Those of you who regularly read my blogs know that I like to dispel the most common excuses that people use for not exercising.
One of the excuses I hear on a regular basis is that their wardrobes simply don’t contain any decent clothes for working out.
I understand – one hundred percent - that most of us have to live on a budget, and that an extensive collection of gym clothes isn’t always high on the list of spending priorities. That said, I also know that a few carefully chosen staples are all it takes to cover most of the exercise needs within any Personal Training programme, and these items needn’t cost the earth.
These are most probably the biggest ticket item, and my recommendation would be to spend as much as you can afford to. Take advice from the experts in the store; tell them what activities you are most likely to be undertaking, the terrain you’ll be faced with (this may be a gym/ studio floor and nothing more challenging) and any issues you have with your feet. It’s important to think about the support and protection the shoes will offer in the key areas – arches, sides, ankles etc. – and the breathability of the uppers.
There’s no point in having the best trainers and then buying poor-quality socks. The comfort (or discomfort) you experience whilst exercising is as much about the socks as the shoes. The fabric needs to be soft, non-scratchy and made from a material which will stop your feet getting too sweaty. Trainer socks tend to be more popular than standard sports/ ankle socks but be aware that these can easily slide under your foot and can cause a significant degree of discomfort – I’d personally stay old-style!
The main requirement from your leggings (or shorter length alternatives if leggings aren’t for you) is flexibility. They should be made from a fabric which will expand as you stretch, allowing a full range of movement and no limitation on positioning. For some activities, the support offered by your leggings will also give you a boost – compression leggings for example can improve blood flow and are also believed to help with balance and reduce inflammation and muscle soreness.
Sometimes overlooked, sweatpants are a great item of clothing to have in the colder months. As well as being suitable for training outdoors in the elements, they also provide a great overlayer for warming up and, thanks to their loose design, are easy to remove without the need to take your trainers off first!
Depending on your fitness plans, your sleeve-length preference – and, of course, your style – this item of clothing may actually be a vest top or even tank top. Whatever the size and shape, breathability is key. You need something which is comfortable and doesn’t chafe, made of a fabric which will draw the sweat away from your body (termed ‘moisture wicking’). The best training tops are generally made from modern synthetic materials such as polypropylene, polyester, nylon or Lycra. Cotton should be avoided at all costs as it simply soaks up your perspiration, keeping it close to your body and making clothes heavy and wet.
The sweatshirt or hoodie arguably plays the smallest role of your fitness wardrobe and I’d say that it’s more about warmth and style than anything else. It may be required for outdoor training in particularly cold conditions but with a good T-shirt and a trusty waterproof it’s often not even needed here. In most cases it’s an item of clothing you wear in the first few minutes of your training warm-up and then post-workout to get you home.
This over layer is the thing which will keep you warm and dry whilst exercising outdoors in poor weather conditions. Breathability is a must – after all you don’t simply want it to be holding the sweat against your body – and that generally points to the inclusion of one of the ‘superfabrics’ such as polypropylene or polyester (Gore-tex is often mentioned, but this is actually the waterproof/ windproof membrane rather than the fabric itself). Again I’d recommend taking advice from a specialised stockist if you are training in an extreme environment as you may have to think about weight, durability etc.
I obviously can’t speak from personal experience here, but my female clients attest to the fact that this piece of fitness clothing is small but incredibly important. Good support is essential, especially in highly mobile, high intensity workouts. A 60 minute session of aerobic exercise can result in serious discomfort, even pain, around the chest area without the trusty sports bra keeping everything in place.
Whilst I don’t consider myself to be a style guru in any way, shape or form, I do know what works (and, essentially, what doesn’t). I am very happy to discuss the basic things I think you need to get started and I can certainly point you in the right direction to find budget-friendly, long-lasting, highly-comfortable options.
One last piece of advice I will leave you with… The wonderful synthetics we have available to us now can harbour bacteria, fungal growth and odour so make sure you wash your workout clothes straight away rather than let them ‘fester’ in your laundry basket!! You’ll thank me for that one.