There are plenty of things that can potentially get in our way of any given training session; the most irritating to me are the barriers I could’ve prevented. I’m not talking about being sick, getting stuck at work, having to deal with some family issues, those are all legitimate roadblocks that can happen from time to time. It’s called life. There’s not much you can do about those.
But, forgetting your sports bra, bringing the wrong shoes, not having clothes to change into for work afterwards, headphones missing, or any of the other multitude of minor (in the grand scheme of life) issues that impede my sweat time are likely due to poor planning or rushing. These days happen to all of us, of course. At some point it’s inevitable.
But, it makes for an inefficient use of time (either you have to go back and fix the issue or forego the sweating a that time) and just rains on your whole sweat parade. A little proactive planning can go a long way, however. And I would know. I have been bouncing from activity to activity since high school when I would have literally minutes to go home and switch from basketball mode to cheerleading mode or vice versa. And heaven forbid you forget your lollies!!
While I am a far cry from my high school days, my incessant need to fill my schedule has yet to diminish. From my grad school stints when I was teaching 5 classes a week on top of school to my current schedule of training and teaching all over the Bay Area, it is increasingly important that I don’t forget things and that I don’t waste my own or other people’s time by having to backtrack.
I recently read Inbox Freedom, a book co-written by my good friend Charles Hudson, which emphasizes the need for a personal system to increase efficiency and productivity in your day. As I was reading this, aside from recognizing that I needed to overhaul my inbox system, I realized that I had sort of accidentally on purpose created efficiency systems for other parts of my day, namely: training and teaching. I also realized that this might be useful information to share with others.
The fact is, a system “designed to make you more productive, proactive and efficient” is extremely useful when it comes to squeezing in training sessions between work, familial obligations and social events. I do think there is such a thing as being overly systematic, as that can hinder spontaneity and our ability to live in the present moment, but a little organization and systemization can also free up some time and mental space.
Just as Hudson and Ghaffary note about the system they describe in their book, I am not trying to say my system is going to work for you. What I am saying is maybe it will give you some ideas for how you can create one for yourself or at least make it easier on yourself to incorporate training into the rest of your day. And soon it will just become second nature to have everything already prepared.
The Perfect Gym Bag
For me, this is the key to efficiency in getting to/from sweat sessions. I am only in part talking about the actual gym bag itself (its functionality does matter!); it’s what’s inside said bag that really makes all the difference in the world. People often mock me for being the girl who has everything in my bag. Sure, laugh. It’s cool. I’m a walking emergency workout kit. But when you need a Band-Aid, some gum, an extra hair tie, ibuprofen, a jump rope, some Arnica gel or shampoo, please know that my overly prepared self-will laugh right back before I let you use whatever it is.
Taking a lesson from Hudson & Ghaffary, let’s do an audit: What’s in your gym bag? Does it contain what you would need to easily get out the door to your workout? Does it contain what you would need to come home after that workout?
Here’s the way I like to breakdown what’s in my gym bag:
1) Essentials – Those things that either you simply cannot complete your workout without, or you cannot move from one activity to the other without.
- What do you need for your workout? If you’re coming from work, this will be your gym clothes. A sports bra. Shoes and socks. An iPod and/or headphones. For me, gum is an essential if I’m doing any kind of cardio or weight workout. A yoga mat maybe if you’re going to a class. Hair ties. Towels. Maybe small equipment like jump ropes, gliding discs, bands. Performance monitoring systems. Sunscreen, sunglasses. Whatever it is that you need to do your workout.
- What do you need after your workout? Are you going home or to work or out to drinks? Do you need extra clothes? Toiletries? Makeup? Towel? Different shoes? Different socks? Or are you going home and just need dry clothes to change into? A bag for your sweaty clothes?
