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On episode 611 of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, we discuss gym etiquette so you can feel more confident when you go to the gym.
There is no hello session for this episode as Coach Allan is on vacation.
Hello. Today I'm going to share eleven must know gym etiquette tips. I want to start this though. I want to congratulate you. If you are someone that's just new to the gym, you're just trying to go to the gym and you want to go back to that free weight section, I just want to say congratulations. That's a big step. I know, for a lot of people to go somewhere where you're uncomfortable, to get outside of your comfort zone, but I can tell you that's where all the growth is going to happen. So congratulations for joining the gym. Congratulations for deciding that you want to go back and start working in the free weight section and the machines. You're going to get away from just doing the treadmill and you're actually going to do some things that are really going to help improve yourself, your body, your life, all of it. So congratulations. I'm glad you're there. We're all glad you're there. So I want to share eleven gym etiquette tips that you should know when you decide, okay, you're going to go work out in the gym. Now, these are general tips. They apply to almost every place you're going to go.
You may see some of these that are not as well followed, but I can just tell you if you avoid doing these things or you follow these tips, you're going to be away ahead of the game and people are going to respect and like that you're at the gym a lot more. Okay, so the first one, and this is one that a lot of people don't know about, is about mirror and line of sight. So if someone is sitting on a bench or basically set on a bench, like maybe at an incline and they're doing some work and you see them looking at the mirror between them and the exercise they're doing, they're looking at it while they're exercising. Don't cut in front of them. Don't walk between them and the mirror until they finish their set. And sometimes you need to go in front of them to get the dumbbells that you need. Just be patient, wait a couple of seconds, let them finish their set and then you can excuse yourself and step in front. But let them finish their set. They're using the mirror as a guide for their form. They're trying to concentrate on their lift.
And for you to step in front of their line of sight to the mirror can be a little distracting for some people. And so if you see someone working out and looking into the mirror while they do it, just be patient. Wait, don't cut in front of them. Walk around behind them if you can. The second one is small talk, advice and spotting. So when you go into the gym and you keep going consistently and you go at the same time, you're probably going to start running into the same people. It's just kind of the way gym works. Most of us are going in at 05:00 or the five o'clockers and we're going to see the same people. You're going to see the same people in the gym most of the time you're there. So it's quite common that you're going to strike up conversation with someone. Someone might see you doing something and offer a little bit of advice. They may ask you for a spot. By all means, make this social, but don't make that the sole purpose of the trip. There are people that love to go to gyms and use them as pickup places and do all that kind of stuff.
Don't just go in there. Be respectful of other people and they're trying to get their workout done. You're trying to get your workout done. If someone does offer you advice, just take it for what it's worth. If someone asks you for a spot or you need a spot, by all means. That's part of the reason we're all in there is to help each other. So as you get in there, just understand the culture of the gym and realize that some places are going to be a little bit more social than others. Some are going to have a lot more heavy lifters than others. And so as you get in there, just get comfortable with that situation and just be astute to what kind of the environment is and kind of stick to that. The next one, number three, is to just show up. If you have a workout partner and you started with someone and you said you're going to be there, show up. They are there. They're going to need spots from you. You're motivating them by being there. And so please, if you have a workout partner, you agree to have a workout partner show up.
Now the fourth one relates a little bit to the second one. And this is staring. It seems to kind of be kind of a thing now for women in the gym to photograph themselves or videotape themselves and notice that people are staring at them. Now, many times they are dressed in a way that's not wholly appropriate for what they're doing, but just avoid them. Just don't even look at them. Just go on about your day. They will embarrass you, they will take video of you. If they notice you're staring at them, they will put you in a video and they will share that with the gym management and potentially online. So if you notice that someone is in there kind of doing their thing and they look like they want attention, they don't. They just are doing that to get some attention. But it's not the way you think it's going to be. If they catch you staring, they will videotape you and they will call you out on it. The next one, number five, is about banging and dropping weights. Now occasionally, yes, you're going to drop a weight, that's going to happen. You're going to set a weight down a little harder than you intended, that's going to happen.
