9 Gym Bag Essentials


#1 Workout Attire

Workout attire is a given. Please do not show up to the gym in your birthday suit. When it comes to your active-wear I follow two simple concepts.

One, dress to impress. If you look good, you feel good AND if you feel good, you perform better. We have all heard this idea in relation to a job interview or dating, and the gym is no different. Invest a little in a nice gym outfit or two. Ditch the free t-shirt you got at “that event” “that one time” and your old worn out sweatpants, and buy something that was actually made for exercise. DO NOT be the guy working out in jeans and loafers. The fitness community thanks you in advance.

While it is important to be in actual active-wear, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Big chain stores like Walmart and Target carry fitness lines along side major niche sports brands like Nike and Under Armour.

Two, consider comfort and routine. It is easy to suggest typical combos like [yoga pants, sports bra, tank top, socks, & shoes] OR [shorts/joggers, t-shirt, socks, and shoes]. Solid options. When purchasing workout attire I find it best to be able to “try it on”, “move around” in it, and “consider the activity” you will be doing. Loose breathable clothing may be best for certain activities, while fitted stretchy clothing may work better for others.

The same goes for shoes. For example, Nike carries lines of shoes for running, training, everyday lifestyle, and various athletic sports. It would benefit me to buy a “runner” if I am running. I would not want to buy a lifestyle shoe or a basketball shoe if I am planning to use the shoes for a marathon. The shoes may lack the proper support I need and are simply not designed for running.

#2 Music and Earphones

Music and sound quality are essential for a great workout! Music motivates and helps us to keep moving when workouts get long and difficult. In today's world music can now be streamed on almost any electronic device. People tend to use their phone, but the battle is finding the right headphones.

My philosophy? Find what works for you! Some people like over the ear (headphone style), some around the neck (neckband style), and others in the ear (earbud style). You can find all styles in wired and wireless versions. All options will vary in price and the range can be quite wide (from $10-$1000).

After much trial and error over the last year, my personal preference is an over the top of the head wireless earphone. I am currently using Beat Solo 3 Wireless headphones. For some, this option is much too bulky. The pads are not water (sweat) resistant, but I don’t sweat profusely, so I have had no issue. I use these headphone for light cardio and weight training. When I do high intensity cardio I use a set of earbuds that wrap around my ears and are naturally more light-weight to ensure the earbuds stay in place as I move vigorously.

According to Best Buy some headphones, made specifically for sport, include features such a microphone, volume and track controls, and reflective cords to help you remain visible while exercising at night. Some brands even have bio-metric capability to monitor heart rate and initiate motivational audio cues.

Again, when it comes to music and sound quality... find what works for you!

#3 Reusable Water Bottles

I personally always carry two in my gym bag.

One, a Hydro Flask only used for fresh cold water. Hydro Flask’s primary feature is their TempShield™. It is a “double wall, vacuum insulated technology that guards the temperature of your drink. Bring ice water with you in the morning, and [they] promise you’ll still have ice in the afternoon. Hectic morning getting in the way of your coffee sipping? No problem. [A Hydro Flask] will keep it hot until you’re ready. [They] also guarantee no condensation or heat transfer to the outside of the bottle, ever.” I have been using the SAME Hydro Flask for years and it still works just as effectively as it did on day one.

Two, a shaker bottle called ProStak by BlenderBottle for pre-work and recovery (BCCAs/amino acid) supplements. The ProStak is unique because it is designed to hold “supplements, snacks, pills, and liquid—all in the same bottle.”  The liquid compartment includes the BlenderBall® wire whisk for mixing. Twist n’ Lock™ containers attach to the bottom to hold additional products. I use my compartments for pre-workout and recovery powders. When I use the bottle outside the gym, I use the compartments for vitamins and snacks (such as nuts and cheese).

I have an additional shaker bottle by Blenderbottle, the Pro Series, for protein and my keto supplement, but I generally have this in my purse, not my gym bag. To learn more about BlenderBottle, stay tuned for my BenderBottle review coming later this month.   

