Want to hear something gross? (If you don't want to hear something gross, you should maybe skip to the third paragraph of this post. But it helps prove a point! So...you know, read at your own risk.)
At my last gym, I noticed something that can only be described as truly yuck: previous shower-ers (or maybe just one who was extra-prolific?) were blowing their noses in the showers, sans tissue, and leaving the evidence for all to see. Without going into a rant about it (why? Why wouldn't you just use a Kleenex before hopping in the shower?), it was a reminder that, while gyms are good for us, and most facilities do their absolute best to keep things hygienic and tip-top, things can be germy.
In fact...want to know the places inside a gym that are most likely to get you sick? Sure you do!
Barbells, dumbbells, and weight plates. A basic sneeze can send 100,000 infectious particles into the air at 200 miles an hour--when someone catches those buggers with their hand instead of a tissue (or even an elbow), they can transfer easily to handheld gym equipment. Before you lift weights, spray down the equipment (gym etiquette says to do this after you're finished with your set, but how many people really follow that?).
Water fountains. A study from the University of Arizona found that 28 percent of gym surfaces are gym havens, and water fountains scored high on the list. One way to head off those bacteria? Bring your own water bottle!
Locker room floors. The moist floors are ripe for fungal and wart viruses (ew). Bring your flip-flops for showering, and never reuse the sweaty socks you've just worked out in.
Your own gym bag. This so makes sense: how often do you rush home and throw everything from your workout (including the bag) into the washing machine? I totally don't--my old socks sometimes live in my bag for weeks. Germs and bacteria gravitate toward sweaty workout clothes, so keep the dirty duds from touching the clean ones--a plastic bag can do the trick.