The weights are fairly much resilient, but there are certain types of weights, the bumper plates particularly, that are made to be more dropped. And manhandled, you might see that in a CrossFit style gym. In a standard lifting gym, it is not good form to drop your weights. So try to manage your weights. Many times, even though there's a rubber coating on the floor, you can bust the weight, you can bust the concrete underneath. If you drop too much weight and you drop it particularly the wrong way. Plus, it's the opportunity of hurting someone else if you're just slinging and dropping weights around. So unless you're in an environment like a CrossFit gym, where dropping weights and banging and doing all that stuff is appropriate, then don't. And most gyms that you're going to go into, most commercial gyms, are not going to want you dropping their weights. The next one is a similar one, it's grunting. And there are certain gyms out there that basically will kick you out if they catch you grunting. They don't want you grunting. There are other gyms that are more of the weightlifting and you're going to hear some of that.
You're going to hear people yelling, you're going to hear people grunting. So it's kind of like I said, when you get in there, start paying attention to what the norm is. But generally, there's no reason for you to be grunting. If you're lifting within your means and you're doing it with good form, you've got control of the weight, so you're not banging them around and dropping them. And there's very little reason for you to grunt as you're doing the lift. You're pushing yourself, but you're not pushing yourself to a point where you need to be grunting and yelling. The next one is a general rule when you're using a piece of equipment, is to use one at a time. So if you need dumbbells, a set of dumbbells, and maybe you do want the second set of dumbbells here and try to do a superset, generally it's good practice to just grab the one that you need. You'll see video or pictures online where someone has grabbed like a dozen different dumbbell sets and it's all sitting at the floor by their feet. That's not necessary. Grab what you need. If you want to do some super setting, that's awesome.
But go to the gym at a time when you're not going to be interfering with other people getting their workout done. So again, 435 o'clock in the morning, you might be the only one back there in the free weight section. If you want to grab a couple of different dumbbells so you can do a drop set or you can do a superset or some sort of work like that, that's fine. If you're going to be on multiple pieces of equipment, one right after the other, that's fine as well. But just recognize that if you go into the gym when there's other people there, it's bad form for you to put your towel on a piece of equipment while you're using another piece of equipment. So you can complete your superset timely. Just one piece of equipment at a time so the others have an opportunity to use that equipment that you're not using. This leans into the next one, which is let other people work in. So you may sit down on a piece of equipment, a machine or bench or something like that, and you're working and someone comes in. It's usually machines, but someone comes in and says, can I work in with you?
How many sets you have left? If you only have one or two sets left, then usually you can just tell them, I've only got one set left, let me get my set done and I'll be out of your way. But if you have a few sets left, two or three sets left, it's probably worth telling them letting them work in. For the most part their work session is going to be over literally in seconds. So your rest period between lifts of being more than that would give them plenty of time to get in, adjust the weight to what they want and then you can let them work in. Now most people, and again, this would be good form if you do go and ask someone if you can work in, always try to put the weight back at what it was. So if you change the weight on the machine, ask them, would you like me to set it back to what it was? And then do it if they do. Again, that's just good form. It shows that you're a good gym goer and you're there to work and get your stuff done. But at the same time you're respecting that they want to get their work done in time too.
The next one is rerack and return your equipment. I don't know how many times I go into a gym, particularly early in the morning, and I'll find dumbbells laying everywhere. I'm looking for a particular set. They're not on the rack, the racks are not in order. It's hard to find equipment. And if you run around the gym looking for equipment because someone left a set of dumbbells on a bench on the other side of the gym, that's just uncool. So when you finish with your workout, return all the equipment back where you got it from, re rack it, put all the dumbbells where they came from, put all the plates back where you got them. If it's a machine, obviously you don't have to do much after that because someone else can just pull the pin and set it for what they want. But then in gyms where you go in, then basically the leg press has all these plates on it and weaker people are not going to be able to do that. So they have to then take the time to pull all those weights off because that's not the weight they want to train with.
It's just, again, not cool. So rerack and return your equipment. The next one, and this is a big one, so these are getting bigger and bigger as we go. But wipe the sweat off the machines. Anything you use, a bench, a machine, anything like that, clean it up after you're done. Nobody wants to get on a sweaty piece of equipment. Almost every gym has a spray bottle and paper towels or something like that. If you're a sweater, I'm a sweater. I sweat a lot when I work out, so I always bring a towel, bring a workout towel. But then again, just get the spray, spray it down real quick, wipe it down. It takes a couple of seconds and then you're off the machine and it's clean and ready for the person that comes in after you. And one of the main reasons we do that, and this is the final one I'm going to talk about. Number eleven is don't go to the gym when you're sick. Nobody wants to get your cold. And while, if someone asks me, should I work out when I'm sick, the general answer that we give is if it's above your neck, you're fine to train.