#4 Hair Ties

For those with long hair out there, there is seriously nothing more frustrating than finally getting to the gym to realize you have forgotten a hair elastic. This usually happens to me when I come straight from work, a date, or an event. When packing your clothes for the gym it is easy to forget the little things that can make or break a workout. I know, it sounds dramatic, but have you ever tried lifting weights or getting in some intense cardio with your hair flying everywhere and sticking to your sweaty moist skin? Ugh! Not fun! And… uh… ewww. Not to mention the heat. You want to get that hair up and out of the way. I do this with a hair band and/or a baseball cap. When packing your gym bag throw a half dozen hair elastics in a pocket and replenish every couple months. I also leave a flexible sports cap (like a baseball hat, but usually made from a lightweight mesh material) in my gym bag just in case.

#5 Small Towel

A sweat towel. This is pretty self explanatory, and, trust me, you want it! Have you ever seen someone take their already sweaty wet clothing and use it to wipe their now dripping face? Of course you have, and, like me, you have probably done this yourself. OR! Have you seen someone dripping with sweat and going from machine to machine spreading their bodily fluids all over the gym without wiping up after themselves? Yeah. The sweat towel is as much for you as it is for everyone else. For the sake of your skin and comfort AND for the sake of hygiene and everyone else's comfort… USE A SWEAT TOWEL and kindly use the gym’s public cleaning supplies to clean the equipment you use after you use it. Some gyms provide towel service (thank you 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport locations!), so check with your gym before you pack your own.

Ok, getting off my soapbox now. For more soapboxing stay tuned for our upcoming article “Gym Etiquette 101”.

#6 Additional Training Gear

It wasn’t long after I started training regularly I realized the gym did not have every piece of equipment I wanted to use or I simply wanted my own. “Additional training gear” will be unique to each person and each training style.

Depending on what I am doing for the day, I may or may not bring additional gear. For example, if it is an active rest day and I am doing yoga I usually bring my own yoga mat. If I plan to do some laps in the pool I bring goggles, a swim cap, and a swimsuit.

There are a few items I keep in my gym bag at all times and use regularly in my training routine.

  • Weight-lifting gloves

  • Wrist wraps

  • Cable ankle Straps

  • Barbell pad

  • Booty bands

  • I would suggest a weight lifting belt for compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts when you are lifting 85% heavier than your one-rep max.

I started collecting slowly. You can easily find affordable options, or spend as much as you would like. Generally I buy my equipment on Amazon or popular one-stop-shops like bodybuilding.com. I am careful to read reviews. I tend to purchase my equipment at midrange (not the cheapest, not the most expensive).

#7 Padlock

Most gyms or fitness facilities will provide open lockers for free or at a small cost to members. I find it helpful to carry small padlocks in my gym bag in case I want or need a locker for the day. While I personally carry my gym bag with me from place to place throughout my workout, some days I use a locker to hold my “street clothes” if I did not have a chance to change before arriving at the club.  Others keep purses, keys, phones, and toiletries in their lockers. To protect your items from potential theft be prepared with a padlock or two.

#8 Necessary supplements

There are many supplements that can aid you in your training. I have much to say about different brands and products, but for today consider two things, pre-workout and post-workout.

Pre-workout supplements are intended to increase your power and endurance during your workout. Some brands specialize in energy, mental clarity/focus, weight loss, recovery, and a variety of other benefits. One size does not fit all! When considering a pre-workout supplement consider your goals, do your research, and test a few products.

Post-workouts are most often whey protein or BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) powders. In the simplest terms, protein is necessary for muscle repair and growth. Protein can be consumed before and/or after workouts.

I consume one serving of both Cellucor’s C4 Ripped and Alpha Amino BCAA supplement before my workout (I buy them in the same flavor so I can mix them together) and an addition serving of the Alpha Amino after my workout.

#9 Daily Toiletries and Street Clothes

For you early morning warriors who hit the weights before work… One, I admire you, wholeheartedly! Two, you may want to consider being prepared with all the things you need to shower and get ready in morning. This may include makeup, hair grooming materials, a change of clothes, and showering items, such as soap, a larger towel, and shower shoes (cause, well, if not, ewww). I also bring a plastic bag for any wet or sweaty items. This will allow you stay at the gym, instead of going home, to get ready for your next commitment. Most gyms have showers and mirrors for troopers such as yourselves.