ask the readers: etiquette for the office gym — changing, showering, attire, and other terrifying questions

A reader writes:

Could you share workplace gym etiquette? I work at a relatively small community college that has a gym, locker rooms and workout classes. I routinely see my colleagues and students using the facility and I have started to use it, as well.

Could you share guidelines for changing or showering in front of students/colleagues, appropriate gym attire, and workout activities to avoid? The women’s locker room has individual showers, but the men’s locker room only has a communal shower.

I think you’re better guided by others on this than by me because the idea of standing around naked with colleagues or students fills me with horror, but I know that some people are blasé about it. I’ll throw this out to readers for input.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 329 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    – Don’t go talk to work people at the gym about work stuff if you see them there. Just say hi and get on with your own workout. They don’t want to hang out with work people when they’re working out.

    – Practice shower entropy – spread out as much as possible in the stalls or space provided.

    – Don’t return to work in sweaty workout clothes. Change at the gym

    1. Liana*

      Ooh, good point about not talking to coworkers about work stuff. I think that would drive me crazy if that happened to me.

      1. voyager1*

        Yeah I don’t get the second one either. The work shower/locker room isn’t a free for all to take over and clutter up with stuff.

        1. Anne S*

          I read it as ‘don’t put your stuff in the locker next to your co-worker – go find one in a different aisle’.

          1. Anon Guy*

            Nice to say, but the gym gods have determined that, if there are only two people in a company locker room, they will always end up having the lockers adjacent to each other! It just works out that way!

        2. Elle the new Fed*

          I think she means don’t stand right next to the one person in the shower. Spread out. Especially for the men.

          1. Kassy*

            I think Elle is correct – I’m not a man, but I think they have a similar rule for urinal etiquette – leave one open urinal between you and the next person if at all possible.
            So something like that.

            1. Allison*

              Don’t we ladies also try to do this in the restroom, leaving one open stall between us whenever possible?

              Heck even on the subway I don’t sit right next to someone if it can be avoided.

              1. The Optimizer*

                I always leave at least a stall between if I can. For the life of me, I do not understand why not everyone else does. WHere I used to work, we had 8 stalls. For certain trips, I would almost always use the last stall out of courtesy. Many, many (too many) times someone would come in and use the stall right next to despite have 6 others to choose from.

                So glad to work from home where I only have to bitch at the cats for insisting on using their box (and staring at me) while I am in the bathroom now!

                1. TowerofJoy*

                  I pick whichever stall is the cleanest. Hopefully its also far away from a person using one, but my first priority is a non-nasty stall.

              2. TootsNYC*

                I never leave a stall between. That’s why there are walls. I’m not walking 5 more steps just to avoid being in the stall next to you.

                Similarly, on a bus or subway, I won’t leave a gap if it means I have to walk farther than I want to. Five or six steps, definitely. But more? Eh, I’ll just sit here. After all, somebody will sooner or later.

                1. Vulcan social worker*

                  I take it you mean you’ll sit in the seat behind someone and not leave a row gap, rather than right up on someone. I don’t see the need to leave a row in between on the bus. A seat if it’s the sideways seats where it’s one long bench.

                  One time on the bus, there were lots of empty seats — as in no one needed to double up and sit right next to someone — but a man came and sat right next to me. I didn’t say anything though I thought it was weird. He didn’t touch me at first, but then slightly started touching his side against mine. I moved closer to the window. So he moved over a little so he was touching me again. Thinking I was imagining it, I moved a little closer to the window. He moved closer so he was touching me again. So I loudly told him to stop touching me. I guess he wasn’t accustomed to women calling him out on that behavior, because he got right up without a word, pulled the cord to request a stop, and got off the bus.

                  The only other times anyone has sat right next to me like that on an empty bus has been Jehovah’s witnesses trying to give me literature. I have taken to always wearing earphones on the bus and subway though half the time I’m not even listening to anything. It seems like it’s never good if the bus is empty and someone wants to sit close.

                2. fposte*

                  @Vulcan social worker–I did once strategically sit next to somebody on a long-distance train when there were still seats empty. It was clear that the train was going to fill up, and if I chose an empty seat I didn’t get to choose my seatmate for the next fourteen hours, whereas if I sat down next to somebody, I could have my druthers.

              3. Stephanie*

                Yeah, I didn’t even realize that was a thing. I get the urinals (perhaps), just because they’re a lot closer…but the stalls have walls.

                Public transit, sometimes. If it’s an empty car/bus, yeah I’ll go for my own seat out of comfort.

              4. fposte*

                To me movie theaters are the inviolate example of the rule. If you sit next to me in a movie theater when there’s space for you not to, it’s side-eye time.

                1. wellywell*

                  I am having “It’s side-eye time” (with appropriate graphic) printed on a t-shirt. And refrigerator magnets. And bumper stickers, and key chains and…

                2. Donna*

                  Ugh…people in movie theaters seem to love me. It doesn’t matter where I sit, there is always a family who will position themselves so that one child is a seat away from me. I think it’s because I look too normal.

                3. Shortie*

                  Although…I have to say…it drives me batty when a theater starts crowding up and people don’t scoot over. You see couples walking in looking for two seats together, and they end up having to sit apart because there are 25 single “gap seats” peppered around the theater, but no two seats together. Perhaps the gap rule should be to leave 2 seats at the theater/bar/whatever when you can and/or to pay attention to what’s going on and slide over when things start crowding up.

              5. The Optimizer*

                And here I thought I was being courteous by not forcing people to waft in my unavoidable aromas by leaving that extra space! Now I know it’s all just extra exercise, so I guess it’s an added bonus for me.

              6. Kassy*

                I didn’t think about that, but yes, we do. And no one wants to take the end stalls because of that huge gap between the stall and the wall!

              7. Temperance*

                I jokingly refer to people who lack basic social etiquette like this (like the freaking monsters who will make a beeline to sit next to a woman on the train, even though the train is like 75% empty) as serial killers.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            Yes – that’s what I meant. Like in an elevator – spread out so you’re equidistant from each other. Don’t crowd.

            1. Kate M*

              Exactly. To me, this means, if there are 5 stalls in a bathroom, the first person goes in stall number one. Then the second person goes into stall number 5. The third person goes into stall number 3. Only then are stalls 2 and 4 fair game. (Of course, this is when it’s not busy. If you’re in line, take whichever one is open).

              I use this practice for any seats, bathroom, treadmills that are in a row, anything like that.

              1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                I’m now imagining lines and boarding calls for taking bathroom breaks.

                “I’m sorry, but this is a first-class stall. You’ll need to wait for one of the back stalls to open.”

              2. Allisonthe5th*

                Yes!! People who do not understand this make me crazy. I had no idea some people were unaware of this rule. I thought it was common knowledge!

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I go into my favorite stall. If it’s not open, I pick another without thinking too much about people in the other stalls. It’s a stall–I’m not sitting in an open area staring at you.

                  On public transport, I’ll leave space between people if there is some. At peak time or rush hour, if I fits I sits (or stands, as the case may be).

                  Tube hint: if you’re traveling at peak time and you have long hair, stuff it down your collar or clip it because if you have to stand next to the window between carriages and it’s open, your hair will blow wildly around into people’s faces. Just trust me on this.

                2. LD*

                  There are two kinds of people in the world, those who know “the rules” and those who have no idea that rules exist! The “knowers” are always crazed and the “unknowers” go about their lives happy and oblivious to the craze they leave in their wake.

              3. cinammoncookieroll*

                If it is a public restroom, then the last stall to be taken should be the handicapped stall, spacing doesn’t come into play

            2. Gene*

              But I’m the guy who will sometimes get on a nearly full elevator and not face front. I’ll just stand in front of the door and look at people. It’s fun, you should try it sometime.

          3. gsa*

            For men?

            I played collegiate sports and the shower heads were three feet on center.

            The rules are the same. Don’t stare and if see or hear something that is not your thing, don’t stare or comment.

            Other than that…

      2. Gene*

        I think what she’s saying is, especially in a communal shower, if there’s someone in there, don’t take the nozzle right next to them – use the other corner.

      3. VGN*

        I interpreted the second suggestion as spreading yourself out from other people – don’t use the shower and locker right next to your coworker if there is another shower/locker further away.

      4. Katie*

        Pretty sure Katie the Fed means that you should be as far away from all of your colleagues/students as possible, not that you should clutter the space with your belongings. So if there are 5 available lockers next to your colleague, take the 5th one so you’re as far away as possible when changing. Same goes for workout equipment.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          Hmm, I think she meant what she said, but Hund’s rule would be a nice simple guideline! Downside is it gives me less to think about once I’m showering in my prescribed stall.

    2. hermit crab*

      SHOWER ENTROPY. I love it. As a long-time member of various swim teams, I have been following this practice for nearly my entire life and never that it had such a perfect name until now. :)

      1. Sally-O*

        Although, an organized system of spreading out based on the people who are already occupying the space is not entropy.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          Well, it’s not increasing entropy, but it’s certainly easily described in terms of entropy. Perhaps the locker room should have a sign saying “Please minimize entropy.”

        2. Sarah*

          I think it’s a reference to thermodynamic equilibrium of a closed system (the state with the highest probability of developing unassisted over time, or the state with the most entropy) of a gas in a closed space for which temperature, pressure, and density will tend to equalize over time. I.e., if you put cool gas in a chamber and add a ball of hot gas in one corner of it, the molecules moving faster in that corner will tend to spread out and distribute their kinetic energy to the cooler gas molecules elsewhere, so the end result will be a warm gas that’s evenly distributed throughout the chamber. Similar principle to showerers evenly distributing themselves throughout the available shower space. It’s not actually random, the way a gas arriving at thermal equilibrium is, but it superficially resembles the end result.

          1. Ultraviolet*

            Yeah, there is a superficial resemblance. But if you’re describing the system in terms of entropy, the distinction between gas in thermal equilibrium and a set of shower stalls occupied by people trying to maintain a certain distance from their neighbors is very important.

    3. Dorothy Mantooth*

      I had to read that second tip a few times… I just pictured someone standing with their arms and legs spread out taking up extra space, which seemed counterproductive to the goal haha.

  2. Kasia*

    Don’t walk around naked/barely clothed. These are your coworkers and they need to see you around the office without knowing what you look like naked.

    I’ve seen coworkers doing their hair/makeup with no pants on and I just want to say WHYYYYYYY!?

    1. Judy*

      Our Y has the supplied towels, but they’re not large enough to wrap anyone bigger than my 10 year old. I use them for drying off, but I bring a larger towel from home for going to and from my locker to the shower. As I’m getting undressed, I won’t pick up my larger towel until all my clothes are off, but I always face into my locker and don’t dilly dally. When I’m done in the shower, I usually put my underpants on under the towel and then my bra gets put on while I’m dropping my towel.

      My personal locker room rules are: Don’t hang around naked. Keep your eyes on your own business. Give other people space. Get it done and then go visit in the lobby if you need to visit.

      I’ve not used communal showers since high school, and to my knowledge only 3 or 4 of the women I work with are members at the Y.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I disagree with the implication that you can avoid people seeing you naked if you change in the locker room. In the gyms I used you do get naked at some point before and after leaving the shower stall; don’t perform all sorts of machinations to avoid that or try to dry off and dress in the shower especially if others are waiting. I do understand and agree that once you get to the stage of hair and makeup you should be mostly dressed (although I bet they’re not wearing pants because they are still trying to cool down and want to avoid sweating in their work clothes before they even leave the gym).

      I do suppose I fall into the blase category. It was odd when I first started using the work gym, but you get comfortable with it and forget about the being naked part pretty quickly. The only really odd thing I can think of would be blatantly checking people out or judging their bodies. You just kind of ignore the fact that they’re naked, act normal, and hurry up with whatever you’re doing.

      1. the gold digger*

        I’m with you. It’s a gym. We change clothes. We are all women. We’ve all seen it. I have nothing to flaunt, but I am not going to contort myself so someone else does not have to cast eyes upon my chubby middle-aged nekkid body.

