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This is going to sound like a stupid question. I apologize. But I've had it on my mind for a while and it needed to be asked.

My question is: how do you use the shower at the locker room at the gym?

I told you it was stupid.

But really, I've had gym memberships for a total of about 5 years during my life (not consecutive). I've gone frequently and worked out, but I've never used the showers there. Why not? Honestly, I've just been too nervous about it. It's not so much public nudity itself that makes me nervous. It does make me feel weird and a little self conscious to take my clothes off in a room with other people in it, but I don't think other people really care that much. What does worry me though is the possibility of committing some kind of social faux pas or perhaps even exposing myself to some kind of safety hazard.

Some of the things that have run through my mind as I contemplate taking a shower at the gym:

  • Where do I keep my clothes?
  • If in a locker, should I wear a towel between the shower and the locker?
  • Where do I keep the towel while I'm in the shower? Not every place I've been to has somewhere to hang it.
  • If there are no private showers, is it normal to shower in a bathing suit or similar attire? My current gym has private shower stalls with curtains, but I've been to gyms where the showers were more community style.
  • Where do I keep my cell phone/wallet/keys? I can't really bring them with me into the shower, so I suppose I'd have to keep them in the locker. But is that safe? If someone broke into my locker while I was in the shower, I'd lose everything valuable and I'd have no clothes.
  • If I use a shower that strangers have used, are there any possible health repercussions? Do I need to wear sandals to protect against athlete's foot, for example?
  • Is it normal/OK to perform other grooming functions, such as shaving, or brushing your teeth, in a gym locker room?
  • Etc

So again, in summary, what is the safest and most socially acceptable way to use a locker room at the gym?

It does surprise me how anxious I feel about this, considering I'm usually pretty laid back about most things. I have been to the hot springs and even bath houses in Japan, when I was there visiting friends. But I felt less anxious about that because I was accompanying people who knew what they were doing, and I just did my best to imitate them. When I go to the gym locker room by myself I feel completely out-of-sorts. I feel like everybody else in the world has read some secret manual about how to deal with this and nobody ever handed me a copy. Please help!

If there's some cultural ambiguity about social customs, please assume for the purposes of this question that we're talking about the United States.

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+1 I have exactly the same problem. As an extremely partial answer to your question, my gym explicitly encourages men to do their grooming right in the locker room. –  jprete Jan 5 '12 at 3:44
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Look at the ceiling and don't drop your soap are the two rules I follow. –  Mongus Pong Jan 5 '12 at 11:50
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It is about etiquette and personal hygiene. –  Lego Stormtroopr Feb 16 at 1:20

7 Answers 7

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Short answer is this: when in doubt, ask management. A longer answer includes some general principles:

  • Use your locker to store clothes, and anything you don't want in the shower with you. Lock your locker and take the key with you (if it's not a combination lock).
  • Wear a towel around your waist going from the locker to the shower. While no-one is likely checking you out, you don't want to advertise either.
  • Hang your towel on the shower stall door or on top of the shower head if there isn't a towel hook.

As far as community style showers go, it really depends on your comfort level. More than likely in a gym most people in the shower area with you don't really want to see you. As long as you aren't looking all around and focusing on getting clean, you won't cause any breach of etiquette.

As far as clothing in the shower goes, what is the purpose of the shower area in your gym? If it is simply to rinse before and after going to the pool, use a bathing suit. If it is to clean off the sweat from intense training, being in the buff is OK.

As far as health risks are concerned, evaluate the cleanliness of the shower area. Gyms that routinely disinfect the shower areas will be about as safe as your home shower would be. However, if you see evidence of less than stellar upkeep, keep some flip flops on. Use soap and warm water. Anything more falls under safety concerns.

Last, but not least, if showering at home suits you best, do it.

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+1 for using a combination lock, so you don't mess with keys. –  Max Dec 4 '13 at 20:23
    
Always use shower shoes, e.g. flip flops. Always. –  horse hair Jul 1 at 18:27

I've been in and around the military for 25 years and I've used gym showers for more than 30. Despite this, I still have my own questions about the unwritten etiquette of showering in gym locker rooms.

The etiquette differs greatly based on sexual orientation, but the universal rules are these:

Golden Rule: Boners make public showers awkward.

Other Rules:

1) Always shower before and after using the swimming pool or sauna (wet or dry).

2) Always wear a towel when going to and from the showers (and/or the sauna). Some guys may want to see you in the buff, but none are going to tell you. The rest of the guys simply don't want to see you naked.

3) Wear flip flops or some other form of foot protection to protect you and others from the spread of foot fungus and other unmentionables (see rules 8 and 9).

