10 Gym Bag Essentials

10 Gym Bag Essentials

It's the time of year when everyone heads back to the gym. In my experience, there's nothing worse than getting to the gym only to realize you've forgotten an important item. Here are the items I would be lost without at the gym.

Gym Bag

adidas gym bag
Credit: Adidas.com

Is it cheating to include the gym bag in my list? For me, the right bag makes everything better. As much as I love the sporty bags like the Adidas holdall bag, I just can't give up my backpack. I'm still rocking the one I bought from my college bookstore. It takes a lot of abuse and it may not be so cute anymore, but it's durable and if my gear starts to make it stinky I know I can just throw it in the washer.

NEXT: Supportive Sports Bras

champion sports bra
Credit: Target.com

A supportive workout bra

I have to confess I'm not that picky about sports bras. I've found that department store sports bra selections have served me well. I usually default to Champion sport bras, which I can pick up at my local department store. If you require more support, the Enell sports bra receives excellent reviews from women with larger busts. If you are spending some cash on a good sports bra, you'll want to take care of it which means hand washing and allowing to air dry so if you are planning to go to the gym every day you'll want to buy at least two.

NEXT: The Right Shoes

Good shoes

Running Shoes
Credit: Timothy Takemoto

If I'm going to the gym I'm most likely to be running so I want my running shoes. If I was doing a workout class or weights -- or a little bit of everything -- I might want cross trainers. If you don't know what kind of shoe you should buy, head to your local fitness or running store and they can help you find the best style and fit. The shoes that fit the best may not the be the funky ones you want and I know how disappointing that is. I've been tempted to buy the prettier ones that aren't as good a fit so many times but then I remind myself that my running shoes don't hurt my feet and they don't give me blisters. That's worth a little less pretty to me. And don't forget to put some flip flops for the shower in your gym bag!

NEXT: Sweat Wicking Gear

Sweat Wicking Workout Gear

workout class
Credit: Kenny Holston

I used to exercise in a good old-fashioned cotton t-shirt and sometimes I still do. More often I'm planning to get pretty sweaty and sweat wicking workout clothes just make that more pleasant. With less chaffing. Upgrading your wardrobe can add up quickly. I've had good luck finding deals with online sales and at places like Marshalls.

NEXT: Yoga Mat

Yoga Mat

yoga mat
Credit: Tiffany Assman

When I was doing yoga regularly I went to a speciality store and spent a bit more cash to get one that was thicker and had better grip than the one I had picked up at my local department store. I really like Gaiam's Sol Sticky Grip Yoga Mat. I also grabbed a yoga mat strap that doubles as a stretching strap.

NEXT: Don't Forget Your Tech!

Phone and Headphones

phone and headphones
Credit: Nicola

Load up your phone or iPod with music and workout apps and don't forget your good headphones. I actually used to exercise without music but last year I discovered I'm less likely to give up on my workout (or to keep checking the time to wonder omg how much longer is left) if I listen to music. Since I mostly run, RunKeeper is my app of choice but every now and then when I need extra motivation I'll toss things up and do a mission on Zombies, Run! Some of my friends really love the Nike Training Club app.

NEXT: Toiletries

Your Toiletry Bag

toiletry bag
Credit: REI.com

Can I express my love for hanging toiletry bags? They can hang in your locker or on the shower curtain rod and you don't have to worry about setting them down on benches or damp countertops. I also like that they have multiple pockets so I can keep my shower products in one pocket, my hair care in another, etc. I fill mine with travel-sized containers of the products I use a home and refill as needed. And hair elastics. Lots and lots of hair elastics.

NEXT: Stay Hydrated!

Water or Shaker Bottle

water bottles
Credit: Holly Williams

I don't go many places without a water bottle but I absolutely don't go the gym without one. We've got at least a dozen kicking around the house. We've picked them up at conferences and received them as gifts over the years. If you like to have a protein shake after a work out you'll want to grab a few shaker bottles.

NEXT: Stay Cool and Dry

Quick Dry or Cooling Towel

water bottles
Credit: REI.com

I have no problem confessing that I figured that as long as I remember any towel at all I was fine. A towel was just a towel, right? Then I tried a quick dry towel for the first time and I found it rather amazing. I found they do a much better job of wicking away moisture and you aren't tossing a totally soggy towel in your gym bag to take home. Another option is cooling towels. If you tend to get overheated during your workout you'll want to try one.

What must-have items do you have in your gym bag?

Karen Ballum is a Community Moderator on BlogHer.com. She also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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