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Is There a Way to Stop Sweating So Much at the Gym?

‘Moisture is the essence of wetness’

When it comes to working out, we’re not all strongmen like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (aka The Mountain). In fact, many of us could go our entire lives and still have no clue how a lat pull-down differs from an incline bench. Which is to say, there’s no shame in not knowing your way around a gym, or how to start the process of getting in shape. Plus, that’s what we’re here for — to make sure that when you’re in the gym, you at least never have to sweat the small stuff.

When I work out, I sweat. And I don’t mean I leave a few drops on a machine, I mean I sweat buckets on everything. It’s gross for me, and I’m sure it’s gross for anyone who has to go after me. So my question is, how do I not make it rain with my own personal perspiration?
Sweating, while annoying, is a good thing. As I wrote in a previous column, the body sweats to wick away the heat it’s generating from the energy it’s expending. So to deny our bodies their ability to sweat can be really bad. Because if we can’t dissipate excess heat, we get tired, and being tired when you’re at the gym is no bueno when you’re trying to reach your fitness goals. Can’t lose stubborn belly fat if you’re overheated and lethargic after 15 minutes on the elliptical!

But there are things you can do to begin to understand why you’re sweating so much, which will tell us the right way to mitigate your excess moistness. For example, are you overweight? The bigger you are, generally speaking, the hotter your body’s going to get, and thus, sweat. Pushing hard at the gym might mean sweating a lot at first, but over time, you’ll likely perspire less as you lose the excess weight.

Is the gym you’re working out at too hot? Perhaps you should try getting your workouts in outdoors, at a better air-conditioned facility, or if all else fails, by a fan.

Could you be suffering from hyperhidrosis? Abnormal excessive sweating is a thing; prescription antiperspirants, laser therapy or even Botox can offer a semi- or permanent solution to the buckets you sweat. 

But let’s assume for a moment that maybe you’re just an old-fashioned sweat monster. What can you do at the gym to prevent being so gross? “Bring your own towels or rags,” says competitive powerlifter and MEL contributor Oliver Lee Bateman. How many is up to you, but one for wiping down yourself and one for wiping down the machine or weights is a good place to start. When you’ve used one or both to the point at which they’re saturated, throw ‘em in the bin and go back for more if your gym provides them for free.

You can also switch to more breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics like spandex or other specialized polyesters, and not natural fibers like cotton, which will leave you drenched, causing you to perspire more. Wear head and wristbands, and wring them out as much as you can over a trash can; they may only stem the tide, but hey, when you’re leaking like a sieve, anything that can prevent even a little bit of your sweat from reaching the machine is a good thing.

And don’t forget that water is your friend. It might seem counterintuitive, but as we sweat, we lose water through our skin, and staying hydrated will help all that perspiration regulate our body temperature. Bring a big-ass jug and drink eight ounces or so every 15 minutes.

However you choose to do battle with your excessive sweat, remember that if you’re working out at a busy gym, people are going to want to use the machines or weights after you, so wipe down your equipment. And I mean thoroughly — use the sanitizers most gyms have strategically positioned around the room, and clean everything. If you’re in a home gym, or if you’re like Bateman, who works outs “at a true powerlifting hole in the ground where the benches are nasty and a lot of the older barbells are rusty,” you don’t need to be as militant, but a wipe down is always, always appreciated.

Now at least you don’t have to sweat the rules of etiquette.