On top of it being a new year, it's a new decade! Never has there been a better opportunity to start fresh. 2020 is all about improving yourself, whether it be kicking a bad habit or getting back into shape.
Regardless of your reason for hitting the gym, this much is true: what you pack in your gym bag is almost as important as the workout itself. No one wants to be without hair ties or sweat towels when you need them most or be left taking a chance on leaving their belongings unsecured because they forgot a proper lock. The good news is that you don’t have to go bankrupt trying to get healthy, at least not when it comes to the stuff you bring with you.
We put together a list of 15 things you can get that are all $15 or less and are super helpful to have whenever you workout, whether you’re going to the gym, working out at home, or taking a jog around town.
1. A secure padlock so you can work out with peace of mind
When you first join a gym, you might be thinking about buying new clothing and shoes and a water bottle. But that’s not all you’ll need and you definitely don’t want to forget a lock to keep your stuff safe while you sweat. There’s nothing that could deflate your runner’s high more than going back to your locker after a great workout only to discover your belongings are gone because you trusted your fellow gym-goers to leave your things alone.
There are plenty of options to choose from, but we especially love this padlock by Desired Tools. It's our runner-up for the best gym lock, but the price makes it worth it! Its four-digit combination lock can be set to over 10,000 unique combinations so you can change it now and then to keep even the smartest thieves out. With this on your locker, you will have peace of mind that your belongings—including your all-important post-workout snack—are totally safe.
2. A water bottle that makes quenching your thirst a breeze
When you’re in the middle of a hard workout, the last thing you want to do is struggle to unscrew a cap with sweaty hands, or worse, have to run to the fountain across the room. Avoid that problem entirely with the Camelbak Eddy water bottle, which we tested and found to be one of the best water bottles.
It has a built-in straw so you don’t have to tip the bottle at weird angles just to get water out—a common issue with other bottles. The bite valve is another awesome feature that allows for faster water flow. Your personal trainer might love this since it means you can keep those water breaks short and get back to grinding it out that much quicker.
While we did find a slight flavor in the water inside, it wasn’t that bad and we still appreciate that the bottle is BPA-free. It’s also dishwasher-safe and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
3. A can of dry shampoo to freshen up post-workout
If you’ve got somewhere to be after your workout and don’t have time for a full-on shower or beauty routine, then dry shampoo will be your best friend. It freshens up hair in seconds by eliminating grease and helping to absorb any extra moisture from sweat. While there are tons of dry shampoos on the market, we tested some of the best and found Dove Refresh + Care to be the best dry shampoo you can get.
It has everything you could ever want out of a dry shampoo: it’s affordable, doesn’t leave behind any harsh white residue, adds the right amount of volume, and leaves your hair feeling so clean that it actually looks freshly washed. Well, depending on how hard you worked out, you might not have a salon-styled ‘do when you leave the gym but it’ll be a lot better than doing nothing.
4. A foot massager because your feet deserve the best
The best time to pamper the body with a massage is definitely after a hard workout. But it can be expensive to visit a masseuse, and if it seems like none of your loved ones are volunteering anytime soon, you might want to take measures into your own hands. You can achieve massage nirvana with your very own foot massager, like this one from TheraFlow, which some reviewers say will be the best decision you ever made.
While we haven’t reviewed this item yet, TheraFlow does have a bit of a cult-following on Amazon. One reviewer wrote, “This is a must. I work as a patient care technician and work 12 hour shifts. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BABY. I use it for 3-5 minutes and my feet feel incredible.”
When you roll your feet over this massage tool, it’s designed to soothe pain by targeting the foot’s trigger points. It’s designed to massage deep into the tissue, which can help with issues like plantar fasciitis and also just relieve sore feet after a long run. If you are putting in tons of time in the gym or at the track, this is definitely a must-buy.
5. Cleansing water to keep your skin fresh
As much as we love the gym, neglecting your skin before and after could lead to post-workout breakouts. Not cool. Prevent this by giving your face a good cleansing with Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water, which is one of the most popular beauty products you can buy at Walmart.
It stands up to other, more expensive micellar water brands because reviewers claim it can remove makeup without any harsh scrubbing. It’s fragrance- and alcohol-free and is suitable for all skin types, including those of us with sensitive skin. It’s also quick-drying so you can use it and go; just be sure to pack some cotton pads in your gym bag with it!
6. A body wipe that’s like a shower in a bottle
If you’re hitting the gym during your lunch break, the last thing you want is to return to the office smelling worse than that coworker who brought in fish for lunch, again.
If you’re pressed for time and can’t grab a shower after your workout, these GoodWipes are a great solution since they’re advertised as “your shower in a wipe.” They rely on fresh ingredients such as aloe, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil to leave your skin feeling soft, smooth, and most importantly smooth. Each package comes with 10 wipes that are all alcohol-free, hypoallergenic, and pH balanced for women. It’s safe to use all over, especially in the places that collect the most sweat, dirt, oils and odors, such as the armpits and groin area.
7. Resistance bands to take your workout anywhere
For a workout you do take anywhere, consider popping these Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands in your gym bag. Whether you want to enjoy some nice spring weather or you don’t want to fight a bunch of beefcakes for the free weights, resistance bands offers a great way to mix up your routine and still feel sore the next day.
