Gym etiquette: Weighing in on pet peeves, advice |

Gym etiquette: Weighing in on pet peeves, advice

Talking on the phone while at the gym is generally considered a big breach of etiquette.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Running commentary

Readers left hundreds of comments on the Denver Post’s Facebook post about gym etiquette. See them, or weigh in yourself, at:

Ask people about their gym-etiquette pet peeves — as The Denver Post did on Facebook on Jan. 2 — and you can expect answers as loaded as a leg-press machine, as heated as the locker room’s sauna. From Facebook:

“If you can load up all those weight plates on the leg press, surely a big strong man like you can re-rack them as part of your workout.” — Jeanne Flynn

“Not wiping down the equipment after sweating all over it.” — Sarah Ault

“The loud grunters and the peeps who don’t put the weights away.” — Rito Martinez

“When there are several open treadmills, don’t get on one right smack next to someone else. Oh, and stay off your phone! Do not put cologne on just before going to the gym either.” — Tracy Dextrase Shaver

We also asked for advice for those hitting the gym for the first time in the new year:

“Remember, it didn’t take one night to get out of shape. It’s going to take more than one time in the gym to get in shape. Don’t get discouraged and stay with it. Everyone in there started somewhere.” — Dave Lowry

“Gym veterans — Smile and welcome the newbies. Offer input in a kind fashion if you see major faux pas. Jerks exist, but many newbies may just not know etiquette .” — Diana Kathleen McCoy

Veterans — please be patient of beginners and keep your comments about “resolutioners” to yourself. We all had to start somewhere and we should be welcoming to anyone wanting to improve their health.” — Donna Rink Derrera

Why is gym etiquette such a hot-button topic? It comes down to space and resources, says Gavin Larney, fitness director of the Denver Athletic Club.

“When you all roll into a communal place and you’re sharing an area — it’s like being on a bus, and someone puts their feet on the seat, and you’re like, why would you do that?” he says.

“So those annoyances with fellow gym-goers can add up fast. (Again, from Facebook: Curling in the squat rack.” — Terry Mertz. Don’t sit on equipment texting — Matthew D Martinez. Letting the weights drop full force is pretty terrible. — Derek Jones.)

“Not being considerate of others is definitely tough, especially when we’re all together in a small area, using the same equipment,” Larney says.

Shawn Austin, a personal trainer and the yoga program coordinator for the Colorado Athletic Club at the Tabor Center, says she sees it in group fitness classes as well. When people show up late or do their own thing during the class, it’s distracting for others.

“If you’re not feeling right or have an injury and you need to modify, that’s totally fine,” she says. “But to do a completely different class in the midst of the class, that’s really distracting for both the teacher and the other participants.”

Sometimes, she says, it’s dangerous to show up late — you’re not warmed up to do whatever the rest of the class is doing when you get there, and you could be risking injury.

“One thing for newbies, too: Anyone new to group fitness or yoga, if you have questions or concerns, injuries, tell your instructor, because the worst thing to hear at the end of class is to hear, ‘hey that felt great, except this one pose, because I just had ACL surgery.’ “ Austin says.


“Don’t give unsolicited advice! I hate when someone tries to make “improvements” to my workout. Leave me alone and let me do my own thing.” Kathryn A Reynolds

Austin and Larney both say they encourage people who are new to the gym, or people who have taken a break from the gym and are returning, to take advantage of the expertise of personal trainers and the gym’s staff. (Some gyms offer free personal training sessions with new memberships.) Austin says she’s noticed that sometimes, new gym-goers are nervous about meeting with a trainer; they seem to think, you’re so fit, I’m so weak, she says. “You have to get them out of that mindset.”

“If someone comes and they’re completely new to working out and this is the first gym membership they’ve had ever, or in 20 years, I start my first session by congratulating them, because it’s pretty amazing to take that step on your own and be there in the first place,” Austin says.

Larney says the gym’s staff is there for questions, so don’t be shy. “If you’re not sure, you’re looking for something different, just go up to a trainer or whoever’s on the floor and ask them.” He recommends directing questions to the staff, rather than other gym members.

“A lot of times the employee on the floor will obviously have some training and some knowledge about fitness and will be able to chat with you about what you’re doing. They’ll be able to give you the best information versus the person who looks like they have the best-developed quads,” he says, adding that it’s a good idea for longtime gym members to ask questions, too. Techniques and best practices change over time.


“Dropping weights — that is a pet peeve, I would say, at every gym in the country. That and the grunting,” Larney says.

Consider your surroundings, he says. “If somebody is right next to you and you drop weights, yeah, it’s dangerous. If you drop 50 pounds on your foot from 3 feet up, it’ll probably break your toes. At the same time, if you have an Olympic lifting platform … it’s safe.”

The golden rule applies at the gym, he says: “Treat the facility how you would treat your home, and treat the people in it as you would treat your best friend.”

“Please don’t sit on a bench or on a machine seat playing with your cellphone. Some of us would like to use that to actually work out.” — Rick LeFant

Encouraging people to put away their phones is tricky since so many people use them for music or fitness apps, says Austin, but she worries about the distraction they create.

At the Denver Athletic Club, says Larney, “We have signs up that say, ‘Exercise your body, not your phone.’” He wonders whether phones make people less productive.

“During cardio, it can reduce the boredom, make the workout feel like it’s going faster. But in the weight room … If someone’s on their phone when you’re trying to get in and use the weights, you’re like, come on.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a gym not a dating service. If you are looking to pick up the opposite sex, join a dating service not the gym.” — Anndra Ross

“It truly comes down to common courtesy, we’re all in the same place working toward the same goal, let’s make it the best it can be,” Larney says.

“When you’re talking about new people coming to the gym, it’s very intimidating, but once you get in the routine, it’s not so intimidating any more, and it’s so good once you start doing it. You have to take that leap of faith and get active.”

Jenn Fields can be reached at 303-954-1599, and

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User