Training Tips

What Are the Ultimate Gym Bag Essentials?

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, What Are the Ultimate Gym Bag Essentials?

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A trip to the gym requires a thoughtfully-packed bag. Sure, you could just throw in your gym clothes, shoes, and a towel and call it good. But you won’t be as comfortable without some shower items and the other things that make anything your do after the gym easier. 

Get a good bag, one that will last a while, and stock it with our essential items for a successful gym workout. Share this list with your clients. It may seem obvious to you, but someone new to the gym can use these tips. 

Start with the Right Bag

Before you can pack it, you need a gym bag. The right bag should be big enough to haul all your gear but not so big it feels impossible to carry. A sturdy, wide shoulder strap makes it more comfortable, while hand straps give you another carrying option. 

Look for a bag with a lot of pockets so you can easily store smaller items and keep them separated. A bag with just one compartment is probably cheaper, but you’ll regret all the time you waste rummaging around for a protein bar or your headphones. 

Ideally, your bag will have two larger compartments. This allows you to keep fresh clothes and hygiene items separate from your gym shoes, sweaty clothes, and wet towel. 

What Are the Gym Bag Essentials?

With the right bag, you’re ready to stock it with everything that will help you get a good workout at the gym and feel good afterward. From the right workout clothing to your favorite shampoo and a good water bottle, a well-stocked bag makes all the difference. 

Essential Gym Clothes 

The ultimate must-have in your gym bag is the right clothing. Unless you’re able to wear your workout gear there, you’ll need to pack it. Include a shirt, sports bra (if needed), shorts or tights, socks, and a pair of gym shoes. 

If you have a specialized workout, pack the right items for it. For example, if you’re swimming laps, don’t forget a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. 

This article on workout gear from the ISSA blog is a great resource for your clients new to the gym. It outlines essential workout gear and what to look for in terms of fabric type, shoes, and more. 

Items for Showering and Personal Hygiene

Maybe it’s warm out and you can go right home from the gym, in which case you may not need the showers. Many people, though, prefer to leave the gym showered and freshly changed. Bring your own travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. 

If you need to look presentable after a workout, pack the items you need to be put together: hairbrush or comb, hair dryer, makeup, and deodorant. 

If you won’t be showering right after a workout, pack body and face wipes. Lingering sweat allows bacteria to grow on your skin, and a quick wipe down will tide you over until you can get to a shower at home. Dry shampoo will tackle sweaty hair. 

Your routine may vary in terms of showering and after-workout activities. To be prepared every time, especially when plans change, keep a travel case of hygiene and shower items in your gym bag at all times. 

Gym hygiene is important, not just because you don’t want to stink, but because it impacts your health. Especially in the age of COVID, make sure your clients know how disease can spread at the gym

Your Favorite Towel

Many gyms provide towels, but you may feel more comfortable bringing your own. Use the gym’s towels to wipe down equipment after you use it. Reserve your own clean towel for the post-workout shower. Bring a small microfiber towel for your intense workouts. You can use it to soak up sweat on your body. 

Hair Must-Haves

If you have long hair, a good athletic headband and a sturdy hair tie are essential. Nothing disrupts a workout more than constantly swiping at the hair sticking to your sweaty face and getting in your eyes. 

Gym Bag Essentials Must Include Fuel and Hydration

Don’t forget to hydrate and fuel your workout. Unless you only spend 20 minutes working out, you need a water bottle with water or a sports drink. For an hour or more, also include a snack. Ideally, you will have eaten an hour or two before hitting the gym. 

To maximize results, you also need to fuel up with some protein and healthy carbs 30 to 60 minutes after the workout. You’re much more likely to get in that important snack if you bring it with you. Shower after your workout and snack on the way out the door. 

Secure Your Stuff

Don’t forget to keep a padlock in your gym bag. You’ll want to secure all your stuff in a locker to keep it safe. This is especially important for your wallet, keys, and phone. Some gyms provide locks, but if not, bring your own every time. 

Packing a Gym Bag in the Time of COVID

Thanks to the pandemic, gym time looks a little different. Many gyms have instituted rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Pack several masks so you never run out of clean ones. You may also want gloves for using equipment or disinfectant wipes to clean them before and after use. 

Keep in mind that some gyms may have closed their showers because of the pandemic. If you don’t have access to showers, it’s more important to pack certain hygiene items, like wipes, deodorant, dry shampoo, and fresh clothes. 

Non-Essential, But Still Useful

You need workout gear and items for getting clean after exercising. These are the absolute essentials. Other items enhance your workout, so consider stashing them in your gym bag: 

  • Headphones and your smartphone for listening to music or podcasts
  • A fitness watch to track progress, heart rate, and calories burned
  • A portable charger for your electronics
  • Flip flops for wearing in the showers
  • Extra socks because they soak up sweat fast
  • Deodorizing foot powder
  • A massage ball for recovery rolling
  • A plastic bag or laundry bag to stash your stinky clothes after showering

What’s essential to you may be an accessory to someone else. Use this as a starting point. Maybe you prefer to listen to the sounds of the gym during a workout. Another gym member would turn around at the door if they forgot their headphones. Tailor the essential list to your must-haves and share this with your clients to help them prep for trips to the gym. 

ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer – Self-Guided Study Program is a great way to learn more about fitness and training. It will give you the tools and knowledge you need to start working with clients and providing them with expert advice on gym bags and more.


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