10 (Spoken and Unspoken) Rules of Proper Gym Etiquette

January 25, 2024
A young woman (left) wearing a blue spandex fitted top and matching pants stands next to a young man (right) with a maroon shirt and blue shorts with a blue towel thrown over his left shoulder. They are both making a flexing gesture with one arm and standing inside a gym in front of equipment.


Whether you made a New Year’s resolution to get in better shape and joined a gym or you’re a seasoned gym-goer, every person can contribute to maintaining a positive fitness environment with a few easy actions. 

The rules for proper etiquette often vary from one gym to another, so it's best to familiarize yourself with that gym's protocols before your first sweat session. BayCare Fitness Center (Bloomingdale) General Manager Manthan Thaker recommends going to an orientation if it is offered, noting even the most experienced fitness enthusiast can learn something useful. 

By following proper gym etiquette, you can get the most out of your gym experience and motivate others to do the same. Here are 10 rules to follow:

  1. Dress the part
    Find out if your gym has a dress code and dress properly for your workout, the locker room, sauna or pool. Be sure to check for facility requirements, such as wearing the proper shoes for your activity (for example: lifting, cycle class, yoga and the treadmill all have different shoe requirements), carrying a sweat towel or wearing loose-fitting clothing during group exercise classes. This extends to the locker room, as gym patrons are encouraged to cover up in communal spaces.

  2. Practice good hygiene inside and outside of the gym.
    Wash your hands or use sanitizer before and after a workout. If you choose to shower or change in the locker room, keep a pair of “shower shoes” on hand. Proper gym etiquette doesn’t stop when you leave the gym. Be sure to wash and dry your workout clothes each time you wear them — that includes shirts, sports bras, shorts, leggings and socks.

  3. Always ask permission
    The gym is full of shared spaces and equipment, from cardio machines to free weights. Be sure to ask people nearby if a piece of equipment is available before taking something for your personal use. That way, you won't invade anyone's personal space or grab something they were planning to use. Wait until a person is done with a piece of equipment or they have finished their current set to ask if you can go next.  

  4. Wipe down equipment before and after each use.
    The pandemic taught us that unwanted germs (and in this case, sweat) are surefire ways to spread illnesses. Even if you don’t leave a puddle of sweat, you still perspire and leave germs behind on equipment. If you don’t know if a piece of equipment was sanitized recently, wipe it down before use as well. Keeping equipment sanitized also helps prolong its lifespan.

  5. Respect others' space.
    Be aware of others and their workout and avoid behaviors that may distract or disturb them. Do your best to ensure you’re not taking up too much space and your movements won't interfere with anyone in the surrounding area. Being mindful of others in a particular space also helps prevent injuries from equipment such as a swinging kettlebell or a dropped weight. Maintain a safe distance between yourself and other gym-goers.

  6. Be considerate in the locker room.
    Use lockers to store personal belongings and valuables, rather than leaving them on the floor, benches or counters. Make space for others, especially for those changing clothes or exiting a shower or sauna space. Refrain from talking on the phone and certainly do not record videos or take pictures inside the locker room. 

  7. Ask for help if you need it
    Don’t be afraid to ask a fellow gym-goer, instructor or personal trainer for assistance if you can’t figure out a machine or need more information on how to operate it. And don’t be shy about asking for a spotter if you need a little extra muscle while performing difficult or heavy lifts, like squats, bench presses or deadlifts. Doing so can help prevent an unnecessary injury.

  8. Be on time.
    Sometimes we get stuck in traffic, or a work call goes longer than expected, but make all efforts to be prompt (or even early) for fitness classes or team training sessions. Be respectful of the trainer, coach or instructor and their time, and that of your classmates. "The first 10 minutes of a class include important instruction, equipment setup and spacing, and warming up the body to prevent injury,” said BayCare Group Fitness Manager Stacy Bittner. “Missing these aspects of the workout can make a session less safe for everyone.”

  9. Keep your tunes and conversations to yourself.
    Whether you’re listening to your favorite playlist, a podcast or watching videos on your phone, don’t be that person playing their music out loud. Bring a pair of headphones or ear buds for privacy and to respect others around you. Need to make or take a call? Keep your exchange off speaker phone, and if possible, find a quiet place to have your conversation.

  10. Return weights and equipment after use.
    No one wants to waste time searching for equipment because the previous users abandoned it somewhere in the gym and didn’t return it to their home. Help keep the gym organized and tidy (and prevent any potential hazards) so that you and others can get the optimum use of the equipment and have a safer, more efficient workout. Before you leave the gym, make sure you tidy up the space you used and retrieve all your belongings. "If you see something out of place, let an employee know,” added Thaker. “Members are extra sets of eyes to help maintain a safe and organized facility.”

Whatever stage of stage of health and wellness you’re in, BayCare offers support and coaching for your needs. BayCare has three fitness centers conveniently located in Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Valrico with state-of-the-art equipment. Each location also offers services including personal training, massage therapy, nutrition education, group fitness classes and medical fitness programs. 

Visit BayCare Fitness Centers for more information, including location hours, group classes offered and amenities.  

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