showering after gym?
December 11, 2012 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Mr. Lasamana and I have a teenage son who likes to work out. The problem? Son 16 yrs doesn’t like to shower afterwards - eewww.

He works out usually in the late afternoon after other after-school stuff. He goes to the local gym and then comes home and does his homework and goes to bed - all without showering. He has to be at school by 6:30 every morning for jazz so he showers around 6:00 am. I find this completely disgusting. His argument is that he doesn’t sweat too much and he doesn’t smell (which is true - we have an older son who stinks after 5 minutes and a younger one whose hockey bag could kill). I need a valid argument to combat this with. Our main concern would be what is he bringing home from the gym but I really don’t know actually what that could be. Is this just our cleanliness problem or could it be potentially truly nasty?
posted by lasamana to Health & Fitness (36 answers total)
For sanitary reasons one should always shower thoroughly -- with soap! -- after working out at a shared gym, as soon as possible. Not doing so is just asking for a fungal infection, if not worse.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:33 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

The valid argument is this: nobody thinks they smell, because they become used to their own smell. Showering after exercise is non-negotiable, because it is a courtesy to others: the people who have to stand near you, the people who have to live with you, the people who might want to make out with you, and the people who have to wash your clothes and bed linen.

While not showering is not ideal, I went to a boarding school with communal showers, and I recall one kid who went a whole term without showering. While he didn't exercise much, he also didn't contract a horrific disease, either. Your son is showering eventually, so healthwise I doubt it makes a large difference for an otherwise fit 16 year old.

If you wanted, you could explain to him how bacterial and fungal infections work in smelly, sweaty areas like his armpits, groin and feet. And how they are unpleasant, can become chronic, and are avoidable.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:38 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he's showering once a day, doesn't smell, and isn't having any fungal infections, it's probably best to let this go.
posted by 6550 at 6:39 AM on December 11, 2012 [42 favorites]

Remind him that every single thing he's touched at the gym is covered with the fluids and oozes of every single other person at that gym, and now he's bringing all those fluids and oozes into his bed to marinate in them at night. Fungal infections, staph, regular cold viruses, ball sweat, etc.
posted by elizardbits at 6:39 AM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

Also not sure if this is the route you're comfortable in taking but you could point out to him that no one will want to go near his junk for funtimes if it's stank.
posted by elizardbits at 6:39 AM on December 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

He should wash his hands after working out. You should relax. Oh yea... buy him some creatine!
posted by rdurbin at 6:41 AM on December 11, 2012

You could point out that if he showers at night he can sleep longer in the morning. When my children were teenagers sleeping in the morning was paradise.
posted by francesca too at 6:44 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

He's 16 --- remind him that girls don't like boys who stink.
posted by easily confused at 6:48 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is he eating dinner at your table without showering? if not, then what's the BFD? His sheets probably stink, but he's showering before he goes to school. But if he wants dinner, make showering the price of admission.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:53 AM on December 11, 2012

If he's spraying/wiping down the equipment before using it and washing his hands, then he's less likely to bring home a fungus than he would by using the gym showers. I wouldn't worry about it unless he actually does stink (then it's about courtesy to others rather than his own preferences). At 16 his peers will let him know in no uncertain terms if he stinks.
posted by headnsouth at 6:54 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Siding with 6550 and Ideefixe here—he's showering once a day, which is more often than a lot of teenagers. He probably prefers to be super clean for school/daily life than to be super clean for bed, which makes total sense to me.
posted by rebekah at 6:54 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If he weren't showing at all, you might have more of a leg to stand on, but it sounds like he's showering daily. From a pure public health standpoint, there are probably a lot of places he and you contact frequently (ATMs, public restrooms, public transportion, the playground equipment he played on when he was little) that are just as germy as the equipment at his gym (at my gym, they are pretty strict about antibacterial wipedown after use) and that don't prompt the response "must shower immediately!" The shower in the gym is probably the germiest spot in the whole place; he may be wise to avoid it.
posted by drlith at 6:58 AM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't always shower after I run if I'm just going to eat dinner and go to bed.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:01 AM on December 11, 2012

I think you should just let it go since he does shower before school. It's not good for your skin to sit around in sweat like that but he probably doesn't care. Also, showering twice isn't that great for your skin either, on the other hand. I'm not sure what girls has to do with it since it sounds like he's just doing homework and sleeping in his sweaty state.
posted by sweetkid at 7:03 AM on December 11, 2012

Shouldn't worry about it. Excessive showering is unhealthy.
posted by grobstein at 7:06 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I need a valid argument to combat this with.

