The Ultimate Guide to Gym Bags (and All the Stuff to Put Inside)
For beginners and lapsed gym-goers alike, a great workout is in the bag.
Okay, so maybe you’re not going to the gym as much as you used to (thanks, COVID), but that doesn’t mean you’re working out less. According to one study weighted by the U.S. Census, 50% of people who used to work out several days per month now plan to do more outdoor activity. And that same study says that 24% of people who almost never worked out at all before COVID plan to do the same.
So whether your local gym is slowly reopening OR you’re a beginner who’s getting outside more than ever before, there’s never been a better time to find a gym bag to store all your gear.
“A great gym bag has the style to transition from class to coffee,” says LA-based yoga and mindful fitness teacher Hannah Dawe. “I’m a big fan of small pockets for essentials like keys, which I always seem to lose.”
One of the best things to come out of the pandemic might just be a renewed love for working out. And a great way to hold yourself accountable to those new exercise goals is to invest in a gym bag you love. You’re going to be zipping and unzipping this thing every day, so choose wisely. Here are a few essential things for beginners to keep in mind when finding and packing a gym bag.
CHOOSE YOUR VESSEL
First thing’s first: the gym bag. From backpacks to duffels, there are so many to choose from. So where does a beginner start?
“The tote has become my ideal gym bag,” says LA-based trainer Stephen Werner. “I’m always on the go, so being able to toss a few things in and throw it over my shoulder is exactly what I’m looking for.”
Werner loves a gym bag with two side carry handles and two shoulder straps, which he says makes it easy to travel with and even go to the beach. Finding a versatile gym bag is super important for beginners because, remember, you’re going to be (ideally) using this gym bag every day. Make sure it can go anywhere with you.
Dawe says she loves a water-resistant crossbody bag that’s big enough to fit a layering top, her teaching notebook and essential personal items. For a spin class where she’ll need a change of clothes, she goes for something that’s a bit more functional (that means mesh compartments for shoes and sweaty gear).
ESSENTIALS TO GO INSIDE
Single-use is so last year. Take plastic: Every year, one trillion plastic bags are used, equating to two million per minute. Conscientious citizens have long been using reusable bags instead (see above). So when it comes to essential items that go in a beginner’s gym bag, it’s important to keep sustainability in mind, as well.
Look for a beginner-focused training shoe made from recycled materials. While you’re en route to and from your workout, throw on a recycled polyester sweatshirt that easily folds into a gym bag. And, of course, a reusable water bottle is essential.
Some experts estimate that the average person loses about 17 to 50 ounces of water per hour when exercising. It’s important to replace that water loss to prevent dehydration, which can bring with it bloating, dry skin and low energy (to name just a few). So drink up.
A good workout will work up a good sweat. Luckily, there are several travel-sized ways to refresh post-workout. Some gyms supply products like shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and deodorant. But if you’re working out outdoors or even taking a yoga or Pilates class at a studio, you’ll need to bring your own.
“I'm pretty minimalist when it comes to beauty, but I do love a hydrating mist, hand sanitizer and headbands,” says Dawe. “A natural face wash and SPF moisturizer are also key.”
Stocking up on travel-sized beauty products will help you go from studio to street. And when exercise fits seamlessly into your daily schedule, a beginner will be able to better keep up with his or her fitness goals.
SNACKS ON THE GO
When it comes to fuel, there are two essential things for beginners to keep in mind: Taste and convenience.
“I always have something to eat in my gym bag,” says Werner. “Packets of nuts and dried fruit can stay in there for a while. And they offer the same amount of protein and carbs as a protein bar. Apples and bananas are nutritious and portable, too. Try to stick with whole foods rather than processed. This is especially important for beginners.”
Related: Keep it light.
“There’s definitely such a thing as overpacking,” Werner says. “You don’t need to pack the entire tub of protein. Pour one or two portions into a Ziploc bag and you’re good to go. Try to get travel-sized items and don’t pack anything you don’t need. Less is more.”
SO FRESH & SO CLEAN
Staying germ-free is on everyone’s minds these days. And at the gym, it absolutely should be. One study found that the average treadmill, exercise bike and free weight each have more than 1 million germs per square inch. So you want to clean equipment before and after use.
“In the time of COVID, it’s really important to understand your gym’s safety and cleanliness policies,” says Werner. “If they’re not up to par, I would suggest finding a new gym. If you’re unsure, bring some anti-bacterial wipes, or solution and a separate towel to wipe down the equipment. Most importantly, try to structure workouts so you’re using as little equipment as possible. Find open space in the gym, bring what you need and keep at least six feet away from others.”
Ready to do this?