This set has over 9,200 reviews and a 4.2-star rating, so you know it’s gotta be great for just $11. It comes with five bands in different colors and resistance levels. They work well for all sorts of workouts, such as yoga, Pilates, interval training, and more. You can even stretch with them to help your muscles heal after a rigorous session.
8. A hair tie you’re less likely to lose
Ponytails are essential for ladies with long hair, especially at the gym. Just try to run on a treadmill without one and you’ll see what we mean; it’s hair-in-the-face galore.
While regular ponytails are fine, the Invisibobble tries to take things up a notch by promising to prevent harsh lines. So, does it actually live up to this promise? Sadly, the answer is not really. Our social media editor put this hair tie to the test and found that it still left crimps in her hair. She used it in a range of workout classes too, including yoga and even an aerial circus class. I use them too and one positive that I like is that they are non-soaking. This prevents my hair from frizzing, as the hair tie doesn’t dampen from sweat.
Bottom line: the Invisibobble works best in fine hair, But if you have thicker hair, it might be a good idea to try something else. And if nothing else, when left on your wrist, it makes for a fashionable ‘90s-nostalgic bracelet that is much harder to lose than a regular elastic band.
9. A fanny pack so you can be functional and run in style
Fanny packs are back and more useful than ever. While the bag that looked like you had a man’s hairy gut hanging from your shirt was trending for a while, any outdoor runner needs a running belt that’s actually practical, such as this one by Hydration, which is technically $1 above our $15 limit, but still a fantastic value.
It can store not one but two mini water bottles, your cell phone, ID, keys and more. If you’re using it to run outside at night, it will help keep you safe with the reflective logo, stripes and neon colors. Fanny packs just got cool.
10. A gym towel to accompany all your workouts
Gyms offer a lot of great services—top of the line fitness machines, trainers that offer guidance, classes for all types, and even some spa services. What many of them don’t provide, however, is free towel service. Lame, we know.
If you’re not lucky enough to attend a gym that gives you towels every visit, stock up on your own towels instead. These microfiber fast-drying towels are great since they absorb sweat very well and dry three times faster than other traditional towels with its terry texture. Since they are small in size (16 inches long), they’re meant for wiping away sweat and generally won’t work for a shower. If you are looking for a good bath towel to bring for the showers, we recommend the $35 Fieldcrest Spa Solid Bath Towel, which we chose as the best bath towel. For those quick breaks to wipe away sweat, though, these microfiber towels get the job done. Did I mention you get three towels for just $11?
11. A pack of socks made especially for the athlete in you
Working out without socks, or worse with dress socks, is just a recipe for disaster that can lead to discomfort, blisters, and some pretty stinky running shoes. That’s why it’s always best to have a few extra pairs of clean athletic socks in your gym bag. These ones by Heatuff are backed by over 250 positive reviews and a 4.7-star rating.
For a very reasonable price, you get six pairs in one pack in your choice of colors. They come with built-in mesh zones for breathability, a full-cushion sole for ultimate comfort, moisture wicking technology, and arch support.
12. A pair of shower shoes to keep your feet protected
We don’t know about you, but the last place we want our bare feet to touch is the shower floors at the gym. Odds are bacteria, fungus, and mold are all possibly lurking in there, among other… things. Yikes.
While we haven’t reviewed these “Shower Shoez,” they have good reviews on Amazon. Over 90% of people even agree that they fit as expected, so you can feel confident with the sizing. They are slip-resistant and made with unique drain holes as well as an antimicrobial layer that aims to protect your feet from any fungus or bacteria. They are also quick-drying so you can toss them in your bag and go.
13. Earbuds that sound like they cost a lot more
Can you really work out if you don’t have Ariana Grande’s music blasting through your earbuds? We didn’t think so. While you might already own some higher-end headphones that are perfect for the gym, it never hurts to have an extra, inexpensive pair in your gym bag for whenever you forget to pack your usual pair (or when you forget to charge them beforehand).
These Panasonic headphones are a popular buy on Amazon with a rating of 4.3 stars and 600+ reviews. Their ErgoFit design provides comfort in your ear and you can choose from 15 colors. The best part is, reviewers say that they sound way better than you’d expect for the price. How else will you block out that old man groaning loudly during his bicep curls?
14. Bobby pins because you’ve lost all of your other ones
It’s a story as old as time: a girl starts out with a pack of bobby pins only to lose all of them within a week. Where did they go? No one knows. Certainly not her. Sound familiar? Rewrite that story by buying bobby pins that come with their own convenient case, like these MetaGrip bobby pins. According to the company, these are the best bobby pins you will ever use (and over 200 buyers seem to agree). They have a secure grip and durable, rust-resistant tips. But the case is what we really like, as it’s easy to keep them all in one place in your gym bag.
15. A cute fitness tracker to keep your goals on-track
From the best running watches and award-winning fitness trackers to smartphone apps and , there are a lot of ways to keep your fitness progress on track. But sometimes, it’s just more fun to put pen to paper. If that sounds like you, then you will enjoy this stylish fitness planner.
While I’m a big fan of bullet journals where you get to make your own layouts, that can take up a lot of time most of us rarely have. So I do appreciate fitness trackers that come with their own layouts, like this fun one. Here, there’s space to track your meals, workouts, habits and more, so you can stay motivated with your fitness goals.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.