The Dos and Don’ts of Gym Etiquette

It’s a brand new year. Please don’t make these age old mistakes.
Daisy Jones
London, GB
Two people lifting weights at the gym while wearing athleisure
Image: Charlie Kwai

“Going to the gym” is an objectively weird thing to do. You spend money every month to go into a large room full of sweaty grunting strangers so that you can move your limbs around with the help of a machine instead of going outside like God intended. That said, it does look aesthetically cool to be jacked and pumped, or hard enough that you could feasibly win a fight if someone tried to mug you. And it’s better than other stuff you could be doing in the new year, like getting shitfaced or buying more things from Depop that you don’t need with money that you don’t have.


Come January there tends to be a lot of newbies at the gym. Which is great. The gym needn’t be an exclusive club for brick shithouses. But what that also means is getting to grips with some basic gym etiquette so that you don’t end up pissing off everyone around you. Also, gym etiquette isn’t just for newbies. There are plenty of regular gym goers who are out there behaving in ways that make you want to kick those huge inflated balls for pregnant people and never return again. 

With that in mind, here’s a handy guide to the dos and don’ts of going to the gym. I’m no expert – I am a weakling with tiny arms who can barely lift, bro. But I do like going to the gym and getting annoyed. And for this piece I did, of course, utilise the knowledge of some fellow gym goers – one of whom tells me: “The gym is full of people who you probably wouldn’t hang out with in your normal life, smushed together and sweating. So there’s that.”

Do wipe down the machines after using

I don’t know what’s happened in the past few years – aside from a pandemic and multiple lockdowns that screwed with everyone’s immune systems – but there are like 20 different colds going around with weird symptoms like “makes you want to die” and “feels like bones are disintegrating”. 

Gyms are like preschools in the sense that they are breeding grounds for germs, except instead of snotty babies there are just loads of ill, swole men who refuse to recover at home. So please, please wipe down the equipment after using it. You’d be surprised how many people sneeze into their hands and then just go ahead and pump some iron.


Don’t sit on the equipment on your phone

What is it with dudes scrolling their phones while chilling on the weight machines? The Christmas break is over buddy, keep it moving. 

Do mind your own business

I know people on TV are always cheating on their boyfriend or girlfriend with “some guy / girl they met at the gym” but in reality most people are just trying to work out privately and in peace without some creep giving them eyes across the elliptical while an EDM remix of a Foo Fighters song pounds out the speakers. Unless your gym is a ““““gym””””, then keep socialising to a minimum. 

Don’t compare yourself to others

This is less of an “etiquette” thing and more of a “peace of mind” thing. There will always be someone at the gym in a complicated criss-cross vest and a swinging ponytail with abs that look like they were carved from stone and a special neon sports water bottle. You cannot become like them – those people were born that way and will die that way, too. There’s no point comparing yourself to “PE people” unless you purposefully want to make yourself feel useless.

A row of dumbbells at the gym

Image: Charlie Kwai

Do keep excessive grunting to a minimum

I get that it’s not always possible to lift cast iron dumbbells without some ungodly sound escaping your mouth. We’ve all done it. But I swear some gym guys purposefully grunt as loudly and derangedly as possible, which makes everyone uncomfortable because it low-key sounds like they’re having sex, on the brink of death or going for a shit, none of which anyone wants to be around.


Don’t be stinky

There are people out there – could be a friend, relative or even someone in your office – who wear natural deodorant and then do a full 30 minute HIIT class in grey sweatpants and a hoodie. Unless your sense of smell was nuked in the summer of 2020, there is no excuse for making the gym smell like a pile of decomposing rats.

Do keep it moving

Hogging the machine is very annoying (unless you’re one of those rock hard older ladies in head-to-toe lycra who like to steadily power walk for three hours on the treadmill, in which case hog away). This doesn’t mean you have to run around the gym like it’s an assault course, but be mindful that there are others sharing the equipment. If you love the rowing machine so much, then go row on a lake with a boat and some oars.

Don’t not have fun

I just wanted to end this list on a positive note to counteract all the whining, so yeah – have fun! Or if not “fun” in the classic sense, then at least satisfactory. Hope your 2023 is full of gains.