If you go to the gym regularly, we’re going to give you major props because sticking to a fitness routine is not easy. But unfortunately, that’s where the praise ends, because we have some bad news. You’re probably making some gross hygiene mistakes at the gym without even realizing it — and you’ll definitely want to hear us out on this one.
The gym is a great place to get healthy, don’t get us wrong, but you’ll want to avoid these all-too-common gross things people do at the gym, from the workout habits that wreck your skin to the post-workout steps you’re not taking to actually stay healthy. Listen up, gym rats. You’ll need this before your next workout session.
Here are the 15 grossest things you do at the gym without even realizing.
1You don’t completely take off your makeup pre-workout
Maybe you’re coming straight from work or running errands and you figure it’s fine to dive right in to your workout without wiping off your smoky eye. Or maybe you’re trying to impress your gym crush by lookin’ flawless while you flex. But please, keep your workouts totally bare-faced.
Even if you’re not Kardashian-level contoured, light makeup still clogs your skin, particularly badly when you’re sweating and your body is trying to remove those toxins via your skin. Wearing makeup at the gym only increases the chances for nasty breakouts, and who wants that?
2You wear your hair down
Another seemingly harmless habit with some potentially gross side effects is wearing your hair down at the gym. Even if you’re trying to protect your blowout and still get your sweat on, you’re better off loosely tying your hair back to keep it away from your face. Why, you may ask? Any products in your hair — gels, mousses, or sprays — can seep onto your hairline when you sweat and clog your pores, causing breakouts. So save those flirty hair whips for the club, ladies.
3You constantly touch your face while you’re working out
In case we haven’t driven home the point yet, the skin on your face is super susceptible to picking up all kinds of nasties at the gym. So if you’re sweating and quickly rub your forehead off with your hand or your arm, definitely stop that and use a clean towel. Gym machines are breeding grounds for bacteria, which you’re then introducing to your face when you touch it. Which brings us to our next point…
4You don’t wipe down weights and machines before and after every use
Even if the staff at your gym do a great job of keeping the machines and weights clean, you absolutely have to wipe everything down before and after use — every single time. We know it’s annoying, but trust us, doing so will protect you and the person after you from potentially getting seriously sick.
Miguel Sanchez, MD, associate professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, told Men’s Fitness, “Studies show that viruses, like those associated with colds, could live on the surfaces even though the equipment was cleaned recently.” If a measly little cold isn’t enough to freak you out, Sanchez says you can pick up warts and E. coli from gym equipment. We’ll pass.
5You don’t wear gloves to lift weights
Even if you’re in the habit of wiping down equipment, you should still wear gloves if you’re lifting. Michael Lin, MD, a dermatologist and founder of Dr. Lin Skincare, gave StyleCaster the scoop. According to Dr. Lin, gloves “prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses like warts and staphylococcus bacteria, which can cause impetigo. Impetigo is a common skin infection that can be easily transmitted at the gym and result in blisters and sores.” Ack!
6You don’t bring your own mat
Most dedicated yogis bring their own mat to get their “om” on, but there’s a seriously good reason why you should bring one, even if you only hit up Pilates every once in a while. Think about it: When you’re doing floor work on the mat, your entire body is pressed against it. That means your face, skin, and clothes potentially come into contact with the previous person’s sweat, germs, and potentially even their shoes, which just trudged through goodness-knows-what to get to class. Aside from that, gym classes are often booked back to back, and have you ever seen staff members come in and clean them? Exactly.
7You don’t clean your mat (or other equipment) regularly
So let’s say you took our advice and bought your own yoga mat — great job! Now, it’s imperative that you keep that yoga mat clean. Ideally, you should wipe your yoga mat down after every use. It may seem harmless because you’re the only one using it, but any personal equipment you’re using in the gym needs to be sanitized regularly.
An easy method? Drape your mat along your shower rod and wipe it down with a cleaning solution. There are plenty of all-natural homemade cleaning solutions that are gentler than commercial products. Just please, figure out what’s most convenient for you and do it, and do it often.
8You don’t even bother with a mat
Maybe you’ve decided to forego the yoga mat ickiness altogether by not bringing one and doing your poses on the gym floor. Bad move. Even if the floors are cleaned regularly (and at a good gym, they should be!), you’re still exposing your hands to all kinds of gross stuff.
As fitness instructor Chavonne Hodges told Bustle, “Not only are you putting your body on the same surface where feces, dirt, and bacteria run rampant from the bottom of people’s shoes, you’re also increasing your risk to have those germs transfer to your body, causing fungal infections, body acne, and more serious infections like staph.” Are you totally skeeved out yet?
9You don’t clean your gym bag
If you’re constantly on-the-go, having a packed gym bag could potentially be the only thing actually getting you to the gym on a busy day, so we understand how vital they are. But the likelihood is also high that you never actually take the time to clean the thing, and that’s a bad idea.
You’re probably tossing your sweaty gym clothes and dirty kicks in there in the changing room, and then that bacteria is multiplying in a dark, enclosed environment. Plus, if you’re putting the bag on the gym floor or on the ground outside, you’re picking up who-knows-what from who-knows-where. Not good.
10You sit on a bench without a towel…or worse
There are two separate offenses here, but you’re probably doing one if not both on the regular. You may think it’s harmless to sit down on a workout bench without wiping it down first, ’cause it’s only coming into contact with your clothes, right? Wrong. There’s a lot of sweat and bacteria on those surfaces, and if your skin isn’t protected by a towel or a pair of undies, you’ll catch all those nasties and who knows what madness will ensue next. No bare bums on the locker benches, please.
11You’re not cleaning your water bottle before every use
It may seem harmless to reuse your water bottle without throwing it in the dishwasher. It’s only water, right? And you didn’t share it, so it only has your own germs on it, right? So, so wrong. An unwashed bottle contains all kind of bacteria, fungi, and yeast that you don’t want anywhere near your mouth.
12You’re using the gym’s water fountain
So maybe you’re great about keeping your water bottle clean — that’s wonderful! But using the water fountains is a bad idea, as there’s no way of knowing how often they get cleaned. Water fountains regularly come into contact with other people’s bottles and mouths (eww!) so your average water fountain is likely teeming with germs. Pass.
13You don’t shower immediately after every workout
Maybe you’re trying to squeeze in a quick workout before Sunday brunch with the ladies or your workout wasn’t particularly sweaty. You should still find a few minutes for a quick rinse-down. As we’ve told you, your body is coming into contact with plenty of gross things in the gym, and the only way to properly get rid of them is to cleanse your skin.
Yes, this even counts if you go for a swim. The chemicals in chlorine wreak havoc on your skin, and all that chlorine can’t even clean all of the pee in a pool. So please, take a shower after your workout, no matter how you get your sweat on.
14You’re not wearing flip flops in the gym shower
Anyone who has ever shared a communal bathroom at college is well aware of the filthy things lurking on a shower floor, but we’ll give you a refresher. Shower floors are rife with sweat, mold, and even viruses like HPV. All the outdoor contaminants make their way in from the public, and you get catch viral warts or a foot fungus if you don’t protect your tootsies.
15You’re not washing your workout clothes after every gym session
Even if you didn’t really sweat, your dirty gym clothes put your skin at risk for tinea versicolor, a type of yeast infection. Plus, there’s a good chance that even if you can’t smell any rank odors on your sports bra, the person next to you in that hour-long SoulCycle class can. Please spare them!