The gym smells.

There’s no way around it. Cram people into an enclosed space, no matter how spacious, and let them sweat for hours at a time, and there will be smells.

Now, I’m not saying that the gym I go to stinks. It doesn’t, and, in fact, I’ve rarely been able to discern a bad odor in the place overall (okay, that one time they did the overnight dance marathon, it got nose-wrinkly the next morning). But, as noted above, people sweating tends to generate smells.

Some people go for the preemptive strike, layering on so much cologne/body spray/febreeze onto themselves that no bodily odor can escape. This also has the effect of alerting others to their presence, often from yards away. Also useful if they leave something behind on a machine, since they can then be tracked down by scent.

I hate that tactic.

I believe that if I’m smelling your cologne, etc…, then we should be, at the least, shaking hands, if not hugging. I don’t want to smell it from the next machine over, or (it happens) two or three machines over. The smells irritate my nose and make me feel like I can’t breathe. They also can cause coughing fits for my husband, thanks to some damage sustained on an aircraft carrier that makes his lungs extra-sensitive.

We like to joke, if they have to put that much perfume/cologne/body spray on, then just imagine how horrible they must smell without it! But we’d really rather not have to trot that one out as we gasp for air during aerobic workouts. This is a gym. You’re probably going to get a little smelly. That’s okay!

What’s not okay is when you get more than a little smelly. I know, I just told you not to cover it up, but there’s a difference between working out, when you break a sweat and get stinky, and wearing the same clothes to do that many days in a row without washing said clothes (or possibly said self). This creates the same miasma of the cologne lovers, with that extra acrid whiff of dirty socks. Not pleasant.

And then there’s the source of stink that no one likes to talk about. I see occasional articles in running or fitness magazines about the phenomenon of farting while running. They usually suggest things like ignoring it, because everyone does it. We’re all human; we all have gas in our digestive tracks that occasionally needs to be released into the air that everyone has to breathe. To point out the fartings of others is to invite your own emissions for scrutiny when you, inevitably, emit your own.

But these articles mostly refer to running outside, in a group of runners, either known to you or only encountered briefly in a race. On a treadmill, surrounded by strangers, that fart is more difficult to handle. Until last week, I has successfully dealt with the occasional emissions (my own and others) by ignoring them. But the other day, as I treadmilled along, I had to let one slip. There was one person to my right, clopping along at a good clip, and I mentally apologized and proceeded to ignore my own stench.

She did not.

My cheeks would have turned red, had they not already been there from inclining in boots for the first time this season, as she waved one hand across her face and held her nose with the other. The universal stink-alert face.

I kept going, and I begged my body not to do it again, at least, not while she continued to clop along beside me. As long as I didn’t admit fault, I reasoned, I could go by the old ‘she who smelt it, dealt it,’ rule, in case others came to complain about the horrendous stench.

But no one did.

After all, this is a gym. A place where people expect to get sweaty (or at least expect that other people will get sweaty – fashion girls, I’m talking to you!). And a place where people are going to fart sometimes, in the pursuit of fitness. I won’t even complain anymore about the over-cologners or the non-washers. It’s all the stench of victory to me.

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