If you feel like you're okay, if it's below your neck, don't train. Or you have a fever, don't train. So if you have a head cold, for the most part, you should be fine to do some exercise. If it's in your chest, don't. But all that said, even if it's okay for you to exercise, don't go to the gym and do it. Everybody else, sir, wants to get healthy and fit and they really don't want to catch your cold. And with the things that are going on right now in the world with COVID and everything else. We really don't need to be spreading this stuff around. So if you're just not feeling 100% work out at home, do a body weight workout, do some cardio or something different where you're not exposing other people. Just don't go to the gym. So if you follow these basic eleven rules when you go to a gym, you're going to be seen as a good gym goer. People are going to be glad you're there. You're not going to upset anybody. And so I'm going to go through them real quick just as a summary. So number one, if you notice someone is using the mirror, standing there looking at themselves in the mirror, don't walk in between them and the mirror.
Don't block their line of sight. Wait for them to finish. And then if you need something, you can cross over and grab it. The next one is small talk and advice and spotting is all a little bit different to every place you go. It's always good to make friends at a gym. I mean, as a part of your social circle, it can be part of your motivation. But just play within the rules of how that gym is structured socially and that just takes some awareness. If someone asks you for a spot and you can go ahead and give it to them, please. That's part of being a good gym goer. The next one is to show up if you have a workout partner. If you have somebody you're showing up for a trainer, show up. Don't call out every time, say, well, I'm not going to make it tomorrow. I mean, I get it, things get in the way, but that person is depending on you. That trainer has broken out the time in their day to train you. And so if you do have a workout partner or a trainer show up. The next one is staring.
People don't like it when you're staring at them. People don't like when you're watching them. You probably wouldn't feel comfortable with it. What are they thinking? What are they asking? What do they want? That kind of thing. But beyond that there's kind of this social thing of some girls are going to go to the gym, they're going to take pictures and selfies and videos of themselves to post on their social media. And if you stand there look like you're gawking, they're going to call you out on it and they're probably going to put you in a video just to embarrass you even further or get you kicked out of the gym. So people are going to do weird things at a gym. You just let them go on about your business. You're there to do your thing. Now one of the weird things people do is they bang and drop equipment. This has become very popular with CrossFit and things like that. You don't need to drop your equipment. You don't need to be banging it around you're under control. You're with good form, so don't bang and drop your weights. And this goes to the next one.
Grunting. There's no reason for you to be lifting heavy enough that you need to be grunting while you're doing the work. So loud, obnoxious grunting is probably going to get you kicked out of most gyms or at least the manager is going to come over and have a conversation with you when you're working out and you want to do super sets or things like that. Or maybe drop sets and you think you're going to need multiple pieces of equipment, go at the right time to do that. If you're in there at a busy time and you're trying to use multiple sets of dumbbells at the same time, or multiple pieces of equipment and you got a towel on something and you're sitting somewhere else, very poor form. So one piece of equipment at a time, or go to the gym when no one else is there so you can use the equipment the way you want to. The next one is let others work in and don't be afraid to ask if you can work in. The basic protocol is if you have about two or one sets left, you usually will just tell them, I've got one set left, let me get that done and then it's all yours.
If you have two or more, that's usually probably a good time to say, sure, pop on in and get your set done and then you just work around them. It's not that hard to do and it just shows good form. You're sharing the equipment with the people that are there. Okay, the next is to rerack and return all equipment that you're using. So take the dumbbells back where you got them from. Most dumbbell racks are in a certain structure of lightest to heaviest and so just if you return it back about where you got it from, that's going to help other people find the equipment they want. Take plates off of the equipment that you've been using. Even if it's a machine that had some plates on it, it's worth pulling them off and putting them where they belong so someone coming behind you doesn't have to unrack the equipment and then wipe sweat from machines. So anytime you sit on a bench or you lay on anything, wipe it down afterwards just to make sure that it's clean and sanitary for the next person coming through. Most gyms are going to have that, but it's worth bringing your own workout towel just to make sure you're keeping things tidy and clean for the next person behind you.
