The gym, 6:15 p.m. You’ve just come off the treadmill and are moving to the free weights. Today’s going to be productive, a real total-body effort. You’d like to start with some upper-body work, so you head for the nearest bench.
Oh, it’s taken. Looks like he’s between sets. Probably won’t be long. No worries, you’ll sip some water and wait.
Three minutes go by.
Bench guy is still just sitting there. Not lifting. He’s looking at his phone. Instagram. He doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to exercise or relinquish his station. He takes a selfie — #gains.
You decide to do a few stretches and leave.
This scenario is all too common at gyms, particularly big box gyms, where machines and free weights are at a premium. Hordes of people congregate during workout rush hours, which fall on weekday mornings, weekday evenings and weekend mornings. Many are there to exercise and leave, but many others see the gym as a place to socialize, kill time and score some sweet content for social media.
Even fancy studios aren’t immune to the phone-obsessed. The guy taking selfies on his spin bike surely isn’t keeping up with the instructor. The girl who spent 30 seconds propping up her phone to get the perfect angle for capturing her HIIT class goblet squats is now 10 reps behind. And, more than just hurting their own workouts, such actions are distracting to those around them.
It’s an epidemic, and it has to stop. To that end, we’ve put together these handy checklists of when it’s acceptable and inexcusable to use your phone at the gym. See below, and become a better gymgoer.
IT’S OK TO USE YOUR PHONE AT THE GYM FOR …
STREAMING MOTIVATIONAL MUSIC
Need to queue up a playlist? No problem. Music has been shown to improve performance and enjoyment, so listen to whatever helps you push through. Just be sure to make that playlist before you hop on a machine.
TRACKING YOUR VITALS
Your favorite health app can be helpful in counting steps or monitoring your heart rate. Get set up before starting your workout, then leave your phone within easy viewing distance to track your progress.
PLAYING FITNESS VIDEOS
Video-based workouts are a great option for at-home exercise. But if you’re doing one at the gym (many videos require free weights and other equipment), be courteous to those around you. Try to carve out a small space for yourself that doesn’t impinge on anyone else’s ability to work out. Know you might have to move spots or share equipment during the gym’s busiest hours.
IT’S ABSOLUTELY NOT OK TO USE YOUR PHONE AT THE GYM FOR …
TAKING PHONE CALLS
If you need to take a phone call — we’re talking an emergency-level need here, not social calls — that’s understandable. Step off your machine and find a quiet place to talk. It should go without saying your phone should always (always) be on silent mode at the gym.
There’s some gray area here. A quick snap is acceptable on occasion. But if your photo is disrupting another person’s workout or prolonging your time on a particular machine, put your phone away.
Typing while sitting on a weight bench is rude to the people waiting. And texting on a cardio machine is just dangerous — it can decrease your balance and lead to injury. It can also hinder your workout in other ways. One study found those who texted during exercise spent more time in low-intensity zones than those who didn’t. Instead, save the correspondence for later, and enjoy this time to yourself.
GENERAL TIME-KILLING ACTIVITIES
Reading articles and viewing videos are better done at home. If you need some time between sets, drink water, catch your breath and offer to let a waiting party share the equipment.