Since we're at the start of a new year, there are a lot of us out there who are spending a lot more time in the gym than they usually do. And hey, good for you, if you are! But if you are one of those newly minted gym rats, you might not have your routine down pat just yet. That might mean your workout routine, but it might also be how you prep to go the gym in the first place. You know you have to bring your house keys, gym card (or phone if you scan in with an app), and a water bottle. But depending on your game plan, you might need to bring a change of clothes, extra gear, a snack—it all depends on your preferences.
To make sure you're all prepared for gym time before, during, and after, we made a list of suggestions of essentials to consider. Take a look below and you'll be set for your workout.
A Gym Bag
First things first, well, you're going to need a gym bag. While I've used whatever tote bag I had on hand in the past, when I got a real gym bag (with pockets!), I felt so much more organized rather than just throwing everything into a jumbled abyss. I still use my tote bag if I'm traveling light, but when I am going somewhere afterward or doing a morning workout before heading to the office, I bring my gym bag to make sure I have all my essentials to get ready.
This one has a separate shoe compartment to stash your dirty sneakers after. The size makes it good for quick trips, too.
Big bonus: This bag also converts into a backpack.
If you prefer a backpack, this one will fit all your essentials. It comes with exterior and interior pockets for your water bottle, wallet and keys, even your laptop.
A Water Bottle
Bring your own reusable bottle—you'll be saving yourself some money and also doing your part to reduce single-use plastics. Win-win!
I love Hydro Flasks because they keep your drinks cold for a long time (24 hours to be exact), which is just so refreshing after a grueling workout.
You can't go wrong with a S'well bottle. The slim design makes it easy to stash in just about any cup holder on a gym machine.
This water bottle does double-duty because it's also a foam roller. We have no words for how genius this is.
Unless you're heading to a class with an instructor who has curated a motivating playlist, you're going to want to bring your own headphones so you can listen to whatever you want while you're working out on a machine or on the floor. Splurge for some Bluetooth-capable ones so you don't have to deal with wires.
Just go ahead and splurge for the new AirPods Pro. You can customize the fit, it is sweat-resistant, and it's noise-cancelling (perfect for getting in the zone).
These earbuds are specifically made for workouts, and are sweat-proof and lightweight. You can play them for up to five hours each charge, so you're all set for that long run.
The good thing about the cord on these is they have magnets so you can wear them around your neck when you're not using them.
Some gyms don't provide towels, or maybe you just want to use your own. Either way, it's helpful to pack a towel to wipe off sweat during or after your workout, or to use it on a gym mat to avoid extra slippage.
With over 3000 ratings and 4.5 stars on Amazon, you know this fast-drying and super-absorbent towel will come in handy at the gym.
If you're doing some work on the mat, a towel can help you move freely and with confidence.
After breaking a sweat, a cool towel will feel oh so good for recovery. When you plunge this towel in water, it will magically cool down to 30 degrees below average body temperature in under 30 seconds.
Flip-Flops or Shower-Friendly Shoes
If you're planning on showering at the gym, you might feel comfortable packing a pair of flip flops or shower shoes so you don't have to worry about getting athlete's foot or anything.
The classic Adidas slides are a good option for shower shoes (and to wear outside the gym, too).
Okay, yes shower shoes might not be the chicest, but sometimes practicality wins out (and you're just wearing them in the shower, right?). These have drainage holes for a quick-dry.
Havaianas are so comfortable and they're good for the beach or pool, too.
Skincare and Beyond
If you want to freshen up after your workout session, you're going to want to bring your own toiletries. Some gyms have some stuff on hand, like shampoo, conditioner, lotions, and hair ties, but if you're particular about your own products, you're going to want to BYO this one too. Your gym toiletry kit can be as long or as short as you want, but some basics come to mind: deodorant, dry shampoo (if you don't want to do the whole wash), a brush, hair ties, face wash, and lotion.
This natural deodorant comes highly recommended by Who What What Editor in Chief Kat Collings. It's her go-to.
This lightweight dry shampoo is pretty much formulated just for post-workout hair. It contains natural ingredients like green and brown algae, and tapioca starch.
This mini brush will fit into just about any size gym bag—it's just about seven inches.
You can never have too many hair ties, so keep a couple in your gym bag.
This is one of my favorite cleansers because it's so smoothing and gentle. It also will calm your skin, which might be needed after a grueling, sweaty workout.
This lightweight moisturizer will feel good after your post-workout and leave your skin feeling soft and hydrated.
A Change of Clothes
While you don't have to pack a whole outfit, especially if you don't have plans that require non-activewear, but you might feel more comfortable changing out of your sweaty gym clothes or throwing on an extra layer over said clothes.
This lightweight and roomy pullover is great for before and after your gym session.
It's really tough to wear real clothes right after a workout. You're overheated and exhausted and just the thought of putting jeans on might seem as grueling as exercise. This slip dress is so easy and lightweight to pull on when you've got to be presentable after the gym.
Swap out your skintight leggings for some relaxed joggers as you head out of the gym.
While it's tempting to hit the smoothie or juice bar afterward, that stuff can really add up. So when you're not looking to treat yourself, pack a snack from home like fruit or a protein bar to refuel.
For the nut butter, might we recommend Justin's? It's one of my favorites.
These bars contain 12 grams of protein and five grams of fiber, which will give you a lot of energy post-workout.