Is Your Workout Making You Sick?

dirty yoga mats, clean yoga mats

How clean are those mats?

Those New Year's resolutions might send you to the doctor and I'm not talking about dropping a dumb bell on your foot. I mean your workout might actually make you sick. A recent study showed how allergens and other substances encountered through your healthy living plans could derail you.

Dirty Gyms ... Allergens & Harsh Cleaners ... Oh My!

Problem: You've got grease from the treadmill rollers, latex in rubber mats, harsh chemical cleaners to make sure all the germs are banished, and quite often carpeting that is absorbing gawd knows what. Walking into your local gym -- even one that diligently cleans -- could trigger an asthma attack instead of a good sweaty workout. We're not even talking about what might be lurking in the corners of the shower or that yoga mat that was last cleaned when? Solution: If you have asthma, check with your doctor about your triggers and how to avoid them. Maybe a Spin bike is better for you than a treadmill, or bringing your own yoga mat will ensure that what you're lying on is clean. And if you can possibly avoid it, DON'T shower at a gym. (Really, I speak from experience here ...)

Pool Workouts ... Recycled Moist Air & Flesh-Eating Cleaners

Problem: It's a fact of life that you've got to dump a LOT of chemicals into a public pool in order to keep it clean. Yep, stuff happens in there, and it takes a bit to keep it clean for everyone to use. For me, this means my hair turns green (literally, I'm not kidding) and my skin gets irritated. Yes, a swim cap will save my hair, but that doesn't help my skin, even if I slather liberally with my organic moisturizer after a shower. I've had to give up swimming mostly to save my poor skin. Solution: Try to find pools that do a better job of cleaning the water with minimal chemicals. There are more natural and less harsh options available, and if you check out a few pools, you'll likely find some are better maintained than others. Do your research and pick the best option for you. Then shower as soon as you're done! (Keeping flip flops glued to your feet at all times!)

Yoga Poses ... Bare Feet & Dirty Yoga Mats

Problem:  I'd gone to a yoga studio for a couple of months when suddenly the instructor warned us that the mats had just had their "bi-annual cleaning" and would be slippery. I looked up in horror ... TWICE A YEAR?!?!? Yep ... and as the session got underway, I noticed the person in front of me had warts on her feet. I never went back. So, are the mats at your studio pristine and cared for after every session or maybe only cleaned occasionally? Ack! Solution: Bring your OWN mat and clean it! Just because they're your germs doesn't mean you shouldn't still get rid of them! Plus, one side is lying on the floor of the yoga studio ... what is it picking up? Be safe and wipe your mat down after every session. Is this post for germ-phobes? Well, it certainly won't calm any fears, but one of the promises I made to myself when I opened my Boston Pilates studio was to keep it as clean as possible. We use organic-friendly cleaning products to keep asthma triggers and super bugs at bay, hard wood floors to make cleaning easy, and every client cleans the equipment after every session, without exception. And yes, we also require socks to be worn at all times! And guess what? Colds don't run through the studio, and no one has ever had to tell me they got plantar's warts. What do you think?  Have you had to negotiate around harsh cleaners or even a lack of cleaning products to get a good sweat on? I'd love to hear your stories. Cheers, Lisa  

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

2 Responses to Is Your Workout Making You Sick?

  1. Malita January 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    But had you ever gotten sick at that yoga studio?

    Yes I want to be in a clean environment, but we live in a germ world, the grocery store to the park to a stadium, work, home…I can’t live In a bubble and I can’t worry about my environment to the point I’m sprit zing and spraying and running for the hills. Also I rarely get sick, my friends that are always whipping out their anti bacterial gel, sick quite often…smirk!

  2. Lisa Johnson January 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    I didn’t get sick at that yoga studio but I knew for a fact that there were people working out in bare feet on unwashed mats with plantars warts! So that’s why I never went back. I know the guy next to me who coughs is just as bad … I’m not a germ phobe, but I don’t like filthy … there’s definitely a line that shouldn’t be crossed and it took a few years for me to find it with my studio. But I do think cleaning after every client makes perfect sense no? L–

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