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March 26, 2021 10 min read

It’s easy to think you don’t need to bring anything along for your workout. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A good gym bag is full of tools and treats to keep your body ready to take on any situation that may arise. If you’re bringing along the essentials, you’re going to be more well prepared for a workout that’s harder than you were intending. You’ll be ready to go for longer than you think you were capable of. A good bag is going to be packed to the brim with things like water bottles, so you can stay at your stations for longer, snacks to power up when you’re starting to tap out, and a change of clothes so you can get right back into your life once you’ve rinsed off and toiletries to make you presentable again. 

waterbottle in gym

1. Water Bottle 

Your water bottle is going to be the single most important piece of equipment you can bring along with you. Your body is probably going to sweat a lot. Sweat is your body’s way of regulating temperature when you’re working out. You’re trading a lot of water to keep your body’s temperature down. 

Most of your body’s functions run on water in some capacity. You’re made primarily out of water. It’s not an overstatement to say that water is the most important thing in your body. If you’re going to be in the gym at all, you should be remembering to drink water throughout your session. If you’re feeling thirsty, the last thing you want to do is interrupt your momentum to dig up a water fountain that’s probably being used by someone else.

A water bottle is a convenient reminder to top your body’s tank off. You’ll be able to keep at it for longer, and you’re not going to be in agony afterward, because you’ve kept yourself stocked up on vital fluids. A good water bottle will also become the perfect vessel for your protein powder after a good exercise. When you come equipped with a good water bottle you’ll be preparing yourself for the beginning, middle, and end of your workout.

2. Earbuds

Nobody wants to hear your music but you. When you’re trying to get in the zone with some music, you want to be surrounded by your tunes, we get it. Try not to subject anybody else to your musical choices.

A good pair of earbuds is going to be the best choice when it comes to keeping your music nearby without having to readjust every few minutes. Headphones aren’t designed to stay on your head when you’re moving around as much as you do during a particularly vigorous workout. You’re also more likely to ruin a pair of over-ear headphones with the sweat and oil your body is going to generate during your workout.

Earbuds today are meticulously crafted to fit a wide range of ears, making a comfortable seal around your ear canals and transmitting a full, robust sound quality directly into your head. If you invest in a good pair you’re going to be able to hang on to them for a few years’ worth of workouts.

Good music and good earbuds are  going to do wonders for your focus in the gym. If you can occupy your mind when you’re taking on more tedious exercises like planks or a lengthy run, you’re going to be more likely to see them through to the end. Sometimes completing a workout comes down to willpower, and if you’re spending all of your mental energy on keeping yourself entertained, then you’re just going to give up as soon as you meet some resistance. A good pair of earbuds will make the difference between breaking through a plateau and just stagnating for another week.

3. A Gym Lock

Many gyms will provide a small locker for folks leaving their valuables while they pump iron. These lockers don’t usually come equipped with a lock. It’s an unfortunate part of reality, but sometimes folks will leave the gym with things they didn’t bring themselves.

If you’re bringing along something you don’t want to lose while you’re not around to keep an eye on it, then the best way to ensure it survives its time in the locker is to bring along a small lock. 

There are all sorts of locks out on the market now, you don’t need to settle for a radial combination lock. If you feel like shopping around you can find the lock that speaks to your specific needs. You can even find padlocks that take a fingerprint rather than a combination. Locks have come a long way, and they’ve grown to serve a pretty wide market.

A good lock will keep your things safe, giving you the peace of mind to focus entirely on your workout. If you’re feeling rushed or distracted when you hit the gym floor, it might be because you’re worrying about your valuables in the back of your mind.

4. Lifting Straps

Lifting straps are a simple addition to your arsenal that will help with one of the most frustrating bottlenecks in the world of weightlifting. That’s your grip.

If you feel like you’re doing everything you possibly can to keep your grip strength in line with the amount of weight you can deadlift, then you might need to start bringing along a set of lifting straps. Strapping yourself in when you’re struggling with keeping a heavy bar in your clutches is like day and night.

Your lower body is naturally going to outpace the strength of your forearms. At a certain point, it’s just raw physics. The muscles in your thighs and back are just bigger than your forearms. If you’re hitting the upper limit of how much your forearms can take, then lifting straps are designed to take a little bit of that pressure off by using the sturdiness of your arms to supplement the work your grip is doing.

5. Some Kind of Workout Tracker

Tracking your workout is key to monitoring your progress. It’s easy to think that you’re just going to remember how well your workout went, but that’s just laziness talking. If you’re serious about wanting to improve your weightlifting or your fitness generally, then you should be tracking your progress every time you hit the gym. 

A workout tracker can be as simple as a small notebook or as involved as a spreadsheet you pull up on your phone. No matter what it is, it’s an invaluable part of your workout routine. Keeping track of your mood, your energy levels before and after your workout, and an objective tally of the work you were able to do will paint a much more actionable picture of your progress than a vague, easily alterable memory.

Tracking linear progression is going to be much easier with a workout tracker. Some progressions have you load up one day and deload the next, you’re going to be lifting percentages of weights you can’t always calculate in your head. A planner or a tracker app can help you by removing the room for error the human mind can often create.

6. Bandaids

Your gym probably has a first-aid kit, but just to be safe, you should have brought along a couple of things yourself. Sometimes kits just run out without people noticing, and you don’t want to be the guy left bleeding in the gym while someone runs around to find the last bandaid that will fit your particular injury.

