I’m a gym junkie and need to make routines on the fly with little to no equipment. Here is what I ALWAYS have with me. This stays together at all times. In my bag. Always.
Notebook and pen: You can stop reading now. This is the number one thing to have with you at the gym. This means that you have taken ownership of your health and fitness. This is so important, I keep my gym membership card in it. Write your workout down, record the weights used, distance logged and after you’re done, write a short paragraph about your experience. Or some cool move you saw. Or what you have to pay attention to next time. My book is small, like 8x12 cm. Seems less intimidating when it is so small. Also, Its hard to skip a part of your workout when it is written down and you have to check it off.
Jump rope: the fastest, easiest way to burn calories and zone out. If you want to bump up the intensity of any workout, add intervals of jump rope. Bored? Jump rope. No gym? Jump rope, push ups and squats. Can’t break that creative block? Jump rope. Even if gyms carry jump ropes, they are either poorly maintained, not the right size or not the kind you will prefer to use. Bring your own and sprinkle some hops into your routine.
Lifting glove/gymnastic straps/lifting straps: Some prefer to lift without gloves, I am of that group. I have a romantic relationship with steel and iron. But you know what I don’t do? I don’t do pull-ups or other bar work without my gymnastic straps. I have lost too many calluses doing toes to bar for time. You’re out for a week after that. The difference between the grip with and without them is amazing. Bringing chalk is also a good idea but most commercial gyms don’t allow you to use it.
Ankle straps: I am a huge fan of the cable machine. It is just so wonderfully versatile. Although most gyms have one, they do not have ankle straps so that you can incorporate leg and ab work on the cables. Pick up a pair of these puppies and triple the amount of exercises you can do on one machine. Not to mention, these are Leg Day/Glute Day essentials!
Hoodie: Workout warm and burn more calories. Or because sometimes you have to wait for a machine or 6 minutes for another 1 RM attempt and you don’t want to lose your warm up. Because sometimes it is crazy cold at the gym for no darn reason. Because it is a rookie move to leave the gym with a wet t-shirt and wet sports bra still on.
Rubber bands: As a rehab and prehab specialist, I do (and prescribe) a lot of accessory work and injury prevention exercises. Many of those involve getting creative with rubber bands; tharabands around the knees when squatting, around the elbows for push ups, take your lunges and shoulder work up a notch. The exercises are endless. The plus side of this: with a couple of bands, you can take your workout anywhere. It’s like a portable cable machine.
Apple: because sometimes you just need an apple, or some kind of fruit, or a bar. Before, during or after your workout. Give yourself a boost of energy without all those nasty chemicals. And apples are pretty durable in the gym bag.
Emergency t-shirt, underwear and socks: Because one day you will forget, break or ruin one of these items and that is a bad start to what could be a great day. Idiot-proof yourself.
Coconut oil: Deep pore cleaning, make up remover, lotion, quick energy in your coffee, soother and mild antibacterial wash for cuts, scrapes and burns, split end repair, tanning lotion, massage lotion. Very useful stuff. Especially if your gym has a sauna.
Baking Soda: Deodorant, foot powder, exfoliation rub for face and body, dry shampoo, tooth whitener. Again, if you have a sauna you can use the baking soda as a rub, then sit in the sauna and sweat it out. The salt pulls a toxins from the body, acting like a salt bath. Your skin will look and feel great.
Towel or Scarf: I like bringing a scarf. It does the same job without all the extra weight and bulk.
Hair Ties and Clips: These break and someone is usually in need of one. As a coach, I always have hair ties for my clients. It's just polite.