As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, it is my responsibility to assist my clients in the successful transition to a healthier lifestyle. I was always told that success is opportunity met with preparation, so when it comes to working out you must be prepared. I train clients in all types of environments including their homes, gyms, parks, recreation centers, tennis courts, fitness studios and beyond. Understanding that exercise can take place anywhere, it is imperative to make sure that you are always prepared. To assist you in that preparation, I’ve compiled a list of my Top 5 Gym Bag Essentials:

1) Filtered Water Bottle The number one rule in exercise is to stay hydrated. I’m not an advocate of drinking out of public fountains, therefore I strongly suggest getting a filtered water bottle. It’s a great way to save money, stay hydrated and help the earth. Water is often contaminated with thousands of chemicals and pollutants like chlorine and clostridium (known to cause diarrhea if ingested), therefore having a filtered water bottle helps minimize the risk of sickness due to contaminated drinking water. Regardless of what exercises you attempt, make sure that you are properly hydrated. Dehydration increases your body temperature, thickens your blood, raises your heart rate and decreases your cognitive thought process. It is also one of the leading causes of hospitalizations from exercise.

2) Proper Fitness Attire What you wear to workout in can be as important as the workout itself. Ideally, you want to wear clothing that is comfortable and that allows full range of motion. Yoga pants, sweatpants, basketball shorts, tank tops and t-shirts are all great items to carry with you. That way no matter where or when your workout takes place, you’ll be prepared. Avoid clothing like denim, khakis and dress slacks. (Yes, I’ve witnessed people workout in dress slacks.) They restrict movement, which leads to improper form and increased risk of injury. Your attire is not limited to just pants and shirts. Shoes are also a very important part of your overall fitness attire. Don’t go to the track for a last minute jog in work boots because you left your running shoes home. Proper shoes are a must-have at all times. I suggest basketball sneakers because they tend to be comfortable and also give your ankles support. The last thing you want to do is twist your ankle because your shoes didn’t offer much support.

3) iPod/MP3 Player Over the past few decades many studies have been conducted to decipher the connection between exercise and music. The general conclusion is that listening to music while exercising helps to increase brain function, and allows the individual to exercise more effectively and efficiently. Since our brains have to sort out tones, sequence sounds and adjust to timing, it causes an influx of activity in the frontal lobe which is the most dopamine-sensitive part of the brain. The frontal lobe is associated with motivation, planning and attention, all of which are needed and used during exercise. These feelings can also be altered, based on the mood the music gives off.

4) Post-Workout Protein Drink  Immediately following your workout, your body begins the recovery process. Your body is working to repair and rebuild your muscles to be stronger and more equipped for your next challenge. During a workout you are tearing your muscle fibers (also known as myofibrils). The damage done to your myofibrils breaks down the protein within them, causing the amino acids stored in your muscles to be used and consumed as energy while working out. By consuming a protein drink within 30 minutes after your workout, you are replacing the amino acids in your muscles, aiding in your bodies recovery. It is very important to replace the depleted amino acids as well as other essential vitamins that have been used during your workout. By doing so you are speeding your body’s recovery process, limiting muscles soreness and feeding your muscles what they need in order to grow.

5) Heart Rate Monitor or Watch It is essential to keep track of your heart rate during exercise. Your heart rate can determine how intense your exercise is and whether you are under-training or over-training. It is imperative to stay within your target heart rate to ensure a safe and effective workout. Your target heart rate is a percentage of your maximum heart rate (beats per minute) that you should never exceed during a workout. The American Heart Association recommends a target heart rate of approximately 50-85% of your maximum heart for a healthy person and no more than 50% of your maximum heart rate if you are normally sedentary, unhealthy or new to exercise. An easy way to determine your maximum heart rate is to use the age-predicted Max HR Formula:

Women: 226-your age= Age Predicted Max HR
Men: 220-your age=Age Predicted Max HR

It is very important to be prepared when it’s time to work out. This list of essentials should help to keep you motivated and ready for whatever challenges you may face during your next workout. Remember, a key ingredient to successful training is a well-equipped trainee.

What’s in your gym bag?

Quentin Vennie is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer specializing in weight loss, weight management, strength/conditioning and mass building. He started training his family and friends for the love of it until his work took on a life of its own. Only a few months after acquiring his certification, he started his own Personal Training Company, Life-Fx Training  LLC. and has been transforming lives ever since. Quentin is in the process of opening the first Life-Fx Training Studio in Baltimore, MD. and continues to participate in speaking engagements, conferences, and health fairs, spreading the word on the importance of health and fitness.