Learning the Unwritten "Rules" of the Gym

by Dr. Rob Gruttadauria, DPT, OCS

Those who head to the gym in January don't always realize that there are unwritten "rules" at most gyms about how best to share equipment and space. While you shouldn't care too much about what other people at the gym think - you're too busy sweating your butt off for that! - there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind to ensure you (and everyone else at the gym) has an awesome workout.

#1 Get a tour! If you didn't get a tour when you signed up, ask for one! During tours, you can find out where to do certain types of activities, from stretching to weight training to cardio. Tours also help you learn who to ask questions to if you have them!

#2 Keep it to 30 minutes on the cardio machines. If you're on the only cardio machine of its kind in the gym, or if the gym is packed and open machines are sparse, limit your time on a machine to 30 minutes. Sharing is caring!

#3 Try not to block equipment. Sometimes people make the mistake of working out directly in front of a stand of weights, blocking others' access to those weights. Even if you think you're going to be quick, do your best not to block weights or machines that others in the gym may want to get to.

#4 Put equipment away. It's tougher to work out when you can't find the equipment you want. If you take something off of a rack - a mat, weights, a resistance band, or anything else – remember to put it back for the next person to find.

#5 Wipe your sweat off machines and mats. No one likes hopping onto a sweaty treadmill or picking up a slippery barbell. Gyms have rags and wipes to clean sweat off machines and mats. Use them!

#6 Easy on the phone. Use your phone to listen to music or watch TV as much as you'd like, but avoid too much texting if you can, especially while using weights or weight machines. It's likely other people are waiting to use what you have and texting while you rest means they have to wait longer. If you want to take a break and text people, hop up from the machine or away from the weights while you do it. Everyone will appreciate it!

#7 Take turns. Make sure to look around before you grab an empty machine. Has anyone else been waiting longer than you? If you're using equipment and you notice someone seems to be waiting for it, acknowledge them – either let them know how much longer you'll be or, if you're willing, ask if they want to share the equipment with you.

#8 Mind the mirrors. You aren't imagining it -- gym regulars love looking in the mirror. Maybe they're vain or maybe they're just checking their form, either way, try your best not to block a person's view of the mirror if they seem to be using it. Stagger your location so that you can both see the mirror.

Some of these "rules" may seem silly, strange, or annoying, but they all serve a purpose – they make it as easy as possible to share space respectfully with others and get a good workout in the process. And remember, next year, when you're one of the gym regulars, you'll appreciate all the newbies who try to follow these unwritten "rules"!


Dr. Rob Gruttadauria, DPT, OCS, is clinical director at the Seekonk Street, Providence Performance Physical Therapy location. He has clinical expertise in Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), Functional Movement Screening (FMS), orthopedic, neurological, and post-surgical rehabilitation, sports rehabilitation, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.

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