Showering at the gym is gross and can be a horrible experience, especially during peak hours.
Luckily for you, this guide will help you avoid common mistakes and provide practical tips on how to use gym showers when you’re heading to work straight after your workout.
For me, showering at the gym is a terrible idea because not all gym showers are cleaned frequently and thoroughly enough.
Walking barefoot in the gym showers can cause fungal skin infections like Athlete’s foot. Follow these steps to learn the correct gym showering etiquette.
1. Pack all your essentials the night before
Going to the gym in the morning before work can be nerve-wracking.
If you’re running late, prepare your gym bag with all the exercise tools, as well as showering essentials ideally the night before.
I don’t recommend packing the gym bag just before you leave because you can likely forget some of the important stuff like towels or flip-flops.
There is nothing worse than finishing a sweaty workout just to find out that you have left your towel of sandals at home.
On the other hand, having everything prepared the night before helps you to relax and save some of that limited mental real estate.
What do I bring with me for showering at the gym?
Here is the list with all my showering essentials.
- Body lotion
- Face wash
- Body Shampoo
- Body spray
- Hair gel
2. Take a shower before coming to the gym
I often take a shower before going to the gym, even if I train first thing in the morning.
I find that showering before exercise with cold water not only cleans the body and eliminates body odor, but also helps to wake up and prepares the body for physical activity.
My body often sweats throughout the day, as well as during the night (including night sweats).
This is often triggered by the type of food I eat the day before (especially spicy food) and the drinks I had. I also ensure my room temperature is low, otherwise, I sweat a lot.
According to the article published in Microbiome Journal, “human sweat is odorless, however, if the bacteria in sweat start to grow, it generates the odor.”
For me, going to the gym without taking a shower first is a matter of personal hygiene. Plus, you don’t wanna be that smelly guy or gal (just because you don’t smell body odor, it doesn’t mean others cannot smell it).
3. Avoid peak times, try to come in earlier
I see most gyms are packed in the morning between 8 am to 10 am, and in the later afternoon between 4 pm to 7 pm.
This is the busiest time for people because they want to hit the gym before they start work or immediately after they finish.
This is also the worst time to take shower because everyone is rushing through the doors and want to get things done as soon as possible. It’s hard to get a spot or use a hair dryer.
If you’re showering at the gym before your work, you should try to come in 20-30 minutes earlier to avoid crowds and waiting in line for the shower.
If you’re showering after your work, you’re probably more relaxed because you have more time.
4. Cooldown before you enter the shower
After your strenuous workout, your body will likely sweat quite significantly, depending on the intensity of your session.
Here’s a photo of how my sweaty face looks after a gym session.
This was done in the boxing room without the fans or AC, which means I was sweating even more.
Cool down before showering because being out of breath means you still can be sweaty after you take shower. The last thing you want is to jump into the shower right after your training while being out of breath.
According to the article published in Frontiers in Bioscience-Scholar, “sweating is the cooling mechanism of the body to reduce core body temperature.”
“Cooling down after a workout helps to remove metabolic by-products from the muscle such as lactate,” according to the publication.
How to cool down before entering the shower
- Finish your high-intensity workout and move on to the low-intensity exercise to reduce your heart rate.
- You can cool down on the floor mat doing stretching, foam rolling, or even hop on the treadmill and just walk at a slow pace (around 2-3 mph).
- Wait around 10 to 12 minutes after your workout before entering the shower. This will bring your heart rate back down and stop you from sweating.
- If your heart rate is still elevated despite the cooldown, you can reduce the water temperature and stay a little more longer in the shower.
5. Bring your own microfiber towel
I recommend bringing your own microfiber towels to the gym shower because they’re lightweight, take almost no space in the gym bag, and dry quickly.
I would not recommend using the cotton bath towel at the gym because they hold water for longer and make your gym bag wet.
Here’s a photo of the microfiber towel I bought in Decathlon.
This green towel has 58 inches in length and 28 inches in width. After you fold it together, it has less than 7 inches in length so needs a little space as a remote control.
Most of the gyms like Planet Fitness of Anytime Fitness do have showers but do not provide towels to shower as you have in some posh spas.
So, in general, you need to bring two towels.
- One is for the workout room to cover the machines when you use them;
- The second one is the small microfiber towel for the shower.
After showering at the gym, you can use the help of a hairdryer to dry your towel more quicker. Hold the hair dryer at least 6 inches from your towel for 2-3 minutes to reduce the moisture.
If the gym doesn’t have a hair dryer, you can carry one of those small zip-lock bags. These are great to keep your wet towels isolated.
