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We asked a fitness executive the unwritten rules of gym etiquette — here are 7 habits to avoid this New Year

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  • Heading to the gym is a popular New Year’s resolution for many people.
  • But when you’re going for the first time— or returning after a long break — it can be tough to know what to do.
  • Life Time COO Jeff Zwiefel gave us his best tips for gym etiquette heading into the New Year.

Exercising more is consistently a top New Year’s resolution for people, and 2022 is no different. If you’re headed back to the gym after a long period of pandemic-inspired at-home workouts or stepping into the gym for the first time, there are both written and unwritten protocols to consider if you don’t want to irritate staff members or fellow gym-goers.

We asked Jeff Zwiefel, who has nearly four decades of experience in the fitness industry, and who currently serves as president and COO of luxury health club Life Time, which habits to implement and avoid when hitting the gym this year.

Follow the Golden Rule

“When you’re at a Life Time, we try to create an environment of common sense and an application of the Golden Rule. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated: with respect and dignity.

“We aim to offer a luxury resort experience, but we can’t do it alone. We need our members, and that’s why we reinforce our etiquette policies every day. We also believe if we treat our customer according to the Golden Rule, they’ll do the same when interacting with our team and other members.”

Be respectful of others’ time when using the equipment

“It’s something I’ve done too, but members often camp on a piece of equipment between sets because they don’t want to give it up. They’ll sit and recover between sets, or they’ll set up their own little circuit where they’re monopolizing the equipment.

“We really want to encourage people to go and have proper time to work out in between someone else’s set so everybody is able to access everything. Our staff is trained to ask, ‘Can I work in with you between sets?’ which easily prompts a reminder that that member isn’t following the right protocol.”

Don’t talk on the phone in common areas  

“We see this in cardio areas especially, where someone’s on the phone and it becomes problematic and disruptive to other members when they’re speaking too loudly.

“There are other annoying things people do that we ask people to avoid, like talking too loudly to other members or singing out loud.”

Keep quiet areas — like the locker room, sauna and steam room — relaxing

“The wet areas — our steams, saunas and our whirlpools — are vital to the health club experience for recovery, repair and stress management. Preserving that experience by being respectful of others is really important.

“Don’t talk loudly in the sauna or steam room, where people are trying to get in their away time and relax. We also ask our customers to wear their towels when in the locker rooms and put their towels away when they’re done with them. Lastly, we ask our members not to take photographs, especially of other members, in our locker rooms and wet areas.”

Wear appropriate attire

“Gym attire is a delicate subject, but the first thing to think about when choosing your attire is ensuring your clothing is functional and allows you to breathe. Then, you go to the next level of making sure it’s not too risqué and there’s not too much showing for a family environment.

“It’s balancing being both stylish, making sure it’s functional and at the same time being respectful toward your fellow patrons.”

Don’t create a polarizing environment

“T-shirts especially can have a lot of sayings on them that can be very political or polarizing. There have been situations where we’ve had to ask our members to put another T-shirt on if something is too political or polarizing.

“We want people to come into a respectful environment, where they don’t have to feel like they’re getting into a political conversation when they don’t want to. A number of years ago we even took off our far-left and far-right television networks in our club. We want it to be a safe haven for everyone regardless of political views.”

Stay home if you’re sick

“If you’re not feeling well, don’t come to your health club. There are a lot of at-home options if you’d still like to work out but think you might be sick, like our Life Time Digital offerings.”

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