Harley Pasternak: 8 (Annoying) Mistakes People Make at the Gym

04/30/2014 at 12:26 PM ET

Working Out
Blend Images/Shalom Ormsby/Getty

Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. Tweet him @harleypasternak.

We’ve all seen them. They’re everywhere, from big cities to small towns. You know who we’re talking about — inconsiderate gym-goers. The people who make your uplifting workout a letdown thanks to their bad behavior. There’s only so much we can do about them — but we can make sure we don’t become them, too. Here, a list of eight dirty little habits some people have at the gym:

Doing the same workouts over and over again
Not only does doing the same workout over and over again lead to boredom, it can lead to a plateau in results, or worse, repetitive stress injuries like tendonitis, bursitis or synovitis. Make sure you keep changing the exercises, sets, reps and resistance you do to keep your body guessing.

Obsessing over your phone during the whole workout
Yesterday I was at an Equinox gym in New York and watched a guy do a lackluster set of lat pull-downs, then text on his phone for five minutes, then do another half-assed set, then text, etc., etc. Forty minutes later, he’d done more texting than sweating, and it was obvious his cell phone got a better workout than his muscles.

Put your phone away while you’re working out. You have the rest of the day to text, call, e-mail and tweet. Focus on fitness while you’re in the gym.

On top of that, he was being inconsiderate to the people that were waiting to use the equipment after him, which brings me to …

Not Sharing Equipment
I remember when my wife and I encountered a “machine hog” at a gym a couple of years ago. She sat on the only hamstring machine in the gym, and (even though she was literally reading a magazine and not working out) she snarled at anyone who asked to use it. Okay, maybe snarl is a little much, but she didn’t know how to play nice and share with others.

Stretching during and before exercises
All the static stretching (holding one stretch) in the world does not reduce the prevalence of injury. Moreover, scientific studies show that stretching before and during exercise can actually increase the chance of injury and diminish physical performance. [1] A good dynamic warm-up is far more important than a mid-workout stretch.

Overtraining the wrong muscles
I’ve written about this several times in my blogs, but we tend to focus too much on our “mirror muscles.” Men over-train their pecs and biceps, women over-train the front of the thigh and front of the abs. Both of these imbalances lead to poor posture, increased chance of injury, and create the illusion of a shorter, stockier body.

Instead, you should train your body in a balanced way, working all muscle groups evenly to ensure good posture.

Eating right before (or even during) your workout
There is nothing worse than the guy who brings his Tupperware bowl of canned tuna and rice cakes onto the gym floor to start his workout. Gross!

There is no need to eat just before (or during) your workout. Unless you’re running a marathon, you’re not going to run out of fuel during your 45 minutes at the gym. Also, it’s unsanitary. Instead, focus on staying well hydrated (Smartwater, Vitaminwater Zero, Powerade Zero), and make sure you don’t skip any meals during the day.

Listening to your music without headphones
It’s okay if you revere the music of Justin Bieber, just don’t make the rest of us at the gym have to hear it. Earbuds are not expensive. Please buy a set. This goes for your phone conversations, too.

Sweating all over the equipment (and not wiping it down)
Gross! Just gross! Not only is it rude, it’s unsanitary, too.

What are your gym-goer pet peeves?

[1] J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Apr;27(4):973-7. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318260b7ce.

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Showing 16 comments

Harley is annoying on

Harley Pastarnek- you and your blogs are far more f*n annoying! You’re an overpaid elitist personal trainer. Go play w/ your celebrity friends!

Deb Spurgeon on

It annoys me when I’m on a treadmill running and there are 10 other machines available and someone comes right in and gets on the very one right next to me!!!

EmilyCT on

Talking (full out conversations) during group fitness classes. It’s rude to the instructor and distracting to the other participants.

followkuz on

Great breakdown of the DOs and DON’Ts regarding gym etiquette! This simple and effective list should be posted at every gym- would eliminate the mistakes and myths. Thanks, HP, and keep em coming.

Elaine on

People that show up late for a class, I have even see them show up the last 10 mins of Zumba or something of that nature.

iga on

I don’t like socialize at the gym. I hate when I am in the middle of my my workout routine and someone is says hi and does not stop there. Ssmall talk drives me nuts …just stop asking how am I !

maya on

While I agree with a few things on the list, the rest is far more annoying than anything else. Pompous idiot living in the 15 minutes. Go away now.

Anonymous on

I loveHarley

MIchelle on

Two of those I heartily agree with: not wiping down machines and listening to music without headphone/earbuds. Also: When men (yup, just them) grunt loudly while lifting weights or pant [loudly] during cardio. And: When they slam the weight machines down after reps. Um…that’s it?

Jamie on

If he wasn’t already annoying enough, recommending vitamin water makes me lose all respect. All of that crap has so many chemicals in it. At least recommend something healthy and not chemical laden.

natalie on

Harley, you hit the nail on the head with this one, but not wiping down the equipment is a big no for me. I usually have to wipe down the equipment twice. And hogging the machines, because they are checking the texts or listening to their ipods.

LeighM on

I can’t STAND grunting men at the gym! Really. Does that grunting make it easier to lift that weight that’s obviously too much for you??? Just SHUT up already!

Diane on

Okay, did this guy add the ‘annoying’ or did this site? Either way, what an obnoxious title for an article.
Everybody seems to be so surly and judgmental these days.

Diane on

That’s why home gyms are the best !

Zoya on

talking loudly on the cell phone is inconsiderate to others. No one wants to hear your conversation.

Shelly M on

people that run loudly on the treadmill- slapping/stomping feet while running is annoying

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