Maybe you’ve been at it for a long time already, packing gym bag after gym bag full of fresh clothes, shower essentials, and workout fuel. This is a road well-worn already, and for that you need no further instruction.
But hey, just skim the guide anyway to make sure you got it all. Preparation is Key!
So maybe that’s not you after all. Perhaps it’s your first time going to a gym, ink barely dry on the freshly signed paperwork.
– Did they try to sell you personal trainer services for some crazy price?
– Was there any “Free Gym Bag” offers in exchange for referrals?
– Member discounts on house brand products?
Hah, I’m just poking a little fun. But if you are new to the wonderful world of “Hitting the Gym” then this is for you! This is my Beginner’s Guide on what to bring to the gym – covering the useful (and not so useful) items to bring along in your own personalized bag.
I’ll have it divided into 2 parts: Recommended Items and Honorable Mentions. You may still find some useful info there, but I don’t consider them important enough.
Before I get right into each item, I first want to talk about the bag itself.
You don’t need a huge army rucksack or anything overly large, I use a simple book bag most of the time. If you have anything too big, it probably wouldn’t fit in your standard gym locker. That’s something else to consider.
Moving on, most people I see have a more “duffle” style bag that also works very well, typically offering plenty of room and compartments to help you stay organized. Being able to separate your dirty gym clothes from other things is always nice.
And naturally, if you’re the more minimalistic type, you can even just have a small drawstring bag for your stuff.
My bag for example, usually looks like this:
- Indoor Shoes
- Bath Towel
- Water Bottle
- Lock and Key
- “S” Hook
- Post-Workout Snack
- Air Freshener
Not so bad, eh? Might seem like I pack a hefty gym bag compared to some, but it’s easier than it seems. Some stuff (deodorant, air freshener, soap, s hook, lock+keys) just stays in the bag, ready to go at a moment’s notice. So it’s only a few things that need to packed fresh each time.
And if I can easily fit all that in a standard sized book bag, you should have no problem doing the same with a bag of your own. You can get a good quality, popular brand bag for easily around $20 and they’ll last a long time.
I figure that about covers the overview, so let’s get into the specifics:
A Change of Clothing
This is for either before your workout, meaning it’s the clothes you wear to sweat all over, or it’s the clothes you change into after you’ve cleaned up.
This all depends on whether you’ll be working out in the clothes you’ve arrived wearing.
Either way, you’ll be needing gym clothes and non-gym clothing for most trips. Now I know, there are those “never seem to sweat” types that just kinda show up and leave in the exact same state.
I’m like a half-melted snowman after some of my heavier sessions. I can’t just leave without getting my shower on or something. The point I want to make though is be prepared anyway, a light change of clothes doesn’t weigh a lot or consume much space.
I know what you’re thinking, who cares right? They’re just shoes anyway and it’s only floors we’re talking about. What could possibly be so important here?
I’m going to get a tad personal with this one, because I can.
For years I wore cheaply made, budget footwear for all my ventures into fitness. Whether it was for the clean and tidy indoors, or the unpredictability of the great outdoors – I just wore whatever would fit my feet (and my budget) at the time.
And it wasn’t just at gyms or during exercise that I practiced this, but 8+ hours a day at my full-time job as well. It was tough physical labor, and one that had us on our feet the entire day as we hustled along unforgiving concrete floors.
Over time my body suffered the effects of less-than-adequate footwear, I say as I still feel the lingering damage done to my knees and back. And that’s not even talking about damage to the feet themselves,
So rather than listen to another one of boring rants, just be wary of what footwear you’ll be using for training. It’s likely that you’ll have to get some new kicks to “kick” off your new fitness adventure anyway so you may as well get something decent.
Towel, Soap, and Scrubbie (Luffa)
Ah the simplest and possibly most often forgotten for myself, causing me to run back into the house immediately after leaving. I worry about all the other stuff that it totally slips by that I still have to shower after all the work is done.
Shower supplies, in a nutshell. But do you need the whole package?
Depends on your gym, and preferences of course. My current gym offers soap dispensers in each shower, which is generous enough and meets the needs of most I think. But some people really prefer their own soaps. Maybe the generic stuff turns their hair to straw or dries the skin out.
I get that.
If you shower exclusively with a scrubbing device of some kind, like a luffa, then toss that in as well. And don’t forget a towel to dry off after your rinse.
This one should be downright obvious, if you know the importance of staying hydrated. But hey I just forgot mine yesterday so it goes to say that everyone slips up sometimes.
Bring one with you, keep it handy at all times, and sip away while you exercise. The longer you go, the more you’ll need it as your body starts to perform worse under the effects of dehydration. And they set in quickly too.
I am a firm believer that, if nothing else, water will get the job done just fine. Some prefer to have a more ambitious beverage on hand, something to give an edge in performance.
But if you don’t need it, don’t worry about it. Just make sure you stay hydrated.