Your bag doesn’t have to be a first responder’s kit but making sure you always have something on hand for emergencies will never be something you regret when the time comes. You don’t have to stop at bandaids, either. A bag full of things like aspirin and alcohol wipes instantly becomes a much more valuable bag than one stuffed with knick-knacks. 


7. Snacks

Your body runs on food. This becomes much more obvious when you’re in the gym. If you go in cold and you haven’t even had a power bar before you start, you’re going to tap out pretty early. This is because your body is probably scraping the bottom of the barrel in its search for energy. If you’re going to be in the gym for any period of time, you should make sure that you’re approaching your session with a little bit of food inside of your system. 

We all make mistakes, though. If you can keep some kind of light, long-lasting snack in your bag, then you’ll be able to fuel up when you oversleep or your groceries are running thin and you can’t stick to your routine. Something like a power bar or some trail mix will have the carbohydrates your body is looking for to get your engines up and running.

Snacks will also help temper your hunger after you leave the gym. Nutrition is important to the process of building and maintaining muscle. If you’re starving as soon as you leave the gym, you’re probably going to reach for the first morsel of food you come across no matter what it is. Having a healthy snack on hand will stave off the hunger pains for a little bit, leaving you with a clear mind that’s ready to prepare a healthy meal to replenish your systems, and build a healthy body.

8. Toiletries

If your gym has a shower and you’re heading straight to work after your weight lifting detour, then packing a couple of toiletries is going to make you more presentable afterward. You don’t have to bring your entire morning routine with you, but a couple of staples will go a long way in keeping your body fresh and healthy.

It’s good to be particular about your physical well-being, but if you’re stinking to high heaven after you walk out of the gym, then all of your hard work is going to be overshadowed by a stinking cloud of un-deodorized funk. Bring along a stick if you’re gonna hop in the shower, and you’ll be leaving just like new.

A little bit of lotion and hair product can go a long way if you bring it along with you. All of that sweat, friction, and hot water is going to scour away the natural oils your body and hair need to keep you looking healthy. You’re already going this far to keep yourself looking good and feeling healthy, you might as well go the extra mile and tend to your skin and hair while you’re at it. Once you start, it’ll be nearly impossible to drop the routine.

9. Flip Flops

We know that the gym staff works hard to keep the showers clean. The guy in the shower right before you, however, might not have been as meticulous. The showers are there for everyone to enjoy, but some folks just won’t act right when they’re not at home.

Flip flops are your last line of defense. Bring a pair even if you don’t think you need them. It’s better to be safe than sorry. The locker room floor between the shower and your locker can easily become a minefield when things roll out of other people’s lockers, the showers can harbor nasty hitchhikers, someone might feel like they can relieve themselves without anybody noticing. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. You want to leave clean and without any holes in your soles, so bring along a pair of nice flip flops if you plan on taking a shower, and you’ll leave unpunctured and unsoiled.

10. Clean Socks

There’s nothing that can compare to the feeling of slipping into a pair of clean dry socks after an intense workout.

It can get pretty funky in there, your feet are just a place where unpleasantness accumulates. If you have the presence of mind to bring along a fresh pair whenever you hit the gym, then you’re going to be setting yourself up for success.

Keeping your feet sitting in a warm and moist environment, like your sweaty socks, is a fast track to foot fungus. It’s easier to prevent athlete’s foot than it is to treat it, and treating it is a mildly annoying process, and you’re going to be itchy and smelly the entire time. Just trust us on this one.

Bring along the socks, swap out the gym socks for the fresh socks as soon as possible, and your feet will thank you in the long run.

11. Gym Shoes

Whether you’re running or lifting, having the right shoes for the job is going to make your life much easier. When you’re in the gym you’re exposing your body to some pretty extreme conditions. You’re running further than you’d ever have to in your daily life and lifting more weight than most people have ever seen outside of a gym setting.

Having the right shoes is an easy way to ensure you’re steering clear of injuries. Running shoes are designed to encourage a full and natural roll of your foot when you’re taking thousands of strides over the course of the week. It’s not just about protecting your toes from the sharp edges of the world, you’re trying to preserve your natural gait without having to think too hard about it. 

Weightlifting shoes serve a similar purpose. You want your feet flat and engaged when you’re lifting. A flat lifting shoe will enable your feet to grip the ground in a natural manner.

Keep a pair of gym shoes at the ready, and you’ll never have to worry about screwing your body up in the long term.

12. A Clean Towel

Just go ahead and buy a pack of cheap towels. You’re going to want a clean towel to come along with you every time you go to the gym. A towel is surprisingly versatile once you have one along for the ride.

A towel can be used to let people know you didn’t forget to put your equipment away when you step away for a second to go the bathroom or you need to dash across the gym to find something you’ve left behind. Towels keep your sweat off of equipment, they keep your skin from coming into contact with seats that other people have forgotten to wipe down. If you’re a sweater, then a towel is the difference between keeping your eyes open and rubbing salt out of them for the next hour.

A towel is the hero in your gym bag, and if you’ve got several to your name then you won’t have to spend all of your time washing them as soon as you get home.

Stay Ready

Everybody is going to have different needs when they pack up their gym bag. These items aren’t the only ones you should be bringing with you when you make your way into the gym, but you’ll never be caught with your pants down if you make sure these are always zipped up and ready to roll when you need them.