If you’ve been here with me for the last few weeks I think you know by now that I’m an avid gym attendee. If you are new here then welcome! I’m an avid gym attendee!
Now that that’s covered some might be wondering what to take to the gym? What goes in the all-important gym bag? We can’t prepare for every single situation in the world, but we also shouldn’t be switching out the contents every single day (at least I don’t … I’m all about working for my gains but that’s a bit of a stretch). What most of us look for is a happy medium between the two. A bag that we can take every day that doesn’t require a large amount of maintenance, except for the one off workout in which you do something that requires a special equipment that you might bring for that day alone. I don’t claim to be the one authority on gym bags, but I can tell you what’s in my gym bag and what I would recommend for you to bring in yours. I’ve included some nice to haves in the event that you do the similar type of training that I do (a hybrid hodge-podge of weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, and overall athletic training).
Sneakers. I aim to wear sneakers that on one end provide enough support that I can walk or run on the treadmill without injuring my feet and lower back, yet on the other end are also flat enough that they can be used for deadlifts and squats. With these types of lifts you want as flat of a shoe as possible (think Converse) so that you have a solid base. The solid base is so that when you are pressing downwards to gain leverage you aren’t trying to press through an inch of rubber. You want as little of that pressure and force to be sacrificed so that this power can be used for the lift. Ideally you could just bring two pairs of shoes and change throughout your workout, but I’m a tiny bit lazy and I don’t like to sacrifice the space in my bag for that. So I look for a balance; a multipurpose shoe that can fit both of my needs. So far I’ve been able to find it without issue and without seriously affecting my workouts.
Water Bottle. Gaaaaattttorrraaaddddeeeee. H2O. Gaaaattttttoooooorrrraaaaaddddeeee. H2O! Whew. Sorry. I had to get that Waterboy quote out of my system. Hopefully you understood that quote if not … don’t worry about it. I’ll just continue to be weird over here in my little corner of the internet. I don’t mind ☺️.
We often forget how important hydration is to an effective and efficient workout. Dehydration can occur easily without us knowing, and when it does it can significantly decrease our performance. I personally try to drink at least 2.1 L of water a day while others aim for upwards of 2 gallons a day. The water bottle that I bring to the gym to help me reach this goal is rather large, because I’m forever thirsty, but I’ve made sure that it is small enough in terms of circumference that it fits into the cup holders on each of the machines. This allows for maximum convenience and accessibility while using equipment so I’m more likely to drink the water I’ve brought rather than let it sit on the floor throughout the entire workout getting warm. You never want to be mid-run and parched but not be able to hydrate because your water bottle didn’t fit into the cup holder.
Headphones. I personally keep two pairs of headphones in my bag. One pair are bluetooth that are my main pair so I don’t need to worry about the cord getting in the way; you only have to knock your phone off of the treadmill one too many times and watch it drop down and then fly backwards behind you because you hit the cord on accident to invest in a pair of bluetooth headphones. The other are a pair of regular aux corded headphones in the event that the bluetooth headphones inevitably die. You never want to do cardio without headphones … RIP you if you have to do cardio in silence.
For me those three items are all I need to get into the gym and get in a good session. The following are some nice to haves to elevate your fitness game.
Pre-workout. I do the majority of my workouts at 5:30 AM so a pre-workout or caffeine of some sort is essential. This can be in the form of an official pre-workout blend, a fat burner to get the heart rate pumping (because in reality that’s what a fat burner does, it increases your heart rate. It’s not some magical recipe for burning fat), or simply caffeine … because caffeine. No seriously, caffeine has been proven to not only wake you up but also increase the metabolism (if an infrequent user), work the central nervous system by recruiting muscle fibers and exciting the spinal cord while lowering perceptions of fatigue and muscle pain, improve sports performance, and increase the heart rate which, similar to fat burners, means an additional amount of calories are going to be burned with exercise.
