When you get ready to go to your favorite fitness class, do you have your bag packed and ready to go? Or are you the person frantically scrambling at the last minute, trying to think of what you might need on your way out the door? Sure, you should always pack a water bottle, hair ties and change of clothes, but what other items are you missing? When you get to the gym, do you try to sneak a peek into other gym bags as they sit, open on the bench in the locker room? What do other members have in there that you don't? What can't they live without? Which items might you enjoy, too?
Having your bag packed and ready to go with the right items can mean the difference between dehydrating during your run, blisters from lifting weights without hand wraps and tape or having to skip brunch with your girlfriends because you forgot a change of clothes or deodorant.
Rather than peeping in everyone’s bags, we reached out to a variety of fitness instructors to find out which essential items they never leave home without.
As a spin instructor at LA Fitness for nearly 13 years, my gym bag is carefully constructed so I’m always ready for the class ahead. Items come and items go, but these are the ones I call on every Saturday morning.
Cycling shoes: I love my Shimano cycling shoes and hate to ride without them. The stiff sole helps power me through every workout, the clips keep my feet in the proper position and they are super comfortable.
Water bottle: This Polar Bottle water bottle is insulated, lightweight and easy to clean.
Cotton headbands: I have tried a bunch of headbands and found that plain cotton ones seem to stay on my head and absorb sweat the best. Plus, the variety of colors means I can always find one to match my workout outfit.
Mic belt: You probably aren't in the market for a mic belt yourself, but if you're looking for a nice belt to stash your stuff in during your class (or on a run or long bike ride) I love this one.
Hair ties: If you have long hair like me, you know you can never have enough hair ties to keep strands out of your face during class. I try to keep my pack stocked with at least three to five, just to be safe.
Deodorant: I have been using Dove deodorant for years. It smells nice without being overpowering and it keeps me from sweating—too much, anyway.
Socks: I swear by Adidas ClimaCool socks, which are so comfortable, breathable, lightweight and, best of all, don't stretch out after multiple wears.
Workout towel: While I don't prescribe to any specific sweat towel (as long as it keeps me from sweating all over my music, I'm good), these cooling towels would be awesome for a hot spin class.
Padded bike seat: Over the years, I've gotten used to hard bike seats. Every once in awhile, though, and for beginners especially, a padded bike seat can make your hour way more enjoyable.
Yoga & Pilates:
Kristin McGee has been a yoga and Pilates instructor for more than 17 years in Manhattan and around the world. She's also a personal trainer, SparkPeople.TV trainer and has worked with some amazing people throughout the years, including celebrities such as Steve Martin and Tina Fey. Since Kristin runs around all day and has to sneak in her personal workouts in between client sessions, she needs a gym bag that’s full to the brim with essentials to carry her through the day.
Hair tie, with a side of motivation: I always need hair ties to pull my hair back. I love these from Momentum because they don’t tear my hair and they have great little motivational quotes on them.Group Fitness:
Headphones: I like the kind of headphones that can also be wrapped around my wrist as a bracelet. If I’m not doing yoga or Pilates, I often get on the equipment and do some cardio or lift weights. I love good music for this.
Health magazine: I love to read up on health and nutrition.
Bioactive greens: I’ve never been big on supplements and especially now that I’m pregnant with twins, I am more careful about what I put into my body. These greens are organic, non-GMO, 100 percent natural and they give me a little boost if I add to my water before a workout.
Essential oils: I always have an Aura Cacia essential oil in my bag to use as a pick-me-up or to clean my hands. When I’m teaching, I often use it for final relaxation on my students. I especially love the orange and peppermint.
Lip balm: My lips often get dry and I love this Sun Salutation lip balm by gypsy soul organics. t smells amazing, is super moisturizing and 100 percent organic.
Hand towel: I like this Manduka hand towel if it’s super steamy and I need something for extra grip on my yoga mat, or as just a nice little towel to use when I’m hot.
Water: I always hydrate. I love übr water for its high PH content and smooth taste.
Sunscreen spray: What’s awesome about this sunscreen is you can spritz it on your face throughout your day. It has 50 SPF and is good way to keep applying sunscreen without messing up my makeup.
Face wipes: These Juicy Bamboo wipes are wonderful to use when I get really sweaty and need to clean my face during the day. Organic, easy to carry and they smell great.
Deodorant: This charcoal deodorant works great and is the perfect travel size.
