Growing up I idolized my Grandfather. I mean absolutely idolized and knew, without a shred of doubt, that he was the greatest man to ever walk to face of the planet. He was a carpenter by trade so all of his time was spent carrying a toolbox on a job site, working in his own shop in the garage, and yelling at me for running around barefoot in that garage.
I still claim, to this day, that dodging all of those nails and sharp things on the ground is how I cultivated my amazing agility.
Ok, maybe not really.
But still, he was one of the toughest men I knew and my model of what a real man really was. Even today, as a grown as man, I'll look back and draw similarities between us and see how I can be more like I remember him to be.
That's why I think of my gym bag as my own personal tool box. Yes, I know, it's one weak ass and over used metaphor. But's how I see it and how I treat it.
There is nothing in there that isn't used. There is nothing in there that hasn't proven itself useful. And there is nothing in there that will do all the work for me.
You can't lay a hammer and some nails on a pile of lumber, go to lunch, and expect a house to be standing when you get back. You have to do the work yourself, you have a specific goal, and you have to realize these tools are meant to aid you.
1 - Gym Boss
I use this thing for intervals, timing my warmup, timing myself in sprints, and occasionally timing my whole workout to make sure I'm not going for too long. It's only $20, but it adds so much more value to your workout you will never know how you managed without it.
My favorite thing to do with it is to time myself sprinting. It won't give you your exact time, but you can set it up to "bracket" you in so you can hit a certain range. For example, say you wanted to run 400m repeats at 70-85% of your max speed/best time. Just multiply your best time (let's say it's 80s for this case) by 1.3 (70% of your max) and 1.15 (85% of your max).
This will give you a range of 92s-104s. Then you'll just set the first interval of the GymBoss as 92s and the rest period as 12s. Now it will beep at the high and low-end of that range and your goal is to finish the 400m before the second beep goes off. Too simple.
Honestly, I rarely use straps anymore. But, like the balls, they take up almost no room in my bag and they are something I like to have around for when I do need them. Even then, the most common thing I use them for is helping me work my way to a more proficient front squat using the clean grip.
Chalk, however, is used multiple times throughout the week. Mostly during my strength workouts with deadllifts and power cleans. I forget exactly where I heard the idea to use a rock climbers chalk bag to carry around my chalk, but let me tell you this...
IT'S FREAKIN' GENIUS!
Seriously. After having a ziploc bag fo chalk explode in my bag one time I just swore off using it completely. And, even though chalk costs like a nickel for a block, the chalk bag completely contains that giant plume that always pops up when you chalk your hands. I bought the thing 3 years ago and just had to re-fill it.
3 - My 3 Balls
Some people aren't crazy about self-myofascial release, and others are "crazy" crazy about self-myofascial release. Me...I'm somewhere in the middle. It absolutely feels good on some sore muscles, and I can feel the difference between when I make the time to roll out and when I get lazy.
Either way, it's super simple to carry a lacrosse ball and a softball in my bag where ever I go. so they just stay right in there. Check out the blog post I wrote about my approach so I can save us from having to re-hash the whole thing in this post.
4 - Shuffle with Bose Earbuds
I used to just use my iPhone for my musical needs. But after a while I noticed that 1) I spent way too much time attempting to pick the "perfect" song and 2) I didn't really like sweating like a whore in church all over my $600 phone.
Even worse is I would constantly have the desire to check my texts or email or the web while working out. Not exactly the best way to stay focused and put in some work, huh?
So I grabbed an iPod shuffle. $50 and it held 2 hours of music, which is plenty for a training session. This got rid the possibility of checking texts AND made it easier to just let the song play. This one change made a world of difference in my strength and speed gains. And it wasn't even directly training related. Crazy.
The, last year, my headphones that came with the shuffle finally burned out. I tried a cheap skull candy pair...and they sucked balls. But I didn't want to spend almost $100 on headphones just to have them suck. Luckily my one friend let me try is Bose earbuds, and holy shit, they were perfect.
They sound phenomenal and they fit your ear perfectly. Since I was looking to just use them when working out I didn't really care about the sound. I just wanted a pair that wouldn't fall out when I moved to suddenly. I've done plyos, sprints, cleans, and every other quick/explosive movement under the sun with this things and they've never fallen out.