Game of Moans: Remember your gym etiquette

As a run of the (tread)mill gym goer with a number of years under his (weight)belt (I’ll stop now), I’ve seen a lot of things in different gyms that have made me gasp (and run for my smartphone in an attempt to capture the next potentially viral fail). These include people doing leg presses on the Smith Machine, to those running backwards on a treadmill. Below, I’ve tried to provide my own take on a few common etiquette issues and how some simple changes could make things easier for everyone.

1.Sharing is caring

Remember when, as a kid, your mum told you to share your toys? Well, the same applies in the gym. But your toys are bigger. And heavier. And metal.

If you’re using a resistance machine or a piece of equipment in the weights room and someone is hanging around, staring, or asks “how long do you have left?”, offer them the option of ‘working in’, basically gym parlance for offering them the equipment too. You can allow them to use ‘your’ apparatus during rest periods, and you can crack out reps while they wait between sets. Everyone wins.

This ‘rule’ especially holds true during the hours of noon and 2pm where, oftentimes, the lunch crowd will be short on time, limited to a brief workout before heading back to their desks, desperately trying to convince everyone that they really have prepped for that 2.30pm business-critical meeting. 

You might even get the benefit of having somebody spot you during a particular heavy set or even spark up a conversation that leads to new knowledge or gym learnings. I for one have learnt some sage advice from folks who I’ve engaged in conversation in this way. Shared weights leads to shared experiences.

Now go make your mummy proud.

2.If something’s worth doing…

So this is less of a ‘don’t do’ and more of an, err, do do (?).

Time and again I see someone with the best of intentions doing an exercise or using a piece of equipment in the wrong way. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to rebuke them – at least they’re in the gym and presumably willing to work hard to improve themselves in some way and I respect that. But I can’t help thinking that if they have the proactivity and motivation to join and actually attend the gym, then in order to get the most out of their time there, doing a little bit of research into correct form and technique should form part of that process.

I would add a caveat here that the source of this information is crucial, and a Youtube clip of a wannabe sports star might not be the best place to go. So I would suggest asking the advice of a qualified professional, such as a Fitness Instructor or a Personal Trainer, who are a great place to go for solid advice on technique and using equipment safely and effectively. Swallow your pride and seek their advice before you try that 360-degree dragon TRX jump with the 10-kg medicine ball.

3.The hairdryer treatment

There’s a trend that’s silently crept into gym changing rooms around the globe, tip-toeing into the everyday so silently that it threatens to become the norm. Of course I am referring to drying every part of your body with a handheld hairdryer while standing naked at the mirror (and, yes, just socks is still naked, I’m afraid). And by ‘every part’ I mean every part. Thoroughly.

An, observational, multicentre, anecdotal, informal and entirely unintentional study reliably informs that this trend does not discriminate by gender, nor by age, nor by follicular endowment.

Now, here’s where I need to confess that, once or twice, on the occasion where I’ve forgotten a towel, I’ve been Mr Hairdryer, gripping the blustery baton in one hand while the other desperately tries to hold my sweaty t-shirt around my waist like some kind of Roman loin cloth. This is the only occasion in which using the hairdryer to fry your entire body is even remotely acceptable. And, even then, you’d be surprised how absorbent your post-workout apparel can be.

The most dramatic example of this desiccation insanity was recently witnessed by a friend of mine: a gentleman, apparently not put off by the fact that all the hand hairdryers were taken, casually strolled – fully naked – to the toilets and, in an act of incredible resourcefulness and dexterity, hitched one foot onto the sink to scorch his liberated manhood with the automatic hand dryer. I dread to think what he’d have done faced with a Dyson airblade…

So, very simply, don’t be the Hairdryer Guy.

I’m also reliably informed that women’s changing rooms often include hair straighteners … the mind boggles.


I hope that I’ve helped you navigate the minefield of gym etiquette so that together we can help create a gym environment that we all want: a place where people feel welcomed, where all can exercise in a safe, productive manner, and where nobody, and I mean nobody, should witness the destructive force of a Xlerator handdryer applied to the sensitive nether regions of a clammy, spread-eagled man.


About the Author

Adam is a YMCA Club member who is passionate about health and fitness and has 13 years’ experience of weight training in multiple gyms and fitness centres across the world. He is also familiar with the world of competitive sports, having played amateur competitive football for 16 years. He is a passionate believer in the power of fitness and exercise to improve lives and bring people together.

The views expressed within this article are entirely Adam’s own and do not reflect those of YMCA Club. Do you have a story to tell? We welcome submissions from Club members, but reserve the right to publish articles at our discretion.

ymca | 5 January 2015