What’s in My Gym Bag: Physical Therapist Chris McIlvaine

Image courtesy of Chris McIlvaine.

If you’re a member of the Washington fitness world and want to share what’s in your bag, email Mimi Montgomery at 

Who: Chris McIlvaine
Does: Physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist at Quist MD in Chevy Chase DC (he’s also certified to help golfers with their mobility via the Titleist Performance Institute)
Approach to fitness: “To 
move and stabilize each segment of my body as optimally as possible. I tore my ACL three times in college, and I used to blame anything I could not do on ‘my bad knee.’ I then took a step back and realized that my hips, thoracic spine, and pelvis were not moving well and causing me to place undue stress on my knee. They were the problem, and my knee was the victim. When I work with patients, I try to take the same approach and find what is not moving or stabilizing efficiently, instead of chasing the pain. Look at the big picture because pain lies, movement does not!”

The Bag


McIlvaine keeps it simple with the bag he says “everyone had when they were a little kid.” His is personalized with a “C” monogram as a groomsman gift from a friend, has room for everything he needs, and is easy to lug around. Adventure Duffle, $60, LL Bean

Resistance Bands

McIlvaine likes these bands for their versatility: He uses them to add resistance for rotation-based exercises and when warming up with active isolated stretching. “You can also do chops and lifts with it,” he says, “which are some of my favorite stability exercises for golfers.” Gray Cook Band, $43, Perform Better

And McIlvaine uses monster bands for increased resistance on exercises such as a kneeling hip hinge. They’re great as a mobility or stability tool, can help increase your reps with pull-ups, and are easy to stash in his bag, he says. Monster Bands, $71, Rogue Fitness

Lacrosse Ball

“A lacrosse ball can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how you look at it,” says McIlvaine. “I like to test my range of motion during my warm up and if I feel that a certain motion is stuck, I may use the lacrosse ball to help free up some soft tissue.” The ball is good for trigger points because it targets specific spots a foam roller would miss, he says. Champion Sports Lacrosse Ball, $6, Amazon

Spotify Premium

McIlvaine has music in the family (his dad is an opera singer), so he needs to listen to it at the gym at all times. His go-to? Rick Ross. Spotify Premium lets him keep all his music in one spot—plus he gets a Hulu subscription with it, too. “I am still trying to convince my fiance that our walkout song to our wedding should be ‘Hustlin” by Rick Ross,” he says, “so hopefully this adds peer pressure.” Spotify Premium, $10 a month, Spotify


Wireless headphones are a game changer, says McIlvaine—no more cords getting in the way of his exercises. “The battery life is amazing at 100 hours with the charging case, they are waterproof, and the Bluetooth connection allows me to walk around without my phone.” Mifo Wireless Headphones, $87, Amazon

Water Bottle

“I make sure that I finish 32 ounces of water before I leave the gym to offset the copious amounts of coffee that I drink throughout the day,” says McIlvaine. Patients frequently complain about cramping when they come into the clinic, and McIlvaine’s first suggestion is usually the same: drink more water.  Nalgene Tritan, $10, Amazon


“The physical therapist in me does not like the arch support, but, man, do I look good in them,” says McIlvaine. “All half-kidding aside, I actually use them because my golf shoes are also Roshe Ones, and you try to practice how you play, even though I am not very good. There is something to training in similar shoes.” Roshe Ones, $75, Nike


Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.