Locks, Keys, etc.
Now I can’t speak for all gyms and clubs once again, but any of the ones I have gone to in the past did not supply locks for your lockers.
Did I mention lockers earlier? Most gyms have daily use lockers for their members to use to store their stuff while they exercise or shower.
The only thing is, you usually have to bring your own lock. No biggie though, you can find them in all sorts of shapes and styles. Some require keys, and some use combinations.
Typically, you can find them at your local hardware or dollar stores.
Post Workout Snack
After you finish a hard session at the gym, or home, or wherever you do your training, your body is left in a rather depleted and in a weakened state. It’s important to refuel your body the first chance you get to help restore lost calories, carbs, and liquids.
On the side of carbohydrates, avoid the white flour based foods if you can in favor of something like brown rice or whole wheat pasta.
Beyond that, you should slam some protein into your system as well to help repair the damage you’ve done to your muscles. And to ensure they get proper growth out of all the work you’ve just finished.
Good sources of protein include, chicken, fish, turkey, steak, beans, and of course protein supplements like whey isolate. I generally like to have a protein shake or bar in my backpack, handy for right after I get out of the changing room.
Anyways, we’d hate to see your efforts go to waste so be conscious of your nutrition too!
Some simple ideas are:
- Protein Bar or Shake
- Grilled Chicken and Brown Rice
- Spaghetti and Lean Meatballs
- Fish Tacos
I best stop now before I get unnecessarily adding things to the list because I’m hungry at the time of writing. And again, be sure to compliment your post workout nutrition with some fluids to restore what you spent earlier.
In this category I wanted to mention a few other useful tools for your adventures to the gym. These items are still considered essential for some folks, so I thought I would toss them out there anyway. Take a look and see if anything here seems handy to you.
These things are a bloody lifesaver! You know, in all my years of going to various places to workout and having to shower there of course, I never knew how much these stupid little pieces of metal would convenience my life.
You see, sometimes you go to take a shower at the gym after a long session. You grab your soap and other shower goods and proceed to where the water comes from. You enter the shower, close the curtain, start sorting your things while you look for something to hang your shorts on..
But alas, there is not a hook to be found! Is it a mistake? Maybe the others have them but your shower is just lacking.
You poke your head out, staying wrapped in the curtain as best you can while you peek into the empty shower next to you.
Again, no hooks! What do you do?
Enter.. The S-Hook!
Just hang it up on the rail that holds your shower curtain or even the separator wall, and voila! You have a nice sturdy hook for your towel, shorts, etc.
And the best part is how incredibly affordable these are. Packs of these can be found at your local dollar and hardware stores once again. I always keep one in my gym bag now, just in case this happens to be an issue – which it is at my current club, so yay.
Scrunchies, Bobby Pins, Hair Brushes, etc.
For men and women, it really just comes down to how long your hair is and how bad you want to keep it out of your way. Or for the tidy up after hitting the showers.
They weigh very little and take up almost no space, so if you have a hair problem, toss these handy tools in the bag and move on. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised when the time comes that you, or someone nearby needs a hairband or something like that.
Intra Workout Fuel
This one is a relatively new subject for me, after years of seeing so many “pre” and “post” workout supplements much more often.
So what is Intra Workout? It’s the stuff you drink during your workout to keep you performing at your best. The ones that I have just mix with water, and you sip away while you exercise.
The idea is to keep you hydrated with all the electrolytes, and they’re likely supported with BCAAs to prevent muscle breakdown and promote recovery. You sometimes see the big boys lugging around colorful jugs of this stuff on the gym floor, and it may have left you wondering:
Should I be drinking that too?
Not to cop out on this one, but that’s up to you and your needs. I myself am only somewhat sold on the Intra Workout category of supplements. I like the idea of keeping on top of my hydration, as you might know already, and faster recovery sounds good too.
But if you don’t really need that edge in your performance overall, I’d pass. I’ll still be trying some of these products for review purposes of course, but I don’t feel it will be a super critical part of your loadout.
So that pretty much wraps up our article on what to bring to the gym, and where you can find these supplies for yourself.
Like I mentioned before, your gym bag is going to reflect you as a person and your needs. I’m all about being prepared, to a fault at times, and my bag shows it. But I see people every day that walk right into the club, no luggage at all. Just straight to the machines.
So don’t feel bad if this doesn’t apply to you all that much. Everybody has their own style.
As always, thank you for reading my article! If you were able to find some useful information here, then my mission is accomplished.
If you feel there was something missing from the list, leave me a comment down below! We can only benefit from it as a community.
And if you wish to show support for the site, consider making your next purchase through one of my provided links. As an affiliate for Amazon.com and Bodybuilding.com, I’m able to provide links to useful products at no additional cost to you, the almighty reader! If you buy something, we get a modest referral bonus that goes straight towards site upgrades and helping my family and I stay in the business of helping others.
All the best to you and yours,