5 Habits That Secretly Annoy the Staff at Your Gym
You go to the gym to be your best you—here's how you can be on your best behavior, too.
Walking, biking, or otherwise moving your body outside is such a natural summertime draw. But research, such as a 2022 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, highlights how important it can be to work in strength-training, even at low intensity—in fact, the study suggests, supplementing your workout for even just 30 to 60 minutes a week of strength training a week was enough to reap benefits…and may even help you live longer.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, individuals who worked out for this amount of time had a 10% to 20% lower risk of dying during the study period from all causes, and from cancer and heart disease specifically, when compared to those who engaged in no strength training.
So whether these recent findings have you feeling inspired to hit the weights for the first time in a while or you’re already an established gym-goer, there are some acts of common courtesy to keep in mind when your workout takes place in a shared space. To get the details on everything that drives gym staff crazy, we asked fitness professionals to fill us in on habits that secretly (or not so secretly) bother gym staff—and helpful hints on what to do instead.
1. Not being courteous of others
According to the gym staff we spoke with, being a considerate gym member really comes down to the Golden Rule. In other words, it’s as simple as treating others in the space as you’d like to be treated. “Fat-shaming, cat-calling, or just making for an overall hostile and non-friendly environment isn’t welcome,” says Delaware-based certified personal trainer and gym staffer, Eliza McFadden. The Healthy @Reader’s Digest’s Medical Review Board co-chair Latoya Julce adds, “For the male readers, be mindful of giving women advice. I hear this from many of my clients; men tend to think women don’t know what to do at the gym.”
Do this instead: A simple solution? Be kind. McFadden adds that if someone else is making you uncomfortable, it’s important to let a gym staff member know.
2. Hogging the equipment
Evan Studwell, a Boston-based ACE certified personal trainer with 12 years’ experience in the fitness industry, says being a considerate gym-goer also extends to the use of equipment. “It’s annoying when people take up a ton of equipment at once, like doing a circuit workout involving five different pieces of equipment,” he says. “The gym is busy during prime time, and people sometimes act like it’s their own private gym.”
Do this instead: A more favorable approach to maximizing your workout—and being considerate of other members—is limiting your use to one machine at a time, using one or two pieces of equipment and then putting them away before taking out another, or going at non-peak hours if you’re hoping to incorporate more.
3. Not wiping things down
Nobody wants to be the person coughing and sneezing at the gym. But even if you’re not feeling under the weather, it’s important to exercise proper hygiene and consideration for other gym members and staff to keep everyone healthy.
When gyms opened back up during the COVID-19 pandemic, extra precautions were put in place at most facilities—but as it turns out, even then not all gym members abided by them. “When we reopened, I would even see people leave puddles of sweat on machines without wiping them down,” says Riley Meyers, who worked at her school’s gym facility while she was an undergraduate student in West Virginia.
Do this instead: Meyers stresses the importance of properly sanitizing equipment after each use, which can be done with the equipment-safe disinfectant spray and towels provided by the facility. If you don’t know how to properly clean something after use, or things aren’t stocked, Meyers suggests you just flag down a gym member—hopefully they’ll be happy to help.
4. Not putting equipment back
While it may be impressive to see someone bench or squat heavy weight, it’s less fun to be the one tasked with cleaning up the trail of plates, dumbbells, or equipment left behind. All of the fitness professionals we spoke with noted the importance of putting away all equipment after use as a gym etiquette rule.
Do this instead: Cleaning up as you go along your workout can help ensure you stay in the good graces of gym staff and keep the gym running more efficiently. It’s a win-win for everyone.
5. Misguided frustration at gym staff
If a piece of gym equipment or a machine isn’t working properly, it’s important to make gym staff aware of it for the safety of all parties. But sometimes, this frustration can be taken out on employees who have little to do with the operations of the gym itself.
“I understand when gym users complain about lack of equipment or if something’s been broken for awhile, but the floor gym staff at a facility can only do so much,” says McFadden. “It all has to do with the company and management placing an order for it to be fixed.”
Do this instead: Whether you’re a member of a big box gym, fitness studio chain, or a small gym, getting in touch with management can be an efficient way to voice concerns or improvements you’d like to see.
British Journal of Sports Medicine: Muscle-strengthening activities are associated with lower risk and mortality in major non-communicable diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies
Harvard School of Public Health: Evidence mounts on the benefits of strength training
Eliza McFadden, certified personal trainer based in Newark, Delaware
Riley Myers, gym employee in Bethany, West Virginia
Evan Studwell, ACE certified personal trainer and owner of Studwell Nutrition & Fitness of Boston.