I think the valid argument is as MuffinMan says: showering after exercise is non-negotiable, because it is a courtesy to others. Another valid argument: it is discourteous to you and your husband who provide food, shelter, and maybe even gym fees? Every house has rules for its children, and there is no onus on the parent to support every rule with peer-reviewed consensus. Just tell him that you find it offensive and disgusting, which is sufficient.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:07 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, also what grobstein said. I showered so much as a teenager I got swimmer's ear.
posted by sweetkid at 7:08 AM on December 11, 2012

He goes to the local gym and then comes home and does his homework and goes to bed - all without showering.

He does shower after the gym. He just goes to sleep, first, and then showers after he wakes up.

This is a pick-you-battles situation, and for someone who needs to be up at 5:30 - 6am, I'd let this one go.

You don't indicate that he really reeks after getting back from the gym or anything, so it sounds like your big concern is the principle of the thing. Sometimes principle has to yield to practicality. Would it make you feel better if he showered at night before going to sleep so that there would be less of a "delay" between the gym and showering, and he'd skip showering in the morning?
posted by deanc at 7:19 AM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

The VAST majority of teenagers I know have to go to gym class in high school -- and unless they're swimming, the VAST majority don't shower afterwards. Not enough time, self-conscious, whatever. I couldn't tell you a single time I showered under these circumstances.

Your son is getting sweaty after school and then coming home to a place where he feels like it won't matter. Because it really doesn't. Maybe he might want to change into a cleaner shirt after working out, but whatevs. He's fine. Better than fine, actually.

If he needs to shower more, he'll do it. (Hey, ladies!)
posted by Madamina at 7:24 AM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

If he shows any signs of dealing with acne or other skin problems, this could very well be a factor. If I don't shower after sweating, my skin will go to hell in a handbasket overnight. It isn't pretty. Clearer skin is often The Ultimate Carrot with which to modify Teenage Boy Behavior.

Frankly, he's probably overwhelmed by the sheer number of showers that are suddenly required by being 16. First he's a stinky creature in the morning and has to shower before entering into polite society. Now he's a disgusting creature after working out and has to shower or risk being cast out of polite society. And then the laundry that all these costume changes require! Pre-gym clothes! Gym clothes! Post-gym clothes! Clothes to sleep in! He may be economizing if any of this is his responsibility (and certainly at least the time component of showering is his responsibility). If a shower is an hour long affair, as it is for many 16 year old boys, now is the time to teach him how most adults shower: with speed and efficiency.
posted by jph at 7:26 AM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

If he doesn't smell, I don't get why this is an issue. A properly used gym is no less sanitary (and quite possibly more sanitary!) than a bus or a table at McDonald's or whatever, and gym showers are often rife with foot fungus. (Gross.)

I was an abnormally non-smelly teenager, to the point that friends and relatives commented on it, as did my boss when I worked on a farm. I could be out in the fields all day in 90 degree heat, and I wouldn't be sweaty or smelly at all. It's just not how my body chemistry was set up. If this is what your son's like, I don't think you need to make a big deal of it, unless he's also, like, not washing his hands.

I was basically BO-free until I was in my late 20s. Even now, I have to be pretty hot and gross to work up any body odor--my husband and ten year old daughter both stink after ten minutes of activity, and I...just don't. I do, however, shower daily--as long as your son's doing that, he's probably fine.
posted by MeghanC at 7:35 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

He's showering once a day, doesn't smell, does his homework and an early morning extracurricular?

You have an awesome kid who is doing awesome. Let this go.
posted by zippy at 7:38 AM on December 11, 2012 [38 favorites]

He showers every day and he doesn't smell bad between working out and showering. Let it go.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:42 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you should meet in the middle: as long as he's showering daily, he doesn't have to do it immediately after the gym. But he does have to change into clean clothes, especially if he's planning on sitting on anything in your house. It may be unreasonable to police his hygiene, but it's entirely reasonable to set rules on how your furniture should be treated. Sweaty couches are gross.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:01 AM on December 11, 2012

I totally agree that you should let the shower go, but I WOULD encourage him to wash his hands -- preferably at the gym before he comes home. Lots and lots and lots of people pick up those weights. One cold avoided is worth it, no?

Re your fear of fungal infections: that's only a live issue if he's barefoot in the locker room, which I don't know why he would be if he's not showering there.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:39 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he's showering once a day, doesn't smell, and isn't having any fungal infections, it's probably best to let this go.

