While it may seem like a common sense issue that shouldn’t need to be discussed, there is from time to time a need to remind students about some important personal hygiene issues that need to be kept in mind during fencing training and tournament season. Athletes spend a lot of time in close quarters, which puts them at greater risk for contracting or sharing infections.
Come to Class or Competition Clean
We know that a lot of people come to class straight from work or school, and that’s normal. Please don’t come directly to class from another sport if you are covered in dirt, grime, and sweat. Take some time to stop home and hit the shower so that you can refocus and hit the floor with a fresh perspective. No matter where you are coming from, please check to see if you need a new layer of deodorant (if it’s an age appropriate thing for you to do). Everyone gets sweaty and smelly during training, but no one wants to train with the guy who smells awful before class has even started.
Don’t Share Personal Equipment
While sharing weapons with your training partners is polite, sharing personal items like gloves, helmets, masks, and other forms of personal equipment should be avoided. These items see frequent use and often harbor quite a bit of bacteria. Sharing these items could put you at risk for developing a fungal or bacterial infection. While we appreciate your willingness to help a fellow fencer out, we’d prefer you seek out a coach for assistance in replacing forgotten gear during training.
Tend to Your Wounds
Make sure any open wounds you have are covered during training, whether they’re minor scratches and abrasions, chaffe wounds, or something more serious. Covering your wound will protect it from being exposed to additional bacteria, reducing your risk of infection. It also prevents your training partners from coming into contact with blood. Talk to your coach if you are concerned about a wound on your body and how it may impact your ability to train.
Locker Room Safety
Wear foot protection at all times in the locker room as sweaty, bare feet in a shared area can put you at risk for developing athlete’s foot or ringworm – both common ailments across almost all sports. Don’t share towels, soaps, or other personal items. Keep your items off the floor to avoid additional contamination.
Pack Your Bag – and Unpack It
There is nothing quite as disgusting as opening your gear bag to realize you left something wet or sweaty zipped up in there overnight (or for a few nights). The stench is overpowering. You may want to consider carrying some plastic bags in your gear bag so that you can protect your dry, clean clothes from your dirty, wet gear. Take your dirty gear out of your bag as soon as you get home to prevent stains, spreading around bacteria or fungi that it may be carrying, and to keep mold from forming in your bag. Don’t forget to spray the inside of your gear bag with a disinfectant from time to time, too!
We want you to have fun when you’re fencing, but we also want you to be safe. The more serious you become about your training, the more aware you’ll need to be about personal hygiene and how it impacts your training. Make these things into simple habits now and you’ll have no trouble in the future!