Gym Class Etiquette

We’ve probably all been there:

trying not to give the stink eye to the two people chatting in spin class

holding our breath as the guy who wore an entire bottle of cologne to the gym is next to us on the treadmill

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a little shocked when someone stops in between sets during weight-lifting class to send a text

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the lady in the front bellydancing with her eyes closed.. during yoga class


and various other distractions to our workouts.


I’ve written a few posts about tips for fitness instructors, but thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about tips for fitness participants: having good gym etiquette and being a good participant during class.


Here are some of the things I love to see in the classes that I teach:

1. Arrive early. Of course, I’d rather have people take class and be a little late than not be there at all, but latecomers are always a little distracting, especially if setup is involved.

2. Stay focused. By staying focused, that means we leave technology at the doorstep (like cell phones!) and restraining from chatting. One of the classes I have a hard time with this is surprisingly stretch… it’s supposed to be a peaceful, quiet time, and while I’ll joke around a little while I teach it, I feel like participants can catch up after class if they want to chat. Another thing is that if you can have a full-up conversation during a fitness class, you’re probably not working hard enough.

3. Be fresh and clean-clean. Wearing perfume or heavy cologne to the gym can be really distracting to some people, as well as the other end of the spectrum (super stinky smells). Wear your deodorant and nix the perfume until after your workout.

4. Let the instructor know in advance if you have any injuries or special considerations. This way we’ll be aware if we try to come and assist you, or if we need to think of an alternate exercise for you to do. Same goes if you have to leave early- try to let the instructor know in advance that you’ll be dipping out. If I ever have to leave early and can’t let the teacher know in advance, I make sure to look towards the instructor when I reach the door, wave and mouth “thank you”

5. A great attitude. No one expects you to be perfect, especially at the gym, but a smile on your face, energy and willingness to try is all that matters.

Some other tips:

Keep track of your personal belongings. Try to stash purses or bags in a locker, and keep water bottles to the side against the walls so no one can trip on them

-Be patient and kind to other gym-goers, as you never know what their situation is like. As much as you may want to make a snide remark to someone on their cell phone, they could be dealing with a personal emergency, etc.

On Facebook, I asked what you do to be a good student during fitness classes. Here are some of your responses:



So tell me, friends: What are your gym pet peeves? What do you do to be a “good student” during fitness classes?

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  1. Hillary on November 9, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Pet peeves:
    -people who aren’t wearing deodorant. Please, please, please wear deodorant to the gym. It’s hard enough to breathe when I’m running on the treadmill without having to overcompensate for your stank.
    -people who sing (I’m talking “American Idol” audition singing) while they workout. Really?
    -people who take up a machine for fifteen minutes doing anything but working out (texting, chatting, head banging). You’re here to workout. Do it.

    Phew. This was cathartic!

  2. Beth on November 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Great post! I was just thinking of gym etiquette this morning as a girl had the 12# dumbbells and was resting for about 3 mins between each set. Super frustrating. Anyway, on a lighter happier note, my three year old has asked a couple of times who is in the pic on the sidebar when I read your blog and tell her it’s Gina. So, this morning, she climbs on my lap while I am reading your blog, points at your pic and says, “It’s Gina!” I thought that was super cute. A future reader in the making. 😉

  3. Allywan on November 9, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I never had a problem at the gym until a man got on the elliptical next to me wearing so much cologne it made me lightheaded. Thank God I was almost done when he walked up. I understand you trying to preserve your sexy, but the women you’re trying to attract may pass the hell out.

  4. Erin on November 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Wow, people have some strong opinions! This makes me scared of the gym!

  5. Gina on November 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I was participating in a boot camp and I was so irritated and distracted by people complaining about how hard it is and whining…yes grown ups whining that they couldn’t do it. Yes it was challenging but it’s supposed to be! It bothered me so much that I did not enrol in further boot camp classes but rather hired the instructor for personal sessions.

  6. Nic on November 9, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Not necessarily a class pet peeve, but my gym has a policy to sign in for spin class. If you reserved a bike over their online system and you don’t show for class or don’t sign in a few times it locks you out and you can’t reserve one online any more.

    Now ask me how many times I had to explain this to people WORKING AT THE GYM.

    Know your gym policies peeps!

  7. Lizzie @TheWeekdayVegan on November 9, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I agree with most of the comments people made, but I do not agree with Brigid’s facebook comment about tall people. As a tall person myself (6 feet), I don’t agree that just because I am tall, I need to go to the back. I try to stagger with the people in front/behind me, but I don’t think I should be required to go to the back where I can’t see as well JUST because I am tall.

    Also, often in classes, people like to be at the back because they don’t want people watching them–if I am “supposed” to be in the back due to my height, but it is all taken, what am I supposed to do?

    I am sorry, Brigid, that you have this feeling about tall people, but it is not our fault. If you want to be able to see, ask someone to stagger or go to the front.

