It’s been a long five months of improvised exercise, working out with cans of baked beans and waking up at 8am to take part in P.E. classes with Joe Wicks. But finally, gyms are reopening, meaning you can get back to pumping some real iron.
But gyms are sweaty, breathy environments that just by their very nature feel like the prime place for disease to spread, even if we just forget the coronavirus for a second. In one 2014 US study, staphylococcus bacteria was found on the surface of every piece of gym equipment, including treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, weight machines and free weights in the four gyms tested.
One paper looking at how long Covid-19 can survive on various surfaces found that it can survive on a stainless steel surface for as long as 72 hours. In an analysis of previous coronavirus studies, conducted back in February, researchers found that coronaviruses like Sars and Mers can survive on surfaces such as plastic, glass and – crucially for gyms – metal for as long as nine days.
But don’t fret, if wiped down with an adequate disinfectant, the virus won’t be able to survive. “You really should be sterilising all the equipment and wiping it down between [each workout],” says Lawrence Young, a virology professor at Warwick University Medical School. “The equipment should be appropriately treated with a detergent or alcohol.”
Working up a sweat often ends in a laborious amount of heavy breathing, which is notorious for spreading coronavirus. While you don’t technically need to wear a mask in the gym as per government guidelines, but you might find solace in a breathable sports mask. “One of the problems with gyms is that these virus-containing droplets and aerosols from infected individuals if you’re breathing heavily,” says Young. “I’m not sure if you’re exercising heavily that wearing a face mask is a good thing in terms of your breathing, which is why I think social distancing within the environment and good ventilation is important.”
Gyms have begun spacing out equipment, which should help you social distance between other gym users. And the government is advising that people avoid the changing room by changing and showering at home. While some people might use one specific piece of equipment, everyone uses the changing room. So, avoiding it is just a sensible move to make.
Before you head off, read our analysis of what gyms will actually be like and how owners and staff have been preparing. And if you do decide to head to the gym this weekend, you’ll want to know what we’d choose to chuck in our gym bag, once the hand sanitiser is in there. And the bag itself, of course.
Contigo Autospout Ashland Chill
Insulated, leak proof and with easy sucking, Contigo’s stainless steel Ashland Chill is our favourite water bottle to take to the gym. Sure there’s lots of parts and it’s a little heavy when full but we prefer the smart locking lid with silicon drink spout to the bite and suck spouts you’ll see on bottles and hydration packs. Dishwasher safe, too.
Price: £22 | Amazon | Overstock
Garmin Vivosmart 4
Fitbit’s Charge 4 is our best fitness tracker but we lean towards Garmin’s Vivosmart 4 for a tidy band to wear on the machines. We like Garmin’s rep counting skills, optical heart rate on a band this comfy and its Body Battery feature helps to keeps tabs on recovery between workouts. There’s also music controls, sleep monitoring and phone alerts. No GPS, though, so you’ll have to switch it out for proper run tracking.
Price: £75 | Amazon | Currys | John Lewis
On Cloud X
A lightweight, fully cushioned all-rounder, the On Cloud X is a training shoe designed for versatility; it’s firm enough under foot for cross training and performs well on the road as a running shoe. Those bubbles on the outsole are On’s signature ‘CloudTech’ support quick changes of direction in drills with a breathable upper mesh, decent heel support and good stability.
Price: £130 | Amazon | On Running | Sigma Sports
Filson Duffle Pack
The bag itself? We first tried Filson’s 40-litre Duffle Pack two years ago – here in a new navy/black finish – and we’re yet to find better. It’s the perfect gym bag with an expandable nylon-coated pocket for stowing wet gym clothes. The ballistic nylon was first developed by DuPont as a material for flak jackets so not only is it well designed, with two rucksack straps hidden in the base, it’s tough too.
Price: £285 | Filson
Under Armour SPORTSMASK
If you opt to wear a face mask/covering in between workouts, while you’re training or as you’re entering and leaving, go for Under Armour’s offering. The SPORTSMASK is water resistant, reusable and is constructed from a three-layer system including an air pocketed spacer fabric to allow for better airflow and “breathability”. The mouldable nose bridge is also handy.
Price: £26 | Under Armour
Covacure Resistance Bands Set
You might want to take more of your own gear with you in this Covid-era. In which case, pack five of Covacure’s latex resistance bands with handles between 10 and 50 lbs. When stacked, that’s up to a total of 150 lbs of free adjustment with two foam handles, two ankle straps, a door anchor and a carry bag in the kit. For a more basic set, try Proworks (£9 for four).
Price: £30 | Amazon
Bionic PerformanceGrip Fitness Gloves
If you don’t trust yourself to hand sanitise extremely regularly – or you’re concerned about sweaty palms – you might want to invest in these full-fingered gym gloves to protect you from Covid nasties. (Although make sure you don’t touch your face while wearing them). Not for everyone, then, but these Bionic Gloves have a clever pad system for a secure grip when lifting weights and Lite-Prene wrist support.
Price: £25 | Amazon | Bionic Gloves
We know you know how to dress yourself but for what’s it worth, we’re fans of Lululemon’s anti-stink gym top. The (recycled) polyester tee has mesh ventilation to keep things circulating while you’re training. Available in grey, black, white and a couple of blue hues.
Price: £58 | Lululemon
Nabaiji Micro Fibre Towel
If, as instructed, you plan to avoid the changing rooms as much as possible, you might want to pack an XL – but still nice and compact – micro fibre towel like this cheap and cheerful one from Decathlon. Light, super absorbent and quick drying.
Price: £10 | Decathlon
Staying home? Check out the WIRED edit of the best home fitness gear.