2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on packing a gym bag for the office, but you may also want to check out our post about how to stay fit in winter.
Reader A has a question about what to pack for a workout before, during, or after work hours:
I am an attorney in Chicago. I absolutely LOVE your site and I was wondering if you could do an article about gym bags. Specifically, essentials to have in your gym bag so you don’t have to repack it every time you work out. Also, maybe some cute/durable/good sized bags that you’ve seen. Finally, this may sound silly, but advice on how to pack the bag, like have the stuff you’ll use in the shower in one little pouch; hair stuff in another; or maybe hair stuff with makeup combined.
I don’t necessarily want to own two of everything and my gym does have hair dryers, brushes (not the best though), etc. but if I workout in the morning and I am going to the office afterwards, or after work and want to look presentable when I leave (it is a nice gym with lots of potential business connections), it’d help to have some guidance on what to have and how to pack it in there.
Great question, and I’m curious what readers have to say. The gym bag that I’ve used and loved for the past few years is similar to the one above (LeSportsac – Deluxe Everyday Bag (Dance Dance) – Bags and Luggage, available at Zappos on sale for $58.50) — it’s super lightweight, big enough to fit everything, but small enough to keep me from getting overly ambitious. When I’ve gone to the gym near work it’s been after work, so for my own $.02, my gym bag would contain:
- flip flops for the shower — my very first job was as a lifeguard at a public pool and we got a lot of lectures about how gross the natatorium floor was as well as the bathroom floor, and as a result I would never, ever go barefoot in a public space like that.
- tiny bottles of face wash and face moisturizer/SPF (kept in a ziploc bag)
- very limited makeup: for me, an eyelash curler, blush, concealer, and lipgloss (but if I were planning on going to the gym before work, that answer might change)…One of the reasons I love LeSportsac so much is because they always come with perfect little bags for cosmetics like this.
- a shower cap, a hair tie, and dry shampoo such as Psssssst Instant Spray Shampoo, and a comb — my hair is at the point where it’s really comfortable with dry shampoo so I would probably just wash my face and body and skip the full wash at the gym. Furthermore, most of the gyms that I’ve used have provided soap, shampoo, and conditioner, which would be fine if I did want to wash my hair fully. The hair tie is key, though, since I’ve been known to forget them… I keep them stashed everywhere and somehow am still always out!
- sport wipes in case I didn’t have time to shower, such as Neutrogena Deep Clean Sport On-The-Go Cleansing Wipes
- deodorant, possibly a small vial of your perfume
- fresh underwear in a Ziploc bag — I’ve always done this on the theory that the Ziploc bag keeps the fresh underwear fresh, plus it gives you a place to put your old sweaty underwear
- a lock for the locker
- tech equipment to use at the gym — a spare set of headphones, an old iPod shuffle, even a music CD if your gym still has slots to put a CD near the equipment.
- an empty, clean water bottle — that way you have it if you forget one, but it doesn’t add bulk.
- extras: an extra sports bra, an extra pair of socks — possibly even an extra bra or an extra black t-shirt (I’ve actually never used these at the gym, but I have headed for my gym bag when I realized that, say, my black bra was showing through my shirt, or when I spilled soup or something on the shirt I wore to work — but you don’t need to keep these in your bag!)
Readers, what do you keep in your gym bags at the office? Which bags are your favorite? And what are your best tips for working out near the office, whether it’s before/after/during work?