We're all very aware that the gym (even the flash ones) can be a sickness and germs wonderland.
No matter how hard they try, gyms are just not the most hygienic or clean environments at the best of times, with all the sweat, shared equipment and close quarters the patrons are in.
This is especially true during cold and flu season when people are spluttering more often and immunities take a dive. It becomes much easier to catch a cold, skin irritation or tummy bug from the gym in the winter months.
You can however still keep active and healthy while smashing some weights or keeping fit with cardio, you just have to be pro-active and pay attention.
Be wary in the washroom
Sometimes, if we're a frequent gym goer, we get very comfortable using our local gym bathroom facilities. Knowing where everything is, the bathroom etiquette and having a favourite shower are all great things, but don't forget that the floors can be a hot-bed for all kinds of things, including athletes foot, which is a contact infection! It's best to wear some sandals or jandals in the bathrooms and avoid going barefoot anywhere in the gym (besides maybe a Yoga class).
It's also really important to shower reasonably quickly after a workout. Shared equipment like benches and exercise mats can become breeding grounds for germs, and since we all release toxins when we sweat, try and rinse those off as soon as you can.
Don't hang out in damp clothes
Just like it's bad to sit in your togs after a swim, don't get lazy after a workout or sauna session and sit in dank, damp gym gear. The moisture from your wet clothes can bring your bodies temperature down which makes you more susceptible to getting sniffly. Get changed into some dry gear ASAP, before you drive home or commute to work.
Wipe down equipment
We all (hopefully) have a tight relationship with our gyms paper towel/ spray'n'wipe facilities from when we've really pushed hard on a set and left big stamps of sweat on the seats.
If not, you should really start wiping down the seats and benches you use - gym etiquette blog post to come. It is even more important to wipe down the equipment when you're feeling under the weather or trying to avoid getting sick! Think bigger picture during the flu season, usually we only wipe down those larger flat surfaces (often to avoid our own embarrassment at how much 'strength liquid' we've left behind) but think about how many people have touched the kettle bell you're about to swing over your head or how many grubby fingers have gripped the rope you're pulling past your face. Gross, aye?
Disinfecting the equipment you use in the gym will help prevent bugs from latching onto you, it's worth it, even if it does have you looking like an OCD stricken Monica from Friends.
Keep your fluids up
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
It's true that most people swap their water bottle for cups of milo or tea in the winter months to keep warm. The colder days make it easier to drop your intake in liquids, even while working out, because we're not so parched from the heat. Being dehydrated can put some serious stress on the body, which can lead to a damaged immune system. Keep hydrated, with a bottle of water always handy, even on rainy days to keep your bodies germ fighting soldiers strong.
Don't touch your face
One of the things our parents always barked at us was "wash your hands before you touch your face!", they had the right idea. Bugs and germs can easily find their way into your body from being on your fingers, and if you're rubbing your eyes or wiping your lips constantly, you're basically giving them a free ride inside. You won't be able to to disinfect every single thing you touch in the gym like the door knob, handles or clips, but you can keep your hands away from your face between hand washes! It might pay to keep a little bottle of sanitiser handy too.
Take beneficial supplements
A great way to combat sickness in the winter and help make sure you're feeling up to working out is to nurture your body with all the good stuff it needs to function at its best and fight off those warrior bugs.
As mentioned, amino acids are a great way to aid hydration and boost immunity. Protein is the best supplement for muscle recovery, protein bars can steer you off naughty sugar cravings and there are a plethora of daily multivitamins to help fill any nutritional gaps in your diet.
Eating well, exercising and encouraging general health with useful supplements will make a massive difference to cold and flu avoidance!