Tag Archives: cold

Physical Fit: Ringworm, Athlete’s Foot, and the “Crud”

Gym-crowding season… That beautiful time when the resolutions of the New Year still have the power to motivate people with a natural state of indolence to gird their loins and push themselves towards more active lifestyles and healthier choices… until the crowds and the close proximity of those individuals become the breeding ground of contagion decimating thousands of inspirational fitness memes and individual resolves. Yes, my friends, I speak of another season: The cold and flu season.

Recently, our local area schools have shut down due to so many teachers and students being out sick. Some people might think that is overly dramatic, but there are folks who would show up to school or work like patient zero if they didn’t shut down the whole place. (See Sick At Work.) However, these institutions of learning are not the only incubation zones for the next plague. We have the workplace, houses of worship (of varying varieties because showing up in public for religious events is totally immune and entirely safe from passing along the next mutation of H1N1), entertainment venues, and of course… the gym.

Oh yes, this place that is the bastion of healthy life choices can become a greenhouse for pestilential flora and fauna. And can I just for a moment comment that humans, of the allegedly adult variety, are just nasty? Seriously.

My gym is actually very nice. It is usually clean. The bathroom/locker room situation is almost a religious experience with esthetically pleasing fixtures and general lack of icky personal detritus. As far as the rest of the amenities, staff make sure there are sufficient wipes, spray bottles, and such to wipe down equipment pre- and post-sweaty activity. That alone would likely be sufficient to slow or completely curtail the spread of plague… if people would actually use it!

Yes… I speak now of the nastiness. Let me preach on it. I have sadly seen it with my own eyes. The nose picker who then grabs the hand-holds of an elliptical machine, the hacking cougher imitating with some skill succumbing to tuberculosis who grabs the free weights with the same hand the recently covered the mouth, and of course the devastating sneeze-monster with accompanying snot who thinks nothing of continuing their bench set with the same hands that received the explosive productions of their nose. None of these individuals actually bothered to wipe down said equipment when they completed their activities, but instead chose to move on and spread their personal colonies of viral agents to yet more unsuspecting equipment and people.

It’s enough to make you gag a little, isn’t it?

I commend these people for pushing through their own pain, discomfort, and lassitude to keep their fitness performance at its best, but please you can take a sick day from your gym routine. In fact, most studies and fitness consultants will tell you gladly that resting and recovering is generally better than trying to ignore a cold or more dire illness. 1) You recover more quickly. 2) You don’t actually share with all the other relatively ailment-free people. Staying home when you are sick is not a show of weakness. It is just good gym-citizenship, and it is a better choice for your own recovery. Now, I get it. I totally do. Not all illnesses have the impact of ague or la grippe. Sometimes, they don’t even seem worthy of notice; an annoyance, no more. If the disease seems minor and you feel that it isn’t even really a hitch in your stride, you don’t want to lose the gains you’ve made in your training. However, keep in mind that there are still the other gym attendees to consider. All the more reason everyone should remember to mind the hygiene and be considerate of others.

And speaking of hygiene… there are other forms of communicable ailments that don’t necessarily have to wait for a season. In this case, I’m speaking of the more delicate matters of fungus. Yeppers, that is right. We’re gonna talk feet and down there. Most of us have heard of athletes’ foot (tinea pedis). Heck, unless you have lived in a cave devoid of any media you have to have seen at least one commercial. Some of them have cute little depictions of demonic creatures that want to live between your toes… ew. Most of these commercials are humorous and entertaining, making the idea of fungal infection a laughing matter rather than a health condition or personal concern. Do not be fooled. This outbreak can cause embarrassment, discomfort, and spread to others (sometimes without even making direct contact). Locker rooms and showers, regardless of cleanliness, are great atmospheres for these types of infections. Moisture from shower and sweat, damp clothing in lockers, and people going around without shoes.

Oh yeah. They do. They go without foot covering or protection in public areas. I’ve seen it. I’m not a foot prude, you understand. I would prefer to go barefoot in most seasons… in my own home, on the beach, in my pool… Not in a public gym locker room or shower! And yet, there she was as I walked in one morning after my own workout, getting ready for work… or errands… or maybe an early morning date… I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I was taken aback by her appearance. She was obviously halfway through some sort of operation to tame her hair (which was drying, recently showered, and taking up what appeared to be more than its usual space), leaning close to the mirror to address eyelashes and eye make up with that contorted expression that seems a prerequisite for the activity… and she was barefoot!!! She stood there with her naked feet in direct contact with the tiles of the bathroom floor, and it was all I could do to restrain the full body shiver as my own very overactive imagination pictured all the little demonic creatures from that commercial swarming over her feet and the surrounding surfaces… and possibly coming after me! I quickly grabbed my kit out of my locker and bounced out to go home for a shower and possibly  chemical decon.

There are, of course, other forms of these fungal outbreaks to plague more than just your tootsies. There is the tinea cruris… You might know it more commonly as “jock itch,” but it doesn’t restrain itself merely to the specific area for which the layman has named it. It likes to be anywhere there is close, damp, warm areas: Thighs, buttocks… and ladies, you are not immune. So, air out the drawers and launder those stanky gym shorts and that sports bra as well (oh yeah, didn’t think of that did you?).

Which brings me to ringworm… which isn’t a worm. Did you know that? Nope, not a fauna, but a flora. This one is a fungus as well. This one is tinea corporis or tinea capitis. Actually the tinea is the actual fungus and the other words are where it decides to take up residence. So, in fact, all these fungi mentioned are the same basic condition, just occurring in various locations on the human body. Depending on where the growth sets up, you can lose hair, have scaly or ring-like patterns, and itch like the devil. It is not fun, and it is contagious. It can go from person to person or person to equipment/floor/shower to person. You get the drift.

