When packing my gym bag there are five things that I double-check I’ve put in before I zip it closed. They are my gym essentials and each one plays an important part in me having a fun and productive training session.
The phrase ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’ perfectly encapsulates the importance of a training plan. I believe that if you have a goal, fitness or otherwise then you need a plan to help you get there. Achieving any long-term fitness improvement takes time and I think that a lot of people become frustrated at their lack of progress once the initial excitement has worn off and that is exactly where a plan can help.
I keep a training journal that includes not just my training plans but also what I eat and my body stats (weight, body fat, body water etc). Doing this helps keep my goals front of mind and can help remind me of how far I have come. As my job can be pretty hectic I make time every Sunday to plan out my training for the coming week. This means that as soon as I step in the gym I know exactly what my session entails so all my energy goes into maximising my time there.
iPhone and Headphones
Music helps me in two ways at the gym, firstly it blocks out any distractions and secondly it keeps me motivated if I begin to flag. As soon as my headphones go on I enter my own little world and ignore what else is going on around me. It might seem a little anti-social but I am there to improve my fitness not make friends.
My wife bought me some BeatsByDre solo headphones for my birthday last year and I love them. The sound quality is exceptional and they block out most distractions, which helps me focus completely on my training and makes my time at the gym much more productive.
When training I generally listen to playlist that I’ve put together myself. It usually contains a mix of R&B, Hip Hop and House, although I have to admit the odd pop song makes it in from time to time. I find the right music motivates and inspires me to push through moments when my brain is telling me to quit.
It sounds like a no brainer but for me the right gym kit plays a huge part in having a great training session. At the most basic level, wearing the wrong kit can lead to injury. I once spent silly money on some running shoes because I like how they looked. Six weeks later (half way through a 12-week half marathon training plan) I found out that they were the cause of the pain in my calf and knee. Since then I‘ve always had my running gait tested before I buy a pair of running shoes.
Although I will seek professional advice when buying running shoes, for the rest of my gear it comes down to how it feels and fits. When I am training I don’t want my clothing to be a distraction. I like to wear t-shirts that feel comfortable against my skin and don’t feel restrictive. On my lower half I always wear shorts, if I wear tracksuit bottoms or running tights I get too hot. Finally I try and make sure that what I’m wearing works together. I am not someone who plans every detail of their gym outfit (I don’t have the time) but a blue t-shit and red shorts are a no for me!
I try to consume three litres of water a day and even more on days when I am training. I’ve not always been a fan of H2O, I used to prefer drinks like Diet Coke and squash. However since learning the importance of water I have changed my habits. The research I’ve done into the impact dehydration has on training performance has highlighted two key things:
- Being dehydrated can affect the your physical performance, you body doesn’t function as well as it should
- Being dehydrated can impair your ability to concentrate
For these reasons I make sure a water bottle is in my gym bag before I leave the house and when training I take on water regularly. My current water bottle of choice is from Brita. I picked one up after a friend raved about how much they loved theirs and now mine goes everywhere with me.
I bought a Polar RCX3 watch three years ago and I feel naked if I am not wearing it when I train. At the moment I’m mainly using it to keep track of rest periods in between sets when weight training. I try and keep the rest periods I have as consistent as possible to ensure I don’t tire out too quickly or give myself too long a break. That way I get the most of out my training.
My watch also came with a heart rate monitor and I have used this every time I have trained for events like triathlons or half marathons. I will be using a lot in the New Year to monitor my performance during each of my 100-mile bike ride training sessions. That way I will know if I am pushing too hard or not hard enough. From there I can tailor my effort to make sure I get the results I want.
I know I can train without these items, I have forgotten each of them on more than one occasion, but having them in my bag when I arrive at the gym means that with the right attitude I’m guaranteed a great session.