Your gym bag reveals your personality and your favoured workout. Gadget freaks pack their bags with all the latest fitness geegaws that can fit in, beauty-conscious folks make sure their gym bag is loaded with all the tools of the trade like foundation and mascara and finally, there are the minimalists who saunter in with a towel around their neck and look at the rest and ask, “You headed to the airport after the gym?”.
So, what type are you? Chances are that like most of us, you tread the middle ground.
The list below is neither gender-specific nor workout-specific, and does not include monitors or pedometers. But it should give you an idea about the essentials you need to pack into your gym bag.
First things first. Before you decide what you are going to put into your bag, you need to take a look at the bag itself. It has to be functional and organised. A good gym bag has to be made of durable fabric (cotton or nylon are ideal as they are washable), with zipped pockets, inner slip-in pockets for change of clothes, plenty of storage space for towels and strong shoulder straps and grab handles.
It should be neither too small (you need to fit in so many things) nor too big. Nowadays, bags come with built-in compartments for water bottles, toiletries and shoes. Some modern-day gym bags are also equipped with active carbon filters that help neutralise that smell of stale sweat.
What can make your bag smell fresh always is if you clear the sweaty gear out of the gym bag after every workout. Washing the gym bag once a month also keeps it fresh.
Walking shoes, running shoes, minimalist shoes, tennis shoes, gym shoes... the list goes on! Many may look upon it as vanity but it is really a matter of taking care of your feet and avoiding injuries.
Gone are the days when one shoe served all purposes. For some exercises, we need shoes that are light, with others, the grip is the most important aspect and for other purposes like long-distance running and sprinting, we want shoes with extra cushioning and padding that absorb shock.
In fact, shoes nowadays are designed keeping specific activities and the movements involved (forward only, forward and lateral to name a few) in mind. Therefore, wearing your tennis shoes while running may, in the long run (no pun intended), leave with aches, pains and injuries in your feet.
Sure, you have your cross-trainers nowadays, but it is really a case of ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ with those. However, they are good for people who are trying a variety of activities on a more casual basis and are not seriously into any one activity.
If you are a member of a running club or play tennis every other day, I’d suggest you buy an activity specific shoe. There are specific shoes for weightlifters that are flat-soled and specifically designed for lifting heavy items. Also, popular now are the ‘finger type’ shoes such as the Adidas Adipure shoes which allow you to have a better grip.
Another important fact to keep in mind with regards to the shoe is that these need to be replaced… not when they look dog-eared but when they start feeling uncomfortable and you start feeling pains and aches in your feet, knees, hips and back (presuming you have not injured yourself otherwise). This means that roughly in about 6 months to a year, depending on your usgae of them, you would need to replace your running shoes.
And just so you know – our feet tend to change shape as we grow older, so buying new shoes becomes mandatory. Buy your shoes from a reputed dealer and make sure shoes are fitted to not just your feet length and width but also the arch length.
The clothes you wear to the gym are not about fashion; they are about comfort and functionality. However, you don’t want to wear clothes that make you look frumpy as that is not going to help with the motivation factor.
As with any social situation, wearing the right clothes will make you feel better about yourself and no, you don’t have to break the bank to wear designer clothes. The tried and tested tracks and T-shirts will do wonderfully here – just make sure your workout clothes are comfortable, fit well and are not restrictive in any way.
Pants: Invest in a good pair of tracks or jogging tights or shorts. You need to wear clothes that are light and breathe.
T-shirts: One of the most common mistakes I encounter is the cotton t-shirt, because cotton absorbs sweat thus clinging to your body and also feeling heavier. It is not a big problem if you are carrying a spare outfit. It is better to wear a T-shirt made of polyester and/or Lycra blends that draws the sweat away from the body. Many brands now have developed breathable fabrics designed specifically to allow for comfort during exercise.
Jackets: If you are running outdoors you need your jacket or hoodie that is weather and region appropriate.
Sports Bra: This is not just about appearances but wearing sports bra that fit you well will help you work out better in greater comfort.
Also make sure that you are carrying your weight gloves, if you are serious about your strength training as these gloves help avoid callouses; an extra pair of socks and underwear; and, your cap and sunglasses if you decide to step out for a run.
Of course you won’t be able to stuff your mat into your gym bag; but this is an essential part of your gym kit. Most gyms have mats that you can use, however, if you are not comfortable with the notion of sharing mats with a few unknowns, then you need to invest in your own yoga or Pilates mat.
If possible, stick to glass bottles or those stainless-steel vacuum bottles. If plastic is your choice, then remember to replace them regularly. Glass, steel or plastic – wash them every single day.
Your body needs to refuel after a workout, so make sure a healthy snack such as a banana, an apple or a protein bar is handy. I would recommend you take a protein shake to have immediately after your workout to help with your bodies muscle repair and growth.
Most of us love to listen to music while working out so make sure your iPod or iTouch or whatever gear you have is loaded with your favorite playlist and packed into your bag.
If you are not in the habit of recording your workout, maybe you should consider doing it. These logs in which you can record your sets, reps, weights, and rest or distance run will help you track your progress and improve with each progressive workout. This is especially true for beginners.
Towel: It is normal to sweat, but nobody wants to watch you trudging around swimming in your own perspiration. Ideally carry a small hand towel to wipe your sweat off while exercising and carry a bigger one for use in the shower. The bigger towel can also be used as a sheet on the equipment if you have to lie on it and lift. Always wipe down machines after use.
Wipe your face clean of any make-up before you work out, with a cleansing towel, to prevent your pores from getting clogged. You need to cleanse your face once more after your workout. If you are going to use the shower then make sure you drop your bottle of shower gel and shampoo in to your bag.
Flip-flops for use in the shower, deodorant sprays or sticks, face moisturiser, body cream and hair bands are also essential items to carry. I’d also suggest that you carry a few Band-Aids in your bag.