Gym Fails Your Clients Can Avoid: Teaching Gym Etiquette

Gym Etiquette Sweat

Gym fails are often the errors that make someone clearly appear not to know gym etiquette–the irritating things that gym-goers do that are out of line.

While many failures of etiquette might seem obvious, one step into the gym is proof there’s still a lot to learn. Emily Post wrote about social etiquette many years ago. There’s etiquette at work and there’s etiquette in the gym.

Advising your client on gym best practices helps ensure they will feel comfortable beyond training sessions when exercising without you.

Gym Etiquette Sweat

Using the hashtag #gymfails, these are things to avoid.

1. Not wiping down equipment is the number one #gymfail or pet peeve according to a survey I conducted. You know– the guy or gal that’s sweating like a bovine while exercising, only to hop off the equipment leaving a stream of sweat behind. Most gyms provide wipes or sprays for disinfecting the equipment. Using it not only prevents a huge #gymfail, it prevents the spread of germs.

2. Tying up equipment while on your phone is one of the gym fails we see the most. Texting, social media-scrolling and phone calls should be reserved for outside the gym or in a lobby. The gym equipment isn’t designed to be a phone seat…ever. #takeitoutside

You might encourage your clients to take this mindfulness challenge with you if you think they might be a bit reliant on their handheld devices while trying to focus on a workout.

This also goes for taking a rest period on a machine so others can’t work in. Some might say the age-old practice of “working in” with others has been completely extinguished as the machines are taken over by rest hogs.

3. No spitting. Apparently, some gym rats find the need to spit in the weight room. This is never acceptable! #disgusting

4. Re-rack the weights and return equipment to their home base. If your client goes to get a balance ball, dumbbell, jump rope or kettlebell, make sure he or she knows to return it when finished. That’s just using gym manners. It’s not someone else’s job to pick-up the equipment and it can be dangerous if someone trips over items left on the floor. Same goes for plates on barbells; leaving them behind might lead someone to believe this equipment is still being used. And if it’s not, now they have to unrack it. #gymmanners

5. Making unnecessary noise is a #gymfail. Slamming weights for attention will get attention, but it’s obnoxious. It’s an annoying distraction and can damage the weights. Loud grunting for attention ranks up there with slamming weights. Yes, some audible exhalation and minor vocal expression often happen with heavy lifts, but being overdramatic is as unappealing as it is disruptive. #gruntquietly

6. Clothing selection is important because it helps with exercise mobility and comfort. Fabric with wicking helps keep sweat away from skin and usually washes well too. Make sure clients don’t wear clothing or jewelry that can get caught on machines, as this can cause an accident. #gymfail

7. Encourage clients to wear proper shoes when exercising to prevent injury. The shoes should be comfortable and sized correctly. High heels and business shoes are not appropriate in the gym, although surprisingly it does happen. #gymfail #norunwayheels

Be sure shoelaces are laced tight or double-knotted. Untied shoestrings have been known to get caught in bike pedals constricting the rider’s foot. #firsthandexperience #embarrassinggymfail

8. Instruct clients to give gym rats their space. No one likes to be interrupted in the middle of an intense workout session by a space invader who wants to chat. Pro-tip: Headphones are generally a sign that one doesn’t want to have a convo so don’t start one unless it’s necessary. And this shouldn’t have to be said, but it’s also a huge #gymfail to take photos or videos of someone working out (unless they ask you to?).

9. Good hygiene is key in the gym. This means showering before a workout and using deodorant if required. Avoiding perfume, after shave or cologne is a good idea, as sweating can magnify the fragrance. This can be nauseating to others and is discouraged in many exercise classes. #nostinking #takeashower #usedeodorant

10. Primp in the bathroom. The workout mirror is to be used for monitoring proper form. It’s not for applying make-up, fixing hair or for checking out your abs. Come on! #gymfail

Gym Etiquette 101 CoverIdeally, we give our clients the skillset to live a lifetime of fitness long after the training sessions have ended. Feeling comfortable in a gym is important to keep your client exercising in a motivating environment.

Even if your client exercises outdoors, like a tennis player, distance runner or soccer player, some days the weather won’t allow for exercising outside. That’s when the gym is handiest.

A little gym etiquette can help your client fit in at the gym while also getting rid of gymtimidation. #gymetiquette101


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Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.
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