Your gym bag is your lifeline to a great workout. It’s important to keep it well-stocked with everything you need to make your time at the gym as productive and enjoyable as possible. For beginners it can be a bit confusing to figure out what you need to bring to the gym. To make things easier, we’ve put together a list of must-have items that should be in every gym bag.
The Right Shoes
Notice we didn’t say “sports shoes”, this is because which shoes you carry along depends on the type of workout you’re doing. If you’ll be running on the treadmill, you’ll want to bring a good pair of running shoes.
If you’re going to be lifting weights, you’ll want to have a pair of cross-trainers or lifting shoes with good ankle support. And if you’re planning on doing a group fitness class, make sure to bring a pair of shoes you can easily move in.
Having a pair in your bag to change into once you get to the gym helps prevent unpleasant foot odors that can come from working out in the same shoes you’ve had on all day.
A Sizeable Water Bottle
Hydration impacts your workout in several ways. First and foremost, being properly hydrated helps your body function at its best. It also prevents you from becoming fatigued too quickly and can help reduce muscle soreness after your workout (2).
Ideally, you should drink about 16-20 ounces of water before you even start working out. Then be sure to drink 8-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes or so during your workout. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day (2).
If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime, or carry a sports drink with you to the gym. Just be sure to avoid sugary drinks, as they can actually cause your body to lose water.
Consider having a sweat-proof water bottle holder as well.
No one wants a water bottle that leaks all over their gym bag. A sweat-proof water bottle holder will help keep your water cold and prevent any accidental leaks.
The Right Workout Clothes
There’s nothing that can ruin your workout like not having an essential piece of clothing. Chafing, boob sweat, and wedgies are all real dangers when you’re working out, so it’s important to be properly equipped.
For ladies, a good sports bra is a must. You’ll want one that fits snugly but isn’t too tight, and that provides good support. If you’re larger-chested, look for a sports bra with wide straps and good coverage.
For both men and women, moisture-wicking fabrics are key. These special fabrics help to pull sweat away from your skin, keeping you cool and comfortable during your workout.
Cotton shirts tend to hold onto sweat, which can leave you feeling cold and clammy when you stop working out. Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are better at wicking away moisture, so look for workout clothes made from these materials.
Breaking a sweat is inevitable when you’re working out, so it’s important to have a way to wipe away the moisture. A small gym towel can help you keep your face and body dry, and can also be used to mop up any sweat that’s dripped onto equipment.
It’s not only hygienic but also good manners to wipe down any machines or weights you’ve used when you’re finished with them. Most gyms provide disinfectant wipes, but it’s always a good idea to have a backup in case they’re out.
You might not think you need sunscreen at the gym, but if you’re working out near a window or outdoors, you could be at risk for sunburn. UV rays can penetrate glass, so if you’re working out near a window, it’s important to apply sunscreen before you start sweating (1).
If you’ll be spending any time outdoors, be sure to pack a travel-sized bottle of sunscreen in your gym bag. Apply it liberally to all exposed skin, and reapply every few hours or as needed.
Chapped lips are no fun, and they can actually make it difficult to breathe through your nose when you’re working out. Carrying a lip balm in your gym bag can help prevent chapped lips, and can also be used to soothe any irritation that may occur.
When choosing a lip balm, look for one that contains SPF to protect your lips from the sun. A beeswax-based lip balm is also a good option, as it will help keep your lips hydrated without feeling greasy.
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If you have long hair, it’s important to keep it out of your face when you’re working out. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting sweat in your eyes, or worse, having your hair pulled during a yoga class.
Invest in a few good quality hair ties that won’t snap or tug on your hair, and that will stay put during even the most strenuous workout. If you have particularly thick or long hair, you may want to invest in a few different sizes of hair ties to ensure a comfortable and secure fit.
Headphones Or Earbuds
Music can be a great motivator when you’re working out, but only if you can actually hear it. Headphones or earbuds that fit snugly and securely are a must-have for any gym bag.
Be sure to choose headphones that won’t fall out of your ears, and that won’t get in the way when you’re moving around. In-ear headphones are a good option, as they tend to stay in place better than over-ear headphones.
Smart Watch/Heart Rate Monitor
If you’re serious about tracking your fitness goals, a smart watch or heart rate monitor can be a valuable addition to your gym bag. These devices allow you to track your heart rate, steps taken, and calories burned, helping you to gauge the intensity of your workout.
There is a variety of different models available, so choose one that fits your needs and budget. Many smart watches also double as activity trackers, so you can keep an eye on your fitness progress even when you’re not at the gym.
Gear For Specific Workouts
Depending on the type of workout you’re doing, you may need to pack some additional gear in your gym bag. Here are a few items to consider bringing along:
If you’re planning on doing any yoga or Pilates at the gym, be sure to bring along a mat. Most gyms have mats available for use, but they’re often dirty and well-worn.
Packing your own mat ensures that you have a clean, comfortable surface to work on, and also allows you to choose a mat that’s specifically suited to your needs. For example, if you have joint pain, you may want to invest in a thicker mat for added cushioning.
If you’re lifting weights, it’s important to protect your hands from calluses and blisters. A good pair of gloves will help to prevent these problems, and will also absorb sweat to keep your hands dry.
There is a variety of different gloves available, so choose a pair that fits well and provides the level of protection you need. If you’re lifting heavy weights, you may want to consider gloves with wrist support to help prevent injuries.
A fairly new invention, wrist straps are a must-have for anyone who lifts weights on a regular basis. Wrist straps provide support and stabilization to the wrist joint, helping to prevent injuries.
They’re also great for people with weak grip strength, as they allow you to focus on your form without having to worry about holding onto the weight. Most gyms have a few pairs of wrist straps available for use, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own just in case.
If you find yourself sweating a lot during your workouts, Liquid grip can be a lifesaver. This unique product helps to keep your hands dry and prevents slippage, making it ideal for use in the gym.
It’s also great for people with sweaty palms, as it absorbs sweat and provides a grippy surface that won’t slip. Liquid grip can be a bit messy, so be sure to use it in a well-ventilated area.
You can also use chalk, which has a similar effect but can be very messy.
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Most gyms have lockers available for use, but they’re often small and not very secure. If you’re worried about your belongings being stolen, it’s a good idea to bring along a lock.
Gym locks are small, lightweight locks that attach to your bag or locker and help to deter thieves. They’re an inexpensive way to peace of mind, and can be a lifesaver to prevent your belongings from ever being stolen.
Last but not least, don’t forget to pack a pair of shower slippers. Communal bathrooms can be breeding grounds for bacteria, so it’s important to protect your feet from contact with dirty floors.
Shower slippers are also great for use in locker rooms and saunas, as they help to keep your feet dry and prevent slipping.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it, the ultimate list of gym essentials. Be sure to pack all of these items in your bag before heading to the gym, and you’ll be prepared for anything.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Avoiding Sunburn: All About Sunscreen (2016, uspharmacist.com)
- Fluid consumption, exercise, and cognitive performance (2016, nih.gov)