So, you realize its time to take your workouts to the next level in order to achieve your weight loss and fitness goals. Perhaps you've outgrown those dumbbells in your dusty basement or you are bored with your current workouts. Maybe the variety of exercise possibilities in a gym is a motivator.

Navigating the maze of equipment in a gym can be daunting; navigating the unwritten rules and unseen territory of other users' workouts can be even more confusing.

Many people find a gym, particularly the weight-lifting area, intimidating. Becoming comfortable quickly is important to your fitness progress. Here are a few tips to make your journey easier.

First of all, keep in mind the gym is a shared resource. The object is to have as much variety and equipment available as possible. That's a plus for your workout. But, you also have to be mindful of others who share the space.

1. Wear appropriate clothing. Never wear tight clothing, too-short shorts or revealing clothes. They can be distracting, which will get you no points with others, and may be downright embarrassing. What looks good when you pose in front of a mirror might be a horror when you are lifting weights in some of the improbable poses weight lifting demands, no matter what your shape or size. Avoid ripped or torn clothing (it can get caught in machinery!) and make sure clothing is clean.

2. Wipe down benches and equipment after use. Most gyms provide antibacterial spray bottles and towels for this purpose. If not, you must carry your own sweat towel.

3. Avoid excessive makeup, cologne or aftershave.

Makeup + Sweat = Acne
Cologne + Sweat = Air Pollution

'nuf said?

4. Secure and downsize hair. I actually once saw a long ponytail get caught in a weight stack. Instant whiplash! It was not a pretty sight and the wearer was plenty embarrassed but, ultimately, everything comes down to safety and this could have caused a serious injury. Most injuries in the gym are caused by carelessness.

5. Rerack ALL weights after use. Return bars and dumbbells to their appropriate location. This is a safety issue as well as a courtesy to others. Unload your weights from any bar or machine after you use it. Make sure nothing is left on the floor that might trip someone.

6. Don't hang out or socialize on the gym floor or, even worse, on the equipment. Take conversations to the snack bar, the parking lot or the lobby. Leave your cell phone in the locker or your car. If you have questions about equipment or an exercise, ask a gym associate or trainer.

7. Never crowd another lifter. This is a hard one during peak gym hours but placement is important. You don't want to find yourself in the path of a lifter doing lateral raises with 80 lb. dumbbells. Also, don't pick a spot to do your exercise that is in between another lifter and the mirror. (Mirrors, by the way, are used to assess proper form, not for doing hair, applying lipstick or posing.) Another spot to avoid is any position that makes it impossible for others to reach a rack and retrieve weights. Long stretching routines should be taken to the stretching mats or area. Please don't decide to do your yoga poses in the weight room or, worse, in the aisles between equipment.

8. Vacate equipment between sets. If you are doing more than one set, leave the machine or bench between sets. You may not realize someone is waiting for that piece of equipment. I have seen exercisers hang around for long intervals between sets, staring at the ground or even reading a book! If you want to read, you should be in the library or coffee shop.

9. If you are doing multi-sets, accommodate others who need the equipment. Likewise, ask to work in politely if someone is hogging the equipment. It's probably not a good idea to ask to work in if there's a huge difference in weights (free weights) or bench position. On machines with weight stacks, it's an easy switch to pull the pin and change the weight being used so there's not much excuse if someone won't work in with you there.

10. Avoid gym jerks. Will there be jerks who refuse to share equipment, snarl at you if you ask for a spot and leave a mess behind them? Yes. There will be others who feel they have to grunt and groan through their entire set or otherwise attempt to command the attention of others. There are lots of words for these people and I will not mention them here. The important thing to remember is that these are rarities in the gym. It's best to ignore them and move on, keeping your focus on your workout.

Despite what you may think, most people come to a gym to work and work hard. Respecting this work ethic and cooperating with other gym-goers helps create an environment where everyone can accomplish their goals.

Author's Bio: 

Pat Barone earned her title "America's Weight Loss Catalyst" by coaching thousands of clients toward permanent weight loss. Her status as an expert is heightened by her own personal weight loss success. Receive her free newsletter "The Catalyst" by visiting