Etiquette Tips for the Office Gym and the Gym Near the Office

gym near the office etiquette (and office gym etiquette tips)Here’s a topic we haven’t talked about in forever: what are your best tips office gym etiquette? Whether your workplace has a gym for employees, there’s a gym near the office so you always see coworkers there before, after, or during work — or you’re traveling with coworkers and see them at the hotel gym — what are the dos and don’ts? (ARE there any in 2018?) We’ve talked about a lot of office to gym issues in the past, including how to fit in mid-day workoutswhat to wear to workout in front of your coworkers, and how to handle workouts near the office — and we kind of discussed whether leggings with “daring” mesh cutouts were appropriate in our recent conversation on comfortable workwear for late nights.

So let’s discuss! Various questions:

  • do you really care about how much “cooldown” time you’ve got as a buffer between your gym time, or are you cool to go to a meeting with your cheeks flushed and some sweat still in your hair?
  • If you exercise at a gym before work, is wet hair at work ever acceptable?
  • Are there certain things you won’t wear to the office gym (e.g., bra tops, short shorts, leggings with mesh cutouts, graphic t-shirts, 80s-inspired workout headbands)?
  • Are there any workouts you won’t do in the office gym, like preferring not to do a bouncy aerobics class in a windowed room?
  • Similar to our discussion of the dos and don’ts for salons near the office — do you try to avoid dumping a lot of work on your subordinates and then working out in a more public spot like something viewed from the windows (or being seen in the office hallways with workout gear on)?

For my $.02, I’ve seen more men make gaffes with “gym near the office etiquette” — I remember one older partner regularly coming into work at like 9 AM straight from his shower at the gym up the street with his shirt completely unbuttoned so his bare chest was on full view… and while I’m not sure it’s a gaffe or not, I do remember one more junior partner who would dump a bunch of work on me and my team members and then loudly announce he had a 4 PM spin class to get to. (Good for him for fitting exercise into his busy day… just maybe keep it more vague?)

All right, ladies, let’s hear from you — what are your thoughts on corporate gym and gym near the office etiquette?

Further Reading:

Working out near your workplace is a great way to fit exercise into a busy day -- but there are some business etiquette issues to know about! These are some of the top things to consider for office gym etiquette and gym near the office etiquette...


  1. Elegant Giraffe :

    I’m happy to see this post and will read along. I think people that can work out over lunch must be practicing witchcraft of some kind :) Even with something like a low impact barre class, I’m too sweaty to be decent at the office (and I wouldn’t have time to shower). I guess other people just don’t get quite as sweaty as I do?

    • Anonymous :

      I’m just not a sweaty person. I have to be running outside in the hot sun before I start sweating. I’ve never sweat during barre/pilates/non-hot yoga.

    • Same here. Working out mid-day would be lovely, but such a hassle. On morning when I run, I’m beet red even after a cool shower. I can’t even apply makeup until right before I leave!

      • Elegant Giraffe :

        Glad it’s not just me! I do take a lot of walks during the day – like 15-20 minutes, just to move around. In the summer, I stay in the parking garage so that I’m not a tomato upon my return to the office.

        • Actually, that’s not a half bad idea. Walk a level of the garage, take the steps up to the next level. Rinse and repeat.

      • Anonymous :

        I turn so red with even the slightest amount of exercise. Sometimes when I’m hiking, strangers ask me if I’m ok or if they should call a park ranger. My face just turns the brightest shade of red no matter what I do. I have super pale skin, so I think it’s related to that.

    • I could fit in a 30 minute run followed by a quick shower, hair dry, and minimal makeup re-application during lunch. I always found that was too much of a hassle and too stressful to be worth it though. Guys have it much easier for the lunchtime workouts.

      • Pretty Primadonna :

        This. When I was a law clerk at a state appellate court, we had a trainer come in three days a week during lunch. I was able to shower and get re-dressed, but it was such a pain.

        • BigLaw Sr Assoc :

          Yup, this. I’d rather eat my packed lunch at my desk, and leave earlier and go work out then. Getting ready twice is a time sink.

    • Anonymous :

      I work out over lunch – some days it’s seriously the only thing that gets me though the afternoon. I also turn bright red and sweat like crazy. So, I just shower and go with wet hair. For what it’s worth though, I don’t wear makeup beyond tinted moisturizer/sunscreen and I almost always just pull my hair back in a pony tail. Also my hair is fine and straight, so even with it down it takes <20 min to completely dry. Beginning of workout to back at desk = approximately and hour and fifteen min. If I have meetings, I adjust my workout scheduled. Luckily I'm pretty flexible in regards to when I need to be places.