        1. Kasia*

          I think-for me- the difference being a work-gym vs a regular gym. Also, there is a difference between going about your business and getting changed/drying off/etc and walking around naked/partially clothed for extended periods of time.

          1. the gold digger*

            I can see that. But I feel this way at my work gym, too. Of course, I have never been a particularly modest or squeamish person, so the context does not really matter to me.

            The only time I have been squeamish about nudity was when I was traveling with a male friend in Europe and we went to a topless beach. I didn’t care if total strangers saw me topless, but I did not want my non-boyfriend male friend to see me that way.

          2. fposte*

            I think in general walking around in the locker room for extended periods of time is kind of weird. The reason naked is no problem for me is because it’s a locker room; if you start treating it as a lounge, coffeehouse, or conference room then I’m going to start finding the nakedness weird after all.

            1. Chinook*

              ” if you start treating it as a lounge, coffeehouse, or conference room then I’m going to start finding the nakedness weird after all.”

              As someone who has done naked Japanese bathing with (female) coworkers, I noticed that even in Japanese bathhouses where everyone is naked for 90% of the time, it is frowned upon to walk around naked and socialize in the locker room. Or stand around with one leg on the bench and the other on the ground, chatting with someone on the same bench. You may not hide in towels to get change, but you are in the locker room for a purpose, not to chit chat (that is what the lounge outside is for).

              And AAM, if you thought changing with a coworker would make you squeamish, you wouldn’t have made it with my colleagues (both Japanese and foreign) as we eventually got to a point where we could talk about body hair and other difference in cultural/ethnic body care practices.

        2. irritable vowel*

          Agreed. I’ve been topless or in underwear with my coworkers at the gym, and it’s not a big deal to me at all. It might be different if I had a boss or employee of the same sex — not sure it’s as appropriate for people along different points in a power/reporting structure to be unclothed — but these have always been people who I was just friendly with in the office and we went to the gym together at lunch. Boobs are boobs, we all have them. And we’re just changing, not lounging around naked. Transitory nudity!

      2. Chicken*

        I think there’s a big difference between functional nudity and casual nudity at the gym. Functional = in order to change, I have to take off my clothes. I am no longer 12 and trying to hide my body at all costs, so if someone glances over at me while I am changing, they will see me naked. Casual nudity = I am wandering around naked, blow drying my hair naked, etc. This is fine generally in a locker room, but is best to avoid at a work gym. Though I would totally blow dry my hair wearing a bra and not a shirt to avoid getting hot/sweaty.

        1. janice*

          Yes, you may be comfortable as all heck with your own and others’ nudity … it does not mean that feeling is reciprocal.

          I used to go to the gym with a dear friend and coworker who talked work nonstop while she was changing, meaning she stood there nude and talked and talked. It was very uncomfortable for me.

      3. snuck*

        I tend to use the shower stalls. I’m not sure what your’s are like but everyone I’ve ever been to (in Australia) has been a shower, a little half width wall, a small bench with hooks above it, then the door to the main room. It might have a shower curtain or no door, but you’ve got that little corner to undress, hang your towel, stick your bottles and so on. I undress there, And put underwear on there at a minimum.

        I don’t want to ever see my colleagues naked. Not ever. I’m not a prude, I just don’t think I can ask them to deliver on a deadline or a favour when five minutes before I was seeing their belly button. It’s about letting people have their armour as much as anything.

        1. SaltyOperator*

          This reminds me of how “Just imagine everyone is naked!” is actually terrible advise for getting over stage fright/public speaking anxiety/feeling uncomfortable addressing people. It was repeatedly suggested to me as a kid (before finding a way to do it that worked for me). Not a prude either, bodies are bodies and we all have ’em! But picturing people naked does not put me at ease or inspire humor.

          Personally I’d probably be pretty indifferent to changing when a coworker happened to be doing the same (whether at a work or outside gym), but I like the idea in one of the comments above of the functionally naked vs casually naked. At home I’ll rock the birthday suit doing whatever get-ready routine or chores! At a gym? I’m just naked to get clean and change clothing, not chat it up and air dry or hang out

    3. Bowserkitty*

      I’ve seen coworkers doing their hair/makeup with no pants on and I just want to say WHYYYYYYY!?

      I do this…at home. By myself. With my cat as my only audience. Air drying is nice after a quick towel dry.

      That said, I don’t think I condone it in public!!

      1. Bob, short for Kate*

        I’m guessing the previous commenter meant American pants i.e. trousers, rather than British pants i.e. knickers.

        As you were.

    4. CMT*

      Ehh, if someone has a problem seeing me naked, that’s their problem, not mine. Everybody is naked under their clothes. Everybody has a body.

      1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        This is exactly my attitude. If you have a problem with nakedness that’s on you. I’m going to go right ahead and walk naked to the showers after I got out of my gym clothes – I’m not putting a clean towel on my sweaty body that I’ll have to re-use after the shower just because someone else is uncomfortable seeing nakedness in a locker room.

    5. Fluffer Nutter*

      AARGH, the Militantly Nude. There was a woman at my old yoga studio who insisted upon fully blow drying her very long hair while buck nekked. Look around, notice that NOBODY ELSE is doing this. I feel for men- the non-private shower would just not be an option.

      1. Jules the First*

        I spent a few days in Iceland this year where we made extensive use of the municipal pool – where you must shower naked, with soap, before entering the pool and remove wet bathing things and dry off completely before reentering the (therefore bone dry and clean!) locker area. There were a few tourists contorting themselves under towels in a corner, but for the most part, everyone was very chilled out.

        It threw me briefly when a fully clothed woman asked me to help lock her locker while I was on my way to the showers, but otherwise I was all ‘my people! Nakedness is not embarassing!’

        1. Withans*

          Hah, yes, I was going to say something similar! I worked in Iceland for a few months when I was a teenager, and it has completely skewed my perceptions of how much public nudity is acceptable. Apparently I swam at Bjork’s local pool – I never saw her, but man that would have been a weird locker room experience. And this year I’ve been doing poledancing classes where you’re gonna spend the entire class prancing around in basically underwear anyway so why not get changed in front of the rest of the class beforehand? My country dancing class has been less blase about this…

  3. MCR*

    I can’t comment on the men’s shower situation since I’m a woman, but in my office, it’s fine to change clothes and stuff in the locker room. Just face the locker, don’t look at anyone else changing, and be quick about it. I think any type of standard gym attire is generally fine, just keep your shirt on and avoid cameltoe-inducing bottoms.

    1. 12345678910112 do do do*

      just keep your shirt on and avoid cameltoe-inducing bottoms

      I think this should be standard gym attire regardless.

      1. sunny-dee*

        If this won’t get me banned … anything so tight that it rides up into your hoo-ha and outlines it.

          1. The IT Manager*

            You know, I just learned about cameltoe myself recently via a funny video that didn’t make sense until I googled it. I feel like it makes point about what we consider appropraite attire now a days that we have a word for this fashion faux pas. On the other hand I wonder who invented the because camels are not common enough in America that it feels like it would spring up here.

            1. Alienor*

              I don’t know, I remember cameltoe being rampant when I was a high school student in the mid-80s, so at least 30 years ago. Jeans were super-tight and it was de rigueur to wear leggings as pants (although long shirts and sweaters were also in, so maybe that compensated a little).

    2. irritable vowel*

      Yeah, being in the locker room in general, but especially with coworkers, is just a keep your eyes on your own paper situation. Some people feel they need to change in the bathroom stalls but I think it’s easy enough to preserve modesty in the general locker room. No one really WANTS to ogle you. And as for the students, I work at a big university so it’s not like I know them personally, but I kind of take it as a public service that they get to see what older women’s bodies look like. :)

  4. Liana*

    I don’t have a workplace gym so I don’t know how useful I’m going to be, but I know that I have several coworkers who have a membership at the same gym I do and I am TERRIFIED of accidentally running into them and either seeing them naked or having them see me naked (I’m arguably more scared of the second one, actually). I feel your pain, Alison.

    To the OP: I don’t know what time of day you generally work out, but if you live close enough to work could you just shower at home? I live close to both work and the gym, so I’ll usually drive to the gym, do my thing, and then drive home (5 minutes each way) to shower. I wouldn’t recommend this for longer drives, but if it’s short enough, it could be an option. If that’s not doable, I think common courtesy would be to just keep to yourself while you’re getting changed and keep your towel on as long as possible.

    1. Natalie*

      Or if you don’t mind driving home sweaty, work out after work, and then drive home and shower there.

    2. Ife*

      I do the shower-at-home thing when I use my work gym. Two reasons this works for me: (1) I clean up with a damp towel and soap if I’m really sweaty, and (2) I don’t usually get that sweaty to begin with. That usually makes me feel clean enough to get back to the house and shower.

  5. Claudia*

    I find this terrifying…

    The idea that I might be showering with someone who has control over my next raise or promotion makes me very uncomfortable.

    As long as you keep these things in mind, it seems like a rather nice bonus. But I agree with Katie the Fed – NEVER go back to work in sweaty clothes! Depending on your work environment, I’d go for a more modest set gym clothes. You never know who you will meet, or by what they might judge you. (Yes, it should always be the quality of work, but we know better.)

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      At OldOldJob there was a guy famous for working out IN WORK CLOTHES by running strenuously on the treadmill for a while, then going back to his desk all sweaty. Everyone knew that the time to ask him questions was the morning, never after lunch!

    2. M-C*

      At AnotherOldJob, we had a pack of runners. They’d go off together, and when they came back instead of immediately going to take showers and change back into regular clothes, they’d all wander over and chat about work while they cooled off. So you’d be typing away, and find yourself with your boss’ sweaty balls right at eye level which he nattered on obliviously for sometimes nearly an hour at a time. Not one of my fondest memories. And I even liked the guy when he was dressed and doing his job. People, never ever omit the changing back step after the gym!

  6. 12345678910112 do do do*

    The one thing I miss about working for the Navy – we were given 3 hours per week on the clock to work out at the on-base facilities, which were top-notch. They even had workout classes, and since we were trying to keep up with the servicemembers who had physical fitness requirements the classes were amazing. So I would work out as hard as I normally would and then take a nice shower. I kept shower supplies at work and just loaded them into my bag with my workout clothes on the way to the gym, and I would bring fresh underoos and socks as well. Hairdryers were also provided with the showers, and towel service! I could go back to work looking as fresh as when I’d left, and my brain was usually refreshed as well. Now, I have access to a work facility that, while not as awesome, is still better than the consumer gym near my home. However, I haven’t yet figured out the logistics of time management and getting clean, etc., so I’ll be eagerly reading the suggestions on this post.

    1. Crissy from HR*

      Also came here to talk about how awesome military gyms are! The gyms on post were amazing when I was Active Duty and when I was activated at my Reserve unit and got to use the fancy schmancy gym on the base across the street.

      I still use them whenever I can– I’m not afraid of seeing Army nudity, but the thought of civilian coworkers seeing me in my underthings for a moment at the gym near our building freaks me out.

  7. no gifts*

    I second the advice to not really talk, just say hi and get on with your business. I see my students in my gym’s locker room all the time and this strategy works for us.

    As for workout activities to avoid, I would avoid any that you don’t enjoy doing, and feel free to do whatever excercise activities work for you! No sane person is going to think “hm, Martha sure was huffing and puffing a lot while doing squats, better not promote her.” Everyone else is there to work out too, and they are focused on what they’re doing: not what anyone else is doing.

    1. Trademark*

      The only caveat I would say to that is, if you are one of those people who tends to make a lot of… ‘noise’ when you’re lifting, perhaps leave that for another session, or don’t go as ‘hard’ as you normally would…. There is a woman at my gym who does this (who I don’t even work with, mind you!) and it is awkward as hell for everyone in the gym (I’m talking, she either sounds like someone in the throes of a particular good orgasm (can I say that??? ) or being horridly murdered by her own dumbbells). Not trying to say there is anything wrong with thoroughly enjoying your workout, but perhaps if it’s a work gym, you might want to rethink chucking that extra 10kg on there!

