Politeness at the gym is a vital virtue

I once had a loud argument at my gym with a guy too full of testosterone and himself. I was running late and had a limited time to work out. He was occupying the main apparatus I wanted to work on.

The polite thing to do in that situation is ask how many sets the person still has to do. That way, you inform them that someone else wants to use that piece of equipment.

But Mr. Occupier snarled in response, “I don’t know how many more sets I’ll be doing.” Then he proceeded to sit there without doing anything. I waited a few minutes, then approached him again to ask, “Could you please let me get in a set meanwhile? I have to be back at work.”

He erupted with roaring shouts threatening violence to me, bringing gym staff members running. The end result was that he got kicked out of the gym with his membership suspended, and I was left so tense that I just skipped my workout and left.

Every gym has at least one member who acts discourteous to others. You may have been lucky enough to have never run against them yourself. Or, maybe you’re the discourteous one. There are few books describing polite gym etiquette, so most of us rely on the sign in the free weight room that says “Please rack your weights when you’re done with them.”

That’s actually the biggest cardinal rule of gym etiquette. No one wants to waste their workout time looking for another 25 pound dumbbell. If you just leave the weights you used lying around, that’s actually a kind of littering. So first, always put your weights back once you’re done with them.

The second way to be impolite at the gym is to stay on a bench or apparatus when you’re not actively using it. Taking a one-minute rest between sets is OK, but sitting on the leg press machine talking to a buddy is rude. If all the benches are being used, and you’re just sitting on one, that’s also rude. It’s all right if most of the benches are empty, but if the gym is crowded, move along and let someone else get their turn.

Most gyms have several paper towel dispensers and fountains against the walls. If you’ve been training so hard that you’re sweating copiously, it’s polite to dampen a paper towel and wipe off any surface on which you may have left sweat. Some folks who know that they sweat hard while working out are actually polite enough to carry a towel and squirt bottle with them to wipe off equipment after they use it. Those folks should be blessed. No one wants to get a stranger’s sweat in their hair. You may want to carry your own bottle and towel to wipe benches off BEFORE you lay your own head down on them.

If your gym has a watery set-up near the locker rooms with a steam room, hot tub and pool, it’s extremely rude to take your sweat-covered body out of the steam room and jump into the hot tub or pool. There are probably signs posted to remind members of this. Instead, take a quick shower before getting into the water shared by everyone. Also, it’s just as rude to blow your nose into your fingers and then shake the effluent off your fingers into space or water occupied by others. Use toilet paper if paper towels aren’t available.

The list of impolite actions that are frequently done at public gyms is long, but being polite to other members is often just a matter of common sense. Throw your used or half-used bottle of water in the trash. Don’t leave a heavily loaded bar on the weight rack. Clean up after yourself. Return basketballs to the front desk, etc.

Be polite at your gym — in actions as well as words.


Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly

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