The Gentleman's Etiquette Guide to the Gym

The last thing we think about while at the gym, working up a sweat, pumping iron, and feeling testosterone surging through our etiquette. But, if we’re also honest, no one wants to be “that guy” at the gym, either. Too many people are blissfully unaware of how they’re really supposed to behave at the gym, and what is and isn’t acceptable.

Okay, Chris—you might say—why does it matter if I’m a gentleman at the gym? It’s the gym. Why do you care?

Here’s my rationale.

The gym is typically the place where dignity flies out of the window, and that’s all the more reason to keep it intact. As men striving to be our best in all ways, that includes at the gym, which is often a highly social environment. We often meet people at the gym—or, at the very least, people who know us see us there. Because of this, it’s critical that we are still striving to act with dignity and to treat others with respect and courtesy.

So what does that look like when you’re working out?


Every Man’s Guide to Gym Etiquette

1) Never take or make calls.

No one enjoys listening to one half of a conversation, and it’s even truer when that conversation is interrupting their killer workout playlist. Talking on the phone while you’re trying to work out is not only a big distraction to the people around you, it kills your productivity in the gym, too. If you can talk with ease, you’re probably not getting much of a workout to begin with.

2) Leave women alone.

While the gym has been lauded as a great place to meet women, it is not appropriate to harass or hit on them while they are trying to exercise. If a woman wants to talk, by all means. But I have seen too many men in my day bother and interrupt women while they’re trying to run on the treadmill or lift weights. Don’t badger them for conversation or phone numbers. It’s not the time or the place, and a gentleman knows this.

3) Always wipe down your machine.

No one enjoys sitting down to a sticky, sweaty machine. It’s uncomfortable and unhygienic, which is why the gentleman is always seen with a towel in tow. He wipes down his machines and barbells after each use—and he’s sure to make use of the gym’s sanitation sprays.

4) Never offer unsolicited advice.

Maybe you’re an experienced gym-goer. You know more than the average man about proper form, routines, and regimes. You have so much to offer to the newbie just starting out, or that guy who really isn’t keeping his feet shoulder length apart or his back straight. Resist the urge to correct unless you’re asked for help. The gym has personal trainers and you aren’t getting paid to do their job. People don’t enjoy being told what they’re doing wrong. You’ll be seen as a know-it-all, even if you have the best of intentions—so resist the urge.

5) Put your weights where they belong.

For some reason, the gym turns some people into teenagers who have to be told to clean their room. The gentleman never leaves his weights strewn across the gym. He picks up after himself and returns everything to the weight rack, not only so that he doesn’t create a tripping hazard, but so the next person can easily find what they’re looking for. He’s also aware that by not putting things in their place, he would be creating unnecessary work for the gym employees.

6) Avoid passive-aggressive competition.

The gym often brings out our competitive spirit. This can be a great thing when we’re with our buddies. But for some reason, some people seem to drag others into a competition they didn’t sign up for—whether it’s glancing at their treadmill to compare (and beat) their numbers, lifting right beside them to prove that they can lift more, or engaging in other subtle passive-aggressive acts of superiority. Regardless, the gentleman is not at the gym to prove anything to his fellow gym-goers. He is there to better himself.

7) Be body-conscious.

Nothing ruins the gym experience like someone with body odor. It is critical to be self-aware and pre-emptive on this front—wearing clean clothes, coming to the gym showered (or showering there), wearing deodorant, and taking care to neutralize odors should they arise.

8) Never try to reserve a machine.

I get it—we all have a routine. Having that routine disrupted is irritating. However, trying to reserve the machine you’re moving to next, by draping a towel on it or snapping at anyone who tries to use it, whatever it may be, is simply not the solution. Let people work in. We can all afford to wait. If you’re not on the machine at that moment, you don’t get to call dibs.

9) Use the machine to work, not rest.

Sometimes we need to take a breather between sets. That’s okay—catch your breath. But, as we mentioned above, because most polite people didn’t reserve a machine, they’re likely waiting to use it. And that means it is rude and poor etiquette to sit at your machine, browsing through your Twitter feed while you “catch your breath.” Work at your machine. Rest at the juice bar.

10) Be minimally disruptive.

The last point of etiquette that every man should follow at the gym covers a multitude of gym manner faux pas—don’t be disruptive. We all know the guy who lets out an animalistic bellow just before he slams his barbell to the floor. This is, to put it plainly, disruptive. The same can be said for trying to chat up your buddies while they’re hitting their stride. You may have something important to say, but they're trying to beat their record, here. Be considerate of other people and what they are trying to accomplish.

Ultimately, this is what the gentleman remembers at the gym: he is sharing a space, and he respects that. He wants a great workout, but he won’t let his experience come at the expense of someone else’s.

Do you have a gym etiquette horror story? Share yours in the comments below.