By Shelby Davidson

I recently went to the gym to get in a solid arm workout. It wasn’t too crowded, and everyone seemed to be following the unspoken rules of the fitness mecca, until I went to use the pullup machine and found a man breaking a very simple guideline. With his knees lounging on the leg rest, glasses on his face and an invisible coffee mug in hand, he was reading the newspaper while using the machine as a sort of lounge chair.

I had to rub my eyes a few times to make sure this nonsense was actually happening.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a perfect example of what not to do at the gym. With the holidays in the rear-view mirror and the new year in full effect, it’s only expected that every gym will continue to flood with resolutionists and gym rats alike who lack gym etiquette, similar to the newspaper man.

Whether you are a newbie on the machines or a seasoned fitness veteran, everyone should know the basic guidelines that keep the gym under control. Save the loud grunts and cocktail-hour conversations for later, and instead follow these simple rules to protect yourself from embarrassment.

Do’s

» Clean up after yourself. If I had a dollar for every time I found an unattended squat rack with weights still intact, or a cardio machine with a puddle of sweat on every inch of the metal, I would be rich. According to Bodybuilding.com, it is expected and respectful to clean your sweat and rerack any weights. “If you’re ‘strong enough’ to load the bar, you’re ‘strong enough’ to unload it.” Clean up your weights, rerack them and bring a towel to wipe off any equipment you use.

» Show up to train. Don’t be that person who goes to the gym just to say you went. Fuel up before you hit the weights with a protein bar, wear proper gym attire that isn’t too flashy and don’t be overly fragranced. If you aren’t ready to be laser focused and improve yourself, you’re in the wrong place.

» Maintain personal space. With heavy machinery, juiced-up meatheads and crowded spaces, invading someone’s space is not only annoying, but it’s also dangerous. If there are five treadmills next to someone, don’t get on the one right next to them, and be mindful of those doing exercises that require more room.

» Follow a reasonable regimen. There is nothing more concerning than watching someone in the gym who has no solid workout plan lift way more than they should and with poor form. Go into the gym knowing what muscles you want to build, be cautious of your limits with the weights and don’t fool around.

» Keep your music to yourself. Use earbuds and keep the tunes at a reasonable volume. No one wants to hear you blasting Katy Perry in your headphones from 10 feet away. On top of that, according to MensHealth.com, playing music too loud puts you at risk for missing warning calls or safety procedures. Keep the music low enough to protect yourself and respect those around you.

Don’ts

» Use the gym as a beauty shop. Whether you’re in the locker room or in front of the mirrors in the weight room, the gym is not the place to get pretty. Use mirrors as an opportunity to correct your form or motivate yourself.

» Disturb others when they are mid-workout. Anyone can assume how difficult it is to breathe, think and speak while pushing a lot of heavy weight. Considering this, do not tap people on the shoulder when they are mid-pump and definitely don’t get in the way of their vision. Staring is equally disrespectful. Maintaining concentration in a workout is key to improving yourself, so don’t ruin that for someone else.

» Treat gym time as social hour. I’ll never forget the man in the gym reading the newspaper because I was baffled by the fact that he thought the gym was a Starbucks. Activities like reading, talking on the phone or even chatting to your gym partner can always wait for the right time, which is after the gym. It’s a huge distraction and a waste to hog unused machines.

» Make obnoxious noises. The loud grunts, screams and sex noises are so unnecessary in the gym. A little heavy breathing and some exhales that result in a little noise are fine, but going over the top to show off and impress people does nothing but annoy your fellow gym rats. Stop overdoing it — the excess noise is embarrassing.

» Offer unsolicited advice. Although it is important to be both a student and a teacher when learning new exercises or correcting form, according to BodyBuilding.com it is equally as vital to recognize who you should be giving advice to. If there is a personal trainer or body builder in the gym, you probably shouldn’t try to correct them. On the other hand, help someone who seems to be struggling, and always be willing to spot if you know how.

Whether you have been working out in gyms for decades or you are just getting your feet wet in the fitness world, follow these guidelines as a way of respecting those around you and becoming a successful gym rat.