Oh, the gym. So much virtue on display! But so much dreadful rudeness, too. For today's Etiquette Week report on gym comportment, we turn to trainer Tim Ehhalt (you might remember him from this, he's also married to SFist's Eve Batey). He's been working in and out at gyms across San Francisco for 25 years, so he's developed quite a portfolio of misbehavior. We're sure you have additional issues to raise, so please add yours to Tim's list in the comments.

I understand that weights need to be dropped occasionally, we've all been there. Can't lock out the dumbbell press? Sure. Just deadlifted 500 pounds? By all means. But dude (and it's mostly dudes), if the weights are so heavy that you don't have the strength to set them down the same way you picked them up (and you're too cool or shy to ask for a spotter) they're too heavy. It's loud, annoying, and could drop on someone's foot. (This happened to me, by me. Emergency room. Not fun. I deserved it.)

And if your gym doesn't have a smelly person, it might be you, dummy. My first strength coach used to recommend to potentially ripe members, "just be sure your smell doesn't get stronger than you do." I am told by someone who knows, however, that "the stink factor is a little more complex at predominantly gay gyms." However, according to my source, "In general, even if you’re a gay man who fetishizes such man smells, a gym is not a SoMa backroom, and you should err on the side of Irish Spring for the good of all present."

With every imaginable dating, fetish and porn site at our pervy fingertips, why creep on some folks that are just trying to get their lift on? C'mon, sir. Be a creep in your mom's basement like a contemporary information superhighway weirdo. You don't have to leave the house and no one sneaks 30 bucks out of your account every month. Most women (and many men) get hit on enough while simply riding the bus, on the street, and/or at work. They don't need your waxed-mustache, top-hat-wearing, creepy ass leering at them during Zumba class, too. If they wanted that, they'd watch a Lon Chaney marathon. And, obviously, the rule of thumb for locker rooms, gym saunas, and steam rooms the world over is: mind your own business. Your eyes may wander and that is only human, but let’s try to keep the staring, and craning of necks, to a minimum (unless your attention has been clearly invited).

Really, dude? You're going to to talk to your buddies while on the treadmill or the bench, be loud, annoying, and distracting to other members? No one cares about the fake real estate deal you're making in Dubai.

This has a special, angry place in my heart because I use chalk, and I'm overly conscientious with it because I don't want to be "that guy." With the mainstream explosion of CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting, some gyms now offer lifting chalk for your hands (it prevents maximal weight from slipping). The chalk is meant for your hands. Not for you to slap your hands together to make a dramatic puff of smoke, and not for you to touch all of the equipment like a five year old that just discovered finger-painting. Guess what? People don't want to use a weightlifting area that looks like the end of Scarface.

There's nothing like going into the gym after work, at peak hours, and having some dummy take up 10 pieces of equipment because he or she has set up the world's most elaborate (and perfect) circuit. This takes up space and equipment that nine other people could be using. If you have to do it, let people work in.

However, if you want to use equipment that is currently being occupied, be patient. When politely asking someone how many sets they have left, it is less polite to then wait at a distance of three or four feet, shifting uncomfortably while waiting for them to finish. If the person using said machine offers or agrees to let you work in, then standing at such a distance is not really bothersome. But when you are told, “I’ve got three more sets,” and you have no interest in working in, that hovering starts to feel passive-aggressive. Go find something else to do and come back. After all, working in is not always a realistic expectation, for example, if you're both doing multiple sets that involve an extreme difference in weight (in the case of a free-weight bench press, for example), or if some drastic adjustments to the machine as it’s being used will be required by each person, per set. In such cases, if altering the machine/weight to suit your needs might come at a great cost of time and awkwardness, it may be best to set your impatience aside and wait for Person A to finish.


  • Stop checking your abs in between sets. I'm pretty sure you didn't lose a body fat percentage in the last two minutes.

  • Rack your weights. The next person may not be able to pull the weights off the bar or people may trip over weights left on the floor. Also, when re-racking, put them (and all other equipment) in their proper spot.

  • Think long and hard about what athletic accomplishments you need to share on Instagram or Friendster or whatever. Just finished your first 5 K? That's great, tell the world. Another picture of your abs? OK, Statham, you sure about that?

  • Elite level physiques have been built for decades on really simple exercises like squats, pull-ups and pushups. Your bosu-ball, karate-kick, barre-whatever is not only taking up space, but your swinging, flailing arms are getting in people's ways. I'm not saying that your fresh new regimen isn't worthy, I'm just asking you to do it in the proper area at your gym, and if your gym doesn't have room for your new pursuit, then I'll bet there's another one in San Francisco that does.