Socks: I put these socks on when I have to walk around the room adjusting people so my feet don’t get so dirty. Also good for Barre and Pilates classes.
Snacks: Crispy Green fruit snacks are tasty, low calorie and they hold up well in my gym bag. In the past when I toss in real fruit, it sometimes gets squished. I love that these are only made of natural freeze-dried fruit. I also carry a can of Safe Catch tuna because snacks can’t always be nuts, seeds and fruit. This is the best tasting tuna and the lowest in mercury, four times lower than anything on the market, which is important to me now that I’m pregnant.
Sports bra: Having an extra sports bra in my bag to change if I get sweaty is a must. I love Handful bras because they’re soft, supportive and super flattering!
Lisa Corsello is a fitness expert and the founder of Burn. A certified personal trainer, nutrition consultant and certified yoga, Pilates and group fitness instructor, she has successfully adapted and applied her methods to clients with a wide range of abilities and capabilities.
Bag: I just love Marc Jacobs bags, and this new teal and gold carry-all is perfect for fall.
Moisturizer: I don't wear a lot of makeup, so I love the coverage and hint of color Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer gives me.
Lip balm: I love this stuff! [Labello balm is] hard to find in the United States, so I buy loads of it whenever I'm in Europe.
Travel toothbrush kit: I need this kit because I brush my teeth three to four times a day.
Gum: It doesn't matter which flavor, I like all Orbit gum.
Hand and face wipes: These Cetaphil wipes are gentle and don't irritate my skin.
Sunglasses: I used to spend a fair amount of money on sunglasses, but I lost/scratched/crushed them regularly. These are some cheap aviators from H&M and I dig them.
Sunscreen: The Colorescience Powder sunscreen comes with a cool brush so you can put on as much as you want, right where you want it.
Eye drops: I wear contacts and can't live without these Blink eye drops during my marathon workdays.
Snack: These Squarebars are perfect for a quick snack between meetings. My favorite flavor is peanut butter chocolate.
Jen Schweitzer co-teaches kettlebell classes at Elevated Fitness in Strongsville, Ohio, with her husband, Brad. They teach kettlebell twice a week, and Brad is studying to become a personal trainer.
Gloves: I love these Marika gloves because they help with grip and assist in preventing blisters. Having a better grip on the kettlebell allows for more swings.
Stopwatch: A stopwatch like the one we use from Sportline is useful for tracking time for each exercise and rest period. The stopwatch is also key during tabatas.
Notebook: I like to keep a notebook when I lift weights to record my reps, sets and weights.
Chalk: It is important to "chalk up" when your hands get sweaty. The chalk dries your hands and allows for a better grip on the kettlebell.
Hydration: My favorite thing in my gym bag is my drink! I have a shaker bottle that I fill with water and add one scoop of BCAA AminoCore. This supplement helps your muscles from breaking down during the workout.
Shakes: After the workout, you gotta have your protein! Our favorite powdered protein for shakes is Natural Whey by bodylogix. It is gluten-free, contains no artificial flavors or colors and is sourced from grass-fed cows. We mix one scoop with almond milk and it’s delicious! We have had vanilla bean and dark chocolate.
David Pertuset is an ISSA-certified personal trainer, ACE-certified personal trainer and is the owner and operator of Comanche CrossFit in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Wrist wraps: I use these wraps any time I put heavy weight over my head that requires extra support.
Gymnastics hand grips: These straps protect my hands from tears during pull-ups or muscle-ups.
Olympic weightlifting straps: I use these straps when doing multiple reps with heavy weight for snatching. They are also used for one-rep max lifts.
Water bottle: The Rogue water bottle keeps water very cold. Some gyms do not have water fountains, so it is good to always bring your own water. I mix my glutamine in my water and sip on it throughout my workouts.
Shoes: CrossFit Nano shoes are multi-use shoes for various movements. You can do gymnastics and weightlifting in these shoes. I also like Nike weightlifting shoes--the hard, high heel helps with controlling heavy weights.
Tape: Tape is great to have on hand for skin tears and thumb protection while weightlifting.
Socks: I like high socks for movements when the bar is pulled up from the floor, so it doesn't scrape your shins.
Sleeves: A single, thick leg sleeve is great for rope climbing, and knee sleeves are good for knee protection and extra support when doing heavy squats or Olympic lifts, [plus] they keep the knees warm in between sets.
