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Tuesday, May 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gym bag magic: How to pack for going from workout to work

My new workout tank has a motto to remind or annoy: “Excuses don’t burn calories.”

Those excuses seem abundant just past 5 a.m., when the alarm clock goes off for a 6:30 a.m. fitness class. It requires quickly grabbing gear, change of clothes, a snack and the day’s lunch. Am I prepared to go directly to work?

Other people with a fitness quest seem to have this workout-to-work crunch figured out. Ditto for a lunchtime workout. So I’ve asked around for ideas. How do you go from sweaty to professional if you can’t go home for a shower?

Turns out you can with a little gym bag magic and mindful preparation.

“One of the main keys is packing the night before and making sure you have everything to change for work,” said Lindsay Stinger, who goes to a 5:30 a.m. Farmgirlfit workout in Spokane four times a week.

By day, her job is West Valley High School dean of students. She doesn’t have time to go home between workouts and work.

“The biggest concern for people is your hair,” she said. “My hair gets sweaty, so, at the end of a class, the first thing I do is take my hair down out of a bun or rubber band.”

She then applies dry shampoo to roots that helps soak up moisture. If time permits, she uses a compact hair dryer on a cool setting. Her face gets a wipe down.

“Trader Joe’s has tea tree oil face cleanser wipes I use on my face,” she said. “The wipes get all the sweat off, and I like the tea tree oil for cooling. It’s a great idea to bring baby wipes for the rest of your body.

“Dry shampoo is the key to all happiness. There are days when I think my day is held together by dry shampoo. I don’t change until I get to work because, for me, I feel like my body is still cooling down.”

Her routine is down to a science. After finishing the workout by 6:30 a.m., she’s driving within 5 to 10 minutes to the school to arrive just before 7 a.m. Once there, she pops a pre-packed breakfast into the microwave and goes to change.

“I’m walking into my office by 7:15 a.m.; it’s ultra fast. I’ve made it work. My job is unpredictable, so working out after work is too unpredictable.”

Gym bag essentials

Luba Demyanovskiy makes the dash from instructing a Jazzercise class to her phlebotomist job. Also the night before, she checks for items needed to make that transition work.

“I’m not a morning person, so if my bag is packed, it’s easy,” she said. “You just grab it.”

“I prep my gym bag the night before and make sure I have my scrubs and name tag and a spare change of clothes. I make sure I have a little washcloth and a towel. Then I have my hair dryer and some body wash.”

She uses small travel containers that she fills with body wash. She’s another fan of dry shampoo and also does a quick cleanup at a sink.

“With that rag, I put a little dab of body wash on the washcloth, rub it on my body, rinse the washcloth, then rub with the non-soapy rag,” she said. “Then I kind of take a shower, but it really does work. Then I dry off with a small towel.”

When it comes to packing a change of clothes, think of the whole ensemble, suggests Stinger.

“Bring a completely new outfit down to the socks, everything for changing your clothes, and the right shoes,” she said.

Stinger once mistakenly packed mismatched work shoes. “Everyone at work teased me about it. I work at a high school, and those teens were eating me alive.”

Savhanna Robertson, a Spokane Farmgirlfit coach, also votes for planning ahead.

“Some items I think are useful are a small towel and baby wipes, but also dry shampoo,” Robertson said. “That is like a magic wand.”

“Other essentials are having mini toiletries and a second bag of makeup and leaving it in your bag. It can be refills or duplicate items, but that’s where it lives, so it’s just grab and go.”

She said another plan is to shower before bed, then to rinse off at a sink and use baby wipes after a workout. She said some women’s strategy includes more minimal makeup and hair for the whole day.


Another challenge, or excuse, is how to squeeze in a small breakfast and have your lunch ready if you take one to work. Many early risers pack lunch the night ahead.

Stinger’s trick is to prep the week’s morning food Sunday afternoon. She fills four containers with quick-grab items such as boiled eggs or fixings for a breakfast burrito. If time is tight, she might bring packaged meals from the store she can put in the microwave at work.

If you have about an hour to eat before a workout, Demyanovskiy suggests an egg with avocado. “That gives you a protein and healthy fat.”

You don’t want anything heavy that will sit on the stomach, she added. With less time, she grabs a handful of roasted nuts. Other options are a low-sugar Greek yogurt or banana.

Within 15 to 20 minutes after exercising, Demyanovskiy believes in sipping a drink with a simple protein isolate, such as Max Muscle products. She also usually eats a piece of fruit at the same time.

“The carb helps to restore energy that you completely depleted, then you won’t feel that huge crush and think, ‘I want to go to bed,’ she said.

Demyanovskiy sometimes preps smoothie ingredients the night before to drink on the commute to work.

“For my smoothies, I peel a banana and put it in a Ziploc to freeze the night before. Then all it takes in the morning to put it together is to blend in some spinach, frozen berries and protein complex. I bring it with me for the commute to work, and the frozen banana keeps it cool.”

Robertson also recommends grabbing a banana, fruit or boiled eggs. She puts coffee in a thermos and adds vital proteins. That beverage stays warm to drink afterward. “I’m ready to go with that.”

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