4) Talking is fine, in or out of the showers. Just don't talk about sex, women, other men, or anything that is likely to cause arousal. See Golden Rule.

5) Even if someone is putting on a show for you, don't stare (especially if it arouses you -- see Golden Rule).

6) Keep your hands to yourself. Touch only what is yours. Sharing a bottle of shampoo or body wash is okay, but don't make physical contact with the other person.

7) Don't tug on your junk, not even a little. Even if it's cold and drafty in the showers and you are self-conscious about shrinkage. Even though we're not looking, per se, all guys can all tell when someone has been tugging on it to compensate for cold-air shrinkage. Don't spend any more time or attention on your junk than is required to wash and rinse it.

8) Don't masturbate in the shower. Most people don't want to see you. Even those who do want to see you don't want to step in your man goo.

9) Don't pee in the showers. No one wants to smell the acrid smell of your urine. And we don't want to watch it swirl down the drain with your shampoo suds. And we don't want to step in it, either.

10) Take all your stuff with you. If you shave in the shower or use the last of your body wash/shampoo, take your trash with you. If you're one of those peculiar types who wears his undies, jock strap, or gym shorts to the showers, make sure you take your crotch sweat-soaked clothing with you.

11) Dry off as much as possible in the shower and keep your butt facing the wall while you do it. Because very few guys want to sit on the bench and see your naked butt or junk at eye level while you dry yourself off.

12) Don't pay compliments to others on their bodies or body parts. If a guy has great definition in his pecs, delts, quads, or (especially) glutes, keep it to yourself or mention it outside the locker room. Even as much as I enjoy having someone flirt with me, I don't want it to come from the guy next to me...in the locker room at the gym. It's creepy.

If a guy is straight, remember the Golden Rule. If a guy is not straight (gay, bi, curious, etc.), there are caveats to the rules, but only if it is known that the other guy is not straight.

These are the rules I have come up with based on 30 years worth of observations and experience.

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Locker rooms are a comfortable space for most men, and a terrifying space for some.

If you are in the latter category, don't use the locker room or use it but don't shower.

The good news is as long as you don't stare it is hard to violate any sacred rules, because there are none.

Having showered in dozens of different locker rooms, layouts vary. Regardless of shower type (stalls or open), the basic procedure is the same.

You put your street gear in the locker and go work out. When you are dine you return to the locker and get naked, stowing your sweaty gym gear in your gym bag/back pack. I have showered in gyms 4 to 7 days a week for more than ten years and owing to work travel I go to lots of gyms. I have seen lots of guys skip the shower but I have never seen one put on a swim suit to shower in.

Once you are stripped, most guys put the towel around their waist as they walk to the shower area. Others kinda just hold it in front of them. Some hold the towel at their side or put it over the shoulder. There is no rule.

Once you get to the shower area, there are usually hooks in an area near the stalls, right outside the communal shower room or sometimes in the shower room on the wall opposite the shower heads. A few places have hooks inside the oversized shower stalls. You just look around and put your towel where others put it.

In the shower there are no special rules except no staring. No staring doesn't mean you can't look at people. You should look your shower mates in the eye, however. If it is an open shower you shoul pick am open shower head as far distant from the other users as possible. This gives others space, but it is not an inviolable rule, One guy at my gym for some reason apparently needs to use the same shower head, and if the shower is empty except for me, upon entering he will take the head right next to mine if it is the one he likes. I figured this out at some point and if I see him in the gym and expect our showers will overlap, I go to a head on the otherside of the room.

You can and should bring your own shampoo or body wash. Very few bring in bar soap.

The trip back to the locker is the same as the trip into the showers. If you want, you can shave, etc. Some guys do this in a towel. Some do it in underwear only. Some do it in pants but no shirt. Some do it fully clothed. A few guys like to do it naked. It is a choice.

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Wear a wrap to the shower and back, wear sandals, that's about it. If it's too much, don't bother.

Keep your clothes/etc. in your locker, use either your own towel (my preference) or the gym's for a towel, if the towel is big enough you can wrap with it, otherwise bring something meant specifically to wrap.

Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.

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Using the shower at the gym ultimately depends on what type of environment it is. For example, my gym has a separate stalls for every shower. Between the stall door and the shower is a changing area. I keep all my belongings in a bag and hang them on the door. Once the door is closed and the shower area is concealed, it's up to me how I wish to conduct myself behind that door. I wear flipflops and give the shower time to rinse itself for a minute or so before I step in. I try not to touch any surfaces. I walk into the stall dressed and I exit the stall dressed. I don't care to have any accidental mental images of other gym members naked, so I return the courtesy. Some people walk around entirely naked - I feel that's rude in an environment that is designed for modesty. But, hey - that's me - plenty of people are entirely ok with public nudity.

