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What to bring to the gym: 15 workout essentials

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Knowing what to bring to the gym for the first time can be confusing, if not daunting!

There is so much information out there – it can be hard to know where to begin.

Before you even hit the gym, you’ll want to ensure you have everything you need in order to make your workout a success.

Don’t like the idea of lugging around loads of gear? The key is to keep things simple!

The checklist in this guide has been designed to help you identify exactly what you need to take to the gym.

We’ll also share some gym bag tips, as well as the 8 best gym bags on the market today.

Ready?

Let’s go!

what to bring to the gym

What to bring to the gym: 15 workout essentials

What to bring to the gym?

This will depend on the length and intensity of your workout, as well as whether or not you plan to shower at the gym. 

The checklist in this guide has been designed for guidance purposes only – you may not need all these workout essentials every time you go to the gym. 

#1 A gym bag

A gym or sports bag is a must-have to hold all your gym clothes and gear. 

Some of the best gym bags have different compartments for holding your essentials as well as your gym shoes and any damp gym gear.

A lot of styles nowadays also have ventilation for when you have to store any sweaty gear. 

The good news is there are lots of workout bags to choose from – from stylish finds to more practical styles, to rucksacks, totes and holdalls. 

Brands like Gymshark, Lululemon, Sweaty Betty, Nike and Adidas have a wide range of gym bags. 

At the end of this guide you will find our list of 8 of the best gym bags.

#2 A water bottle

A water bottle is key to keep you hydrated throughout your workout. 

We recommend you use a reusable water bottle as they are better for the environment and keep water cooler for longer.

#3 Gym gear

If you’re planning to change into your gym gear when you get to the gym, then you’ll want to ensure you have all the essentials for your workout.

A sports bra is a must, along with a top and leggings

Opt for sweat-wicking fabrics like polyester and Merino wool. 

Many brands offer ‘squat proof’ leggings nowadays, which basically mean the leggings that are not see through when you squat or bend down. 

Also don’t forget a comfortable pair of socks – and a spare pair for you to change into after your workout. 

#4 Running shoes

Planning to run on the treadmill

Then you’ll want to take a comfortable and supportive pair of running shoes with you.

A good pair of running shoes will provide the necessary cushioning and stability that your feet need when running.

Running is considered a high-impact sport (albeit less so on a treadmill), so it’s important you support your feet in all the right ways. 

If you’re planning to ditch the treadmill and just lift weights, then you’ll want to wear a pair of flat sole shoes with less cushioning.

Flat sole shoes like Converse are helpful when lifting weights because they bring your feet closer to the floor.

This creates a lot less work for you and helps you to push up off the ground more easily when doing exercises like squats and deadlifts.  

what to bring to the gym

#5 A resistance band

Resistance bands are stretchable and elasticated bands used in fitness and physical therapy. 

When used as part of a workout, resistance bands help to build strength in the muscles in your core, glutes and legs. 

They offer a low impact alternative to exercising with free weights like dumbbells or kettlebells. 

They are also great to use as part of a warm up to activate your muscles before a demanding workout. 

#6 Headphones

Music is so motivating during a gym workout, and the psychology between music and exercise has long been studied. 

Research tells us that music has the ability to distract people from pain and fatigue during a workout.

It also helps to elevate mood, increase endurance, reduce perceived effort and even promote metabolic efficiency.

According to research from Brunel University’s School of Sport and Education, music can enhance endurance by 15% and help to derive much greater pleasure from a workout. 

So whether you prefer earbuds or larger, over-the-ear style headphones, be sure to throw your favourite pair into your bag before you hit the gym. 

#7 A towel

A towel is essential for your gym visit to help wipe away sweat from your face and body during an intense workout. 

You’ll also want to pack a fresh towel for when you hit the shower. 

Opt for microfiber towels as these are quick drying compared with standard bath towels. 

#8 Toiletries 

Toiletries such as deodorant, face wash, shower gel and shampoo and conditioner are must haves to help you freshen up after a workout.

Be sure to pack a small cosmetics bag to keep all your toiletries safely stored away in your bag.

No one enjoys dealing with an exploded gel bottle before their workout!

Dry shampoo is also a great product to use if you don’t want the effort of washing your hair after each workout.

#9 Protein snack

A light, protein snack is the perfect way to help your body heal after an intense workout.

Protein is a building block of life within the body and helps to build muscle and reverse any damage caused to muscles after a tough workout. 

Ideally, you should eat roughly 10-30g of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your workout.

This could either be a protein bar, a delicious smoothie with protein powder, or a light protein-packed meal. 

what to bring to the gym

#10 A bag for holding any damp gym gear

No one likes their damp, sweaty gym gear rolling around in their gym bag.

So remember to take a watertight bag to hold all your wet clothes, including your towel and swim gear. 

#11 A notepad and pen

Working towards your next fitness goal, or simply want a way to track your gains?

Some people find it useful to write down their gym goals and gains on paper so they can keep a record of their progress. 

A notepad and pen is also a great way to plan out your workout ahead of time so you can refer to it at the gym.

#12 Hand sanitiser

A bottle of hand sanitiser isn’t mandatory in most gyms, but many gym-goers opt to use it, especially when handling multiple pieces of equipment like free weights and exercise machines.

