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Gyms reopening: All the workout gear you need to get back on the treadmill

Louise Whitbread
·9-min read
From fitness trackers to resistance bands, these are the must-have gym essentials (iStock/The Independent)
From fitness trackers to resistance bands, these are the must-have gym essentials (iStock/The Independent)

For gyms and indoor pools, customers and business owners alike had a long wait before their doors were allowed to reopen from 25 July, for indoor workouts to resume.

Government guidelines detailed how indoor gyms can operate while adhering to social distancing measures and remaining Covid-secure which included; limiting the number of people using the facility at any one time, reducing class sizes, spacing out equipment, ensuring adequate ventilation and using temporary floor markings to create a one-way system.

Gym-goers and staff are also encouraged to shower at home to minimise the time spent in changing rooms.

While face masks are now mandatory in supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, banks, post offices, shops, on public transport and for hospital visits, they are not required to be worn in exercise and sports venues so if you're itching to get back on the treadmill, ensure you're equipped with the best gym wear and accessories that will make you comfortable throughout your entire workout.

Whether you’re after squat-proof leggings, supportive sports bras or a high-tech fitness tracker, we’ve got you covered.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Sports bras

Whether your gym activity of choice is running, yoga or a HIIT workout, a good sports bra will keep you feeling supported and reduce chafing, a sore lower back or breasts, that are both painful and disruptive.

In our sports bra guide, we put a selection to the test and found the Runderwear easy-on support running bra (Runderwear, £50) came out on top.

Stay supported and secure with this well-fitted sports bra (The Independent)
Stay supported and secure with this well-fitted sports bra (The Independent)

Designed for high-impact training, our reviewers found the moulded cups, adjustable shoulder straps and encased, wide underband offered superior support and comfort over any other product they tried.

It’s quick-wicking and breathable too, so it won't leave you feeling sticky when you work up a sweat, whether your exercise of choice is burpees or a treadmill sprint.

Leggings

Comfortable and stretchy, gym leggings are a must-have and suit any type of workout. When shopping for a pair you’ll want to find a design that will stay in place, not bunch up around the ankles and knees, nor dig into skin.

Our favourite pair in our guide to the best were the On tights ⅞ (On Running, £95) which are admittedly expensive, but a worthwhile investment if you’re a regular gym-goer.

The attention to detail on this pair, from discreet pockets to a waistband that doesn't fall down impressed us (The Independent)
The attention to detail on this pair, from discreet pockets to a waistband that doesn't fall down impressed us (The Independent)

They cut just above the ankle, are lightweight with a high waistband which we found kept them securely in place for high knees, deadlifts, squats and chest-to-floor burpees we tested them during.

“We loved the extra features, including the rear pocket, which is nice and deep with a fabric cover to help keep your essentials safe, as well as the reflective coating on the outer layer, which gave us extra reassurance on our evening runs and also helped ensure resistance bands actually stayed in place,” said our reviewer.

Trainers

A good quality pair of shoes will keep feet cushioned from the high impact exercises that can weaken ankles, knees and joints if you’re not careful.

We'd recommend the New Balance fresh foam 1080v10 London (New Balance, from £135), for both men and women, which were loved by our reviewers for being lightweight and keeping legs feeling fresh even after a long workout.

Just because a shoe is more expensive doesn't mean it's better for your feetNew Balance
Just because a shoe is more expensive doesn't mean it's better for your feetNew Balance

If your gym workouts are quite varied, we found this to be a great all-rounder shoe that excelled in comfort and performance and the midsole was praised for keeping the foot in place and anchoring the heel.

Once you've bought a pair, wear them at home around the house to get an idea for how they feel on your feet before you hit the treadmill.

Maternity gym wear

If you’re expecting, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo style for practicality and there’s plenty of options to shop from that will both support your bump and make you feel good.

We loved the Seraphine navy blue bamboo maternity leggings (Seraphine, £29) made from bamboo cotton, a soft and quick-wicking fabric.

When pregnant, you'll want gym legging that stretches with your bump and won't sag (The Independent)
When pregnant, you'll want gym legging that stretches with your bump and won't sag (The Independent)

Our reviewer said: “These super-soft over-the-bump leggings are perfect for lightweight activities like walking and yoga, but also have a simple, classic look that means they can be worn day-to-day too. Bumps are supported by discreet ruching and they come up high up the back, which means they easily pass the downward dog test.”

Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t shop pieces that can be just as easily worn postpartum. We were also impressed with this JoJo Maman Bebe burgundy maternity and nursing active feeding top (JoJo Maman Bebe, £25) that’s for wear pre- and post-birth thanks to its handy nursing straps,

For a stylish yet functional find, this workout top is perfect for expectant mothers (JoJo Maman Bebe)
For a stylish yet functional find, this workout top is perfect for expectant mothers (JoJo Maman Bebe)

The discreet ruching supports a growing bump and the material is antibacterial too, however, we did find it to be quite tight, so if you prefer a looser fit, try the next size up.

Accessories

Faye Edwards, group exercise manager at Third Space Islington and celebrity trainer, says she's "a huge fan of the resistance band". "I use these a lot especially in my teaching and they are such a great versatile tool that you can take anywhere with you", adding, "they're also great for rehabilitation exercises and muscle activation before a heavy lifting session."

