Infection Control & Returning To Training

The hallowed halls of the church of iron are finally open again in Ireland. The harsh, gainless spring has ended and it is now time for the return of gains and memories. However, the danger of being weak and having lost all your gains is no longer the biggest threat to you. There is now the threat of contracting COVID-19, which is killing people and also by proxy, their gains. Obviously, if you don’t feel well or have a temperature, do us all a favour and stay home. But if you’re ready to become the pinnacle of health once again, is the gym the safest place to be right now? I thought I would run through a few common misconceptions around infection control and good hygiene practices to prevent spreading the ‘Vid.

Personal Protective Equipment: Yay or Nay?

Not all PPE is created equal. Some methods are more effective than others, and some are just plain useless in the gym environment.


It tends to be commonplace (or it should be ffs) to wear a mask in crowded places where social distancing is not possible. Most gyms are not currently forcing members to wear face coverings or masks. It is not really practical for most sports. However, if you are still afraid and nervous around the gym, or are unsure how well your gym is set up to cope with the new challenges provided by COVID, it may be an idea to wear your mask for your first couple of sessions to suss it out.

Mask Oh-No-No’s:

  • Wearing it on your chin. Chin straps are never acceptable, especially not when they’re made out of cloth.
  • Not covering your nose. Infection can still get in.
  • Not wearing one in a crowded place full stop. I get it, it’s uncomfortable. What else is uncomfortable? COVID.
  • Touching the front of it constantly. Press it tight to your face, and leave it be. Touching it will only spread any germs the mask has filtered onto your hands.


This is a big pet peeve of mine. Gloves are the biggest placebo of all time. I’m not 100% sure of the outcome of clinical trials but I would bet my life savings there is a direct positive correlation between people wearing latex gloves outside of medical procedures (?!) and having no concept of infection control or hand hygiene. The gloves are DISPOSABLE. Once you touch a surface that is potentially contaminated, you should dispose of them. Otherwise you are just spreading infection and germs around, no different to, you guessed it, YOUR POXY HANDS. So unless you have a box of latex gloves with you, and you can change them after every exercise, it is likely to be an ineffective means of reducing infection spread. Hand sanitise before and after using equipment and you’ll be better off.

I get it, people are gross. Weights and barbells literally have grooves on them that are filled with bits of other people’s skin (stunning). Wanting to protect yourself from the hack of other people is perfectly normal, but gloves are most certainly not the practical answer.

What about lifting gloves? If you’re wearing lifting gloves there never was any helping you. Sorry.


Yes, I know. Who is going to wear a visor to the gym? But you’d be surprised. The visor is the least effective means of protecting yourself from COVID when used in isolation. We use visors or goggles in healthcare as the final step in our PPE before entering the room with a COVID patient, to protect ourselves from droplets the patient may emit (coughing etc.). Bear in mind we are also wearing a duck mask, hairnet and full length gown. Assuming you are obeying social distancing (and u fkn should be) it is highly unlikely there will be COVID droplets near your eyes. Wearing a visor alone as your only form of PPE makes zero sense. The virus can sneakily travel in underneath your visor and if you’re not wearing a mask, you just got the Vid.

Social Distancing: Time, Equipment & Spotting

Most gyms in Ireland have adapted very well to the proposed change by the government. I recently trained over the past week at Mind Over Matter in Coolock, whilst I wait for the return of Flyefit. To be honest, I was a bit nervous to and I decided to try it once, and if I felt uncomfortable, I would just leave and wait for July 20th. I was really glad I went, and they had a fantastic set-up. Plenty of space between machines, everyone spread apart and alcohol gel and sprays for cleaning equipment everywhere. 10/10 infection control. And the owners are super sound.


In an effort to reduce the amount of time spent in a confined environment with a load of sweaty random people you don’t know (just like Coppers), some gyms have limited sessions to an hour. I think this is absolutely fair at the moment, and if you’re complaining about this you should have your membership revoked. Gyms are trying to do the best they can, and if you don’t like it you can train for as long as you want at home. Like you have had to for the last 4 months. Even if your gym doesn’t have a time cap, the best way for you to reduce your risk of infection is to get in, do your session and get out.


Not all the equipment is available, which again is fair enough. You might need to wait a bit longer for equipment, or think of alternative exercises. Not the end of the world, and it’s what needs to be done at this time. For yourself, please don’t make this any harder for people than in needs to be. Spray down benches, barbells and machines before and after you use them. It’s not that deep.


Some gyms aren’t letting people train together. Some are. It is up to you at the end of the day. Accept the consequences of your behaviour, and don’t be stupid. If your gym bro is immunocompromised, you could probably do with holding off on spotting each other or training together for another little bit. No slapping each other’s arses after a set well done. Which will of course be difficult for some more than others.

Ya Nasty: Wash Your Fkn Hands

Finally, but the most pivotal and effective action you can take is washing your hands. Before and after your leave. Before and after each exercise. If this is inconvenient or you are complaining about this, you are a minger. You should be doing all of this anyway, pandemic or not. Washing your hands is the most effective way at stopping the spread of infection, and it literally takes 30 seconds.

It may also be worth packing a small hand towel (to wipe down equipment) and your own bottle of hand gel into your gym bag, so you have it to hand if your gym doesn’t have any, or is running low.


We are so fortunate to be able to train again here in Ireland. If you would like to keep training, and protect your health and the health of others around you, follow the basic infection control guidelines laid out by the HSE. Most of this is common sense, and requires no additional effort on your part. It is great to be back training with decent weight, and not doing 15-20 reps of everything anymore. Down with home workouts, COVID and not washing your hands.

Take home points:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Wear a mask if it makes you feel comfortable.
  • Wipe down equipment before and after you use it.
  • Don’t go to the gym at all if you feel unwell.
  • The gym is a privilege and not a right. Don’t mess this up.

Published by Michelle Carroll

I am an online coach (MSc Sports & Exercise Nutrition, EQF Level 4 Personal Trainer, PN Level 1) and radiographer (BSc). I believe in empowering others to make better choices for their health through education. I think that the fitness industry has created a disconnect between best practices and “evidence-based” practices. I hope by chronicling my experience as a healthcare professional and my education as a fitness professional I can assist others on the path to bettering themselves.

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