Photo courtesy of S3 Active

Just call me the Emily “Postal” (v.) of gym manners, because that’s pretty much what dealing with certain individuals’ lack of them does to me. I mean, who are these people who seem to think that common rules of courtesy and/or personal hygiene don’t apply to them before, during, and after their workouts? 

You know who I’m talking about: the ones who throw caution (and their towels – lady who always leaves hers on the floor in the locker room, I’m talking to you) to the wind, and expose everyone around them to their worst selves (and frankly, often to too much visual of said selves).

I think people should behave with the same level of respect and consideration towards others when they are working out as they do at, say, church. In fact, at one popular place where souls congregate to exercise, suggested rules of etiquette are prominently displayed in every one of their studios. Clearly, I’m on to something.

I propose the following non-exhaustive list of do’s and dont’s of gym conduct, AKA “athletiquette.” Note that for purposes hereof, I include spin, dance, yoga, pilates, and MegaFormer studios in the definition of “gym.”


DO be polite to the desk and especially, the cleaning staff – they are the underpaid, under-appreciated, and overworked purveyors of your high maintenance fitness needs.

DO wear deodorant. If you are exercising at the end of the day, you might want to consider reapplying.

DO brush your hair.  The tousled look is not a thing at the gym, and no one other than the people you live with need to know what you look like when you first wake up.

DO remove excess makeup, first because it’s bad for your skin to leave it on when you are sweating, and second, because no one will take your workout ethic seriously if you are wearing it (unless you are a fitness instructor).

DO wear colors other than black and grey, but for guys, never more than three colors at once, and especially no multi-colored combinations topped or bottomed off with neon-colored shoes.

DO use towels to wipe sweat off of your body and/or any equipment you may be using, but do not use the same towel for both.

DO be mindful of the amount of time you are spending on each piece of equipment. It’s a gym, not a Starbucks (also lose the newspaper and the coffee cup, if applicable).

DO air out your clothes and shoes as soon as possible after working out to make sure that the moisture (assuming you actually worked up a sweat) dries, or risk the dreaded smell of mildew the next time you wear them.

DO shower and change within a reasonable amount of time after exercising (preferably right after). Unlike your muscles, odor-causing bacteria will keep working, and there is no such thing as a post-work-out glow if that glow is your sweat from half an hour ago. Also, eew.


DON’T apply perfume right before working out. “Poison” may smell good to you, but like actual poison to the person on the treadmill next to you.

DON’T wear workout clothes that are trendy but unflattering. Remember that there is a reason that they use “fitness models” for the ad campaigns. They are actual models.

DON’T wear workout clothes with in-your-face fitness branding as athleisure wear (i.e. other than to and/or from your workouts), unless you are being paid by the fitness brand in question.

DON’T wear clothes and/or shoes that smell like mildew as soon as you sweat in them. This one is tricky because you usually won’t smell the mildew until you are actually sweating in them, and by that time it’s too late. See second-to-last “DO” above.

DON’T have or attempt to have conversations with people who are not physically present (calling/texting), and/or with people who don’t acknowledge your presence – unlike you, they are probably too busy actually working out to talk.

DON’T walk around the locker room in your birthday suit, and always place a towel between your bare bottom and places that other people might want to sit.

DON’T use blow dryers to dry sweaty hair. The heat just intensifies the smell of the sweat, so you’re not going to fool anyone. Also, use blow dryers for the purpose they were intended: i.e. to dry hair above the waist.

DON’T leave your towels strewn all over the locker room floor. No one should have to pick up your dirty towels except, well, YOU.

2 thoughts on “Athletiquette

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