Gym etiquette tips for personal trainers

February 8, 2024

When people start a new fitness routine at the gym, they’re not only committing to their personal wellbeing and physical health. Often, it’s also a way of enjoying vital social connection as people engage with a community of like-minded others. It’s crucial, then, that members know how to behave within the gym space, as this plays a pivotal role in shaping a positive and inclusive atmosphere. That’s why it’s important for personal trainers to make clients aware of the principles that will create respect, courtesy, and camaraderie.

The intricacies of proper conduct go beyond lifting weights and running on treadmills. Certain unspoken etiquette may not be outlined when signing up, or in clear signage around the gym. From the changing rooms to interactions with staff and attitudes towards fellow members, you can empower clients to navigate the gym environment seamlessly, sharing your own knowledge and experience as well as the various unwritten rules. By advocating for this etiquette, you help clients to make the most of their fitness journey and make the gym a more enjoyable place to be, for a setting where everyone can thrive.

In this guide, we’ll outline the nuances of basic gym etiquette in the UK, as well as what constitutes bad gym etiquette.

1. Respecting everyone’s time

In the fitness industry, time is a valuable resource. Being on time for personal training sessions is crucial gym etiquette for clients, as it signifies a commitment to the partnership and the fitness journey you’ll take together. Timeliness respects both the trainer’s schedule and the significance of each session. It optimises the allocated workout container so that clients get the full benefit of planned exercises and guidance.

When clients are punctual, it shows a dedication to their goals, which leads to a good rapport as they’re more likely to feel inspired, show enthusiasm and make you happy to fo your job. Another way clients can respect the time with their trainer is by following the workout and nutrition plans you provide in between sessions. This will help them to progress to the best of their abilities.

Valuing the time and expertise of personal trainers also means minimising disruptions and avoiding procrastination or prolonged conversations during the session. Don’t allow for time-wasting, such as phone use or chit-chat with others; motivate clients to work hard and push them to get on with their workout, as long as they’re comfortable. You’re there to help them start making a change and they’ll only see results if they put in the work without delay.

2. Communication

Effective communication is essential from your clients, as it establishes a clear understanding of fitness goals, preferences, and any health considerations. Constantly communicating with the personal trainer ensures that workouts can be tailored, queries can be addressed and specific needs can be met.

Clients who communicate well give their trainers more information to help them deliver a great service, as you’ll be in the loop about where they’re at and can design bespoke fitness plans. This can only enhance the overall training experience for everyone. Communicating well with you looks like actively engaging in discussions and regularly asking questions, showing honesty about expectations or any physical limitations.

Everyone’s personalities are different, of course, so it doesn’t automatically mean there’s a huge issue if you have some quieter clients. They may be absorbing everything in their own way; you’ll be able to use your own judgement on whether it’s an issue from how they’re performing. Don’t be afraid to ask them if you’re a little unsure about how they’re doing, or whether they feel good about your training and need any additional support.

While communication is the key to a collaborative and supportive relationship, remember that it’s your responsibility to make clients feel comfortable in expressing concerns to you, or seeking your guidance. Ask for their feedback on what works well and what needs adjustment. When clients do communicate, make sure you actively listen and take on board what they have to say.

3. Hygiene

Your clients can practise good gym etiquette around hygiene by wearing clean workout attire and using deodorant. Bringing a towel to wipe off sweat and using it on benches and mats is essential. They should wash their hands regularly, especially after using shared equipment.

Properly disposing of used tissues and cleaning up after themselves contributes to a hygienic environment. Using gym-provided sanitising wipes on equipment, before and after use, helps prevent the spread of germs. These habits not only maintain a respectful and clean workout space for others but also prioritise personal health and wellbeing.

4. Safety awareness

Your clients can prioritise gym etiquette around safety awareness by following your instructions diligently, particularly regarding correct exercise form. It’s essential that they communicate any pre-existing injuries or health concerns to you, and always use spotters when necessary, especially during heavy lifts. Being mindful of surroundings at all times is vital, practising situational awareness to help prevent accidents.

Safety awareness also means gradually progressing in intensity. This means avoiding pushing beyond personal limits without proper guidance, always taking breaks when needed. Let clients know that they should pay attention to their own body signals and tell you when something doesn’t feel right. Wearing appropriate clothing, securing loose accessories, and using safety features on equipment are all part of a secure workout.

Adhering to gym rules around equipment use also makes for a safer environment. Regularly checking equipment for wear and tear contributes to overall safety, reporting any issues to gym staff. They should also stay well hydrated at all times, avoid overcrowded areas and give people their personal space. This will help to reduce the chance of collisions and avoid anyone feeling intimidated.

5. Clothing

Your clients should choose appropriate workout attire that allows freedom of movement and provides adequate support. Wearing clean, sweat-wicking fabrics helps maintain hygiene, while proper footwear, such as trainers with good support, is essential for injury prevention.

Clients should also be mindful of accessories, securing loose items to prevent accidents. Carrying a towel to wipe off sweat, and using deodorant to keep clothes protected, contributes to a courteous and hygienic atmosphere.

