Gym Etiquette 101

The gym thrusts upon us all sorts of awkward social interactions. You’ve probably seen one or more of these — but please, don’t become one. I’m talking about that annoying person at the gym. Let’s demystify some of these weird situations so you can avoid becoming “that guy” or “that girl”


Unless you know the person, it’s impolite for him/her to be in your personal space while in the locker room. Politely ask him to step away into a zone where you feel more comfortable. If he persists in talking to you, brevity is key. Replying with short answers will indicate your disinterest in extending a conversation. Even better: try a blank stare. If they persist, a polite, “I’m sorry, but I gotta get going” is an good response


In his workout book, “No Excuses” actor Antonio Sabato Jr. swears by wearing sunglasses in the gym because he says it help him concentrate.  Faye Dunaway once donned sunglasses while bench pressing and while I don’t recommend wearing sunglasses in the gym, it’s more embarrassing for the person wearing them. What to do? Don’t say a peep.


I’ve seen a resurgence in denim, tiny, see through shorts, wrestling singlets, and in Hollywood, even a dude being led around on a dog collar. As with sunglasses, however, none of these fashion choices really intrudes upon your personal safety. Modern day workout clothes are breathable (or wicking) to prevent overheating. Spandex and lycra are helpful to prevent chafing from repetitive movements (e.g., in cycling or spinning). Unless someone’s attire is patently inappropriately revealing, try not to stare. And read the next question.


Most people stare in the gym because they’re interested in watching you work out or because, as Paris says: “You’re hot.” Both of these reasons should be flattering, but it’s not always the case. An ex of mine told me that as a younger man, guys would stare in the gym to the point where he developed a complex. “I thought something was seriously wrong with me,” he said. “I didn’t understand why everyone was looking at me.” Today, he has more self esteem, saying: “I’m just a hot guy who others like to watch for inspiration.”

If someone’s boring a hole through me, I’ll acknowledge them by smiling politely, which usually discharges the energy. If they persist, consider saying: “I notice you watching me; did you want my autograph?” As you both laugh, introduce yourself, then abruptly end the interaction by saying: “Have a good workout!”


Assume she forgot to wipe it off, and if you feel confident, approach the individual and kindly point out that he/she might have missed cleaning up the equipment. You can also ask the maintenance team to follow up. It’s ultimately the responsibility of the facility to ensure the equipment is sterile and MRSA free.


Busy gyms usually enforce a 30-minute limit on cardio equipment. If your gym has a time limit and someone’s extending their stay, ask a manager to handle it. A gym employee reminding a member of the time limit will go a lot further in the long run. If someone’s on the weight machine you want, ask how many sets are remaining. If she replies with three or more, ask if you can “work in” (alternate) for a couple of sets. To be a good “work in” buddy, observe the weight they’re lifting and set it back to that weight before you hand off the equipment.


It’s not uncommon to leave a couple large weight plates on a machine like the bench press. Set a good example and take pride in always replacing the weights on the rack where they belong and other people will follow. A good gym should have enough staff on the floor to keep the place from becoming a weight wasteland.


If he/she’s endangering your safety (e.g., bench pressing without clips, so a plate could fall and hit your foot) then you must say something. But it’s not your responsibility to correct their form. If you’re just being overly conscientious because you’re concerned about his safety, alert one of the certified trainers on the floor and allow him/her the opportunity to give proper instruction. Trainers will value the opportunity to pick up a new client.