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Tips for When You’re the Sweaty, Smelly Guy at the Gym

I nearly had a panic attack on Sunday when, moments before my first-ever SoulCycle class, I noticed the gym rules painted prominently on the wall. I immediately knew I would violate rule number 3, “laundry,” which states:

“We ride close together so we can feel each other’s energy. That being said, your neighbor does not want to feed off your odor.”

It’s impossible for me to move my body for more than 90 seconds straight without emitting a stench that could kill grass. And sure enough, 10 minutes into the 45-minute program, I could smell my own body odor, which means it was markedly worse for the people around me.

This was all exacerbated by my ripping an enormous, silent fart (twice) in the middle of class. SoulCycle is arguably the absolute worst place on Earth to fart — you’re packed in a small, sweaty room with zero ventilation. You’re literally clipped into your seat, so running away from it isn’t an option. And you’re breathing heavily, which means you’re likely to bear the full brunt of the aromas around you. The only saving grace is that it’s dark, so it’s hard for people to identify the responsible party. I could see people around me wafting in my fart, experiencing the full bouquet of its smells and then looking around in vain to pinpoint its origin.

If it’s any consolation, I feel terrible about this. I don’t enjoy being the sweaty, smelly guy any more than others enjoy having to endure me, and I take any precautions I can to ensure this happens as infrequently as possible. I lord over the thermostat at work like a dictator because I don’t want to get hot, start sweating and inflict my B.O. on my colleagues. I use pillow protectors. I take two showers a day many days. And I always keep a change of clothes and various toiletries handy for truly desperate situations.

But all of this is for naught at the gym, where I sweat like a prostitute in church (which, ironically, is always a fun place to fart). It takes only a few droplets of perspiration to activate my clothes’ semi-permanent body stank odor, and it only gets worse from there.

That said, over the years, I have enacted certain behaviors that limit the range and severity of my chemtrail. And now I give them to you as a service.

Shower, Then Shower Some More

I’m probably the only maniac on the planet who sometimes showers before a workout as a courtesy to others. But it’s a necessity on certain days. Besides, there’s zero downside to taking an extra shower, and basking in the soothing energy of warm, falling water. Ahhhh! I wish I were showering right now.

At the very least, shower immediately after your workout finishes. As we’ve noted before, sweat itself is odorless. The stench is produced by micoorganisms on our skin literally feeding on our sweat. The longer you go without bathing, the longer those microorganisms have to feast and the longer you fester in your own funk. Get a nice scrub brush and really use it as the name implies — scrub your skin free of sweat and dead skin (especially your feet).

Get a prescription-strength deodorant (Mitchum works well) and put it on at night, before you go to bed, in addition to in the morning when getting ready for work. This may seem like overkill, but it’s effective.

Showering may seem like painfully obvious advice, but you’d be amazed at the number of men who never learned proper hygiene. Reddit is filled with people complaining about their stinky boyfriends and seeking advice on how to confront them about it. Like this poor woman whose boyfriend apparently doesn’t wash his ass. Or this guy, who apparently doesn’t wash his crotch but still expects frequent blowjobs. Or this man who reached 19 years of age without learning you need to brush your teeth every day.

Sadly, I could go on.

Take Off Your Shoes the Moment You Finish Exercising

If you’re anything like me, your feet get particularly sweaty while working out, and this can lead to the dreaded athlete’s foot, a fungal infection on the soles of your feet and between your toes that’s unsightly, gross and a total pain to eradicate.

Damp socks are a breeding ground for the fungus, according to the Mayo Clinic, so it’s wise to slip off your gym shoes and socks the moment you finish exercising, and to put on open-toed, rubber sandals.

Let those dogs breathe.

Keep Your Shoes Outside

On a similar note, keep your shoes outside of your living space. Like, on your doorstep, where they can get lots of air, dry out and not reek up your entire apartment. Bonus: Sunshine is a natural deodorizer.

Always Carry a Plastic Bag

Throw those wet, grody socks into a plastic bag, which will contain the stench and keep them completely separate from any other garments their smell may rub off on. You don’t have to go overboard — a plastic grocery bag will suffice here. For reasons that are unclear, my local, non-chain grocer uses ultra-durable plastic bags that have enough tensile strength to lug a bowling ball. That’s probably more than I need, but I’m comforted by the added protection.

Use Lemon Juice and White Wine Vinegar

No matter how vigilant you are about body maintenance, you will inevitably sweat on your gym clothes, and that sweat will often leave a residual stench, even after the clothes have been washed. For years, I falsely assumed this was just the way of things and that my gym clothes were destined to become increasingly smelly—until it became unbearable, and I was forced to buy new ones, starting the cycle anew. But then I discovered a laundry secret: Lemon juice and white vinegar.

Some soak the offending fabrics in one cup of vinegar before washing them. Others, myself included, add vinegar directly to the wash cycle. Or both. Like the dingus I am, I’ve been using vinegar I bought at the grocery store, but there’s concentrated vinegar available on Amazon specifically for cleaning purposes.

The vinegar helps kill bacteria (the cause of the odor), as does the acidity of lemon juice. You can add the latter to your wash cycle, as well.

Don’t Sweat Your Farts

I contend that there’s a reasonable expectation of farts when you work out in a public gym, especially when it’s an exercise class that involves contracting your abdominals, quadriceps and posterior chain. What, am I supposed to not fart in yoga? That kind of sphincter restraint would be tougher than the yoga itself, so let ’er rip.