Fitness expert and personal trainer, Gina Obeng, also always carries resistance bands in her bag. "I love them because they can be used on their own during your workout if machines or equipment isn’t available and can also be used to add extra resistance to whatever equipment you're currently using."

Try these CFX resistance bands (Amazon, £15.89) which you use to work on your abs, glutes, quads and hamstring. They're great for beginners and won't slip or dig into your skin, so you can workout without feeling distracted by any discomfort.

Aid your workout with a set of resistance bands to improve flexibility, balance and muscle strengthAmazon
Aid your workout with a set of resistance bands to improve flexibility, balance and muscle strengthAmazon

"In light of us coming out of lockdown, I feel sweat towels are more important than ever now," says Obeng. "We can help keep up hygiene standards by making sure we’re wiping down our sweat after the use of machines and equipment, making it a safe space for everyone to train in."

Keep this Lululemon the small towel (Lululemon, £10) nearby when you're using equipment as it's microfibre which is slip-resistant and fast-drying.

Use a sweat towel on your machines and equipment to make it a hygienic safe for everybody to work out in (Lululemon)iStock
Use a sweat towel on your machines and equipment to make it a hygienic safe for everybody to work out in (Lululemon)iStock

Make sure you wash it in between every use too.

Reusable water bottle

When working out, it's vital to keep up your fluid intake to stay hydrated.

Instead of buying bottles at the gym, bring your own which not only saves money but also prevents marine pollution.

In our review of the best reusable water bottles, the Thermos super-light direct drink flask (Lakeland, £21.99) came out on top.

Cut down on your plastic pollution and stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle (The Independent)
Cut down on your plastic pollution and stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle (The Independent)

It holds an impressive 350ml of liquid despite its size and is super lightweight too, making it easy to carry to and from your gym sessions.

Fitness tracker

When working out, a fitness tracker can come in handy to help you set goals, measure your heart rate, track calories burnt, calculate distance and encourage you to stay active.

They’re great if you're looking to get more out of your workouts, instead of just working up a sweat and calling it a day.

We’d recommend the Withings pulse HR tracker (Withings, £89.95) which can track over 30 different activities.

Track your workouts, monitor your heart rate and sleeping patterns with this fitness tracker (The Independent)
Track your workouts, monitor your heart rate and sleeping patterns with this fitness tracker (The Independent)

It has a built-in heart rate monitor that measures heart rate continuously during workouts, a sleep monitoring feature that you can use to set alarms with too, and can be connected to your smartphone.

According to our reviewer, “the Withings interface on the app is clear and attractive and if you have other Withings devices, the information is collated there, too. Since it’s lightweight enough to wear in bed, it’s a great sleep companion.”

Headphones

Block out the background noise and focus on a dedicated workout playlist or podcast with a pair of headphones that deliver not only high-quality sound, but won’t slide out of your ears mid-bench press.

Our favourites are the Jabra elite active 75t (Very, £189), which perform superbly during high-impact exercises and are the most comfortable pair we found.

These Jabra elite active earbuds won our Best Buy in our round-up of the best wireless headphones for running (The Independent)
These Jabra elite active earbuds won our Best Buy in our round-up of the best wireless headphones for running (The Independent)

Our tester said: “Be prepared to run, jump and burpee without any interruptions or feeling the need to readjust the earbuds.”

To use them, you do have to download an app but once connected, using the earbuds is a breeze and according to our reviewer, the app allows you to set different audio profiles, adjust call volumes and update the earbuds whenever a new software version comes about.

Gym bags

For some, a gym visit requires just headphones, your phone and a water bottler, for others a gym bag is essential for holding a yoga mat, resistance bands and a change of clothes.

If you’re the type that likes to pack everything into one bay, from doing a food shop, having a change of clothes to reunite with friends, and then go to gym visit on the way home, too you’ll want a bag that’s lightweight and won’t dig into your shoulder, while being roomy enough to store your stuff.

In our guide to best gym bags for women, we found the Sweaty Betty icon backpack (Sweaty Betty, £90) ticked all our boxes.

The chevron quilted design can fit your laptop, trainers and of course smaller items like headphones thanks to the multiple compartments, while the outside pockets fit our water bottle and sat comfortably on the shoulders.

Keep your gym kit safe and easy to find with this compartmentalised rucksack (Sweaty Betty)
Keep your gym kit safe and easy to find with this compartmentalised rucksack (Sweaty Betty)

“The rose gold hardware is a pretty finishing touch, making this a bag we’d be proud to be seen with,” said our reviewer.

The Fjallraven vardag duffel 30 (Fjallraven, £80) is also ideal if you prefer a holdall style

This bag will keep its shape, even after it's been stuffed into a gym locker (The Independent)
This bag will keep its shape, even after it's been stuffed into a gym locker (The Independent)

The duffel design is made from water-resistant heavy-duty fabric, including 65 per cent recycled polyester and 35 per cent organic cotton and its durability is perfect if you’ll be shoving this into a locker while you work out.

Our tester described it as, “a fantastic bag that looks and acts every part the classic gym bag – it’s simple, durable, neatly sized and a good environmental choice too."

Read more

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