Sticking to a regular workout routine is all about motivation and the right mindset. It's easier to get in that mindset when your gym bag is packed and ready to go. On your way out the door, just grab the bag and go -- it should be filled with essential workout gear, including properly fitting clothing, comfortable shoes and a few accessories that make your workout a bit more enjoyable.
If you can only splurge on one piece of essential workout gear, make it your shoes. While different types of activities call for different types of exercise shoes, well-fitting sneakers all have one thing in common – they make your workout more comfortable and reduce risk of injury. If you plan to hit the treadmill regularly, get fitted for shoes designed specifically for running. Visit a specialty running store and allow a sales associate to watch you jog. From there, he can recommend shoes based on your running technique and foot strike. For activities such as aerobics or weight training, invest in cross-trainers instead – shoes designed for running aren’t meant to support the side-to-side movement in other types of workouts.
While looking fashionable at the gym can certainly help motivate you, workout clothing’s style isn’t the only thing you should be concerned with. Look for items made from fabrics such as polyester, which absorbs sweat better than cotton and keeps you drier through the workout. Select items that fit well – loose clothing can get in the way and even pose safety problems when working on the machines. Additionally, consider the weather. This is particularly important when doing an outdoor workout, but even if you’re working out in a gym, dress in layers so you’re comfortable on your way in and out of the building.
For women, a properly fitting sports bra is vital – both for comfort and for support for your chest. A good sports bra cuts the movement of your breasts by anywhere from 53 to 59 percent, depending on your size, according to “Fitness” magazine. Letting your chest bounce and swing during exercise can cause your breasts to droop later in life. A good sports bra supports in three ways – the straps, the cups and the band. Test out the bra while trying it on by tugging at each of the support points – the less the material gives, the more support it will offer during workouts.
While some might say the only essentials for a workout are shoes and clothing to cover your body, others might argue they can’t get through a workout without some help from technology. Include a pair of comfortable headphones and an MP3 player in your gym bag – some good tunes always make a workout go faster. If you own a smartphone, download an app that will track your workout time, distance, heart rate and calories burned. Some can also track the number of steps you’ve taken or offer up strength-training suggestions. The app will save the data in the program, so you can look back and see how you’ve progressed and where you can improve. Another tech-savvy option is a heart-rate monitor, which tracks the intensity of your workout. Certain options have a GPS built in, as well as a pedometer and interval timer.
Gym Bag Extras
If you plan to get ready for work at the gym, don’t forget essential gear for the locker room. Pack flip-flops to protect your feet while showering and a large towel to dry off afterward. If you don’t have time to shower, include deodorant and facial towelettes so you can wipe down after a workout.
Sometimes essential workout gear varies by the type of activity you do. If you like to hop in the pool for a cardio burn, don’t forget to pack a supportive swimsuit, goggles and a swim cap. For yogis, a sweat-proof yoga mat is essential, while ladies doing a pole-dancing workout won't need shoes, but will need thin socks and a good pair of tight shorts to twirl around the floor and pole. Consider the activity you're doing that day and pack your gym bag to reflect it.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.