New gym etiquette

How to be a good gym-goer in the COVID era.
Published September 10, 2020

As many of us head back to our gyms and fitness studios, things are no doubt going to be a little different. Cleanliness, which was always a sign of a considerate gym-goer, is now more important than ever – and you’ve got to keep your distance (two metres, of course) from everybody.

Before you head back to your favourite yoga class or weight-lifting spot, be sure to read the guidelines the establishment has provided. They’ll let you know how schedules may have changed, what sanitation protocols they’ve enacted and anything else you need to know about using their facilities safely.

Here are some more tips from experts in the field for gym etiquette in the era of COVID-19.

As a personal trainer and founder of Your House Fitness in Toronto, Sergio Pedemonte knows first-hand that maintaining a healthy gym environment right now is a collaborative effort.


“We’re absolutely going out of our way to ensure folks feel safe and comfortable because that’s what’s needed of us right now. Yet individual actions at the gym go a long way to support us, too,” he says.


Pedemonte shares a few tips to help keep your gym clean and safe:


Come to the gym solo


“For tons of folks, including myself, working out as a group helps me feel motivated and energized. Yet right now, it’s just not a great idea to hobnob around in close contact with others,” Pedemonte says. “It tends to lead into breaking the recommended two-metre social-distancing etiquette, plus involves groups hanging around the same machines or equipment.”


Plan your visits in off-peak hours, if possible


“Late afternoons and early evenings tend to be the busiest at most gyms, as these are the times most folks get off work,” Pedemonte says. “Schedule morning or early afternoon workouts, when possible, as the facility should be emptier.” 


Listen to your body’s cues


Listening to your body is always important, but especially if you’re working out with a mask on when you haven’t before.

“Working out while wearing a mask will change your normal breathing patterns,” Pedemonte says. “There’s no need to go all out when you’re short of breath, or maintain your regular intensity. Stop if you feel lightheaded or dizzy, and take a few extra moments to catch your breath after particularly intense bursts. It won’t sabotage your workout, I promise.”


Keep things clean


Cleanliness is more important than ever now, so here’s some advice for staying as sanitary as possible at the gym.

Hannah Daugherty, CPT-NASM, ACE, who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living, says it’s important to know the rules of your gym or studio, especially when it comes to cleaning practices.

  • Wipe it down: “If there are wipes/cloths and cleaning products nearby for you to use, wipe down your equipment before and after using so they’ll be clean,” she says.
  • Bring your own water bottle: “Lots of water fountains are out of use at the moment, and you want to stay hydrated while working out,” Daugherty says.
  • Try not to touch your face while working out
  • Wash your hands when you leave

Think twice about supersets


“A lesser talked about tip is to not do ‘supersets’ that use multiple pieces of equipment,” says Calgary-based personal trainer Katelyn Barrons.


“Supersetting is when you do two exercises back to back. For example, going back and forth between the chest press and row machines,” she explains.


“Pre-COVID, if someone wanted to use the chest press while you were on the row machine they could easily ‘work in.’ However now, someone could accidentally use the machine without you having been able to wipe it down or the other person has to wait a long time for you to use both machines and clean them. Simplify things by using one machine at a time or bring dumbbells with you since someone is less likely to pick up and use your dumbbells.”


Plan ahead, but be flexible

“If you’re a fan of group exercise classes,” Daugherty says, “make sure you’re signing up ahead of time if there’s a wait list of people wanting to join, or be flexible when the class fills and be able to head to another area of the gym to complete your workout.”