To lie in bed sick can be a very depressing affair indeed. What is more depressing, however, is knowing that your condition could have been easily avoided with a few simple precautionary measures.

Today, we tackle an issue we don’t often like to talk about, particularly in local gyms, as I have happened to notice. It is an issue sensitive to some, maybe even a taboo for others: gym hygiene.

The effects of getting this wrong can sometimes be more devastating than the consequences of an ineffective training programme or any other bad experience in the gym, short of serious injury.

Bad hygienic practice could wind you up stuck indoors horribly ill, or even worse, in a clinic or hospital.

There are a host of bacteria, fungi and other creepy crawlies out there just waiting to find a new home. Once they take up residence in your airways, gut or skin, you could have a hard, painful and very unpleasant time attempting to evict them.

Effective hygienic practice first and foremost comes from the establishment where you train. The gym staff themselves should engage in regular cleaning of the floors and equipment.

Air conditioner filters should be cleaned more frequently than standard procedure in other types of establishments to avoid airborne microbes being spread around a gym full of huffing and puffing members.

All the points of the machines touched by members should be cleaned with disinfectant two to three times per day as an absolute minimum.

Short of having an army of cleaners present to clean between every time a machine is used, and some gyms are actually pretty close to this, the gym, however, can never guarantee machine touch points are completely free of bacteria, all the time. So however many times the equipment is cleaned, much of the responsibility ultimately rests with us, the members.

Provided the gym makes disinfectant spray puffer bottles and paper towels available, we can wipe down the machines ourselves after we use them.

Even if we are more concerned about our own safety than that of others, we can still wipe down the machine touch points before we use them instead of after. If everyone did this, at least they would still be cleaned one way or another with every use.

If you’re not sure where to clean, just think about the parts of your body that are going to touch the machine. This usually means the handles, seat, back-rest and head-rest.

Bad hygiene practice could wind you up stuck indoors horribly ill, or even worse, in a clinic or hospital

The next measure we should always take, and many gyms do insist on this, is using a towel. Your towel creates a barrier between you and the machine. Just in case the cleaning of touch points has not been up to par, a towel can prevent any exchange of body fluids from those already on the machine to you, and vice versa. Since your towel is essentially your protective barrier, remember that it is there for your own safety, so it’s in your interest to use it.

Make sure you use a towel with easily distinguishable front and back sides. Always put the same side of the towel up against the machine, so the same side in turn is always in contact with you.

If you switch the towel round on every machine, then you’re pretty much losing all the benefits. Even worse, if you use the towel to wipe your face using the side that has just been in contact with a dirty machine, then you’re worse off than you would have been without a towel in the first place.

If you sweat a lot, keep a separate smaller towel handy to wipe your face, or use the paper towels provided by the gym.

Another tactic you can use in situations where you feel you have compromised these or any other hygiene methods is to be very careful not to touch your face with your hands at any time.

Once the hygiene of your hands has been compromised, all it takes is a touch of the nose or mouth area for you to become infected.

Keep your hands busy until you can wash or sanitise them. If you carry an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with you, all the better, you can sanitise them immediately.

The showers and changing rooms present a whole host of additional hygienic hazards, particularly to infections in the skin of the feet. Always keep a pair of rubber or plastic flip-flops in your gym bag along with your toiletries.

Wear these only in the changing area to create a protective barrier between you and the floor. Wear them while you are actually showering too, for extra protection.

Make sure you don’t have any open wounds anywhere on your body before your work out. Cover these up with a plaster or bandage, and if you suffer any cuts during the workout itself, wash the area liberally with saline available in all good first aid boxes and dress up immediately.

The last bastion of good gym hygiene is personal hygiene. Washing before your work out diminishes certain risks in the first place and is also a consideration to others.

Wearing the same item of clothing twice without washing it might seem disgusting to the majority of readers. However, unfortunately we do see this happen.

Keeping ourselves and the clothes we wear clean ensures a more pleasant environment for ourselves and everyone.

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