6. Shower as quickly as possible
Showering at the gym is not the time for trimming or exfoliating.
It is also not the best time for socializing and chatting.
There are many people who want to use the facility and spending more time than necessary shows you’re disrespectful and have no manners.
I recommend you should take no longer than 5 minutes to shower at the gym and clean your body.
Hanging out, gossiping and chit chat can be done after or before you shower.
How to shower quickly at the gym
- Put on your showering sandals, remove all the clothes and wrap the towel around you (don’t wear any underwear on you because you can forget to take them back).
- For ladies, I recommend not washing your hair because it can take extra time not only in the shower but also after drying them.
- For gents, I recommend using the 2-in-1 shower gel and shampoo to avoid taking too many products with you.
- For quick and easy access, place the towel on the shower towel hooks or alternatively on top of the door frame.
- Get your body wet by pouring water and putting the gel into your hands immediately. Rub your hands together with shower gel to make foam and wash your body thoroughly.
- Stop the water, take a tower and quickly dry yourself (you should spend no more than 3-5 minutes for the whole process).
7. Bring your own shoes, sandals, or flip flops
If you want to take a quick shower after your workout, you should wear shower shoes or sandals.
According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, fungi and other bacteria grow particularly well in a moist environment like a gym shower.
To prevent getting a bacterial infection, bring your flip-flops.
Here’s a photo of my Havaianas flip-flops I use for showering at my local gym.
These Havaianas flip-flops are made from plastic foam and rubber, which don’t absorb any moisture.
Of course, you can use any type of slides like Nike, Adidas, New Balance, or Hoka One One.
Shower shoes are considered any type of sandals, slides, slippers, flip flops, or any type of open-toed footwear.
These shoes have single or multiple straps that run across the center top part of the shoe and are easy to slide on and off the foot.
Gym showers may not be clean
I hate showering at the gym which is not clean.
Most of the gyms I’ve attended do have a staff that cleans the showers.
However, even with regular sanitation protocols, it is almost impossible to keep the area clean and dry, especially during peak times.
And no, it is not ok to shower at the gym barefoot because you can expose your skin to Athlete’s Foot or other skin infections.
Swimming pools, communal showers, and gym changing rooms are the perfect environments for germs and fungi. Shower shoes are necessary.
8. Keep your belongings safe in the locker
I often see my gym has a sign that “the company is not responsible for anything stolen on the premises”.
Gym security is one of the biggest problems these days because thieves target gym locker rooms, they steal credit cards, cash, and jewelry.
All it takes is just a minute or two for the thief to take your possessions. The more expensive your things are, the more risk these people are willing to take.
Showering at the gym is safe, but put your belongings into the gym bag and lock them in the locker. Keep the key with you at all times. a key with you.
When going to shower, take only essential items with you.
9. Bring your own antibacterial shower gel (Don’t use gym shower gels)
Most gym showers do not provide shampoos or shower gels.
If they do, they’re probably inexpensive and packed with chemicals and synthetics that may not be the best option for your skin.
Of course, there are some exceptions (Equinox use Kiehl’s products in their bathrooms).
After working out, you should use a body wash, gel, or cleanser not only to get rid of the dirt and bacteria from your skin but also to avoid unpleasant surprises like body odor.
I recommend you bring your own antibacterial gel to the gym shower.
Exercise and sweating are perfect environments for bacterial growth.
If not washed, it can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
Plus, choosing your own antibacterial cleansers that have aromatherapeutic essential oils can boost your mood, reduce stress and even reduce muscle pain.
On the flip side, I adore people who are showering without any soap or gel. I think it’s gross because it doesn’t reduce body odor.
10. Choose shower temperature based on your fitness goals
I’ve been a little coy about recommending the right temperature of the water because it’s a tight race.
There is a great debate among scientists and gym bros about whenever is better to take a cold or hot shower.
On the one side, you have cold water immersion fanatics that follow Wim Hof Method and are ready to put you in a headlock if you don’t put ice into their bath.
On the other side, you have people who can tell you everything there is to know about heat shock proteins and hot saunas and like to follow Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D. advice.
I like to do both and I really cannot tell the difference.
However, there is good evidence that if your goal is to preserve muscle mass and strength, you should be showering at the gym with warm or hot water, according to Jerrold S. Petrofsky, Ph.D., from Loma Linda University.
On the other hand, if you had a strenuous HIIT workout and you want to have a faster heart rate recovery (plus reduce muscle soreness), you should be showering with cold water.
