8 Gym Bag Essentials for 9-to-5'ers

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The foundation for a successful workout is laid well before breaking a sweat. Half the battle is the prep, which is why fitness experts recommend setting out all your clothes and gear ahead of time. You’re much more likely to make it to an early spin class if you have everything set out the night before, and trading happy hour for power hour is much easier when your gym bag is already packed and waiting for you in the car after work.
Speaking of gym bags: What’s in yours? It’s important to have the essentials on hand when you need them, but you don’t want to be schlepping around a bunch of unnecessary junk all day long. Of course, depending on your workout of choice, your definition of “must-have” might be different than your workout buddy’s or cubicle mate’s, but there are some basics—aside from the obvious fresh change of clothes—that warrant a permanent spot in your fitness satchel.

1. Stainless steel water bottle

Whether you’re hitting the treadmill, taking a boot camp class or pumping iron on the weight floor, proper hydration before, during and after your workout is essential to staying energized and performing at your best.
“Hydration not only lubricates your joints, but it also provides an energy boost and improves digestion, keeping you motivated and feeling good before, during and after your workouts,” personal trainer and group fitness instructor Ashley Pitt explains.

2. Healthy snacks and/or recovery bar

When heading to a workout at the end of your shift, it’s probably been at least a few hours since lunch. “Unless you're doing fasted cardio for fat loss purposes, you can usually expect to perform better in your workouts when you've had something to eat beforehand to provide you with sustained energy,” Pitt says. She recommends keeping something small in your gym bag to munch on—such as fruit, nuts or veggies with hummus—about 45 to 60 minutes before exercising.
While it’s always best to refuel with real food after a workout, a recovery bar can be a good backup for those inevitable instances when you forget or are running short on time. “Keeping a couple of bars in your bag that contain plenty of protein and carbs can save you in a pinch if you or a friend is in need,” notes running coach Kyle Kranz. Not sure which bar is best? Registered dietitians recommend watching the added sugar (aim for fewer than 20 grams) and choosing bars with about 200 to 320 calories, 10 to 25 grams of protein and 20 to 40 grams of carbohydrates.

Another option for post-workout recovery is chocolate milk. Competitive runner Jason Karp published a study on its recovery benefits. According to the results, “Chocolate milk naturally provides many of the same electrolytes that are added to commercial recovery drinks (calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium) along with fluids to help you rehydrate. Plus, it has the right 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio scientifically shown to replenish muscle glycogen (muscle fuel) quickly.”

3. Personal hygiene items

If you’re heading straight to work after a morning gym session, your colleagues will certainly appreciate you freshening up beforehand. If you don’t have the time or facilities to take a full shower, stock your bag with cleansing wipes, deodorant and dry shampoo. It’s also a good idea to throw in a fresh microfiber towel as an alternative to gym-provided towels.

4. Bluetooth headphones

A high-energy playlist is a surefire way to kick your motivation into high gear, but headphone cords can be annoying or even dangerous. Fitness trainer Dani Singer always brings along Bluetooth headphones, which connect wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled smartphones so you can listen to your favorite music without a cord getting in the way.
“It’s not just for fun—research studies have shown that when individuals listen to their music of choice, their workout performance tends to improve,” Singer says. “Invest in a good pair of Bluetooth headphones—if there’s one place you’ll hate dealing with wires, it’s on the gym floor.”

5. Gym-specific shoes

Instead of wearing your workout shoes to the gym, Kranz suggests keeping them in your bag and changing when you arrive. “The gym will appreciate this because it prevents you from wearing dirty shoes into the facility, and you'll never have to show up to the gym and realize you didn't grab your trainers,” he says.
This is also a must-have if you’re heading straight to the gym from work—there’s nothing worse than arriving for spin class or a treadmill session and realizing you’ve only got a pair of dress shoes with you.

6. Lacrosse ball

Starting a workout with warm, loose muscles helps to maximize performance and prevent injury. Pitt suggests keeping a lacrosse ball in your gym bag to stretch out before exercising.
“Lacrosse balls have many uses for massaging, releasing tension and turning on your proprioception for better workouts,” she says. Pitt puts a lacrosse ball under her bare feet, stands up and rolls it from heel to toe. "You'll find that you walk taller and feel better all over your lower half just from giving yourself a foot massage, which gets the blood flowing up the legs.” If you're unfamiliar with self-myofascial release, consider setting up an appointment with a personal trainer to get tips on effective methods before trying it on your own.

7. Resistance band

For those times when it’s crowded at the gym and you can’t get a machine—or if you decide to do a non-gym workout instead—fitness trainer Jill Brown suggests packing a flat loop resistance band, which is practically weightless and takes up virtually no room in the bag. “You can break out the band and do a variety of exercises, like squats, kick-backs, clamshells and crab walks,” she notes.

8. Hand sanitizer

Even well-maintained gyms can be a breeding ground for germs, so be sure to stick some hand sanitizer in your bag so you can clean your hands after using shared equipment, such as dumbbells or weight machines.

