This might be the safest workout outfit I own.

This might be the safest workout outfit I own.

In an attempt to save some money on more expensive spin and aerial classes, I joined my cozy local gym about six months ago. I mostly use the gym for cardio and floor work, since I get plenty of upper bodywork doing aerial.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure the gym is good for my health.

Since joining the gym, and going two to three times a week, I’ve been sick more than ever in my life. In the last six weeks alone, I’ve had a super awful stomach bug for a week, a severe cold for two weeks, and an opportunistic secondary respiratory virus that I still can’t shake. This never happens to me. I’ve been going to classes for the past seven years, faithfully get my flu shots, and usually have one cold or sinus infection per year. Recently, I went to my GP and all of my blood work and stats were perfect, causing my husband to sarcastically label me “the healthiest person on earth.”

This has been a pestilent season. And the only thing I’ve done differently is the gym.

Now, I don’t think my gym is badly maintained. They clean it constantly. But, unlike my spin studio, where everyone bleach wipes bikes and no one shares yoga gear, the gym has no such controls. Even if I wipe down my elliptical machine, it’s altogether too easy to pick up a bug on the floor mat, or indeed just about anywhere in the facility. There are a lot of people circulating through that place, and it’s impossible to keep up with the viral and bacterial loads.

It’s not that I haven’t taken precautions. I bring my own towel (using a gym supplied towel can be a germ farm). I wipe down machines (Norovirus, the major stomach bug, can live for a month on smooth surfaces). I try to wipe down the floor mat before I flop down on it to stretch and do ab work (smooth floor mats are a hot bed of germ action; this is why using your own personal yoga mat is a must). I never shower there and always wash my hands. I’ve done all these things, repeatedly, and yet I’ve been leveled by illness.

For some strange reason, my circus school doesn’t seem to have this problem. Sure, colds and flu can seep in, but I’ve been going there, attending weekly classes, for seven years with barely any problems. Maybe it’s the lack of smooth surfaces there, maybe trapeze rope is a crappy environment for rhinoviruses, or maybe the aerial population is just healthier.

I suppose the good news is that I’ve been hit with super common, relatively benign illnesses that do run their course without major intervention. I’ve never gotten skin infections like MRSA or Candida. I’ve never gotten the flu, although again, I always get my shots. But this latest poor health run has convinced me to make some changes.

So I’m quitting the gym.

It’s simply not worth it. I’d rather spend more money on an unlimited spin and yoga annual package at my spin studio, and continue my aerial practice, than try to “save” money going to a place that’s probably making me sick. Plus, I work out every day for my mental health, and being sick all the time definitely wrecks that goal. In fact, being sick screws up every goal I have, from being a good and cheerful parent and patient spouse to being able to write coherent sentences. Being sick equals lost time, and you don’t get that time back.

So, this healthy person is making an unhealthy financial decision: pay more for less plague. Because the plague sucks. And don’t think for a moment that I don’t understand I’m lucky to be able to make that trade off.

I leave this admittedly self involved missive with some questions for my fellow warrior women workout fiends: how do you stay healthy? Do you attend a gym, or do more independent, less disease exposure prone activities? And, do you think this particular cold and flu season has been better or worse?