Gym Do’s & Don’ts


I joined my first gym after high school. It was a Women’s Workout World. I was terrified! It was scary and new, but also exciting. They gave me a tour, taught me some equipment and sent me on my way. They didn’t offer towels, but it was clean and the people were friendly. What was really annoying was how the women hogged the cardio equipment—even though there were signs limiting use during busy times.

I didn’t understand how to navigate that environment: what was acceptable and what wasn’t. It can be intimidating, but the first step is to find the right place. Then, you can make it your own.
Choosing the Right Place


If you live in or near a large city, chances are you have a few options when it comes to fitness centers. Small places offer a more personal touch compared to larger facilities where you can be anonymous if you choose. Go see the facilities and get pricing information on the memberships. Location and cost are two of the biggest factors when choosing a facility.


You also want to know what hours they operate. Does their schedule work with yours? If not, move on to the next. When you go in you can see the types of equipment they have to offer, how clean the place is, what type of membership they have and even meet some of the staff.


Scout Out Your New Digs


Every gym I’ve ever belonged to takes new members on some sort of tour to show you where everything is at. They may even offer a free assessment and personal training session to help you get started. Go ahead and use them!


You are not obligated to sign up for personal training if you take advantage of the free offer. You can still ask questions, or just walk around on your own to see where all of the equipment is located. You’ll find that gyms keep to similar layouts: cardio together, free weights and plate loaded equipment, machines and cables.


Make a Plan


If you are new to exercise or getting back into a routine, have a plan when you go into the gym.


Having a set plan for your workout will take a lot of discomfort away. You know what you’re going to work on, and may even have an idea of how long it will take. This will help you move confidently through the gym.


But if a piece of equipment you want to use is occupied, be flexible. Come back to that exercise later, or try something else instead.


Classes Are Your Friend


I taught group fitness classes for over 10 years—and I loved it! The group was there to get a great workout, and have fun. They didn’t need to decide what we were working that day, because I told them what we were working.


Classes are a great way to learn, get a great workout and meet people.


If the class is completely new to you, ask about it at the front desk. Find out if it is appropriate for your fitness level, and any limitations you may have. If you decide to give it a go, get there early. Meet the instructor and ask what equipment you may need that day, if any. Some of the other participants may also help you. Some may not, so don’t take offense. Ideally, the instructor is there to answer your questions before and after class. Do what you can, and have a good time!


Basic Etiquette


One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone doesn’t use a towel and leaves sweat all over the machine or bench. This happens a lot, especially in the free weight area. I don’t want to lay in some stranger’s sweat! We all sweat and come to the gym specifically to do it, but we don’t need to leave it around. So, carry a towel. Your facility may provide them or you may have to bring one from home. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. Many gyms will provide sanitizer and paper towels throughout to wipe equipment before/after use. I always wipe down cardio equipment before and after I use it. Even clean facilities can spread the germs.


Here are a few other gym manners to keep in mind:
  • Be polite – say “Hi” to other people. Some want to focus on workouts, while others are willing to chat and make friends. I prefer my headphones, so I’ll smile at people. Most smile back.
  • Share the equipment – Be aware of your surroundings. Is someone waiting to use the machine? Can you two trade-off, or “work in” together? While you’re resting, someone else can do a set to maximize time. I do this all the time with people. It’s no big deal, and a courteous thing to do.
  • Put things back – It’s very frustrating to go looking by the free weights for a set of dumbbells and seeing half the slots empty because people don’t put them back on the rack. Try not to be that person. When I was working in a gym, the last hour of my shift was spent just putting things away.
  • Keep moving – Don’t hog a bench or machine and start scrolling and texting. Focus on your workout. I’m not saying don’t bring your phone. Emergencies happen, so keep it handy. But save social media, selfies and gabbing for after your workout. This might be one of my biggest pet peeves.


Stick to these fitness tips and the gym will become a second home in no time!



Bethany Kochan started her fitness career at a local women’s fitness center at 19 years of age. This part-time job lead to a career that over 20 years later, she still loves. Bethany earned her B.S. in Exercise Science from Southern Illinois University Carbondale at the same time becoming certified as a group exercise instructor. After college, she pursued NSCA-CPT and CSCS, group cycling, mat Pilates and YogaFit certifications. In 2009, she and her husband made a big move across the country to pursue his dream job in the field of strength and conditioning. At this point, Bethany began writing and training online to be both with her husband and the fitness industry. Today, the Kochans split their time between AZ and CA, pursuing their passions and enjoying life together with their two rescue Weimaraners.