If you want to take your fitness to the next level, you’ll want to invest in the right tools to help improve your training. What you wear and bring to the gym plays a role in your performance and motivation, so here’s a list of specific, exercise-related gear that can help you get more from your training, feel more comfortable and ultimately get more results.
Here, six essentials to throw in your gym bag:
One of the worst feelings in the gym is realizing you forgot your headphones at home and now have to listen to whatever music the gym is playing — or worse, that loud trainer who keeps messing with your count.
Playing the right kind of music — music you like, that gets you in the right mood for your training — can help you perform better than before. In fact, research suggests music can boost your performance and enjoyment during a tough workout. Other research even suggests music can boost your power output for stronger lifts.
Regardless of your training, compression gear is one of the most important items in your gym-wearing arsenal — from sport bras to leggings and shirts to boxers. No one wants to do a sprint workout, lift heavy weights or run 5 miles when your undergarments are stiff, rigid and not moisture-absorbent.
Since compression gear twists, stretches and moves with you, it helps produce better movement patterns. In a study in the Journal of Sport Sciences, researchers found compression shorts might actually reduce injuries and improve athletic performance.
Exercise bands are a great tool to throw into your gym bag: They’re useful during warmups and activation drills, lightweight, portable and affordable.
While many bigger gyms have exercise bands, not all do. (Also, sometimes you might not feel like using communal ones that other people have gotten their sweat on.) Buy a set with varying resistances and keep them in the pocket of your gym bag.
A TENNIS OR LACROSSE BALL
With a tennis or lacrosse ball, you can roll out your muscles to improve your tissue quality. During training, sometimes your muscle fibers develop adhesions or “trigger points,” which are basically super-tense and super-contracted areas of muscle fiber.
If left untreated, these areas affect your joints, limit your mobility and can lead to injuries. Instead, before your workout, spend 5–10 minutes massaging those regions to relax those muscle fibers. It might feel extremely tender at first, but take your time and it will eventually release.
Regardless of your fitness level or goals, proper nutrition and hydration is essential — without it, your performance will suffer and so will your results.
Putting a workout shake in a water bottle can work, but there are some drawbacks. First, they don’t really keep things cold for long periods of time; this isn’t an issue if you’re just filling up at the drinking fountain, but it’s not great if you’re training on a hot day or if you have to make your workout drink hours before you even get to the gym.
HEART RATE MONITOR
If you haven’t trained with a heart rate monitor yet, you might consider starting now.
To get the maximal improvements from your training, a heart rate monitor helps you gauge how hard you’re working. But instead of guessing or just “going by feel,” a heart rate monitor tells you in real-time how much you’re working so you can make any necessary adjustments.
You’ll also be able to take your conditioning workouts to the next level by ensuring you’re always training in the right ranges (e.g., aerobic versus anaerobic) and getting adequate rest and recovery between intervals.