How do you minimize the crap you bring to the gym?
June 7, 2007 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Gym/Bag Lady filter: How do you minimize the crap you bring to the gym?

So I started working out at the gym. Yay for me!

I've been going to the gym in the evening after work. It's right on my way home and I commute by public transit 45 minutes each way. All the stuff I have to bring to the gym mean that I'm basically packing for a weekend trip every time I go to work! Since this is all packed in a backpack, it's kind of a drag. Here is what I'm bringing:

For work:
Breakfast, lunch, (as we all know, this is healthier and cheaper than eating at work, so these stay), book for the train, sweater, sometimes mail or things I need for errands, wallet, phone, sunglasses, keys, chapstick

For the gym:
hand towel for equipment, towel for shower (the 45 minute commute sweating in work clothes is a no go for me.) Workout sneaks, socks, shorts/pants, sports bra, shirt, bandana (new short haircut), i-pod, lock, water bottle, Burt's Bees outdoor shampoo/soap combo (this was my first minimization attempt)

Then there are the things I kind of wish I had, but I'm refraining so far: flip flops, fresh outfit for post gym, lotion

My question is, do you guys bring all this stuff? Do you have any strategies for things I could leave out or combine to minimize the load? Also, if there is no way for me to minimize this stuff, do you have any packing strategies that might help me make this go a little faster when I am packing up so I know I have everything?
posted by paddingtonb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Hiring a locker is a God send if you have a lot of stuff to commute with.
posted by Hates_ at 1:49 PM on June 7, 2007

For the lotion (and shampoo/conditioner), try a travel size bottle and refill it every week.
For the towels, try the microfiber towels - they are very thin, very absorbent. They have small and large ones and they pack extremely well.
For the flip-flops, try getting one of those free pairs that you get at a pedicure. Super thin, but perfect for just keeping your feet from touching the floor.
posted by j at 1:55 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Can you use the same towel for equipment and post-shower? Do you really need a towel for equipment -- are you sure there aren't paper towels there already? Do you really need the soap and shampoo? (You probably don't need to shampoo your hair every day, and every gym I've been to had soap dispensers.) Can you eat breakfast at home before you head out? Do you have to dress up for work, or can you exercise in the shirt you'd worn that day? Do you really need a water bottle -- why not just drink from the water fountains or sink at the gym? Can you leave a sweater at work instead of carrying one on the commute?

(I am not expecting answers to these questions.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:57 PM on June 7, 2007

I'm blessed to have a gym that provides towels and soap/shampoo combo myself.

How much trouble would it be for you to have a separate gym bag instead of a backpack?

Otherwise, the only thing I can think of is to try to utilize big ziplock plastic bags to help separate groupings of items. I used to always pack my bag at night (now I live close to the gym so I usually just shower at home.)
posted by konolia at 1:57 PM on June 7, 2007

I have a Timbuk2 Market bag and I carry:
For running:
--sports bra

For swimming

My gym provides towels and I use them. I do not shower at the gym after running, only after swimming. And because I like to make Gaia cry, I spend a dollar on water at the gym if I need it. Otherwise, I trough at the water fountain.
posted by gsh at 2:03 PM on June 7, 2007

Buy two-gallon ziplock bags to put your gym clothes in -- compressing the air out means the clothes take up a lot less room. Stinky gym clothes go back in the bag to go home. (The bags can be aired out and used for awhile. And you can have one "dirty" and one "clean" bag, for extra smell-security.)

Washcloth for gym equipment. Or just use their paper towels.

Leave your sweater at work.
posted by desuetude at 2:13 PM on June 7, 2007

Leave the sweater AT work all week if you only need it while you're sitting at your desk (not for the commute).
posted by tristeza at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2007

Definitely find a gym with its own towels. That's going to be the major difference.

How big is your water bottle? I personally carry a half-liter nalgene, but fill it up more than once at the gym.

Same with shampoo/soap/lotion: get small bottles and just refill them. All of my toiletries have to fit in a small plastic baggie anyways (thanks, TSA).

Depending on storage space at work and/or gym, you could bring multiples on one day and take them all home on another day, at least minimizing the # of days you have to commute with a big pack. (I tried this for a while but I'm just not that organized-- maybe you are!)
posted by nat at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2007

I bring most of the same stuff as you, plus a change of clean non-work clothes and flip flops.

I don't bring:
* breakfast - I eat at home
* sunglasses, chapstick - don't need 'em.
* sweater - leave at work
* towels (provided by my gym)
* shampoo - I just run water through my hair and do real shampoo showering at home.