        1. Trademark*

          Ha-ha, I wish! But seriously, this woman is worse :(

          I’m all for getting really involved in your workout, but if you think you might be one of those people, I suggest maybe try to tone it down a bit! No one you work with needs to know how you sound during orgasm :/

    2. snuck*

      Some of this might have been covered…

      These are your work mates, maybe not today, but occasionally or in a future role. I personally feel a level of respect and decorum is in place. You don’t wear a micro mini skirt to the office, don’t wear short shorts to the office gym?

      Usual gym rules would apply – don’t take up a piece of equipment too long, wipe equipment down after using it, don’t leave crap lying in the way of others, pick up after yourself, don’t do stupid dangerous things like lift super heavy free weights without a spotter, don’t gabber on your phone/listen to loud music/stand around and gossip with mates where others are working out/preserve the quiet.

      And then I’d add in:
      Make sure your gym clothes are clean and not stinky – you might wrinkle your nose at a pongy random but you’ll remember if it was Betty from Accounts Payable.
      Cut down your beauty routine, and do it where it’s not bothering others – keep it quick and neat. If you find you HAVE to blow dry your hair consider pony tails after a workout, or doing a workout at the end of the day etc – taking an extra 40mins to primp shouldn’t come out of your work day.
      Maintain polite deference to senior people. This is still your management team.
      Have somewhere to store your stuff. Make sure it’s out of the way and if it’s smelly wrap it in a plastic bag.
      Don’t go on and on about it. Everyone hates the gym guy, don’t be the gym guy.

      Exercises to avoid? Anything that will make you ill. If you are going to vomit after every workout scale it back. If you are having palpitations scale it back. Aside from that anything that makes you uncomfortable – trust your inner voice and go with it. If you want to stretch and don’t want your backside or crotch exposed do it facing a wall a different way off to the side then. If someone points out what you are doing is dangerous listen and go home and research it (if you don’t have a personal trainer to ask) and work out what a safe way to do what you want is. If you disagree and have done your research smile and treat it the same as someone telling you how to make your own coffee.

  8. Cath in Canada*

    I cycle to work most days, and shower when I arrive. The locker room has a single shower stall, a toilet stall, and a general use area. There’s usually no queue, so I can get dressed in the shower stall – but if people are waiting (I always ask if anyone needs the shower as soon as I turn the water off), I just quickly dry off, throw on undies and a towel, and step out to finish getting dressed in the general use area. When I get changed to ride home I just change in the general use area. It’s fairly common to have other people in there at the same time, including people I work with closely.

    For me, the key is just to act totally normal – say hi, chat about the weather or your commute or whatever – while you get on with whatever you’re doing as if you weren’t partially clothed. Other people sometimes act awkward when they first walk in, but I just power on through it and it passes.

    Don’t ever be totally naked in front of anyone. Ick! I would not be using a communal shower.

    Don’t be creepy! No staring.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      Oh, and don’t ever reference locker room encounters when you meet that person in any other work situation. Yes, you’ve seen the tattoo on the back of my shoulder now. It’s fine to say “oh, cool tattoo” or whatever while we’re both in the locker room. Do not mention it in front of other people during lunch a few days later.

  9. Anne S*

    Don’t talk to your co-workers, even small talk, while they’re changing. (Thanks, co-worker I used to run into at the gym next to the office!)

    1. ElCee*

      See I don’t get this. Does “hi” count as small talk? It’s really weird to pretend you don’t know the person just because you happen to be changing.

    2. Oryx*

      This might be an office culture thing. At the locker room in our office gym we talk about all sorts of things while all of us are changing.

  10. The Other Dawn*

    I’m with Alison on this one. There’s no way in hell I would shower with colleagues and students. I’d find a way to time my workout so I can go right home and shower. Or I would pick an activity that only requires a little freshening up.

    1. Green*

      Yes. I’m not a man, but I would never ever shower with colleagues and especially not students. I am not your lawyer, but that would also be my legal advice.

      1. Susan the BA*

        Are you *a* lawyer though? Because I don’t understand why this could be a legal problem. You’re using the official workplace gym, not sneaking around or going out of your way to see your colleagues naked. You’re using the showers to shower, not showering in the emergency eyewash station in the middle of the hallway.

        I’m not a lawyer at all and I have no problem with people avoiding this if it’s their personal preference, I’m just confused about how someone could get into legal trouble for using facilities that their workplace offers for their intended purpose.

        1. Green*

          I am *a* lawyer, but IANYL is how lawyers tend to respond to hypotheticals on the internet so people know not to take it as legal advice they can rely upon in an attorney/client relationship kind of way.

          The employer should have separate stalls for showering available. But if I were a professor, I would not utilize showers with my students. It would be very easy for someone who was disturbed or otherwise unsatisfied with their grade to concoct a believable story if you’re ever alone in the shower. (You’d then have to say that, yes, you were alone together in the shower, but, no, nothing happened.) People may also feel uncomfortable if you space out and your eyes linger too long when you’re glancing around. Being naked with people you supervise is putting yourself at risk.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I agree. My husband works at a university (staff, not faculty, but he does work closely with students) and he regularly uses the campus gym and showers afterward. I think they have individual stalls, but even so, he’s not showering WITH students or colleagues – just in their general vicinity. There’s no legal issue as long as he (or anyone) behaves professionally and minds his own business.

      2. AnotherFed*

        Right, if people who report to you or who are your students are in there, then make sure you’re never alone with a student, and that you don’t show off more skin than your swimsuit would.

        If it’s just a normal office gym, and you’re not a supervisor, do whatever you want (as long as you aren’t stinky in the office or creepy about touching/staring).

    2. Ad Astra*

      OP, if showering at the gym is an important part of your routine, you might consider investing in a nice fluffy robe or one of those towel dresses. This minimizes the risk of a colleague or student seeing you naked, which would cause a great deal of discomfort for me and probably a lot of other people in that situation. I don’t think it’s a huge deal if someone you know accidentally sees something private in a locker room, but you probably don’t want to be that lady who just doesn’t care and is always letting it all hang out — at least not at the company gym.

      I don’t think it’s inappropriate or weird to be in your underwear or a towel or some form of “not dressed” in front of these people, but the fully naked thing would weird me out. That may just be my own hangup, but it’s a very common hangup to have.

      1. Kate the Little Teapot*

        I am a full-on prude. I have a silky robe that is very light and easily packs in my bag that I put on after drying off in the shower and then wear for hair drying, doing makeup, applying lotion, etc.

        That way I don’t have to hang around the locker room naked. I then can put my underwear on under the robe and move as quickly as possible into my other layers, thus limiting the amount of my body I expose (although we are not 12 and I think brief periods of nudity in front of your locker are totally okay).

        I know that not everyone is like me but I don’t think it’s a bad practice for a work gym.

  11. NYC Redhead*

    I would probably err on the side of extreme modesty and either change before heading over to the gym, change in a bathroom stall and work out at the end of the day and go home sweaty to shower there.
    As far as attire, though (and as a woman), I think leggings and a t-shirt would be fine. I don’t think any activities would be out of bounds.

  12. Big10Professor*

    I generally try to avoid specific times when I will run into my students. Going early in the morning pretty much takes care of that.

    1. Bibliovore*

      This- I go to the gym at 5:45 and after three years, I have not seen any students in the shower.

  13. MK*

    I am not sure exactly what you are asking here, OP. Are you wondering whether certain things are unprofessional? Or just about the awkwardness of the situation?

    Generally speaking, I don’t think any workout activities are inappropriate in themselves; only an immature idiot would, say, snicker, if they saw the college admin bending down in an aerobics class. Nor do I think you should cover yourself to go to the jym as if your were going to the office (for example, the common rule “no armpits showing” doesn’t necerssarily make sense there). I would stay away from too revealing clothes, but then again to the jym I dress for comfort anyway.

    Changing or showering also doesn’t have to be a problem in theory, but I admit I would never do either in front of people I work with, way too akward for me. But if you don’t have a problem with it, I think it’s safe to say that anyone who uses a facility like the one you describe would be similarly unaffected.

  14. Gene*

    Basic gym etiquette. Keep your grunting to yourself, don’t drop equipment, wipe down anything you sweat on, PUT. THE. WEIGHTS. BACK., no ogling, all your stuff doesn’t need to be on the locker room bench, allow others to work in.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      +100. If you’re strong enough to squat the 45s on the bar in the rack, you’re strong enough to put them back when you’re done. Leave the bar bare when you’re through. Not that I’m annoyed or anything…

    2. moss*

      Came here to say this. No screaming grunts, no dropping weights with a bang, wipe down after yourself and NO CURLS IN THE SQUAT CAGE.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        It’s the culture in my gym to welcome screaming and dropping weights, but my gym is full of meatheads. :)

        You mean, no squatting in the curl cage/bench press cage? /s

    3. Hotstreak*

      Yes, don’t be a jerk! Use your normal gym manners. Only difference between the office and regular gym is that you will see the people at the office gym all day every day, you may not see folks from a regular gym throughout the day. So things you don’t mind doing in front of strangers, like air drying naked, should be restricted.

  15. Kristine*

    When I shower at the gym I do the “quick rinse”: face the shower head and let it spritz you for a few moments while holding the towel up behind you, then turn around to rinse the other side. Stay covered with the towel when changing. Should have a minimal chance of accidental flashing.

    I don’t worry much about gym attire. I doubt my coworkers would lose all respect for me if they saw me in a pair of spandex leggings and a sweaty t-shirt. But I’m the sort of person who doesn’t wear makeup to work unless there’s an Important Meeting so to each his/her own.

  16. Kelly*

    I have the lovely distinction of working nights – my workouts are a 0300 and I generally have the gym to myself. That being said, my locker used to be in front of the door and my boss occasionally works out at the same time. Here’s what I’ve done:

    – keep an extra large towel that completely covers me in my locker for gym showers. If I can change in a private place behind a curtain or door, I will. I’ve been able to reuse the ole “large t-shirt over a smaller t-shirt” changing routine from middle school to keep my co-workers from seeing me in my birthday suit.
    – Honor the rules of the gym…. including wiping machines down after use. I’ve called someone out for not doing this and they still don’t make eye contact.
    – our gym is small, so I sometimes have to tailor my workout to the space available. No floor space? time to do some cardio on a machine or move to a different area. I’m also fairly conservative when it comes to clothing, so my attire reflects that.

  17. Adam*

    For the gym itself I’d say be friendly to everyone but focus on your routine. If the gym permits the activity I don’t think you need to avoid any in particular. If you sweat a lot keep a towel on hand to wipe down equipment after you use it if needed.

    In the locker room my general course of action is to wrap myself in a towel for the moments where I’m not dressed or specifically showering. Once I got used to it I find I don’t even register that much provided people aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. If you know the people next to you be friendly but just continue getting your stuff in order. And allow for plenty of personal space if you can.

          1. Natalie*

            They may have the same problem I have – I can’t get a towel to stay up for love or money. I missed that day in girl class or something.

          2. addiez*

            My gym’s towels do nottt stay up when I have two hands involved with hair drying. I usually put on some clothes though.

            1. JessaB*

              I bought the kind of towel where they’ve got straps so as you wrap it around you your arms go through so it doesn’t fall off. They make some without straps that just velcro together or have an elastic that helps them stay at bust level, and Woman Within has em up to like 5x sized for bigger women. You can get em on Amazon too. They call em wrap towels, perfect for the gym.

              They also make shorter versions that wrap at the waist.

              1. Michaela T*

                I have one of the ones without straps, it has snap buttons and it’s awesome for when I’m getting ready in the morning.

          3. Samantha*

            They make those towel-wrap things that Velcro around under your arms. Basically like a strapless dress. I also have problems getting a towel to stay up securely while I’m blow drying but I’ll take that solution over doing it while naked in a locker room!

