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What to do when your workout wrecks your hands

EVF Performance cross fit
Sometimes, the workouts that are great for your body aren’t as good for your hands. (Photo: EVF Performance)

CrossFit, rowing, and other workouts that require lots of lifting and gripping have never been more popular. And while they’ll probably give you defined triceps and toned thighs, they often come with another less pretty prize: blisters.

Eric Von Frohlich, founder of Row House and two-location CrossFit box EVF Performance, in New York City, says that hand blisters (as well and calluses and dry skin) are very common in his community. (So much so, that he even created a racy t-shirt slogan: “Rough hands, smooth ass.”)

But that doesn’t mean everyone’s fine with it. (Including your manicurist.) “The strongest weight lifters are very conscious of the need to take care of their hands.” Von Frohlich explains. “Once you have a blister or callus, it will build until it eventually tears, and then you can’t do any exercises with gripping. There’s no glory in that.”

While it’s nearly impossible to never get them, there are things you can do to minimize how often blisters crop up, Von Frochlich says. Here are his five expert tips on how to help prevent the unfortunate (and sometimes painful) fitness side-effect of blisters:

1. Stop holding on for dear life. A tendency for beginner rowers is over-gripping, Von Frochlich says. “It’s important to relax your fingers. You want your grip to be firm but not overly strong,” he says.

2. Leave your engagement ring in your locker (or at home). Wearing rings is a big no-no. “It will pinch the skin every time you grab a bar, which will lead to blistering.” It could also really scratch your jewelry.

G-Loves snakeprint workout gloves
(Photo: G-Loves)

3. Keep ’em clean and soft. If you’re using chalk at CrossFit, don’t wait to wash it off later, since it can drastically dry out your hands. “What it really comes down to is getting the chalk off after a workout and cleaning your hands every night as part of a beauty regimen,” he advises. That means using a pumice stone if calluses develop and moisturizing religiously.

4. Use a protective balm. Before a tough workout, Von Frohlich applies a product called Tuf-Foot, originally developed to protect dogs’ paws and horses’ hooves. But as you’d expect, he admits the smell is not exactly appealing. Another less fragrant option he recommends is Bag Balm. We’re thinking an all-natural Paw Paw balm or do-it-all coconut oil would also do the trick. Just make sure it’s absorbed well before you go to grab the kettlebell.

5. Wear gloves (or tape). “Some people like gloves and some people hate them because they generally can’t get as good of a grip,” Von Frohlich explains. But they will definitely help prevent blisters. Now there are brands like G-Loves that make them for women in fun patterns and styles. Tape is also an option, but you can’t use a lot. “Too much will cause your hands to slide on the bar,” he warns.

Putting a few of these guidelines into practice—and getting your grip on often (sporadic lifters tend to have worse blisters)—should help make your blisters ways less intrusive. Which is another good reason not to skip your WOD. —Jamie McKillop

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