Have you ever arrived home from the gym only to find that you left something there? Or worse yet, you didn’t realize you left an item there until you couldn’t find it, and by that time it was no longer in the lost-and-found? I can’t even begin to tell you how many things I have lost because I left them at the gym. Just off the top of my head I can tell you that I have lost a swimsuit, swim bottoms, goggles, as well as all my toiletries. It’s very frustrating not only because of the expense of a lost item, but also because of the disruption to my routine when I have to go out and replace something.
Several months ago I tried to figure out how I could stop leaving things at the gym. The more I thought about this problem, I realized that what I really needed to do was to come up with a specific routine for when I went to the gym. I’m not talking about a workout routine, but rather a process for organizing and using my gym equipment. If that sounds a little silly, please bear with me, and let me provide an example of how a specific process helped me in another situation.
My first job as a phlebotomist was with a major hospital and I worked with critically ill patients. We had to be very careful not to transfer germs between patients. Not only did we need to change gloves between patients, but any time we touched the patient we had to remove our gloves and hand-sanitize before we touched anything else in order to avoid germs being transferred on the surface of an object. That may not sound difficult, but keep in mind that in addition to the glove-changing and hand-sanitizing we were also thinking about running the computer, printing labels, identifying the patient, drawing the correct tubes, disposing of sharps, etc. It was imperative that everything be completed correctly and safely. To help us remember everything that we needed to do, we were trained to follow a very specific routine. What was great about it was that once I had the routine down, I never had to worry whether I had forgotten to do any of the numerous things that I was required to do. If I got interrupted mid-process, I was able to come back to the point where I had left off, and I knew immediately that I had completed everything up to that point.
With this example in mind, I created a process for going to the gym. The first thing I did was buy a new gym bag. Sometimes I do more than one activity when I’m at the gym, so I have a lot of stuff to keep track of. I had experimented with taking separate bags for each activity, but that just meant more items to keep track of. I decided that I needed a bag that could hold everything that I needed. I ended up buying a large backpack for swimmers. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out for me but it’s been great! Basically, the idea is to have “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.” When I pack my bag, I put things in their designated place so that I can find them when I get to the gym. I take things out in a specific order and put them back in the bag in a certain order. My process begins with packing my gym bag and ends with washing my clothes and towel. I’m going to explain my process for when I go swimming.
On the outside of my backpack there are two zippered pockets and two large webbed pockets. The upper zippered pocket is reserved for my phone and car keys, and the lower one is where I keep my hairbrush, deodorant, makeup remover and eye makeup. I keep my padlock in the left webbed pocket. There is only one large pocket in the inside of the bag which is where I put my swim towels (I have a small one for my hair and a larger one for wrapping around my body). I have a toiletry bag that I keep inside the backpack which holds my soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and I store my goggles and swim cap in a separate part of the toiletry bag.
I generally wear my swimsuit to the gym, with jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt over the top. My towel is already in the bag because I wash it after each gym trip and then put it in the bag for the next use. I keep full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap in the toiletry bag so that I’m not constantly refilling small bottles. I also keep some eyeliner, shadow and mascara in the bag so that I always have it. All I need to do after I put on my swimsuit is put my underwear and a change of clothes in the backpack.
When I get to the gym, I scan in with the card that is attached to my car keys. I immediately put my keys in the zippered pocket along with my phone. Once I’m in the locker room, I find an empty locker. I take my towels and toiletry bag out of the backpack. I take off my street clothes and put them in the bag, then put the bag in the locker. The padlock is in the outer pocket so I remove it and lock the locker. I take my swim cap and goggles out of the toiletry bag and put them on. Then I take the towels and toiletry bag out to the pool where I hang them on a hook.
Once I’m finished swimming, I head to the showers with my towels and toiletry bag. I remove my cap and goggles and put them back in the toiletry bag. After I use the toiletries, I put them back in the toiletry bag. As I leave the showers I put my swimsuit into the spinner to dry it out. I unlock my locker and pull out my backpack. I put the toiletry bag back in the pack. I tuck my swimsuit into the second webbed pocket and head to the dressing room. The towels go back into the pack before I leave the dressing room. After I head back to my car, I know exactly where to find my phone and keys. When I get home I throw my clothes and towels in the washer. After they are dried, I put them back in the backpack.
I am happy to say that over the past several months I have not forgotten anything at the gym. If you want to keep track of your things when you work out, then a routine is definitely the way to go. Think through what would work best for you. Just remember that you need a place for everything, and you need to keep everything in its place. Let me know if you give this a try and if it works for you.