Peaceful coexistence at the gym: when older and younger work out together

It’s that time of the year again.

School is out, the summer gym rush is on and the demographic at the gym where I work and train changes dramatically. As in the median age of the daytime gym-goer drops by at least fifteen years.

peaceful gym coexistence

While I’m thrilled to see young people choosing exercise over hanging out at the 7-11, it does make for some interesting encounters in the weight room…

Many of my 40+ female clients are less than excited to be suddenly sharing the free weights section with a bunch of teenage boys.

Fair enough. They tend to hang around in bunches, one exercising, the others watching while answering their phones or swigging on brightly coloured workout drinks.

They also tend to be a little less mindful of personal space and the effect their cologne might be having on the people around.

As I have no clients in this age group, I can’t speak to the challenges we ‘older women’ present to them, although I’m sure there are many 😉

With the goal of encouraging peaceful coexistence at the gym during the months ahead, I’d like to offer suggestions to both groups of gym-goers; the younger, summer-time crowd and the older, rest-of-the-year bunch.

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings. Just like in the boat yard, larger, moving ‘ships’ go first. If somebody nearby is moving with a heavy weight, stand back and let them pass or finish their set before you continue on. When setting up your bench, make sure it’s far enough away from your neighbour’s so as not to impede their range of motion (or scare them to death when your dumbbell suddenly moves over their body).
  2. Remember why you’re at the gym. Sure, exercising with friends can be more fun than exercising solo. But if you’re standing around chatting with your buddies/girlfriends/cronies rather than lifting or actively resting, you’re taking up space that another gym-goer could be using. Workout first then take the coffee talk to the coffee shop.
  3. Shift your workout time. In my gym, the 14 to 19-year olds don’t tend to make an appearance until 10:30 or  11:00 am. And when the sun’s out, they tend to head for the beach by about 2 (pump up first, beach second…). If you’re looking for a quieter time to exercise, avoid the peak daytime hours.
  4. Keep your volume down and your language respectable. Nobody wants to hear your music, no matter how awesome the playlist. Lower the volume to protect everybody’s ears. Remember that you’re in a public place and keep the F-bombs to yourself. You never know who’s on the bench beside you; it just may be the woman that’ll be interviewing you tomorrow for the summer job you’ve got your heart set on…
  5. Treat others with respect. Regardless of age, everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. That means asking before you commandeer equipment. ‘Working in’ when two or more people need to use the same machine. Wiping off your bench and cardio machines when you’re done. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’. Giving someone an ‘atta boy John’ or ‘good job’ when you’re impressed with their effort or performance.

Above all, remember that ultimately, we all go to the gym for the same reasons;  to improve our fitness, health and over-all sense of well-being.

Does the demographic in your gym change over the summer?

If so, how does it affect your workouts?



  1. You know I do all my workouts at home now (unless I’m traveling), but when I was in high school and college, I worked out at my local YMCA. They had a separate weight room for women, and I was so grateful for that. It eliminated some of the issues you bring up, and it also eliminated the unwelcome pick-up lines and male strutting to impress the ladies. 🙂

    • I’ve never gone to a gym that has a women’s only section! The gym I work in is more of a community centre. The pick up lines and male strutting are fairly minimal. How can people stand it?

  2. Moe Hopkins says:

    I workout at the local YMCA and a booger of a policy was just put in place where kids as young as 7 are allowed on the workout floor after a 30 minute orientation. This is VERY SCARY and unsafe! Kids can be on the floor unattended using all of the equipment as they see fit. I hope this doesn’t stay in place long.

  3. 7???? That’s crazy Moe! In my gym, you have to be 13 to even be on the floor and that’s AFTER an hour long orientation AND only during specific hours without a parent in attendance. I’m surprised there hasn’t been an injury-related lawsuit yet…

  4. I am such a baby about this since I do work out when it is usually quiet!! Hush Tamara, no telling my workout time pls! I want it to stay as empty as possible! 🙂

    I do find that the older teens & college kids now start to linger longer into my time – nope, don’t like that… 🙂 I am sure to let them know who is boss! 😉

    Greta tips though!!! 🙂
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  5. So glad I can workout at home! But, I do love it when my son goes to the gym because I’m happy he’s taking care of himself.
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    • Yes! I’m truly happy that young people come to the gym. I just don’t necessarily enjoy working out in a crowd… 😉

  6. our gym is packed with high school kids! but i think we’ve made it clear to be respectful and mindful, which they are. I actually take a lot of the kids outside with me to do bootcamp, which makes it easier for the older folk to workout indoor, ya know?

  7. I’ve definitely noticed a change in demographic at my gym. I train clients and myself at privately-owned gym that’s tucked away in the corner of the city, with many of the regulars in the 40+ range. The younger ones there (myself included) usually keep to themselves. During my 9 and 10am sessions today the gym had its regular crowd, but as soon as 11:00 hit the weight room was filled with guys wearing cut-off shirts and lining benches with an assortment of dumbbells for bicep curl drop sets. A few of the benches were even dragged around to different machines, I guess so they could hit muscles from different angles? Summer has arrived!
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    • Ariana, apparently it’s important to get your ‘pump on’ before heading to the beach. Who knew? 😉

  8. My gym is on an air force base so there are plenty of “youngsters”-but luckily there are rules they have to follow. Such as no cell phone use (texting is allowed) which is good.
    I usually get there really early when the “hard-cores” are there and everyone is respectful and minds their own business pretty much.
    As a 60 year old female however (who has been lifting for over 30 years) I call people on their stuff….especially if they leave weights on the bench/machines. All I say is “that’s OK, I will put that away this time, but I am not your mom”. Works, pretty much!

    • Cheryl, I LOVE your response! I’ve muttered those words under my breath before. Perhaps I need to say them aloud, with a smile on my face!

  9. My husband and I definitely changed the time that we go from 10am to 8am in order to miss the summer crowds. We’ve found that we actually enjoy it more since more machines are free and a lot quieter.
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    • Jamie, there’s really nothing more frustrating than not being able to get on the machines/equipment that you need for your workout. Great idea getting there earlier in the day! That leaves you with more of the day to do other things!

  10. I chuckle at this. As someone who can leg press 500 lbs and lift decently heavy weights, and more than some of the young bucks that work out in the gym, I laugh to myself when they don’t want to work out near me! I found it most amusing when a young guy was using the leg press and when he was done, asked me if I wanted him to take some weight off of it. I told him no I was adding more. He proceeded to tell me to be careful, and asked me if I knew what I was doing 🙂

    • Doesn’t that make you feel great! (And I hope he had a sufficiently sheepish look on his face…) 😉

  11. I go to a women’s gym. Squeeee!! I love it. Summer times it is quieter…even with a childcare women tend to not come when school gets out.
    There is a class instructor that is too loud…and it can get kind of annoying. But, I’d have to change when I go to avoid that, so I just enjoy the music. It’s pretty good.

  12. I am in my own world when I work out – I am very respectful though and I always wipe my machines down and everything. I also don’t BLAST THE TV (I do not turn it on) and I mind my own business!
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