The 12 most unforgivable gym etiquette offenses we’ve seen during the busiest month of the year


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Photo: Getty Images / skynesher

Growing up, my family never missed church on Sunday. Never. As such devout practitioners (aka helpless charges of a devout mother), we liked to complain about the twice-a-year church-goers, the ones who made it unbearably crowded at Easter and Christmas and who never knew what the hell (sorry, mom!) they were doing. Gym etiquette is a lot like church etiquette.

I can’t help but be reminded of those disruptive folks when I visit the gym or take a fitness class in January (the exercise equivalent of Christmas), when all the people who make a yearly pilgrimage flood the territory well-trodden by year-round devotees. It is, of course, an intensely positive phenomenon, as exercise is good for the body and the mind, and therefore the more the merrier for a happy, healthy society.

That said, if you are among those who don’t frequent sweatboxes and may not know the proper etiquette within them—or if you’re a 365 exerciser who needs a refresher on how to appropriately navigate more crowded spaces—there are a few things to keep in mind if you hope not to be that guy/gal. To help all of us avoid such a fate, I polled some gym rats for their gym etiquette pet peeves.

Gym Etiquette 101: What NOT to do in fitness spaces this month and every month

1. Hog the treadmills

I feel so seen (and amused) by this one that I have to (anonymously) quote it in full: “When you first go to the gym you’re lacking in innovation, so you think, ‘I can cardio! Leisurely walking to my podcast is a thing I can manage.’ I know and respect this, because that’s the mentality I’ve taken since day one. Doing the treadmill is like Basic B*tch fitness, but it’s what keeps me moderately healthy. That being said, if the treadmill says, ’30-minute limit,’ I need people off in 30 minutes. Treadmills are the first thing taken up in January.”

2. Ignore the instructor and do your own workout in class

Sometimes we’re all bummed out by an instructor’s chosen moves, whether it’s because they’re too easy or too hard. This does not, however, give anyone permission to go rogue in the middle of a workout class. If the rest of your class is in Warrior II mid-flow, don’t suddenly be showing off in a headstand instead. It’s distracting. If you want to do your own thing, I have good news for you: that’s free! You can save money, get the exercise you want, and not ruin the $20-$45 experience everyone else paid for.

3. Wear perfume/cologne

It’s hard enough to breathe through an intense workout without being overwhelmed on each inhale by synthetic chemicals. I actually think this should be explicitly banned.

4. Fail to wipe down your equipment

You’re not gross, totally. But I think you’re gross and therefore do not want to inherit your sweat-drenched machine. Honestly, not to be an armchair therapist but if you do this you are probably also acting selfishly in spaces outside of the gym, and your life perhaps needs some examining. Just sayin’.

5. Bring your cell phone into the studio

Okay, so in this case I’m that a**hole. I recently got in trouble for bringing my iPhone into a midday hot yoga class. Having a finger wagged at me ruined my workout, but the bright screen would have ruined other people’s workout, so fair. Unless your wife’s in labor or you’re some kind of on-call surgeon, you can take an hour.

6. Listen to your music so loud everyone else can hear it through your headphones

Let me help you. Turn the volume to a level you like, then pull the headphone away from your ear to gauge how loud it is to everyone else. Then, adjust accordingly so everyone doesn’t find out you like to pump iron to Creed or Nickelback. You’re welcome.

7. Put weights back in the wrong spot

I don’t lift weights, so I’m going to go anonymous quote on this one, too. “Look, I am an incredibly unorganized person who never folds her clean laundry, but even I take the extra five seconds to make sure the dumbbell or kettlebell I’m using is put back in the right place. It is not hard to find the other 20 pound dumbbells and put yours back with those, instead of dropping it off with the 10 pounders. And if you leave them on the floor instead of putting them back, I hope you enjoy the bad karma that is coming your way.”

8. Sit on the machine between sets

You have to rest—I get it. But you don’t have to pitch a tent and watch Instagram stories while those around you wait to use your machine. Best gym etiquette is to finish your set, let someone else jump in while you rest, and then, when they’re finished, take your next turn. It’s sharing, and it’s great!

9. Look at someone else’s speed on the treadmill

TBH this is my worst nightmare, especially in Barry’s Bootcamp when I’m pretending to work out as hard as everyone else. We’re not in competition and if we are, it’s okay—you won. Let me live.

10. Monopolize the best equipment

Once again, an anonymous avenger said it best: “As far as good gym etiquette goes, please be a team player and take the damaged yoga mat every once in a while. I know that nobody wants to practice downward dog on like, the battered, Charlie Brown Christmas tree of mats. But it’s a responsibility that we all need to take up once in a while, and hopefully, gym karma will pay you back in the future with a fresh clean mat.”

11. Leave class early

We get it, you’re so busy you can’t wait out shavasana. We’ve all been there, but it’s incredibly distracting to the rest of us when you start noisily collecting your things or returning equipment prematurely, and it almost inevitably throws teach off his or her game. Unless you’re meeting Phoebe Waller-Bridge to talk about the show she wants you to write under her $20 million Amazon deal, you can be five minutes late to your next engagement.

12. Give yourself a full blowout with the communal dryer

Sure, you’ve got a hot date tonight; however, this does not give you license to force others to brave January temperatures with sopping wet hair. If you have Rapunzel-level locks that require a ton of time to dry AND THEREFORE IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT, maybe get familiar with this one-minute trick to take your hair from sweaty to ready instead. It might not result in the Pantene Pro V commercial vibe you were aiming for but it’ll help you avoid sending an unassuming stranger to an early grave with pneumonia, which seems like a win.

New to yoga? Take your first few classes with confidence:

Haven’t quite kickstarted those fitness goals the way you’d planned yet? Here’s how to find the right boutique class for you. Plus, you might want to grab a friend—science says it’s even better than working out solo

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