Health & Wellness

Joining a gym for the new year? 6 etiquette tips for a happier workout

Ah, January — the month when fitness clubs suddenly see their memberships swell with people determined to keep their vow to get healthy and slim.

It's an annual tradition: Staying fit and losing weight were once again the top two New Year’s resolutions in the most recent Nielsen poll.

If you are a new gym member, you’re joining a tribe with its own set of characters, quirks and rules. Here are six etiquette tips to make your workouts smooth and faux pas-free:

1. Don’t engage in bad behavior

In a TODAY poll, readers found the screamer to be the most annoying gym character, closely followed by the sweaty guy (or girl). The ogler was in third place. Don’t be one of those people.

If you’re a grunting bro who can't press a pound without sounding like he's competing for the World Weightlifting Championship, tone it down and be aware others may be bothered by your loud efforts.

Wipe down any equipment after you’ve used it: It doesn’t matter if you are on a machine for two minutes or an hour. Between sweat and whatever disgustingness was on your hands, you must clean up after yourself. You are also allowed to tell somebody who doesn’t follow this rule: “Hey, I think you forgot to wipe down your station back there.”

And yes, you may be surrounded by people with fantastic bodies, wearing workout clothes that show off their hard work. But don’t stare or attempt to make a love connection. This is a health club, not a night club.

RELATED: How to avoid the gym initiation fee — and other helpful tips

2. Get off the phone

One-sided conversations can be annoying and distracting to other gym members working out around you, especially when you’re raising your voice to be heard above the hum of the machines. When you’re on the elliptical, it's not the time to catch up on gossip with your best friend during a 30-minute call.

Plus, you’re not here to update your Facebook status, check Instagram or take selfies. You’re here to focus on your fitness goals. Put the phone on airplane mode to minimize distractions.

RELATED: The 10 worst people at the gym

3. Respect other people’s time

If you want to socialize, this may not be the time to do it. Don’t be the non-stop talker who doesn’t get the hint that the person next to you just wants to be left alone and focus on their workout.

If you encounter the non-stop talker who wants to have a conversation even when you're wearing a headset, you can let her know, “Great to chat. I need to get back to my workout. Hope you have a good workout yourself.”

Then put on your earphones and focus on your workout. It’s OK to not respond to continued comments as if you cannot hear her. Don’t feel badly about it. You are there to work out, not to bond with anybody.

4. Be on time for class

You may think no one notices when you sneak into the room 10 minutes after your yoga or strength training class has already started, but that’s wishful thinking. Not only is it not good for you to skip the all-important warm up and initial instructions, but you’ll distract others while setting up, getting equipment and catching up. Everyone really does notice. Just show up on time.

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5. Read class descriptions carefully

Tempted to try the Super Advanced Yoga class even though you've never done a downward facing dog? Or don't even know what that is? Pay attention to class descriptions and don't go overboard attempting advanced workouts if you're a beginner. It may put you off, plus it may disrupt the flow of the other people in the class.

6. Share

Don’t hog the equipment or be afront-row diva — claiming “your” spot in a class and expecting it to be free even if you’re late. The gym is a public space so everyone must share.

RELATED: 'That's my space!' When the gym looks like the wild kingdom

If you encounter a turf queen bee, don’t fall into the trap of either being bullied by her and staying away from “her” spot — but don’t intentionally take her spot just to teach her a lesson. Base your workout location depending on your needs (close to the instructor or near the fans, for example), not hers.

If someone is hogging the triceps press, you can politely ask if you could take turns. Speak to a gym employee about bigger complaints, like members who clearly break the rules.

A. Pawlowski, Linda Melone, Jacqueline Stenson and Jane Weaver contributed to this report.

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