And then again, this is my big one. If you're not feeling well, just don't go to the gym. I get it. This kind of conflicts with my show up item number three. But still, if you're sick, we don't need to get that, so just don't go find something else to do. Get your workout done somewhere else besides the gym. That's not the place for you when you're sick. So I hope these help. We are all glad you're in the gym. You're doing something special. It is uncomfortable. You are outside your comfort zone. But if you'll follow these eleven tips, I think you'll feel a lot more welcome at the gym. You'll know a lot more people, you'll become a good gym goer and you're going to enjoy the time in the gym a whole lot more.
[00:19:09.200] – Coach Allan
[00:19:10.440] – Coach Rachel
Hey, Alan. I love this. I love your rules. Or must knows about gym etiquette. I think that when I remember my first time stepping into a gym and feeling like, oh my gosh, what do I do? Where do I go? I didn't know half of probably most of this etiquette. I didn't know how to I should be wiping down machines. I didn't ever even touch the free weight, so I didn't have to worry about not reracking. But these are all great reminders, great rules. I think this has been super helpful for anybody who plans on getting a gym membership or just good reminders if.
[00:19:47.610] – Coach Allan
You already have one and you bring that up. But I want to say as someone who first walked into a non school gym when I was 14 years old, so first commercial gym I ever walked into, I was 14 years old. I didn't know these rules because in a gym locker room when you're on a football team or something, you don't wipe the equipment down. You don't bother with most of the stuff that's in here. People are grunting and banging because we're football players. So most of the rules that I talk about here, they don't apply there. And you have your own home gym. It's gorgeous. I have my own studio here. But that said, it's like, I think a lot of people walk in way a commercial gym is typically structured is at the very front are your cardio machines, the treadmill and the elliptical. And then a little bit deeper in, you start getting into the machines. The first bit is probably going to be like a circuit training thing. It's not going to be a big deal. Then the bigger machines and things, the heavier machines, they tend to be further towards the back.
[00:20:50.590] – Coach Allan
Do you get to the leg press where you actually have to put plates on. And some of these other machines, then you get to the free weights. They're usually in that back corner along the wall, almost out of the way, if you will. Other than all the benches and all the stuff that they have, all the bars and things that they've got going on and then the big racks and stuff. But the point being is I want you to feel confident and comfortable that you belong there. You're paying your gym membership and lifting weights is the way you build muscle and retain muscle. It's the way you build bone density. And that's important for men and women, I think, knowing some of these rules. And they're not really rules as such, but they kind of are if you know these etiquette tips. You go into a gym, I think you'll start seeing these things happening without anyone saying a word about it. You'll see someone sitting on a bench doing bicep curls and no one's walking between them and the weights in front of them, and there are people standing around talking and helping each other and so that's happening.
[00:21:56.760] – Coach Allan
But in most gyms, it's not overbearing unless it's kind of gym where that is kind of the dating thing is a thing people want to be seen and talked to, and then there are other places where they absolutely don't. So sitting there and watching someone working out is probably going to get you an earful and maybe even a post on Instagram or something and look at this creep kind of thing. So what this is really all about is you go in the gym and you get your work done and then you leave. It can become a social thing, but these are just the tips of, okay, if you want to just go in there and get your work done, follow these and you're going to fit in just fine.
[00:22:43.770] – Coach Rachel
Oh, for sure. And I just want to speak out for the ladies out there, too. If you're feeling intimidated at the gym, bring a friend with you. Work out like you had talked about. You could share equipment, alternate your sets with each other and get comfortable. And don't be afraid to go by yourself either on the days that your friend maybe can't make it with you. And the other great thing about a gym is that it's so full of equipment that you can't possibly own at home and think of it as your playground because there's so many different things that you could try there and incorporate into your workout routines. It's so much fun to try something new. Use a piece of equipment that you may never have tried before, work a different muscle group you may not normally do. I mean, there's just so much to there for a short time. Alan, I was working at a gym, a franchise facility, and whenever I had a new person come in expressing an interest, I gave them a tour of the gym and I showed them all the equipment and what they could possibly do there.
[00:23:47.050] – Coach Rachel
And I just wanted them to feel comfortable and welcome. And the people that work at the gym want to do the same thing, too. So if you are feeling intimidated, just ask one of the trainers or one of the employees there for some assistance or just some guidance.