      • I do Orange Theory classes at lunch and shower afterwards. I’ve just accepted that I will have wet hair afterwards for about an hour (I have curly hair that doesn’t really blow dry well). I also have a pretty simple makeup routine. I wouldn’t do it though if I have an important meeting that afternoon where I’d show up with wet hair, but if I’m just sitting in my office I don’t really care how I look that much!

    • I am drenched in sweat from a barre class so lunch time workouts aren’t really an option for me. Maybe walking. My thing is changing at the office in the bathroom and running out the door hoping no one sees me. It was easier when it was jacket/coat season. I’m just trying to avoid see thru tops and exposed sports bras and that’s the extent of it. My office is usually pretty dead when I leave.

    • I had an internship with an office gym and exercise classes over lunch. I really liked the spin class, but I was always suuuper sweaty after. Classes always went long so if you had a 1pm meeting, you definitely had to leave early. I much prefer working out at night.

    • Anonymous :

      When I worked in a casual office and had a less stressful job pre-law school I would work out on my lunch break. I got a little sweaty, but just rinsed off quickly in the locker room and threw on some more deodorant and ended up totally fine. I didn’t do my most hard core cardio, but some light cardio and weights were completely manageable. I really miss that aspect of my first job!

    • I’m with you. My head sweats like crazy so if I get even minimally warm, my hair is soaked and I have to start all over again.

    • Agreed, if I’m working out enough for it to do my body any good, then I’m a sweaty red-faced mess afterwards & require a shower & hair wash after. So the only times I’ve used a work gym (& there’s been one at most of my jobs) is late in the day, say, 3 or 4pm, so I can either head straight home afterwards with damp hair or if I still have work to do, it’s lowkey stuff at my desk. Either that, or I have to wait till I get home for a run or something.

    • Anonymous :

      Yeah I don’t get how people do it. I sweat even just doing regular, non-intense yoga. I sweat when I blowdry my hair.

      • Elegant Giraffe :

        Yes!! I have to take breaks when I blowdry my hair! haha

      • Me TOO!. I get all hot and sweatey just walking all the way over to Lord and Taylor at lunch, but the steps count toward my 10000, so I do them. Beside’s there is no cross town bus that is particularley convenient for me to get there. FOOEY on that! But I do get my steps in with my new FITBIT CHARGE 2, and Dad is watching me as I do them! DOUBEL FOOEY! The FITBIT also buzzes like crazy when I hit 10,000 steps. Lucky it is on my wrist and not elsewhere or it would be REALLY exciting for me! But I ALSO use the fitbit to tell the time and it would not be conveninent anywhere else but on my wrist. YAY!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous :

    I go the the gym at lunch time and do the circuit of machines.Keeps me super toned and does not make me sweat. I do cardio before work, before my shower on weekdays. For cardio I just rope in my basement for 10 or 15 minutes. A few hundred jumps really is a good workout. Weekends I do the elliptical or stair climber at the gym. Not in a climate conducive to outdoor workout year round.

  3. ChiTown Atty :

    I sweat a ton…do cardio before work (at home – usually peloton so for those of you who know it, it makes most people super sweaty) but I only wash my hair once a week (it’s long and thick and takes forever to dry and straighten). So I wear a thick headband, hop in a cool shower when I’m done (wearing a shower cap) and then blow dry my roots. Swipe a flat iron over it and I’m good to go. I used to hit the gym at lunch when I had more time and I had the same routine — and if I looked silly in a shower cap in the gym shower, I didn’t really care. My office is casual which for me saves time on makeup and it also allows me to choose clothes that are more breathable. I take public transit, so the sweatiness is not just a workout thing — it’s a summer thing.

  4. Anonymous :

    I work out to get a break from work + other responsibilities. The last thing I want to see in the gym is a co-worker.

  5. Coach Laura :

    Candidate for worst boss in history – among his other habits he used to hang his sweaty workout clothes and towels to “dry” over the chairs in his office. It was right next to mine and I refused to enter his office after that.

    • Eew. Jeez, why?!

    • Former Parisian :

      Did we work for the same person? He would also hold meetings and conference calls at the table where his gym gear was drying, so it fell upon me to remove them. Yikes.

