What’s in the bag: dos and don’ts to ensure your gym bag has everything you need

If you work out in the morning, getting from the gym to work seamlessly depends on planning - and having the perfectly stocked workout bag.

Nothing scuppers plans like unpacked essentials in your gym bag, which does not need to be fancy, but does need to be functional. Mike Harrington
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Anyone who has undertaken a fitness regime that involves showering outside the home knows just how fraught an experience it can be.

Take the first morning of The National Fitness Challenge at Haddins in January, for example. It had been a while since I’d prepared a workout bag with everything I would need for a day at the office.

Although I was sure I’d nailed it the night before, on the ground – that is, wrapped in a towel looking for my clothes – I realised that things had gone horribly, horribly awry.

See more: Key items to pack into your gym bag

In the bright light of day, the new tights and flowing black top I’d brought to wear – ones I’d only ever tried on in a store – were clearly see-through. I forgot deodorant, which is basically item one. And there was no lip gloss of any variety to be found in my purse. Luckily my home was not far away and I was able to swing by and dress in something a little more likely to pass security. I was reminded just what an exact science it is to pack the perfect workout bag. So here are my top tips:

No fancy outfits

When I see people coming to the gym with suits on hangers, I am always glad I have the kind of job that lets me wear soft fabrics that can be folded without wrinkling. A gym-straight-to-work morning is not the day for a fussy ensemble with a lot of different parts and any ironing at all. If you can keep it to a dress, hose and shoes, all the better.

Double-pack your smalls and other essentials

Extra socks and such will save you down the line and don’t take up very much space, while not having them can be fatal to a workday. Make sure you’ve got two of everything in the bag.

Have a special, downsized toiletry bag

Don’t try to carry everything that’s in your shower. I take medium-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner – the mini hotel varieties deplete too quickly, although their moisturisers work well. Shampoo can double as body wash. A small bottle of avocado oil can double as moisturiser for the face and hair. Tinted moisturiser is the way to go here, as is the simplest of make-up. Just make sure your bag has concealer, mascara, lip gloss and some blusher – although you’ll likely be so flushed from the workout you won’t really need it.

Dry shampoo is your best friend

Some women wash and blow-dry their hair daily, but I’ve never been one of them. And if you are very pressed for time, the best thing to do is skip the wash and spritz your post-workout hair with a drugstore salt spray. A quick blow-dry and a couple of turns with a round brush, and not only will your hair have great body and texture, but you’ll also be on your way that much faster.

Check and double-check for essentials

Going from work to the gym is less tricky, especially if you’re going home right after. But nothing can scupper plans for a post-work exercise session like a pair of missing trainers or sports bra, just as a day without deodorant or socks is not going to be pleasant for anyone.

Don’t get too fancy with the bag

I gave away a complex purple Nike bag I picked up a couple of years ago after growing frustrated with zipping and unzipping all the compartments to make sure I had everything. I still have a Nike workout bag, but this one is in sleeker black and much more basic, with just four interior side pockets and a separate space for shoes on either end.