            1. JessaB*

              They also make those with straps, so if the strapless ones don’t stay you can get em where they kind of look like loose wrap around American-style jumpers made of terry cloth.

    1. Kasia*

      I used to work at a gym where there was a lady who did her entire routine completely naked but with a towel in her hair. Including lotioning her legs, doing her makeup, etc. she clearly didn’t have a problem being naked but it was very very weird for everyone else.

      1. Erin*

        Ohhhhh, I still bear the emotional scars from being forced to make polite locker room conversation with one of the computer techs that worked in our building while she was stark naked, completing very part of her post-shower routine (except, you know, PUTTING SOME FRAKKING CLOTHES ON) even after nearly 11 years.

        To make it worse, she would inevitably get called to come help with some computer emergency and I would have to try to have a conversation with her without blurting “I saw you naaaaaaaaaaked.”

        That pretty much put an end to my use of the office gym.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I had this conversation with some friends once, that was the general consensus. And I totally get that, I don’t work out at a gym, but sometimes I stay hot for a while after my workout. If I got fully dressed right after getting out of the shower, I’d just start sweating again. So at home I don’t get dressed right away. If I was in a locker room situation, I would at least put on bra/underwear. But some people aren’t that modest. It is a locker room, after all. It doesn’t offend me unless they sit their bare butt on one of the benches. *shudder*

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I don’t want to derail the thread too much, so I might bring it up on the weekend thread, but I find the US’s (and I live here) obsession with modesty somewhere between comedic and depressing.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’ll join you on that. It’s a locker room. It’s fine if people want to keep themselves covered up, but it’s a perfectly appropriate place to be naked.

          1. fposte*

            I confess that I don’t. I do get not wanting to see your boss or colleagues naked, but I think this is like not wanting to hear other people peeing; pretending you’re alone is always a viable option, but I don’t think expecting people to carefully keep themselves covered or wait until you’re gone is reasonable.

            So it’s one of those situations where I think there can be a big difference between the limits we’re comfortable with for ourselves and the limits we expect other people to observe.

            1. Adam*

              I’m pretty much of the same mindset. If people want to maintain a level of modesty and change in a bathroom stall more power to them! I did for several years when I first started gym class in school. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable.

              But I think a locker room is a locker room so nakedness comes with the territory. I find that if you try to not notice people when they’re undressed eventually it doesn’t become a big deal. Lots of gym buddies who would never see each other nude outside of the locker room can change around each other and not have it be weird. Having enough comfortable personal space for yourself is the most important thing I think.

              1. Gene*

                On the subject of “unseeing”, I just finished “The City The City” by China Miéville where much of the plot depends on deliberately not seeing what’s right in front of you.

                1. Chinook*

                  “the plot depends on deliberately not seeing what’s right in front of you.”

                  I learned the technique of “not seeing” and “not hearing” in Japan (the land of literally paper thin walls). You learn to not register things that you aren’t suppose to register as happening until someone says you are suppose to see/hear it occurring. It is a weird concept but incredibly useful as an Admin assistant (in that I hear/see everything, file it for future background knowledge but do not react to it until told to).

                2. OriginalEmma*

                  That sounds like something I’d want to read.

                  And see Chinook’s “not seeing/not hearing,” that must be a social expectation in Downton Abbey (not enforced, but certainly an expectation) because people just blab all over the place without checking for who’s listening.

              1. Adam*

                I had this same sort of issue when I started going to gyms, and what helped me turn around that thought eventually was the realization that:

                A.) I’m not interested in seeing other guys naked
                B.) The average guy isn’t interested in seeing me naked
                C.) Since by definition neither one of us is interested in what the other person looks like then it’s not worth noticing. And since your average gym goer just uses the locker room to change, maybe shower, and get out they won’t be around long anyways.

              2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                If you’re a prude, I’m a prude, too. I would not want peers, leaders, or direct reports seeing me without my clothing. Any of it.

                I’m all for transparency in business but this is a step too far.

              3. Colette*

                I’m with you. I agree that it’s appropriate to be naked in a locker room and have no problem with people changing, but walking around/drying your hair/doing a mole check or whatever while naked in a public-ish space is weird.

                1. Green*

                  I think it’s fine to be naked in a locker room at a private gym, spa, hotel or whatnot even to the point of wandering around in the buff (I don’t like that, but I recognize that’s my hang-up and not their obligation), but a gym at work is a different story for me on nakedness.

              4. Noah*

                Count me on the prude side. I play hockey and played all through school. I am perfectly comfortable changing and showering in a locker room. Even friends seeing me naked.

                However, I want no part of a work gym locker room. I don’t want to see my boss or coworkers. Hell, I had an auditor follow me into the bathroom this week and start talking about lunch while we were both using the urinals. It was awkward and I hated every moment of it.

                I’m not saying it is logical or makes sense, but for me there is a very real divide there.

              5. JessaB*

                Nah, you’re not a prude. There are a lot of cultures that raise people not to be naked in front of other people. Even if you’re not Orthodox (fill in the blank – Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, whatever religion,) you kind of get taught pretty young about modesty. Especially in the US where much is made of teaching young women how terrible it is to have to change clothes or take a shower after gym class in school and how you should be embarrassed or would be bullied if you look different. It’s almost a cultural expectation and when you get out of school and start working all that early training does not go away easily.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I actually didn’t have much problem with it when I was younger! I have many fond memories of public skinny dipping, and I even appeared naked in public (in 12 degree weather!) as part of a political protest (with a coworker, no less — it was for work). But the ravages of age have prudified me.

          2. Pwyll*

            Unfortunately, I want to say “No, it shouldn’t” but it really does, to me. Sigh to American puritanism.

          3. Oryx*

            I don’t, but I think it could depend on the office culture. Like, some of the stuff above about not talking to co-workers while they’re changing or putting space between shower stalls and such. Yeah, that doesn’t happen where we are. I’ve seen my female colleagues in all manner of dress and those that do want extra privacy change in a bathroom stall. But out in the main locker room area we treat it like a regular gym locker room.

            We don’t treat it like a big deal so it’s not a big deal.

      2. Tau*

        I was wondering whether to point out that this is very very culturally dependent. *has managed to hit German-US(/UK) culture shock regarding norms around nudity from both ends, sigh*

        1. Myrin*

          I don’t know, I’m German and have worked in a gym here for five years and have always found doing makeup or your hair while stark naked super weird. Not inappropriate or horrible or anything, just weird, mostly because in my head, there’s a certain order to “getting ready” and doing hair or makeup is the last thing on my orderly list. Which is obviously a me thing, not a cultural one, but I don’t feel like we’re outstandingly unconcerned with nudity here, just somewhere in the middle?

          1. Tau*

            It was more regarding the broader discussion! I generally agree with you that the specific example of blow-drying/make-up while naked seems a bit out of order. Although thinking about it, I can see the sense behind blow-drying hair before getting dressed – you don’t end up with your wet hair dripping on your dry clothes, or get things wet pulling them on.

            (And I’d say we’re definitely less concerned with nudity than the US overall, although of course there’s individual and subcultural and regional etc etc variation… and although I may be wrong, it feels to me as if things have been drifting in a more modest direction over the last few decades.)

            1. anonymouse*

              I do my makeup at home while naked so I don’t accidentally get any on my clothes. If I need to do it at the gym, I tend to do it while wearing a towel, but I have done it naked before (but it takes me like 5-10 minutes to do my makeup, so it’s not like I’m standing around for 30 minutes naked)

              1. Natalie*

                Oh, funny, I do the exact opposite, because somehow I always end up getting some on my clothes when I put my shirt on, no matter how careful I am!

              2. Chinook*

                “I do my makeup at home while naked so I don’t accidentally get any on my clothes”

                See, if I did that I could guarantee getting the newly applied make up on my clothes, probably somewhere on the back where I couldn’t see it, with my luck.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                I do mine in my pj top with no sweatpants on, sitting on the bed. Then fix my hair/brush teeth, then clothes, then touch up hair (I don’t blow dry), then out the door.

                At the gym, I change into my workout clothes in the stall and stuff everything in my bag, which goes in the locker. I have my own padlock and the key goes with me to my workout along with my phone and headphones. Then when I’m done, I take my stuff out and go home. I don’t work out in the morning–I go after work. The gym is right next door.

                All this is reminding me to get my expanding butt back in there. *sigh*

      3. jhhj*

        I don’t care what OTHER people do, but I am a reasonably modest person and dislike when people (not you, just in general) are after me about it. I won’t judge you for wandering around the locker room naked, please do me the same courtesy. I never understood the “N Americans are so judgemental about nudity they are wrong and bad” hypocrisy.

        (Again, not from you, just something I have seen in general online.)

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This. I don’t care if you’re naked. I’m not judging you. But I don’t want to be naked. Don’t judge me.

      4. The Optimizer*

        I’m American and I don’t consider myself modest or prudish but I wouldn’t want to be showering or walking around naked in front of my co-workers. That said, I have gone to spas with coworkers who became close friends and had no such hesitation. I also have no issues taking a swim or a soak in hot springs while naked with strangers but have declined invitations from my nudist in-laws to join them at their beach.

      5. Ad Astra*

        I’m not really that worried about scandalizing people with my nudity, and other people’s nudity doesn’t really bother me. I just don’t want strangers to see me naked because hey, that’s mine! Not sure if that’s modesty or privacy or what.

    3. jhhj*

      I took swim classes at a gym where a bunch of women would do that. (They had shared showers and also individual stalls.) One of the (naked) women introduced her (naked) teenage daughters to my (not naked) mother, which was intensely awkward for everyone except the other mother.

      As far as I can tell, the thinking is mostly a combination of “North Americans are way too prudish” and “I don’t want to have wet hair or a wet towel on my dry clothes”.

    4. jj*

      Well, at the regular gym, I will sometimes dry my hair fully dressed on the bottom but only a bra or camisole on top, because I have a ton of hair, I’m drying it for a really long time and I get super, super hot and I don’t want to sweat through my nice clean clothes!

      However for the record I would never do that at the gym at work!!

      1. MCR*

        Same – at my regular gym I do my hair wearing my bra or I would get super hot. This is not uncommon.

      2. pugsnbourbon*

        Me too – I even have a pixie cut and I still get too hot in the four minutes it takes to dry. I dry my hair while wearing pants and a bra. I hate being sweaty right after a shower.

    5. Stephanie*

      I shower at home, but I usually don’t want to get product on my clothes (I tend to let my hair air dry, but even with that, I’m putting in leave-in conditioner and don’t want it on my clothes).

    6. Annoniest*

      I dry my hair in the gym locker room wearing only a towel (gym provided, not large, but enough to cover things). I often get sweaty while blow drying, and doing it before I’m dressed keeps that off my shirt. Also, generally, it works nicely into my routine that way: deodorant, blow dry, moisturizer/primer/foundation, get dressed, powder/other makeup.

      My thought process overall is basically: this is a locker room, and society has agreed that it is a place where we are all permitted to be naked, and so I feel OK being naked in the locker room. As I said, I don’t generally stomp around sans towel and I’d not negatively judge, for their modesty, someone substantially more modest than I, but I think it has been good for me to become more comfortable being naked around others and having others be naked around me.

    7. The IT Manager*

      I don’t actually do this, but in the south in the summer even after a cold shower my core is still hot and the locker room is never cool and dry rather its hot and humid. Many people will still be sweating while changing into work clothes and of course blowing hot air on your head doesn’t help to cool off so I assume this person is trying to stay cool and avoid sweating in their work attire before they leave the locker room.

      My workout partner and I would finish in the locker room, go back to our desks, and continue to perspire from the work out. I assume that people who really push themselves inside the gym can have that same problem year round. For me my hard cardio workout were always done outside.

    8. ElCee*

      “It’s a locker room, who cares”? I mean I usually dry my hair with underpants and bra because I haven’t cooled down from the workout yet, but this is about my thought process.

