When social distancing is the new buzzword and the threat of COVID-19 seems overwhelming, you might be wondering whether you should still be hitting the gym. All that sweat. All those bodies. Is it safe to train at the gym during the coronavirus outbreak?
Rules and recommendations are changing rapidly (in some instances, overnight or in the time it takes to write a blog article!) so for the most up to date info, check with the Australian Government Department of Health. In general, the recommendations are to keep exercising, maintain your fitness and continue to move as proven ways to optimise your health. Sitting at home slumped on the couch, worrying about whether you’ll get sick is a sure-fire way to feed stress, anxiety and those sugar monsters that threaten to derail your meal plan.
But play it safe when it comes time to train. If you’re hitting the gym, follow these guidelines. (And not just during the increased measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, but every damn day. Because you just don’t know who’s been sweating all over that bench before you got there.)
5 Rules To Keep It Clean at the Gym
1. Don’t go if you’re sick
Do we really need to say it? Don’t be superwoman, Susan. If you’ve got a sniffle, a cough or you’re feeling wiped out, give the gym a miss. In these hyper-aware times, you’ll get death glares if you’re coughing all over the gym floor, and you risk passing on an illness you don’t even know you have.
While the general rules for colds and flu is it’s ok to train if the symptoms are above the neck (runny nose, weepy eyes, headache), one of the prime symptoms of COVID-19 is a sore throat. Which could also be a symptom of a cough, a cold, dehydration and a host of other ailments.
Regardless, if you’re feeling unwell, your own immunity will be compromised so do you really want to go mix with some stranger’s DNA on the weight bench? Play it safe to protect yourself and others - if you’re feeling sick, stay home.
2. Wipe down benches, bars and handles before AND after you use them
It might be standard to wipe the bench, but think about everywhere hands have been - the barbell, dumbbells, handles, pins on pin loaded machines, touch screens on cardio equipment. Give it all a wipe with an antibacterial wipe before you train, and when you’ve finished. It’s common courtesy every time, but especially in these COVID-19 times.
If your gym offers 24/7 access, consider changing up your routine to a less busy hour so you can implement the social distancing measures of 1.5m between you and your iron-pumping neighbour.
And if you were thinking about hitting the steam room, take the advice of Dr Norman Swan, producer of the Health Report, ”Don't go in the steam room. I wouldn't go near any humid area to be honest. Is your life going to change by going in the steam room? No. I'd avoid them for the moment."
P.S. If you’re all about classes at the gym, maybe give them a miss for now. A contained room, lots of bodies huffing and puffing in close proximity and a respiratory disease are probably not good mates.
3. Use a towel
This is mandatory in most gyms, but here’s where we’re amping it up a notch.
Use a towel to provide a buffer between the weight bench / mat / machine and your own sweaty mess. Do NOT use it to wipe your face or your hands.
Why? That towel will pick up the germs of whatever it is placed on (notice how many people drop their towel on the floor beside them when they squat or deadlift? Think about how many feet have been on that floor and what they’ve tracked in from outside.)
Use a towel, but don’t assume that your towel is enough to wipe the equipment down when you’ve finished. Anti-bacterial wipes are supplied in gyms for a reason. Use them.
4. Watch what you touch
Don’t just think about the gym gear, think about your own gear. If you’re anything like us, you’ve got your playlist pumping before you even think about picking up the bar. So wipe down your phone and headphones when you’ve finished.
Keep your drink bottle capped and if you’re using a flip-top lid, wash your hands before you open the bottle.
Don’t touch your face, especially eyes, nose and mouth. Gym hygiene is all about reducing transmission, so keep it clean.
And don’t think training gloves are the answer. Psychologically, you’ll think your hands are protected so you’ll be more inclined to touch your face, belongings, phone with gloved hands. This was one of the first recommendations when COVID-19 protection measures were released and for good reason. Wearing gloves makes you feel safer so you are less vigilant about what you touch.
5. Shower as soon as you’re done and wash your gym kit pronto
Exercise temporarily reduces your immunity, so you want to take extra precautions when you’ve finished training. Wash your hands, wipe down your phone and gear, and shower as soon as you’re done. You’ll also avoid blocked pores and skincare woes - win:win.
And throw that towel and gloves in the wash when you get home. If you’re more inclined to leave your towel in the back seat of your car for ‘next time’, now is the perfect time to amp up your post-gym routine. Dump the towel in the laundry basket, hit the shower and mix up a post-workout protein shake.
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