Nothing kills the vibe and brings a good workout to a screeching halt like realizing you forgot to pack something crucial in your gym bag. Whether it’s your earbuds, the right shoes, or an essential piece of workout equipment that your gym doesn’t provide, having all of these essentials on hand can make or break your focus and productivity, directly impacting the efficiency of your workout.
So knowing what to pack in your gym bag is essential! Here’s our ultimate checklist of gym bag essentials, plus some tips on how to pack your gym bag to ensure that you’re always 100% prepared to hit every workout.
Tips for packing your gym bag
- To ensure that you have everything you need for your workout (and that you aren’t rushing around and making yourself late in the morning), get in the habit of packing your gym bag the night before you need it. This is especially helpful when you’re hitting those workouts at the crack of dawn: you don’t want to forget something important in your sleepy state!
- Air it out often. Let’s face it: your gym essentials can get stinky. Minimize those odors by keeping your dirty laundry in a separate compartment and throwing them in the wash on a routine basis. Your car (and the people around you) will thank you!
- As far as your bag itself, it’s a good idea to find a bag that’s both large enough to hold all of your essentials and is machine-washable so that you can routinely throw it in the laundry along with your dirty clothes. Look for breathable bags that allow for some airflow, which can help keep the stink down in between washes.
Gym Bag Essentials
Any avid gymgoer knows: the music you play can make or break your workout. It’s crucial for setting the tone, helping you stay focused, and pumping you up when you need it the most. So forgetting your earbuds is more than just an annoyance – it can directly impact how efficient your workout is! If you tend to use your earbuds in other places outside of the gym, it might also be useful to have multiple earbuds and dedicate one specifically for the gym so that you always have a pair ready for your workouts.
For the gym, look for sports-specific earbuds like the Beats Fit Pro that are water-resistant, so that they can stay in even if you’re sweating, and wireless to avoid getting tangled up and ripped out of your ears during your workout.
For many avid gymgoers, a workout wouldn’t be complete without pre-workout or post-workout supplements. There are a lot of common supplements like protein powders, electrolytes, and BCAA’s designed for pre- and post-workout that can help with boosting performance, keeping you fueled, and aiding in your recovery. But if you’re really looking to take your workout to the next level, HOTSHOT for Muscle Cramps and HOTSHOT for Muscle Soreness are both uniquely designed to prevent and treat muscle cramps and reduce next-day soreness even after your most intense workouts. They’re both best to take pre-workout so you can push harder and train longer without the fear of cramps or muscle soreness holding you back. Keep an extra in your bag in case you get that mid-workout cramp or to take again after a really long workout to keep soreness at bay.
A charger, whether portable or plug-in, is essential, especially if the gym is just one of the many stops you have to make during your day. Carrying an extra phone charger in your gym bag will allow you to keep your earbuds and phone charged up and ready to go.
Your gym shoes are another important piece of the puzzle that can influence the outcome of your workout. The type you pack in your bag will depend on the kind of workout you’re planning on doing that day:
- Do you need supportive running shoes for hopping on the treadmill? In that case, a pair of light, well-cushioned road running shoes like the Hoka Mach series or the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus will give you the support your feet need without weighing you down.
- But if your workout for the day is mostly going to be focused on weightlifting, you’d do better with a pair of sturdy shoes with minimal cushion, like the classic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, which will keep you stable and grounded as you lift. If you’re planning on doing Olympic lifting or powerlifting, there are also weightlifting-specific shoes like the Adidas Powerlift which have a slight, stable heel for better support and to give you a bigger range of motion for improved form during your heaviest squats and deadlifts.
- If you’re planning on cross-training and hitting a bit of every type of workout during your fitness class, HIIT session, or circuit workout, you need a capable cross-trainer like the Nike Metcon to cover all of your bases.
If you don’t have enough room in your bag for multiple pairs, consider keeping the others in your car so that you always have access to the right pair for your needs.
If you’re coming from work or school, you’ll want to make sure that you packed the right athletic clothing for your workout. Like your shoes, the kinds of workout gear you pack can vary based on your training plan for the day. But for starters, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the basic essentials like:
- Extra pairs of clean underwear
- Extra pairs of socks
- Sports bra (if applicable)
- Athletic sweats, shorts, or leggings
- Moisture-wicking athletic tops
- An athletic jacket or hoodie if the weather calls for it
It’s a good idea to buy sports-specific gear that is specially designed for wicking off moisture and keeping you dry and comfortable during your workout. Athletic gear is generally made of water-resistant synthetic fabrics like polyester and polypropylene, though you can also find suitable gear made of natural materials like bamboo and merino wool. You probably shouldn’t rely on your cotton T-shirts and shorts, since they tend to absorb a ton of moisture and are more prone to holding onto unpleasant gym smells over time.
Another thing: to keep everything nice, clean, and organized, you might consider buying a laundry insert for your gym bag that keeps it separate from the other things you’re lugging around.
Working out at the gym is a smelly business, so you’ll probably want to bring some toiletries along especially if you’re planning on going somewhere else other than home straight from the gym. Remember, many gyms have showers, but you’ll probably need to bring all of your shower stuff on your own. Beyond the basics, some essentials most often overlooked to consider packing for your post-workout clean-up include:
- Antibacterial soap
- Shower sandals
- Hair styling products
- Contact lens solution
- Shower towel
A key rule in gym etiquette is to wipe down your equipment after using it – no one wants to sit in a puddle of your sweat! If your gym doesn’t provide towels for this purpose, bring in a small towel on your own. Microfiber and terry cotton towels are both good choices since they’re light and can absorb a lot while still drying quickly, which minimizes the risk of mold or mildew growing while it hangs out in your gym bag the rest of the day.
You probably won’t want to lug your bag around with you during your workout (and in fact, some gyms won’t allow this at all). So it’s a good idea to keep a combination lock in your bag so that you can store all of your belongings safely in a gym-provided locker.
Staying well-hydrated is so important, especially when you’re working out hard and sweating it out. Carry a reusable, secure, and leak-free water bottle that holds plenty of water so that you have access to water for your entire workout. It’s also a good idea to get an insulated option like a CamelBak Podium Chill, which is designed to stay in your bike or treadmill bottle holder while keeping your drink nice, cool, and refreshing throughout your entire workout.
It’s also a good idea to carry some nonperishable, nutritious snacks in your gym bag for refueling after your workout (or whenever you need a boost during the day). Protein bars, energy bars, nuts, and seeds are all great options for healthy snacking on the go. When it comes to prepackaged snacks like bars, look for options that have a relatively high protein content (about 10 grams of protein or more) and complex carbohydrates from whole food sources, but minimal or no artificial ingredients or added sugars (for example, RXBARS are great options for simple protein bars with straightforward, whole-food ingredients).
Depending on what your training routine looks like, you may need to bring in some specialty workout equipment that your gym may not provide, like:
- Circle bands to add more resistance to your leg workouts
- Weightlifting gloves to help you grip onto weights better with fewer callouses
- Cable machine attachments to allow for more variety during your training
- Personal foam rollers/massage devices for post-workout recovery
- Yoga mat for your yoga class and/or getting a good stretch in after your workout
Thoroughly packing your gym bag can make all the difference in how hard you’re able to hit your workout and advance your performance. Don’t let a moment of absentmindedness get in the way of your training. Bookmark this list so that you always have everything you need to hit a killer workout within arms reach!
Featured image credit: Photo by Allan Mas