I’ve been a personal trainer in London for 11 years now, and although I don’t train my clients in commercial gyms (they usually have their own gym room at home), I do my own workouts in various gyms in London. Here’s my personal top 10 list of gym etiquette:
1. Don’t bang weights
Unless you’re in one of London’s hardcore bodybuilding gyms, don’t drop dumbbells and barbells from a great height and let them crash to the floor. It’s not good for the weights, it’s not good for the floor, and it’s not much fun for everyone else around you.
2. Don’t stick chewing gym on the cardio machines
I trained at one gym in east London where the cardio machines were covered in chewing gum, particularly inside the cup-holders of the cross-trainers. Strangely, the staff didn’t remove the gum, so over time it accumulated. And this was one of the big gym chains. That’s when I moved to Fitness First Liverpool Street, where they actually keep the machines clean.
3. Don’t hog several machines/benches at once
If you’re using the weights bench, then go over to use another machine, don’t keep your towel and possessions draped over the bench you’ve left. It’s not your personal weights bench, others are entitled to use it too.
4. Don’t use machines/benches to sit around and text people
If you’re not using the machine or bench, move on! It’s ok to rest for a minute between sets, but not ok to use it as your texting station. And don’t use a bench like a park bench to sit and watch your friend doing his set of exercises. Most gyms have way too few weights benches as it is.
5. Put your weights back after use
When you’ve finished an exercise, return the dumbbells to the rack so others can find them. I was a member of a gym in north London once, where the dumbbells were strewn across the gym floor almost all the time. It’s not only a trip hazard, but it’s annoying having to search for a matching pair of dumbbells.
6. Give fellow gym-users enough space
If someone is doing an exercise, don’t plonk yourself less than a metre away from them and start doing your exercises. Everyone is entitled to enough space to perform their exercise properly. One of the most annoying things is when you’re doing dumbbell flyes, and someone walks right past you within 2 feet of the bench, preventing you performing the full movement. Be aware of what’s going on around you.
7. Don’t interrupt someone in the middle of their set
Even personal trainers in some London gyms are guilty of this one, asking you if you’re nearly finished when you’re right in the middle of a set of exercises. Wait till someone has completed a set before asking them. To perform an exercise properly requires full concentration, particularly if it’s with a heavy weight and an exercise like squats or deadlifts.
8. Shouting and swearing
I remember one gym in east London where the free weights room was more like a prison gym. Not pleasant! I was being shown round by one of the personal trainers, before deciding whether to join this gym. I decided not to join.
9. Keep the music down
If you’re listening to music through headphones, it’s best if only you can hear the music. If it’s blaring out into the gym, you need to turn the volume down.
10. Keep the changing room and showers clean
This is probably the most off-putting features of most commercial gyms in London: the state of the changing rooms and showers. The more you pay for your gym membership, the cleaner they tend to be, partly because they’re more well-staffed, and partly because of the people who are members there. You’ll probably find the worst conditions in the cheapest membership gyms which are springing up all over London, but I guess you get what you pay for.
I’ve seen gyms in London with cotton buds, used tissues, and sticking plasters littering the floor of the changing rooms and showers. In one outer London gym used by the junior squad of a premier league football team, whenever they used the changing rooms and showers, they left behind a war-zone of litter. And on one of these occasions I found a nasty surprise on the floor of the showers, an unmentionable brown lump, freshly laid. Nice.
I’ve had guest memberships of top London gyms like The Broadgate Club, Virgin Active’s flagship club in London, where the changing rooms and showers were immaculate. Again, you get what you pay for.
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London.