The All-In-One Guide to Health Club Etiquette


You go to a health club for the first time and you can instantly be bombarded with the untold secrets and expectations. Some of these you can only learn by making the mistake of breaking, which causes a problem if you want to remain a member. Before you go to a health club, you’ll want to know all about the etiquette and expectations.

Just what can you do? What shouldn’t you do? When should you or shouldn’t you do something? There are so many questions that you likely have. The great news is we have all the answers.

This all-in-one guide will give you everything you need to follow health club etiquette and avoid the faux pas. Are you ready to enjoy your experience from day one?

Read the Health Club Rules

The number one element of health club etiquette is to read the rules the health club already has set up. And you want to follow them afterward! These rules are set up for the comfort and ease of everyone. They will help to set a standard for all individual members and ensures the safety and health of all.

While some rules are made to be broken, these ones certainly aren’t. You can find yourself being kicked out of the club if you continue to make up your own rules and break the ones set. You’ll also find a lot of other members will be uncooperative and rude to you, which doesn’t set up a peaceful setting for anyone.

If there’s a rule you don’t understand, ask one of the staff at the health club. Just because you see others not following the rules doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Know When to Talk to People in the Fitness Suite

While you may join a health club to make some friends, there are certain people you’ll want to avoid. Whether you’re in the weights section or within the cardio area, you’ll want to talk to only specific people.

The general rule is that if someone has a set of headphones in they don’t want to be disturbed. Whether that’s because they’re in the zone for training or because they want to get some quiet time to themselves, they are making it clear that chit-chat isn’t something they want. It’s best just to avoid them.

There’s only one reason you can interrupt someone with headphones. That’s if there’s an emergency and they’re the only person around. Generally speaking, if there’s an emergency a member of the health club staff will talk to the individual, so you shouldn’t have to.

Those who don’t have headphones in are more open to talking. However, they may let you know that they’re in the zone right now.

Wipe Down Machines After Use

Whether you’re using the treadmill or the weights machines, make sure you wipe them down. The best thing to do is take your own towel. You can use this as soon as you’ve finished with the machine. There’s nothing wrong with wiping before you use, but you shouldn’t have to as long as everyone sticks to proper health club etiquette.

Don’t think you’ve sweated enough to warrant cleaning the machine? Well, you likely have. You’ll leave behind germs and bacteria, even if you don’t think you have. Wiping down the machine will prevent your germs passing onto someone else. So it’s not just polite for the sake of the health club, but genuinely beneficial for the health.

When you’re in the free-weights area, you’ll also want to wipe down the spot you’re in, especially if it’s a mat for bodyweight exercises. You can drop sweat into the mats that people then lay on and it’s just not pleasant.

Put Things Back Where You Found Them

Another top tip when working within the free-weights section is to put everything back where you found them. That means placing the medicine balls back into their corner and putting the dumbbells back on the right stand. If you found the item in the middle of the floor, someone didn’t put it away first. Look for the home and if in doubt, as someone!

There’s nothing more annoying than going for a piece of equipment to find it’s not in its home. People want their workouts to be as effective as possible and looking around the room for one piece of equipment is time-consuming and annoying.

You’ll also want to find the right spot for doing your workouts. Don’t do your planks in the middle of the bicep area. Don’t work on your bicep curls where crunches are usually done. There’s a place for everything and you want to make sure you’re in the right zone.

The mirror and mat placements are usually a good idea of where you should go. Mirrors are there to work on form, so use them for that!

Share with Effectiveness

Sometimes you’ll find a group of you want to work with the same pieces of equipment. There isn’t always enough to go around, so you need to share. It can be annoying, especially if they’re doing a different type of set to you.

It’s important to share effectively. That means getting some supersets in while you wait for the equipment to become available again.

This is one of the only times that talking to someone with headphones is acceptable. You can make a point of wanting to use the same equipment and encourage sharing. However, that doesn’t open you up to chit-chat during your sets.

When there is equipment available, obviously use that instead. When it comes to the cardio equipment, offer breathing room if there’s enough free equipment available. Nobody likes someone choosing the treadmill next to them if there’s one on the other side of the row with nobody around!

Before moving onto the next rule, don’t reserve your equipment. Putting your towel on a treadmill while you get your bicep curl reps in is definitely not allowed. You will find some very annoyed people. Most will stick to short stints on the machines during the busy periods, so after 15 minutes one of the machines should come free.

Keep Your Shoes On

The majority of clubs will have an unwritten or even a written rule of keeping your shoes on throughout your workout, except for in the swimming pool (of course!). This is for the comfort of guests but also for your safety. Working out without your shoes on may be more comfortable for you personally, but you’re at a risk of dropping the equipment on your feet. Without the shoes, you’re more likely to break something. And even if you’re sure you won’t drop something, someone else might.

