Gotta confess something right up front here: I’m not one of those “gym girls.” I exercise, but I can be fickle when it comes working out, especially in an enclosed space stashed with a bunch of sweaty, panting strangers. And one of the reasons is because gyms can be kind of … gross.
Look, I’m not a princess (cough, cough). I can get down and dirty with the rest of them and love the outdoors. But gyms? They often have “that smell” and are pretty much seething pits of disease, bacteria and other icky stuff.
“They’re germy little places,” says Kimberly Dawn Neumann, a top fitness instructor at Equinox gyms in New York City. “I am constantly using hand sanitizer after touching equipment. You don’t know where those weights have been!”
Plus, there’s some really unsavory stuff that the people in gyms do, right before your very eyes.
Don’t worry if you’re one of those workout queens who lives at the gym. You can still have peace of mind when you exercise, as long as you beware of the 10 most disgusting things about your local fitness center.
1. The grunters
You know who I mean: Those gross guys who sound like they’re having loud sex every time they lift a weight. Ugh. Get a room with those barbells, guys! Don’t subject our virgin ears to the pervy caveman in you. Please. We beg you.
2. The girl or guy next to you with the tight, revealing Spandex
We did not come to the gym to see your girls hanging out next to us on the treadmill, spilling out of a tight sports bra, or your package, you with the bulge in your biker shorts. It’s nauseating (except if you find it attractive), not to mention distracting.
3. The locker room
It all begins in the locker room, doesn’t it? It’s understandably riddled with germs. People get naked in there, throw clothes and underwear around, sit bare bottomed on benches, pad around barefoot in the pools of bacteria and … ew. Can’t keep thinking about it or I might never set foot in one again. And, yeah, if you can avoid showering at the gym — or peeing, for that matter — that sounds like the safest way to go. Your place isn’t that far away, right? Just wait till you get home.
4. The germ-infested mats
Well, do we have to spell it out for you here? Sweaty people rolling all over these things, dripping bodily fluids on them during classes or cool-downs… And, hello, do you really think they’re cleaned every time someone new flops down on them? Of course they’re going to be loaded with viruses we can catch!
5. Dirty feet in your face
Filthy bare feet and socks typically wind up so close to you in a fitness or yoga class, you could kiss them. Ew, ew, ew. Please, people, wash yourselves before you hit the gym instead of subjecting everyone else to your lack of personal hygiene. Thanks.
6. The floor
Floors at gyms are so gross. Not only do they get the usual beating floors fall victim to, what with all the dirty, muddy, germ-filled shoes tramping around on them. They also get heaving, sweating people lying all over them. And many gym floors have wall-to-wall carpeting that isn’t deep cleaned all that frequently. Blech.
7. The bacteria-laden workout equipment and weights
Hands, legs, bottoms, feet — you name it — come into contact with both the machines and free weights constantly without always being sanitized in between uses. And, of course, those hands and things then touch faces and mouths breeding germs. “You’re sweating, you touch the equipment, you touch your face — but those are not cleaned between every person using them or every class,” Neumann says. Is anyone else thinking of buying their own elliptical right about now?
8. The luxurious pool & sauna
Public pools are not the most sanitary places to begin with, but at an exercise facility, they’re full of swimmers who dive right in after sweating up a storm from an intense workout. And then they’re all drinking in the same pool water as they breathe in and out during those laps. Yeah, it’s chlorinated — great. But yuck. Don’t get me started on the sauna, with all the naked body parts sweating on and touching things that other naked body parts have just sweated on and touched.
9. The “pristine” water fountains
Mouth grazes fountain when thirstily lapping up water. Water trickles into mouth, but some leaks out back onto fountain. Different mouth touches same water fountain… and the cycle continues, viciously. Gag.
10. The stench
If the cloying scent of stale air, sweat, rubber, B.O. and bad breath appeals to you, then the gym should be your home. It’s delightful. And it never fails to make me want to turn back around and get the hell away from there the minute I walk in.