Of course, avoiding overly revealing or offensive clothing is also conducive to a comfortable and inclusive environment.

6. Equipment usage

Clients can follow equipment etiquette by sharing apparatus, allowing others to ‘work in’ between sets. It’s crucial to use equipment as intended, following proper instructions and demonstrating care. Returning weights and accessories to their designated places after use maintains order and safety.

Everyone should respect the posted time limits on cardio machines during peak hours. Communicating effectively with people, waiting for turns when equipment is in high demand, helps keep everyone happy and avoid complaints. Remember that any disputes could also reflect badly on you as a personal trainer.

7. Changing Rooms

It’s vital to uphold gym changing room etiquette. This is where people are on their own time and may either be in a rush to get to a session, or decompressing after a workout. Of course, they also get dressed and undressed here, as well as showering, so people might feel more vulnerable and will need more personal space than they would in the gym itself.

Clients will need to respect others’ privacy by avoiding watching anyone and being observant about whether someone is in the shower or toilet, avoiding barging in. They’ll need to change efficiently and and minimise grooming time so that other people can use the space. They should also avoid loud conversations, either in person or on the phone, as well as refraining from playing loud music.

Clients should dispose of personal items properly, keeping the changing area tidy and helping maintain cleanliness in the shared faciliites. Using locker facilities considerately, such as not occupying them for extended periods, allows fair access for others. Showering during non-peak times, if possible, helps to manage congestion. Towel usage should be respectful too, covering themselves appropriately.

Is it OK to be friends with a personal trainer?

While a friendly and supportive relationship is beneficial, maintaining professionalism during sessions is crucial for a respectful relationship. Personal trainers should prioritise their clients’ fitness goals and avoid crossing into overly personal territory for the period of time they’re being paid by them.

That being said, many clients may become closer to their personal trainers over time and build a trusted relationship with them. They may be comfortable enough to talk to you about their personal lives and see you as someone they can rely on to help them with advice. After all, if you do your job well you may already play a part in making huge improvements in their lives.

You don’t need to be abrupt in how you handle more personal conversations if you think they may delay progress, but remember that you do only have a certain amount of time allocated to each session. So you’ll need to be tactful in how you address any chats like this, while showing that you’re passionate about getting on with the work and sincerely care about helping the client to reach their goals.

You may also end up seeing each other outside of the gym environment socially, which isn’t uncommon when fitness clubs organise seasonal social events, for example. As long as you’re confident that you’ll still have a positive working relationship when you’re inside the gym, there’s no reason you should shy away from this.

What should personal trainers not do?

Personal trainers should avoid overstepping professional boundaries. Bad gym etiquette, for example, would be romantic advances towards clients or unsolicited contact between sessions for non-training-related reasons. Never share personal information about clients, and avoid discussing how other clients are progressing. Talk to your client only about them and don’t engage in gossip or spread negativity.

There may be exceptions to this, of course, if another client has asked you to pass on a message or consented to sharing some information that may be helpful. You can make a judgement on this on a case-by-case basis, using your experience to conclude whether you deem it to be professional and considerate to everyone.

You should also avoid inappropriate behaviour or language, or neglecting safety protocols during workouts, even if it saves time or you think the client will be fine. We’ll explore the rules for personal trainers in more detail below.

Can personal trainers date gym members?

Many gyms have policies against trainers dating clients due to potential conflicts of interest or power dynamics. It is essential to check and adhere to the specific policies of the gym; but generally, it’s going to be frowned against. Clear communication, professionalism, and discretion are always crucial to maintaining a healthy trainer-client relationship.

What are the rules for personal trainers?

Personal trainers are bound by crucial rules for maintaining professionalism and creating a positive training environment. These rules collectively ensure a client-focused, safe, and ethical personal training experience.

Here are a few of the gym etiquette rules you should personally follow: 

Arrive on time for sessions and be respectful of your client’s time and schedule.

Maintain a professional demeanour and dress appropriately for the gym setting.

Clearly communicate expectations and goals, encouraging open conversation from both sides.

Respect personal space during exercises and avoid unnecessary physical contact.

Teach proper use of equipment and encourage clients to clean up after themselves.

Prioritise safety during workouts, monitoring and correcting form to prevent injuries.

Provide positive reinforcement to encourage, motivate and inspire clients.

Adapt workouts to individual needs and abilities, while being open to modifying plans based on feedback.

Maintain good personal hygiene and encourage clients to do the same.

Get personal trainer insurance with Protectivity

The best way to protect everyone’s time and money as a personal trainer is to take out the appropriate insurance.

Protectivity’s personal trainer insurance includes various benefits, such as public liability, professional indemnity and £500 of free equipment cover. There’s also optional personal accident cover in the event that you’re injured and unable to work.

Find out more and get an instant quote online.

This blog has been created as general information and should not be taken as advice. Make sure you have the correct level of insurance for your requirements and always review policy documentation.