Here’s a cautionary note for all those who like to sweat it out in the gym: Practice hygiene, or else you’re likely to hand out an open invitation to those nasty germs.
These tips should help protect you from those germs that are lurking everywhere; from workout mats and exercise machines to door handles and free weights; and can potentially cause infection and disease:
1. If you’re sick, keep out! If you are unwell, do everyone else a favour and stay at home. While you might feel fit enough exercise when you have a common cold or similar infection, by going to the gym you’re putting others at risk of infection.
2. Carry towels. Carry a face towel of your own to avoid spread of infection even if your gym provides one. Besides that, carry a clean, large enough towel to place on the exercise mat or bench before you sit. This will prevent the previous users’ sweat from getting on to your clothes and also your sweat from spreading to the equipment. Wiping down exercise machines before and after use is not only good gym hygiene, but also good gym etiquette.
3. Wash your hands. Wash your hands before and after your workout to prevent the spread of germs. For the same reason, avoid touching your face with your hands without washing.
4. Shoes and socks. Keep a separate pair of shoes for the gym which you should wear only after you reach the gym. Wear a fresh pair of socks daily. If you don’t — your smelly feet and socks will not only inconvenience those around you – they can also give you yucky fungal infections.
5. Your gym wardrobe counts! Use a fresh set of workout clothes each time. Do not stow used clothes in the locker for re-use even if you didn’t sweat much, as they can be a hotbed for germs and can cause infection. Also, it’s very important to wear fabrics that breathe as well as clothes that allow you to exercise without coming in the way or making you feel self-conscious.
6. Dusting powder. Sweat trapped under tight gym clothing can cause fungal infections. Dust yourself liberally with a sweat-absorbent powder before wearing your gym outfit.
7. Hair is best out of the way. Make sure to keep your sweaty hair away from your face while you’re working out to avoid breakouts. Shampoo your hair every time you gym. This will prevent greasy dandruff and scalp infections. Not doing so can also trigger hair fall.
8. Learn the proper use of the equipment. When not used properly, working out on machines can make you vulnerable to many kinds of injuries. Many of these occur when a person isn’t paying attention to the workout. So, stay focussed. Also, there is no point in trying to lift 10 kilos more than your gym mate, only to end up with a muscle strain or worse. Understand the limits of your own body and do not over exercise.
Do not use any dietary supplement without consulting a doctor. Some of them contain modified hormones that might not be good for you.
9. Tips for the sauna/steam room. Make sure that the sauna in your gym is cleaned regularly, as the humid environment is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If you must use it, use your towel to sit on the bench. Minimise your contact with anything in the steam room as it could potentially put you at risk of infection. Remember to drink water before and after you use the sauna.
10. Shower! It’s always advisable to shower after a workout. If you don’t want to use the shower facility at the gym, then at least change into a fresh set of clothes before heading out.
Photographs by Ramasamy Chidambaram and Diletta Guelfi, via sxc.hu