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Going to the gym for the first time can be intimidating. There’s a lot of equipment, a lot of people, and a lot of expectation. Working out at the gym doesn’t need to be scary, though, especially if you’re prepared. One of the best ways to feel more confident in the gym is to brush up on gym etiquette before you go. These unwritten rules for how to act at the gym can help you blend into your surroundings, allowing you to get in a good workout without feeling uncomfortable or worrying that you’ll annoy other members. POPSUGAR spoke with a bunch of trainers to get their take on what you should and shouldn’t do at the gym, so you can quell those nerves before you step foot inside.
1. Don’t interrupt a group fitness class.
Group fitness classes are quite structured, in order to stay on schedule and keep classes running smoothly. “Do not barge into a group fitness class to grab equipment or do a separate workout in the room,” Alayna Curry, an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor and licensed Zumba instructor, told POPSUGAR. “The classroom is reserved for the scheduled class and its participants. You do not want to be a distraction.” It’s one thing if you’re a bit late for a class and politely enter the room to find your spot, but if it isn’t your class, find another place to stretch or work out.
2. Use the sanitary wipes.
Those wipes are there for a reason! “My top tip is using the gym’s sanitary wipes before and after using mats, weights, and equipment,” said Keisha Villarson, an NASM-certified personal trainer. “It’s especially important during these times, both for you and others in the gym.” A good rule of thumb is to wipe everything down before and after you use it, just in case the person before you didn’t.
3. Ask someone if you can “work in.”
High-traffic times at the gym can be really frustrating, because you just want to work out, but none of the machines are free. One way to make your workout more efficient is by asking someone if you can work in. “This just means you’re asking if you can use the equipment while they’re resting and not using it,” explained Vanessa Liu, an NASM-certified personal trainer. “Typically, they’ll say yes, and then you both will share the equipment.”
And if they say no? “You can ask how many sets they have left, and then you can either wait nearby (but don’t hover!) or go do something else,” Liu said. “Asking ‘Can I work in?’ also prevents you from awkwardly hovering over the person, wondering if they’re done with the machine. And it prevents you from mistakenly taking over the machine and getting an angry look.”
4. Don’t hog the equipment.
If you’re the one using the machine, be open to sharing it with someone so you can both get your workouts in. Even if no one approaches you, be mindful not to sit at one of the most desired pieces of equipment, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or TikTok while others wait their turn.
5. Keep the volume down.
If you’re working out at home, you may love blasting your go-to workout playlist to get pumped up, but don’t do that at the gym — unless you have headphones. “The gym is a public space where everyone is working their best,” Phung D. Tran, an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist and wellness coach at an Atlanta YMCA, told POPSUGAR. “Your loud music can interrupt other people in the same area.” She added that taking calls while in the gym can be just as distracting, because most people don’t realize how loud they talk while they’re on the phone.
6. Rerack your weights.
You learned in preschool to always clean up after yourself, and that goes for the gym, too. “My main pet peeve is when people don’t rerack their weights. If you’re using free weights, put them back on the rack where you found them,” said Jody Braverman, an NASM-certified personal trainer. That means placing 20-pound dumbbells on the rack between the 15- and 25-pound dumbbells, for example. “Don’t just place them in any empty spot,” Braverman explained. “When you’re using barbells and weight plates, clear your bar and put the weights back on the plate stand when you’re done. Don’t leave them there for the next person to clean up.”
7. Don’t wear strong perfumes.
We understand that sometimes you’re coming to the gym straight from work and you might have perfume on, but when you’re in a community space like this, it’s important to be aware of stronger fragrances. “At least BO stays with you. Perfume lingers way after you leave,” explained personal trainer and yoga instructor Lisa Yee, who owns a workout studio. Using a damp paper towel or a wet wipe to remove some of your perfume before your workout will make the gym more pleasant for those around you.