Jump rope: With a jump rope, you can practice double unders anywhere and it is always good to have your own rope when traveling to different gyms.
Lacrosse balls: These balls are great for massaging injured or sore areas and for working on your mobility.
Hydration: I like to add some Glutamine Select with BCAA supplement to my water for faster recovery during high-intensity workouts.
Chalk bag: Some gyms do not have chalk, so it is always good to have your own.
Journal: You have to record everything or you can not see results. This book is the most important item in my bag. Without it, my day is lost. Even though CrossFit is constantly varied, you still have to record your data to know whether or not your program is working.
Danny Finn is an RRCA-certified running coach and has been the head coach at Fleet Feet Sports, in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the past four years. He started running marathons in 2004 and since then has completed more than 30 full marathons, was a four-time Boston marathon qualifier and ran the Boston marathon for three
consecutive years. His favorite thing about coaching runners is the look on the athletes' faces when they realized they've just run a marathon.
Running watch: A good running watch like the Garmin Forerunner 620 gets me through training runs.
Shoes: For workouts, I currently run in a pair of Newton Kismet shoes, but I’m not loyal to any specific brand.
Fuel: To stay fueled while training, I carry GU energy chews or Clif Bloks.
Hydration: I like to mix a nuun electrolyte tablet with water for hydration.
Gear: For a quick change after my workout, I like to carry a dry shirt, socks and shorts.
Snacks: Recovery food usually consists of dry fruit or nuts and a shake with some protein powder. I use whatever’s on sale, as long as it's low in sugar.
Morgan Grodesky has has been coaching and teaching swim lessons since the age of 12. She has been part of the coaching team for the Chevington Woods Kingfish and New Albany Aquatics Club, and is currently involved with the New Albany Country Club, Columbus School for Girls and Unified Aquatics Club programs.
Sports swimsuit: You never know when you might need to get in the water and physically help a swimmer with a movement. I prefer a Nike bathing suit.
Extra goggles and swim caps: In my decade as a swim coach, I’ve seen many goggles or caps break right before a meet or during practice, so I suggest the Speedo women’s Vanquisher.
Sunscreen and SPF chapstick: When competing and training outdoors, the sun can be harsh. It’s always good to protect your skin and lips, especially on meet days when we’re working for 12-plus hours.
Sunglasses: Sports sunglasses are necessary for protection and help to eliminate glare from the water.
Writing utensils: Pens, pencils, highlighters and permanent markers are crucial for meets and practices.
Clipboard and calendars: We use clipboards during meets and practices, and it’s handy to keep a printed copy of the calendar for reference.
A tempo trainer: This is a great piece of equipment that goes right in your swim cap. The Finis Tempo Trainer beeps to let the swimmer know when his or her hand should enter the water.
Everyday swimming equipment: This includes fins, pull buoys, snorkels, paddles, kick boards--all the equipment my swimmers use to emphasize a certain focus. For example, TYR fins are great for practicing body position and undulation of underwater kicks, and snorkels help to eliminate side breathing while also controlling positioning, arm pulls and tempo.
Smartphone with video capability: This is useful for videotaping swimmers. I use the Hudle Technique app, which can pause or make a video clip into slow motion. I also use the phone to record my swimmers’ times and splits to make sure they are pushing themselves. Swimming is a sport that revolves around the clock, rather than relying on judges or referees.
Andrea Metcalf is an alignment and posture expert, a Pilates pro and a dynamic SparkPeople.TV instructor. Her bag is filled with essentials that help her do her job and fit in workouts throughout the day.
Clean outfit: I always carry a clean outfit! I love fun, colored pants to change things up a bit from my black tights, so a solid top is a must and an extra pair of socks and gym shoes, too.
Water: One thing I can't do without is my water. I get so tired when I'm dehydrated so having water is key. I've recently switched to Eternal Water, an alkaline neutral water that is one of the cleanest tasting, pure and pristine ones I've tasted.
Snacks: I have to have food with me, as my days are so busy that I tend to miss meals. Something with protein and something sweet is key for me. I rely on bars such as Primal Kitchen Dark Chocolate Almond bars for post workout because it has 15 grams of collagen protein to help rebuild my muscles.
Skin cream: Lumixyl skin brightening creme is what I use for my skin after showering.
What sports essentials can you not do without in your own gym bag?
We hope you love these products as much as we do! SparkPeople may collect a small percentage of revenue from the links on this page.