CrossFit Gym Hacks: Don’t Be The Stinky One

When you collapse after the WOD... cause your friend smells like death

Welcome to our newest BTWB installment, CrossFit Gym Hacks. In these segments we will share little tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way that will help you get the most out of your hour at the gym. If you have any areas you’d like us to explore, shoot an email to

Every gym has one, or sometimes more than one. That one guy or gal who always seems to be left looking around the room when your coach tells people to partner up. The stinky one. During the winter months these individuals lie dormant, their aroma smothered by the chill winter temperatures. As the temperature climbs, so does the blast radius of their smell, until its mid-summer and it seems a cloud is following them around the gym. While this problem can have a number of specific causes, most stem from the same general area.

There are a huge number of factors that can contribute to people smelling, including stress, diet, your microbiome, and other factors. Since those factors are somewhat complicated and highly individual, we will contain our discussion to the low-hanging fruit- things that are easy to fix and apply to everyone. Broadly speaking, body odor is caused by bacteria, which break down normally odorless compounds in our sweat. That’s right, sweat in and of itself is completely odorless. These bacteria generally proliferate in areas that are damp, dark, and warm- make your “that’s what she said” jokes, but I think you get my drift.

So, we want to fight the accumulation of these bacteria and give them no safe quarter. First, make sure to wash your gym clothes each time you wear them, no exception. For some of us this is second nature, but you’d be surprised how many people will re-wear their shorts multiple times or pull stuff out of the laundry in a pinch. Don’t.

Next, make sure what you put on your body is made of breathable fabric that won’t trap odor. Some companies have started incorporating high-tech anti-microbial elements into their gear specifically to keep them from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. Body hair can be prime real estate for bacteria too, and it pains me as a hairy manly man to say this, but a light trim might keep you less sweaty and remove some bacteria from their happy home.

Make sure the gear that traps sweat and gets washed infrequently- stuff like knee sleeves and wrist wraps- sees the light of day. Too many people finish a workout and throw their gear back into the depths of their gym bag, where it marinates and co-contaminates other generally stink-free gear. On my high school’s baseball team, “knee-cygen” (clamping your knee pads over someone’s face like an oxygen mask) was an especially cruel form of punishment for exactly this reason. So, please, PLEASE, let your sleeves and wraps dry in the fresh air. Many bags nowadays have mesh exterior pockets for this reason. If you use a bag or backpack without this feature, my favorite trick is to turn my knee sleeves inside out, exposing the stankiest part to the fresh air, and run a carabiner on some parachute cord through them, clipping it to another strap on my bag. This way their are easily accessed but don’t spend time in the murky depths of your bag.

Some people may have let their favorite gear permanently grow some nasty stank that creeps out as soon as they start moving around in class. Extra smelly clothes take a little extra love and care to de-stink. What’s the easiest way to get rid of some lingering smells baked into your clothes? Two things: White Vinegar & Baking Soda. Fill up your sink, bath, barrel, or whatever floats your boat with some cold water. Throw in your extra stinky clothes, add a 1/2 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and let them soak for 15-30 minutes. The vinegar will help kill any bacteria that’s festering in your fabrics, and the baking soda will help eliminate any odor that the bacteria’s produced. After your satisfied with their soak, rinse em out and air dry them or throw them into the wash with the rest of your clothes.

Lastly, some people simply have more active sweat glands than others- if you fit this description pack a 2nd t shirt and throw some spray deodorant in your bag. There are even prescription anti-microbial and deodorant options if the problem is truly persistent and nefarious. While it may be uncomfortable to confront, keep in mind that it is within your power to fix- try not to inflict it on others- unless you are fine never having a spotter and performing all your partner WODs solo.

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