Whether you're a two-a-day workout fanatic or a weekend dabbler (but only every other month), you don't want to show up empty-handed at the gym. Worse, you don't want to show up with your hands and pockets stuffed full of the things you need.
A high-end gym bag isn't necessary (a backpack will work just fine), but you do need something to hold the essentials and make your life a little easier -- no extra trips back and forth between home, work and the gym. And you can leave it overnight in a locker at the gym, enabling you to show up empty handed but still have everything you need to get you through a workout -- and to get you out the door not smelling like a farm animal.
So what are the five gym-bag essentials for men? Let's take a look inside.
5: Extra Shaving Kit
Nobody likes to ask a naked stranger if he can bum a squirt of toothpaste in order to brush his teeth with his finger. Unless you religiously skip the locker room and go straight home after working out in a neighborhood gym, you'll want to pack a shaving kit with some basic essentials.
To save yourself the trouble of slapping your forehead while you picture the shaving kit left forgotten (again) on the edge of the sink at home, buy a spare that can stay in your gym bag to save the trouble of moving it back and forth.
You won't need anything fancy. For a few bucks, you can purchase a cheap shaving kit bag, a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, a comb, and some deodorant/antiperspirant, plus cheap duplicates of any other hygiene product you use.
This way, you can get off the treadmill, hit the showers, and make yourself presentable before clocking in for work (or going out for a burger). Now, you won't have to ask a naked stranger for anything -- a win/win situation for everybody.
4: Nutrition Bars
Regardless of your plans after your workout, you're going to need a boost of energy. And if you don't think ahead, you may find yourself idling in a long line at a fast-food drive-through as you wait your turn to buy some of the very food that requires you to work so hard in the gym in the first place.
There's a wide variety of protein and energy bars that can be found in almost any grocery store. Buy a few boxes and keep your gym bag stocked with a handful of them (it can be hard to stop at just one, especially if you've tortured your muscles and cardiovascular system as if they had personally insulted you).
Eating a nutrition bar after a workout will give you the boost you need to think clearly and will help your body as it begins the post-workout process of rest and recuperation. And by planning ahead, you'll ensure that the food you snack on while you're at the gym is healthy, unlike most choices found in the standard snack machine.
Whether you're going to the gym before or after work, or just getting out of the house for a quick workout, you don't want to worry about showing up only to realize you're still wearing work boots or wingtips. Keep a pair of workout shoes in your bag at all times and you won't have to double back to your home to take a second whack at getting prepared -- or decide to park yourself on the couch because it's already too much hassle.
A good pair of cross-training shoes will suit your needs no matter what you do. Whether you decide to lift weights, run on the track, get on the stationary bike, or play a game of basketball or racquetball, cross-trainers won't let you down.
You'll also want to pack a pair of flip-flops so you won't have to stand directly on the locker room floor when you shower or change clothes. Forget your flip-flops and you're asking for a bad case of fungal infection in the form of athlete's foot.
2: Workout Clothes
Knowing that at some point you're going to go on vacation or hit a snag in your workout regimen, it's a good idea to get some mesh shorts so you don't unzip your time-capsule gym bag to be hit by a wall of sour funk. Mesh clothing won't soak up sweat like cotton, so you'll be able to get away with wearing it a couple times between washings if you have to (though the person on the elliptical trainer next to you may wish you hadn't).
Try to find clothing made of polyester or some other synthetic fiber or blend. These will help you stay cool during your workout.
Also, stick at least two T-shirts and a few pairs of ankle socks in your bag. That way, you'll have clean workout clothes in case your gear doesn't make it through the wash.
1: Water Bottle
It's important to stay hydrated during your workouts. If you neglect to drink enough water, not only do you risk dehydration, you're going to get a lot less out of your workouts as your body begins to rebel against your demands for more physical output.
Keeping a water bottle in your gym bag also allows you to continue hydrating on the drive home, instead of stopping at a convenience store and stocking up on pricey bottled water or sugar-laden soft drinks.
Sure, water fountains can be found in any gym that doesn't pride itself too much on torturing its members. But stopping what you're doing -- be it lifting weights, riding a stationary bike or even swimming (and no, don't drink that water) -- to walk across the gym, wait in line, and then do your best to avoid the germs of those who used the water fountain before you gets old quickly. It's much better to bring your own bottle, fill it up at home or at the gym's tap, and be able to access it as you please while you burn off last night's cheeseburgers.
Now cool down, shower up, and see the next page for lots more information on gym bag essentials.