Have you ever visited a fitness center and thought it was an unregulated mess? When weights are strewn about the lifting area, sweat marks are left on machines, and towels are left on the floor, it is easy to doubt the quality of an exercise facility. Staff members and company expectations can only go so far in resolving these problems. No fitness center is perfect, but there are some general guidelines that all members should abide by to ensure that everyone's workout experience is as enjoyable as possible:

  1. Be courteous to other members. If you are using the only machine of one type, allow someone waiting to work in with you. Other members' time is just as valuable as yours, and you are going to need rest periods between sets anyway.
  2. Return your weights when finished. The general motto should be: if you're strong enough to lift it for exercise, you're strong enough to put it back afterwards. This responsibility includes returning dumbbells to the proper places on the racks and stripping weight plates off of bars when finished.
  3. Wipe down your cardio equipment/machine upholstery after use. Nobody likes working out on dirty or, even worse, sweaty equipment. Carry a towel with you (which most fitness centers supply) during your workout, and quickly wipe down machines and benches before you move to your next exercise.
  4. Use an "inside voice". Although you are performing workouts that may be possible to complete outside (running, biking), others don't want to listen to you yell to your running partner or scream while you bench heavy weight. Heavy breathing is inevitable, but grunting and yelling are rude and unnecessary.
  5. Share the facilities. During peak hours, many fitness centers have regulations on the amount of time that can be spent on cardio machines, but some do not. If there is a line of people waiting, try to keep your cardio workouts to a maximum duration of 20-30 minutes. Other members will greatly appreciate your consideration.
  6. Dress conservatively. Low cut tops and short shorts for women are not a good choice while exercising, as unintended exposure may take place at some point during the workout. Similarly, sleeveless shirts can sometimes be so skimpy that more skin than clothing touches the equipment. This is what leads to sweaty and dirty equipment. Nobody goes to the gym to stare at other people's physiques. Conservative dress makes for a cleaner, more enjoyable, family friendly exercise environment.
  7. Be safe. Almost all fitness facilities will have professionals certified in first aid and CPR nearby in case of emergencies or accidents, but why let it come to that? If necessary, ask for a spotter when doing heavy lifts, or bring a lifting partner when you workout. Always utilize proper form and lifting techniques to minimize the risk of injury, and if you have questions, don't be ashamed to ask. It is better to be informed than injured. Finally, if someone looks like they are struggling, help them to safely rack their weight.

There is nothing more frustrating than leaving the health club with a long list of complaints. By employing these seven practices, you will not only have a safer and cleaner workout environment, you will also enjoy your workouts more.