Health and Fitness

How to Pack It, Part II: Go From Dorm-to-Class-to-Gym-to-Date

By popular demand (okay, two people), here’s a follow-up How to Pack It post for students and others out there, who asked for a scaled-down “lite” version that will allow you to get your workout in, on the run.

My youngest daughter is a college sophomore, so I hear firsthand how challenging it is to race from class to class (which always seem to be located at polar opposites of a sprawling campus), internships or a part-time job, the library, any extracurricular activities, or just meeting up with friends to hang out and grab a quick bite.  I knew it was bad when I called my daughter before bed one night, and before I could even get past a “Hey…” I was greeted with:  “(Gasp)…(Wheeze)…Mom, let me call you back…”

Startled, and ready to speed-dial campus police, I yelled, “What…What hap…Where are..?!?” only to be cut off by her exasperated, “NOTHING, Ma, RELAX…I’m-on-the-elliptical-at-the-gym-call-you-later-bye.”  Click.

Elliptical?  I looked over at the clock.  10:45pm.  WTH?  When I later asked her why she was working out so late, she claimed that because she was scheduled to work a shift directly after her last afternoon class, and then had to race from there to make some other evening colloquium session for her program major, that it was the only time she could get it in.  Sigh.  I was about to tell her of the alleged perils of exercising that late at night (sleep disruption, potentially burning less fat, et al), but figured, why bother?  One, I already knew college students kept the same hours as vampires, so to them 10:45 may as well have been the 5pm dinner hour.  Two, this is the same girl who, along with her older sister, will mockingly respond to my well-meaning words with a cheery Thank you, Mother, I’ll take that under advisement before proceeding to do nothing except that which she’d already set her mind to do.

Oh, well.  Karma is a b**ch.  (Like mother, like daughters.)

Regardless of when you work out, though, you still need to walk prepared.  This is not just for students, but anyone who needs to leave home with a compact, all-in-one bag solution that can take them from class to gym to job to date and anywhere else in between, without having to circle back to their dorm, apartment or house to “get themselves together” for the next phase of their day.  In my previous post, we talked about all the ways these unnecessary circular movements sap motivation, waste time and block fitness-on-the-go opportunities.

This Part II solution assumes two things:

1.  You don’t have access to shower facilities, after your workout.  (But even if you did, you absolutely lack the time.)

2.  You can only travel with ONE bag for all your daily needs.  (No separate purse, bookbag, briefcase, gym duffel, et al.)  My bag of choice, and the one featured in this post, is the Core Bag by Live Well 360, but those on a student budget should feel free to adapt with a less expensive version, with as much quality as your modest funds can afford.  Otherwise, the bag will simply fall apart on you after a few weeks, forcing you to spend additional $$ on a replacement, in which case you could have – for the same money – invested in the premium bag to begin with.  But do whatever your budget dictates.   Bags that work best are those stylish enough to pass as a regular bag (as opposed to a ratty old gym duffel), but with reinforced construction that will hold up to daily use and abuse, not to mention heavy books and electronics.  Optimally, they should also feature separate areas for wet clothes and dirty sneakers, a laptop compartment, and plenty of individual pockets to keep all your other supplies organized and easy to access.

Regardless of which bag you use, the key concept here is this handy Shower-in-a-Bathroom-Stall kit which, rolled up, easily fits in the palm of one hand:

“Shower-in-a-Bathroom-Stall” Kit: The Athletic Body Wipe, DeoDry 24-Hr Deodorant from The Body Shop, SportLite Rat Towel, and Philosophy Pure Grace (Soap-and-Water Scent) Trial-Size Perfume.

The Athletic Body Wipe is the glue holding this entire system together.  For just under $1 per packet (they’re sold 10 units to a box for $9.99), it’s a large, 9 x 8 premium moistened antibacterial wipe designed to clean your entire body without tearing.  What I love is that it’s alcohol-free, contains Aloe Vera and Vitamin E, and is suitable for sensitive skin.  Afterwards, just dab off any residual dampness with a SportLite RatTowel Microfiber Towel, apply deodorant, and spritz on a little soap-and-water-clean-smelling perfume (my fave is Philosophy’s Pure Grace, sold in miniature sizes at Sephora), and you can walk out of any toilet stall feeling like you just stepped out of a shower.  Not the most elegant of settings, but hey, when you have no shower access after working out and your only goal is to go from funky to fresh in 7 minutes flat, it gets the job done.

Note below how this portable shower kit takes up literally no space in an outside pocket of your new compact bag, leaving plenty of room for a pair of sneakers, workout clothes, your laptop, a college textbook or two, a binder, a notebook, water bottle, snacks, and even an iPad…not to mention your phone, cosmetics and whatever else you’d normally carry in a separate purse.  (You can even pack a tiny removable clutch purse to transfer just your phone, keys and cash, if you want to dash out to the lunch truck without having to tote the bigger bag.)

The mother in me is obliged to point out that you would have even more space in the bag if you actually wore the sneakers on your feet to begin with, instead of packing them.  But the former-19-year-old in me acknowledges how important the whole “cuteness” factor is for coed fashionistas hell bent on strutting across campus in the latest designer boots (no matter how uncomfortable or painful).  Thus, I allowed for this measure of vanity in the packing system.  Pick your poison.

Special thanks to my daughter, who agreed to be my student model. Note that just by changing the straps, the bag can be worn messenger-style, or off-the-shoulder. Bag: Core Bag by Live Well 360.


Besides students, this solution is also great for:

A.  Commuters who want to ditch gas costs, vehicle wear-and-tear, and stop-and-go traffic – not to mention reduce their carbon footprint (Go Green!) – by biking to and from work.  Think about how fantastic it must feel to finish your commute and know you also got your cardio workout in for the day, all in the same stroke.  No shower at work?  No problem.  Clean up head-to-toe in the bathroom stall with your portable shower kit, do a quick change with the wrinkle-free work outfit you stowed away in your Eagle Creek Travel Pack-It Folder, and you’re good to go for that 9am staff meeting.  All without driving coworkers out of the conference room, Huck-style (Scandal fans?), with your special brand of bike-to-work “funk.”  Poor Huck had a good excuse.  You don’t.

B.  Professionals who (a) work long hours at both ends, (b) have no onsite access to gym or shower facilities, and (c) want to use their lunch hour to get in a brisk walk or run around their building, office park or neighboring community.  Get your 50-minute, no-equipment cardio workout in, and still have 10 minutes to spare to clean up and jump back into your corporate outfit, clear-headed and ready for your first afternoon meeting.

C.  Air travelers, who between long layovers and red-eye flights need to make sure their carry-on contains a “shower in a bag” so they can freshen up in the airport bathroom before meeting that special someone at pickup.

Again, we’re talking about tools to help eliminate all the “can’t’s” from our horizon, that can keep us from getting on with the active lifestyle our bodies were designed for.  Back in prehistoric times, we got all the daily exercise we needed running for our lives, with cave lions and other bloodthirsty predators in hot pursuit.  With that motivation gone, we’ve gotten a little soft.  Actually, a lot soft.  Ticking off one excuse after another to explain why we Can’t.  Move.  Our.  Arses.

But the good news is, every day presents a new opportunity to self-correct.  So let’s decide together to not wait for the threat of mortal harm, before we take steps to make exercise a priority.   Whether you’re a student, parent, busy professional, or all three…all it takes is a little planning ahead, the right tools, and the right organization.

Enjoy your workout!

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