Gym Etiquette for First Responders: A Guide to a Respectful Workout Environment

by | March 11, 2024

In the world of first responders, where every moment counts and physical fitness is crucial, the gym serves as a sanctuary for maintaining physical well-being and mental health. However, just as there are policies and guidelines in the field, there are also unspoken rules of etiquette in the gym that ensure a harmonious and respectful workout environment for all. It doesn’t matter if this is a gym in the firehouse or one in the community — it’s essential to uphold these principles of gym etiquette to promote a positive atmosphere for “tactical athletes” and their fellow gym-goers.

2. Be Clean

One of the most basic rules of gym etiquette is always to wipe down the equipment after you use it. Sweating is a natural part of any workout, but leaving the equipment covered in your sweat is not only unhygienic but also disrespectful to the next person who uses it. Most gyms provide disinfectant wipes or sprays for this purpose, so take a moment to clean the machine or bench before moving on to your next exercise.

Another key consideration is to re-rack your weights and return any equipment to its proper place once you’re finished with it. It can be frustrating for other gym-goers to have to search for dumbbells or plates when they are not put back in their designated spots. By showing respect for the gym and its equipment, you help maintain a tidy and organized space for everyone to enjoy.

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2. Be Mindful

Just as every second counts in an emergency response, time is valuable in the gym. Be mindful of others’ time by refraining from spending excess time on equipment, taking long breaks, or engaging in lengthy conversations near equipment that others may need. The key here is to be aware and considerate of others. Sharing is a crucial aspect of gym etiquette, so try not to hog the equipment for extended periods. If someone is waiting to use the machine or bench you’re on, offer to alternate sets with them or allow them to work in during your rest periods. And most importantly, don’t block access to dumbbells or other equipment — step back or aside after grabbing your weights. Respect the flow of the gym by being efficient with your workouts.

Similarly, it is important to respect personal space at the gym. While it is common to experience crowds and limited space (especially in a small firehouse gym or a busy gym after the new year), be aware of how close you are to others and avoid invading their workout area. Give fellow gym-goers enough space to move freely and perform their exercises without feeling crowded or uncomfortable.

Additionally, practicing good hygiene is essential for creating a pleasant environment at the gym. This includes wearing clean workout clothes, using deodorant and following the facility’s dress guidelines. Be mindful of strong scents such as perfume or cologne, as they can be overwhelming in a confined space and may trigger allergies or sensitivities in others.

Furthermore, be considerate of noise levels while working out. Some grunting or heavy breathing is normal during intense workouts, but yelling, slamming weights, or playing loud music from personal devices can be disruptive to others. Try to maintain a reasonable volume and be mindful of the atmosphere.

It doesn’t matter if this is a gym in the firehouse or one in the community — it’s essential to uphold these principles of gym etiquette to promote a positive atmosphere for “tactical athletes” and their fellow gym-goers.

3. Be Focused

In the chaotic world of first responders, staying focused is essential for effective decision-making. Apply the same level of focus to your workouts by avoiding distractions such as excessive phone use, socializing excessively or hogging equipment while not actively using it. Keep your attention on your workout and use situational awareness to maximize your time and efforts in the gym.

Be a role model for your community and crew. Carry a leadership role in the gym by setting a positive example for others. Demonstrate a strong work ethic, dedication to fitness, and respectful behavior toward fellow gym members. Your actions speak volumes, and by embodying good gym etiquette, you inspire others to follow suit.

AARON ZAMZOW is a firefighter/training officer for Madison Fire Department with 20 years of experience as a fitness trainer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness as well as a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification. He is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, an NASM-certified personal trainer and an ACE-certified peer fitness trainer. Zamzow is the founder and owner of and develops programs aimed at getting fire rescue athletes fit for duty. He authored the book "Ladder 2 Workout: A Comprehensive Firefighter Workout Program that will get you 'Fit for Duty' in 28-days." Connect with Zamzow on Twitter at @GetFRFit, on Facebook at Fire Rescue Fitness or at

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