The Ultimate Guide To Gym Bags

Why Should I Pre-pack A Gym Bag, And What Should Go In It?

This is something I am often asked, so I hope the following will help you all.

Our ultimate goal is to go to the gym and have a great workout, the easier we make this process, the more likely we are to continue with the habit, and subsequently create the desired results. Actually going to the gym is just one of the many steps required, the things we do in preparation also contributes to the likelihood of sticking to the habit of working out on a regular basis, such as having an exercise routine that we do each session, or setting alarms to remind you to go to the gym. These are very important steps to successfully training on a regular basis, but one of the most helpful steps, is having your gym bag pre-packed.

This reduces the number of excuses you have which in turn makes going to the gym less of a task. Do this as often as you can, prepare your gym clothes, shoes, bag, charge your earphones e.c.t. By taking care of these factors in advance, that may throw you off your game when you’re tired or struggling with motivation, you become the kind of person who actually goes the gym. Big habits create big results, but little habits pave the way for the big habits. As boring and not sexy as it is, the small things do matter. Jim Rohn said eloquently that "Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day"

There are certain things that should be unanimously placed in gym bags, this blog is here to give you some ideas of how to pack your gym bag and also a few tips and tricks to make the task less daunting for you, giving you more chance of success.

Ideally we would have all our gear ready by the door, or at the bottom of our bed with our gym shoes and clothes, so that all we have to do is roll out of bed and walk out the door to go the gym (if you’re a morning gym goer), but that's not always the case. We have all had those days where we plan on going to the gym tomorrow, we wake up in a mad rush and run around the house searching for our trainers, frantically making a pack lunch, finding our exercise clothes, then being too frazzled or rushed that we just don't go the gym. That was the goal you personally set, and through lack of preparation you let yourself down. I don't blame you, it's happened to all of us, but the question is, how does letting yourself down and not fulfilling the aims you set yourself feel?

In the morning we can be dopey, lethargic, not all the cogs have woken up yet, and our executive functions are still rebooting from our 8 hour shutdown. We forget things, we are slower and unfortunately the more demands we ask of ourselves the more likely we are to burnout, crash, and not compute correctly. Thus not completing our daily goals. This is where habit formation comes in handy (read further about this in a future blog), having a set list of items we have in our gym bag, a set nightly routine the day before, a to do list. These are the things that truly optimise our mornings productivity. The less brain power required to do a task increases the possibility of us completing it.

Habits define us! Packing your gym bag the day before, or having a set list of components that you put in there seems like an innocuous task with little to no impact, but in fact this is a force multiplier, it is as important as putting a wash on so that you have clothes for the week. Packing a gym bag can be so easy, especially when you have done it a few times. You may be sceptical and ask "How is packing a gym bag going to make me more likely to go to the gym?" But it saves you from searching chaotically so that you can get to that workout sooner while you’re still motivated to beast it!

The British Armed Forces have a motto they call The 7 P's, this simple proverb states: "Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance!" Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s (worth 119.5 billion USD) and Steve Jobs (worth 10.2 Billion USD), combined gargantuan wealth, they are known for wearing the same outfit on a daily basis. The reasoning for this is that these men are aware of a phenomenon called "Decision Overload", we all have a finite number of decisions we can make with accuracy in a day, this is why packing your gym bag before bed saves your brain it's precious decision making recourses.

Some considerations:

Are you training alone?

Are you carrying equipment for more than just you?

What type of gym are you going to, and what sport specific gear must you have that may not be on the list below? E.g. a helmet for Ice Hockey, skates and a stick.

How far do you have to travel, and is your bag/ gear portable?

Do you have any personal injuries, illnesses or conditions that you will have to accommodate for?

Will you need to shower?

Are you going home or to work afterwards?

Are there lockers where you’re going?

Do you need to take food with you for after the session or for through your work day?

Do you have any specific dietary requirements you will have to cater for?

Do you have any medicine you have to take?

What are your personal fitness goals?

Are there any comfort items you may need such as a bar bell foam protector for squats?

Backpacks and gear are a personalised tailored experience that can only be perfected over time with practice, and what you take does matter. Quality matters and functionality matters. We have to fit our kit to our own needs, wants, and desires for our training. As a Personal Trainer I have been asked before about gym bags, that's what inspired this blog, but I've also been asked what type of bag should I get, again this is a personal thing. However, I would advise against "Gym, or Sports bags", these are the duffle bag style that hang over one shoulder and here's why. Duffle bags are great if you have large equipment such as the above example, if you have a helmet, protective armour, hockey stick, ice skates, then you may need the capacity, personally I recommend backpacks for people to use as their gym kit. The duffle puts unnecessary pressure on one side of the body, so you’re basically always doing an ab workout on one side, and if you have a preferred side to carry it, which we all do, then over time you will be developing a muscular imbalance in your body, this can cause long term injuries, and is avoidable. Whereas, a backpack is a much safer option for longevity as the weight is evenly dispersed over each shoulder. Plus, they're easier and don't continuously bang into your leg as you walk.