It’s also better for others around you. People don’t want to see your bony toes throughout their workout. The sight of feet can make some people uncomfortable and they’re more likely to feel the negativity of working out.

Be Polite to People Giving Advice

There will be random people who give you advice. Sometimes they genuinely know what you’re doing will damage your body but other times they just think they’re right. Women tend to be talked down by men when they’re working out since there’s a view that men are far more superior. That’s definitely not always the case.

The best thing to do is remain polite at all times. Thank them for their advice, but let them know you need to continue your workout and then get on with it. If you’re using headphones to tell people you’re not interested in talking, you can get away with ignoring them. Even if you don’t have music playing, there’s nothing wrong with making it look like you can’t hear them!

When you get home, you can then choose to research the advice to see which was right. You only have to do this if you’re genuinely interested.

It’s best to avoid discussing the advice. Don’t tell someone they’re wrong. Just remain polite. Of course, if you want to listen to their advice (especially if it’s from one of the personal trainers at the health club) then discuss and find out why their advice is right.

Think you want to give advice? Don’t do it! Remember how it feels to be given advice from someone you don’t know. The only time you want to give advice is if you know someone is in danger of hurting themselves. If you are in doubt, you can always talk to a member of staff and have them discuss options with the individual you’re worried about.

Arrive Early for Any and All Fitness Classes

If you prefer to join in with the fitness classes, make sure you arrive early. If you’re on time, you are five minutes late! Run with that rule to make sure you have time to get set up and get in the zone for the workout. Being late disrupts the whole class and the others will not be thankful for it.

The only time running late is accepted is if you’ve already warned the instructor. This usually happens if you’re a regular member and you have a one-off emergency or the traffic is just exceptionally bad unlike normal. It can also happen if the timing of the class changes unexpectedly. But most of the time, you should be waiting to get in rather than the instructor waiting for you.

Likewise, make sure you can stay for the whole class. Packing up and leaving part way through is annoying and disruptive. While most of the people around you will understand you have work or other commitments, they’ll be annoyed that you’ve taken them out of their zone. It’s also not fun for the instructor.

Introduce Yourself to the Instructor

Your fitness class instructor will want to get to know you. Make sure you introduce yourself when you’re new. This can also help your instructor understand more about your exercise background and your goals, which can improve the way the class benefits you. As you get to know your instructor more, you’ll find that the classes become more tailored to individual members of the group!

You’ll also want to share if you have an injury or there are certain exercises you’ve been avoided to remain away from by your doctor. Your instructor will be able to give modifications to avoid aggravating the injury and help you get the most out of your workout. It’s just polite to do it before the class rather than during the middle.

Of course, if you find the workouts too difficult during, there is nothing wrong with asking for a modification then. Your instructor will also help you get the right form to make sure you’re carrying out the exercises properly to avoid injury; another reason to share if you’re new.

Don’t Force Your Own Routine on Someone

If you’re at an instructor-led fitness class, you will want to stick to the routine on offer. Follow the instructor’s steps, only making the approved modifications when you need. Any other modifications are a no-no unless you’ve discussed them with your instructor in the first place.

Doing your own routine is rude and obnoxious. Nobody will like you for it and you may find the instructor asks you to leave. You can also find yourself blacklisted from other classes.

If you really want to do your own routine, do it outside the classes. Those who want to learn from you can discuss a group workout session with you outside the class.

Keep Grooming and Naked Chatting to the Home

While you may be comfortable with your body, the people around you likely aren’t. That means you want to change the way you act in the changing rooms. Don’t go around naked for longer than you need to. If there are plenty of cubicles, use them for your naked changing, instead of the main room.

Nobody wants to have a conversation with you while you’re naked and facing them. Keep your back turned and quickly throw your clothes on. You can sit and chat while putting your socks on or while drying your hair.

And your hair on the head should be the only thing you groom while in the changing rooms. Keep the shaving of your legs and the tweezing of the eyebrows to the home. The only other thing that you can get away with is doing your makeup but make it quick! Others want to use the hairdryer you’re next to.

Also, avoid taking up the whole bench when you are getting dressed. People want to be able to put their bags down or sit down too! Taking up the whole space just makes you look messy and uncontrollable.

You’re Ready for a Trip to the Health Club

Now is your time to get involved in your fitness. Sign up for a health club, knowing the etiquette and expectations. There’s no need to make a faux pas and find you can’t live down the embarrassment afterward.

Many of the health clubs will have written rules. Go through them all and discuss your options. After that, many of the rules are unwritten but the etiquette tends to remain the same, despite the health club name. If you are ever in doubt, a member of staff will point you in the right direction.

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