It’s a universal truth: if you look good, you feel good. But there’s more to buying a quality workout outfit than just how it looks in the mirror. The right athletic apparel can be the difference between a great workout and an hour of misery. Polyester socks can help prevent blisters, for example. High top shoes help protect weak ankles. Moisture-wicking performance gear helps keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The more you work out, the more important it is to wear the right type of clothes.
Here are five things to look for if you want a wardrobe that’s going to look good, feel good and last:
This is the most important criteria of all. If you aren’t comfortable, you can’t focus on your workout. Choose materials that let you move without restriction, like spandex. With its stretchy properties, it provides a greater range of motion than most other fabrics. Think about how you’re going to use the item and go through the basic movements in the dressing room to be sure the fabric doesn’t bunch, catch or make you feel uncomfortable. Avoid anything rough or scratchy that could irritate your skin with repetitive movement.
If you’re planning to sweat up a storm, make sure you pick a fabric that wicks moisture away from the body. Cotton may be soft, but it holds moisture close to the skin, which is not only uncomfortable, it can weigh you down and prevent your body from cooling down properly. Look for polyester, nylon or lycra, performance fabrics designed to pull moisture away from your body and move it to the outer surface. They may cost more but they’ll last longer and be more comfortable. This is true for socks, shorts, gloves, hats, running tights, sports bras, workout pants and underwear, as well as shirts. If you prefer apparel made with natural materials, look for bamboo.
Showing off your assets is one thing. Putting on an X-rated show is another. When you’re trying on your clothing, make sure you aren’t buying anything that could result in a Janet-Jackson-style wardrobe malfunction. Bend over in the dressing room to make sure the material stretches, while still providing full coverage. It’s also important to ensure the fit aligns with the activity you’ll be doing. For example, baggy pants are not conducive to riding or cycling. A loose, flowy top will not keep you covered as you move through your poses in yoga. The last thing you want is for your clothing to take away from your workout, and if it doesn’t fit well, it can easily become a distraction. It’s hard to go wrong with black yoga pants and a form-fitting top, but always try the clothes on before you buy them. Focus on how the item feels, not the size, as workout clothes tend to fit tighter than normal clothes.
If you want to get the most out of your wardrobe, you need to be able to wear it all year long, inside and outside of the gym. The easier each piece is to layer with another, the more occasions you’ll be able to wear it. This is particularly important if you plan to work out outside during the winter months. Buy matching outfits, or mix and match colors with what you already own. To get the best deals, shop during the off season.
Do you need a pocket to hold your key while you run? Do you need socks with grip for barre class? Do you need something reflective for your night jogs? As athletic apparel has become more fashionable, the number of special features available has grown exponentially. There are antimicrobial socks to combat odor, shirts with built-in UV protection, and even clothing that contains insect repellent to protect hikers from ticks. Chances are, if you want it, someone out there is selling it.