In any given athletic gym, people every hour cycle in and out, touching you, the equipment, the mats, the bags and each other. This intense contact with each other, especially with the additional factors of combat sports such as grappling, and sparring, creating a potential recipe for transmission of bacteria and viruses.
The fact is that hygiene within the both strength and combat sport gyms is as important as the training itself. Improper hygiene can not only endanger yourself but also your training partners by spreading potentially life threatening infections and illness. The old school caveman mentality of just ‘manning up’ with poor hygiene within the gym is a detriment to all patrons. One of the most significant risks is Staphylococcus, which is a bacterial strain that is found on most people, with 20% of the population as long term carriers, and is transmitted by close contact and proximity. MRSA is the ‘super bug’ antibiotic resistant strain of staph that causes deforming boils on the skin that can destroy tissue and prove potentially fatal. Yet, there are certain simple steps that can be taken by athletes and the mangers of gyms in order to help ensure safety and mitigate the risk of infection.
1) Wash your gear- Your Gi, boxing shorts, hand wraps, mma shorts, rash guard, gym shorts, shirts, ALL of it must be washed constantly. Besides the cumulative odor that will have you smelling like you train in a dumpster, you are helping to transmit bacteria to yourself and others daily. Wash it all.
2) Come to the gym clean- This is a tremendous factor in preventing outbreaks of infectious agents that spread through a gym. Since these infections are transmitted by skin contact, coming to the gym in an unhygienic state will be extremely harmful. Not only is this incredible inconsiderate to your training partners and fellow athletes, but it will help add more potentially dangerous infectious agents to an already high risk area. Do not come to the gym to use the equipment and spar with people while dirty.
3) Cut your nails- During combat sports, especially mixed marital arts and grappling, the finger nails can scrape a training partner and open up a wound that infections such as ringworm or staph can enter. Besides the annoying small cuts you will cause, and potentially painful experience of snagging your nail, the cuts allow for direct transmission of any infectious agents to enter the body instantly. Do yourself, gym and training partners a favor and cut your nails.
4) Shower immediately after training- After training, do not allow any foreign bacteria, virus, or fungus to be spread to your home or into your body later on. Shower and scrub yourself immediately upon finishing training with antibacterial soap and hot water. Whatever was on the bench press will now be on your couch if you’re not careful.
5) Address any open wounds immediately- If you already have an open wound, cover your wound and work your training around limiting the exposure. If an wound opens during training, set your ego aside and address it. Wound should be sterilized and bandaged. The blood and contact with the facilities in the gym will give any infectious agents direct access to your body.
6) Clean the mats, bags, and machines- This is extremely important for gym upkeep and ensuring the health of its athletes. All mats, bags and machines should be wiped down and cleaned daily with disinfectant after any use. Additionally, all bags and loose debris should also be wiped down and cleaned up. The sweat, blood and contact on the mats will build up over time and give way to a very dangerous environment as time wears on.
Combat sports, bodybuilding and strength training are all sports that carry these health risks, but with simple hygiene and consideration for yourself and others, the risk can be greatly reduced.
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