I’m sure there are plenty of horror stories from a few of you reading this, but overall, when you actually go on a regular basis, putting yourself in such an environment can be pretty powerful. A membership at a gym or fitness center is a voluntary choice to be part of a “club.” A membership has some privileges, but it also includes some rules. Some are clearly written, like wiping down the equipment when you sweat on it. Others, though they’re not written on a sign, should be obvious but often times are not.
To help call to light some of the “unwritten” rules of the gym, I’ve compiled a list based on my experience as a member for over a decade at a large commercial gym. The unwritten rules have more to do with respecting those around you, and the fitness center you choose to be a member of, than rules of safety or otherwise. Many will seem obvious to you, but not to everyone, so I encourage you to share this post with others. Together, we can all help make our fitness centers a more enjoyable, less awkward place to be.
9 Unwritten Rules of the Gym
1. Don’t Drop the Weights
Unless you’re performing Olympic lifts, if you’re not sure what those are, you’re not, there’s no reason to drop the weights. If you don’t have the strength to set the dumbbells or barbells down, then you’re using too much weight. The worst offenders are those doing dumbbell chest presses and deadlifts, but I’ve even seen people dropping weights after a set of bicep curls.
The dumbbells cost around $.50 per pound, so they’re pretty expensive to replace. More importantly, if a dumbbell is dropped on the edge they can actually break in half. I’ve seen it happen twice, where the handle broke in half. Fortunately, it occurred when they hit the floor and not in someone's hand. It would have been worse had they stayed together until the next person used them, and then broken in the middle of a set.
2. Save the Grunting for Other Activities
I have yet to see a research study show that grunting during a set improves physical performance, and I’ve read quite a few studies on it. If you’re doing a max set of deadlifts or squats, the grunt might just “happen” on its own at the end of your final rep. However, grunting throughout a set of bicep curls, tricep pressdowns or calf raises really isn’t necessary. It might attract attention, but it won’t be from people thinking it’s cool.
3. Put Your Weights Back
Your mom might be a member at the same fitness center you are, but it's more than likely she's not. Even if she is, she’s not going to clean up after you. Take all the plates off the barbell and put them back where they go. Ten-pound plates go with the ten-pound plates, 25’s with 25’s and so on. It helps keep things looking nice and makes it easier for others to use the equipment. They’ll also know you’re done using it so they can use it.
4. Leave the Parking Spaces by the Door for Those who Really Need Them
It’s amusing to see people fight for the parking spaces closest to the door before they head up to the treadmill to walk. Park further away and leave more spots for those with kids or with disabilities, who make the effort to get to the club, even when it’s a lot less convenient than it is for most of us.
5. Take Care of Your Body Odor
Check yourself at home. If you smell body odor, everyone else will, too. If you sweat in your workout clothes, please wash them before wearing them again. If you were sweating a lot before coming to the club, take a quick shower and clean out your pits. Or at least put on some deodorant. We tend to get used to our own odors, so what might seem like “just a little BO” to you can seem like a fragrance nightmare to those around you.
6. Use a Towel for More than Drying Yourself Off
I know this isn’t obvious to everyone, but to many, it’s a bit awkward when someone throws the towel over his or her shoulders and walks to and from the showers with nothing on. Even worse, is some even stand at the sink to brush teeth, do their hair, shave and do other “stuff” without a stitch of clothing on. While this might be fine and dandy in your home bathroom, it makes for a pretty uncomfortable environment in a public locker room.
7. Use the Hair Dryer for the Hair Above Your Shoulders, Not Below Them
Sorry for the visual on this one. I’ve seen this happen in the guy’s locker room enough that I thought it was worth noting. My wife has noticed the same thing in the ladies’ locker rooms. The hair dryers shared with everyone are intended for drying the hair above your shoulders, not in other areas of the body. I probably don’t need to explain more than that. You’re fellow members will appreciate it.
8. Clean Your Locker for the Next Person
During winter months, if you store your wet and dirty shoes in your locker, please wipe it out before you leave. The maintenance staff might clean it out at night, but they shouldn’t have to. Also, someone who needs it right after you will have to wipe out the dirt and water.
9. If you Smoke, Wait Until You’re Far Away From the Gym
Once in a while, I see someone walking to a gym, taking one last drag from their cigarette before they walk in the door. While it’s bad enough they polluted their lungs just before exercising, those who walk out the door after having just finished their workouts will walk right into the second hand smoke. Not cool.