What To Bring To The Gym | BIG LIST Of Essentials
Whether it’s your first time at the gym or you’re an old pro, there is a consensus about what to bring to the gym.
As far as gym rats go, I am somewhere in between newbie and budding pro.
I just came up on my 1 year gym anniversary, and I’m ecstatic. It’s the longest I’ve ever been consistent in the gym and lifting regularly.
Since beginning my gym journey, I’ve seen my gym bag essentials change.
When I first started my gym journey, what I needed to bring in my gym bag was what I would consider “bare bones.”
As my fitness journey evolved, so did my gym bag must haves.
I’ll break down what to bring to the gym based on my gym journey from absolute newb to beginner weight lifter.
What to bring to the gym – “Bare Bones”
If you’re just starting out, there is no need to overload your gym bag with a ton of intimidating knick knacks that have no real consequence on the efficacy of your workout.
If you ONLY bring the below to the gym, you won’t need much else, promise.
I’m not mentioning a gym bag because you know that you’ll obviously need one. The size of your gym bag will depend on what you intend to bring. We will outline what to bring to the gym below….
You need to bring a water bottle with you to the gym. Most gyms are awash with water fountains, but—covid and other germs. Also, who knows what proximity you’ll be to a water fountain when you’re knee deep into a circuit or an exercise.
I suggest a size that is large enough to last an entire workout. Because, you don’t want to be interrupting your flow.
Typically, that water bottle is 16 to 32oz.
I’ll link my favorite ones here and here.
I could have just labeled that header “sneakers” but I didn’t for very good reason. Some routines require different types of shoes. When I first began, all I needed was the sneakers I came in because I only worked on the treadmill or the bike–aka cardio.
When I started incorporating weight lifting into my routine, I learned pretty quickly that it’s better to lift in flat shoes rather than running shoes and vice versa.
FYI: When lifting weight flat shoes provides the back with better stability to prevent your form from being compromised during the movement.(1)
Honorable mention: pack socks, you don’t want to chafe or slip and slide in your trainers in a cardio class.
You’ll need a towel if you plan on getting extra sweaty in the gym.
But, let me add, a sweaty workout isn’t the only indication of a good workout–as long as you’re moving baby!
You can use their paper towels, but you’ll risk drying or irritating your skin. Those paper towels are incredibly hard on the skin.
You’ll also use the towel to place on some equipment, as you’ll find some gym equipment gets up close and personal with strangers up close and personals.
You don’t want your face, back, or stomach all up on that. After a good sanitize it’s a good idea to add your towel to that piece of equipment.
I also sometimes use my towel for the grass tarp in case all the Pilates mats are taken.
I’ve been to some gyms, (mostly residential community gyms) where some of the goers bring Bluetooth speakers to power their work out.
This is heavily frowned upon because frankly, it’s impolite to subject strangers to your tastes in music.
Be kind, bring your own headphones.
I suggest any headphones you are comfortable wearing. I’d also suggest specific headphones designed to stay in your ears or on your head during sweaty activity.
Listening to music that inspires you can drive your workout and keep you moving, longer.
Those are the basic necessities as far as what to bring to the gym with you as a newbie.
As my weight loss journey progressed and my fitness endeavors increased, I noticed that I needed a bit more to power through my workouts.
intermediate items you need to take to the gym
If you’re planning to shower after your workout bring these items with you to make that transition seamless.
Before bringing these in your gym bag, to take to the gym, buy a toiletries bag that will store all of the below.
I purchased a pack of three from amazon, that makes carrying the below easy.
- Body soap (preferably in squeezable dispenser, it’s just easier)
- Laundry bag (for your sweaty clothes)
- Wash rag (if you use this kind of thing–highly recommend)
- Change of clothes & shoes
- Body spray/mist (because, you want to smell good)
- Body lotion
If an entire shower isn’t feasible at least wash, your face.
When I wasn’t washing my face directly after a workout and just getting to errands right after my session, I started getting cystic acne. My face was an entire mess but that all cleared up once I started washing my face with face wash directly after my workout.
Here is my favorite post workout face wash. I use it because it’s specifically formulated for after gym sweat.
A lot of your weight training might include exercises that require the barbell on your shoulders or pelvis. Most gyms will not have a barbell pad to make that movement more comfortable.
And let me tell you, without the barbell pad, a hip thrust is all pain, no gain.
When you’ve become serious about weight lifting, proper form and comfortability is going to be key to longevity. You’ll want to have equipment with you that can compliment your movements as well as provide comfortability.
This is the barbell pad I purchased and love.
Another exercise specific item you’ll need once you kick your weight training program up a notch is an ankle strap. Not all gyms will carry the ankle strap and it’s crucial to performing specific leg & glute focused movements.
You could use some of the pulley type attachments but this might compromise form and increase risk of injury.
Exercises you’ll complete with ankle straps: https://www.gymreapers.com/blogs/news/6-simple-ankle-strap-exercises
When you start getting into serious weight lifting you’ll want to increase gains with some resistance bands. You can add a resistance band to many exercises and chances are your gym will not have any on hand.
I like these cotton resistance bands as some of the plastic ones tend to roll up and become ineffective.
However, I do find the elastic bands are good for stretching.
Pain reliever for headaches
This is the gym bag essential I wish I knew I needed to take with me to the gym.
I’m prone to headaches and if you’re anything like me then you are bound to have one or two headaches before or during a workout.
Pack a little bottle of your pain reliever of choice just in case. And put it in your toiletries bag for safe keeping and easy find.
Could it be that I was trying to go to the gym fasted and ended up with those headaches? Maybe.
Don’t be like me, pack a snack–just in case.
I always tell my kids that they have what I call “hunger headaches.” And nothing cures a headache faster than a nutrition packed snack.
I’d keep a non-perishable snack in the bag, like a pre bottled protein shake, protein bar or measured bag of nuts and seeds.
Anything outside of those is probably not going to last very long in your gym bag.
Sanitizing Wipes/Sanitizing Spray
I’m only mentioning this because there are times (many times) when the sanitizing spray bottles are completely empty at my gym.
It could be that my gym is just really trash at maintenance or since Covid, sanitizing is in high demand.
If you can make your own sanitizing spray, or bring some alcohol wipes, please do.
And while we are here, I’m going to mention the importance of wiping down the equipment after you’ve used it. It’s just polite, and decent and the right damn thing to do. Nothing worse than approaching the seat of equipment and it is embroiled in a pool of someone else’s sweat.
Take To The Gym As Needed
You might be tempted to pack additional items as you’ll see some gym rats with the following:
Power lift powder
Foam Rollers (many gyms have these)
You only need to purchase and take these items if…well…you need them.
Most people will not need to take the aforementioned items to the gym.
Depending on your experience level and the kinds of exercise you plan to use in the gym, what you need to take to the gym will vary.
I just recently went to the gym with NO gym bag whatsoever. I thought to myself, “this bag is so big! I don’t think I’ll need it today. I tucked my keys in my sports bra and kept my headphones on my head. Couple of minutes into my sweaty workout, I realized I did not have my water bottle and developed a headache. I needed my gym bag.
My gym session that day was cut short, because I felt utterly unprepared. I couldn’t complete some exercises because I did not have the accessory equipment. I just felt off. Don’t let that happen to you.
When in doubt, think bare bones:
Fill a sack to carry your headphones, water bottle, and towel.
As long as you’re wearing the proper shoes to accommodate your choice of movement, bare bones is typically ALL you will need.
I hope this helps. I’d love to know what other essential items you think I missed. Are you a bare bones kind of gym person or the pro who needs ALL the accessories?
Let me know in the comments.