One of the joys of gym exercise is that there is no need to spend a lot of money on clothing before you can start. However if you find that you are becoming a regular at exercise class, cardio machines or in the pool, then it may be time to add to the wardrobe. With so much choice on the rails, what really matters for workout wear?
As the evenings draw in and the weather cools off, it is a great time of year to return to the gym or to fitness classes. You may be dusting off your fitness gear from previous use, or you may be new to fitness and wondering what to wear.
If you are starting from scratch, you will probably find that you can get by quite happily on items you already own. The obvious exception will be a swimming costume if you do not already own one, but otherwise a simple t-shirt with leggings, shorts or tracksuit bottoms will cover most needs.
To choose the right outfit for the activity, or if it is time for a shopping trip, here are a few pointers.
Fitness means fit for purpose! Your workout clothes or swimsuit are very important to enjoying your exercise. In the exercise studio, you need clothes in layers so that you can shed items as you warm up, and then cover up again as you cool down.
If you are using workout machinery such as exercise cycles or weights machines, it is very important that nothing can get caught in the machinery. So this is the place for close-fitting leggings rather than tracksuits, and t-shirts that are not too big for you. Most people will have something suitable available while trying out various classes.
In the pool, no-one can swim happily if their costume is slipping or riding up. It is also probably quite important that it doesn’t go transparent – so don’t believe the hype and never buy a white or very pale swimsuit!
Does your fitness wear fit you? Sizing for fitness wear is even more of a minefield than for ordinary clothing. There is really no option but to spend an afternoon at the shops trying on the outfits. Be aware that each brand cuts their clothing differently – some will come up small while others use ‘vanity sizing’ and will be much bigger than you expect. Check for leg length on shorts and leggings and that sleeves are neither too loose nor too tight. You need freedom of movement without excess material.
Feet first. The right shoes for your workout are essential. With impact workouts, cushioning and support are vital to avoid injury. With dance-based classes such as Zumba, ask for advice about shoes that allow the right moves without risking knee damage. Socks with padding in the soles are excellent for impact workouts – make sure that they are not too thick for your shoes. Wash socks after each use and keep your fitness trainers for the gym to make them last longer. Shoes can be downgraded for use in the garden once they are too worn for proper support.
Strong foundations matter. Most women will need to wear a supportive sports bra for workouts that involve any jumping or running. The bra will not be the most comfortable garment to wear, but it will make a difference during the workout. It will also reduce the stretching of the ligaments that support the breasts. Once these are stretched they do not spring back, so some assistance to fight gravity is essential. Make sure that bra straps are wide and don’t slip off – slipping straps are extremely irritating during a workout. Gentlemen should also consider support underwear, especially if wearing loose shorts.
Will it last? Workout clothing has a hard life – stretched, tugged, sweated in and washed frequently. While no-one wants clothes that fall apart in a week, realistically your fitness wardrobe is there for a good time rather than a long time. This is especially true for swimwear which is attacked by the chlorine in the pool. Some fabrics are more resistant than others, but no swimsuit will last more than a few months in regular use. Check your costume regularly to ensure that it is not more transparent than you think.
Colour and decoration also make a difference to how well fitness clothing will last. Check washing instructions – most of us don’t have time for ‘hand wash only’ items. Bright colours may fade or run, so steer clear of these if you don’t want the rest of your wash to end up streaked with the colour of your workout gear. Also avoid items with fussy labels, lace or straps that will not stand up to the rigours faced by the garment.
Fitness wear is an area where practicality really does have to take priority over appearance. That doesn’t mean that you can’t look good in your outfit – but remember what matters to help you get the most out of your workout.
by Kath Webb
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