Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to get into better shape this year? Have you taken the first step towards a healthier you by joining a gym? I commend you for your efforts and wish you nothing but success. However, I must warn of some hidden “dangers” that may be lurking at your gym. The last thing you need is an injury or infection keeping you from achieving your goals.
Protecting Your Feet from Injury
- Start slow and gradually increase performance. Build up your stamina and workout length over time. Don’t overexert yourself. This will help you avoid stress fractures and ligament sprains.
- Have the right footwear. Make sure you wear athletic shoes that are the proper fit and designed for the sport or activity you are participating in. You want your shoe to offer proper arch support and cushion for the heel to avoid heel pain; a condition known as plantar fasciitis.
- Use proper exercise techniques. If you use improper techniques when you exercise it can result in injuries of the tendons or ligaments of your feet and ankles.
- Listen to your body. If you have a foot or ankle injury, don’t ignore it. You need to have it looked at by a foot and ankle surgeon for the proper diagnosis, and follow the treatment plan they set for you.
Protecting Your Feet from Infection
If you read the previous post on athlete’s foot, then you know that the gym is the perfect place for it to hide. Jock itch, ringworm, yeast infections of the skin, and viruses and bacteria, including drug-resistant strains like MRSA are other concerns at the gym. They are, however, easily prevented with good hygiene practices.
- Clean your hands. Wash your hands properly before and after each workout. Per CDC guidelines, you should use soap, lather up with either warm or cold water, and rub your hands for at least 20 seconds, then rinse well. Make sure you dry with a clean towel or air dry. If soap and water are inaccessible, you should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Choose one that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply the sanitizer to the palm of one of your hands then rub your hands together. Be sure to rub it over all the hand’s surfaces including the fingers and back of the hand until they are completely dry.
Disinfect gym equipment. Wipe down the mats and equipment with disinfectant sprays or wipes, and do the next person a solid by wiping it down again after you’ve finished. When you can, bring and use your own equipment or mat.
- Shower immediately. After you work out shower right away. Bacteria loves your sweaty clothes. Wash thoroughly with soap and dry off with a clean towel. Pay close attention to your feet. Then put on clean, dry clothes.
- Protect your feet. Never go barefoot in public areas of gyms. Wear water shoes or flip flops in the gym showers. After you wash and dry your feet consider using an antifungal powder, especially if you are prone to athlete’s foot.
- Wash it after your wear it. Wash and dry your workout clothes after each use. Especially your socks.
- Cover skin breaks and wounds. Cover any wounds or skin breaks with a waterproof bandage. Avoid taking off your shoes in common areas until it is completely healed.
- Don’t share personal items. Don’t share towels, soaps, or anything else that comes into contact with the skin as they could be contaminated with a fungus.
- Be picky when choosing a gym. When choosing a gym, be sure to evaluate its cleanliness. Are the bathroom floors clean? Is there sweat on the equipment? Are the sinks and toilets clean?
I hope you are successful with your fitness goals this year. If you are in pain or believe you may have an infection, please call us here at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle as soon as possible. Our foot and ankle care doctors and surgeons are board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and are members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Call (208) 855-5955 or request an appointment online.