What to take to the gym
Written By: SportsShoes
While it might sound obvious, packing all of the right things for a workout is no simple task, and it definitely isn’t just a case of slinging some kit in a backpack and heading to the gym. Specific workouts require specific items, gym hygiene is a major consideration and there’s a lot out there to pack, that could make your fitness regime more enjoyable (and productive) than it already is.
Recently we caught up with some personal trainers to delve inside their gym bags and find out what really is ‘essential’ when packing for the gym, and there were a few surprises along the way! Who knew packing double kit, a baseball or copious amounts of snacks we’re so essential? Here’s what the PT’s had to say…
Paul Stainthorpe - @fatherfitness
The Bag Itself: I love the quote of 'No Excuses' on my simple drawstring gym bag, it's great motivation before you even pack any items.
Trainers: These are my choice of shoe right now - recently bought from SportsShoes, they have a reinforced strap to support the foot whilst weight training. Your choice of shoe is an important decision depending on what training you are doing, so pack wisely!
Fuel: The only thing I consume while training is water and bananas. They are a great source of energy and are rich in Vitamins B-6 and C.
Notepad: Many people will use their mobile phones, however I'm old school and still like to use pen and paper to record reps and sets of exercises. I also use my notepad to jot down ideas for future workout routines.
Technology: My Apple Watch and iPhone record my activity during the day including steps, calories burned and heart rate.
Outfit: I like to wear a compression top underneath a t-shirt because the sweat is wicked away and does not irritate my easily irritated skin. I rarely wear full length bottoms and opt for loose shorts instead.
Aloe Vera Gel: As an eczema sufferer, it's quite common for flare ups to occur when my skin heats up and cools down. This gel is great to have on hand for during and after my workout.
Gloves: Although I've built-up quite a pad of skin on my hands from years of training, I still like to wear gloves for certain exercises, especially dead lifting and pull-ups.
Skips: A small, light piece of kit which has the ability to give you a big cardio workout. If you're not familiar with skipping, give it a try for one minute flat out and you'll feel the burn!
Head gear: I'm guessing this isn't a common item in many gym bags! After suffering from a neck injury which occurred in an accident 20 years ago I've recently added this equipment to my routine with the intention of strengthening my neck. Top tip - I store this at the bottom of my bag inside a pillow case to avoid it being tangled with anything else.”
Alex Crockford - @alexcrockford
Shaker Bottle: Goes without saying - to mix the BCAAS but to also re-fill continuously with water to keep hydration on top form.
Spikey ball: When I begin my session I always do some soft tissue/muscle massage and release, whether that is from a foam roller or maybe with my handy spikey ball. There is never a bad time to get my spikey ball deep into those glutes!
Resistance band: This band follows me everywhere, just in case the gym doesn't have one. I use it mainly for glute activation before a workout, stretching my hamstrings or providing assistance during pull ups.
Headphones: Often I need an extra boost from some kick ass music to get me in the zone! Earphones are a must.
Camera & tripod: Lastly, my life is all about creating content and showing everyone workouts and fitness tips, so where would I be without my camera and tripod!?
Jamie Lloyd - @jamielloydfitness
A baseball: My most essential item - a baseball. It’s easy to carry around every day and is especially great for doing self-Myofascial release or self-massage before a brutal session at the gym. As I've busted both shoulders I tend to use the baseball to massage my rotator cuff and upper back and shoulders. There’s nothing like it to get the kinks out!
Magnesium oil: Essential if you want to recover fast! After having a shower, I spray it on my legs and arms to help my muscles recover and relax. It's the first thing I prescribe to my clients to help them to stop aching.
T-Shirt from Under Armour: Love em! These t-shirts are brilliant as they are so light to train in and don't absorb the sweat!
Whole Earth Protein Bars: Very tasty and great for that post workout snack to replenish glycogen stores!
Amino acids: I always have my bottle of amino acids ready before hitting the gym. It's like taking a double espresso and gets me through those dreaded HIIT sessions - especially when you think you don't have enough gas! They are great for recovery too and I can't live without them!
Resistance band: Again, I use this to prep the body up before any session. Great for mobilising the joints and firing up the muscles before the main event.
Smartphone: A modern essential with so many uses! In the gym, I record weights lifted and write down my goals and all the sessions I've done. I also use it for a timer but it's a real pain when you are doing a timed set and the phone goes off! I always ensure it's fully charged to get me through those brutal sessions.
Rachel Amo-Agyei - @elbarbelle
2 Pairs of Leggings: Because you just never know what could happen! I like to be prepared, and the last thing I'd want is the unexpected to happen, which could cause me to end my work out early! I like to use leggings that have a lot of give and thickness. I find that the more stretch, the better and less restrictive the fit, and the thickness helps to keep me warm between sets.
Tip: The bright pink leggings as shown are a prime example of good stretch and thickness. Rachel’s Helly Hansen leggings can be found here.
2 Pairs of Gym Tops: Again, anything can happen! I like to get the best of both worlds with my workout gear. I think when style and functionality meet, you're more likely to feel better about how you look while working on how you look. I like my tops to be seamless to avoid any uncomfortable pinching, but also because it offers a clean finish. It's also a huge bonus to me if there's a bit of stylish detail at the back!
