4 Things I Can’t Do Without at the Gym

I have simple needs when it comes to working out. I am not the sort of person that trucks up with an over-stuffed gym bag full of gadgets and gear… in fact, I don’t even have a gym bag. I wear whichever leggings are at the top of the clean washing pile, with any random race t-shirt (or a vest if it’s hot), basic ankle socks and the pair of trainers closest to me when I am getting dressed. Because I shower at home, I don’t carry deodorant or beauty products, and short hair means I don’t need accessories or hair bands. I don’t even listen to music or wear headphones (which apparently makes me weird).

I do, however, rely on the following:

1) Thick barbell pad

Strength training my glutes seems to improve my up-hill/trail running (anecdotally), where there is a significant increase in muscle mass activation in the glutes & quads1 — as well as offering obvious aesthetic improvements. I incorporate heavy hip thrusts into my leg day routine to strengthen my glutes as well as the hamstrings, quadriceps, and adductors.

Although I squat ‘raw’ (unequipped; no knee wraps, belt, pads etc), to be able to perform hip thrusts comfortably and safely I rely on a thick barbell pad to cushion the barbell and prevent bruising along the crease of the hip.

I purchased my thick barbell pad from Amazon where there’s a range of sizes and colours available.

2) Google Keep

After I decided to commit to being consistent in the gym, I had to find a way to log workout data: exercise type, weight, reps, sets, etc. There’s a ton of apps out there to do it, but I couldn’t find one I liked (or had to battle through poor UX and crappy adverts just to log basic data). Even fitocracy, which I use to gamify my exercising and faux-compete with my brother, has a crap app experience (Android). So I used something I knew would work with or without a data connection, that doesn’t have adverts, that was already on my phone and I could access easily to copy data from back at home: Google Keep.

I have a note for each day’s workout, and in it I log the type of exercise, the weight used and how many reps for each set. Because I transfer the data to here and fitocracy after each workout is complete, I can simply replace the previous week’s data at the end of each exercise. It’s simple, and best of all, free.

3) Water

While my homies in the gym are busy guzzling down their isotonic sports drinks, pre and post workout cocktails, caffeine-laced energy drinks etc, I prefer plain old water. There’s a few reasons for this:

  1. from the tap, the cost is negligible and I’m a cheap git
  2. when I run out of water I can easily refill at the gym sink, and
  3. having plain water leaves me with a carb need that I can fill with…

4) Squashies

When I started the RP fat loss template, one of the things it introduced to me was the concept of consuming carbs during a workout. Initially I started by using diluted orange juice, taking sips between sets. However, about 6 weeks in I read a study2 about the effects of fructose (fruit sugar) vs glucose on glycogen (muscle fuel) replenishment. In short, the study discovered that fructose was not as good at rapidly restoring glycogen levels in muscles following exercise and so I switched to one of my favourite sugar-loaded sweeties: Drumstick Squashies!

By coincidence, the Squashies party packs come in exactly the right portion size for my allotted workout carbs & because of the small size, are easily tucked into a pocket. Now just to deal with the funny looks for being the sort of knob who eats sweets while working out, because everyone knows you can’t eat sugar and be healthy 🙄


1 Lower extremity muscle activation during horizontal and uphill running. Sloniger MA, Cureton KJ, Prior BM, Evans EM.
2 Effects of glucose or fructose feeding on glycogen repletion in muscle and liver after exercise or fasting Conlee RK, Lawler RM, Ross PE

Jem Turner hello@strongmum.com +44(0)7521056376

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