Lesson #4: Gym Hygiene is Really Important and Rarely Taught.
I have gone to the bathroom in bare feet, and returned on the mats to roll. There. I’ve said it. I didn’t do it because I’m committed to being the grossest, most inconsiderate person I can manage to be, but because no one told me it was gross. It never occurred to me. I figured it out through the silent stink-eye fellow grapplers were giving me and through BJJ memes. I mean, it makes perfect sense…but I didn’t know. That was a little bit embarrassing for me, and I’d like try to spare you some shame by handing down some lessons on gym hygiene I’ve learned over the years.
The first is the most obvious ‘wear-the-shoes-provided-to-the-toilet’ rule. Most gyms will provide a pair or two of flip flops or some other footwear (this is often where Crocs go to die), to limit the chances of tracking illness-causing urine and fecal matter onto the mats via your bare feet. If your gym doesn’t have any, bug them to get some. Let’s be real here, guys- and sometimes even women- miss the mark, and miss it with a frequency that would make a visually impaired sniper’s record look pretty good. Even if individually you hit the can, you’re still probably stepping in someone else’s failures. Wear the shoes. Don’t forget to wash your hands, too.
Similarly, we’ve all heard of the numerous studies that indicated there could be fecal matter on toothbrushes left in washrooms, check out this study http://www.climbing.com/news/study-finds-fecal-veneer-on-gym-holds/ done in a rock climbing gym that suggests the stuff is all over climbing holds due to members doing the do in their climbing shoes. Don’t track this stuff onto the mats and make your partners sick. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Wear the shoes.
Next, wash your gear. This includes sports bras and cup straps. For most of you this is obvious; why would I want to stink and use my chest and crotch to cart around all that thriving bacteria? But some folks feel they can stretch these garments out a bit further than their natural one-use-between-washes life. Lots of people only have one or two of these items, so sometimes the best solution is to just go out and invest in a few more cup straps or sports bras. It should go without saying that gis and no gi rashguards must be washed after every use. And no, you won’t wash the magic out of your belt if you throw it through with your gi. You’ll only wash staph and ringworm-causing bacteria out. Sorry for your loss. A gym can have the tightest disinfection regime, the flyest in-washroom shoes and disinfectant fluid available all over the place, but it’s always as vulnerable as its least hygienic member. Don’t be datch guy. Wash your gear.
Stay home when you’re sick! It’s bad enough that I just absorbed your bodily fluids via sweat dripping in my eyeballs, I don’t want your mucus and germs, too. You’re not a beast when you train sick. You’re just kinda being a jerk with no consideration for your partners. I don’t like taking time off either, but you need to submit your cold/flu before you even think about submitting anyone else. This goes for folks with communicable infections, too. Be excellent to your training partners by staying home and working on your solo drill, knitting a Wookie suit or baking a cake. I don’t care. Stay home when you’re ill.
This leads us to our next entry: treat your infections and viruses. The longer you leave things like warts and ringworm, the harder it becomes to treat them. They’re not going to go away on their own, and they’re going to wind up in someone else’s system. Not sure? Go to a doctor. Don’t pick at it, definitely don’t train *or visit other schools! Don’t do it!* and don’t mess around. Treat it with something that’s had clinical trials conducted on it and a proven track record of working.
Finally, if you happen to be a true beast and train Muay Thai for a couple hours, then follow it up with a couple more hours of jiu jitsu, be a mensche and change your clothes in between. This isn’t so much an issue of communicable diseases (although fresh clothes between sessions will reduce the chances of transmission), as it is about not grossing your drilling and rolling partners out. With great power, comes great laundry responsibilities.
Those are the ropes, folks. Feel free to leave a comment if you’d like to add another gym hygiene commandment.