Do’s and Don’ts at the Gym

While working out in a gym with many other people around, you start to notice a few things that tend to happen over and over again. Also, while working in the strength and conditioning world, I noticed a few things that people should know while they are working out at the gym with others around. The following tips will help you look more confident, educated and get the most out of your time.


Ask for Help

This one may seem obvious, but I don’t see many people take advantage of the employees that are on staff at the gym. They are there for a reason. Yes, part of your membership fee is to have full access to these individuals and their knowledge. If you are unsure on how to use a machine, ask someone. If you want help on a specific goal, ask someone. If you think your question is going to make you sound stupid, just think about using that equipment incorrectly and being laughed at (internally) by everyone around you. Would you rather ask and know, or keep yourself in the dark and look like a fool?

Strength Train

Unfortunately, this is something that I see happen all of the time. Strength training can be intimidating, people seem to know what they are doing and they are warming up with more weight than you can even lift. The big secret? No one REALLY cares how much weight you lift. Yes, it is a point of pride for some people, but they are typically more worried about how they look to even notice the amount of weight your lifting

The big box gyms also make this easy to ignore. They may have 2 of every weight dumbbells and a few racks to squat in, but they will have 15 treadmills, 4 stair masters, 20 stationary bikes and 10 ellipticals. From a pure numbers perspective, it is easier to just go to the gym, get on a cardio machine, and head home. Become educated by asking an employee about strength training and how to properly perform exercises.

Take Group Classes

There are a few reasons why you should take a class when going to the gym. Number one, you will learn more in a smaller group setting for less cost. The cost of a group class will be a fraction (or maybe even free) of the cost of a one on one personal training setting. Typically, if you are willing to ask questions, you will learn just as much in a small group.

You will also get to “test” out activities that you may have never done before. Different types of exercise are considered fun by different people. This is your chance to try new things! Want to try kick boxing? What about yoga? Zumba seems fun? HIIT training? What’s that? These are very inexpensive ways to find what works best for you when it comes to exercising.

The last reason to take a class is the community that comes with it. You are all striving for similar goals which will make it feel better when the whole workout is over when you have others around you struggling as well. You may not be the best student in the class, but with other students around making similar mistakes, it may be easier to stick to your new exercise routine.

Help Others (If asked!)

I want to tread lightly with this one. This one can backfire (and also is a don’t) if not done correctly. I emphasize in this the fact that you should be approached first in this exchange. If someone sees that you are doing a specific routine and asks what you are doing or if you could help them, feel free to give advice. Try not to give them more than what they are asking for. It can be easy to derail your entire workout to take 30 minutes to explain everything that you feel will be useful to them, but this is not useful to you. It is okay to ignore others requests for the sake of your own workout (Headphones are great for this). It is YOUR time at the gym and you are free to spend it however you want. (More on the flip side of this later)



Compromise equipment

This tip mostly has to do with awareness of others at the gym. This is not your own personal gym (if it is, you don’t have to read these tips and you are one lucky individual!), others are going to want to use some of the same things as you. Be aware of how long you are just sitting on a machine resting between sets. Maybe chose a mobility or core exercise that you can fill this static time with. The last thing you should do is compromise a machine for a prolonged period of time so no one else can utilize it. This goes for cardio machines as well. If you MUST train for your marathon on a treadmill, please take a moment to survey your surroundings and be aware of others. Cross training can be very useful for this type of training so using a few different machines over the course of your workout will be more considerate of others.

Use your phone

The gym is not a place to take calls, take pictures, check social media or do anything other than workout. Do not sit on a machine and text. Do not be” that person” that has an entire phone conversation while working out. Do not take selfies in the mirror at the gym. These are all things that have a time and place. In the middle of your workout is NOT that time or place. If you must take a phone call, take it off to the side. If you must check emails or texts, have a place where you check your phone off to the side away from the others using equipment. This is one of the biggest mistake I see that bothers me as I try and workout at public gyms. Don’t be THAT person.

Give unwanted Advice

This is a tip that you should use in your WHOLE life, not just when it comes to the gym setting. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand this, IF you are asked a question AND feel that you are knowledgeable on the subject, feel free to answer away. There are countless times I see “experts” trying to tell others how they should be working out or what type of nutrition they should be using to get the best results. What works for you, will not always work for someone else. Your advice is coming from the right place, just wanting to help, but unless you do this for a living do not give advice on the topic. Especially if the advice is unwanted. This will just be words that are lost on the person anyways since they do not want your advice. Stick to what has worked for you and do not waste others time just to feel like you helped someone for that day.



Ian is a Certified Athletic Trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist and all around active person. Comment below to ask questions, give feedback or interact with him!