8 ways to stay healthy at the gym during the coronavirus outbreak
Here's how to reduce your risk of getting sick while working out.
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As a yoga teacher and workout junkie, I spend hours every day in a 105-degree room surrounded by sweaty yogis or at the weight rack amidst hordes of other gym-goers. If you're the same way—i.e. the gym or studio is your second home—you likely have one major fear when it comes to the recent coronavirus outbreak: Can you still work out?!
The simple answer is yes. The more complicated answer, however, is that you'll want to be a little more careful than normal. Because while most gyms and fitness studios are taking extra precautions (CorePower, where I work, for instance, has temporarily banned touching students to help guide their position along with the use of public props), there are still additional measures you should take. Below are eight tips for staying safe the next time you're working out.
1. Wipe down your equipment before and after using it.
To be fair, this is gym etiquette 101 and something you should be doing every single time (even when there's no coronavirus outbreak). However, now it's more important than ever. And while most gyms and fitness studios wipe down equipment themselves, it's always best to err on the safe side and do it yourself as well.
But which wipes or sprays are best? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that "diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective." Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency has released an updated list of approved cleaning agents that are thought to be effective against the coronavirus. The list includes products like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray.
2. Bring your own equipment.
If wipes aren't enough to ease your fears (i.e. the thought of using public equipment still gives you the heebie jeebies), you can always opt to bring your own. Of course you can't lug around a squat rack or a Pilates reformer, but you can bring smaller props and accessories. For instance, many of my yoga students bring their own blocks and straps to class now. Other equipment you can carry to and from the gym or studio include lighter dumbbells, bands, and exercise mats.
3. Keep your distance from other people.
No, you aren't being antisocial—you're being safe. According to the CDC, coronavirus spreads "between people who are in close contact with one another, within about 6 feet." An easy way to prevent having other gym-goers all up in your personal space? Avoid going at peak hours (like before or after work) or attending classes that are famously crowded (like that noon spin class everyone in your building attends).
4. Wash your workout clothes immediately.
Those damp, sweaty leggings you wore while working out are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria—especially when you think about all the places you sat and the machines they touched. So rather than balling them up in your laundry basket for a week (i..e. letting any germs thrive and multiply), it's best to wash your gym clothes as soon as you can. That's especially true if your athletic wear is made with synthetic fibers, which bacteria stick to much more easily.
5. Bring your own water bottle.
Staying hydrated while you work out is great. But staying hydrated by drinking out of cups that could've been touched by hundreds of people before you? Or drinking out of a communal water fountain? Not so much. Instead, carry your own reusable water bottle since you can control where it's been and what it touches. Here at Reviewed, we recommend this stainless steel Brita bottle because it keeps water cold for up to 24 hours and filters your water as you drink to eliminate any odors or funky flavors. Plus, its large 20-ounce capacity yet slim design are both qualities that make a great gym water bottle.
6. Wear gloves when lifting weights.
Did you know that, according to a study, weights have more bacteria than the average toilet seat? Yuck. But if you're someone who lifts on the regular like me, don't worry—you don't have to ditch the dumbbells just yet. While you should wipe your weights before and after using them (as recommended above!), you can also wear weightlifting gloves to reduce how much of your bare skin is touching those bacteria-covered bars and bells.
7. Avoid physical contact with other gym-goers.
That high-five you give your spin neighbor after a tough ride or the fist bump you give your gym partner after a big lift might be motivating—but it could also spread germs. Keep your hands to yourself when you're working out to reduce your risk of getting sick. At CorePower, for instance, all our teachers have been instructed not to give any more hands-on assists and adjusts (and avoid encouraging high-fives in class) until the coronavirus outbreak subsides.
8. Use a clean towel to wipe your face.
One of the biggest safety precautions that experts recommend is keeping your hands away from your mouth, eyes, and face. I.e. using the back of your hand to wipe away your sweat probably isn't the smartest idea. A better option is to use a clean towel (preferably one of your own rather than one from the communal pile at the gym). You can also use a disposable paper towel if you want to be extra safe—with a regular cloth towel, you run the risk of spreading germs to your face if you toss it on a bench or the floor.
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