6 rules to avoid annoying your neighbors in your building's gym

By Samantha Leffler  | August 23, 2017 - 10:00AM


My high-rise building put in a gym several years ago as a way to appease residents during a lengthy renovation process combined with what seemed like endless construction on the Second Avenue subway.

For me, it's been great. Sure, the Equinox I previously belonged to had dozens of machines, personal trainers who looked like they fell out of Ralph Lauren ads, and was always ridiculously clean, but I frequently felt intimidated by the Lululemon crowd, and didn't go often enough to warrant the lofty, $150 a month expense. As soon as the gym in my building was up and running, I didn’t waste any time canceling my Equinox membership, and, apart from missing the Kiehl's skincare products, I haven’t looked back.

Now I can make my own schedule and work out as often as I like at no extra cost. Of course, it also means I’m sharing the gym with several other people at a given time, some of whom seem to have no idea about the unspoken rules of conduct that govern a communal space. Just like a laundry room, a kids playroom and common roof deck, a gym can make you feel either close to, or pretty annoyed by your neighbors.

If you'd like to achieve the former rather than the latter, stick to these six etiquette rules. Please?

Clean up after yourself

To me this is the cardinal rule of gym etiquette, but based on my experience it also seems to be the one people most typically forget or ignore.

The maintenance staff in my building does a great job of keeping the gym spotless, and there’s a station with wipes and paper towels so people can clean up after themselves, but that doesn't mean it always gets done. Instead, I often see people sweating it out on one machine and then moving on to the next portion of their workout without wiping down the equipment. Call me crazy, but I’m no fan of using a machine that’s drenched in someone else’s sweat, especially when there are cleaning supplies so close by.

Cleaning up after yourself also means returning any of the smaller equipment you use to its designated spot. If you want to work with free weights or make use of an exercise ball, more power to you, but put everything back when you’re done. Other gym goers don’t need to be dodging dumbbells left in the middle of the floor in the midst of their own workouts.

Save the music for your headphones

I wouldn't be able to get through my twice-weekly workouts without listening to some Kelly Clarkson on my iPod (sorry not sorry) but truth be told I have no desire to also be hearing Donna Summer’s Greatest Hits because the woman on the treadmill next to mine can’t be bothered to plug her headphones in.

Working out in your own home is one thing, but when it comes to communal spaces, it’s best to keep the song choices to yourself.

Leave your cellphone at home (or on silent)

In a similar vein, it’s also polite to leave your cell phone at home, or at least refrain from talking on it mid-workout. I was once forced to listen to guy recount his latest fight with his girlfriend from start to finish because he just couldn't wait 20 minutes to tell his pal how “crazy” she was being. Not cool, dude.

And while we’re on the subject of extraneous noise, there’s really no reason to grunt like Serena Williams at Wimbledon every time you do a rep. If you’re making that much of a consistent racket, consider using lighter weights.

Keep track of your trainer

My building recently permitted residents to bring their own personal trainers to gym, which means it’s sometimes twice as crowded. That’s not really an issue for me, but what I don’t appreciate is when the trainers take over.

When I went down to the gym last weekend, I found a trainer creating an “obstacle course” for his client, which meant monopolizing the whole space and leaving little room for anyone or anything else. At one point it got so intrusive that I had to ask the trainer to rearrange the course just so I could get to the elliptical. Thankfully he obliged, but it’s always best to keep in mind that the gym isn’t yours alone to use.

Speaking of which...

Don’t treat the gym as your own personal workout space

I love to switch up my workout by using a variety of different machines, but I’m always conscious of people around me and never do a circuit with more than two pieces of equipment at once. Unfortunately, not everyone is so mindful of others.

During a workout earlier this summer, I watched one woman cycle through five machines at a time, and glare at me when I approached the leg press that was part of her rotation, but not currently in use.

Keep interruptions to a minimum

I have no problem showing a new gym-goer how to use a machine or how to program the elliptical if they ask, but if you see someone else in the middle of a workout, try to keep the questions and intrusions to a minimum.

During my most recent Sunday gym session, a woman interrupted me at least four times because she was unsure how to use a particular piece of equipment. It completely threw off my entire workout.

If you have questions, it’s always better to approach someone who is not in the middle of a task, or to wait until they’re done with a specific exercise. It's just basic common courtesy.


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