It’s time. You’ve set some goals and you’re ready to start getting familiar with the gym and feeling stronger, faster, more energetic, and overall happier and healthier. Here are five essential fitness accessories for beginners!
You’ve seen these little rubbery straps of all shapes, sizes, and colors pop out of every magazine, fitness blog, and Instagram feed. Not only are they a cool and colorful accessory that will bring some fun into your workouts, but they’re also incredibly effective in firing up your muscles. From warming up to actual workout sets to flexibility and mobility exercises, resistance bands are extremely versatile and your perfect fitness companion, no matter where you find yourself.
You can take them with you when you travel: Use them on the beach, do a quick session in your hotel room or at the airport. Whatever the case might be, they can help you maintain your fitness schedule and reach your goals. And the best part is: You don’t even have to do much to have an awesome workout. Simple crab walks can really make the legs sore, as you’re targeting little stabilizer muscles and not allowing the big muscle groups to take over (like they do in compound movements). You’re also not putting any extra pressure on your joints, which makes this rubber tool even more amazing.
As mentioned, the bands differ in shape (looped, un-looped, with or without handles), size (small, large, big, wide, narrow), and color (depending on the manufacturer, usually depending on resistance level), and that’s why the exercise possibilities are endless!
Stretching is important; stretching when you’re just starting with your fitness journey is even more important. Your muscles need to recover and be able to repair themselves after a tough workout. The only real way to do that is by making sure your muscles are getting oxygen into every cell of their fascia, and that lactic acid—which builds up when you’re working out—gets flushed out of your system.
A yoga mat is also great for warm-ups, as well as performing certain bodyweight movements that require you to sit or lie on the floor. Most gyms or studios have one you can borrow, but investing in your own makes a ton of difference because you’ll be able to use it for yoga, pilates, or any other classes you decide to try. You can also use it in at-home workouts without worrying the floor will be too hard on your back.
Gym equipment can be really tough on the hands, as the majority is made out of steel. Protecting your skin is important so that’s where the gym gloves really come in handy. The gloves can be hard getting used to, but once you forget to bring them with you, your calluses will remind you to never do that again. They come in all shapes and sizes, with extra padding or without, completely closed or with open fingers, tiny and ‘slip-on’ style, or large and wrap-around-the-wrist style.
What you choose depends on your workout style and how you plan to use the gloves. When just starting out, simple slip-on, open fingers with no extra padding will do the trick as they’ll protect you enough from the limited amount of equipment you’ll be using. As your fitness journey progresses, so will your gloves.
This fitness accessory isn’t something you’d bring from home, but almost every gym or studio has one. Incredibly versatile, it can be used for numerous workouts, stretching, and warm-up routines. For beginners, it’s best for improving balance and engaging the core at the same time because the ball is fairly light and can easily move around if you’re not using your muscles right. It’s also great for isolating certain muscles, such as hamstrings and obliques, which even the most advanced gym enthusiasts find difficult.
Play around with the moves and pay attention to your form and muscle engagement—you’ll quickly notice how much benefit you get from using a pilates ball throughout your workout session.
You might notice your gym requires you to bring a towel or offers to lend you one while you’re there. The reason behind it is hygiene-related: Nobody wants to sit or lie in someone else’s sweat. Gyms that provide towels usually see them used more. In gyms where you’re required to bring your own, people tend to “forget,” so you end up having to wipe your workout station before using it (and where’s the fun in that?).
A towel can also be a great workout tool, helping to keep you steady when you don’t have anything to hold on to. It’s really important to get in the habit of using it from day one, so you don’t end up being one of those “forgetting” types. It’s hygienic, healthy, and above all, respectful—as much as you don’t want to sit in somebody else’s sweat, nobody wants to train in yours, either.
Getting into the gym for the first time can be intimidating and exciting. More times than not, you don’t even know where to start or what to bring with you. Start with these five essential fitness accessories, and you’ll quickly learn how to build your portfolio.