THE BEST SELLERS’ LIST- Mr. Clean: Breaking down my pet peeves in the gym, and giving advice on gym etiquette

Trying to squeeze in a workout, nothing is more frustrating than your “gym buddies” breaking several etiquette polices in the gym like leaving dumbbells in the middle of the floor.

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

My home away from home is 901 Fitness located at 3634 Austin Peay Highway.

And like when I am at my actual residence, I like for it to be decent and in order. I realized years ago the equipment and resources don’t make the gym. The people who workout in the facility make the gym.

Being a member of the French Riviera, now 901 Fitness, since 2007, I’ve learned the lessons of gym etiquette my dad Thomas Sr. preached to me as a child were gospel. He would say stuff like, “Put stuff back where you found it.” “If you put it back where it belongs, it won’t ever come up missing.” “Remember other people have to use this too.”

Gym etiquette is not an obligation at workout facilities since the gym boom of the 2010s. With various companies seeking clients, the rules are more relaxed. I remember when the gyms had the leverage, they forced us gym-goers to clean up and be aware of our surroundings.

Now with gyms desperate to hold on to clients, trainers and workers look the other way. Now they just pick up behind us with a smile. Grown people leaving their gyms messy, disorganized and full of chaos.

Today gym goers don’t respect each other. We need a reminder of proper gym etiquette and this week’s Best Sellers’ List is here to rank my top 10 pet peeves of gym abuse.

10. Wipe things down after you use them

I rank this one No. 10 because I am guilty of this one. I sweat a lot and tend to leave puddles near any piece of equipment I partake in. Hitting the gym during a pandemic causes you to use paper towels and disinfected spray more often. Now I have a routine of wiping down the machines, barbells, floor mats and other equipment. Then I take a second towel with me to dry off the cleaning solution.

9. Throw in the towel

You can help the preservation of equipment at the gym with a towel. It is a great way to keep your sweat and bodily fluids off of the equipment. And in addition the towel allows the barbell, machine and kettle bells stay dry, avoiding rust.

I am Sweaty McSweaterson. I don’t leave home without my towel and I rotate three throughout the week. I realize being a real sweaty individual, your gym clothes might develop a funky aroma. Using my towel taught me clothes trap molecules that lead to stinky fabric.

I’ve learned through towel usage, sweaty cotton had a shelf-life and needs to be thrown away after awhile.

8. Let’s talk… all day

The gym is a great place to meet and mingle. You could possibly find your future husband or wife at the squat machine. But you have to respect the fact people are there to workout. If you’re done and feel like catching up, debating a hot topic or exercising your comedy routine, please go right ahead.

But if you see a man or woman in the middle of their agenda, just say hello and keep it moving. And please don’t interrupt a human being while they are literally in the middle of a set. This person is pressing up 225-pounds above their chest and skull areas. That is not the ideal time to ask a question about the Major League Baseball playoff race.

Also, the chatter box seems to be the same person auditioning for ‘The Voice.’ From Gospel to 80’s Rock, you will hear your fellow gym-goer trying to sing that song blasting through their ear buds. It is OK to have an occasional jolt of inspirational song. But when you decide to perform the entire 4 minutes, you need to be slammed over the head with a dumbbell.

7. Respect personal space

There are two times a day the gym gets packed. There is the early morning crew from 6 to 9 a.m. Then the closers hit the gym from 6 to 9 p.m. If you want to avoid crowds, go during the midday or find a 24-hour facility.

Whether you in a gym with a few people or it is buzzing, respect the space of others. Before COVID-19 was a thought, the main reason to respect the space of others is to avoid injury. And you don’t want to jeopardize the safety of your fellow gym mate.

6. Be flexible

Just in case the gym is packed, you need to have a variety to choose from when you attend. I preach to anyone I train, learn different variation of the same workout in order to avoid the issue of having to wait.

I figured this out years ago certain people are setting up a tent, fire and pulling out the ingredients to make a S’mores. They are going to camp out at this piece of equipment. So to avoid a confrontation, I just move to another place to work that muscle.

You can always ask the person, “How much longer you got on the bench press?” If they say five minutes, go warm up and stay a few feet away without starring them down. If they say 30 minutes, don’t waste your time and do something else.  

In the cardio area, when it is peak times, there is a 30-minute limit. That time limit is pushed into our minds to help us to remember to be thoughtful.

5. Stealing my cardio machine

Speaking of the cardio area, if you come at the same time everyday you normally develop a relationship with a piece of equipment. From the elliptical to the treadmill, you create a connection with that machine. From the rhythm to texture, you become one with the piece of equipment.

Your sight lines become a part of your day and help you process the task of burning calories. Then out of nowhere a stranger hopes on your machine. Even worse, a person who sees you on that machine everyday decides to give your piece of equipment a try. I guess you make it look so easy they had to jump on there today. It is hard not to head over to the weight area and grab a dumbbell. And run over to that person and launch that 15-pound missile into their skull.

4. Claim your space

This when your towel comes in handy. A great way to mark a bench or piece of equipment is leaving your sweaty towel on it. It takes a daredevil to remove your towel. You have every right to say, ‘Hey, who moved my towel?’ While piercing through their soul with your mean look.

You might have to run to the restroom or grab something real quick from another area. That doesn’t mean you should lose your turn on the equipment. And when you return to execute your workout, bring the heat so people can see how that machine is supposed to be used.

Now marking up two machines at the same time is a “No-No.” Only if the gym is near empty are you allowed to hog a couple of machines for your super-sets. But if the gym is busy and buzzing, use one machine in a timely fashion.

3. Protein Preparer

I use my blender at home to prepare my whey protein shakes. And I mix my creatine solution in the bottle before I leave home. I do this in order not to waste powder on the equipment or in the locker room.

People who normally mix their supplements at the gym often drop powder. And they will leave it on the bench, locker, changing shelf and floor. I know some guys want the entire world to see the boost they are placing into their bodies. It is a symbol of pride for them. Fellas, just put in the hard work and ingest your supplements at home or your car. We’ll see the results in due time.

2. Don’t hog the equipment

Some gyms have limited equipment. If you’re not working out at a mega gym, be mindful of sharing. The biggest offense of this pet peeve is the guy who hogs all the dumbbells. I hate seeing a city skyline depiction at the feet of a man. This one dude made the executive decision grab the 10-pound, 20-pound, 25-pound, 30-pound and 35-pound dumbbells. That range is the most used dumbbells by most men.

It is hard to do from a normal rep of 25 pounds to 40 pounds because the dude looks you in your face and says without hesitation, ‘I need all of them.” This is when you from another person in the gym and ask them for a spot. That person will spot a couple of 5-pound dumbbells and hand them to you. You will have two chances to throw dumbbells at the head of the hogger.

1. Put everything back where it belongs

Something we all learn in Kindergarten, “Put that back where it belongs.” This might be the No. 1 gym etiquette rule everywhere and to all frequent visitors. Don’t leave a trail of equipment behind you.

And the other key word in the phrase is “belongs.” Don’t place the 100-pound dumbbells in the 10-pound rack. Why would place a 5-pound plate in front of four 45-pound plates? A blind grab for a 45-pound plate could result in a 5-pound missile to the foot.

In the reverse, why would you pop a 10-pound plate behind four or five 35-pound plates. A woman is trying to do her bench press and now she’s in search for a 10-pound plate. She sees it and now she faces the task of getting a workout in before the workout.

Put weights, dumbbells and barbells back where they belong. It will make the gym a better place and the world a better place.

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to