    9. Recent Grad*

      Well…I did that college in our track locker room a few times. It was semi-private (about 20 women, key card access) and that was definitely not the weirdest thing that went on there.

      1. Honeybee*

        It is if you do it every day consistently, and especially if you have the blow-dryer on high heat. But it’s okay if you use low heat settings and do it only occasionally. Still not the healthiest, but okay. And also different people’s hair has different tolerance levels for heat.

    10. LCL*

      I used to do this when I worked swing shift. But it wasn’t a work gym. My reasoning was, I had to change into my work clothes. Work clothes always involved one pair of jeans, a T shirt and a flannel shirt, plus underclothing. Then boots. I wanted to be completely dry from the shower before I started putting on layers of clothes, otherwise I would sweat and that was totally unpleasant. Donning underclothes over wet skin will make me start sweating immediately. Here in the great Pacific Northwet, it is impossible to dry yourself completely using just a towel. It made much more sense to fix the hair, allowing the few extra minutes to finish air drying, then get dressed. But I was always courteous and never blocked the mirrors/benches, etc. I had always thought the few disapproving looks I got were because of my work clothes, especially in the winter when I added a pair of long johns to the ensemble. I only changed concealed when I had bruises from practicing martial arts-I appreciated the concern of others, but it was misplaced and I didn’t want to make them feel bad for getting up the nerve to say something.

    11. Crissy from HR*


      I’ve done this as a young soldier, but would never ever ever ever in a civilian gym. We weren’t allowed to walk from the showers to our rooms in towels or in our dirty PT clothes and weren’t able to blow dry in our rooms (crappy outlets), so plenty of naked blow drying occurred. The ACUs/tan tshirts we wear are super heavy, towels are hard to stay up, and every woman in my unit has seen me/I’ve seen them near nude or worse during our quarterly weigh ins.

      I don’t sit on benches naked though. There’s a special place in hell for people who put their nether regions on public seats.

    12. Anon.*

      Well, my dermatologist told me to blow dry under my breasts to help prevent a rash or yeast infection, which is particularly likely to occur if I stay in a damp bra or put a bra on while my under-boob is still damp.

      That said, I would personally cover up at the gym (office or regular). If I really needed to blow dry my hair, I would probably put on pants (or shorts or full-coverage underwear) and a t-shirt without a bra during the process, then finish dressing after I was done and my hair and under-boob both had time to dry.

      1. Hotstreak*

        I sometimes blow dry nude for similar reasons. I don’t like getting a rash or being wet, so If it’s especially hot/humid out I will blow dry everything, including arm pits, legs, head, everything in between.. you name it.

        Now to be clear this would never happen in a work gym, I would be going in to an AC room after all so I wouldn’t need to. I also won’t do this if the gym is busy, instead I will put a towel on and stand around for 10 minutes to dry naturally.

    13. Callie*

      I definitely don’t do it naked, but sometimes I will leave off my top (and just have on my bra) for two reasons: one, because I will just get super sweaty again, defeating the purpose of the shower (I’m always hot) and two, I do my makeup after hair and I ALWAYS spill something. I’d rather spill on my bra than on my shirt. My bras are pretty substantial, though, and not sheer or barely-there, so it’s more than say, a bikini top.

  18. Pwyll*

    Navigating the work gym with co-workers thing is bad enough, but understandable as everyone is (assumedly) an adult, but I could never attempt a situation where I needed to shower with my customers or students. Having an on-site gym is great, but I just don’t think I could bring myself to cross that professional boundary.

    1. Recent Grad*

      I was a student worker in the gym when I was in college at a small liberal arts school. I saw professors, bosses, etc. a lot and it wasn’t an issue. If anything it’s weirder for the student.

      1. Adam*

        I think in part this is something that a lot of people care less about as they get older. It’s an old stand-up comedy routine but it rings pretty loud every gym I’ve been in that the older clientele on the whole seem much more at ease wandering around the locker room in the buff than everybody else.

  19. voyager1*

    Two suggestions I have not seen:

    1. If the lockers are allowed locks, put one on yours. I keep a towel and soap and such in my locker with a lock.
    2. Don’t leave stinky clothes in the locker any longer then necessary.

    I am a guy, try not to get totally naked when others are in the room. But nakedness is just something that goes along with using a locker room/shower room.

  20. Knitting Cat Lady*

    This conversation shows up really fascinating differences between Germany and the US.

    Over here it is not unusual for people in gym locker rooms to walk around buck naked…

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      totally off topic but I used to think it was “butt naked”… never understood “bucK” naked

      1. Ad Astra*

        It’s both, isn’t it? I feel like I hear them about equally, but maybe that’s one of those things that’s wrong but incredibly common.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      Yeah, in my Texas high school I had a friend who was a Swedish exchange student, and she had *no* body modesty issues at all – where the other girls were just short of squeezing into the lockers to change clothes so nobody could see them and mummifying themselves in the towels, she just sauntered out from the showers with the towel slung over her shoulder and changed right out in the open. As my style had been somewhere in between – sheesh, we’re all shaped the same, what’s the big deal, but I will wrap the towel around me because it’s *cold* – I found their shocked stares at her amusing.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        I love your user name. Ivanova was my favourite B5 character!

        I wonder how those girls would react to German saunas. They’re usually mixed and people are in there absolutely naked. My dad likes saunas. When I was little and we were at the pool together and he wanted a bit of sauna afterwards I’d obviously go with him.

    3. Jen RO*

      On the other hand, I’m also from Europe (Romania in my case) and I am horrified by the idea of showering with other people. I wouldn’t do it unless my life depended on it.

      1. fposte*

        Now I’m trying to come up with some scenario where your life depends on it. “All of you lab workers! You must get the serum off you within 5 minutes or you will die! Quick, into the showers!”

        1. Jen RO*

          Maybe if I was on fire and I had to jump in the shower to extinguish myself?

          Something also just ocurred to me – we are talking about *fully* naked, right? I would have no problem walking around in underwear around woman coworkers.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This is actually a thing in labs–when I first started working in one, they showed me the emergency shower (just a random shower head in the middle of the lab, with a drain in the floor below it, nothing around it at all). The chemist told me that if something bad got on me, I should be aware that they would shove me under it, rip all my clothes off, and wash me good and there was nothing I could say about it. She said it probably won’t happen if you’re careful, but please be careful because you could also get hurt badly by whatever it was.

          I was like 0_0 and was extremely careful whenever I had to put acids in sample bottles or dump stuff down the sink, just in case I grabbed the wrong thing. I did not want to get a chemical burn.

    4. anonymouse*

      See, I’m a bit baffled by all the “don’t walk around naked!” comments because I live in the Northeast US and regularly see people walking around naked in the locker room. It’s a women only gym, so I don’t know if that makes a difference, but no one bats an eye at it.

          1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

            100% agreed. It’s a locker room, don’t use a locker room if you don’t want to see naked people in there.

            1. Ultraviolet*

              That’s where I’m at. The etiquette’s the same for an office gym vs regular gym. (I include “no small talk” in that etiquette.) I totally sympathize if that means you don’t want to go to the office gym (or don’t want to use the locker room there) though. I wouldn’t.

        1. anonymouse*

          Technically, it’s a regular gym but most people in the office use it because we get an amazing discount. There’s a separate area for people who prefer to change behind a closed door and our showers have individual stalls with doors, but most of my coworkers don’t seem to have an issue changing in public or being naked. They’re there to work out and shower the same as I am, and I think the key is no lounging around naked, having conversations while changing, or discussing locker room/gym activities back at work. It really hasn’t been a big deal.

          1. sam*

            I’m in the same boat – we don’t have an “office” gym, but we get a really good discount at a chain, and there’s a branch directly across the street from the office that a lot of people use. I stick to going to the gym after work rather than in the middle of the day because it works better for me, but I generally do one of two things:

            – sometimes I walk over to a branch that’s not as close to the office, specifically to avoid seeing so many people from work (this chain is ubiquitous, and the “secondary” branch is still on my way home, so I’m not going out of my away).

            – more to the OP’s question, because I go after work and on my way home, I go to the gym and change into my gym clothes there (as quickly as possible), but then when I’m done, I just go home in my gym clothes and shower once I’ve cooled off at home (I’m also generally a shower-at-night person anyway). This avoids the whole showering at the gym situation in its entirety. Also, as someone on the more plus-sized end of the spectrum, those tiny towels they give out at the gym are just not going to cut it.

        2. Rebeck*

          I guess it’s because I live in a regional area rather than a city, but I don’t see the difference. I’m likely to run into colleagues (or library users) at my non-work gym, or at the pool, si it’s not like the gym is some place of anonymity for me. (That said, my gym has multiple single occupancy shower/toilet/change rooms, so the issue doesn’t come up, but at the pool it does.

      1. Jennifer O*

        Funnily enough, I was at a coffee shop today and there were two women chatting next to me. One of them looked familiar but I couldn’t place her. It was only when they got up to leave that I realised I’d only ever seen her naked in the locker room. Weird experience.

      2. Liana*

        I live in New England and go to a women’s only gym, and have no problem with general nakedness, but I think adding coworkers into the mix makes it weirder. I just would really, really prefer to avoid any scenario that involves me seeing my coworkers in the nude.

    5. Tau*

      So my (German) family moved to the US when I was a kid. Now add together:

      – my brother (seven), with typical-to-lax German attitudes about nudity circa the late eighties. Let’s just say that when we went swimming in the local river, swimsuits were not involved.
      – my mother, told various horror stories about completely innocent German expat parents in the US doing completely ordinary things such as letting their children run around stark naked in the front garden having their horrified US neighbours call the police on them and ending up arrested for child abuse.
      – a beach.

      …the result may have involved a mad and heroic dash on my mother’s part in order to wrangle my brother into a changing cabin, while he was shedding clothing completely confused over why she was making such a fuss. Or at least that’s how she tells the story!

      1. Pwyll*

        My German family is much the same way. We have a great aunt still over there who insists, INSISTS, that wearing a bathing suit outside of the water, while wet, is going to make us all get pneumonia, and that’s why the U.S. is always so ill with colds and such.

      2. Joline*

        One of the things I find most amusing about my family when I go back to Germany to visit in the summers is the casual nudity when we go to the beach/pool. My aunt and uncle both respect that most beaches aren’t nude – but don’t feel that that applies to changing just to lounging. So you can be in a conversation with my uncle at the beach and he’ll drop off his pants and then pull on his bathing suit. My brother’s facial expression in reaction going back to visit at eighteen and my aunt pulling her shirt off while talking to him is still a much-loved story in our family.

        1. Alice 2*

          Hah, that happened to me too when I was just visiting my German boyfriend in Germany over the summer. We went to a favorite watering hole in his hometown. He didn’t drop trou while standing, but he did just change while sitting on the towel. My inner preschool teacher glanced around to see if there were any poor babes (/s) who would be scarred for life/parents who’d call the police, before remembering ‘this is Germany’.

    6. Pepper*

      I’m in the UK and yep, it is not uncommon for people to just stroll around casually naked in my locker room! Though recently people have been bringing their young children into the locker room (which, ugh), leading to much consternation and more towel coverage happening,

      1. Tau*

        Huh. I… actually wouldn’t be any more inclined to cover myself in front of small children? I think if anything less, because I’d like to model the idea that one’s body isn’t something to be ashamed of. (Not to say that dislike of being naked = ashamed of one’s body, but I’d worry about kids reading it that way.)

        1. Gratiana*

          This has actually become An Issue at the university where I work. Our lovely state now has a law where public nudity in front of children can get you arrested for pedophilia (or some legal equivalent) and put on the sexual offenders’ registry. This is… a problem… at a university whose hippie undergraduates are known for random naked group pool jaunts, but whose faculty and staff often bring their families to the pool as well. Just to be clear—the *students* don’t care, and the *faculty* don’t care, and presumably the *children* don’t care, but our legal dept. has been tearing its hair out on the off chance that someone complains.