[00:24:02.960] – Coach Allan
Yeah, most gyms, what they're going to require their trainers to do, they're going to require their trainers when they're not training someone to circle the floor they want them going on the floor, and they want them finding clients. So they are going to approach you and they're going to offer maybe even a free workout or something like that. Take them up on that. Let them know. Now, one thing I will say is they're probably going to reach in the file cabinet and pull out the same workout that they have everybody else doing. So just take that with a grain of salt. They're going to teach you some exercises, same exercise they would teach a 20 year old. It might not be the best workout for you, but it's a workout. And just let them know, okay, look, I'm 57 years old. My body's not going to respond the same way a 20 year old does. And no, I'm not going to do upright rows. I don't care how many times you ask me to do them, they're not going to be on my workout plan. We got to figure out another way to work the front delts and the traps because I'm not doing upright rows, period.
[00:25:04.320] – Coach Allan
And so just realize that they will teach you some exercises. They will get you back there. But hire a coach that cares about you. Hire a coach that's going to make you feel comfortable. And I know for a lot of people, it's like, okay, well, Alan's an online coach. How is he going to do that? Well, I can't personally, I can't walk you back there and stand next to you and make you feel completely comfortable. I can give you a workout where you can go into any gym and do it, and we can customize it for you and your age and what you need to do. But you got to get back there and do the work. And that means just turn it off. I think I talked on one of our previous episodes not long ago on meditation, that when I'm lifting, I actually have no awareness of anything but the lift. I don't hear sounds. I don't hear anything else. I just do my lift. And most of the time I probably look like I'm zoned out in between lifts because I just sit there thinking about the next lift. I got a minute to sit there and wait.
[00:26:06.170] – Coach Allan
I wrote it in my little notebook, what I just did, and I know the next one I got to do, and I know the energy level I need to bring for that next set. Most people don't lift that way. Most people don't act that way when they lift. They're talking, they're texting, they're this, they're that. And so just realize that the gym environment can be pretty dynamic and a little intimidating, but don't be. This is your home, too. Do what you got to do to be comfortable. And if it means starting on the machines first, by all means, do that first. They're a lot more intuitive, a lot easier to understand, a lot easier. To load and unload by yourself. And then, yes, when you get done, wipe the sweat off the machine.
[00:26:48.980] – Coach Rachel
[00:26:51.620] – Coach Allan
But that's why I wanted to share this. I know a lot of the people listening may not want to go to the gym or feel like they need to go to the gym, but it is like you said, it's really hard to do what we've done. You've turned an entire garage, so probably where you could be parking two cars. You have a gym. I have a studio in the living room of our apartment at Lula's. And I'm really good at tetris. If you're looking at you guys don't see the video, but the equipment I have behind me is there's a place for every single bit of it and it can't be left out and do anything else. Everything has to be moved sometimes to get certain things done here. But it all fits. And it only fits because I know how this stuff works and I'm able to do that. And it means when I'm training someone, I'm very active because I have to move all that stuff. So that's part of my workouts each day is just when I'm training someone here. But you can buy the equipment and have it at home, just do it in a safe way.
[00:27:56.140] – Coach Allan
And I think you're going to find, even when you do it at home, some of these rules are going to make sense to you there too. You're not going to want your dumbbells and everything strown around where you can't find what you want. You're not going to want to leave your equipment all sweaty and dirty. And while you won't have to worry about someone working in or staring at someone, you got to stay motivated. And sometimes it's just a little easier to stay motivated when there's other people around you that are like minded, working just as hard or harder. And so sometimes that fires people up. And that's why occasionally I like walking back into a commercial gym just to hear the noises and the sound, everything that's going on. And then when I start my workout, that's just me. I don't see anything else other than occasionally I'll see someone doing something silly that can get them hurt. And so I watch. Just because someone drops weight on themselves, someone's going to have to go save their lives. And so I do notice when silly stuff is going on that could get someone hurt.
[00:29:08.200] – Coach Allan
But beyond that, I'm just doing my thing. And that's how most people are. They're not there to watch you. They're not there to gawk at you or laugh at you. They're there to get their workout done. They may happen to have a whole lot of friends in that gym because they've been there for a while and they and their friends work out at the same time. But it can be as social as you want it to be or it can just be you going in the gym, getting your work done and getting out of there.
[00:29:34.090] – Coach Rachel
Absolutely. Yep. Don't miss out. I love a gym, I love working in the gym, and I love helping people at the gym, so yep, just go. It's fun.
[00:29:42.940] – Coach Allan
All right, well, I'll talk to you next week.
[00:29:45.020] – Coach Rachel
Take care, Ellen.
[00:29:46.180] – Coach Allan
You too. Bye.
[00:29:47.540] – Coach Rachel
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