to stay more in sync with the person running next to them. “They don’t want to look too fast or like they’re trying to work too hard…but isn’t that the point?” she says. “It’s motivating to see someone letting loose and killing it in a workout. I always want to be that person, and hope the person beside me finds it to be that extra push they needed for the day.”

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9. Stay for the stretch

“I don’t think people realize the importance of savasana,” Nicole Sciacca, chief yoga officer at Playlist Yoga in Los Angeles, says about the pose that closes out every class. (Yep, lying on the floor doesn’t just feel good—and it actually can be one of the hardest poses to do.) “I find in yoga classes at the gym, people are more prone to leaving right before—or even worse, during—savasana, which is your final resting pose,” Sciacca says, adding that it’s also rude to disrupt everyone else as you rush out ahead of time. ‘”The final rest is for you and it helps to lock in the time you’ve devoted to your practice. There are so many benefits of taking that final resting pose, from reducing stress to lowering blood pressure and cutting down on headaches, insomnia, and fatigue.”

And hey, if these rules are too restrictive, there’s always that whole world outside of the gym—and here are the summer’s coolest activewear pieces to keep your outdoor sweat sesh chic.