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Gym Etiquette For Newbies

Worried about making a first-time bozo of yourself at the gym? Top personal trainer Jonny Jacobs has your back

Personal trainer (and your gym-etiquette tutor) Jonny Jacobs

Joining a gym can be rather intimidating. Not only are you surrounded with lots of toned, fit people making your feel inadequate but there are lots of rules and questions of etiquette to contend with. Lucky then that we’ve asked personal trainer Jonny Jacobs to spill the beans on gym etiquette for newbies.

What should I wear?

Jonny Jacobs: “There are loads of different gym-wear trends, but honestly, the most important thing is to be comfortable.

Should I take a towel in with me?

“Some gyms provide towels, some don’t. If yours doesn’t, take one in, as it’ll save you time, because if you have a towel, you can wipe-and-go after each machine. If you don’t, you’ll need to walk over to the paper towels, go back to the machine to wipe it down, back to the bin to dispose of the paper towel, then on to the next machine.”

So you have to wipe down the machines after you use them? 

“Yes, always. You wouldn’t want to lie on someone’s sweat, so why should they have to lie on yours?”

Do you have to book classes or can you just turn up? 

“Every gym is different. Some will allow you to book a space in a class, some work on a first-come, first-served basis. The best bet is to ask reception, especially if you’re interested in a popular, peak-time class.”

If you spot a personal trainer in the gym, can you ask him or her a question without paying them? 

“As long as you aren’t interrupting a session with a client, it’s fine. That said, most gyms have gym instructors whose job it is to pace the floor answering questions, so it’s better to approach one of them.”

Grunting for no reason is not big or clever!

Is it okay to grunt loudly when lifting weights?

“Everyone expects a small amount of grunting when you’re under real strain. However, if you’re not pushing to that strain, don’t go huffing and yelling like a Viking. Grunting for no reason is not big or clever!”

What about dropping weights? Is that frowned upon?

“That’s a big no-no. If you can’t control it, you shouldn’t be lifting it.”

Do you have to put the weights back after you’ve used them?

“Definitely. The thing that annoys gym-users the most is not being able to find the weights that they want to use. Tidy up after yourself, or steer clear of free weights.”

Is it okay to eye myself up in the mirror? 

“You do look a little silly, but it’s generally fine. One thing that’s not okay, however, is eyeing up other gym members. People are there to work out, not be ogled.”

What about in-gym selfies – are they acceptable?

“No. You look like an idiot. Mind you, the gym is better than the changing room mirror…”

What do I do if someone asks me to ‘spot’ him or her?

“‘Spotting’ basically means assisting somebody who’s lifting weights in case they struggle. But if you’re not totally confident in doing that then tell them, so they can ask someone else.”

Is there a time limit on machines?

“It’s polite not to spend more than 20 minutes on a machine at peak time.”

Should I ask people whether they’ve finished with a machine, or just jump in and use it? 

“You should always ask. The expression you need to use is, ‘Can I work in?’ ‘Working in’ is when you use a machine while someone is resting in-between sets.”

There are mats by the floor area, am I supposed to use them? 

“You don’t have to use a mat, but I would. They’re generally more comfortable than the floor.”

Don’t use the same T-shirt
two days in a row

What level of BO is acceptable?

“A very minor amount. Gym-goers expect each other to not smell horrendous, and if your sweat is ‘fresh’, you won’t do – but don’t going using the same, stale-BO-ridden T-shirt two days in a row.”

If there are five running machines and someone is using the one on the extreme right, which one should I use?

“There’s no real rule, but avoid the one right next to them, because, well… Why would you run right next to the person?”

Are conversations acceptable?

“Gyms are sociable places, so you have to expect some chat when you are sitting around between sets. If you don’t want to talk, wear headphones.”

And is it okay to shut down a conversation when you’re in the middle of your workout? 

“Yes. If you’re in the middle of a session, then you’re not expected to make conversation. Feel free to politely shut down the person.”

Should I drink water or a protein shake? 

“Water’s fine, and drinking from the tap is perfectly acceptable. Protein shakes do serve a purpose, but there is absolutely no reason to drink one while you’re still inside the gym.”


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