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When you’re just starting out, exercising can be far more confusing than it needs to be. Not only is it difficult to build the habit, but feeling out of place, self-conscious, and not knowing what to wear is all too common. With all the different kinds of gym gear – from shoes to tops to accessories – and all the different techniques of exercise, it’s all too easy to feel like you’re in over your head.
Knowing what to wear can help with this. By wearing clothing specifically tailored to the kind of exercise and conditions you’re going to be engaging with, you’ll put yourself in a position where you’ll feel ready for the challenges ahead, capable of bringing out your best performance whilst also keeping comfortable. Read on for our top tips on what to wear when working out…
1) The Workout
Picking the right athletic wear begins with the exercise itself, as not all types of ‘workouts’ are the same and there are thousands of different exercises that have their own requirements.
When most people think of ‘working out’, they think of going to the gym, using the resistance machines and dumbbells, and maybe doing an incline run. But there is much more to it than just this. You may be doing callisthenics or bodyweight training; you may be doing powerlifting, bodybuilding, jump rope, or hitting the rowing machine; you might even include power walking or running outdoors near or en route to your gym as part of your work out. If you’re doing boxing, your workout might involve all of the above, and more!
Each exercise is different, with every type having particular clothing and gear that is better suited for it. On top of this, it is important to take into account the conditions you’ll be exposed to, as well as the conditions you want to be exposed to. For example, you may be running outdoors on a rainy day as part of your workout and therefore require something waterproof. You may also want to build up an intense sweat, so wearing more layers might be appropriate.
Knowing what to wear begins with knowing the requirements both you and the exercise demand from the clothes you’ll be wearing. But you can also get more specialised outerwear, as we’ll discuss.
Wearing the right top during exercise is crucial for keeping you comfortable, cool, and free from sweat whilst going about your workout.
Quick-drying t-shirts will wick moisture from the skin and help you to stay comfortable for longer, while a good, form-fitting top will give you a complete range of motion for complex movements such as burpees, Olympic-style weight lifts, or boxing.
If you’re looking to build up a heavy sweat and really push your endurance, then consider stacking layers with a long-sleeved bottom layer, covered with an active top or hoodie. On the other hand, those looking to remain extra-cool can opt for a sport’s vest, giving their skin maximum exposure to the air.
Generally speaking, shorts are the best choice when it comes to exercise. Not only do they offer a premium range of motion and flexibility, but they also maximise the amount of airflow, keeping you cool and comfortable. These benefits can be improved with motion-friendly elastics than can enhance your range of motion even further, for activities such as high-intensity sprints or box jumps.
A good pair of tracksuit bottoms are a great alternative to shorts, as they are suited for just about any form of exercise you desire. Whether it’s jogging, callisthenics, boxing, or heavy-weights, tracksuit bottoms offer a comfortable, versatile and reliable option. As an added benefit, they’ve got a timeless design synonymous with working out, but one that’s casual enough to be worn as either sportswear or loungewear.
As your feet will often take quite the punishment when working out, finding the right footwear is essential. As there is no ‘one way’ to work out, there is no one style of footwear that is perfect. You need to pick the option that suits not only your workout but also the shape of your foot.
For outdoor workouts, such as running or walking, finding the right walking shoe, boot, or running trainer can improve your performance and help you push yourself to new limits. Look for a shoe that is suitable for the conditions, while also taking into account whatever qualities your foot may have – such as a high instep.
For indoor workouts, shoes tailored to the activity might be necessary – such as flat-soled boxing shoes or weightlifting shoes – but generally speaking, an all-round trainer or running shoe won’t go amiss.
One of the most overlooked parts of exercise wear, but in many ways one of the most important, is underwear. When you’re hot, sweating, and tired, the last thing you want is underwear that doesn’t breath – or worse, chafes when exposed to repetitive, high-intensity movements of the legs and hips - such as squats, sprints, lunges, jogging, and so on. Aim for a breathable, quick-drying fabric with a comfortable, flexible fit to keep you cool and active during your exercise.
6) Style and Comfort
While these features are important, it’s key to wear something that appeals to you. As you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your exercise clothes, you want to choose items that suit you in both colour and fit, so that you’re looking your best while performing your best.
Comfort is again key, with the two prime elements of comfort in exercise being coolness and breathability. You want a breathable, lightweight fabric – ideally one that wicks away moisture from the skin. As we mentioned above, sometimes you’ll want to work up a sweat, with which layers will help – but for pushing yourself hardest, it’s always best to maximise your comfort and regulate your body temperature.
Look for materials such as polyester for quick-drying fabric properties, viscose for comfort, and elastane for flexibility.
In short, whatever your exercise needs, there are items of clothing tailored to help you meet them. When you take into account the conditions you’ll be exposed to, the exercise you’ll be doing, and what you want to get out of it, the choices of exercise-wear narrows down, and you’ll soon find the perfect outfit for you.