Have you ever arrived at your favorite run spot, only to discover you were missing something critical? Or that at least will negatively impact your run? I’ve been there! I’m a runner that runs outside year round, unless the roads are icy (which in Atlanta is almost never). Since I often drive to my running spots, I’ve learned to keep a runner gym bag with the essentials I need regardless of (most) weather. I don’t want to miss a run, or have an unnecessarily unpleasant one, because I’ve left a key item at home.
Listed below is a list of a runner gym bag essentials, categorized for ease of organization for you. I actually use two race bags I was given at previous events (Big Sur Marathon, and the Atlanta 10 Miler) to keep my items sorted.
Runner Gym Bag Essentials List
Runner Self Care Items
- Sunscreen – I recommend a spray sunscreen for easy application (sunscreen on your fingers will end up on your steering wheel, water bottle, etc.) and a sunscreen stick for your face. I love Sun Bum Face Stick for face application, and primarily use Neutrogena Spray for my body. Look for a sunscreen with SPF at least 30! Read here about sun protection tips for runners.
- Lip balm – preferably one with an SPF for skin protection. This I keep in the console of my car, and apply before heading out.
- Body Glide – great for application everywhere chafing can occur, especially when you are sweating heavily, or while running in the rain.
- Vaseline petroleum jelly – can be used instead of Body Glide. The pro for Body Glide is that your hands stay clean while applying. However, I do think that Vaseline has more longevity to prevent chafing. I also use it on feet/toes for long runs to prevent chafing and blisters.
- Salt packets or Salt Stick for hot temps when you’re sweating excessively. I use the Salt Stick Fastchews (orange flavor). Nuun tablets that you can drop in your water bottle is also an electrolyte option with a few calories (15 kcal).
- Snacks for quick energy prior to your run, especially if it’s been a few hours since you’ve eaten. I will take in about ~100 calories about 30 minutes prior to my run of mostly simple carbs for energy. My go to snacks are Sports Beans, and gummy bears.
- Spibelt/waist belt for phone/nutrition. Another option is a hydration vest! I prefer that for LONG miles, and read here about why a hydration vest is a great option for long runs.
- Gloves – Preferably ones which enable you to use your phone (“touchscreen gloves”) so you don’t need to take a glove off mid-run. My son gave me a pair for Christmas, and I have really enjoyed them.
- Sunglasses – ones specific for running is preferred. I use Goodr sunglasses, and am a big fan as they’re reasonable, light, and don’t bounce!
- Arm warmers – perfect layer for fickle weather. Can easily push down sleeves around wrists if you get too warm.
- Light jacket which can be used during run, or post run to keep from getting a chill with sweat/damp clothes.
- Towel – to protect your car seat from sweat and dirt post run. This towel is a great option!
- Mylar blanket I often save the mylar blankets given post race and keep one in my car. They also come in handy for pre-race on cold days.
- Extra’s: I recommend these to keep in your car in case you forget to pack (ie if leaving from work to run): pair of running socks, running cap (if used while running), and even a sports bra for women.
- Road ID – options to wear on your shoe, wrist, or your watch wrist band. I wear one on my Apple Watch band, so it’s always with me.
- Ear phones – for music, podcasts, etc. Please be smart and keep the volume at a level where you can hear your surroundings!
- Phone – I don’t expect this to be kept in your runner gym bag essentials, but definitely recommend that you have it with you while running for your safety! Read more here on how to leverage your phone to keep yourself safe while running.
Runner First Aid
- Biofreeze – preferably the roll-on version so your hands stay free and clear.
- KT Tape – plus a pair of scissors if you have the roll vs strips.
- First-Aid kit – along with band aids, Advil (or generic) and Tylenol (or generic). The cost for one is reasonable, and when you need it, you need it.
Your runner gym bag essentials have to include some safety items! This is especially important if you are running early or late in the day when there is little, or no light. It is SO important for you to be able to see, and be seen! Read here for 10 Tips for Safer Running.
- Head lamp – there’s lots of great options. Or, a hand held light can also work, like these knuckle lights.
- Safety vest – I wear an Amphipod running vest. They (and other brands) now offer vests that include a strobe light as well. And, this brand (Noxgear) seems to be gaining in popularity.
Note, there’s some items I don’t keep in my car at all times. My Garmin, as it needs to be charged, and my water bottle, and hydration vest, as I like to clean them between runs.
What items are essentials in your runner gym bag that I’ve missed?