The Clothes Make the Workout
If you are new to the world of fitness, you probably have a lot of questions about what you need to get started. Possibly the most important question is, of course, what do you wear? When choosing the best clothes to exercise in, there are a lot of things to think about, and a lot of options out there with great marketing campaigns. Cut through the jargon and figure out what you really need.
First of all, no matter what clothes you use, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and get out there and exercise. If it’s an old ratty T-shirt you got for free at back in college and a pair of basketball shorts you’ve had since middle school, power to you. Rock that T and break a sweat. But if you want to take the next step and invest in some gear that will keep you feeling good throughout your fitness journey, there are other things to consider.
What You Need
Ideally, when getting fitness gear, every piece of attire you’re wearing should be aimed towards exercise. That includes of course your shoes, shirt, shorts and pants, but we can’t forget about underwear, socks, Fitness Trackers, and even outerwear for the cold weather. Having dedicated workout clothes helps prevent bacteria growth on your other clothes, and ensures that you’re as comfortable as possible while exercising.
Sometimes, different activities and workouts may call for different gear. Having separate clothing for each exercise style may seem redundant, but can actually help you stay safe and moving efficiently. For example, I have separate pairs of shoes for running, walking, lifting, hiking, and cycling. When I lift weights, I like a very thin soled shoe like vivobarefoot, which replicates being barefoot, which helps me maintain proper form and body mechanics. When I cycle, I use hard soled shoes or specific cycling shoes with clips, to help really drive the petals without hurting my feet. Having activity appropriate clothing can mean the difference between dreading the discomfort and rocking your workout.
When it comes to workout clothes, cotton is not your friend. Cotton will absorb sweat, keeping it close to the body. With cotton, you’ll stay wet longer which can lead to chafing. Wet clothes can make you sick with changes in temperature and absorption of bacteria. Instead, go for synthetic materials that can both breathe and wick away sweat, keeping your body cool and dry.
This is most important for base layers and undergarments like socks, underwear, and sports bras, where bacteria can collect more and has a higher potential to lead to health issues. I use and love ExOfficio for my workout underwear and for travel. They’re light, breathable, quick drying, anti-microbial, and you can wash them in the sink.
While most people think of wool as just for cold weather, it can also be a great option year round. New breathable wool clothing can perform just as well as synthetics fabrics, no matter the season. I love smartwool socks for just that reason.
If you’re going out for a run or getting your heart rate up, it’s important to dress according to the weather, whether it’s summer or winter. As soon as you get up to pace, your body will warm up with the exertion, and you’ll feel a difference. The trick is to dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer than it is. Although you may be colder in your warm-up, you’ll be less likely to overheat. While your bright orange hat may feel awesome when you first step outside, your hot head will thank you for not covering up too much when you’re fully into your run.
With any outerwear like sweaters and jackets, make sure that they’re also of a great material. Running in the rain with an old windbreaker jacket might be great to keep you dry, but if it doesn’t breathe well, you can overheat and risk injury or illness. Finding a balance can be difficult but with new clothing technologies being developed, there are options for everything.
Make sure you double check the size and fit of anything you decide to buy. Exercising in clothing that doesn’t fit well can be uncomfortable and lead to chafing, bouncing, sticking, blisters, and just an all around bad time. Try on as much as you can before you buy it, and make sure any retailer you shop with has a good return or exchange policy.
When going out to buy fitness apparel, all of the major sport clothing brands have great options. For buying any clothing, cost is an issue, and it can really add up for fitness gear. I’m a big fan of lululemon for their material, fit, styles, attention to detail, and amazing customer experience. To me, the cost is worth it for the peace of mind knowing that I really don’t have to think or worry about anything I buy there. But don’t take my word for it, take your time to do some research and cost comparisons to find the best options for you.
Buying new workout gear can help encourage you to exercise more by getting you excited about wearing it and getting out there. Whichever brand, material, or style you choose, wear your new gear proudly as you walk, run, bike, and lift your way to fitness.