Lately, I’ve been attending a lot more group fitness classes than I’ve been teaching, and I’ve been noticing many things worth sharing. When I’m teaching a group fitness class, I like to think that I’m VERY aware of all the things taking place in the room. But there are definitely a few things that I miss, particularly because people seem to be incredibly aware of me when I’m the instructor, and they try to exhibit their best behavior around me. But when I’m just a participant blending in — well, I get to see it all.
If you regularly go to the gym or to a particular studio, you may start to get so comfortable with your surroundings that, at times, you forget common courtesies. So I figured I’d throw this public service announcement out there for everyone who needs a little reminder. Please enjoy. And beware, because this is going to turn into a bit of a rant. 🙂
Six ways to be a polite group fitness participant
1. Please don’t talk when the instructor is talking.
Just don’t. I love to see friends come together to group fitness classes, and I also like to see the community that is built by a group of regulars who are used to sweating together — it’s one of the big benefits of group fitness and helps people stay committed. That’s why it’s awesome to show up early, hang out, stay after class and talk to people as much as you can during appropriate times. But please don’t do that talking while the instructor is doing the class introduction or between songs when the instructor is trying to explain what is coming next. (Unless, of course, you are in a freestyle type of class with circuit rotations and asked to work with a partner, but you’ll clearly know if that’s the case.)
And unless you are having a major emergency or need help from your neighbor, most definitely do not talk during the workout. It’s rude. It disrespects the instructor. And it makes it so people around you can’t hear the valuable information the instructor is sharing. Quiet down, people. Time and place. (By the way, as a participant, I also noticed that the people doing the talking when the instructor is explaining something often have awful form and are constantly doing things wrong. Just saying.)
2. Be aware of your space. Be aware of other peoples’ spaces as well.
Body awareness is a tough thing, and I would never hate on someone for having trouble getting their body to do what they want. But I will take issue with people who have no regard for where they stand, walk and position themselves in relation to other people in a group fitness room. If someone puts his/her bench down preparing to take a step class, don’t go put your bench down just six inches away from them, unless it’s clear that is the standard arrangement for a tight-fitting room.
Also, it’s best NOT to bring your backpack or gym bag into the group fitness room. Leave it in the locker, because otherwise, the sides of the room get too full, or it’s a tripping emergency waiting to happen in the middle of the room. (I’m totally guilty of this one sometimes!) Also, when you are moving around the room in a cardio-type class, stay in your lane. Don’t charge up into someone else’s zone and mess up their workout.
3. Watch where you are going when collecting or returning equipment.
Like seriously, when I was taking a BODYPUMP class earlier this week, I was holding a set of four risers I had just picked up from a bin and a woman (who was staring at the ground) walked directly into the risers in my hands. She then looked at me as though I had hit her with the risers. I had not moved, but still, because of the shock on her face I said “sorry,” which I wasn’t. The risers had not moved. It was 100 percent her fault because she had been ambling along watching her feet instead of watching the crowds of people trying to pick out all the things they needed from an equipment room in a small space. This was perhaps the fifth time that I had seen this in the past week, and I was shocked. Why are people not watching where they are walking? Why do people not have any self-awareness? Why do people think they are the only ones in the room?
Be a pal. Help other people grab their things. Take your turn when there is a line to grab an ab mat. Be polite as you would be anywhere else. We’re all friends here at the gym working toward a goal, so no need add to an element of competition when it comes to who can get set up the fastest. There’s no winner there. Then of course, at the end of class, put all of your own equipment away exactly where you found it. Be neat.
4. Don’t answer your phone or send texts during class.
I get it, that perhaps you are waiting for a response from a family member on an important question before starting a group fitness class. But I also know that if it’s THAT important, maybe you should not go into the class. It’s just plain rude to stop during a workout, pick up your phone and say hello or start typing while other people are trying to stay engaged in the class at hand. I’m baffled by this. I saw a woman answer a call in the center of the group fitness room directly in front of an instructor, say a few words, then hang up the call and send some texts, all while the music was still playing.
This is just another example of why it’s so terrible that we are all so addicted to being connected. Can’t you even have that ONE HOUR to yourself to get your workout done? Can’t it wait?
5. Realize that the cool-down is still part of the workout. Respect it.
This is something I’ve noticed in my own classes, as well as when I’m taking a class. People just seem to discount the cool-down. However, stretching and bringing the heart-rate back down to normal is super important. If you have to rush out, then do so quietly and discreetly. Don’t think that just because the hard work is over, you don’t have to keep decorum in the group fitness room. I’ve seen people talk, get on their phone, stand up in the middle of the room and totally act like the class is over, while the instructor is still trying to give helpful information to participants and finish teaching the final minutes of the cool-down.
If you are not planning to stay for cool-down, try to quickly get out of the way right before it starts, if possible. And if you are in a yoga class and not planning to stay through the final meditation, you should absolutely pack up and head out before the instructor leads the class into savasana. Disrupting your classmates during savasana is a major offense.
6. Please choose your modifications wisely.
Oftentimes, the instructor will give participants the chance to choose a low or high option for some more difficult moves. And I’m ALL FOR people knowing their limitations and doing the move that is the best choice for them. Also, if you have a particular injury and need to sit out a move, that’s fine. Sit down in your spot, stay out of the way or choose to do a slight modification that you know works for you. However, this does not mean that participants should elect to do large jumping jacks in place during a strength class when the instructor has everyone else doing bicep curls. If you need to get your cardio in, do it before or after class. I seriously cannot believe how some people think it’s okay to do their entirely OWN workout in class.
Mind your injuries and do what’s right for you — but please keep it line with the essence of the class. If you are in need of 400 push-ups, then do those on your own. Don’t go into a Pilates class and do your own thing in the middle of the room, only joining in when you want. You know, there’s an instructor, a program and music for a reason. If you are doing something crazy, it may confuse the beginners or distract people from the correct move at hand.
Moral of the story: Be polite. At the gym and everywhere.
I know that many people come to the gym and forget a lot of the common courtesies that they would use at their office or with friends, and assume no one notices them being rude. They think because it’s a casual place where people work out, there’s no need to mind your behavior. But there is a big need to mind your behavior. The gym should be a safe place, where people support each other, are nice to each other and everyone feels comfortable going hard in the workout zone. If you take just an extra minute to think about what you’re doing when you’re in the gym or a group fitness studio, it could make things easier for those around you. End rant. 🙂
And if you aren’t totally turned off, check out more of my group fitness tips here. Love you guys! Mean it!Are you making these mistakes? Instructor @apstyle tells you how to be a POLITE group fitness participant ... Click To Tweet
Questions of the day
What’s something that you notice that people do at the gym or group fitness studio?
Have you ever caught yourself doing any of these things?