Going to a gym to exercise isn't just about looking good. Exercise also helps boost your brain's power, reduces body fat and increases your metabolism, to name just a few of its many benefits. Packing the right gear in a gym bag is essential for a healthy, safe and powerful workout.
Build the Right Foundation
Any type of bag can work as a gym bag, even a paper sack or a plastic bag from a grocery store. But that doesn't mean those are preferable choices. Ideally, choose a gym bag made of anti-microbial fabric instead of a traditional duffel bag. This helps fight the bad odors that are present in many locker rooms. For the best results, a gym bag should have multiple pockets for all your personal items and exercise gear.
Dress for Success
Select clothes and accessories specifically designed for the type of exercise you will perform. For example, you should use weight-lifting gloves if you plan on pumping iron or a swim cap and goggles if you will be swimming. In most workout scenarios, you should wear form-fitting clothing, as loose-fitting clothes can become snagged on gym equipment and create a safety hazard.
Fold the clothes and place each item flat on the bottom of the gym bag. This helps keep your bag balanced and bottom-heavy, whereas packing the clothes at the top of the bag may make it unbalanced and easier to topple over.
Quarantine Those Shoes
Place your gym shoes in a sealed plastic bag. This helps keep bacteria and odors from spreading to the rest of your workout gear, and also keeps away any dirt or debris that may be on the bottom of your shoes. Nestle the shoes into the bottom of the gym bag, next to your clothes.
Make Your Beverage To-Go
Add a reusable water bottle, ideally placing it in a waterproof pocket if your gym bag is so equipped. Packing water to drink during a workout is essential for healthy muscle function. For example, it helps with protein synthesis and also flushes out waste generated while you are exercising. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 10 ounces of water every 10 minutes while you work out, so pack a big enough water bottle to avoid interrupting your workout to run to a water fountain for continual refills.
Bring a DJ
Toss in headphones and a portable music player, whether it is a dedicated MP3 player or a smartphone with a built-in music library. Place these and similar personal items in a side pocket of the gym bag for easy access, instead of having to locate them in the main compartment. Music can help improve your overall exercise intensity and endurance, in part by distracting your brain from noticing the first signs of fatigue.
Things You Might Not Think Of
Every gym is different and offers specific services and fees. If your gym charges for towel service, you may want to bring your own towels -- one for wiping down equipment after you've sweat on it, the other for use in the locker room if you plan on showering. Fold the towels and keep them at the bottom of the bag with your clothes. Additionally, consider packing disinfectant wipes if your gym doesn't provide such wipes. These wipes help destroy common viruses found on gym equipment.
- Oprah.com: Dr. Oz's 7 Reasons to Start Building Muscle Today
- Men's Fitness: Germs in the Gym
- BlissTree: How to Expertly Pack Your Gym Bag
- Harvard Medical School: 10 Tips for Exercising Safely
- Real Simple: Gym Bag Essentials Checklist
- WeightWatchers: Navigating the Gym
- American Council on Exercise: Healthy Hydration
- South Beach Diet: Essential Workout Gear
- Scientific American: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music