Updated: Jul 19
After years of hitting the gym for my own workouts and teaching small group fitness classes, I know how important a well-packed gym bag can be. Have you ever gotten to the gym or your exercise class only to discover you don't have a pair of socks, your shoes, or deodorant to refresh before heading to your next destination?
Keeping a well-stocked gym bag is key for so many reasons. From ensuring you have what you need for a successful workout, to tidying up post workout so you can head out ready to tackle the rest of the day. Set yourself up for success with the help of my Top 8 Gym Bag Must Haves.
My Top 8 Gym Bag Must Haves:
Refillable Water Bottle
Having a 16 - 32oz refillable water bottle on hand makes it easy to stay hydrated not only during your workout, but all day long too. Most gyms have a water refill station or drinking fountain or you can use the sink in the locker room. Replenish those lost fluids from your killer workout and support healthy body function, especially important on warmer days.
Socks and Athletic Shoes
How often do you leave for the day wearing the socks and shoes you will do your workout in? Keeping a couple pair of athletic socks in your gym bag will save your tootsies and save you from having to wear a drenched with sweat pair of socks back to work or to happy hour with friends. Dry-Fit, moisture wicking socks are great for workouts because they let your feet breathe and reduce occurrence of nasty blisters.
Having athletic shoes seems like an obvious fitness rule #1, yet they can be easy to forget when you're dashing out the door first thing in the morning. Having a pair that stays in your gym bag will ensure you are ready to go, anytime, anywhere. Which is great if you want to take an impromptu walk on your lunch break too!
When weather allows, I enjoy the mind, body and spirit benefits of fitness outdoors. Having a lightweight jacket, hoodie, or some sort of rain resistant pull-over will let you roll with Mother Nature's punches. Even in summer months when you think it will be a gloriously sunny day, weather can change in an instant, and fighting the damp, cold, or wind is no fun when you were trying to enjoy a nice walk outside. Having a lightweight jacket is also great for the to and from gym run, keeing you warm, dry, and covered (pardon the pun) until you get to your next destination.
Wired or wireless you can pop them in and let the beats keep you going strong. Music is a great distraction, motivator, and pace keeper. Whether you prefer listening to a podcast, soothing tracks, or an energizing beat, music can really help you decompress, motivate and inspire, energize, and add fun! They are also great for helping to drown out background noise in busy or chaotic environments, so you can focus on the moment at hand and avoid being interrupted by others around you.
Unless you'll be grabbing a shower at home, having a few toiletries on hand will help you refresh before heading out to your post workout destination. Travel size soap, lotion, deodorant, facial wipes, dry shampoo and/or hairspray are a few basics that are always in my bag. If you have mid to long length hair, having a brush, a few hair ties, a headband and/or bobby pins are a must for keeping hair out of your face during your workout and for tossing your hair up for the post workout rinse.
Dirty Clothes Bag
It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to do the job. Old plastic shopper bags take up little room until you need to use them, and you are doing a solid for the environment by recycling. Some gym bags come with their own little laundry bags, or you can snag a bacteria fighting ventilated bag to reduce odors getting trapped in your clothes (Ideal if your sweat laden clothes will be hanging out in your bag for several hours). The important thing is to keep those sweaty post-workout clothes from co-mingling with any of the clean duds still in your bag. Not only will it keep the clean items clean, reduce odor in your sweating garments, but you'll help keep your gym bag smelling fresh too.
This is a must have for gym goers. Most gyms will supply a locker for you to stow your things, but you will be expected to supply your own lock. Even if you aren't bringing in a gym bag, you probably don't want to carry around your wallet, purse, keys, etc. during your workout. I keep one lock in my gym bag and one in my purse, so no matter what I am covered. Keep a combination lock in a place that is ideal based on your own weekly fitness routine, such as in your car, gym bag, purse, etc., that way you'll have it when and where you need it so you can keep your possessions safe and go focus on a great workout.
Post Workout Fuel
Replace valuable nutrients lost during your workout with a well-balanced post-workout snack. For greatest benefit, aim to refuel 30 to 60 minutes post exercise, allowing the body to use those nutrients efficiently and effectively to support optimal recovery. Ideally, a post workout snack should contain a balance of protein, carbohydrate, and healthy fat, such as unsalted nuts and dried fruit, an apple or banana with natural peanut butter, or a slice of whole grain bread with a thin spread of hummus and a slice of lean turkey.
Resistance bands: great for warm ups, stretching, and to supplement your overall workout
Gym towel: some gyms have them, some do not - also great to have for outdoor workouts
Bandaids: great to have on hand for blisters, scratches or scrapes
Bottom line: feel free to add or subtract items from this list depending on your particular work fitness activity's needs. In warmer months you might find you have less to pack, whereas in colder months you may find your bag gets a bit full as your needs and fitness activities change. Set yourself up for success by establishing what items are essentials (a change of clothes? A post workout snack? A towel, water bottle or earbuds to keep you moving along?) and take into consideration how your day and environment can change...which just might change your workout and what you need to successfully complete it.
Are you a busy man or woman who's ready to feel strong, live healthy, and get fit? Discover how to take small steps to get healthy & fit without cutting out the foods you love or spending countless hours on cardio. Come join me inside my online Facebook Community - The Healthy Habits Club. It's where busy folks go for tips, tools and support they need to eat healthy, move daily, and feel good for life!