Friday, June 24, 2011

Hygiene for Gym Rats

Every guy who's had to suffer through the thrilling experience of communal showering in high school is trained in the basic art of showering:

  • Get in.
  • Lather up.
  • Rinse off.
  • Get the hell out.

Time to completion: 2.3 minutes (preferably without any guys accidentally seeing your gear).

Woodcock: "You're not taking a shower?"
Farley: "No. No, I'm good."
Woodcock: "You know, this is not France, Farley. Maybe you don't mind smelling like a nut sack all day, but I gotta be in the car with you."

Billy Bob Thornton and Sean William Scott, Mr. Woodcock (2007)

Is it any wonder guys get fun ailments like jock itch, athlete's foot, and persistent body odour?

Well, the fix is actually surprisingly simple. Following these tips will ensure an effective post-workout shower (really any time shower) that will get you clean and stomp the hell out of the bacteria that cause BO.

Rule #1: Skip the "Cleaning System"
Soap companies have finally picked up on the message that men like to be clean. But now, they've taken it a step too far with their "Cleaning Systems." This is usually a special body scrubber that looks like a space-age invention for scrubbing bug guts off a 747. One side is a puff, used for lathering, and the other is a scrubber side used for "deep cleaning and exfoliation." The whole unit is encased in a plastic shell that appears designed for aerodynamics and ergonomics.

These retail for $7.99 and up.

Yeah. We're not scraping tar off our flesh here. We're rinsing away sweat and salt. Skip this manly marketing ploy and head over to the cosmetics aisle. Get a few shower puffs (at a buck and a half each), and you'll be good to go. If in doubt, you can still use a wash cloth! These things lather and exfoliate just as well. If you really need exceptional scrubbing power, get a loofah. Also a buck.

Rule #2: Just Because You Can't See It...
...doesn't mean you shouldn't clean it. A back brush is essential equipment in the shower, so don't neglect your back.

Rule #3: Bacteria Need to be Killed, Not Polished
Bacteria are killed by soap, not by scrubbing. And since bacteria are the cause of our two big flesh-related problems (body odour and acne), it stands to reason we would want to kill it and rinse it away. This is more important than vigorously scrubbing, because it's the soap that does the job.

If you're using body wash (which you should be), you don't need to go for anything labelled "anti-bacterial." Old-fashioned hand soap is anti-bacterial. That's not the issue; it's all about technique. To effectively kill bacteria, you need to lather up and rinse off at least two, preferably three, times. You read that right.

Now, a lot of readers will be thinking, "I don't have that kind of time!"

Yes you do. I didn't say, "lather up and conscientiously scrub every square inch of your body three times." I literally mean lather up and rinse off. If more scrubbing is necessary (say, following yard work) that's one thing. But for 99% of your showers, you can do this quickly and efficiently. Save some time by lathering up your hair first, and letting the shampoo sit for the first two scrub-downs.

Rule #4: Clear Soap is Clean Soap
If you don't have issues with acne, this rule may not be a necessary step for you. However, if you do pay attention.

Clear glycerin soap is the best thing for your skin. It contains no dyes or perfumes, which can irritate acne irritated skin. It also doesn't interfere with your cologne scent, so you're in good shape there as well (body washes do leave lingering scents, so they may not play nice with your Diesel!).

To work this into your routine, lather up and rinse off twice with your body wash, then do the third with the glycerin soap. This has the added benefit of you steaming in the shower, which opens your pores before you use the secret anti-acne weapon. Trust me, it works. And you've never felt this clean this fast.

Rule #5: Don't Shower Right After Your Workout

Yeah, it sounds contradictory, but I got this tip from a spin class instructor. Wait at least twenty minutes (take your socks off if you can!) after your workout before you jump in the shower.

See, after you work out, your heart rate, body temperature and metabolism are all spiking. This means if you're sweating hard, your body is working hard to cool you back down to normal. That sweating is supposed to be there, but if you jump into a warm shower you won't have the chance to cool off properly, and your body will continue to produce sweat even while you're showering.

You know when you get out of a shower and you just can't seem to dry off? This is why. So spare yourself the trouble of fighting with it and just wait until you stop sweating before you shower. Then you don't have to fight an uphill battle to get dry (and clean).

Rule #6: Fluffy Towels Are Not Your Friend
Fluffy towels feel nice and soft. But they don't help you dry any faster than a coarser towel. And they don't make you any cleaner. Toweling off after a shower is actually an important last step in the cleaning process. Any dead skin that doesn't get scrubbed and rinsed away in the shower can be removed with a good vigorous toweling.

Following these six simple guidelines will get you cleaner than you've ever been, and will keep your musk at bay. It's a bit more involved than jumping in and out before anyone sees you, but for a post-workout shower you want to do the best cleanup you can.

Especially if you plan on getting in the car with someone who smells even better.


  1. Thanks for sharing this information, I really need this because I have a Gym and I want to clean it if I have no customer. But if there was a lot customers inside, there was some bad odor left by them, that's why I hired some Gym Cleaning Services.

  2. I really admire you for sharing this helpful information about proper hygiene in a gym rats. I admit that sometimes after a sweaty workout I smell something fishy and because I'm tired from workout I often forget to take a shower. I learned so much from this blog. Thanks!