Top 15 items Reshape Infinity Fitness recommend putting in a gym bag:

  1. Towel for your shower (include a plastic bad to keep wet stuff away from dry)
  2. Hygiene and beauty products e.g. hair and body gels, shower scrunches, deodorant, hand sanitizer, moisturiser, mouthwash
  3. Clean clothes to wear post-workout
  4. Padlock for the lockers or coins/trolley tokens for those that take £1
  5. Notepad to keep track of your workout sessions and to keep you motivated
  6. Teacher pens, also known as 4 colour pens, to fill in your notepad
  7. Water bottle (Electrolyte tablets are also a good addition to stay properly hydrated). Ideally a reusable one to help our planet
  8. High energy/ protein bars (this can be great if you’re feeling lightheaded or dizzy post workout)
  9. A watch, stopwatch, or timer (ideally not your phone as phones can suck your attention and are distracting)
  10. Sports specific items etc. harness and chalk for rock-climbing, boots for football, or a bat for cricket
  11. Protective equipment if needed, such as ankle supports or a weight lifting belt for spinal integrity
  12. Earphones/headphones (pro tip: keep a spare pair of wired earphones if you use wireless in case the battery dies midsession)
  13. Food (breakfast after the gym, lunch for work etc.) this includes supplements like protein or vitamins like omega 3 tablets
  14. Phone charger/ battery pack, especially if you’re going to work afterwards (plus a bag to keep your electronics waterproof)
  15. Extra money. Cash is preferable because you may lose your card. Have enough to at least get food, or to get a taxi if the leg day was too tough and you can't walk to the bus stop!

Each person's gym bag will be different, it is not so important about the gear list, it is more important to have the preparation mind-set. Test your gear, see what you use, what you don't, trim it down, change it over time, invest in better, lighter equipment, just get into the habit of packing it and you will surly see yourself attending the gym more frequently! One solid idea, especially if you’re new to the gym or packing a gym bag, is to write a list of everything that you regularly have in there, even going as far as writing in what pocket you placed certain items, this way when you’re preparing you save yourself from that "Decision Overload", just follow your list.

The size of the bag depends on the specific equipment you take, but for most people we would recommend a normal sized day bag. One you could go to work with, on a train, or around a shop, you don't want some huge monstrosity to lug around all day. A 20 litre backpack is usually a sufficient gym bag size for most people. There are different types of backpacks, you have ones that load from the top that have a pull cord to tighten and close the bag, ones that open about half way down the bag with a zip and clan shell backpacks, these can open fully, these are our favourite because you can easily see your contents. When shopping for a backpack it is advisable to find a bag that is really comfortable to your size and build, because inevitably at some point you will have to carry it. Trust me when I say investing in a good quality backpack is a blessing worth spending on. I have had cheap bags before and it is unbearable, it was actually adding resistance to me wanting to go to the gym, our goal is to get fit, give yourself the best odds in every domain possible. Make sure you try it on 1st to test it, don’t just order it online as you cannot guarantee the quality.

Here are some things to look for in a good backpack:

Compartmentalisation, pockets to hold your bits and bobs, to separate gear giving more organisation (You can also buy packing cubes to divide things into neat categories too add to the organisation.)

Wider straps that are padded to go over the arms onto the chest, a thin strapped backpack will be less comfortable, can carry less weight, and can cut into the skin leaving you tender and sore

Sternum strap to keep it close to your body, this is highly recommended, and a consideration to go along with that is a hip belt, this takes the weight off your shoulder and puts it on the hips, it is better for posture plus allows you to carry more weight, mainly it just adds that extra level of comfort

Back ventilation, this comes as foam shapes that allow airflow to reduce sweat, also you can get frames that do the same thing but better, usually with mesh allowing more breeze to pass by your spine to cool you down after your workout or on a hot day.

An exterior pocket or sleeve for your metal water bottle, you can put it inside the bag, but for convenience it is nice to just reach around rather than taking the whole bag off just for a sip of water. Alternatively you could look for a bag with a "Hydration Bladder section", this means water on the go from a straw or hose with minimal effort.

Lastly is retention straps on the side, this allows you to shrink the size of your bag to prevent excess movement, it keeps things in place and makes you more comfy

On the stand point of organisation, Decision Overload, and habit formation, it is always best practice to put your items in the same location in the bag every time, this saves confusion, allows you to access things readily, and also helps the packing process as it is easier to see if something is missing. Plus as a bonus you can find the desired item even in the dark!

In the future you will applause present you for allowing you to get fit and organising your life.

Thank you for reading this blog, we hope you found it useful, if you did share it with a friend or your gym buddy as it might help them too!

Have fun creating your own gym bag set up, it is as unique as you are.

Strength and honour until the next time we meet my friends!