You Just Touched Everyone In Town – Germs At The Gym

I live in a town of about 50000 people. It’s not a big deal except that we are considered a commuter town. We have 3 morning and afternoon/evening trains that bring people to and from Toronto. If you’ve never ridden on a commuter train realize that they are PACKED. It turns out that these trains are a great way to spread illness from Toronto to the surrounding areas and the gathering of so many local people is a fantastic way to make sure the illness gets spread throughout the community.

While I don’t take the train to work I do interact with some of these commuters every day. We touch some of the same stuff each day at the gym, we open the same doors, drink from the same water fountains, lift the same weights and hold the same handles on the cardio machines. Everyone who goes to the gym is exposed to this massive collection of communicable diseases and if they are not careful, they’ll end up infecting themselves with whatever virus happened to contaminate their hand. Of particular concern is any piece of equipment that is used during the workout because the moisture from sweat makes for the ideal conditions to cultivating disease. This is something that is made worse when some one does not clean the equipment after they use it.

My approach to avoiding illness at the gym is fairly simple. I assume that no one cleans anything so if I touch something that I did not clean myself I assume that part of me is dirty. I don’t think this borders on hysteria because everyday I see people pass on washing their hands after going to the bathroom, I see them leave their sweat on the cardio gear and benches and I’ve never see anyone clean an exercise or yoga mat after they were done with it. There is good reason to just assume that everything at the gym has germs on it because at least some of the stuff has germs on it.

How I try to avoid colds when I’m going to the gym:

  • I wash hands before changing and make sure to wash my arms up to the elbows.
  • When I need to wipe or touch my face, I try to use my forearm instead of my hand because I know they are clean and because they don’t come in contact with nearly as much as my hands.
  • Before I use a piece of cardio equipment I will clean it because the person before me probably didn’t.
  • I wash my hands well before I actually go to the bathroom because I don’t want to touch myself down there with dirty gym hands.
  • I wash my hands after I go to the bathroom because it is the polite thing to do.
  • At the end of the workout, I wash my hands before I change because they are probably dirty.
  • When I get home I wash the outside of any water bottles I brought with me.
  • I have a gym pen that doesn’t get used anywhere other than the gym and it never goes near my mouth.

While this may appear to be the todo list of an OCD bodybuilder it serves the single purpose of keeping me healthy so I can go to the gym and keep working out. Getting sick isn’t a very good option because I will lose training time or intensity. Plus, it sucks to be sick. I take these measures to eliminate as much of the risk as I can so I can keep doing what I love.