When I first started working out in the gym I had nothing to bring with me, except a water bottle and that was assuming I remembered even that. I have since graduated to a giant gym bag that holds all my essential gym equipment. The gym bag generally stays in my car so it is always ready to for my almost daily trek to the gym.
Equipment? Here is my list of top items. Keep in mind that not everyone will need or even want these items. That’s fine. Figure out what works for you and acquire pieces as you can afford them.
The first item you MUST bring to the gym, no exceptions:
You MUST MUST MUST stay hydrated when exercising. MUST!!! The easiest thing to do is bring a water bottle to wherever you are exercising and drink often. I often see people walking to from the water fountain between sets but that is just annoying to me. I’d rather have a big water bottle with me. I really like the quart (32 oz) size Camelbak water bottle because it can hold a lot of water at once but is not as cumbersome as a whole gallon. I will usually drink 1.5-2 bottles per workout. It is very sturdy and rarely spills or leaks and if it does it is because I didn’t put the mouth spout in place correctly. Please consider treating yourself to a nice, reusable water bottle. You stay hydrated and you keep plastic water bottles out of the landfills. Not many things irk me more than seeing how many plastic water bottles get thrown away every day. Thank the good Lord, my gym now has a recycling can for those bottles.
Unless I am working out with a partner I must, MUST have my tunes with me. So, I strap my smart phone to my arm and have at it. I either listen to mp3’s loaded on the phone or tune into Pandora. Either way the music gets me through my workout. Sometimes I listen to Pop music, sometimes worship music, sometimes 80’s, sometimes movie scores, and even the occasional classical. It all depends on what kind of mood I am in that day.
I confess I have a love-hate relationship with weightlifting gloves. I know they protect my hands from calluses and help keep my hands soft and feminine. But, I often find that I don’t feel like I am getting a good grip on the bar. I like to completely feel the bar to have a good grip on it. My gloves stay in my gym bag and I put them on and take them off based on what I am doing that day. There are plenty of women who never lift without their gloves and gloves are often a first purchase when learning the gym.
What in the world are lifting straps? I knew I was actually learning something when I purchased these babies. Lifting straps are used to compensate for your grip strength that may be lacking. There are times when the weight I am trying to move is much more than my poor hands can handle. My grip is holding me back from progressing in a particular lift. Enter lifting straps. You put them on your wrist and then tightly wrap the strap around the bar and hold on. The strap take a large amount of the strain off your hands so you can focus on the lift. It is also a safety issue. You don’t want the bar to slip out of your hands and start rolling across the floor. I highly recommend straps once you start moving heavier weights and need a little assistance. Besides, they are kind of fun to play with when resting between sets. Just don’t hit anyone with them as you flap your arms. 🙂
Wrist wraps are another piece of equipment that aids in particularly heavy lifts. You wrap these around your wrists to support them like a brace. I use them primarily for chest moves and bicep moves. You can wear wrist wraps along with your lifting gloves. Some people like to purchase lifting gloves with wrist wraps combined in one product. It is up to you. I find it hard to find an all-in-one option that fits my rather small hands.
A proper weight-lifting belt becomes essential as you progress in weights. You will want a proper belt for barbell squats and deadlifts. You want a belt for any moves that could possibly hurt your lower back. The belt offers support as you perform these moves. Think of the belt as insurance. That being said there is no better insurance than proper form and wisdom on how quickly to go up in weight.
I always have a shaker bottle in my bag with 1-2 scoops of protein ready to go. The best time to consume a large amount of protein is within an hour of finishing your workout. Having a shaker bottle on hand makes it tons easier to blend the protein on the run and to drink the shake. Some people like to use their shaker bottle as their water bottle during the workout and just add the protein later.
Finally, I just can’t go without my protein. There are tons of powdered protein options on the market. Go with what tastes the best to you and fits your budget. The product I linked to just happens to be my favorite. Protein powder is perfect for post-workout protein but it is also awesome for smoothies, homemade protein bars, oatmeal, etc. Getting your protein from food is always the best option but powder makes it easy and convenient.