If You Wanna Build Strength, Take Warm Shower After a Workout
It is normal to feel sore and tired after a hard gym session. Muscle soreness and loss of strength often peak at 2-3 days after you push yourself in the gym due to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
“To preserve muscle strength after strenuous exercise, the heat immediately applied after exercise was best. Using heat immediately after exercise seemed to result in the least damage to muscle,” said Dr. Petrofsky.
According to the Dr. Petrofsky study, people who did nothing after the workout lost 23.8% strength for the following day.
However, a group who applied hot therapy after their workout experienced a 4.5% loss of strength the day after the session and were able to fully recover by the second day.
So in general I would choose warm showering if you want to recover quicker to be able to lift more weights for your next workout.
11. Use antiperspirant straight after showering
If you tend to sweat a lot, you should apply an antiperspirant soon after your shower.
Exercise stimulates your sweat glands and can keep them active for the most part of the day.
This means you will likely sweat later, even if you shower after your workout.
Here’s a photo of my Gillette antiperspirant that I use for over a decade.
I find this one keeps me dry and does not leave white stains on my t-shirts.
I apply antiperspirant immediately after I step out of the gym shower while the skin is still damp.
Antiperspirants have active ingredients like aluminum salts that block the pores and stop sweat to accumulate on the skin.
12. Take a ‘glasgow shower’ if running out of time
If you don’t shower after the gym your skin will accumulate an excess buildup of sweat, dirt, and dead skin cells.
Over time, this can cause the development of body odor and even skin acne. If that happens only once or twice, you can use deodorant to mask the body odor.
In general, it is not ok to not take a shower or bath after a workout.
However, for people who are running up late and have no time for showering, the easy solution is to have the Lynx deodorant or Axe body spray in the gym bag.
In the gym I used to work, guys were calling it Glasgow shower.
Glasgow shower means basically bursting the body spray under each armpit to mask the body odor, without taking the real shower.
Deodorant contains fragrances that stay on the surface of the skin and they’re very effective at blocking odor.
The problem is they do not prevent or block sweat.
You can also use deodorants if you can’t shower or your gym doesn’t have showers.
13. Don’t use too much cologne after you shower
It makes me feel good when I wear some light cologne after exercise. I usually apply it on the damp skin when the pores are open so it can absorb the scent and leave my skin smelling exotic all day.
However, I always do it discreetly with a minimum dose of perfume.
You can wear your signature perfume after a workout, however, you don’t wanna be that person who uses lots of cologne so that everyone in the changing room gets a headache.
It is very uncomfortable to stay in such a small space like a gym changing room with many people and have to smell someone’s aftershave.
14. Bring a small zip-lock bag for wet clothes
If you’re hitting the gym before your work and you’re wondering what to do with wet clothes, don’t worry. I got you covered.
Firstly, I don’t recommend choosing gym clothes that are made from materials like cotton because they are more likely to hold more moisture after you sweat.
I rather use clothes that are made of polyester or nylon because they are ridiculously durable and moisture-wicking.
Secondly, I recommend bringing a medium size zip lock bag because it will keep your wet clothes away from other items in your bag.
I also like to wrap the bag in a paper towel, especially if I carry any electronics, paperwork, or documents for work.
Alternatively, you can carry a waterproof bag that will keep the wet clothes inside (see picture below).
15. Don’t go to the gym just to take a shower
Overall, you can go to the gym just to shower because it’s an easy way to save money and reduce your water and electric bills.
However, from the gym etiquette perspective, it is not recommended (even a little bit weird).
You don’t wanna be that guy or gal who comes to the gym with a bag full of bathroom products and spends 20-30 minutes showering and grooming.
Firstly, it’s gross because gym bathrooms are full of people that don’t wish to watch you shaving.
Secondly, gym bathrooms aren’t always clean. They are full of bacteria and fungi that can easily be spread even if you wear showering shoes.
All you need is to touch some surfaces that haven’t been properly washed.
Thirdly, during peak times, people are busy and want to get in and out of the shower as fast as possible.
The last thing they want to see is the person who comes in and takes a spot for longer just to save a few bucks.
It makes me chuckle when I hear that Elon Musk used to shower at the YMCA while trying to run his company.
Here’s the video where Elon Musk explains how he and his brother used to live in a small apartment and shower at the local gym.
On the surface, this may have been a good idea in the 90s to save time and money. However, in this day and age, if you have a home and a shower, why would you go to the gym just for a shower?
These are just a handful of useful tips and hack to consider before taking a post-workout shower. I genuinely try to stay away from gym showers because I feel comfortable washing my body in public places.
If I were to choose, I think it’s better to shower at home, not at the gym (obviously). However, if you have no choice and you need to use gym bathrooms, be mindful. Alternatively, use a Glasgow shower (wink).