Close contact, crowded spaces, hot and heavy breathing, over-exertion, loss of bodily fluids and a saturated ‘stinking’ sweated up towel used to mop it all up…. What’s the worst that could happen??
That’s right the glorious world of gym going is about to finally re-embrace us all as the doors are flung wide open in England on the 25th July.
Needless to say some people couldn’t care less but many I’m sure are quite looking forward to getting back into some much needed stretching and blood pumping to blow away those cobwebs, BUT approach with caution, don’t overdo it just because you feel the need to really torture your body straight back into pre-match fitness, a match that’s seemed like the longest and most boring game you’ve seen all year, even worse than a rerun you already know the score to, and one I’m sure we’d all like to never see a repeat of as long as we all live, and all this as we have already said goodbye to and long forgotten the mass flooding at the beginning year and start to look towards the end of summer and straight into Christmas preparations…
A depressing thought I know, so if you want to quit this blog right now we won’t hold it against you, but I think you really should suck it up and soldier on, it might just kill 10 minutes or so of boredom”
…So back to the blog title, or part of, some guidance has been released in preparation of gyms and leisure centres, including pools reopening their doors on Saturday…
Guidance includes the usual suspects; social distancing, hygiene and cleaning measures, ventilation, health ‘well of course’ that’s what you’re going for isn’t it?, after all it is the general consensus as found in a number of studies over many years that exercise is good for you, it’s great for heart health, muscular strength and endurance, not to mention the added benefits to mental health, but more on that in blogs to come.
So if exercise is SO good for an all-round healthy body and mind, then why haven’t gyms reopened sooner, after all it is believed by many that the virus will pose less of a risk to people who work out regularly as they are “a bit healthier”.
But don’t forget, haven’t we heard about young, fit and healthy people that have tragically not survived the virus and our hearts go out to them, their family and friends. So is it not just a lottery, pot luck and take your chances???, after all it may be suggested that the virus simply doesn’t discriminate and anyone is ‘fair game.’
BUT isn’t exercise an immune system ‘booster’ that improves the body’s natural defence system and improves our metabolic health?? Well ‘yes’ and ‘no’, as some data finds that our risk of illness is in fact increased under intensive training.
So whilst regular exercise has been found to boost our immune systems, high levels of physical activity has been found to actually decrease the white blood cell counts in our bodies, the ones that fight off diseases and keep us healthy.
And I can attest to that, as a person who works out about 5 times a week ranging from HIIT to short and long distance running, I certainly became quite ill after intensive training not so long ago…
One weekend in early April I’d had a very active few days away from work, doing all sorts of jobs around the house, a HIIT session at home on the Saturday morning, taking the dog out for a good long walk, and all this before doing a good ‘longish’ intense run on the Sunday morning. Only to find myself feeling a tad ropey Monday morning, but I brushed it off and put it down to a busy weekend, but that evening a high temperature came on, followed by a loss of taste and feeling really quite tired the day after.
So Tuesday I worked from home but it was a bit of a struggle and it was at this point I knew enough was enough so I phoned in sick and began my 7 days of self-isolation. It actually took me a good 3-4 weeks after before I started to feel fit again, it really took it out of me, and I had a serious lack of energy and got tired really quite quickly, which is unusual for me.
OK, so over exerting ourselves can really lower the strength and the ability of our bodies to keep us safe and healthy, but moderate and regular exercise makes us stronger to fight off viruses, so we really should not rush in all guns blazing and re-enter the world of fitness with a steady warm-up and stretch before we lunge feet first back into a marathon…. ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’
So we don’t overdo it, that’s all well and good but how do we actually go about working out in gyms, surely it’s going to be like trying to get ready for a good night out on holiday in some hot climate…
It’s just mathematically impossible to get dry after a good shower, you may as well have not bothered as you squeeze yourself into your newly ironed fresh dress or shirt only to find a massive sweat patch down the back of it that seems to know no boundaries, not to mention the ‘hamburgers’ under the pits that seem to entertain right on queue as you dare move your arms, and all before even having chance to escape the unrelenting heat despite every effort to whack the air-con on full blast…
I’m convinced there is some kind of secret holiday air-con setting that actually stokes up the central heating to 40c just as you even contemplate going out for a meal’
Ok, so you’re in the gym, you’ve warmed up ‘OR NOT’, you look around for the piece of kit you’re most familiar with, no-ones on it “great!”, but wait up, for starters we all use shared equipment, frequently-touched equipment by other sweaty gym goers, we breath the same hot perspiring air, we fill our water bottles up using the same water fountain as other hot and bothered folk ‘please for god’s sake don’t use the mouth piece, think of who else has had their wet sweaty lips wrapped around that thing!!’
And then it’s the showers, the changing rooms, ok so they can be controlled quite well with regular cleaning, one way routes, social distancing, a good control on use of own bath towels only, no laundry service, bagged clothing in lockers and limiting the number of people using the changing rooms at once.
And then we have the ‘extreme’ sweat-mongers who just can’t resist sweating out every last drop of water from their already shrivelled up bodies, “they just love that sweating feeling I’m sure”, and there you have the ultimate death wish; the saunas and the steam rooms, surely you aren’t that insane that you want to breath in even more of someone else’s air and perspiration???
I think we are all pretty clued up by now, and many have even become experts in the field of Coronavirus, but most at least know that the coronavirus is spread through inhaling respiratory droplets that are released when an infected person sneezes or coughs, or from touching an infected surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
So between shared equipment, heavy breathing and sweating, and the proximity of machines, a gym may be one of the dirtiest places you can walk into. Numerous studies have shown that gyms can be covered in cold and flu viruses, as well as E. coli, MRSA, and other bacteria and virus strains that can make you sick.