I pack my gym clothes before bed, and keep the stuff I always need (like lock, flip flops & water bottle) in my bag at all times. So all I need to do is lunch & go.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:20 PM on June 7, 2007

Leave a box of cereal at your office, so you don't have to tote breakfast every day.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:21 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I wear my gym shoes on my commute and store all of my work shoes, save for one pair, at work. Makes my commute more comfortable and eliminates the carrying of an additional pair of shoes each day.
posted by decathecting at 2:22 PM on June 7, 2007

Seconding microfiber towels - they are awesome. They don't feel like they'll be as absorbent as a normal bath towel, but they work surprisingly well and take up a fraction of the space of a normal towel.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:56 PM on June 7, 2007

I would try to find a gym closer to home so I could just leave the gym sweaty but only have to be in public unshowered for 10-15 minutes. Joggers are sweaty in public all the time.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:57 PM on June 7, 2007

Leave the gym in your gym clothes. Shower and change at home. This eliminates most toiletries, the second outfit, and your worries about flip flops and extra towels. All of that will save you lots of room.

When I'd go, I'd come from home in my gym clothes and no makeup aside from lip balm, and leave in my gym clothes with maybe a bit of gloss on.

Very simple.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:02 PM on June 7, 2007

I knew metafilter would come through!

Some comments:

I'm on a 24 hour fitness family plan so the gym is free (thanks mom!), meaning I ain't switching, and I'm stuck with having to bring my own lock/towel/stuff if I want to work out since 24hrFit doesn't rent lockers nor do they have towels.

I don't so much mind being sweaty in public as being sweaty sitting on BART in work clothes. That's gross for me and my poor seatmate, and will make the commute way less bearable.

It sounds like I'm not missing anything that I'd really be ok giving up unless I want to drastically change the routine, so I'm probably going to concentrate on my packing systems.

Keep em coming though! It's fun to hear how everyone else handles life's little quandaries.
posted by paddingtonb at 3:29 PM on June 7, 2007

1. I don't shower at the gym. It saves me a lot of trouble bringing stuff, plus dealing with wet towels. I can deal with not looking quite so fresh until I get home (especially if I'm not doing anything after). Don't put your regular work clothes back on if that freaks you out, just go home in your gym clothes. If you can deal with looking not so immaculate for 45 minutes of commute, you can take some major load off your backpack because all that shower stuff eats a lot of bag space.

(I've been on BART. Girl gym smelly is not remotely as bad as uh, other kinds of Bay Area smelly. People can deal if they have to. I figure you're going to totally hate/ignore this bit, but oh well, it's your life and feel free to ignore it.)

2. I try to wear my gym clothes under my regular clothes as much as possible. If I'm wearing pants that day, the gym pants go underneath the work pants. Shorts can go under a skirt. Sports bra/tank top can go under almost anything. If some of the stuff you are bringing in the morning (food) won't be coming home with you, you'll have the space in your pack to put work clothes in the bag later on.

3. Definitely do NOT pack extra flip-flops and lotion and whatnot- your feet will survive and you can lotion up and pick out a better outfit at home.

I have about as overloaded a backpack as you do (god, I hate packing shoes, hate hate hate, that's half the backpack just to bring sneakers, and if I showered there, a towel would take up the other half), but that's how I manage to not have to bring two bags full o' crap for the gym plus daily living.

I have the impression, though, given how you want to bring even more stuff, that maybe you might just want to suck it up and bring a backpack plus a special gym bag. Paring down just might not be what you really want to do, in which case I'd point to the plastic bag wrapping tricks above.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:07 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're right about the fact that you're not missing anything. This is what I do to increase efficiency. I have all my workout related clothes in one area: t shirt, workout pants/shorts, workout bra, change of underwear, clean socks and towels. They're folded and rolled up so I can just grab one of each and stuff'em in my bag when I am heading out. I have a separate compartment for clean bra, panties and socks, in case the rest of the clothes have to come in contact with my sweaty clothes.

I have a pair of sneakers in my gym bag, they tend to be heavy, but it's inevitable. Then I have my toilettries in a small bag about 6x10x2. I have 3 bottles (shampoo, conditioner, bodysoap) and I can fit a soap container and one of those puffy things). I don't pack a small towel although I wish I had some times.

After my workout, I take a shower, and change back to my work clothes. Then I am home anyway and throw all that stuff in the laundry basket. Which adds up the laundry load...but I don't feel like wearing the same sweaty shirt again, no matter how much febreeze I spray.

I also have stuff in my gym bag that i carry all the time, one thing of lotion for face, an eye cream(in my purse), lock, jump rope (which I rarely use).

The thing about me is that I drive to work, so I only have to carry all this junk walking to the gym from my car.

I'd think about ways to leave some kind of dry food at work. If you have a fridge at work, leave a salad dressing in there, and you can put some lettuce already cut up in an air tight container, with some cucumbers, cherry tomatoes etc. Or some chicken salad already made up on sunday night and bring a loaf of bread on your desk or in drawer, etc. Yogurts are great too..and I am a big fan of cottage cheese for snack.

I hope this helps. I have a colleague who brings in her gymbag everyday cause she workout during lunch...and her purse is smaller than the size of a palm. She also packs lunch and rarely buys.

