In an ideal world, we would all have plenty of time to go to the gym. There would be time to have a nutritious snack beforehand, accomplish a full-body workout, and take a glorious shower afterwards without having to rush. But alas, that’s just not how life works.

The reality is, more often than not I find myself squeezing in my workouts. Before morning classes, in between classes and work, before hitting the library… a college student’s schedule lacks the luxury of just going to the gym whenever you feel like it.

This often means traveling with your gym bag all day and planning your workouts around other commitments. I used to shy away from showering at the gym (it seemed like such a hassle to bring everything with me and it didn’t seem sanitary). I’ve since changed my mind. And thank goodness I got over it because otherwise I never would have the time to workout: there just isn’t space otherwise to get to the gym, go back home to shower, and then still get to the next stop for my day on time and unflustered. The good news is that with a little preparation, you can have everything you need to fit in a workout and keep your day running smoothly.

Here’s the rundown of anything and everything you could need in your gym bag: 

To pack daily:

  1. Clean towel and washcloth. Don’t forget to take them out of your bag at the end of the day!
  2. Water bottle. Remember to hydrate before, during, and after.
  3. Protein bar/protein shake. Nothing is worse than sitting through a two-hour lecture after a workout on an empty stomach.
  4. Workout clothes or change of clothes for after.
  5. Plastic bags for wet towel and dirty clothes. At least if you do forget to take them out the grossness will be contained.
  6. Sneakers/change of shoes

To keep in your gym bag always:

  1. Headphones. Gym without headphones = DISASTER. Even if you carry headphones in your backpack, it’s a good idea to keep an extra set in your gym bag to avoid the dread of a silent workout.
  2. Deodorant. No one at the gym wants to smell your stinky pits because you forgot it.
  3. Extra socks. Forgetting to pack socks means either working out without them (eww and uncomfortable) or skipping your workout. Avoid this tragedy and abandon the worry if you decide last minute to wear sandals to class before the gym.
  4. Extra underwear. Again, ewwwww. You don’t want to get out of the shower to discover you didn’t pack clean underwear; better to keep a pair in there just in case.
  5. Inhaler (if needed). Don’t die.
  6. Shower bag. Razor, body wash, shampoo…ya know, the essentials.
  7. Shower sandals. Foot fungus seems about as fun as it sounds.
  8. Odor balls. These are about $6 at TJ Maxx and will prevent your gym bag from smelling like your workout.
  9. Lifting gloves/belt. If you’re a serious lifter, these might be key to your workouts.
  10. Lock. Protect against gym thieves.

And a few more for my ladies…

  1. Extra sports bra. Again, avoid an un-ideal and sweaty post-gym situation.
  2. Make up bag. No explantation needed.
  3. Hair ties and headbands. Nothing is as bad as getting to the gym and realizing you don’t have anything to hold your hair back with. Keep a million hair ties in your bag at all times.
  4. Makeup/skin wipes. Neutrogena makeup wipes are great for taking off your makeup before and after your workout, and for getting rid of running eye makeup after your shower. If you don’t have time to shower, or just need to freshen up, they’re easy to use in a hurry.

To stock up your shower bag:

  1. Plastic shower bag. Contain the mess, protect from leakage. Because who wants shampoo on their sports bra? Answer: no one.
  2. Shampoo and conditioner
  3. Face wash. If you’re going to the gym in the morning, don’t wash your face before you leave. It will dry out your skin. Instead, bring your cleanser to the gym and wash after your workout.
  4. Shower gel. Bringing a bar of soap will just get messy, opt for a small bottle of this instead.
  5. Shaving cream. Five Below has EOS shave cream travel sizes for $5, or make life easy and use conditioner or shower gel.
  6. Razor. Pro tip: put a binder clip over the blade to avoid accidentally cutting yourself. Also, make sure to dry the blade before putting it back in your bag.

Makeup bag for all beautifying needs:

  1. Hair brush. Detangle brushes are great for getting knots out in a hurry.
  2. Dry shampoo. If you didn’t get sweaty enough to warrant a shower, or you just ran out of time, dry shampoo is your savior.
  3. Skin care. Sweating and then washing your face can be tough on your skin. I keep toner, tea tree oil, and moisturizer in my bag to keep my skin healthy on the go.
  4. Body lotion. 
  5. Makeup. Depending on how much makeup you would actually like to put on after the gym, pack accordingly. I just stick with concealer and mascara.
  6. Leave in conditioner/styling product. I recommend using one of these, especially if you’re showering every day at the gym (your hair can get pretty dry from this).

My Gym Bag