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12 Rules of Gym Etiquette

People loudly chatting on cell phones, empty water bottles left on equipment and used towels littering the locker room floor: these are just three examples of members showing poor gym etiquette. The good news is that you can do a great deal to promote and enforce appropriate etiquette, thereby keeping clients happy and encouraging long-term member retention.

To maintain an atmosphere in which all people feel comfortable, you must insist on certain standards of behavior. Promoting gym etiquette can break down barriers that prevent members from using a facility. Enforcing reasonable policies ensures a comfortable, professional environment for everyone.

The 12 Rules of Etiquette

Don’t know where to start? Use this list of guidelines commonly used in fitness facilities:

  1. Do not bring your gym bag or other personal belongings onto the fitness floor.
  2. Be courteous when using the water fountain. If there is a line, please do not fill up your water bottle.
  3. Ask if you may “work in,” and always allow others the same courtesy; afterward, return the seat and weight to the last user’s setup.
  4. Refrain from yelling, using profanity, banging weights and making loud sounds.
  5. Do not sit on machines between sets.
  6. Re-rack weights and return all other equipment and accessories to their proper locations.
  7. Ask staff to show you how to operate equipment properly so that others are not waiting as you figure it out.
  8. Wipe down all equipment after use.
  9. Stick to posted time limits on all cardiovascular machines.
  10. Do not bring children onto the gym floor. Children must remain in the childcare area.
  11. Do not disturb others. Focus on your own workout and allow others to do the same.
  12. Before beginning your workout, wash your hands and wipe off any cologne or perfume.

Administering Your Policies

Enforcing your policies is necessary for courtesy, health reasons and retention purposes. Members can become frustrated if they must always remove plates before using a piece of equipment. In fact, they may be frustrated enough over time to find another place to work out. The success of your policies depends largely on how you present and enforce them.

Post Signs. Post signs throughout the gym and locker rooms, clearly stating your etiquette policies. Print and frame the policies professionally. Don’t use photocopies or handwritten fliers, as people may not take these signs seriously. Make your signs easy to read, and keep them clear of clutter and away from other signs.

Educate Members. Educate new members about etiquette. Provide them with a handout of the rules in their new-member packets, include the regulations in client contracts and point out the posted rules throughout the gym during orientation. Update your policies whenever new issues arise, and clearly communicate any new rules to members.

Monitor Members. Ask staff to regularly conduct walk-throughs of the gym to observe member behavior. If someone is breaking a rule, the staff member should politely remind the person of the gym’s etiquette policies. Members are more likely to follow the rules if they know they are being supervised. It is not easy to approach members who are being discourteous, but it can make a difference. If you are concerned about embarrassing people, discreetly pull them into an office and speak to them quietly and professionally. By maintaining respect and professionalism in your communication, you can easily resolve most issues.

Some individuals will always bend the rules and violate facility etiquette. However, if you do your best to consistently enforce your policies and model appropriate behavior, the health club experience will be pleasant for both members and staff, and retention will ultimately increase.

For more etiquette policy suggestions, please see the May 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager or read the full article, “Mind Your (Gym) Manners,” online in the IDEA Library.

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