Outdoor workout in the Teton's close to Jackson-Hole Wyoming.
GUIDE ON HOW NOT GET SICK AT THE GYM
Coronavirus has changed the world. It will change our day-to-day lives going forward. Some of these changes will be very positive and helpful—and, frankly, they are way overdue. For example, there will be many changes that will affect our gym experience. If we navigate these properly we will not let the coronavirus affect our gains. Let’s explore ways to survive the cesspool germ factory. These tips are meant to help minimize your exposure to germs and harmful things that live in the gym while still allowing you to hit the gym and expand your gains.
Some gyms are doing a great job with cleanliness by using modern robots that use UV disinfection to clean their gyms thoroughly and frequently. The only problem is those are upscale gyms, and sometimes you need to be able to hit a local gym or hotel gym or even a chain gym because they have some equipment that the other gyms don’t. Here are some tips to minimize your exposure to germs and whatever lurks in the gym.
Breathe through Your Nose, Not through Your Mouth:
Get in the habit of practicing breathing through your nose. Work on breathing through your nose inside gyms. Practice breathing through the nostrils even when doing cardio or lifting weights. The practice consists of breathing in and out via the nostrils and shutting your mouth! It's actually way easier said than done. You are meant to breathe through your nose because it filters the air coming into your lungs versus mouth-breathing, which doesn’t really filter anything.
Breathing through the nose may reduce the chances of getting colds and getting sick. The interior of your nose has a mucus lining. When you are assaulted with bacteria, allergens, dust, or other harmful particles that enter through the nose, the mucus traps them. The mucus contains antibodies, or enzymes, which then kill the unwanted bacteria and viruses (1). The mucus lining starts in the nose and then continues in the trachea. From the trachea, it then continues even further to the bronchi, from it enters the lung. This mucus lining is the first line of defense. It's the defensive line keeping your body clean from outside invaders. The mucus layer provides an essential first host barrier to inhaled pathogens (2).
New Theories for Cardio in Unfriendly Air:
My new theory regarding indoor cardio is that low-pace cardio is a go while cardio that requires open-mouth use is an outdoor event. Rowing, ski-erg, stair-mill, walking on treadmill, stationary bike are all activities that one can get good enough at that you can breathe through your nose. Anything that requires mouth breathing is now designated to open air only. Open air disperses many viruses elsewhere so they can't sit near you like in an indoor gym. Outdoor cardio does have its downfalls, especially when you live in a polluted city. We will discuss how to avoid pollution in a different article.
"You are meant to breathe through your nose because it filters the air coming into your lungs versus mouth-breathing, which doesn’t really filter anything."
Here is a book to read about breathing that is interesting and filled with great stuff.
“The Oxygen Advantage” by Patrick McKeown
Link to book
Bonus Tip: Make sure you are not a mouth-breather.
Wash Your Hands before, during, and after Workouts – AND DRY THEM TOO!
Washing hands should be done for yourself and also for others in order to keep germs and bacteria out of the gym. I would love to see all gyms incorporate hand-washing stations before your check-in at the front desk. It should be an essential requirement that all gym-goers wash their hands before entering. They do it on cruise ships and it's very useful. Washing mid-workout and at the end of the workout is now a must as well.
Gyms are dirty. We all know this. To dive deeper into what makes it worse is this—there are a depressing number of men that are using the latrines and not washing their hands after. The number goes up when they don't think anyone is watching. It goes way up when the sinks and counters start to get dirty. Sinks and bathroom counters start looking as dirty as the urinals with continual use.
DRY THEM TOO!
Another aspect that is overlooked is the aspect of drying your hands afterward. The moist surface can harbor bacteria. Therefore, drying your hands with a paper towel is just as essential as washing your hands (3). Make sure you use those paper towels. I am not a fan of warm air or jet dryers. With all the misdirected air pressure, those dryers may just be making germs airborne so that you can readily breathe them in, especially if you are a mouth-breather and just suck the air right back in your body without the filters that breathing through your nostrils provides. One study I read suggested that it took hot-air dryers 40 seconds to achieve the same dryness as the jet air and towel drying took in 10 secs. 40 seconds drying your hands in the bathroom is a long time. I bet less than 20% of people put their hands under those hot-air dryers for 40 seconds (3). The study also suggests that hot air dryers were the least effective method of removing bacteria from washed hands.
Bonus Tip: Wash your hand with soap. Dry them with paper towels. Think twice about using the hot air dryer.
For Your Own Good, Please Stop Touching Your Face!
The coronavirus news cycle is filled with professionals on television telling you to not touch your face. Many reports are stating that it’s possible to expose yourself to the virus by touching your mouth or eyes. The truth is that you open yourself up to catching a lot of different illnesses but touching your face.
Did you see Dr. Sara Cody when she was advising people to stop touching their faces early in the coronavirus outbreak? At Santa Clara County's Public Health Department press conference, Dr. Sara Cody stated: "Today, start working on not touching your face — because one main way viruses spread is when you touch your own mouth, nose, or eyes." Seconds later—literally, seconds later—Dr. Cody licked her finger to turn the page of her notes.
This is something that needs to be practiced.
Do not touch your mouth or face!
Do not touch your mouth or face!
Do not touch your mouth or face!
It’s actually easier said than done.
