If you’re headed to the gym, you have to come prepared.
If you want to look like a rookie, simply show up with a change of clothes and your key fob membership. If you want to look like a veteran in the game, there are tools of the trade that you might want to consider adding to your gym bag. In order to have the best workouts you have to come equipped with the best gear.
What’s the best gear? Well this depends on you and your type of training of course. What I intend to do here is share with you what I feel is absolutely necessary for an optimal workout. This will in turn give you some ideas and hopefully help you piece together the best list of workout-improving gym swag possible for you.
In no particular order, here is a rundown of what I like to keep with me when I’m heading to the gym in search of an epic workout:
- I don’t understand how anybody can workout without their favourite songs blaring into their ears. It doesn’t make sense to me. Put your best pump up song on, load the bar up with a lot of weight and then lift that crazy amount of weight when the beat drops. That’s all there is to it.
- Backup Headphones
- If you rely on music for your workout as much as I do, you don’t want to take any chances that you could be left without. Keep a spare pair on you just in case.
- I personally try not to text or play games on my phone when I’m training as it just takes away my focus, therefore this item is simply for music. An iPod or any other phone or music playing device will work.
- Fresh Music
- If you’re bringing your iPod, you might as well be sure to get some new music on that sucker in order to keep your motivation high. If you’re unsure what music to listen to, just go with whatever makes you feel like a bad ass. That’s usually good enough to build up the confidence needed to attempt to lift weights that you probably shouldn’t.
- Who’s Your Trainer? Training Log and Pen
- Use something to record your workouts. The more details the better. I like to keep track of exercises, sets, reps, rest periods, tempo and more. If you don’t know what you lifted last week, how can you expect to lift more today?
- Wrist Straps
- If you’re planning on lifting some heavy weights, there’s going to come a time when your grip becomes your limiting factor. When this happens, it might be smart to have some sort of straps handy to help you keep pushing through. Don’t rely on them for everything but don’t hesitate to use them if you can’t hold on to the bar anymore.
- Gum chewing adds to my perceived level of badassness. The harder and more vigorous you chew, the stronger you feel. Give it a shot next time you hit some deads.
- There’s nothing worse than having to stop your workout because you can smell your own funk. Come prepared with something to make you smell better when you start stinkin’ up the joint.
- Resistance Bands
- I like to use resistance bands for both adding extra resistance to certain exercises as well as making other movements easier if you need some assistance and you don’t have a spotter nearby. They’re also great for a plethora of mobility exercises as well.
- Lacrosse Ball
- This puppy is my go-to for any tight muscles in need of some deep tissue release. While this may not be as good as the real thing, you’d be surprised at how much better you feel after rolling around on a lacrosse ball for a while.
- Voodoo Band
- Voodoo bands are a great tool for relieving pain in sore joints and muscles. Simply wrap the affected area fairly tight and then proceed to work the joint/muscle through a full range of motion for a few minutes before taking the band off again. This process improves fascial shearing on the inside of the tissue and also promotes better blood flow when the band is removed. It doesn’t take very long at all and the pain relief is immediate most of the time.
- Sweater / Overshirt
- There are a couple of reasons why I like to keep these on hand. I prefer to keep my overshirt on while warming up to get to a good temp a little faster. I switch to a sweater if I’m going to do cardio (so I can get sweaty as sh*t). And some days I feel like I look like crap and would rather not see much of myself so I can just focus on the work at hand. I don’t always use these but like to keep them on hand anyway.
- If you’re anything like me, I love to fuel my workouts with a hardy dose of caffeine. Generally I’ll sip on a pre-workout of some sort beforehand but sometimes that’s just not doable. I like to keep a spare bottle of caffeine in my bag for this reason exactly.
- Stopwatches are great for timing both your sets and your rest periods. If you don’t think you rest too long between sets, try timing your breaks and see for yourself. Generally people spend too much time resting between working sets and a good stopwatch is the gentle reminder needed to get your ass back to work when your allotted break is up!
- Combo Lock
- I like to mix up gym locations fairly often to keep things fresh and when I workout anywhere other than my home gym, I have to leave my stuff in the locker room. As someone who’s worked in the gym setting for years now, I can’t count how many times I’ve seen people have their things stolen out of their locker. Some didn’t lock their stuff up and some did but had their locks cut. This is why I keep a lock on me at all times and I also make sure to keep one that is thick enough so that it can’t be cut. A stolen gym bag/phone/wallet/car keys will turn your day into shit faster than you can say “Hey, where’s my stuff?”
- Mountable Phone Clamp
- Sometimes you need an extra set of eyes to make sure your form is on point. For those times that a solid workout partner isn’t around, set your phone up somewhere and video yourself. A good clamp will help hold your phone at the right angle and some even mount to glass/metal through suction.
- WYT? Statium Cup
- How else are you going to drink your pre-workout or post-workout protein shake? Get yourself a WYT? cup and guzzle in style like the rest of the cool kids.
- Pre-Workout Supplement
- See ‘caffeine’ above. Sometimes you need a little extra kick in the pants to get those last few reps out or to help set a new PR. When you’re just not feeling 100% energized, sometimes a good pre-workout supplement can help you rise to the occasion. Don’t be fooled by all the fancy descriptions and cool product names – these are usually just caffeine dressed up with some flavour and food colouring, but it still does the trick when used properly.
- Pre-Loaded Protein Shake
- It sounds silly but sometimes after a good workout you’re so beat up and tired out that you don’t even want to be bothered to scoop out some protein and other supplements and make yourself a post-workout shake. For this reason, I like to have one prepared before I even head to the gym so that all I have to do is add water afterwards and I’m good to go. Not everyone has a shake right after they finish lifting but if that’s your go to, it’s nice to have one ready to go when you finish that last rep.
- Nalgene Water Bottle (1.5L)
- Most people these days know the dangers of drinking out of plastic containers (can you say BPA?) and it’s because of this that I like to drink my water out of either a glass container or a good old Nalgene bottle. Nalgene uses BPA free material and they are nearly indestructible which makes them the perfect container for carrying your water while you lift. They come in all different shapes and sizes but I prefer the ‘Silo’ that holds 1.5L so that I don’t find myself having to refill the damn thing 20 times a day.
- Gym Shoes
- Last but definitely not least, everyone needs a good pair of gym shoes to train in. There are easily a thousand different shoes to pick from so I suggest narrowing the list down to shoes that are comfortable (they have to feel good otherwise you won’t want to wear them), minimal (the less material between your foot and the ground, the better) and of course, stylish (the better you feel you look in your gym shoes, the better you will feel in your workout. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true!). Ultimately your training will dictate the type of shoes you wear so plan that out first and then start your hunt from there. *A spare pair left in your car isn’t a bad idea too, you never know when you might forget your kicks at home!
So there you have it, my gym bag breakdown. Obviously not everything on my list is required to have a good training session and everyone will be different with what they need/like but for me, the 21 items listed above do the trick wonderfully.
If I forgot to add anything to the list or you have some absolutely necessary items that I didn’t mention above, feel free to share them in the comments section below!