With all of this said there should never be a time in which you rely on a pre-workout to get into the gym. If you ever find yourself taking a pre-workout (or any supplement) as motivation to get into the gym then stop taking it. This is where an unhealthy dependency begins to take place. You should be looking within for fitness motivation, not on external, chemical motivation. They are called “supplements” for a reason.
Weight Belt. If you plan on doing heavy lifts such as deadlifts, squats, or overhead presses then a weight belt is extremely helpful. It will help to stabilize your core and help to keep you safe, however this is another situation in which you shouldn’t overly rely on external assistance. For instance depending on your personal fitness abilities, you probably shouldn’t be wearing your belt when squatting the bar. The aim is to build up your core strength. When you get to a point in which you feel too unstable then begin to wear the belt. You should continue to test your core strength to ensure that you aren’t wearing it unnecessarily. Don’t expect to gain a lot of weight on your lifts when going from not wearing a belt to wearing a belt, this is a common misconception. You may gain a few pounds, but you shouldn’t solely rely on this to advance your progress. It is an aid.
I mention the three movements above, however if there is ever a movement in which you don’t feel stable then it may be a good idea to wear a belt. A common movement in which people wear belts is while bench pressing heavy. You should follow your personal preference with this. For additional tips on how to wear a weight belt see the Rhino Fitness Evolution Instagram. Link found below or here.
Knee Sleeves (Wraps)/Elbow Sleeves (Wraps)/Wrist Wraps. Similar to a weight belt all of these pieces of protective equipment are optional, should not be solely relied on to advance major weight on your lifts, and should be used based on your personal preferences. I personally love using knee sleeves. I’m extremely pigeon toed, I’m slightly bow-legged, and I experience severe shin splints. I’ve also had heel and minor knee issues while growing up. Regardless of all of this I love to cycle, row, and I’m trying to run as much as I can (when my shin splints aren’t slowing me down). I know that I need to protect my knees if I want to have the type of longevity on my fitness career that I want. This is why I wear my knee sleeves. Others have had previous wrist injuries that have prompted their use of wrist wraps, while others just prefer to wear elbow sleeves for the security because they feel shaky while benching. As I mentioned before we shouldn’t be relying on these to perform the lift properly (outside of serious injuries), however if they can help to protect us and make us safer then their use is highly encouraged.
Fitness Tracker/Heart Rate Monitor. It’s important to have an effective workout, be it in 30 minutes or 3 hours. To do this we should keep our heart rates up (unless there are other specific goals in mind). This is why I like to keep a heart rate monitor or fitness tracker on me at all times. I personally have a Fitbit Charge 2 HR and I love it. I can keep track of every workout that I do, my heart rate throughout the workout to ensure I’m exerting the proper amount of effort (and if I’m not you bet I’m pushing myself harder!), and the calories exerted throughout the workout, to name a few of my favorite features. In addition to overall workout data and the generalized data that it compiles throughout the day, I like the fact that I can integrate it with the other apps that I use like MyFitnessPal to track my food intake so I’m positive that I’ve maintained my calorie deficit or surplus, depending on my personalized goals. With the built in tracker goals it is extremely satisfying to see that I’ve met my step, stair, calorie, mile, and exercise goal for the day and week. Oh gamification, you’re so effective!
Protein. I know that the “anabolic window” is a bit of a controversial topic, but I’m on side of getting it in when you can. I’m not about to run to my locker, pushing down the elderly lady that’s in my way, just so that I can suck down that protein shake and not lose my precious gains. I mentioned that I workout in the mornings so when I’m done I head home, get ready for work, then make my breakfast that is rich in protein. I get it when I get it. I’ll leave this one up to you as well, it is quite convenient to have protein with you in case you aren’t going straight home or are going to be out and about all day. It’s also nice if you’re worried that you won’t meet your protein intake for the day.
These are the items that when I’m asked what are the “essential” pieces of gym gear, or even the “nice to haves”, that I would respond with. However while these items are all nice to have, and they may make your gym/fitness experience a little more nice, they are not absolutely necessary. All you need to fit fitness into your life is you. You don’t need any fancy accessories, equipment, or even a gym. All you need is you.