Woman in gymYou visit the gym faithfully, several times per week. And so does everyone else in town, it seems. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health, but you can also run into some hazards in a facility that attracts a large number of people. Germs can spread easily in gyms, due to the fact that we’re all touching everything and sweating profusely. Protect yourself from illness by following these five safety tips.

Carry two bags. When you pack your bag for the gym, include a mesh bag for your sweaty workout gear. That way, when you change clothes after your exercise session, you won’t be throwing dirty clothes into your bag (and creating a germ-ridden environment). Consider a plastic bag for your shoes, too, since the soles of your shoes can pick up all kinds of nasty stuff.

Bring your own yoga mat. Do you really want to lie down, roll around, and handle the same yoga mat that countless other people have used on the same day? Sure, some people are polite and wipe them down afterward, but you can’t count on that.

Shower before leaving the gym. Not only will you remove your own sweat and grime; you’ll be removing any germs you’ve picked up from the gym equipment. The last thing you want is to transfer those microbes to your car, your home, and everything you touch along the way. By the way, wearing flipflops in the shower can prevent gross fungal infections on your feet.

Wash your hands … a lot. Colds and other common illnesses are most commonly spread by hand contact. Someone else sneezes on a barbell, you touch it, then later you touch your face… And two days later you’re sneezing and coughing. Since the gym basically requires you to touch various equipment constantly, take a break and wash your hands once or twice. During your workouts, be careful about touching your face or items like the nozzle on your water bottle.

Don’t go to the gym when you’re sick. Offer others the same consideration you hope for them to offer you. You need to rest now anyway.