2) Extras – Those things that you simply cannot complete your workout without, times two. Extra gum, extra hair ties, extra sports bras, headbands, socks, etc. Just in case you forget to put one in. I keep these extras replenished as often as possible. I have been known to carry 3-4 pairs of socks and 2 extra sports bras at all times. I always have an extra jump rope (or 2) in case one breaks (blasphemy!). Hand sanitizer, you can never have too much of that on you.
3) Just in case – What are the scenarios that might take away from your workout but could be prevented or at least aided? A headache? Ibuprofen. A stomachache? Pepto Bismol. Sore muscles or a minor injury? Biofreeze, Arnica gel. Bandaids, athletic or KTTape. Hunger? Energy bars. I have been known to carry scissors, face wipes, pens, plastic spoons, tea, dried fruit, extra watch batteries for my Armour39™ . A baseball (for myofascial release). Gloves, hats, clothing for inclement weather. Yes, I live in California where it is mostly gorgeous out. Hush.
Now, some of these items can just stay in your bag until they need to be refilled. And that’s exactly how they should stay. The more you shift stuff from your house to your bag to your car to your bag to your bathroom or whatever, the more likely you are to forget something. I keep a second set of toiletries, makeup, etc. in my gym bag. That way, if I am showering at home, I don’t forget to put any of those things back into my gym bag when I’m done. It makes life much easier. The clothes you wear to train obviously will need to move from your bag to your sweat session and then right into the laundry, this is where the extras noted above come into play. Leave yourself some room for error.
Clean Out Your Closet
Your home routine counts for a big part of whether you can efficiently get to your sweat session. Again, the gym bag is going to be crucial to getting out the door if you are working out away from home. I leave mine right in the entryway. Your closet and/or dresser is another place you can organize to facilitate getting out the door and to your workout (or to your home workout if that’s what you’re doing).
Some people lay their workout clothes out the night before. Sometimes I do that, especially if I have early morning training. Sometimes I like to make last-minute wardrobe changes. I like to actually pick my training outfits. I put some thought into it. Ok, a lot of thought into it, don’t judge. I say, look the part, act the part. Plus, I am well supplied with dope Under Armour® gear, so, why not, right?!
I keep my drawers well-organized by type of gear (pants, capris, shorts, tanks, long sleeves, etc.) and color. This makes grabbing my gear super easy if I know which type of activity I will be doing. I know exactly where my high impact sports bras vs. my shelf-bra yoga tops are, Coldgear® vs. Heatgear®, socks for running vs. socks for training, and any headbands, hats, gloves or other accessories I might need. I can easily snag 2 outfits to throw in my bag for the multiple training/teaching sessions I may have. This is super helpful and saves me time rummaging through drawers.
And then there’s my shoe closet. Just my Under Armour shoe closet. Organized by how much use each pair has had, by type of activity and by color. Good lord, I sound like a crazy person, but seriously, it helps me grab and go.
When all else fails, keep extra in your car. No, really. I have more extras in my car. More plastic spoons. More tea. More hand sanitizer. Socks. Sometimes a complete extra outfit. Jump ropes, 3 yoga mats, a whole wide range of workout equipment (I train a client at a park, so I have equipment to train her), water bottles that hold a phone and key for running outside. Gum. Chapstick. Extra sunglasses. And people wonder why I have an SUV!
I also take public transportation to some of the places I teach, so my backpack is my gym bag and car in one for those days. It’s stocked with whatever I might need that I can carry on my person only. Guess what’s in there? Yes, another set of all the essentials and some of the extras. Again, the more shifting from one bag to another that I have to do, the more likely I am to forget something, so I just make it easy on myself.
It might all sound a little extreme to you, and that’s because, well, it sort of is. Not everyone is moving from one sweat session to another all day with some meetings and appointments thrown in the middle. But maybe my lessons learned about forgetting the essentials (the hard way, please believe!) and personal best practices will help you in some small way eliminate the preventable barriers to making fitness a part of your busy day. Showing up is often hard enough. Showing up unprepared makes being productive extra challenging.
Show up ready. Be proactive. Set up a system. Make yourself sweatfficient.
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