Gym bags are difficult to navigate. Apart from obvious essentials such as shower gel and deodorant – I prefer to pack a dry shampoo and limit hair washing to when I’m at home – there aren’t really any products you absolutely must pack.
It is advisable to keep some tampons in the bag, and not just for obvious reasons. I once felt faint at the gym and suffered an almost Victorian style withering at the knee, only to bash my nose against an unforgiving machine. A tampon will stop a nose bleed very nicely, if you don’t mind the funny looks.
Rather than aesthetics, hygiene should be the primary concern at the gym. However, we’d all be lying if we never admitted to having at least once forgone the communal showers (a heinous idea completely against any true spirit of Irishness) in favour of showering at home. Norwegians are happy to be communally in the nip; we’re not.
Yuni Beauty Shower Sheets Large Body Wipes (£15 from cultbeauty.co.uk plus £4.50 shipping) are a handy product to keep in your gym bag. The box contains 12 individually wrapped cleansing sheets which are alcohol free and biodegradable, and using them is more dignified than washing your armpits over the sink before you can get home or to work for a shower.
If possible, work out with bare skin – anything applied before vigorous exercise is going to move, and foundation and sweat are a bad combination. After exercise, it’s important to wash your face with a gentle cleanser such as Simple Water Boost Micellar Facial Gel Wash (€6.49), which will remove grime without stripping the skin and leave it feeling refreshed. It will remove minimal make-up too.
If you’re conscious of wanting a “bit of something” at the gym, the best option is to accentuate eyes and brows while leaving skin to breathe. Waterproof products are useful, but if you are prone to oily skin, the natural oils in them combined with sweat will make a depressingly effective make-up remover. For that reason, opt for a smudge-proof mascara over a waterproof one. I like Bobbi Brown No Smudge Mascara (€22.50 from Debenhams).
A brow mascara will frame the eyes while holding brows where you want them, even while you’re running or doing squats. Opt for something tinted such as Mac Pro Longwear Waterproof Brow Set (€18.50). It comes in a variety of shades and is also a handy product to apply after a gym session to make you feel slightly more pulled together than you actually feel after serious exercise, which is nauseous and as though your legs belong to someone else.
If you are a dry lip person (I am), you will always have a lip balm to hand. Apply a thin layer before and after a workout to keep lips comfortable. La Mer Lip Balm (€60) is hands down the best balm I have used, despite the crater-sized hole it leaves in your wallet. If it is outside your budget, don’t go without a lip balm – Labello and Carmex are serviceable, if less effective.