Let’s be honest — workout out from home has been great in many ways. We’ve all saved time commuting to and from the gym, and some of us have actually worked out more this past year due to flexible schedules working from home. 2020 brought us the home cycling trend with the Peloton bike, the ability to build our own power racks at home and the knowledge that we can build a great home gym with just a few pieces of equipment. However, now that vaccination rates are rising in the U.S and the protection they provide has proven to be robust, the CDC has told vaccinated people they no longer need to wear a mask or socially distance indoors or out — essentially flashing a green light on a return to pre-pandemic life. And for many, this means a return to the gym.
If you’re a gym rat whose been itching to head back into the motivating atmosphere a gym provides, you can now do so with much more confidence and peace of mind than you could a year ago. However, in a post-COVID world a giant room filled with sweaty people breathing heavily is going to feel different. The contents of your gym bag might look different, and we’re here today to guide you through the packing process. We want to arm you with the best gear possible so you can have a safe, comfortable experience achieving those PRs and making gains of all kinds. Here are your post-COVID gym essentials.
What to Consider Before Heading Back to the Gym:
The gear you wear will most likely be the same, with a few adjustments here and there. You’ll probably want to bring your own towel, since communally shared towels, no matter how clean, are probably going to feel different post-pandemic.
Even though COVID-19 mostly spreads through droplets in the air, you’ll probably feel more comfortable if you bring your own sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. That way you’ll know the machine you’re about to use or weight you’re about to hold is as germ-free as possible.
Airflow + Masking
Since COVID-19 has been proven to be a disease spread primarily through the air, rather than on surfaces, heading to a gym where airflow is a priority is a great idea. If they’ve made it a point to install better air filtration and circulation systems, that’s a major pro. Bonus points if they keep large garage doors or windows open and allow fresh air to flow in and out. Also, if they require masks still, there are plenty of athletic face masks out there to choose from so you can abide by policies without being incredibly uncomfortable.
1. A New Gym Bag
A new gym routine means a new bag is in order. Remember when your mom would buy you a new backpack for the first day of school? This is kind of like that. They make excellent gym bags these days that are designed for organization and cleanliness in mind. This one from Nike is large enough to hold all your gear inside and still has a sleek, classic design on the outside without unnecessary fluff. It’s made of durable materials and has a padded shoulder strap so carrying it is comfortable.
This bag from Amazon Basics is another solid choice for a gym bag. It’s got two large zippered pockets that are vented and perfect for your dirty laundry or keeping your smelly gym shoes away from your other belongings. It’s a nice medium size that’s not too large and not too small, and it’s got an abrasion-resistant bottom so your stuff stays protected. The shoulder strap is padded and it’s got padded handles for carrying as well.
2. Hand Sanitizer
You can’t go wrong bringing your own little bottle of hand sanitizer to the gym. You can squeeze a little on when you get there to protect others and cleanse on the way back to your car so you know you’re not contaminating everything. Purell’s formula is powerful and effective, and is designed to kill 99.99% of germs. The flip top makes it easy to squeeze it out in a pinch and is designed to not spill. These little travel-size bottles will also take up almost no space in your bag.
3. Sanitizing Wipes
We’re not saying you have to sanitize every surface you touch in the gym, but using wipes on communal equipment was a practice before COVID and we’re guessing it’s going to stick around. If you want to bring your own to the gym, Wet Ones makes great travel packs that don’t leak and have a tight seal on the front so the wipe stays fresh. The formula kills 99.99% of germs and dries quickly so it’s perfect for a quick wipe down.
4. Your Own Towel
Before COVID you might’ve not thought twice about the towels at the gym. We know they’re washed and sanitized, but post-pandemic it may feel uncomfortable to use a towel that countless other strangers have also dabbed themselves with. That’s why it’s a great idea to stash a few of your own in your gym bag. This microfiber towel pack from OlimpiaFit includes three microfiber towels that are fast-drying and of varying sizes so all your activities are covered. There’s a large one that’s perfect for laying over communal mats at the gym, as well as two smaller ones for sweat management.
5. Your Own Mat
Speaking of mats, skip the sweaty communal mats at the gym that definitely aren’t sanitized enough and just bring your own. This one from Gaiam essentials is super lightweight and comes in a whole bunch of colors. It’s got a sticky texture that’s designed to be non-slip and is super easy to roll up and throw in your bag or over your shoulder as you travel to and from the gym.
6. Under Armour Sportsmask
This was our favorite sports mask for running last year and is still the one we’d recommend wearing if your gym requires face coverings after re-opening. It’s made of high-performance UA fabric, has a water-resistant outer shell and a structured design so it sits off your lips and leaves plenty of breathing room. It’s been treated with an anti-microbial layer on the inside to keep things fresh and is made of Iso-Chill fabric designed to keep you cool.
7. Your Own Water Bottle
You probably already do this, but just in case you want a new one for heading back into the gym this one’s a solid pick. Skip the water fountain a.k.a putting your lips very close to a nozzle other people have probably touched and go with this bottle from Iron Flask instead. It’s vacuum-insulated so it’ll keep your water cold and it comes with three different lids including a carabiner straw lit, a flip lid and a stainless steel lid. It’s made of 18/8 stainless steel that’s BPA-free for better taste, and it’s got a powder-coated finish that avoids scratches.
8. Shower Shoes
If you plan on showering at your gym again, you should bring your own shower shoes. This one doesn’t really have anything to do with COVID, but is moreso a best practice in all communal showers, pandemic or not. These slides from Adidas are a classic option that also won’t take up too much space in your gym bag. They’re completely waterproof and dry easily, and have a grippy rubber sole so you won’t slip. They’ve got arch support as well and come in a whole bunch of colors.
9. Your Own Hair Dryer
If you’re a blow dry guy post-shower, avoid using the communal one that other people frequently handle and bring your own. This travel hair dryer is built small and compact, and is perfect for throwing in your gym bag so you don’t have to share with others. It’s got simpler functionality than other options because of its small size, but it’ll get the job done in a pinch. It has two heat/speed settings and a cool shot button as well. It’s easy to use, is super lightweight and has ionic technology designed to minimize frizz.
It’s always good to minimize the amount of bodily fluids you’re expelling from your body, especially post-pandemic. Control the sweat with one of these athletic headbands that not only serve a purpose but look pretty legit too. They’re made of sweat-wicking material that’s made to pull moisture away from the face, and they’re super lightweight as well. They’re versatile, one-size-fits-all and super comfortable to wear.