Tune out distractions and create your own space with these key pieces of workout gear.
I’m not a “people person” by nature. So here’s something I never thought I’d say: I really like going to the gym. But you know what ruins my fun? An overcrowded, loud exercise space with fellow patrons packed shoulder to shoulder.
Gyms are a challenge for introverts. Some are more welcoming than others, but no matter where you go, you’ll be sharing equipment and real estate. And I swear, some of these people like nothing more than to carry on full conversations while standing between me and the weight rack.
But over the last decade or so, I’ve discovered certain pieces of gear that help keep my motivation and sanity in place. These are items that can remove unwanted distractions, such as the horrible pop-country blasting from the overhead speakers.
In all seriousness, the right pieces of kit can go a long way toward helping make your exercise experience a pleasant one. To hell with the crowds and cramped quarters — here are a few things to keep yourself motivated rather than intimidated.
Gym Gear for Introverts
Let’s start with the most important item. For folks that like to keep to themselves, a good pair of earbuds serves a two-fold purpose: Allowing you to rock out to your favorite music, podcasts, or audiobooks and also keeping the sound of other gym patrons out.
And here, GearJunkie has you covered. Our list of the Best Workout Headphones showcases prime options from all across the budgetary spectrum. And if you’re looking for a solid performer on the bargain end, check out this roster of the Best Wireless Earbuds Under $50.
Too much reading? Then skip the selection process and grab a pair of Life A3i’s from Soundcore. These $60 buds offer a wealth of equalizer modes, along with strong battery life and (best of all) active noise cancelation.
So, you’ve got your ear holes covered. But what about your eyes? In your quest to create a personal bubble, a good hat is surprisingly key. Not only will this keep the sweat and bright lights from your vision, but it’ll also help you maintain a straight-ahead focus.
I’m not a big hat-wearer in general, but for blocking out distractions at the gym, I’ve found it to be an invaluable tool.
A few keys — you’ll generally want something lightweight, breathable, and washable. All of the entries on GearJunkie’s list of the Best Running Hats will fit the bill (pun intended), with our top pick costing only $20.
Sure, some of these are more suited to outdoor cardio than others. But in general, a comfortable, well-fitting hat is a wonderful way to keep unwanted visual cues out.
You’re in the middle of your second set when a sudden thirst strikes. You stand up from the pulldown machine, walk the 10 steps to the water fountain, and by the time you return, someone has taken your place. This frustrating situation can be avoided altogether with one additional piece of gear — a high-quality water bottle.
This is another item with multiple uses. In addition to helping you stake your claim to a machine, having your own hydration source saves you from sticking your face near the drinking fountain. Viruses are still going around, folks, and reducing contact with other people’s germs is always a plus.
Most gyms have at least one fountain with an automatic spigot so that you can fill up between sets.
Now, my personal favorite is the Takeya Actives 22 oz. in stainless steel. I’ve drank from, dropped, and generally abused this bottle for the better part of two years, and it’s still going strong.
Plus, you can usually find them at your local big box store. But GearJunkie has a thorough list of the Best Insulated Water Bottles, with an option for every occasion.
For years, I’ve been skeptical of wearable tech. And while I still prefer a dumb watch to a smart one, I’ve completely come around on basic fitness trackers.
Not only do they allow you to easily mark time between sets, but their biometric sensors can help when it comes to motivation.
Whether it’s heart rate or calorie tracking, keeping tabs on your workout’s effect keeps your mind on your routine and your body instead of the people crowding in around you.
Because, after all, you’ll need something to carry all this kit in. But beyond its service as luggage, a good gym bag can serve as a totem. You prepare it the evening (or morning) before your next session and place it in a prominent spot. By doing this, you’re banking on a tiny motivational cue that can help get you out of the door.
Perhaps more than any other item here, your gym bag doesn’t have to be fancy. Heck, mine is an old TravelPro that came as part of a travel set. But pretty much anything on our list of the Best Daypacks would be a solid option, whether you change at home or in the locker room.
Toss in a battery bank, a snack, or maybe an extra pair of headphones. Heck, pack your favorite stuffed animal so it can cheer you on from the sidelines. Whether you’re trying to stay or get in shape, every bit of spark (or gear) helps.
Lastly, you’d do well to have your own high-quality yoga mat. And that’s true even if you don’t practice yoga.
A good mat is great for any number of ground-based workouts or stretches. And while gyms often stock a bunch of middle-of-the-road mats for public use, a mat of your own will save you time and effort — not to mention sanitizer and other people’s back sweat.
You certainly don’t have to break the bank, but you tend to get what you pay for. Check out our roundup of best yoga mats for some vetted options we recommend.