I didn’t start off with a gym bag. I’d never done anything athletic before CrossFit… in fact, I’d never had a gym membership anywhere before I started CrossFit. So, if you’re brand new to this, like I was, you may not think you need a gym bag at all. But you are wrong. CrossFit includes about 10 million different movements. And in any given workout, you might do two of those movements, or you might do ten or more. You may be required to jump or run, and switch immediately to lifting a heavy barbell, followed by a big set of pull-ups. All of those things not only require different muscle groups and motions, but it’s a good idea to have the right equipment so you can move safely and efficiently through all of it. Which is not to say that you need to stop between each movement and re-adjust your entire get-up. But planning ahead can set you up for success, and that’s why I’m here, Dear Reader… to help you succeed. Here are my top ten, best-loved and most-used, essential things every CrossFitter should have in their gym bag.
1. Shoes. OK, so this one you may walk in already wearing. I pack mine because I’m often coming from work. The right shoes are an absolute must. What do I mean by the right shoes? This is an excellent question, and I am so pleased that you asked. When I started my CrossFit journey, Inov8s were really popular. They’re a minimalist running shoe, with a zero-drop sole. Merrell made a similar pair that were pretty good too… if you’re interested in barefoot running, which, at the time was just garnering quite a lot of attention in the running/fitness world. Zero drop is actually really important for CrossFitters as well because it allows you to squat and lift with better contact with the ground. A typical running shoe has a lot of squishy cushion in the heel, and not only is it not helpful in CrossFit movements, it can really hinder the proper development of your squat. Luckily, CrossFitters have better options now, that are geared specifically towards CrossFit. Here are my top picks.
The CrossFit Nano 5.0, made by Reebok is an all-around winner. I also loved the Nano 4.0, as well as the 2.0. The 2.0 is still available for sale at reebok.com.
Nanos have a zero-drop sole, and the 5.0s are a little stiffer through the heel, again to better facilitate contact with the ground when lifting. I particularly like the 5.0 because it has a narrower toe box (I have long, narrow feet) than either the 4.0 or the 2.0. It’s super grippy on the sides for rope climbs, and it just looks fantastic (Bonus!). Cost: $129.98 (more for customized options) from reebok.com, As far as an athletic shoe, this is a little on the pricey side, but for all-around useful-ness, this is a can’t-do-without winner.
When the Metcons came out they’d built up so much hype that they sold out immediately, and were back-ordered for months. I’ve never actually tried a pair, but from what I’ve heard they are not durable like the Nanos, especially when it comes to rope climbs. Otherwise, these have many of the same features as the Reebok Nanos in that they will allow you to squat more effectively in your WODs, as well as give appropriate support for running, and jumping movements. These go for $120 from nike.com. I think these are also a great looking shoe. Seriously, I get shoe envy every time I see a pair, but I’m a committed Nano girl… have been for years.
2. Tape Strips. If you don’t keep a pair of ready-made strips in your bag, then at least keep a roll of sport tape so you can make up a pair in a pinch. You can pick it up at any pharmacy, or order it online (my personal favorite). It’s available for $5.75 (on Prime) from amazon.com. There are so many things we do on the bar that can really wreck your hands. You’re already in a CrossFit gym, there’s no need to prove your toughness by shredding your hands. Note: there is a difference between sport tape and powerflex. If you use powerflex on your thumbs it will just hurt because it isn’t flexible enough, and conversely, powerflex would be a poor choice to protect hands because it’s too sticky.
3. And while we’re talking about hands, go ahead and throw a box of Blister Patches from Band-Aid in there. These are not something you will use in a work out (they won’t stay on, although they DO stick much better than regular band-aids), so perhaps they shouldn’t have made the essential list of gym bag items. However, they are like balm on poor ripped CrossFit hands. Imagine being able to put new skin right onto your tear… yep, that’s exactly what these do. You’ll have to replace them fairly often, but it’s worth a little relief when your hands are torn and you still have to use them. I pick mine up at Walgreens for about $7 per box of 6.
