Wednesday 12 August 2015

My Gym Bag Must-Haves

   I was tidying out my gym bag - yes, I workout at home and have a gym bag - the other day, removing weak resistance bands and other things that had been tossed in there when my brain goes sleepy-byes at the end of my workouts, and I decided I'd share my personal essentials, ranging from workout aids like electrolyte tabs to more basic vanity. Every girl likes something nice, after all.

   First of all: kit.
   A sports bra is simply essential. The ligaments in your breasts are not elastic and you can do irreparable damage if you're jumping around unsupported, and I don't trust the built-in stuff. I always make sure I go for quality, so I have a number of gorgeous Panache sports bras - the best part? Panache sports bras are available from B to J cup sizes, and 28-40 back sizes, so even busty ladies can get the best support even while grinding out burpees.
   Good clothing, preferrably moisture-wicking, is always good. Comfort, form-fitting to avoid catching and 4-way stretch are pretty basic essentials. I also have a personal criteria for tops and bottoms: the tops have to be vest/racers, plain in colour but with an interesting back like low-cut, open, cross-over straps, narrow as hell racer back, vents and so on, while the bottoms should be capris with a gorgeous all-over print. These are just my preferences, and when it comes to tops, I love Fabletics, and when it comes to bottoms, it's USA Pro. I need their acid rose 3/4s but I can't decide which size to buy.
   Shoes also need good shock-absorption, stability and comfort. Again, I use USA Pro because they've yet to let me down.

   That covers vanity and basic practicality. Then comes the nitty gritty.
   Hair bands. I need really good ones. My hair is long and it's thick, so it's very heavy. I've used a number of different types of hairbands in the past and it's taken me a long while to find any that will do the job reliably even against dancing, burpees, jumping jacks, suicides and so on. Funnily enough, they don't look like they'd do much good. Invisibobbles or anything similar are my go-to hairbands. They're plastic and they look like old phone cords, but they're brilliant. They keep elasticity better than elastic hair bands, and they have better grip, too. I can't retie my hair half-way through my workout because my hands are sweaty and my arms are tired so I'll only end up knotting it, getting frustrated and losing my mojo. So it needs to last an hour - and these do.
   Nasal spray. It's gross, I know, but sometimes your nose starts running and when you're doing renegade rows or push-ups, that's just not helpful, or, in particular, plank jacks, mountain climbers or any downward-facing cardio move because then your breathing matters all the more. So nasal spray can help eliminate that problem. I always have a little stick on hand.
   Weight gloves. These things are a godsend. I actually have three different pairs. One I bought for yoga, so I keep them for yoga. The Toesox gloves have thin palms so they're not great for heavy weights, but they're perfect for (and designed for) extra grip on the yoga mat. The second pair is from Blogilates and I bought them, in truth, because they're gorgeous. These have thicker palms and provide a bit of padding, which is perfect for heavier weights, and the grip is stronger too which helps not only holding on to weights, but also helps when I have cardio moves on the mat in the same workout but my hands are too sweaty and I risk slipping. The third pair is from USA Pro, they have thick palms again, but they don't have much grip. I use these for kettlebells. They keep the sweat from reaching the weight which in turn helps my grip, but because they have little to no grip themselves, snatches and racking isn't hindered. I'd likely injure my wrist if I tried to use kettlebells in my Blogilates gloves because, in many cases, your grip on the handle switches.
   Towel! It goes without saying that you're going to get sweaty, and some workouts are harder than others. I seriously recommend a gym towel - they're not very big, just enough to mop up, really, but believe me you'll be glad you bought it when you need it, and kicking yourself if you didn't buy it.
   Stopwatch. I usually use the clock if I'm upright sprinting on the spot in a HIIT workout or something, but if I'm face-down in plank or some plio-variation, I can't keep craning my neck to look up at the clock. So a stop watch is essential. I think I paid about 99p on ebay for this, and it's not let me down yet.

   And finally, onto the workout aids.
   Nuun tabs. Adding one of these to 500ml water, which is about how much I get through in a typical workout, means not only do I guarantee to finish the bottle, but it also hydrates me more effectively. I reviewed them last year and fell in love with them; they have since become a staple part of my workout kit. And when I run out and am forced to use plain water, I notice the difference.
   Thermogens - though this is more of a psychological thing. You have to take them, on average, 30 minutes before your workout, and that means that, once taken, I've committed and I've laid down the time I intend to begin. This gives me half an hour of direct mental preparation as I get things ready to use. I have little idea if they truly work, but they at the very least have a placebo effect that leads me to work harder and more consistently.
   A little protein and carbs are important post-workout, and while it's always best to source it from real food for the best quality, post-workout shakes are a good alternative. Protein helps your body repair muscle, especially after a strength or resistance workout, and carbs provide the energy your body needs to make those repairs. A post-workout shake should also provide both. Some post-workout shakes don't, however, and are more like protein shakes instead. In this instance, sticking the powder in a blender with some water and fruit to make a protein-enhanced smoothie would provide the necessary carbohydrates in fruit form. Or, you could also bring some fruit with your shake, be that pure fruit like an apple, or more convenient (but still just) fruit like a pouch of Urban Fruit, a BEAR yoyo or BEAR paws, or a nakd bar. All of these count as one of your 5 a day, too, and BEAR paws are good fun!
   Music is another important workout aid, it really can make or break your workout, like I said in my workout habits post. If my workout doesn't use DVDs, I make sure to have some music on hand, be that a game soundtrack or a Lindsey Stirling album. These are my go-tos!

   What are your workout necessities? What's in your gym bag? Feel free to post a link to your workout must-haves post in the comments!


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