How to Avoid Smelling Bad at the Gym


Outside of swimming, a good workout is nearly impossible without some good, old-fashioned sweat. Sweating is how our body cools itself, and it is not only natural, it’s vital.

That said, sweating doesn’t mean that you also have to smell badly. You know, like that guy from your gym that always has to be on the bench RIGHT next to you, even though you already smelled him when he walked in the door? Don’t be that guy. I’m going to show you how to keep funk and odor at bay when you’re working out. You need to know this, ESPECIALLY if you like to use the gym as a hunting ground to pick up girls/guys. No one is giving you their number when you smell like a Yeti.

How to Keep From Smelling Bad at the Gym:

1. Choose the right deodorant

As the daughter of a man who has used cream TUSSY deodorant for nearly 60 years, I know about armpit care options. All deodorants are NOT created equal. My favorite brands are Degree, Secret and Arm & Hammer. These are tried and true brands that have been proven to work for both men and women, and specifically, for me. There are also “Clinical Strength” options available that help people who perspire more profusely than the norm. Remember, you’re not trying to stop sweat altogether, just slow it down, and make sure that it’s odor is masked pleasantly.

However, what might be most important about your deodorant choice is the importance of sticking with BASIC scents. In my opinion, Baby Powder is the only acceptable fragrance for deodorant. In some cases I will allow Shower Fresh if there isn’t another option. But!! if you insist on wearing scents like Tropical Rainforest, Sparkling Strawberry, and yes, even Cucumber Melon, you are practically daring your deodorant to make a fool of you. And it will. These fruity flavors will leave you smelling like the contents of a refrigerator after a power outage once your sweat starts flowing. Something like “Tropical Mist” will mix with sweat to create “Holy god what is that smell?” Don’t do it to yourself.

2. Wear the right fabrics.
Nike Legend Dri-Fit tight, available on
Nike Legend Dri-Fit tight

There’s a reason that moisture-wicking fabrics, such as Dri-Fit, are the ONLY choice for workout clothing among professional athletes. They keep sweat away from the body, cooling and drying quickly, and prevent it from collecting in your clothing. Sweatpants, T-shirts, leggings, even socks made of pure cotton will hold water and it will sit there, getting more and more funky throughout your gym session. This is especially true with UNDERWEAR guys and gals.  Try to limit the amount of pure cotton garments you wear during a workout to avoid a collection of funk that you cannot escape.

I’ve also noticed that cotton has a tendency to hold on to odor even after a wash. Meaning that as you wash and wear repeatedly, the scents get more embedded with each use, until it is practically permanent. Yuck.

–Related post: How to Take Your Best Gym Selfie

Some hair_CC_Brent Fitzgerald3. It might be your hair.

This might be hard to hear. For true gym rats, especially the ladies, luscious locks are often sacrificed for more functional hairstyles that are easily managed and not-so easily damaged. However, loads of sweating and frequent washing can take a toll on all types of hair. This means that we may go a bit longer than we should before washing, which can lead to buildup and possibly odor.

This is especially true for women of color who generally do not wash their hair daily. While each person’s hair care regimen is different, keep in mind ways to keep hair fresh between shampoos. Oil treatments or dry shampoos are effective for some, while others find that co-washing allows them to cleanse their hair more frequently without the damage of a full shampoo.

For my natural and relaxed friends, check out the awesome hair and beauty site for great tips on how to protect natural hair and keep it fresh through a workout.

NO4. Avoid cologne or perfume before a workout.

Put that bottle down! Cologne is not going to cover the funk EVER, and the sweet musk or floral will only mix with the funk and make it worse. It will also make your fellow gym-goers nauseous. That Cool Water isn’t so cool anymore bro. Issey Miyake? More like “Is He Mi-Funky”! Just don’t.

5. Keep your gym bag clean!

That gym bag needs a good scrub every now and then too. Old towels, sweaty clothes and gag-worthy socks all sit in that bag (sometimes for more than a day if you’re like me) and the smell migrates to the bag itself. Soon, even your clean clothes will pick up the scent and be stinky before you even wear them. Avoid foul gym bags by cleaning yours out regularly, perhaps even throwing it in the washing machine, if the fabric allows. It is also a good idea to pack a plastic bag to tie up your dirty clothes/towel before you throw them back into the bag. (Bonus for reuse!)

What ways do you keep fresh at the gym? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

A note on aluminum in deodorant: The more we learn about the harmful effects of aluminum in deodorants, the more I have been looking for alternative brands. Since all of the organic brands I’ve tried have left me smelling like a Sweet and Sour Sauce factory, I have yet to fully switch over. I will, however, keep everyone posted when I find some good alternatives.

Some Hair” by Brent Fitzgerald is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Downtown Calvin Klein Fragrance” by Maria Morri is licensed under CC BY 2.0/ Modified from original