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I haven't used gloves in years. I guess I don't lift weights enough to need them. I just use regular hand weight of various sizes Report
Lots of good ideas here, both from articles and comments. Report
gret reminders Report
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I have several gym bags!! Report
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love the lists people posted. Report
Fan of Blogilates!! Anyone else want to join in?

The team link is on my SP page "team" listings
I carry lysol wipes to clean before and after my workout. My gym used to provide them, and everyone was disciplined to use them, but when ownership changed, no wipe so no one cleans the equipment (except staff 2 daily).
Good to know Report
I don't even have a gym back. Report
Good things to have. Report
I have a gym bag which is really a big off brand tote I got for 5.00 I keep my lock, extra long tee, hair band, new mp4, (old mp3 I don't work out w/o my music), lip balm for chapped lips, gloves and over sized pants for going home, for belly dance, another bag with hip skirt, veil, finger cymbals, long skirt for after, ballet slippers, hustle and ball room, a dance skirt, professional dance heels (2 pair) and a mumu to put on after; I keep a flat of water and a stack of hand towels in the car. For Zumba I just grab a towel and water and an extra tee and pull it off until after class. Yes, my car is an suv and it looks like I have 10 kids, but I'm single. Report
"...designer of oGorgeous gym bags,..." ;) I find the less I bring with me, the less I have to forget and go back for, and the less I have to fiddle with instead of doing my workout ...plus it's an hour tops, if I can't make it an hour without new socks I have a big problem. Report
I go to Anytime Fitness and there are no lockers, just shelves for keys and hangers for coats. Hmmm. Not the safest, right? I just bring my water to the gym and change at work before I leave. I use machines so don't have gloves. However, I think my body has become used to the machine work out as I am not sore ever. Report
I am always interested in what fellow gym-rats have in their bags! I have some of the things above- padlock, extra clothes, hairband to keep bangs out of my eyes, and my mp3 player which I am miserable without. I have loads of plastic bags for sweaty clothes, a cheat sheet of interval programs, my phone which I can use for music in cast my mp3 player malfunctions, and a microfiber towel. Report
I just started at the Y today, and I am still figuring out everything I need / want to carry. It has been YEARS since I last went, and have to start over. Report
My gym has tanning so I put in my eye goggles. I put perfume in my bag for after I work out, I feel refreshed with melon. And baby powder for if I chafe in my workout pants on the treadmill. Hey I am fat, I chafe. Of course iphone with playlists. A workout towel for when I am dripping sweat on the treadmill, hey I am fat I sweat! And my water bottle I got at the 99 cent store. Report
I keep a pair of wrist handles in my bag for when I'm working heavy back exercises and my grip gives out before my back muscles. Report
I catch the bus, and I go late at night, so I DO NOT want to go home all sweaty and stinky. Towel, toiletries, rubber flip-flops, and a complete change of clothes go in my bag. I use travel space bags and pack 3-4 of them ahead of time. I have just started going to the gym, and I am loving it. Report
I would also add, pack your gym bag the night before so you don't forget something or better yet keep an extra gym bag packed in your trunk. I have two's of essentials like gloves and a mat (one for home, one for the trunk). I also always keep an extra set of panties and bra in my gym bag in case I forget to pack them. Report
The CamelBak Eddy water bottles are great. I have four of them, all in different colors. They last forever. Report
I love Cassey Ho! She is always so enthusiastic and positive and her videos are so much fun! If you haven't checked her out, you need to because you are definately missing out! Report
Items that currently live in my gym bag? Lock, mesh bag of toiletries (added a handle to a small mesh laundry bag, perfect for taking shampoo/soap to the gym shower!), swim cap/goggles, yoga blocks, yoga strap, and non-slip yoga gloves (they have a plastic-of-some-sort patch on the palms...my sweaty hands aren't going anywhere! they're awesome.), hair ties, and deodorant. Report
I am going to get my gym bag re-stocked! Seems like when I go to the gym I've forgotten SOMETHING.

And if I can look like the author . . . it's WORTH the effort! LOL Report
Casey has some imaginative workout videos too. Her current one is a Great Gatsby cardio routine. Lots of "Jazz Hands!" Report
Wow...just looked at her line of gym bags! Pricey! Too pricey for me! But pretty! Report
Fun blog - I never thought about fitness gloves and so far I haven't developed any roughness on my hands, but I do think about those weights slipping when I don't have a spotter with me. Gonna get me some.

In my gym bag right now:

Swim cap
rubber flip flops
Extra clothes (sports bra included)
ear phones
my Other watch, daggon it! I've been looking for it forever
$1.78 in change
Weight Watchers points calculator
gym membership card

But crumbs. that gym bag, while still serviceable, is beginning to look ratty. I think a new one is on my wish list.
I love Cassey! She has definitely been on of my main inspirations since I've started my fitness journey. Those bags are adorable, but I usually just carry my phone, headphones, and my water bottle. Report
I hope you have a towel and some deodorant in the bag as well... Report