In the gym — as in life — there are dos and don'ts. Some are pretty obvious. Don't go to the gym with your wife, then ogle the hottie working out next to her. Don't spit in the water fountain. Don't pee in the shower like George Costanza in a Seinfeld episode. These are just a few examples of really bad gym behavior cited by trainers and fitness center managers when asked for outstanding examples of how not to behave when you're working out. But in other cases, the line between good and bad gym etiquette might not be so obvious. Let's hear what the experts have seen, what they wish they hadn't and what they'd like to see going forward. .
"I had a lady in my Pilates class talking on her cell phone. Her assistant was also in the class, and she was talking on her cell phone!" says Chauna Bryant, a Pilates instructor and personal trainer in Washington, D.C.
"I was really upset. I said to them, 'Is everything okay?' and they both put their phones down and looked at me like I was out of line. I was so close to kicking them out."
Even gyms that don't enforce bans on cell phones in the workout areas often prohibit them in the locker room out of privacy concerns. "It seems every phone has a camera," says Dick Snyder, owner of LifeSport Fitness, downtown Philadelphia's oldest gym.
Blasting a TV at top volume when headphones aren't available is inconsiderate of those who don't share your program preferences. So is cranking up your iPod so loud that people around you can sing along.
Sometimes weightlifting leads to loud grunting, which some gyms discourage — or prohibit. At the Planet Fitness national chain, noisy members are given one warning. But when a client grunts, groans or drops weights a second time, managers set off an actual alarm.
Hardly subtle but highly effective, "it's called the lunk alarm, and it's a blue flashing light, and sounds like an air-raid siren," says Glenn Stuart, general manager of the Planet Fitness in Meriden, Conn.
A NOD TO HYGIENE
"The main thing that bugs me is when people show up sick. You infect everybody else," says Melody Schoenfeld, trainer at and owner of Flawless Fitness in Pasadena, Calif. "Whenever my clients come in coughing, sneezing, stuff like that, I send them home."
And there's the basic issue of cleanliness. "I actually turned down a client (for training) because he had on a knee brace he hadn't washed in a year. He smelled so bad. And there was a guy where I used to train who I don't think bathed. He smelled so bad that, literally, any place that he was there was an empty radius around him. Use common sense. Take a shower," says Schoenfeld.
"Make sure you wipe the machines off. A lot of times people leave them all sweaty and gross," says Bryant.
Dr. Douglas Robins, vice president of the Florida Society of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery, recommends wearing shower shoes in the locker room and the shower to prevent fungal infections like athlete's foot.
Sitting on a towel in a shower or sauna, never sharing towels and covering cuts and scrapes also are good practices to avoid infections, Robins says.
"People should not wear loose, wide-leg shorts. You can see all their business," says Bryant.
Underwear and support garments are musts if there's even a remote chance that "you'll be flashing your stuff," says Schoenfeld, who also decries people who spit in the water fountains. "If you feel like you need to spit, do it where people aren't going to come in contact with it."
Another pet peeve of hers? "People who try to correct your form — unless you've asked for their help."
In her long career, she recalls one gym member who came in looking for more than a workout. "He'd come to the gym with his wife then make out with his girlfriend in the back. And we've caught people fornicating, shall we say, in the sauna."
"Do not hit on the hot girl on the treadmill," advises Bryant. "She's working out! If someone is getting a good sweat on, leave them alone."
Planet Fitness' Stuart has had to ask clients who show up to work out in greasy work jeans, boots or sandals to go home and change to gym wear.
Speaking of attire, instead of conversing while naked in the locker room, Bryant says, "put on a towel and have the convo."