Tip: if I'm looking for maximum support, I go for tops that don't have built-in cups, and I purchase/wear a shock absorbing sports bra underneath. Otherwise, if you're not doing anything madly intensive, you can kill two birds with one stone and simply get a bra with cups fitted inside (as shown in the pink top)!
Training Gloves: I love training with free-weights, so to avoid getting callouses on my hands and to ensure maximum grip when handling the weights, I wear training gloves. I like a pair of gloves with a pronounced grip pattern in the palm area. Much like with shoes, a good grip pattern is indicative of exactly that - a good grip!
Toiletries Bag: Hygiene is very important at the gym. There's a lot of sweating going on, making it very easy to come in to contact with harmful bacteria. I always keep my toiletries bag stocked up and in my gym bag in the likely event that I may need to freshen up.
Headphones: Goes without saying: a good music playlist can do wonders for your workout. Spotify even have workout playlists tailored to the many different types of training, such as cardio, dance, running, weightlifting, even CrossFit! It's definitely worth bringing your headphones along to keep you in the right frame of mind for a good training session!
Tip: opt for a pair of headphones suited to dynamic movement. Headphones with wires may be hazardous, as the wires can get in the way during your workout. Wireless headphones/earphones are definitely ideal.
Aimee Victoria Long - @aimeevictorialong
Skincare: I am obsessed with skincare so I have to carry all my products around to reapply after a sweat sesh - these include, Obagi cleanser, Vitamin c24 cream and a broad-spectrum of SPF and Nannic UV Shield to spray on the go. I try and make small changes by buying ‘mini’ deodorants’ - but really is that going to make a difference when I already have my bathroom cabinets in my bag anyway?!
Dental care: My toothbrush and toothpaste (mini version) has to come along for the ride.
Hair care: I never bring shampoo or body wash, in the hope that the places I go to provide me with those necessities, but will carry around dry shampoo just in case, plus it saves so much time and I just wash my hair at the end of the day.
Perfume: I keep my favourite perfume (Viktor & Rolf), in my bag, to spray throughout the day, it helps mask the smell of a sweaty PT on the go!
Staying connected: I also work in marketing, so it’s a must to carry my laptop, charger and my note book. Maybe I could ditch the notebook and make my bag lighter, but I like to actually physically write things down and cross items off of my to do list once they have been completed!
Extra kit: Oh, and it’s a must to have a change of gym clothes - so an extra sports bra, top, leggings, underwear, socks are all in the bag as well!
Louisa Thomas - @louthomasismyname
Glass Water Bottle: H20, obviously one of the most essential things in a kit bag. I understand how pretentious the glass element can look, but when you train people all day, plus workout yourself, the sheer volume of plastic bottles I get through is ridiculous! So, why not help the environment whilst you’re at it? The rubber grip around the middle super useful too. Sweaty hands plus glass bottles are not a winning combo, so choose wisely.
Olympic Lifting Shoes: If you’re starting to get serious about your training, these bad boys can make lifts much smoother. It’s all about the angle around the ankle, also known as dorsiflexion. Natural mobility can hinder performance, so, if you want to squat deeper, keeping the form at all times, then these are a great shout.
Liquid Chalk: A gym essential for any weightlifter. Chalk will dry your hands of any sweat, and so when you’re really going for those heavy lifts can help you grip the weight/bars really well. I use liquid chalk, purely because it’s much less messy than the powder version - just make sure you put the lid on properly!
Tangle Teezer: These really are just awesome. As a Personal Trainer with longer hair, I’m constantly A: in a rush, and B: washing my hair over and over. This brush is a god send, I can get any tangles out in minutes’ post shower, and be onto the next session.
Nuts: A really good post workout snack. Nuts, the raw kind (almonds and cashews are personal faves) are a great little pick me up, and easy to carry. Full of healthy fats, and combined with the post workout protein shake, you’ll get the full range of amino acids to boot. I’ve always got them with me for any hunger cravings or just a dip in energy.
Post Workout Shake: Essential! Protein will help you build and maintain lean muscle, and is excellent for the growth and repair of muscles post workout. There’s a million you can try, whey protein has been proven to be the most effective for protein synthesis; however, if you’re a veggie or vegan, there’s soya/pea proteins available. I just mix mine with water to get my protein hit, but if that seems too hardcore, then try blending it into a smoothie. Just remember to wash the shaker ASAP, leftover protein can smell horrific!
Lacrosse/Golf Ball: I always, always carry a lacrosse ball, and any spare five mins will be rolling out my muscles. The technical term is self-myofascial release, but just think of it as a concentrated massage, that has that hate/love kind of pain association. Brilliant for tight muscles, and mobility issues.
Headphones: Listening-wise, the one thing I do recommend trying is podcasts! They’re distracting - in a good way, and I’m currently listening to the highly intellectual “Private Parts” by Jamie Laing and Francis Boulle. They have me laughing through a workout, and before I know it, the workout is over.
A trusty plastic bag: Final essential item. It may seem obvious, but keeping your sweaty gym gear/towel/wet bottles can all leave your bag damp, breed nasty bacteria, and stinking. A simple plastic bag for these items stops that happening!
So there you have it, next time you’re packing for the gym – don’t forget a good podcast, your extra kit and a gold ball to roll out those muscles!