        2. Pepper*

          I’ve never thought of it that way!
          I’m not particularly ashamed of my body but while it isn’t a potential crime (which, what?!) as an adult being naked in front of small children feels fundamentally wrong somehow, even if mum is there also doing locker room things.
          Technically speaking, anyone under sixteen shouldn’t be using the gym locker rooms anyway, so maybe we should all revolt and get on with our naked selves anyway!

        3. Oryx*

          I’ve seen different rules re: kids in changing rooms. My current one doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 18 into the adult locker rooms, they have family changing areas for that. Previous gym didn’t allow kids over the age of 3 of the opposite gender.

    7. Chameleon*

      I’m from the US, but years of massage school and a love of Korean spas have made me pretty immune to nakedness.

  21. Regular Lurker*

    I used to workout at my lunch quite regularly at my old job which had gym and locker room facilities. Most people treated it like any other locker room and did exactly what they would do at their normal gym. There were a few who would change in the bathroom or shower stalls but for the most part everyone just did their thing and didn’t make a big deal about it. There were a couple of instances when my friends and I would show up and a supervisor of an adjacent department would move away from us because she didn’t think it was appropriate (she was weird about a lot of things and went at really oddball hours to avoid anyone in the gym or locker room).

    As for attire this one I do think is a bit different than a traditional gym. I would stay away from the tight little booty shorts (ladies) and everyone should keep their shirts on (both genders).

    I don’t think there are any workout activities that need to be avoided unless you are into very long workouts that lock up a particular machine/area so that no one else can use them.

    And make sure you shower before going back to work – at least a quick rinse of the body and a re-app of deodorant.

    1. Nicole*

      Like some others on the thread, I bike to work and use a locker room that is shared among staff who are commuting and using a small gym room. People generally treat it like a locker room and chat about commutes and stuff. Some are naked, some are less so, all the showers have stalls.

      I also work at a university and have for years so there have been times I worked out around students also. I probably aim to be a bit more modest than my usual self if sharing a locker room with students. But it’s still a locker room.

  22. TotesMaGoats*

    I’ve been there and done that. I usually tried to use the gym on campus when students were in classes, avoid the peak times. Most of that was so I had access to all the machines without waiting. I wouldn’t wear your skimpiest gym attire. So, cover the stomach, IMO.

    For the locker room, I’d say normal gym rules apply. Yes, there are students and coworkers but it’s still awkward when you don’t know anyone. Don’t have a conversation. Don’t walk around naked. Be quick and discreet.

  23. Gene*

    I don’t get the “Don’t get naked/hold up a towel in front of me while I shower/drive home to shower” folks. We’re all adults and we’ve all (I assume) seen other adults sans clothing. I’m not saying strut around naked or practice your twirling skills, but showering and changing are what you see in a locker room. It’s part of adulting.

    Of course, I had no problems with communal baths in Japan.

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah…this thread confuses me, too. (I also had no problem with Korean spas.) I guess I can get it might be a little weird with coworkers, but I figure as long as you’re not ogling people and acting like a mature adult, it shouldn’t be *that* weird. I personally wouldn’t think any less of my boss if I saw him panting after a workout. Admittedly, I work in an industrial setting and often see higher ups looking sweaty if they’re running around the plant or something.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        It’s not about seeing my boss in a flustered state, it’s about seeing her breasts. I reeeeeally don’t want to.

          1. Chinook*

            “I had a sauna with my boss in Chile and saw her hoo hah. I have lived to tell the tale. :)”

            One better – talking to complete strangers (usually elderly Japanese women) about the hairiness of my body in general, including my hoo hah. After the first time, which actually involved body language as my Japanese didn’t expand to include such phrases, it became no big deal.

    2. ElCee*

      Yeah, this. I’ve been in the locker room with a colleague as our workouts are around the same time. She’s senior to me but we are friendly. So I take her lead on it as I don’t really care either way–it’s a locker room! Turns out she has zero problem with chatting while changing/nude. Other coworkers are less chatty and just say “hi” and go about their business. As for me, I keep my back turned while changing but if my butt’s visible, it’s visible. Again, locker room.

    3. INTP*

      I personally don’t care at all about nudity in an anonymous setting, and I change without self-consciousness, but I’d rather avoid it with coworkers. And when I taught at a university, the thought of my students seeing me naked was especially horrifying. It’s just one of those social boundaries that is sensitive to cross due to how we’re conditioned in the US – just like I wouldn’t want my students to see me having an emotional breakdown or a fight with an SO.

    4. Adam*

      When I first started having to change for gym in school I would change in a bathroom stall because I was embarrassed. Thing is, I don’t remember what I was embarrassed about. As a ten year old boy it’s not like I was concerned that I didn’t have six pack abs. So by high school I would change around the other guys but leave my underwear on at all times, and by college I was showering and toweling off like it was no big deal. I think that’s the key for a lot of people: if you don’t make a big deal out it no one else will either.

    5. Ad Astra*

      Honestly, I drive home to shower because I have an embarrassingly elaborate grooming routine and it’s not worth the hassle to lug all those products to the gym. This is also what’s keeping me from getting my morning workouts in, though. :(

  24. Frances*

    Ditto on the comment to keep any conversation with colleagues off work. Other than that I can’t think of anything else which is unique to a work gym versus any other gym. i.e. Good gym etiquette is good gym etiquette. No staring; no rude or mean comments; no hogging of equipment; wipe your sweat off when done with equipment; wear only clean shoes in the gym, etc.

    Regarding showering and dressing in the locker room, what I’ve noticed is that those who are super self-conscious and those who are super-exhibitionists stand out. If you just act chill and stick to changing, showering, and changing into work attire no one is going to care or notice.

    1. BethRA*

      “Regarding showering and dressing in the locker room, what I’ve noticed is that those who are super self-conscious and those who are super-exhibitionists stand out. If you just act chill and stick to changing, showering, and changing into work attire no one is going to care or notice.”

      This. All the (women’s) locker rooms i’ve been in have had doored or curtained changing cubbies for the deeply shy/modest, but outside of those rooms, I feel like the more you focus on trying to hide or cover up, the more awkward the whole process feels for everyone.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        One constant I’ve found is that in any given gym (esp. YMCA) there will be an octogenarian who lets the twig and berries breathe while walking thru the locker room. You can’t un-see that.

        1. Oryx*

          When I’m that old I can only hope to have the self confidence to walk around the woman’s locker room at my YMCA naked like the women I see there.

  25. nerdgal*

    I have seen my colleagues totally naked in the locker room on several occasions. Not awkward unless you MAKE it awkward by staring or inconsiderate behavior. I don’t see what the fuss is about. I felt the same way about high school gym class and college dormitory life. (I did only live in single gender dorms!)

  26. Tui*

    We have a gym at work (big organisation with weird power dynamics) and I’ve honestly never thought or worried about it, and I recommend that state of mind. I would try to have good gym etiquette – don’t take up machines for hours when there are queues, keep it clean and tidy, keep your crap together in the changing rooms, etc, etc – and otherwise forget about it. People who are going to the gym are expecting to see other people there doing gym things. They are expecting to see people shower and change clothes, get sweaty, and look weird. We do have shower cubicles and I generally change my underwear in there if I’m showering, but I’m not going to go into a cubicle to put a sports bra on before I work out and I don’t think anyone expects it of me. (I don’t blowdry naked but I admire anyone who does!) If you’re more comfortable being never nude, by all means do whatever you need to do to make yourself comfortable, but if you don’t care and are just worrying about etiquette I think just do what feels natural to you.

    I do think the advice not to talk about work stuff is good, but I think you shouldn’t talk about work stuff outside of work anyway!

  27. Brett*

    Here’s my length list of tips from years of working out in college gyms and mma gyms:

    Use the equipment appropriately. If you have any doubt at all about correct and appropriate use, get training on the equipment. This is probably the biggest thing that people do wrong at gyms that could cause more problems for you than wearing the wrong clothes. Take this from someone who once melted the tension wheel using an exercise bike in a sauna and sprayed the room (and everyone in it) with melted rubber.

    Don’t hog equipment. If you are spending more than an hour on a piece of cardio equipment or more than 20 minutes on a weight bench/station, look up to see if people are waiting and switch off the equipment. Be even more careful about this if you share your gym with college sports teams (e.g. they do not have their own gym). You could be holding up athletes with assigned workout or rehab times, which could eventually lead to you getting banned if you do it repeatedly.

    Do not work out in street clothes, especially street shoes. This is against the rules in many gyms and almost always inappropriate. You might damage your clothing or the equipment, and people will think you are going to walk out without showering. Generally wear shoes unless your workout is solely on mats; and if you are working out on mats (yoga, mma, etc.) either wear no shoes or socks or use shoes that you _only_ wear on the mats and do not wear outside for running or other activities. (This is different from circuit workouts where you would move back and forth between mats and weight machines, where you just wear appropriate fitness shoes.)

    For men, a short-sleeve t-shirt with mid-thigh shorts with briefs for underwear will work fine. In some gyms, wearing a jock strap instead of underwear is okay, in others it will seem unusual. (For college gyms, especially if shared with athletic teams, jock straps are generally acceptable as well as safer.) Don’t wear boxers, that can lead to nasty injuries. Tank tops and long-sleeve shirts can be okay, but short-sleeve is safer. Don’t go shirtless, especially if you are using workout benches. If you are trying to break a steady sweat, go with a workout hoodie instead of a long-sleeve shirt (because you can take a hoodie off when you overheat without going shirtless). Workout classes have their own rules and you should ask the instructor directly about appropriate clothing for the class.

    If workout towels (as opposed to showering towels) are not provided, bring a clean one every day. Always wipe off the equipment after you use it, even if you think you did not sweat. I would wipe it off before using too, because some people don’t wipe off the equipment. Have a separate clean towel for showering (either brought with you or provided by the gym). Not drying after showering is gross. Dry off immediately so people don’t slip on your dripping water. Every locker room has their own norms about covering or not covering yourself with a towel going to and from the showers.

    If the gym has a laundry service (common at colleges), use it. Laundry services are wonderful.

    For changing and showering, don’t linger. Some people think the locker room is a great place to have conversations, but it is safer to take your conversations out of the locker room. No one ever cares about the nudity involved in changing and showering, just don’t go staring at people’s bodies.

    Workout activities are the trickiest. One thing many people miss is to give yourself appropriate stretching and cool down before going back to work. If your core temperature and heart rate are still elevated, you might be sweating through your clothes even after showering and changing. Don’t assume that a class will give you appropriate cool down time at the end.
    If you are lifting, don’t do heavy load or max workouts. Most gyms frown on this now, and you greatly increase the risk of hurting yourself and being unable to work the rest of the day. Do be social and use a spotter. Grunting is frowned upon (though not as extremely as Planet Fitness would imply). Never ever drop weights; it is dangerous, destructive, and makes you look like an ass.
    Avoid martial arts for mid-day activities. I really like martial arts and it is my main workout, but the injury risk makes it an after-work workout. Also, no martial arts workouts with a partner without an instructor unless you are at a high enough level that you could be an instructor. Inexperience is really dangerous in martial arts.
    If you have trainer services available, use them to help you design a workout to achieve your goals. You will save time and exercise with a purpose. They can even help you pick workout classes.

    1. miki*

      “Do not work out in street clothes, especially street shoes.”
      This: I used to see regularly this lady come in in a longish winter skirt and those thick tights, winter sweater on her, only thing she had of workout apparel was a pair of gym shoes and proceed to the treadmill. Very vigorous walker/jogger I might add. It always baffled me how someone actually can workout in street clothes.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I’ve seen that too. My trainer’s theory is that people bundle up to sweat more because they think it leads to weight loss when it really just leads to dehydration.

      2. Adam*

        There’s this guy at my gym who regularly works out in a tight shirt and jeans, and I’m guessing somewhat fashionable jeans as they don’t look like the relaxed lounging kind. I’m always dumbfounded trying to figure out how that’s remotely comfortable.

