By Jana Soeldner Danger
City & Shore Magazine
Sure, it’s possible to get a great workout in scruffy shorts and a ragged T-shirt. But it can be much more fun to exercise in something snazzy. Wearing the right clothing may also make a workout safer and more comfortable.
“It can be a reward to have a cute outfit that will really rock your workout,” says Chantis Mantilla, an exercise physiologist and manager of the community health department at Baptist Health. “And it’s a reward not related to food.”
“It definitely boosts your self-esteem and motivation when you’re confident about what you’re wearing and you like what you see when you look in the mirror,” says Kelly Jones, an exercise physiologist at the Zachariah Family Wellness Pavilion at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.
Activewear manufacturers are catching on that all kinds of people want to stay fit — not just the tall, thin models typically seen in ads. “It’s the idea of body positivity,” Mantilla says. “They’re catering more to the fact that exercise is for ‘every body,’ not just one body type.”
How to choose what’s best?
“It’s important not to wear anything too loose fitting, because you run the risk of getting it caught in something,” Jones says. “But you don’t want it to be too tight fitting, either. It shouldn’t be constricting when you’re trying to do a lot of movement.”
For strength training and calisthenics, however, garments that are a bit closer fitting may be a good idea. “You want pants that are tighter, so they stay on and don’t slide when you do squats or sit-ups,” says Nelly Drevet, a personal trainer at the Zachariah Family Wellness Pavilion and The Fitness Clinic in Fort Lauderdale.
High-waisted pants can make movement easier. “They’re more comfortable, and you don’t have to worry about pulling them up,” says Kelsey Malinowski, an exercise physiologist at the Memorial West fitness center. “They let you focus on your workout.”
Clothing should allow easy movement. “Do a few stretches in the fitting room,” Jones says. “Just because you can wear something to the store doesn’t mean it’s good to wear for a workout.”
Avoid garments with zippers or buttons, Malinowski says. “Razor-back tank tops are comfortable no matter what you’re doing.”
Even socks are important. “Runners’ socks have stiches that affect pressure and stabilize your foot,” Drevet says. Some brands, she adds, even have different socks for right and left feet.
In the past, cotton and Lycra were pretty much the only choices for athleticwear. Not anymore. “Now there are ‘smart’ fabrics,” Drevet says.
Some are antibacterial, preventing bacteria from multiplying and causing skin rashes. Some are infused with UV screening that offers protection like a cream or lotion. Perhaps most important, some are made to wick moisture — sweat — away from your skin, she says.
But cotton is still around. “Cotton tends to stay wet, but it’s appropriate for lighter activities,” Mantilla says.
One caution: “Some materials may become see-through when you exercise,” Jones says. “Be sure the material is thick enough, so you don’t run into a mishap.”
Don’t shortchange your footwear. The right shoes can help avoid conditions like shin splints, joint pain and plantar fasciitis.
“Shoes are very important,” Mantilla says. “Our feet bear all of our weight, and our shoes need to be able to accommodate it.”
“Some people need more cushioning, and some need less,” Malinowsky says.
Shoes should fit your personal gait, Mantilla says. Some people’s feet roll slightly inward when heels strike the ground, called pronation. Others have a gait in which feet roll slightly outward, called supination. Some shoes are better for one; some are better for the other.
“When you’re getting into a new activity, it’s best to go to an athletic shoe store and have them test your gait and get shoes that are designed for it,” Mantilla says. “Once you know what works for you, it’s easier to shop online.”
Don’t keep shoes too long. Once shoes start to wear on the bottoms, it’s time for new ones. Sometimes, before that. “Even if you’re not using them, shoes can wear out,” Mantilla says. “The inner sole can go flat.”
“For women, it’s yoga pants; something that’s breathable but has compression to hold you in a bit,” says Caroline Almagarby, an exercise physiologist at the Memorial West fitness center.
Remember bike shorts? “They’re coming back,” Jones says.
Leggings continue to be an activewear staple. “Prints are really big now,” Jones says. “A new thing is pockets on the side to keep your cell phone in while you’re exercising.”
Brights are in, but black hasn’t gone away. “Black is a go-to color, but we’re seeing more bright highlighter colors, like neon blue and green tanks,” Almagarby says. “Shoes are also popping neon colors. But there’s also an increase in earth tones, mauve and lavender.”
“Headbands are a fashionable accessory, and they also keep sweat out of your eyes,” Almagarby says.
People are working harder at coordinating their gym apparel. “There are more head-to-toe outfits in all one color,” Malinowski says.
“People are matching their shoes with the rest of their look,” Jones says.
“Women are using weight-lifting gloves that match their outfits, or else in a color that goes with everything, like black or pink,” Almagarby says.
Jones sees growing popularity of online services (such as Fabletics, Ellie, Wantable and YogaClub) which allow members to choose a new athleticwear outfit every month and have it delivered to their doors — sort of like book-of-the-month clubs. “It’s cool, especially for people who can’t get to the store,” she says. “They have great styles and quality. It’s an incentive to go to the gym and show off your new outfit, and you can mix and match with what you have.”