People generally hit the gym to look and feel better, whether it’s seeing gains while lifting weights, reaching a goal on the treadmill or even making a new friend after a class. But before you pop in your earbuds and work up a good sweat, you should consider what’s in your gym bag.
“It’s always good to be prepared, so there’s no such thing as overpacking,” says Terrence Wilson, lead trainer at the New York Sports Club in New York City. “The more prepared you are, the more workout options you have. Some people only bring enough items to do workouts in open space or just cardio machines. Having a range of items in your bag opens you up to the opportunity to have a well-rounded workout.”
Clothing and shoes
In terms of shoes, it’s always best to have something that secures your ankles. “For clothing, I like to stick to cotton or silk material and suggest that people wear fitted clothes when working out, rather than anything loose or baggy,” he says.
Ensuring your body has the right fuel at the right times is just as important to maximize your workout and get the best results, says Jenny Gaither, a fitness instructor in New York. “When heading to the gym, I never leave home without a healthy snack in my gym bag to keep me energized,” she says.
Her go-to gym snack is sweet and crunchy nuts that she prepares ahead of time. “And not only is it absolutely delicious it is low in sugar, high in protein and gives me that much-needed energy boost right before it’s time to sweat,” Gaither says.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but Wilson says it’s important to stay hydrated during a workout. “I always advise the folks who take my spin class to bring two standard-size water bottles if they can,” he says. “Your water bottle should be no smaller than 24 ounces.”
Lacrosse ball or softball
Christopher Finn, a physical therapist in Morrisville, North Carolina, says another prop to keep handy is a lacrosse ball or softball. “Either of these two tools can be used for soft tissue mobilization, which helps with soreness, muscle recovery after workouts and muscle activation,” Finn says. “They are cheap, portable and insanely effective to alleviate and resolve active and latent trigger points.”
Wilson says although most gyms provide towels, sometimes at an extra cost, it’s also smart to bring your own. “In the summertime, your body temperature heats up and you may need an extra,” he says. “A towel makes for an alternative to a mat, if you can’t find one at your gym.”While you shower, hang your clothes up to air dry and use the dryers most gyms have now, says Jonathan Jordan, a personal trainer and massage therapist in San Francisco.“Whatever you choose to wear, it’s important to let them dry,” Jordan says. “If you sweat up a storm and then stuff your wet clothes in a plastic bag and leave them in there all day, bacteria will form and your clothes with permanently stink and you’ll be ‘that guy’ in spin class who makes the whole room stink.”Speaking of body odor, don’t forget about deodorant. “Respect your fellow gym-goers and have some extra deodorant if you need it,” Wilson says. “It’s also good to have if you’re running to plans post-workout.”