Whether you’re headed to the gym for a training session or getting ready to leave your tread on the track for a few rounds of sprints, it’s important to have your gym bag essentials on hand.
Most people know to include workout gear for their specific sport—whether it’s a weightlifting belt or new minimalist kicks—but it’s all too easy to miss these must-haves below.
Before you head out the door for your next workout, make sure you have these seven gym bag essentials packed away.
Resistance Band1 of 8
Resistance bands aren't just portable and versatile, they're also great for warming up joints, since they increase mobility and activate lesser-used muscles with slow and controlled movements.
Warming up with front pull-aparts, where you perform a reverse-fly motion with the band, can help target your shoulders. Lateral walks, where you place the band just above your knees and walk sideways while crouched down in a quarter squat, can help strengthen your abductors, glutes and quads.
Speed Rope2 of 8
Whether the treadmills are taken or you're just looking for a quick way to boost your heart rate with cardio, a jump rope is always a fantastic option. Jump ropes give you total control. You can go for a longer, slower session or ramp things up with high-intensity action.
Jump ropes also allow you to work on your coordination, agility, rhythm, speed and power while torching calories—that's more than can be said for monotonous walks on the treadmill.
Lacrosse Ball3 of 8
The small surface area of a lacrosse ball makes it the perfect tool to relieve tightness in hard to reach spots. Using a lacrosse ball to apply pressure to trigger points—specifically those in your glute, shoulder and hip—can aid in myofascial release and help ease pain or soreness. Think of it as a portable, full-body massage.
Positioning a ball between your back and a wall, while moving in a circular motion, can also ease shoulder pain.
Feet sore from running? Place a lacrosse ball under your foot and roll it around to relax tight arches.
Foam Roller4 of 8
After you've pushed yourself in a workout, it's important to give achy, sore muscles some attention. If the surface area you're targeting is too big for a lacrosse ball, reach for a foam roller.
A post-workout, soft-tissue kneading session is a great way to cool down and prep for your next workout by releasing the stress built up in trigger points and reestablishing proper movement patterns.
Foam rolling always breaks up scar tissue, removes lactic acid build-up and improves circulation
Workout Log5 of 8
In order to know where you're going, you have to know where you've been.
Keeping track of progress is a good thing, and your workout log should have a set place in your gym bag. Knowing the weight you used for certain reps will help your progress in the gym, just as tracking the pace of your 5K practice run will help your goal half-marathon time.
Seeing patterns in your training can also help you pinpoint what works best—whether that's how early to eat prior to training, how much to rest between sets or what time of day is most conducive to your success. On days you're feeling down, looking at how far you've come can help reignite your drive to fight on.
Heart Rate Monitor6 of 8
If you're looking to add some scientific backing to your training—and gauge just how hard you're working—toss a heart rate monitor in your bag.
Heart rate monitors help you maintain the training intensity needed to reach your goals and ensure you're not just spinning your wheels at 30 percent of your max when you're trying to push through an intense HIIT session.
In addition to measuring your level of effort, some of them can even track your progress over time and give you the digital reminder, and motivation, to train harder.
Extra Clothing7 of 8
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it's often overlooked. Packing an extra pair of leggings or shorts, underwear and a tank can help in a pinch. Not only will you have something to wear if you forget to pack your gym clothes, but you'll have something to change into if your training session leaves you soaking wet.
Even something as small as throwing an extra pair of tennis shoes in your bag can help cut back on excuses to skip your workout by limiting the number of steps standing between you and the gym—because, let's face it, if you have to stop at home after work to change clothes, you'd likely fall into a Netflix binge on the couch.
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