4. Pre-wrap tape, or Powerflex. I also mentioned these in my hand-care post. I use this every day, to wrap wrists (when using false grip on muscle ups), thumbs (when you’re using hookgrip on a barbell), or hot spots on my fingers. Definitely a high-use item. I use Powerflex and I order it from ithacasports.com in a box of 24 for $54.99+shipping. I find the 2″ is most useful. I go through a box about every 6 months.
5. Headband. If you’re of the male variety, you may think this just isn’t for you. But, guys, if sweat is running in your eyes, it burns the same way. I’ve seen lots of men wear headbands in the gym, especially if their hair is on the long side. Not only does a headband keep the sweat from your eyes, it keeps your hair out of the way, too. I’m picky about my headbands. It took me forever to find one that didn’t 1) slide right off my head, or 2) give me an immediate headache. I love the Fringe Fighter from Lululemon.com for $18. (please note that they are final sale). I think these Lucy headbands are very similar, at a similar price ($15), but I’ve never found a need to stray from my trusty Lulu. These headbands are wide enough to stay on my head.
6. Jump Rope.I don’t push clients into getting their own jump rope if they don’t yet have double unders locked in. But it’s a great idea, I would say it’s even necessary if you are serious about competing. Every gym is going to stock their own ropes. But it can be a hassle to find the right length, and it can be frustrating when the one you find that is the right length is in poor condition, with kinks, or worn spots where the wire is exposed. You just don’t always know what you’re getting. And when you’re struggling already with double unders, it can be like trying to hit a moving target. If you’re still learning, I highly recommend looking into rxsmartgear.com. Their ropes start at about $36, and once you have the handles, you can just replace the cable. Most people don’t realize that when you’re just trying to learn double unders, you’ll benefit from a little bit heavier rope, which is designed to give you more feedback and therefore allow you to learn quicker. Translation: less whipping yourself, and more actually learning how to establish a good rhythm. You can switch out a lighter cable as you become more and more proficient. Once you’re a double under master you can use their lightest rope, or find another speed rope that you like.
Once I became more proficient at double unders, I found I preferred a lighter, and smaller handle, and I switched to Again Faster. The one I’ve been using, which I’ve really liked, is no longer available, but it looks an awful lot like their Team Speed Rope ($20) – they released the Competition Rope ($30) after I bought the one I’m currently using. Again Faster also offers a Beginner Rope ($12), I like to keep a spare cable in my bag. For those rare “just in case” times.
7. Long Socks. There are certainly ways to minimize burning your skin right off on rope climbs. However, if I’m in a hurry (and when I’m on the clock, when am I NOT?) I don’t often take the time to worry about it. Pants help, but if I’m only wearing pants I usually burn the bare skin between the bottom of my pants and my shoe. Plus, my pants are way more expensive to replace than a pair of socks if I wear right through them.
8. Pre and Post. This could be snacks, or supplements. Whatever you like to use, keep it on hand.
9. Extra undies. Hey, I’ve had three kids, there’s no need to be embarrassed about this one, and I’m not just speaking to the ladies, either. If you’ve ever leaked during double unders, or a heavy squat or sit-ups (yes, I did once), then this is just a no-brainer.
10. Last but not least, pack a notebook. Whether it’s your WOD journal, or just a notebook you can jot things down in, you need a place to record your workouts and lifts. If you don’t know where you were, then you can’t know how you’ve progressed, and that’s a recipe for getting discouraged when things get tough. Write down what you did, and what your goals are. Trust me, being able to celebrate that personal record is worth the extra hassle. Plus your squad can find it years down the line, and you’ll all have a good laugh at where you started.
Now, there are a few things that if you’ve been around the block a few times, you might think I have just plain neglected, such as knee sleeves, wrist wraps, weight belt, lifting shoes, or lifting straps. Allow me to reassure you, and explain. I didn’t forget! I just don’t think those things are essential for me, OR I thought they were not essential for the average CrossFitter. I use my lifters, weight belt and lifting straps on the daily, but left them off since this post is geared toward an average CrossFitter, who may or may not be ready to make use of those things… yet And I no longer find wrist wraps or knee sleeves really necessary.