The things we do to be healthy....good luck, and hope you continue to do it. I've found it much easier after it's been repeated as a pattern...and you'll realize that even one item closer to the door will make it you don't forget your sports bra...ugh.

posted by icollectpurses at 4:19 PM on June 7, 2007

When I'm short on space in my gym bag, I take my sneakers out, tie them to each other and hang them off one of the straps. It might not look or smell great, but the other people on the bus can bite me. ;)
posted by mileena at 5:04 PM on June 7, 2007

i second going home in your gym clothes and showering at home.

leave your sweater at work, if you can (unless it's for the commute more than the office).

leave a stick of deodorant in your desk at work. apply an extra swipe before you head out for the day, and you won't be as stinky on the train. you might be sweaty and feel gross, but you won't smell. sweat doesn't start to stink for a couple of hours, so you have plenty of time to get home.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:12 PM on June 7, 2007

To reiterate the key points above: shoes + sweater stay at work; no towel, but rather a chamois. I am also a fan of two bags (unless it is winter): purse and swim tote. As for packing, because I have practice at the crack of dawn, I pack the night before: nothing is forgotten.
posted by dame at 5:13 PM on June 7, 2007

For the food part of things, on Mondays I carry a grocery bag to work with that week's food in it (a box of cereal, a carton of soy milk, 5 cans of soup, a big tupperware of cooked rice, and some sort of afternoon snack). I used to forget my lunch every other day, but this has worked great! Mondays are bad, but I like getting it out of the way.

Could you do this with your workout clothes? Each Monday, you could bring in five clean outfits. Then you'd just have to transport your running shoes, lock, and anything you wash that night.

You've probably considered this, but is there a 24 Hour Fitness near your house? There are a ton in the Bay Area. Have you considered dropping your running shoes, lock, and gym toiletries back at your office after work?
posted by salvia at 5:45 PM on June 7, 2007

Can you leave your work shoes at work and wear your sneakers to work and to and from the gym? That would at least cut down on the shoe issue.
posted by schroedinger at 7:33 PM on June 7, 2007

If you have smallish boobs, you can easily get away with those yoga tanktops (shirt/sports bra combo) to save space. I wear them for tennis and love them. Leave your sweater and chapstick at your desk overnight (assuming you have a desk).

If I were you, I'd take 5 plastic grocery bags each week and fill each of them up with fresh laundry: a hand towel, shorts, top & bra, underwear, bandana and socks in every bag. Squeeze the air out, and pile the bags up and simply grab one each day and stuff it into your backpack. It means you have to own 5 of everything, but it seems like it would make your mornings much simpler - just grab and go!
posted by gatorae at 9:59 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is the gym near work, or on the way home?

My gym is about 5 minutes walk from my desk, which makes things a lot easier - I go back to the lab after the gym to pick up my bike and cycle home, so I use a filing cabinet drawer under my desk as a buffer.

This drawer holds gym stuff, soapbag and towel. So I only carry the gym stuff in once a week, and I've started to squeeze my lardy arse into cycle shorts or running tights as they take up less room. Once a week I take stuff in, and once a week I take stuff home, and yes, I have relaxed my gym hygene a little, sometimes making the shorts do two visits if I've not been too energetic. Shampoo and so on I pick up at lunchtime when I run out, so I never carry that in or out it just lives at the lab. This means that some days my pannier is proper full, but later in the week I can go to work with just my lunch and still get to the gym. Gym trainers live under the desk in a carrier bag.
posted by handee at 12:41 AM on June 8, 2007

I wear my gym shoes on my commute and store all of my work shoes, save for one pair, at work. Makes my commute more comfortable and eliminates the carrying of an additional pair of shoes each day.

Oh, this too. My entire office is increasingly becoming converted to the "pile of pumps under the desk" look.
posted by desuetude at 6:39 AM on June 8, 2007

I have similar issues, as do many people in my office.

Fortunately, we have an office fridge. So all my food for the week comes in on Monday, just about, and gets put in the fridge (for small cheese portions and yoghurt) or in my desk (museli for the yoghurt, crackers, nuts). I bring lunch every day, although it usually is also quite compact (eg, a sandwich).

I tend to wear my sneakers to and from; they're easier to carry on my feet, and my office shoes are much lighter and smaller. I wear my sports bra - I can deal with a sweaty bra on the way home.

I don't bother with packing soap and shampoo; at the gym, I just rinse off the worst of the sweat when I'm done, and I carry only one towel. I do take a sunscreen-enhanced moisturiser and deodorant for use after gym; the first I require for being exposed to outdoors, and the second is just courtesy. I either rewear my work clothes or just throw on a new shirt - I don't bother with a full outfit, unless the next stop is not home.

At home, dirty clothes go in laundry, the towel has it's drying-out place or in laundry, and the gym bag gets repack with fresh undies, socks, gym outfit immediately. I also tend to carry a 600mL water bottle, empty.

My packing list on gym days looks like this:
Firstly, everyday items:
- lunch
- book
- ipod nano with armband+headphones
- purse with wallet, tissues, chapstick, keys
- jacket
+ gym-specific:
- small deodorant
- moisturiser
- towel
- work shoes
- socks, shorts, tshirt (or two)
- empty water bottle

Of those last, the towel takes up as much space as everything else combined.
posted by ysabet at 6:42 AM on June 10, 2007

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