5 Rules Everyone Should Follow at the Gym

Follow these 5 simple rules at the gym to ensure you're not the jerk preventing someone else from transforming into their best self.

Anyone who’s ever been a regular gym-goer has almost certainly encountered a few rude people with poor boundaries and lack of self-awareness. 

You might recognize a few of the five serious offenses here and find comfort in the notion that you’re not alone in your frustration.

There are bound to be irritations when we share close and sweaty quarters with people we barely know, but the five behaviors listed below violate basic human courtesy, which lands them squarely at the top of my gym-pet-peeves list. 

Remember these simple rules to save yourself from being the jackass at the gym everyone wants to throttle.

1. If headphones are at play—just walk away. 

Here’s a true story from the trenches: 

Picture it:

You finally carve a few precious moments out of your busy day to nourish your body with some exercise.  

You’ve got a 20 lb dumbbell in each hand, perched precariously over your facial region while your back wobbles on an exercise ball.   

In the middle of your chest-press, a gentleman appears over your head. His lips are moving, but there’s no sound.

That’s good news because it means your earbuds are doing their job and drowning out the rest of the world so you can focus on the task at hand.

Despite the excellent work of your earbuds, you’ve still been distracted.

Your obvious choices:

a) ignore the dude, which is dangerous, you know, just in case the building is on fire, or someone is stealing your car, and he’s just trying to extend a friendly warning.


b) drop your weights, sit up, take out your earbuds, and see what the bastard wants. 

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for friendly conversation—unless my earbuds are in place.

It’s common knowledge that earbuds indicate a person is unavailable for conversation. It doesn’t matter why; it’s none of your business. 

Leave them alone. Unless, of course, the building is actually on fire. 


This crime should be punishable by unfriending if the person trying to engage you is a friend.

Boundaries, people, boundaries. 

Support your friend ‘s health and fitness goals. It’s not all about you. 

2. If you sweat a lot, wipe the spot.

Everyone sweats. Some sweat a lot, some sweat a little. 

If you don’t, you should probably see a doctor. 

But if you profusely drip on every surface you hover over and spray sweaty droplets off the ends of your hair when you turn your head you have an extra responsibility to the rest of us:

Wipe up your mess! 

And before you get all defensive and ‘but, it’s natural,’ you should know that nobody is judging you for sweating. We admire your enthusiasm and hard work. 

In fact, most of us wish we could sweat with that kind of discipline and enthusiasm. 

We just don’t want it on us. 

Most gyms offer spray bottles that make it easy to spritz and sanitize the surface you just nastied up. 

If your gym doesn’t offer spray bottles or some sort of cleanup option, tell management to get with the times!

3. Don’t try to lay claim, that machine is fair game. 

Let’s assume we’re all using a membership we purchase monthly or yearly, and it provides us access to a gym or studio’s equipment. 

Let’s also assume other people pay roughly the same amount of hard-earned dough to use that same equipment. 

Supposedly we all learned how to S-H-A-R-E in kindergarten, but you wouldn’t know it based on the number of times I’ve seen people lay claim to their favorite piece of gym equipment and monopolize it for the length of their entire session.

Here’s a true story of an actual woman at an actual gym being an actual a-hole. 

There’s a woman who works out early in the morning at the same time every day. 

She puts her towel on her favorite elliptical machine, then leaves it there as she wanders around. She uses a few weight machines, then goes back to “her” elliptical, repeating the process until she has monopolized that one single elliptical for an entire hour, even though she only spent about 15 total using it to exercise. 

I get it. We all have our favorite machines and our favorite exercises. But being creatures of habit doesn’t entitle us to waste other people’s time. 

Luckily, this one’s an easy fix.

If you are at a busy gym, practice some self-awareness. Make sure you’re not preventing someone else from working out, and everyone will live happily ever after. 

It’s not your machine. 

Learn to share.

 4. That bench is a tool, not a stool. 

If you insist on being a chatty Cathy at the gym, at least do it standing out of the way where you won’t take up valuable workout space. Nobody has time to sit around and wait for you to finish your conversation so they can use the equipment.


This warning goes double for people sitting on equipment talking on their cell phones or watching the TV on the wall. I actually watched a woman one day sit on a Leg Press machine chattering endlessly on her cell phone for 20 MINUTES! 


This is prime real estate. 

Either get off your phone and get to work or step aside so the rest of us can.

5. Your advice isn’t slick, you look like a d!@k. 

I don’t care if you’re a personal trainer, a high-school gym teacher, or a goddamn Olympic athlete—keep your advice to yourself. 

The worst tip-giving offenders in my experience tend to be men (no offense men. We know you love to solve problems). But ladies…don’t think you’re off the hook. I’ve seen plenty of female fitness fanatics attempt to fix someone’s form or offer to demonstrate the proper way to use some equipment.

There are a plethora of different ways to train for different outcomes, and people are entitled to use their gym time moving their bodies any way they want to. 

If you think someone is overtly breaking an established gym rule (like not wearing shoes in the weight room), tell someone who works there. 

The Future is in Your Hands

If everyone who went to the gym followed these five simple tips, the world would be a better place. 

Think about it:

More exercise makes fitter, healthier, and happier humans. Every offense on this list creates a barrier to someone else getting their workout done. 

Let’s focus a little less on how to get what we need, and a little more on making sure our actions don’t prevent others from making positive progress.

Cara Steinmann
Cara Steinmann is a business development and strategic partnership consultant for purpose-driven female founders. She's also a longtime health and wellness writer, former personal trainer, and certified meditation & mindfulness instructor.