  6. I’ve just recently started using the gym at the office but I’m selective about what I’ll do mid-day. (I don’t mind getting sweaty at the end of the day if I don’t have to get back to my desk after.) I can do yoga or a barre class, no problem, but I probably wouldn’t run or do HIIT. Most of the classes start at 5 after the hour and last 40 minutes so I have time to rinse off and freshen up before I go back to my desk. I don’t wash off all of my makeup (I should, I know) and keep mascara, bronzer, Benefit POREfessional, a brush and some dry shampoo in my gym bag. It’s been a great way to relieve stress mid-day and it forces me to bring my lunch because I don’t have time to stand in line at the café on top of the workout so that’s a win. The only modification I’ve made to my workout gear is that I bought some high necked tanks to wear so that there’s no risk of cleavage showing while doing floor work or bending over.

  7. Marshmallow :

    I work out at a gym very near the office but not actually *in* the office. As far as I’m concerned, I will wear or do anything there I’d do at any other gym. I sometimes wear bra tops to spin and hot yoga, with a wrap for to/from the locker room. I’m not going to be uncomfortable in my clothes or choose not to do a “bouncy” workout class just because I’m close to the office.

    Usually I work out in the morning or at lunch so I have to go back to work. I get super red so I’ll usually do my hair and skincare in the locker room, but wait until I get back to my office for makeup to give my face some time to calm down. If I’m really in a rush (like a lunch class) I’ll put my wet hair in a bun or braid, then close my office door and let it air dry.

    I’m super not a fan of dumping work on subordinates (or having it dumped on me) just before a gym session. There are partners and senior associates at my firm who will go to the gym for over an hour in the middle of the day while associates wait on them for even quick yes or no answers. Totally inconsiderate.

  8. The only thing that has ever bothered me about midday exercising are the people that will wear their gym clothes for the rest of the day– and I don’t mean athleisure clothing that can pass for normal clothes in the most casual of offices. That was a trend in our office for a period of time last year that I’m glad seems to have passed!

  9. I don’t have to keep my lunch break to an hour, it usually takes me just under 90 minutes to and from my desk, to get to our office gym, change, work out, stretch, take a quick shower including washing my hair (the only thing I don’t wash is my face, because it would take too much time to re-do my makeup; I don’t get that sweaty on my face, I’m mostly doing heart rate 130-150 cardio and some weights, so it’s not like …unacceptably gross?) and changing, and I put my wet hair in a low bun, which I think looks fine.

  10. Question about this- I have several tattoos which are covered by my normal work uniform, but not my workout clothes. I have zero issue running into someone from my work (large corporation) at a private gym or yoga class, as has happened in the past, and no regrets about my tattoos being generally visible outside of work.

    However, during a conference last year, several HR reps sponsored morning workouts and in an effort to drum up participation, an HR rep responsible for my current position spoke directly to me about attending.

    The tattoo issue wound up making me nervous and I skipped the company classes for a private one. Did I overthink that?

  11. Tattoo Hider :

    I have some dramatic tattoo work on my arm that remains hidden when I’m working. I work a remote job so it’s not an issue day-to-day. But unless I’m traveling alone and there is absolutely no chance of running into a coworker/client/conference attendee/anybody who might recognize me, I just avoid the hotel gym. It’s just a line I don’t cross.

  12. I work out before work, and if I do it other than my gym, I shower in my office shower. I prefer to go to my office and drop my computer, etc before showering. But I think it is good for my employees to know that this is something I value in my own life.

  13. I occasionally work out at lunch. (Not very often, because the gym is a 10-15 minute drive depending on how you hit the lights.) When I do, I change before leaving work, so I have the return ride to cool down and stop sweating. I also will roll the windows down in acceptable weather and finger comb my hair to help it dry. I try not to do a super intense workout where I will still be red and sweaty afterwards. It helps that I live in a dry climate. When I lived on the East Coast I’d be sweating for like 90 minutes after walking two blocks from the subway. Anyway, back at the office, I wash my face and pits with a face wipe and put on more deodorant. I’ll dry shampoo my hair if need be. I usually wear headbands while working out, so if my hair isn’t cooperating afterward I’ll just put it up for the rest of the day. I don’t wear much makeup so I might just need to reapply mascara and tinted lip balm.

    If we had an on-site gym, I’d feel comfortable saying dress code doesn’t apply. It’s a gym. That being said, for the sake of professionalism, I’d expect all the guys to be wearing shirts and I wouldn’t go wearing a crop top and spankies.

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