      1. Brett*

        I brought the bike into the sauna.
        I was a college wrestler (cutting from about 135 to 118 in 2 days that time).
        This was actually something we used to commonly do, but I used the tension wheel incorrectly that day.

  28. Susan the BA*

    In general, I think the same rules apply here as any non-work interaction with work people (e.g. running into them at the grocery store):
    – Offer a quick, friendly ‘hi’/wave/nod/smile if you happen to make eye contact, otherwise let people go about their business
    – Practice good behavior (clean off gym equipment, be polite to cashiers)
    – When you’re at back at work, don’t comment on things that you saw outside of work (‘by the way, your thighs look great!’ ‘lots of ice cream in your cart – bad breakup?’)
    – Follow norms of attire (if many people at the gym wear shorts, go for it! you’ll attract more attention if you’re wearing way more clothing than other people or you bring your own pop-up changing shelter or something)

    I run into male and female colleagues at my gym. I was nervous at first, but turns out it’s fine because we just do our own thing and focus on our workouts.

    1. anonymouse*

      Follow norms of attire (if many people at the gym wear shorts, go for it! you’ll attract more attention if you’re wearing way more clothing than other people or you bring your own pop-up changing shelter or something)

      I don’t find this to be the case at all. The norm at my gym seems to be longer sleeved shirts and full length pants, but I overheat quickly, so I wear shorts and tanks even in the middle of winter. There’s a few people who cover up almost completely. I don’t think it’s fair to say someone should “follow the norms” and dress in shorts just because everyone else is, because they might be more comfortable in pants and vice versa.

      The only time I think it’d be understandable to focus on clothing is if someone is practically naked while they’re working out.

  29. Dawn*

    My old company had a nice on-site gym and I did yoga during my lunch hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays, all with co-workers of varying degrees of closeness. We were fortunate in that the showers had vestibules so you could go in there and change behind a curtain before getting in the shower.

    I would turn towards the lockers when changing just so no one would come around the corner and get an unexpected eyefull, but other than that I decided that we’re all adults and we were all there for the same purpose and we all had to get changed so I shouldn’t act like it’s a big deal. I was slightly more modest than I am at my gym’s locker room but otherwise, it’s a locker room, people are gonna be naked.

    And I definitely think this brings up a really interesting study into the US’s idea of modesty vs the rest of the world.

  30. FD*

    Great question!

    The last place I worked had a locker room with showers. It got a fair bit of use because the company provided uniforms that had to stay at the workplace (the company had a laundry service, so after every shift, uniforms would be sent for cleaning).

    1. FD*

      Ugh, hit enter.

      Anyway, a number of people also biked to work and freshened up and changed there. Here’s my take on it.

      If your company provides a locker room, you may see some naked coworkers now and then. Honestly, I got used to it pretty quickly. Personally, I find that most people just ignore each other, which seems to be the best strategy. If someone starts a conversation, I’d respond, but would keep things a bit short, to indicate I didn’t really want to talk there. Most people respected that.

  31. AndersonDarling*

    As far as interacting at the gym-> we had an employee that was super athletic and when she saw co-workers at the gym she would pressure them to take classes with her, or be her exercise routine buddy. People changed gyms to get away from her.

  32. K.*

    I used to use my former employer’s gym and always did at least a quick rinse* but didn’t change in the shower stall. I would have a towel wrapped around me while I changed I’m not like this in my not-at-work gym (and I actually did run into someone I knew in the locker room when I was topless – we made a joke about it, like “Better not hug!”) but I just didn’t feel like my colleagues needed to see any private part of me.

    Re: attire, I never saw this but I did hear separate gossip about a man who wore very small shorts that left nothing to the imagination, and a woman who wore bra tops to work out in. I would err on the side of modesty. I tended to work out in mesh shorts and t-shirts.

    *I would make a point to leave enough time to at least rinse off. I had a colleague who worked out in the gym every day and would brag about not getting sweaty enough to smell. That … wasn’t true. At all.

  33. Laura*

    You’re the professional, so you can model appropriate professionalism to the students. I teach at a small college. My preferred sport is swimming, and the best way this fits into my schedule has always been to swim on-campus. This means I’m going to have to change to work out, and students and colleagues are going to see me in my bathing suit and maybe in the shower. I start from an assumption that this is OK. We are all normal people doing normal people things, with normal people bodies, and nobody has anything to be ashamed of.
    I have always worked at tiny schools, so this usually means running into colleagues and students. If you treat it like a non-issue, other people will respond similarly! I’ve actually had great bonding moments with students who were lifeguarding while I was at the pool, and swimming at the same time as a senior colleague led to a really excellent and productive mentoring relationship.

  34. Bend & Snap*

    I don’t use my office gym because I don’t want to see my coworkers in that setting. I don’t even want to see them at the grocery store.

  35. TL17*

    I’m a lawyer. One day I went to my gym after work and while I was in the locker room, I happened to run into a judge who often hears my cases. We were both a touch flustered to see one another in our respective underpants, so we just said hello and scurried in opposite directions. I think I said “have a good swim” or something like that. I’ve since run into her in other settings and she’s quite friendly, maybe because we have something in common. But neither of us was certainly looking to linger.

  36. Jo*

    I used to work at a university that had a gym on campus. I found the time of day you go really impacts what type of people you will see. In the morning, I would mostly see older people working out and maybe a few dedicated students, and in the afternoon, I would mostly see students. It may vary at your college, but that is what I experienced.

    If I worked out in the morning, I would drive into work with my gear already on with the exception of shoes (If the weather is bad, they typically want you to change into your shoes at the gym). Then I’d work out, take a shower, and change before going to work. As others mentioned, if you can use a changing stall or face the locker, I think that’s acceptable. I definitely wouldn’t recommend walking around naked!

    If I worked out in the evening, I would change in my office or building, workout, and then drive home in my workout clothes.

  37. Chris*

    Communal showers make me want to commit seppuku.

    The attire thing isn’t that hard, honestly. Wear what’s comfortable, but sensible. Pretty much what you would wear to any gym, honestly. As to the shower… is it an option to just not shower at the gym? I routinely drive home from the gym in my workout clothes, or at most change my shirt to a different t-shirt.

  38. Student*

    I always change in a toilet stall if no private facilities are available for changing.

    Why do gyms not have changing rooms? Like at clothing stores – doesn’t need to be fancy.

    Why do men put up with the whole urinal-with-no-stalls thing? It’s not like it would be hard or expensive to put up some simple dividers.

    1. sam*

      you’ve clearly never experienced the rite of passage that was the communal Loehmann’s dressing room.

      1. Stephanie*

        I miss Loehmann’s. At first, I was a little freaked out at the prospect of the communal changing room…and then I saw how long the line was for the private fitting room and was line “F*ck it.” At most, I figured people might see my breasts were I trying on a bra and everyone has those, so whatever. Actually, it kind of helped because a couple of strangers were like “Oh, that looks nice on you. You should get it.”

    2. Poohbear McGriddles*

      I think we put up with the lack of privacy because we have to. It’s not like guys are going in thinking “You know what would make peeing more interesting? Being able to see the guy next to me do his thing! After all, there are five open urinals here and he just had to pick the one next to me.”

      Or, “Know what would make this post-workout shower more refreshing? Lots of other naked guys!” I guess if you’re into that sort of thing.

  39. Tattooine*

    No special anything. I wear what I normally would, which results in showing off many many tattoos and much more skin than I would in the office. I lift what I normally would, which involves some grunting and a lot of sweating. I clean up as I normally would, which means I rack my weights and wipe benches. I shower like I normally would and make any nudity quick and unobtrusive. In practice, at my office gym we all tend to look toward our locker when naked so we don’t make others feel like they don’t know where to put their eyes.

    I don’t care if you dry your hair while wearing underwear and a bra, but less than that is pretty awkward for everyone. Such nudity is not quick and unobtrusive.

    I like to think this goes without saying, but workplaces can get pretty gossipy: what happens in the gym/locker room, stays in the gym/locker room. If you feel tempted to tell someone about another person’s inferior workout skillz or what they do to get ready or what they look like in exercise gear (or in no gear whatsoever!), check yourself. Be a nice person. That said, I have never paid any attention to what others are doing at my normal gym or my office gym unless they are using poor etiquette or are straight-up impressively athletic. I get the impression that the office gym-goers all respect the personal nature of gym time.

  40. INTP*

    I skimmed over a few comments but one thing I wanted to mention that I haven’t seen yet, even in the gym area/outside the locker room, use restraint in talking to other people, especially but not only with the agenda of talking becoming flirtation. I’m not even talking about being sexually aggressive, pushy, or otherwise inappropriate (obviously don’t do that), but something about the gym makes a lot of men want to talk and talk and talk to women and ignore all civil cues that we’re done with the conversation (including putting earbuds back in as he is talking). In a gym, your audience is kind of captive unless they want to cut their workout short to get away from you or have a crowded room hear them tell you flat-out to stop talking (I think that is why these people do it at the gym), so if you tend to be talkative, don’t initiate conversations for the most part and absolutely do not continue them unless the other person is very enthusiastically engaged.

    (Using gendered language because from my experience, what I’ve witnessed at the gym, and what I’ve been told by other people, there is a gender pattern, and I didn’t want to sterilize a gendered problem of gendered language. Obviously this could happen with any permutation of genders and is something no type of person should do to any other type of person.)

    As far as the locker room goes, I think you will avoid offending others as long as you follow the general protocol that others are following. If other people are changing in the open, then you can change there; if they’re using towels for modesty, then use one yourself. If you personally need more modesty to feel comfortable, that is fine too – when I worked at a university I had a fear of my students seeing me and gossiping about what I do with my pubic hair or my granny undies, lol, so I never used the showers except to rinse off chlorine while still in my bathing suit. No one will take offense at you using a towel, changing in a more secluded corner, or using a stall for a very short period of time. Otherwise, avoid unsanitary things touching the benches (like your muddy shoes or naked butt), don’t stare at anyone, spread out in the showers, and use common sense, and you’ll be fine.

    1. Violetta*

      This, so much. I use my work’s gym and there’s always guys I don’t know (big company) either talking to me and my friend while we’re trying to work out or worse, talking ABOUT us to each other. I come here to relax and work off stress, leave me alone!

  41. the gold digger*

    The thing that actually freaks me out the most about the gym at work is not seeing the VP of marketing naked but seeing fully-clothed men come into the gym after they have eaten lunch and casually weigh themselves.

    I have told them they are supposed to do that first thing in the morning, without clothes, before eating or drinking, but they just shrug and say it’s all about the delta.

    When I asked about the shoes, one guy said that he has three pairs of the same shoes so it doesn’t matter, it’s still about the delta.

    Yes, I work with engineers. Why do you ask?

  42. shep*

    I work out at a commercial gym close to my office, which is not exactly the same thing, although I’ve seen a few of my coworkers there on occasion as well.

    It’s always weird to me when women in the locker room spend an INORDINATE amount of time naked. It doesn’t quite make me uncomfortable, but they’re usually right next to the scale, so I feel like I play this game of peek-to-see-if-I-can-use-the-scale-NOPE-STILL-NAKED and hope they don’t think I’m some lecher.

    I think it would be the same with coworkers, at least the ones I know frequent my gym. Keep your eyes on your own business, no big deal.

    Just don’t dance around the scale naked for ten minutes. Because after a while I WILL just go over there and weigh myself, despite my feelings of deep awkwardness. MyFitnessPal and my limited lunch break will not wait for you to be decent.

  43. Grumpy*

    Could someone discuss cell phone etiquette in the locker room? Do crazy people take selfies while other people are changing? I got a spa GC for Christmas and have no idea.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. The IT Manager*

      I have seen signs in gym locker rooms saying no cell phone use which I presume is to avoid any appearance of picture taking. I would wish for people to be smart enough not to take selfies where other people are naked, but wouldn’t assume that people are that smart or present to realize that’s what happening.

    2. AnotherFed*

      That would be seriously weird at an office gym (and I’d find it very weird at an gym!) and I’ve never seen people do anything more than check texts/emails in the locker room.