….And what’s the best way to really make sure you do a proper job on spreading this killer around every nut and cranny that’s not seen the light and day in what feels like a life time…. that’s right, an evil little dirty sweaty super virus, disease spreader, a vessel that can fly around faster than a speeding bullet, even faster than superman himself, and what does this ghastly arch-nemesis of all that is good and holy go by the name of? Of course it’s the crusty stinking ‘sweaty gym towel’!
So what do we do about this little bleeder?
Well you can carry several clean towels. Use one designated towel to wipe your sweaty face so you’re not touching your face all the time. Cover benches/seats with another one, ‘and you’ll want to change these towels out frequently.’
Or better yet use disposable towels, use once then bin it safely’. And here is a novel idea, take a carrier bag around with you in the gym so you can put your disposable towel in it after use and keep on collecting all your towels in the bag as you move around.
And when you’re done, seal the bag and put it in the bin, this way you’re reducing the amount of times you’re going near the bin and all your sweat drenched towels are contained in one sealed and disposed of bag… simples!
So now we’ve got the evil gym towel out of the way, what about other safety measures you could follow??
- Go during an off hour, if your schedule permits, try to go to the gym at a time of day that is less crowded, such as early morning, late morning or later in the evening.
- Bring your own hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and bath towel
- Use hand sanitizer before and after you touch doorknobs, door handles, machines and weights. While many gyms may provide antibacterial spray or wipes to use on the equipment, it is best to bring your own wipes to clean these items before and after you use them.
- Try to avoid wiping your eyes, mouth and nose with your towel, ‘but good luck with that!’
- Don’t let anything you are going to handle rest on equipment while you exercise.
- Although I’m not so sure I like the chances of this working, you should wear your mask while you exercise. People will be breathing heavily, sweating and likely coughing as they work out. Wear your mask to avoid spreading your germs to others, and try to avoid machines or areas that are close to people who are not wearing their own face coverings.
- Use cardio machines as they tend to need less touching, such as treadmills or elliptical machines, and then cleaning them with an antibacterial wipe before and after use
- If you want to lift weights, use universal systems like weight machines as opposed to free weights. As some universal weight systems allow you to do various exercises that target different muscle groups from the same machine, which will reduce the number of items you touch.
- Wear gloves while handling weights and other equipment, wear gloves while you use shared equipment, and then store them in your gym bag in a sealed plastic bag so they do not contaminate your other belongings, such as your mobile, car keys and water bottle… BUT the only problem with gloves are they lead you into a false sense of security, gloves are just as good at spreading germs and viruses as that damn gym towel, so make sure you change your gloves regularly, i.e. after every use and keep on washing your hands
- While most people know that door handles, bathroom knobs and taps may be contaminated, it is important to use paper towels to turn off taps and open the door after washing your hands.
- Keep your distance- gyms and fitness studios should be following social distancing practices and spacing out machines, mats and equipment. If you can, try to work out in an area that is less crowded, and avoid using machines that are close together. You should continue to keep 2 metres between yourself and other gym goers.
- Skip the changing and locker rooms if you can, wait to shower and change until you get home, as people in these spaces will likely not be wearing masks and will be in close contact with one another.
- Make sure that you wear shoes in all areas of the gym, but especially in locker rooms and in the shower. If you sit down, make sure a clean towel is placed on top of the bench or seat. Walking barefoot in locker rooms or showers is an easy way to contract MRSA or pick up a fungal infection like athlete’s foot. By wearing clean shoes, you can prevent catching something that is spread by skin contact.
- Many people assume machines have been cleaned after each use; but that is often not the case, so always clean before AND after use
- Use wipes or a disinfectant spray to wipe down machines or weights before and after use.
- Hang any personal equipment on an area that you know is clean. When you get done, clean it again for the next person.
- While using reusable water bottles is recommended and good for the environment, it is important to always wash them after every use. And don’t use the fountain mouth piece, and better yet if you can fill your bottle at home and not rely on the water fountain, that’s better yet. And use soap and hot water to wash the bottles after each visit to the gym.
- Bring your own bath towels, don’t use supplied towels, even though towels may have been washed, a lot of gyms use the same container to carry dirty towels to the washing area that they use to bring clean towels back, and so they can become contaminated again.
- It is important to always wash your towel after each workout, too.
- As soon as you leave the gym, you should change clothes as soon as possible. A lot of people continue to wear their sweaty clothes for an hour or so afterwards. It’s important to take those off and shower as soon as you can after a workout.
- Clean your gym bags after each use or use disposable ones, as a lot of times, we take our dirty clothes and put them in there; but we never clean the bag when we are done. To prevent the spread of germs, it is important to always spray the bags with a disinfectant spray to kill the bacteria. Recommended you do this after each use if possible, but at least a few times a week for frequent gym-goers
But don’t forget that the safest way of exercising is to always exercise at home or outside; but if you must go to the gym, please follow the steps above and keep safe out there fellow gym goers.
You’re gym must have completed a COVID-19 risk assessment to ensure they are COVID secure before opening, so it’s likely they will have all this covered already and they will be ready and waiting to welcome you back in, into a safe and healthy manner. Visit www.beeiit.com for your tailor made COVID-19 risk assessment, up to date advice, guidance and straight forward support from one of our competent team of Health and Safety practitioners.