Health and Fitness Column: How to avoid germs in a crowded gym

Health and Fitness Columnist Melissa Vogel is seen here lifting weights at the gym. Photo provided by Melissa Vogel.

By Melissa Vogel  
Health and Fitness Columnist, Canyon Lake Insider 

It’s that time of year when gyms are more crowded as people work on their new year’s resolutions. It’s also that time of year when it seems like everyone is sick.

The good news is that it’s still possible to get a great workout in and stay safe even if your gym is a little too full for your liking! However, you have to be flexible and keep in mind that it might not be the perfect workout and you might not be able to do what you had originally planned. You don’t have to completely change up your game plan, but you do have to be willing to switch things up a bit.

The moment you see the equipment filling up, you have to act fast. One of the first steps to take is to claim your ground. Mark that spot as your own by laying down your towel, gym bag, sweatshirt, or water bottle so that others know the spot is “in use.”

You can also do this with a particular machine and mark it as “in use” with a personal item if you’re going back and forth between exercises. It’s an unspoken gym rule that if your belongings are placed on or next to a machine, it’s in use. So be strategic as to where you place your items

Once you have your territory claimed, begin to formulate your plan B. For example, if you were planning on using the leg press machine but can’t get a set in, you can still train legs by taking a different approach. Change it up and do squats or deadlifts with dumbbells. You could also use your bench to do step-ups, box squats, and much more.

You don’t have to completely abandon your game plan, you just have to be willing to pivot a little. Having an open mind and a positive attitude will always help when hitting the gym.

Remember, you are working closely with others who have the same objection as you – to get a good workout in. So the more you are willing to shift and be flexible, by perhaps using free weights versus your favorite machine, the better workout you will achieve and still be able to maximize your time.

It is also important to pay attention to all the ways that germs can be spread while in a gym, especially now. You are working extremely close to others and need to be aware of how and when you are most susceptible to catching a virus or bacteria.

One way to avoid getting sick is by keeping your hands off of your face. Germs can only enter your body and make you sick if you let them in. This can happen through your mouth, eyes, ears, and nose. Never, I repeat, never touch your face or head while at the gym. Bring your own sweat towel to wipe your face and neck with.

Pay attention to what side of the towel you are using. Do not lay your towel print side down on a bench and then pick it up and use that same side to wipe your face. Try to dedicate one side of the towel for your body and one side for equipment. It might not be perfect, and you can still get sick, but it definitely can help.

Use disinfectant spray or wipes before using the equipment. Do not assume that the person before you cleaned the equipment. Be sure to wipe down the handles and grip area on dumbbells and barbells too. Most people spray down the benches and mats but miss the one place that everyone touches and grabs.

Immediately after your workout session, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. According to the CDC, handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from getting sick. Handwashing will also help to prevent transferring the germs into your car and spreading the “gym love” to the rest of your family.

Lastly, Change your clothes and/or take a shower right when you get home. Avoid wearing your gym clothes around your house and sitting on your furniture. This will help to prevent transferring and spreading any bacteria and viruses you may have picked up at the gym.

Melissa Vogel is a fitness expert with more than 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry. She is a fitness trainer, host of the Bomb Mom Podcast, a keynote speaker, model, actress, second-degree black belt in Taekwondo, and mother of three daughters. For more information, visit


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