Pop quiz: Which body part stabilizes the entire body and is the key to strong abs? Here's a hint: Turn around.Click here for more
We polled our fans on Facebook to see what tops the list of fitness faux pas. Here are the big 8, plus advice from our experts on how to keep them from ruining your workout.
Rule 1: Keep it clean
Wearing the same unwashed workout clothes for a week: not the best way to make friends. Choose athletic attire in breathable cotton or moisture-wicking fabric, and use a high-octane antiperspirant to keep odor at bay. Don't be afraid to administer an occasional sniff test: if you can smell yourself, so can others. Skip the heavy cologne or perfume, too; others may be allergic. When a fellow exerciser's fragrance is overwhelming — like knock-you-off-the-treadmill potent — talk to someone at the front desk, e-mail the club, or slip a note in the suggestion box, says Mike Ryan, a Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer and member of the Gold's Gym Fitness Institute. "Any way you can communicate with management makes for a better environment."
Rule 2: Give people their space
"Don't train on someone's lap," Ryan says. In the stretching area, free-weight room or in group-exercise classes, where lots of people share one space, keep a jumping jack-size distance from the person next to you. Otherwise, "you could accidentally get a dumbbell in the face," says Corry Matthews, a Virginia-based trainer and member of the Gold's Gym Fitness Institute. And make sure to watch where you're going as you navigate the gym. If you're caught up in a conversation as you're walking around, you can lose track of where you are and accidentally bump into a wall, a machine, or someone else's workout.
Rule 3: Play nice on the machines
When it comes to equipment, keep a couple things in mind:
Rule 4: Use your inside voice
Training requires intensity, and loud conversations on the gym floor can ruin a set of reps. Save fraternizing for the locker room, or wait till you're outside the gym to finish your talk. The same goes for cell phones. Just turn them off; if you're able to talk on your phone, you're probably not getting a good workout. Likewise, keep loud grunting or moaning to a minimum. Sure, you're exerting yourself and that's expected — but sounding as if you're in labor can be annoying and distracting to others. Feeling like you're the victim of another member's noise pollution? "In any situation like this, it's best to go to a manager and ask them to handle the situation without bringing up your name," recommends Joy Weaver, etiquette expert and author of How to Be Socially Savvy in All Situations (justaskjoy.com). "You don't want to make an enemy or make the other person feel uncomfortable."
Rule 5: Respect your peers
The gym is a great place to meet like-minded people who share your same goals, but it's not a pickup joint. It's not cool to try to chat up someone who's in full sprint mode, particularly if he or she is jamming to music, watching TV or reading. "These activities send a clear message that they're not interested in human interaction right now," says Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave: A Guide to Modern Manners for the Socially Challenged. Still, if you're set on conversing, Tiger recommends fishing for a cue. "If you make eye contact and they wave and remove their earbuds, you're all clear. But if they nod and go back to working out, give them space." If you do get the green light, Weaver adds: "Sincerity and genuineness are your best bet, instead of one-liners. Make friends first and see where it goes from there."
Rule 6: Keep your sweat to yourself
Is there anything grosser than stepping onto a machine that the last user has left soaking wet? So lead by example: Wipe down the equipment with a towel and cleaning solution before and after using them, no matter how much you perspired. If you see someone leaving a pool of sweat behind, feel free to politely ask the person to towel it off. "Remember, it's never exactly what you say, it's how you say it," Weaver says. But if the person is sending bad vibes — you'll be able to tell by their body language — just clean it off yourself.
Rule 7: Keep your opinions to yourself
The only person who should correct someone's form is a gym employee. "Despite its setting in a public space, working out is a very personal thing. Bodily functions are involved. So is self-esteem," Tiger says. "By offering advice, you're invading a personal bubble." And you're being presumptuous. If someone offers you unsolicited advice, a simple "Thanks" is in order.
Rule 8: Leave something to the imagination
After you hit the showers and apply lotion, it's time to cover up. "You have to figure that the majority of people in the locker room will feel a little uncomfortable being so close to someone they don't know very well who's entirely naked — and why make people unduly uncomfortable?" Tiger says. "That means putting on underwear before sitting on a bench, putting on clothes if you have a conversation and keeping exhibitionist tendencies to yourself."