Finding ways to not temp yourself to touch your face might be a good first step. I found myself touching my face a great deal at the gym when I have a beard longer than common stubble length. I would itch it and do weird grooming things in between sets when I had a beard. That’s actually really gross because barbells and dumbbells are a concoction of gross fluids, toxins, germs, and other stuff.
Questions: Are beards making you touch your face more? Do people with beards get sicker more often? How clean are beards? How long do droplets of viruses live on beards? I don’t think anyone has clear answers to these questions at this point. However, with anecdotal evidence from my own workout routines, I have strong sense that beards contribute to uncleanliness because the hair potentially holds toxins and I am more likely to touch my face when I have more than two days growth of beard stubble.
Bring Wipes to Wipe Down Weights and Cardio Machines:
Whenever you use cardio equipment, it is important to wipe down machines with wipes before and after use. Wiping down machines is just as important as burning those calories. If you are doing an hour of cardio on the stair mill you are touching the railings hundreds of times and for long periods of time. You cannot rely on the person in front of you to truly clean the machine so bring wipes. Bring your own wipes because most gyms usually do not use the best cleaning solutions, so just bring your own products that you are comfortable with. I have been wiping down cardio equipment since I started hitting the gym 20 years ago. There always has been some side-eye weird looks as to why I would do it, but I think going forward in the age of the coronavirus, everyone will be woke and understand the necessity to participate in maintaining cleanliness.
For wipes, I use these Clorox bleach wipes first. Let it sit for a little while then wipe it off with some baby wipes. These Clorox wipes do not have a bad smell, nor is it over powering.
Leather Gloves and Hand Sanitizer:
I lift with leather gloves and I have hand sanitizer in my backpack and apply it to my gloves while lifting weights. At many gyms—even gyms that are being cleaned frequently—a lot of the dumbbells and barbells build up germs and dead skin faster than anything else in the gym. To get a sense for how dirty a barbell is, take a wet wipe and clean one off to see how gross it really is.
Take Your Clothes Off Prior to Entering Your House:
This is a golden rule to keep your house clean from the gym. We know that coronavirus or other viruses, bacteria, or germs are able to live on surfaces for many days at a time. For this reason, your gym clothes cannot go inside your house. A lot of people change at the gym but if you can't or don’t want to, make sure you have a place to take off your clothes before going into your house and don’t wear shoes in your house. You should wipe those shoes with a wipe too. Covid-19 can live on surfaces like plastic or steel for up to two to three days (5).
Also, we need to stop the naked butt cheeks in the sauna. Each person must have a towel to sit on in the sauna. While we are at it, no more walking around barefoot in the locker room. Yes, I see people actually doing that still to this day. Honestly, do I need to explain why these two things that are epidemics in gyms need to stop? Bare butt cheeks sitting in the sauna really happens and really is gross. Walking barefoot on the damp west floors or walking barefoot from the shower to the common area in the gym is not sanitary. Each of these disgusting actions may open the door to bacterial infections and fungal infections.
Bring Your Own Towels:
The towel service is super nice and convenient. However, once you start thinking about the details involved with towels, it opens up the pandora’s box of negatives about towel service. Some gyms use a professional linen service, but many gyms launder the towels themselves to save money. Let me start by saying I have a very close relative who washed towels at an upscale fitness gym. He stated that, on numerous times per week, gym members used the towels to wipe their rear ends, then throw them into the dirty towel bin for cleaning. Again, just to be sure you understand this was a regular occurrence—this was a common thing seen multiple times per week!
There are other questions that start to arise with towel service. For example, are clean towels being transported in the same laundry bags, bins, or carts that transport the dirty towels? I think the answer is usually a Yes! I know there are gyms I can name right now where this is done. To properly clean a batch of towels, each towel must be washed with hot water and dried with hot dryers. The truth is that MRSA (4) may be passed from a towel to a person even on what you think is a clean towel. Toxins like MRSA can be transferred to the clean towel by poor practices like using the same bags for clean and dirty towels. You can get MRSA from a clean towel at a gym—Think About That!
Clean Your Phone:
Clean that phone with a wipe. Get a good anti-bacterial wipe and clean that thing. Get in the habit of cleaning that phone often. There are all kinds of reports online that your phone is dirtier than your toilet. I would have to say that it would depend on how clean you keep your toilet and how clean you keep your phone.
At this point, regardless of how much bacterial matter and crap that gets on your phone, it should be a daily thing to wipe that thing down. Another option would be the emergence of the UV-C sanitizers. PHONESOAP 3 is a device that you put your phone into and it sanitizes it. The company’s website states that the UV-C killing 99.99% of all bacteria and germs. At this point, that would be a nice time-saving solution when compared to constantly wiping down your phone.
While you are cleaning your phone, make sure to clean the headphones and your water bottle too! And let’s go one step further—while you are cleaning your phone, clean your gym bag every trip to the gym. I suggest buying a gym bag that is waterproof, so that it is easy to wipe down, lasts a long time, and keeps your belongings sealed off from our nasty virus filled world.
Bonus Tip: Don’t use the mats to stretch. There is a reason that wrestlers clean the mats before and after each practice.
I will be adding to this list as more things to stay clean and healthy have come up. Keep emailing me with ideas that you think would help make gyms clean and safe.
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