Nothing can ruin your workout quicker than turning up to the gym and discovering you have forgotten an essential piece of workout equipment or beauty product. Your workout’s been waylaid before you’ve even started.
Here is a list of “potentially essential” workout gear and equipment that should be in pretty much everyone’s gym bag. Don’t worry if some of it is not appropriate for the type of exercise you do – many of the other items will be.
Looking good is real nice. But – seriously – not at the expense of functionality. Practice reason and make sure you’re comfortable. That includes your clothes fitting the size you are – not the size you’re planning to be. Don’t even think of buying a pair of running shoes on the basis of style or color. Dress in layers, so you can strip off as you get warm. If you are going to be doing lots of jumpy high-impact type exercise, make sure your underwear holds you in place – boys and girls.
Back to shoes. Make sure your shoes match your workout – if you are going to lift some heavy weights, firm flat shoes are best. If you’re off to some high-impact cardio classes, wear shoes that boast lateral support and forefoot cushioning.
Lastly – though if you’re planning on making friends (or maybe more?), certainly not least – make sure your workout clothes are fresh and clean. Nobody’s going to find you attractive – no matter how funny your jokes, small your waist or ripped your abs – if they can’t get within an arms length of you. And before you try and cheat this. No deodorant or perfume can cancel out the stench of unwashed gym clothing – it’ll just add a whole new and different layer of smell into the mix. But it won’t make it better.
If you want to warm up but find all the other cardio machines are busy, all you need to do is whip out your trusty jump rope and get skipping. If you want to do a burst of cardio between sets of weight training to crank up the intensity of your workout, you can use your jump rope right next to the equipment you were using to maintain the continuity of your workout. A jump rope is also a useful hamstring stretching tool.
Taking up virtually no space at all, a jump rope is a worthy addition to your gym bag.
If your gym doesn’t provide them, bring a sweat towel with you. Sitting or lying on a sweat towel stops you leaving a puddle on exercise equipment and protects you from lying in someone else’s sweat.
Using a sweat towel is an easy way to help prevent the spreading of germs and infections – and you from catching them.
Every gym bag needs some kind of music player. Music’s use as a workout tool can’t be underestimated. Again and again research confirms that you’ll workout harder, go faster, be stronger, feel less pain, and be more motivated listening to music while you exercise. So spend some time putting a playlist together to get the most out of your workout. And don’t forget your headphones.
If you are serious about your training, you really should be recording the details of your workouts. If you are strength training, you should write down the exercises you perform, the eights you are using, the number of reps and sets you perform and the rest periods you use between sets. If you are doing cardio, record exercises, speeds, resistance, distances and times and maybe your training heart rate if recorded.
Keeping a training dairy in an invaluable tool, as it help you to objectively assess whether your training is giving you the results you want and allows you to make changes to your workouts week by week for better results. You’ll need a pen too…
Sweaty hands can make gripping weights a slippery affair, so it often pays to wear weight lifting gloves. If gloves aren’t your thing, give climbers’ chalk a go. Both options keep your hands dry but gloves have the added benefit of preventing calluses.
If you are a serious lifter, you may want to wear a weight lifting belt for your heaviest sets of squats, deadlifts and similarly back-challenging exercises. As a rule, your belt should only be worn for your top sets, but not for warm-ups or easy exercises, and never for cardio unless you like looking like an amateur. Your belt should be worn so tightly that it’s a relief to take it off between sets. If this isn’t the case, you aren’t using your belt correctly.
KNEE/ ELBOW SLEEVES
If you find your knees and/or elbows ache a little and take a while to warm up, consider wearing neoprene sleeves to help keep your joints feeling warm and slightly supported. Don’t use sleeves to mask an injury though – that’s just asking for trouble.
Stay hydrated during your workout. Some gyms have water coolers but it’s always best to have your own supply to avoid picking up germs from other users. Also, not having to walk over to the water cooler every time you want a drink means you’ll save time and avoid stopping for periodic workout-halting chats. When choosing a water bottle make sure it’s BPA-free, keeps your water cool, is easy to carry, and if possible, filters your water. Don’t even think about bringing glass or open-topped containers!
Once the hard work of training is done, it’s time to kick start your recovery with a post-training snack. Ideally this should contain protein and carbohydrate in an easily digestible form such as a shake or bar. The only excuse for skipping your post-training snack is if you are going to eat a substantial meal in the next 60-minutes or so but even then your post-training snack can ensure you start the recovery process immediately after exercise.
SHOWER KIT/ BEAUTY BAG
Next time you buy your bathroom supplies, buy two of everything so you can keep one set at home and the other set in your gym bag. That way you’ll never forget your toothbrush, shampoo, body lotion, shower gel or deodorant.
To keep your gym bag light, keep things simple and save time, try go for an all-in-one products like shampoo & conditioner, and face & body wash. Don’t forget your flip flops and if your gym doesn’t provide any, a towel too – it’s no fun trying to dry yourself with a hairdryer or handfuls of paper towels.
Your gym should have a first aid kit on hand but in case they don’t it pays to have a small kit in your gym bag for emergencies. A few Band-Aids, a support bandage and other such items will mean you can look after yourself if a minor accident occurs. If nothing else, Band-Aids are useful for preventing and treating blisters – probably the most common gym boo boo.
Lastly, don’t forget the padlock that’ll keep all your gear safe. Schlepping all your stuff around the gym or to class with you is a hassle. Most gyms require that you provide your own padlock. A combination lock may seem ideal because there is no key to lose, but they are also easily cracked (on the other hand what about hairpins and key padlocks?). Ideally, use a regular padlock and keep the key on a chain around your neck or a pocket with a zipper.