All I know, it's more comfortable getting into my car all fresh and clean than dirty and sweaty. I don't think I'd use the shower area if it was entirely open at the gym - it would be one thing, perhaps, if I was on a sports team and it was a team-shower - but with the general public of which there are no relationships? I just think it's creepy.

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Take off all your clothing at your locker, putting all dirty/sweaty clothing in a plastic bag (keeps other things from getting soiled/smelly), lock it, then head for the showers with perhaps only a washcloth (or scrub puff or similar) and possibly a towel... I say possibly, as towels get picked-up & moved, and often used or stolen by others.

DO NOT "wear" a towel! You'll be getting your towel nearly as soiled (sweaty at least) by your un-clean body, plus it really sends the wrong message that nudity is somehow wrong, immoral, improper, or whatever. (Did you know "gym" comes from the Greek word "gymnos", which means "place of nudity"?)

If you take a towel or other stuff, see if you cannot keep it on a hook, or as needed, over the pipe behind the showerhead and/or shower handle(s). -If your shower is in a partitioned stall of some kind, you may (if not too high) be able to keep items on top of a panel, but DO NOT flop/fling them over, as you'll be spraying the guy next to you if you do! (That's rude, and might get in the guy's eyes or give him a rash or something depending on the presence of soap/shampoo.)

Wearing a swimsuit is not really proper... It really just tells guys you're ashamed of your penis/genitals, and will cause some to pay you even more attention, wondering if what you have is really worth looking at. -Not to mention you cannot wash covered parts and rinse them adequately, AND the fact that soap that's good for you is bad for your clothing - it will cause fabrics to fade and fall apart more quickly. (This is no joke!)

As for valuables, don't bring things you do not need... If you're out only for the gym and returning home immediately, leave the phone, music player, etc at home if at all possible. -Some gyms may have more secure coin-op lockers up front, near the desk or near the workout area, where break-ins are less likely to happen. Some gyms will also allow you to have the desk employees hold things in a drawer there, but this is not really secure at all and it's dependent on you remembering things and keeping the employees honest. -If you "have" to have the items in the gym, then keep them in your locker and use a more secure lock that can't be picked (no keys), is tempered/hardened, and preferably uses combination wheels (4 or more is best) or a magnetic key. Taking a shorter shower so you can check back on your locker quicker may be best, as well as drying lightly in the shower area and more thoroughly at your locker so you can keep an eye on it.

(BTW, DO NOT take electronics into the sauna or steam room, as you will slowly damage them... It's too hot and/or humid and they are not normally made for such!)

Wearing plastic slide sandals is best in a locker room environment, not just in the shower or wet areas, but in the locker room itself. -Floors there are usually not cleaned well, and certainly not enough to keep much dirt off it, not to mention keep mold/fungus and bacteria from growing! DO NOT step on the floor anywhere there if you have the slightest issue with "athlete's fungus".

Also on the same note, ALWAYS put CLEAN socks on before your underwear and/or pants/shorts. If you don't, you can transfer athlete's fungus from your ft. to your crotch area, which then gives you "jock itch". -This is the best idea, no matter where you are dressing!

Many shave before or during a shower, no mater where they shower, to give anyone they may meet (to them) a better appearance of them, or to rid themselves of that "5 o'clock shadow". However, IMHO, brushing your teeth is a bit much... After all, if you didn't recently have a meal (elsewhere, presumable) and not brush afterwards, why wait until showering to correct the oversight? Perhaps if you're leaving there for a date, you might want to, but otherwise is there a need to do it there??? I feel likewise on body shaving. -Take the time to do this in a more private space (at home) if you must do it.

I run a forum for guys on Yahoo Groups for guys that have trouble with body-shyness issues and help for same, so if you're in that kind of position at all or looking to help those with same, check it out: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/WHYP/info

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The USA is the only country I've been in where nudity in men's locker rooms is almost seen as obscenity and it's totally ridiculous. Locker rooms are meant for changing clothes, showering, taking a sauna, etc. There will be nudity and a nude body is nothing to be ashamed of or frightened by. Every man has a penis I don't care one bit what yours looks like or its size. Neither do I care one iota if you see mine. For God's sake- it's a locker room and there will be nudity. Don't fret about it. Enjoy your time at the gym, please shower before going into the pool or hot tub. If you are that upset about seeing another man nude then work out at home.

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Don't you take The Lord's name in vain! lol. But seriously, the OP stated quite clearly that 'it's not so much public nudity itself'. So your answer kinda missed the point. –  LarissaGodzilla Jul 1 at 7:13

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