  8. justine on November 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

    There is a guy at my gym who spends his time resting between sets by wandering around mindlessly, staring at the other ladies… specifically, me, or so it feels. I am a peaceful tree-hugging sort of girl, but I would like to poke him in the eyes,,, 🙂

  9. Krista on November 9, 2011 at 11:41 am

    We have a gym at work and one of the ladies that goes there at lunch (as I do) wears perfume while on the treadmill. It actually burns my nose and makes me feel sick! THEN (!!) she sprays MORE scented stuff all over in the change room. UGH! No consideration there…

  10. Michelle on November 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Well, my gym happens to be a free service provided at my workplace. Which often makes your annoyances with the smelly person next to you something that may carry over in a meeting. 🙂 It is not just people who lack good hygiene that bother but also people who try to cover up their smelly gym clothes with a bottle of febreze, three capfuls of fabric softener, and two different kinds of tide. I can barely breath when sitting behind you in a spin class. Learn how to properly care for your workout clothes and synthetic fabrics instead of covering up the rancid smell. And only wear them once. I use penguin sportwash, it doesn’t smell like anything and rinses clean. I think my tub of charlies soap say it best, if you want to smell flowers, go pick them.
    Leaving before the stretching is an annoyance too. As are the people who ask the teacher in spin can we do one more song and get annoyed when she says we have to fit in a 5 min cool-down and stretching. I need to stretch. And yes, you may be in line for the showers before me but 40 years from now I will be kicking your butt in the retirement home because I stretch and work to stay injury free.

  11. Jenny on November 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

    I’ve been tracking my strength training on my iPhone and want to scream, “I’M NOT TEXTING, YOU GUYS. I’M NOT ONE OF THOSE GIRLS, I’M JUST BEING REALLY DILIGENT ABOUT MY REPS.”

  12. Hannah on November 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    A few weeks ago at the gym a woman was using a flask as her water bottle. It was 7am so I’m assuming it was water!!!

  13. G.G.R on November 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Hahaha. I text and tweet while I work out. But to my defence, I go around noon when there’s usually just me and a couple other people so there isn’t a line. I’m also guilty of checking myself out in the mirror in classes and in the weight lifting room – I want to see if I’ve lost enough weight for it to show yet hahaha. But I work hard and give everything I do my all (including funny faces and some grunting) so I am forgiven for being so self obsessed right?

  14. Jessica on November 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I think as a former instructor the one thing annoyed me the most was telephone’s and side conversations. That one phone call could destroy the entire mood for a class or destroy the beat. The only time I ever made an exception was when there was a student whose spouse was in the hospital and didn’t want to miss the call in case something turned for the worst.

  15. Cat on November 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    As an instructor for an outdoor program, coming more then 3-4 minutes late is a huge hassle for me. I may not have pulled out enough equipment, I might have to modify the workout, just so we can jog back to my car to grab stuff for you and since we might run to a special location that day, you may not even find us. This is part of our program so they know this, but sometimes people still do it. I currently have someone that does this and she has a bad attitude and barely seems like she wants to be there. Very frustrating. Also, on the chatty ones — I talk over them or they miss directions and this usually gets them quickly in line. I once had a really bad talker that was new to the group and I politely asked her off to the side if she could treat our class as if we were in a meeting and I was the person leading (they all work together, it’s part of a corporate wellness program). She apologized after class and was fine going forward. I mean, any person that works a professional job, as they do, should understand that. I know that chatting makes the “pain” go away sometimes, but it also makes it hard to follow directions. Oh! Another thing I do is when people are talking, I butt in “Oh, hey what was that?” As if it were a question or there was something they wanted to add to the class. They quickly realize they weren’t focusing and are ready to zone back in.

  16. Gianna on November 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I take body pump a few times a week and I am guilty of leaving during stretching. However, the instructors all know me and I leave because I go and do an hour or so of cardio after and really stretch after that. I also stay in the back so leaving doesn’t disrupt the class too much.
    I also am a SUPER heavy sweater but do not smell so agree, deoderant is a must! and the worst is people that mask the lack of deoderant with perfume/cologne. Ugh.
    Overall, it does amaze me the lack of curtosy some people have at the gym. I go to get a kick ass workout, not have a conference call while walking at 2.0 mph on the treadmill. I’ve learned entirely too much about some individuals lives while working out.

    • Older gym member on July 19, 2019 at 10:33 am

      Thank you for sharing your viewpoints. How true! One other thing that I would like to point out is that more and more (younger) people feels fit to go in and out of the group class, just to get the equipment they need. They don’t care if they are interrupting the class or causing distractions! Like you said, many are lacking the common curtesy or respect for others!

  17. Kim on November 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    How timely, this morn during my circuit training class, several girls were talking/cracking jokes while at their respectives stations – loud, risque comments. Wow, Holy inappropriateness, don’t need to hear bout the vibrator u gave your mother! Wish I were making that up.

    • Fitnessista on November 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm


  18. Laura@mypurposefullife on November 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    In classes, I really dislike when people are late. I feel like it’s super rude to the instructor-I mean, he or she was there on time for you!- as well as distracting to fellow classmates. When I’m on the gym floor, I really don’t like when people I know come up and chat my ear off. I love to chat and catch up as much as the next girl, but I didn’t come to the gym for that. I always think “please let me do my workout (I cut time out of my time for it, after all!), and chat with me afterward!”. Also, really strong smells, both the good and the bad. :/

  19. Shauna on November 10, 2011 at 12:06 am

    My biggest gym pet peeve has nothing to do with class. I *hate* it when people on the treadmill crank up the incline then hang back off of the console so they’re walking the equivalent of flat ground again and think they are all that. Hands off and lean into it! Really this shouldn’t bother me at all because it is of no consequence to me, but it does.

    I also don’t like that one person in class who is so certain she is doing everything better than everyone else in the room, including the instructor, and yet her form and rhythm suck.

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