For people who are consistent with their workouts, diet, and fitness goals. It’s hard to take a break from it, it’s an addiction that getting a tattoo can interfere with. If you find yourself checking the clock and asking yourself, “can you go to the gym after getting a tattoo” look no further.
I’m right there with you, I hate missing a day after a workout, I literally get destroyed by the feelings of guilt and laziness washing over me. Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit…
The tattoo healing process is something that should be taken seriously and with that, entering an environment of dust, sweat, and testosterone may or may not have its place.
I’ll be honest with you…
I’ve normally gone into the gym and lifted the day following my tattoo but let me breakdown and explain the how and the why behind this.
I don’t go to the gym with a new tattoo the day I get it.
There is a simple reason for this, you definitely want to leave the bandaging that your artist applies to the tattoo for a few hours post session. Following this I believe it is a good idea to clean the tattoo thoroughly to remove bodily fluids and keep clean for the remainder of the day.
The tattoo will probably be sore, seeping bodily fluids, and at it’s most vulnerable for infection if not taken care of properly. The day of getting a tattoo is a no go in the gym for me.
Pro Tip: Just go before your session and get it out of the way!
Now, if you’re like me you’re itching to workout after a day. Sometimes I do go workout the next day depending on what you are working out.
If the tattooed skin will be pulling, moving, or being rubbed against in the process of your workout I would highly reconsider going into the gym until the area has healed properly.
When I got my elbow tattooed it was the most difficult area to heal that I’ve experienced so far. Constantly moving the joint doesn’t give the skin any time to heal. With that being said, I wasn’t doing anything that involved the elbow joint for a couple of weeks after my workout.
However, I will have to go in for a future session to complete the tattoo and retain as much color as possible. With this next session coming around I will take about a week off from the gym to let the tattoo heal as best as possible.
Moving the tattooed area often can result in a poor healing process, lost color, and future touch ups may be required.
If you feel like you can workout, won’t irritate the tattooed area, and will be able to be effective in the gym, pull the trigger and get in the gym.
Just keep in mind that preparation is essential to keep the tattoo clean.
Here is what I do to prepare and keep the tattooed area clean in the gym:
- I wear baggy or open clothing to ensure that my clothing is not rubbing against the area.
- I clean and apply ointment or lotion to the area before going into the gym.
- I lay a towel down where I go and I spray down the equipment before and after use.
- I am consciously aware to not bump into or rub the tattooed area on anyone or anything.
What happens if I get the tattoo dirty or contaminated during my workout?
Simple, I’ll head to the locker rooms and wipe down the tattoo with lukewarm water, make sure its clean, finish up whatever is left in my workout and get home to shower and clean the area with anti-bacterial soap.
Here is my 4 week protocol to working out in the gym with a new tattoo.
Day 1: Getting the Tattoo
I workout in the morning before the tattoo session, If I dont make it to the gym I don’t workout.
I leave bandaging on the tattoo for a few hours after getting it and once I remove the bandage the tattoo is still seeping bodily fluids. After cleaning the area thoroughly and applying ointment to the tattoo I leave it alone.
Day 2: The Day After Getting the Tattoo
Depending on what you want to workout and if it will impact the skin that was tattooed I may or may not workout. If I am working out legs and have a forearm tattoo I see no issues with getting in the gym.
However, if you have an upper back tattoo and you are going to back squat obviously that is not a good idea and avoiding exercises like that is something I would recommend from my own opinion to get the most out of the tattoo healing process.
Use your judgement, ask yourself if this will impact the tattoos recovery and make your decision from there. It’s important to ensure you are applying proper aftercare ointment before going into the gym.
Day 3-7: The Week of Getting the Tattoo
Same as day 2, you will need to consider if you should workout depending on where you received your tattoo. There is no issue with going into the gym as long as the tattooed area is not being irritated.
The reason it’s important to apply proper aftercare ointment before working (as recommended on day 2) is to ensure that you do not incur any infections on they newly tattooed area. Normally I will apply a thin layer of my preferred tattoo ointment onto my skin BEFORE going to the gym.
It’s also good hygiene and etiquette to spray and wipe down the bench you are using before and after use. It’s not unheard of to spread infections like MRSA (staph) in the gym when you are not following proper hygiene principles and your odds are much higher when you have a new tattoo which is technically an open wound. If you’re gym does not have that equipment pick up a few towels and keep them with you.
Day 7-28: The Second Week Healing the Tattoo
At this point, you should have a pretty good feel for how your tattoo is healing and how you should treat it when you are in the gym.
Towards the end of the four weeks is when I may start working out body parts that come into contact with the new tattoo. If I got an upper back tattoo and have been taking some time off from back squats for the past 4 weeks, the tattoo should be healing very nicely from this point.
I would be sure to have switched over to my preferred tattoo lotion around the end of the first week of having my tattoo and I would regularly be applying the lotion 2-3 times per day and ensuring that the tattoo is taken care of.
Pro Tip: It’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you’re unsure about putting pressure or external objects into contact with your tattoo then don’t. There is only a small window of time you have to heal a tattoo properly and you definitely don’t want to mess it up because you were to eager to get a workout in.
By the end of the month you’re tattoo should be finally healed up, or pretty close to it and your workouts should resume right back to normal! Keep working hard on your health and fitness goals.
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Till next time,