    3. BananaPants*

      Both the YMCA that we belong to and my corporate fitness center have very strict posted rules about cell phone use in the locker rooms and in the gym itself – as in, any suspicion of someone taking pictures in the locker rooms will result in termination of membership. They do NOT mess around with that issue.

      I leave my phone in my bag while I change and it’s the last thing I grab on my way out to the gym. I usually plusg in my earbuds and wrap the cord around the phone before I even go into the locker room, so it’s obvious that I’m not doing anything with the screen.

  44. Sara M*

    I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to point at your coworker’s genitals and yell, “NAKEY!”

  45. Chex Mix*

    I find this entire conversation fascinating! Being naked has never bothered me – but I played sports and have used Onsen’s (public bath houses). Let me tell you – when you are the only white person in a room of naked Japanese who are head and shoulders shorter than you … EVERYONE stares.

    If you do the following no one should care about your gym use:

    Follow the rules of the gym! All of them!

    Please ask before monopolizing a stall to change. Some of us actually want to shower/use the toilet.

    This final one is a personal pet peeve of mine … but I do not like it when people put on polarizing political TV shows without headphones. I DO NOT want to be subjected to that crap at work and I think it is rude to play that sort of stuff on high so I am forced to hear while I work out.

    1. Adam*

      There’s a family friend who’s best friend is Japanese and she once traveled with her to visit Japan. I think all they had were communal baths where she was. She’s from the mid-west US, white, blond, and on the larger side physically. It was REALLY awkward going into those baths when the “towel” they gave her was what we would more likely call a washcloth.

  46. Janice in Accounting*

    I’ve not seen this mentioned yet: don’t hog the good makeup mirror! If there are particular mirrors or lockers or showers that are obviously preferred by everyone, don’t use them every single day; give someone else a turn.

    We have a very small gym in our building and the locker room is kind of cramped. One woman comes in almost daily to shower and do her makeup–but she never works out. It’s *possible* she works out at home or on the way in and then uses the locker room to get ready for work, but she never looks sweaty . . . at any rate, she will put all her stuff on the counter with the “good” mirror and then go shower, while those of us who actually used the gym are stuck using the other counter with the crappy lighting. It’s maddening, but at the same time so petty that I can’t bring myself to point it out. I just think uncharitable thoughts about her while I over-apply my blush.

  47. mander*

    In my job almost everyone changes clothes before they start work and before going home, particularly as we are on a really muddy site at the moment. We don’t have showers and we aren’t fully naked, but I catch glimpses of my colleagues and supervisors in their underwear on a daily basis. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and I would find it a bit odd if anyone was going to great lengths to avoid letting others see their underwear. We’re all humans, after all.

  48. INFJ*

    “I think you’re better guided by others on this than by me because the idea of standing around naked with colleagues or students fills me with horror”

    All the armpits, Alison! Oh, the humanity!

  49. Nelly*

    “Don’t scrub your vag vigorously with a towel while trying to make intense eye contact with other gym members”.

    Advice I’d like to give to the elderly Asian lady who always manages to time her gym workouts with mine.

    I mean… we have courtesy rooms and shower doors! She’s doing it deliberately!

  50. Yellow*

    I feel like you should handle this the same way you handle experiencing coworkers in the bathroom – what happens in the bathroom stays in the bathroom. No eye contact, quick hello, and get out. And then never mention what you’ve seen/heard/smelled, etc.

  51. Skye*

    The University where I work has fitness classes for faculty and staff. Normally, these are great and there are no weird issues. However, one time it was just me and my boss in the class along with the instructor. It felt awkward, but became ten times more awkward when the instructor played music that graphically described sex acts as we were jumping around. In retrospect, I wish I had stopped the class and asked for different music. Then again, that would have called attention to the lyrics and possibly been even more awkward. My boss and I often talk about exercise as part of daily small talk, but needless to say neither of us ever discussed this class.

  52. S*

    Ha, this is exactly one of the reasons why I don’t belong to the gym at work. The other reasons being that the hours and group class schedule don’t work for my schedule as well as a regular gym does, and that it’s not that much cheaper than a regular gym anyway, both of which were bigger reasons than the not working out with coworkers, but that was still a factor. I go to a gym just around the corner from my work, and know of exactly 2 other coworkers who belong to that gym. Everyone else either goes to the work gym, a gym closer to where they live, or no gym.

    I would Not Be Naked when changing if there’s any chance that coworkers, or worse students, would be around the locker room. I’m guessing the OP is a man, by the fact that they highlight that the men’s locker room only has communal showers? If so, I’d think about using the gym after work, then just heading home to shower there (this is what I do all the time, because why use crappy gym showers, which require flip flops and carrying around all my toiletries, when I’m just heading straight home afterwards anyway?) If you work-out before work there’s no avoiding the need to shower at the gym, but hopefully if it’s that early at least there’s less of a chance there would be students around. As for the actual exercising, I would just try to not worry about it too much. Just say hi when you see someone you know, but don’t try to engage in conversation unless the person is also a friend. Make sure your gym attire is on the more conservative side (eg, for a woman don’t wear a just a sports bra). Follow all standard gym etiquette completely (replace weights, no excessive grunting, no hogging machines, clean off equipment after use, et c.)

  53. BananaPants*

    Our corporate fitness center is free and I belong to it. A few of my female coworkers also belong, but most of my colleagues are men, so I see them in the gym proper, but obviously not in a state of undress in the locker room!

    The locker rooms are very nice, with separate shower stalls and shampoo/body wash provided, along with towel service. I’ve never seen someone walk around or blowdry their hair in the buff like I so often do at the Y; the towels are free and available in quantity, so why not use one? The changing/locker area is sort of subdivided and when I go in I try to grab a locker in an area where another patron isn’t actively changing at a given moment. There’s one privacy cubicle that I don’t see used much. There’s not a lot of small talk either in the locker room or in the gym.

    Re: attire – the membership paperwork specifically says, “modest, loose athletic apparel appropriate for a corporate setting”. Men all seem to wear tees and shorts or pants. Women tend to go more for tank tops and spandex bottoms, particularly if they’re on the slim side and can get away with it (I’m not and can’t). I’d avoid any tee shirts with controversial slogans or questionable language; the company fitness center would not be a good place to bust out my “Top 10 Reasons Why Rowing Is Better Than Sex” tee shirt.

    In the gym itself I don’t care who I run into who I work with or know. I’ll exchange pleasantries but that’s about it. At the company gym I work out alongside a VP one day, an admin assistant the next. At the Y, Mr. BP and I almost always run into at least one person we know – a coworker, the pastor from our church, another parent from our kids’ daycare, my OBGYN (seriously). If I felt awkward about working out in front of people I know, I’d never be able to get to the gym!

  54. Otter box*

    This is such a timely post because my office just opened up a new gym! And I have an etiquette question for y’all that I haven’t seen asked yet:

    What do you do with your wet hair after showering after a morning workout? I have curly hair that does NOT respond well to a blow-dryer – I basically just put some product in it and let it do its own thing as it dries. The problem is, it looks totally unprofessional for the first hour after I get out of the shower. It isn’t a problem when I wash it at home because it mostly dries by the time I get to work, but when I showered at work it looked awful for a good chunk of the morning. Any tips or suggestions? Maybe I just shouldn’t use the gym in the morning?

    1. Evergreen*

      Fellow curl-haver here: could you give it a short blast with the blow dryer to accelerate the drying process? Maybe use the cold setting if frizz is an issue?
      Alternatively I’d try and time my workout so I was back at my desk a half hour earlier than others, which also gives time for breakfast.

      But as long as your hair’s not sopping wet you’re probably way more concerned about this than your colleagues are

    2. SaltyOperator*

      This may depend on the type of curls you have, but putting my hair up in a gentle twist/wrap bun has helped with looking a little more put together and avoiding using dryers (the gifted blow dryer has been repurposed to helping paint dry at home :P). I use these spiral shaped bobby pins I found at a drug/convenience store and they hold everything in place without putting much stress on the wet hair. Maybe a loose/gentle braid could work? With a little bit of product my hair generally dries out into some well behaved ringlets or loopy waves at the end of the day this way.

      It does not bother me personally, but if I go that route I’m still pretty damp at the end of the day. The rest of the water generally evaporates within an hour, but wet hair is more susceptible to damage if it’s stretched or strained. I haven’t had any problems with weakness from stretched hair strands or damage, but I also have ungodly thick individual hair strands on top of having lots of hair in general. If I put my mind to it I think I could weave some industrial grade cord out of it! I’d be interested to see what tricks others might have

      1. SaltyOperator*

        Ugh, bed time, missed editing the “dries by end of day” part. It dries very quickly after taking it out of bun/braid/twist for work day, sometimes before I get home

    3. Anxa*

      This is one reason why I just can’t do a morning workout.

      I cannot blow dry my hair for health reasons, and despite it being pretty thin, it can take hours to dry.

      Some mornings I wake up, having planned not to shower that morning, only to find I need to anyway. Those mornings I tend to drive to work with the windows down and braid or french braid my hair. It doesn’t look terribly professional since my hair is blonde and looks much different wet. But I feel like it’s better than greasy hair. I wouldn’t do this for a job that has a stricter dress code or was more formal.

      1. LawBee*

        dry shampoo! Spray it on before you get in the car, let it sit while you drive (if you can handle the scent of it), and brush it out before you go into the office.

        If you have sensitivities to scents, it may not work, though.

  55. Artemesia*

    I didn’t read every comment but didn’t see this among those I did. As a faculty member or even well known staff in a student facility, I would not communal shower with students. Given the ubiquitousness of phones with cameras and the ease of taken photos unobserved, I would not be naked where there are students. It would be such fun for many a student to post pictures of their naked prof on line — and what you gonna do about it? Some celebrities shower in their boxes at clubs for this reason.

  56. Hornswoggler*

    My mother made a thing for our family which was (and still is) known as The Green Thing. We used to have to change on a windswept but well-populated beach which was nearby where we lived. Basically, she bought some towelling (green with white flowers, for info), stitched it into a tube, hemmed one end and ran a length of elastic through the other. If you slipped it on over your head, it fell well below your knees (if adult) and to the ground (if a child). You could both dry yourself and change in privacy, and given the wind-chill, relative warmth. For some reason, we only ever had one of these between the five of us.

    Maybe I should go into business making these Things. I see a ready market even among the commenters here.

    1. SaltyOperator*

      This is genius! I wouldn’t bother using one at the gym, but it’s -perfect- for beach going in general, and it would have been my best friend in summer camp (no waiting in bathroom lines and no need to master the hot tangled wiggle twist change-out in the sleeping bag? Woot!). Plus it would bring peace of mind to anybody more comfortable covering themselves up in showers/locker rooms.

      Please make towel Things, make Blue Things and Green Things and all the color Things!

  57. Just me*

    I only go to a regular, non-work gym, but I only change in a stall. The idea of changing in front of other people gives me anxiety and flashbacks to highschool. No thanks. I can’t believe some women walking around with no clothes on.

  58. Anon111*

    My office has a gym onsite for a very large company. I often see co workers at the classes and definitely in the locker rooms and have friendly chats. We do have separate stalls for the showers but not really for changing. I just strip down throw on my towel and go to the showers. Other ppl bring their own larger towels, strip only down to underwear, put on the towel and discreetly remove the rest. And again use the towel for privacy to put on the underwear layer before letting it drop. But I’ve also seen women blow drying their hair in their underwear or topless – especially when we had a thermostat problem that left the locker rooms averaging around 80 degrees!

    Really it’s your preference – some people will be more relaxed but just keeping to doing your business then covering with a towel is reasonable. You can maintain a lot of modesty with a simple towel.

  59. Quickbeam*

    I have a work gym and do a daily yoga practice there. Private showers, I dress before I get out of the shower. My suggestion to all is not to be a space hog….I have coworkers who spread out everywhere. Be considerate and modest.

Comments are closed.