Opt for a hand sanitiser that is gentle on your hands. 

We like the Nursem caring hand sanitiser as it is consultant dermatologist approved and has been designed for ultra-sensitive skin.

#13 Cleansing wipes

Cleansing wipes are useful for removing sweat and makeup pre- and post-workout – making them an essential item for your gym bag. 

We like the cleansing wipes from Simple as they contain no nasty ingredients and are biodegradable. 

#14 Flip flops

As soon as you pull off your gym socks, wear flip flops in the shower and any communal areas, such as the pool area and sauna. 

Unfortunately, no one is free from the risks of Athlete’s Foot, so make sure you pack a trusty pair of flip flops or sliders in your gym bag. 

#15 Hair ties and a hair brush

You don’t want your hair getting in the way of your workout.

So make sure you pack some spare hair ties in case the one on your wrist goes for a walkabout.

You’ll also want to pack a hairbrush to tame any unwanted stray hairs before and after your workout.

Related: 5 best home gym equipment for runners

what to bring to the gym

Gym bag Q&A

Q: How do I stop my gym bag from smelling?

A: After a while, your gym bag may start to smell, especially if you use it to store sweaty gear and shoes.

A good tip to remove the stench is to drop a few dryer sheets into the main compartment of the bag.

Dryer sheets are commonly used to eliminate annoying odours from the tumble dryer, so are perfect to use in your gym bag to get rid of any unwanted smells. 

Essential oils are also a great way to remove odours. 

Mix your favourite essential oil with some water in a spray bottle and spray lightly to give your bag a much needed refresh.

Q: How do I clean my gym bag?

A: After repeated use, you may want to clean your gym bag to keep it fresher for longer.

Gym bags often come into contact with moisture, and moisture is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. 

Before you start cleaning your bag, check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Most bags are designed to be cleaned by hand – and don’t hold up well in washing machines. 

Mix some warm water with a gentle cleaning solution and wipe your bag down – making sure to wipe the inner compartments as well as the external ones.

Once you’re happy that you’ve tackled all the areas, leave to air dry. 

Related: 7 of the best websites to buy affordable running clothes

what to bring to the gym

8 of the best gym bags 

Now you know what to bring to the gym, here are our top picks for gym bags. 

From low maintenance styles to minimalist bags, there really is a gym bag to suit all tastes!

#1 Best low maintenance gym bag: Trip Good Energy Tote, £11

This tote from Trip drinks is the perfect low maintenance bag to hold all your gym gear.

For just £11, it’s well made and has several 5 star reviews.

It even has an inspiring slogan to boot.

So if you’re going for a quick gym session and want a simple bag to throw your gear into, this could be just the bag for you.

#2 Best affordable gym bag: Gymshark Everyday Tote, £25

The folks at Gymshark have created a durable and lightweight gym bag that has a large central compartment to store all your gym gear.

At just £25, this bag really is a bargain and comes in three rather fetching colours.

#3 Best gym bag for storing everything: Nordace Orleans Duffel Bag, £89.99

Nordace thought of everything when they created their duffel gym bag.

It has various compartments and fastenings for storing your shoes, keys, towel, gear, laptop, yoga mat and water bottle.

It even has an ant-theft pocket to store your valuables.

Another cool feature is the bag’s built-in USB charging port for convenient charging. 

#4 Best duffel gym bag: Nike One Club Duffel Bag, £49.95 

This duffel bag from Nike holds everything you need for your next visit to the gym.

It has vented compartments to keep your shoes and sweaty clothes in, and even has space for a yoga mat. 

To top it off, it is made from at least 50% recycled polyester fibres. 

#5 Best luxury gym bag: adidas by Stella McCartney Recycled Gym Bag, £172 

With a colour-block design and top zip fastening, this bag from the adidas by Stella McCartney range is bound to turn heads.

At £172 it has quite a hefty price tag, but if you’re looking for a stylish and luxurious gym bag, then this could be the bag for you!

#6 Best rucksack gym bag: Lululemon Everyday Backpack, £88

Another bag from Lululemon, but this time it’s a backpack for carrying all your gym essentials. 

It comes in three colours – black, grey and burnt caramel. 

The bag also has a 23 litre capacity – so there’s plenty of room for all your gear, including your laptop and water bottle. 

#7 Best minimalist gym bag: Rains Gym Bag, £65

If you want a gym bag that doesn’t actually look like a gym bag, then this bag from Rains ticks all the minimalist style boxes. 

It has a boxy, paired-down look with a front zip pocket and large main compartment. 

It’s also waterproof – which is an added bonus if you’re worried about your valuables getting wet. 

#8 Best gym bag for multiple compartments: Lululemon Go Getter Bag, £148 

The Go Getter Bag from Lululemon is one of the best bags on the market for its compartments and pockets which are great for holding all your essentials. 

It has a quick-access phone pocket, an exterior water bottle pocket and interior pockets to hold all your essentials.

Plus, the interior padded pocket can even hold a 16 inch laptop.

The only downside is that is on the expensive side, so it’s definitely an investment purchase.

Related: How to find the right running shoes: A complete guide

Caroline Geoghegan
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