Agreed. I didn't used to smell particularly funky at all after working out in high school, and at one point I was going from class to the soccer field to judo to set construction. It was only when I got into my midtwenties that it became any sort of issue. He has the rest of his life to waste on extra showering, once he gets old enough that he inevitably gets funky after working out. Let him have this time now for homework, relaxation, and rest.
posted by limeonaire at 8:56 AM on December 11, 2012

Some people are worried and obsessive about cleanliness and germs, some are not. Probably more than half of people shower in the morning. Should they not do anything strenuous the day before?
posted by bongo_x at 10:30 AM on December 11, 2012

I personally agree with you and couldn't imagine not showering after the gym. Hell, I shower after a serious house cleaning! However, as long as he doesn't stink, his room doesn't smell, and he's not getting any skin problems, I would let it go. I think as a parent you pick your battles, and since he's showering daily that's probably as far as it needs to be pushed.
posted by radioamy at 10:37 AM on December 11, 2012

I think MRSA would be a pretty good argument.
posted by mockpuppet at 10:45 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your approach has been, "It'll be so much better for you if you shower after the gym (for reasons x, y, z)," then I can see his resistance-- as a teenager, it makes sense to want to block off a little personal space where you get to make your own decisions about your own body.

If you tried stressing the detrimental effects for everyone else, though... seems less boundary-violating and weird. Something like, "Hey, we noticed that it's really hard to launder your sheets lately, and there are starting to be yellow stains that don't come out. We can't afford to buy new sheets every month, so can you be sure to shower before you go to bed?"
posted by Bardolph at 10:49 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

He's not only doing an early morning extracurricular, but also getting up earlier than absolutely required? Jesus, chill. Maybe suggest that he start taking a quick shower at the gym (emphasize quick: soap up hair, pits, and nuts, and then rinse everything down) just as a good habit to get into, but don't push it.

If you tell him you're disgusted by his presence, he may start showering more, but he may also mentally tell you to piss off.
posted by disconnect at 11:29 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you demand that he start washing his bed sheets (more often than he or whomever does it now) now? Perhaps he'll find washing sheets more of a chore than showering or, at the least, he's doing the sheets.
posted by Atreides at 2:18 PM on December 11, 2012

I think you're just getting skeeved out because you are used to showering after a workout. You admit there is no smell, and he practices daily bathing. It is entirely possible to be hygienic and BO-free without excessive showering. You know what causes poor hygiene and odors? Dark-and-damp places where various smelly fungi and microbes thrive. You can get rid of that by toweling off and changing into clean clothes after a workout. You can keep the gym bag from smelling by allowing it and the damp gym-clothes it contains to dry out (I imagine younger hockey-son just throws the bag in a corner and forgets about it, yes?). Eliminate damp-and-dark, and the smell and infection vectors go away. It's not like sweat glands are some magical germ factories. They basically secrete salty water. You will still get smells and germs and fungal infections if you wash that away with not-salty water and do not dry off properly.
posted by jraenar at 4:37 PM on December 11, 2012

Yeah my vote is for letting it go.

Gym showers can be NASTY. I refuse to use the ones at my gym (there are sometimes lumps of mucus on the floors, or drops of blood, or just weird clumps of hair and unrecognisable gels! And the water runs off along a channel that passes through each shower, so anyone downstream from the first one gets everyone's ick.)

So I don't usually shower after my morning weight lifting. I don't find I sweat when I lift weights anyway, and your son might not either if he is doing small numbers of reps with heavy weights. You probably don't break a sweat when you lift a heavy box and then sit down for two minutes either. I do, however, reapply my deodorant (just in case) and wash my hands. And I change my clothes. I think those are more reasonable things to recommend.

If he is doing cardio or otherwise sweating a lot, then yeah, it's bad for his skin to have sweat drying up on it and he'll probably find he gets acne. So washing his face at least would be a good plan. And he might have to shower if he has a problem with acne elsewhere on the body.

If you think he is ruining his sheets, require that he either shower before bed or buy his own sheets with his allowance/paperrun money. But I think that would be overkill.
posted by lollusc at 6:05 PM on December 11, 2012

I'm totally with the 'hand washing/equipment wiping is all that is necessary' crowd above, but I second that if you really want to tell him about a risk of shared gym equipment, MRSA is more compelling than athlete's foot. I'm a doc, if that matters, and I do not always shower immediately after going to the gym.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:33 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a son with a similar pattern. I set a rule. If I am picking him up from his workout, he needs to change his shirt and shorts before getting into my car. Also, he cannot come to the table sweaty or smelly. Assuming he washes his hands and showers in the morning, he is doing pretty well. What does he do on a Friday if he works out? I bet he showers before going out with friends.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:33 PM on December 18, 2012

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