Keep These Six Items in Your Gym Bag

By Aaron Brock | Aug. 21, 2018, 5 p.m. (ET)

Water bottle
Keep your water bottles full and close by at all times!

Health and injury prevention takes dedication and commitment. It also requires planning.

Here are six items you should have in your gym bag to improve your chances of staying healthy and performing at your optimal level. 

Water bottle

Not only is dehydration a potentially very serious medical condition, it is a well-documented performance limiter. Be prepared with plenty of fluids for practices and matches. The general recommendation is to consume around 32 ounces per hour of volleyball. Special attention needs to be given to hydration status before and after practice/competition...not just during the practice/competition. If your urine is not clear to light yellow, you are most likely dehydrated. Have a water bottle ready to assist your hydration goals! 

Snack

If you still think you should only be eating three meals/day…think again. Most athletes can benefit from appropriate snacking (to aid their balanced diet). For example, athletes who practice in the afternoon could perhaps use a boost of energy between lunch and dinner. A nutritious bar, fruit, trail mix, light sandwich or other healthy snack could give you the necessary fuel to power your body through practice (notice I didn’t say grab the nearest caffeinated energy beverage!). Plan ahead with a snack to boost your performance. 

Related: Foam-rolling Exercises | 10 Muscle Groups Every Player Must Stretch | Stretches for Beach Players (videos)

Self-myofascial release instrument

Say what?!  OK, that’s a fancy term for self-massage. Often times your muscles will feel sore and tight. Sometimes rolling on a tennis ball (or similar), using a foam roller or “stick” will help decrease tension and increase muscle elasticity. This type of work can be done either before or after practice/competition, but I like to incorporate it into our warm-ups. 

Band for shoulder strengthening exercises

Shoulder injuries are one of the most common ailments in volleyball. Even if the shoulder pain isn’t so intense that it keeps you off the court, shoulder pain can limit performance and cause more severe problems down the road. Some of these injuries can be prevented by continual strengthening. This means coming prepared with a band in your bag to work on strength.  

Band for hip strengthening exercises

Knee injuries are another common injury seen with volleyball. There is growing evidence that hip strength can improve jumper’s knee and may even help prevent a variety of knee injuries such as ACL tears. There are many ways to strengthen the hips. However, every day we do a variety of exercises with the band around the knees to either activate the hips pre-practice or in collaboration with strength and conditioning programs. 

Reusable ice bag/strap

Ice is a nice pain-relieving and inflammation-reducing technique. Over the past couple years, we’ve moved away from the plastic bags and wrap in favor of reusable ice bags and straps. These icing kits are much more convenient and comfortable and it’s less plastic going into the trash. 

If you’re just going to ice at home, the reusable gel packs that you can keep in your freezer. However, most times you want to ice immediately after activity to reduce pain and inflammation…that’s when the reusable ice kits come in handy!

Aaron Brock is USA Volleyball’s Director of Sports Medicine and Performance and the athletic trainer to the U.S. Men's National Team.