9 Things to Buy Before You Start an Exercise Program

Essential Fitness Tools

best workout gear
Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

Are you ready to start a new workout program? Perhaps you want to make your exercise sessions more effective. Having the best workout gear can boost your motivation, make exercise sessions easier and help you lose fat faster. Whether you are beginning a workout program to lose weight, or simply trying to improve the way your body looks and feels, process work faster with high-tech tools and low-tech essentials. 

Exercise gadgets can also boost your workout safety. So the first thing you may want to consider is an identification bracelet. Brands like Road ID make wrist bands that you can wear while you work out indoors or out. No one ever wants to believe that an accident can happen, but if one does, you want to make sure that emergency workers have important health and identification information right away.

Reusuable Water Bottle

variety of waterbottles for workout

Proper hydration is essential during your workout. But in most cases you shouldn’t rely on sugary, calorie-laden sports beverages, especially if you are trying to lose weight. The American Council on Exercise recommends that exercisers hydrate only with water for sessions lasting less than an hour. Get a refillable, resealable water bottle that is easy to carry and easy to clean. Brands like Contigo (pictured above) offer bottles that are easy to use before during and after your exercise session. They also provide water bottles that allow you to flavor your water with fresh fruit for an extra burst of (healthy) flavor.

Flattering Fitness Apparel

You’ll workout more often, exercise harder and feel better in your body if you have workout clothing that makes you look and feel good. Compression gear is a favorite among many avid exercisers because it makes your body look fit and tight. Some experts say that it can even improve recovery after your workout is complete.  Brands like lululemon, 2XU and Nike make compression workout gear in figure-flattering styles.

When you put together your workout wardrobe, you should also  look for clothes that are made out of "wicking" fibers. These are garments that help move moisture away from your body so you feel dry and comfortable while you exercise. And buy pieces that you can layer so that you can work out in all weather conditions.

Sport-Specific Shoes

best workout shoes
Yagi Studio / Getty Images
You shouldn’t run in walking shoes, you shouldn’t bike in running shoes and you shouldn’t play tennis in shoes made for the mall. A good pair of shoes, designed specifically for the workout you’ve chosen, could make the difference between completing your exercise session comfortably and quitting due to pain.

When you shop for your shoe, it may be worth your time to go to a store devoted to your sport. Walking stores, for example, have experts that can evaluate your gait, your size and your foot structure to give you a proper fit. Try on several pairs before you make a decision.

Fitness Tracker That Measures Heart Rate

fitness tracker for workouts
Polar USA

well-designed workout program should be balanced with hard intervals days, longer moderate sessions and easy recovery sessions. But how do you know how hard you are working? You can use perceived exertion, but that method doesn’t always work.

A fitness tracker that measures heart rate can give you the numbers you need to make sure you are always exercising at the most effective intensity. There are many on the market, but monitors made by Polar are specially designed for athletes of all levels.

The Polar A360 (pictured above) measures your workout and provides a complete online dashboard and smartphone app to help you manage and plan your program. If you prefer a device with GPS features to measure distance and pace, upgrade to the M400 or M600 to get accurate data on the go.

Headphones or Earbuds for Exercise

headphones for exercise

Most people can complete longer exercise sessions if they are entertained while they work out. A good pair of headphones or earbuds will help you do that. 

Earbuds have gone high-tech and can now measure heart rate, distance and other workout data. Brands like Jabra make several models at different price points that are designed specifically for regular exercisers for use with their novel coaching app. And LG makes headphones that are sweatproof and some that don't require the placement of earbudsso in some situations may even safe for cycling.

If you like the feel of traditional headphones, try Hellas by Urbanears. These wireless, sweat-friendly headphones cover the entire ear and are washable so that you don't have to worry about your gear getting funky. 

Smartphone Armband

fitness armband

If you exercise outdoors, it's important to bring your smartphone when you exercise. That way, you're always connected to support services if there is an emergency.  If you exercise indoors, having your smartphone nearby means that you stay connected to your favorite tunes or podcast while you work out.

Armbands for your smartphone come in various styles, but the armbands made by Sprigs are extra convenient because they fit any size phone. Built in grip dots keep your device in place and the stretchy custom performance fabric doesn't scratch your arm. 

Sunscreen and Body Balm

If you exercise outdoors, sunscreen is a must. Even on cloudy days, the sun’s harmful rays can damage your skin and put you at risk for cancer. Look for a sweat-proof variety of sunscreen and possibly separate products for your face and body. If possible, get small containers to carry with you on longer workouts so that you can re-apply as needed.

Many exercisers also swear by body balms to prevent chaffing. You use these skin lubricants on areas of your body that rub so that you don't end up with abrasions. You'll find brands like Bodyglide online or in your local sporting goods store. 

Eye Protection

Some sports, like biking, are safer when the exerciser has sport-specific eye and head protection. Even walkers should protect their eyes on sunny days. Find a pair of sunglasses that have a rubber or non-slip bridge over the nose so that when you begin to sweat, your glasses don’t slide down your face. Sport glasses are made in a wide range of styles and price ranges so compare prices to find a pair that fits your budget

Digital Scale

You'll want to measure your workout progress by measuring the results on a digital scale. The folks at Polar make a streamlined, high-tech scale that interfaces with the Polar Flow app to provide program guidance.

If you want to measure other factors such as body fat percent, consider a scale by brands like Fitbit or Taylor. You'll find models at every price point and every style at sporting goods stores, online or at home goods retailers.