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Locker Room Etiquette

To offer a few personal viewpoints, I’ve asked several of my ACE’s colleagues, including former fitness club managers, to email me their pet peeves regarding locker room issues and this is what they said:

Guys in the locker room lounging around and doing their things (shaving, brushing their teeth) naked is just unnecessary. When I was a manager, I posted a policy requesting courtesy to other members first, and then, addressed it in person with repeat offenders. -Fabio Comana, ACE Exercise Physiologist

A pet peeve of mine is when people leave trash in the lockers. I have informed the manager when it was something I wouldn’t even touch with a paper towel. I haven’t witnessed anyone in the act of leaving trash in the locker and probably would call them out on it. -Anna Beron, ACE’s IT manager

I know use of cell phones is a problem sometimes, especially with the ability to take pictures/video in the locker room. Also, excessively smelly scented products being used can be a problem. The last I’ve probably seen before, but didn’t do any confrontation other than a look. -April Mahrer, ACE Resource Center Coordinator

I would have to say that mine is hair all over the floor and over my clothes. -Kim Austin, ACE’s Educational Services Supervisor

I don’t appreciate gym bags being placed on the benches. -Francis Zuniga, ACE’s Receptionist

The use of cell phones in locker rooms is a restricted practice, because of camera function. I typically will not confront the user, but tell the manager. -Jerry Napp, ACE’s National Accounts Manager

The women’s locker room: It’s a place where some feel entirely at ease being in the buff while others prefer disrobing behind bathroom doors.

In the locker room at my pool, the camaraderie among the women often extends to friendly conversations about training and family life. But there is also an unattractive side: Clutter in the sink area, bushels off wet hair in the shower, sticky messes on floors and women who don’t believe in washing hands.

According to some health club managers, these faux pas, however, are minor compared to what goes on in some men’s locker rooms.

So what exactly defines locker room etiquette?

Locker Room Etiquette

Part of the problem in defining proper locker room etiquette is that most health clubs expect, and leave it up to, their members to know which behaviors are acceptable and which ones aren’t.

Several club managers I spoke with for this article said their facilities don’t have specific policies on proper conduct in the locker room and deal with offenses individually.

Kate Conti, director of communications at Millennium Partners Sports Club Management LLC, said the facilities’ general policy against cell phone use, theft, sexual activity and verbal harassment extends into the locker room. Millennium leaves it up to the general managers at each of their six facilities nationwide to address misconduct in the locker rooms.

Cell Phones in the Locker Room

Trish Berry, general manager at the Washington D.C.-based Millennium health club, deals with problems in the locker room about once every quarter. Most issues revolve around improper cell phone use.

“(Improper) cell phone usage is the most popular,” Berry said. The other issue is members not getting along. She said most members respond positively to warnings. But she draws the line when members or employees are threatened: “We will revoke membership immediately.”

Another fitness manager, who didn’t want to be identified by name, told me that improper cell phone usage is also the biggest problem in his club.  

He lamented that some members blatantly ignore signage to use a designated area for making calls and then act defensively, even hostile, when an employee intervenes. He also cited privacy issues given that most modern phones are equipped with cameras allowing for instantaneous transfer of photos and videos online.

Gail Bannister-Munn, regional group exercise manager at New York XSport Fitness, sees things differently.

She said when cell phones first came out equipped with cameras, the health club chain put a ban on cell phone use to thwart off privacy problems, but has since reinstated cell phone usage.

“People understand there is a practical and improper use of cell phones,” Bannister-Munn said. “I’ve never had to deal with someone taking a photo in the locker room. However, I will tell members to shut off their phones during (group exercise) classes.”

That is not to say that Bannister-Munn doesn’t have to deal with other locker room issues.

“We don’t have a written policy (on proper locker room etiquette),” she said. “I think it’s understood that you have to respect people’s space and not stand too closely to the person next to you to not make someone feel uncomfortable.”

Bannister-Munn admits that she herself is uncomfortable disrobing in public. She uses the private bathroom in her gym to change clothes. She also finds that people in their 50s and older seem to have fewer issues with public nudity than younger folks.

But some members lack boundaries.

“I often hear from men that there are some men who walk purposefully around (naked to show off their manhood),” she said.

Prancing around in the nude, including blow-drying all body parts, and not covering up with a towel should all be a no-brainer, but the reality isn’t so, she said.

Engaging in sexual activity in the sauna, hot tub, pool, or anywhere else in a health club, certainly violates all rules of acceptable public conduct, but as shocking as it sounds, some members have to be reminded of that too.

So, with the exception of blatant behaviors, it appears that what goes in the locker room remains for the most part subjective. What’s acceptable to you may not be acceptable to the person standing next to you.

What’s your locker room pet peeve? Leave us a comment and let us know.



Marion Webb is the managing editor for the American Council on Exercise and is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor. For specific fitness-related story ideas or comments, please e-mail her directly at