The point of all this being: Take some care of yourself and others who share your workout space. Please remember to wipe down surfaces of machines and hand holds. In fact, you might just for caution’s sake wipe down before using the apparatus. Use the sanitary wipes and sprays provided. Don’t leave dirty, damp gym attire in lockers to ferment. And for the love of all that is holy and right in the universe, wear your bloody shower shoes and don’t go barefoot in the locker room! YUCK!

A Tale of Ice and Fire or Winter is bloody well here!!!

I am seriously displeased. I live in the south. We don’t have to deal with too many winter-related disasters, but boy howdy, when they hit, they don’t pull punches.

Power outage is a typical side effect of mother nature’s icy wrath. I’ve experienced this several times and lived to tell the tale, but this time, I had some concern… And I blame watching some poorly dramatized disaster movies which prompted my imagination to provide a looped reel of images where I and my loved ones (including the fearsome Toehunter) were discovered frozen into popcicles like that homeless dude in Scrooged (“You’d be a prettier color, I can tell you that!!!”) Aside from my vivid internal playback, and a tendency to catastrophize, I also blame power companies with a significant lack if emergency planning.

Modern humans are more dependent upon the comforts of electricity than we are aware. Aside from lighting, entertainment, food storage and preparation at the press of a button, and heating, there are a number of conveniences we don’t consider: Such as modern phones (yes, even the land line type), garage door openers, and water heaters.

During my most recent brush with nature’s elemental fury, our power got knocked out at around 10:30PM. Temperatures diving into the teens and wind chills lower than that, we were still ok inside provided the power resumed within a reasonable amount of time. “Reasonable” is apparently a relative term upon which the local utilities and myself completely disagree. Additionally, we are campers, and we do have some equipment to forestall tragedies of Donner Party proportions. We also have a gas fireplace, but that, sadly, has been malfunctioning and refused to light.

Again, we had no reason to manifest fear. Surely, the power provider was prepared for this apocalypse (since the meteorologists had been screaming about it for a week). Perhaps that was the problem? The “Crying wolf” thing?

The temperature in the house began to fall, and with each passing hour room temperature came closer and closer to those out of doors. Attempting to reach the electric company, I used my smart phone to go to their website. It proclaimed that their offices were closed due to inclement weather. They did provide an emergency number. I tried it. It was busy. For seven hours it was busy. Finally, in a desperate attempt to reach someone (perhaps we are the only ones left?!?), I called through a line to a different region and got the recording “Thank you for calling … Our offices are closed due to inclement weather…” But it allowed me to patch through to an emergency line, where upon I encountered a male who obviously was not used to customer service calls. I was informed that they could not give me any updates or timeframes, nor could I find that they even knew my area was experiencing an outage. He did thank me for the information and suggested I make other arrangements.

Other arrangements? Like move to the tropics, because I am not entirely certain what other arrangements he was imagining. For those of you who own homes in areas that drop below freezing, you may be aware of things like pipes that freeze and other little foibles of home ownership. At that moment, trapped by frozen garage door, shivering in the now below 45 degree house, and dressed in my most fashionable impression of homelessness, all I could think was about people who might be at the mercy of medical equipment that only have battery back ups, are without transportation, are alone and cold. I guess they should have made “other arrangements”.

I have also called someone to hopefully fix our fireplace that we might not achieve solid ice block status tonight, and dear friends have offered us shelter and a chance to warm ourselves (if able to pry open the garage), but to say I’m less than pleased with the efforts of our local utilities to support the community in this situation is a massive understatement. It isn’t even that I expect miracles. I understand they are working hard. I really do, but to pretty much give me the “Sucks to be you” speech and tell me to make other arrangements? Wow, I’m so glad they get nearly $300 of my hard earned wages every month! There is a rival power provider that supports the adjacent area, with more people in need, they were able to keep power on or restore it to a large portion of their customers (not all yet) relatively quickly and provide updates… Yes! Updates, and a press conference to discuss the plans and where to locate shelters. Oh, and they didn’t shut their doors and turn off their phones. Isn’t that amazing?!?

Second chapter of the icepocalypse:
I call a place to see if perhaps they can fix the gas fireplace. We could have some heat. I speak with the dispatcher who took my information and all the details of our unit (a gas fireplace! Come on!) The nice man on the line said the absolutely could help with that! They would try to get someone out today. Awesome.

After a few hours of waiting, I call back to see if we are on the list at all, and I’m told “Probably not today, because of the weather. Maybe tomorrow.” Ok. I’m disappointed but not dismayed.

About a half hour later I get a call from a guy who says “Are you still needing service?” Of course! Yes! Thank the heavens! He verifies my address, and asks about my unit (stop it!). I explain about the fireplace and lack of the beneficial attributes of… Well… Fire! He suddenly says, “Oh we don’t do gas fireplaces.” What?!? They said… “Oh they’re dispatchers. They don’t know.” Um… Ok. At this point, I’m tired (not much sleep), cold, and trying to come up with some plausible alternative to freezing to death.

Finally a friend (bless you Margaret!) called in a favor from the man that moved the gas lines in their house. This darling man talked us through and managed to get our fireplace to work well enough to knock off enough of the cold and get us through the night! So, while still not entirely happy with our utility providers and some of what I perceive as planning issues, I am grateful for friends, my hobo/homeless chic style (quite warm and dead sexy), and a fire in the grate.

In no way connected to any thrones or George R. R. Martin