When I was growing up, my mom encouraged me to wear flip flops at the public swimming pool and in the school locker rooms, especially the shower area. Even when I was at a friend’s house for a sleep over she suggested that I avoid going barefoot in the house and always wear socks. Was my mom being overly cautious? No, I totally agree with her. Germs, fungi and viruses spread quickly person to person. My clients know that I keep my fitness studio clean. Freshly laundered towels are readily available, and after every session the exercise equipment is ALWAYS “sprayed down” with a botanical cleaner that kills 99.99% of germs. Surfaces like stretch mats, benches and bicycle seats are also cleaned. And I do my best not to forget equipment with handles like the assisted tower (for doing pull ups, dips and knee raises), recumbent bike, ab wheel and suspension straps.

Next time you’re at the gym or grocery store or pretty much anywhere you see people all the time touching their faces, rubbing their eyes, or (eww!) picking their noses. So besides sharing with you that I’m a little bit of a germaphobe, I’d like to share with you the two times I picked up athlete’s foot at the gym. The first time was a few years ago when I was a member of the Princeton Club on Madison’s west side (yes, personal trainers like to get out of their own studio now and then). I had been a member for a while and really enjoyed the set up, floorpan and equipment. But, since I did Personal Training at a gym in California for a number of years, I was always finding myself reporting to staff when the a/c vents were in need of being cleaned or when I saw a science experiment in the corner of the men’s locker room. Yes, I’m that guy. You’re welcome.

During one of my workouts I added in the seated triceps extension machine. Just to do something different. The next day, I noticed a rash on my right elbow and forearm. As the day progressed, it became red and blistery. Yikes!! I jumped online and checked out tons of images and info of skin rashes/lesions/blisters. Ick! Some of them were reactions to certain plants, others were bacterial. The image that most closely resembled mine was athlete’s foot . . . Except mine was on my arm. I learned later that the fungus that cause athlete’s foot didn’t have to be on my feet. A few days went by and the alien on my arm did not go away by itself. So I did as most physicians, nurses and other medical personnel suggest against. I treated it myself. I picked up an anti fungal cream from CVS. Clotrimazole 1% was written in a large font on the side of the tube. It did the trick. After just a few applications, the redness greatly reduced, it was no longer itchy and the blisters subsided. I did have to apply it for a few weeks, so a bit of a hassle, but whew, problem solved.

More recently, I was working out at Planet Fitness and ran into my old friend Mr. Athlete’s Foot again. I have been working out there for a year and have been impressed with the number of disinfectant spray bottles and paper towels strategically located throughout the gym. In addition, the members seem to be meticulous about spraying equipment after use. So chances were that the hamstring curl machine was clean before I using it. Sometimes I am extra fastidious and hose down the equipment BEFORE using it. Just in case. The day after my workout I noticed a couple bumps on my right hand between the second and third knuckles. Huh. I’ve been known to “react” to certain plants, animals, stings, bites and even wool sweaters so I wasn’t too concerned . . . until it began to form a bubble and blister the following day. Here we go again. Treatment was the same, anti fungal cream until the symptoms were erdicated. Where do I think I picked it up? Honestly, looking back at my workout, I’m confident it was actually by picking up one of the spray bottles. Ironic isn’t it. Eric are you sure? Maybe you were in the yard or your gardening gloves were damp? Nope. Ruled that out. It was the gym again.

How do I avoid getting athlete’s foot again? Should I wear workout gloves? Should I stop going to the gym? Remember there was a time when men and women wore gloves all the time. Not just for fashion, but also for function . . . and to avoid germs. Time to go on to Amazon.com and check out their Weightlifting Gloves.