Deciding what clothing to wear at the gym is much less difficult than educating yourself about proper exercise techniques or about the basics of healthy eating. Indeed, when it comes to athletic clothing, it’s often best to wear what makes you feel most comfortable and gives you the widest range of motion possible.

Although gym clothing is largely about individual preference and personal feel, it is possible to identify a few broad guidelines that should inform your choices when it comes to gym wear. The first of these guidelines is to keep it simple. You can’t really go wrong with shorts, a t-shirt and athletic shoes.

Where it gets complicated is in selecting the proper athletic shoes and choosing the right fabrics and fits to make sure that you get the most out of your workout. When it comes to shoes, you have to remember that simple running shoes are not a one-size-fits-all answer to your gym-related footwear needs. Instead of just wearing any old pair of sneakers that you have lying around the house, you need to identify what specific exercises you will be performing and find shoes designed for those exercises.

gym-clothes-wear-bra-sweat-pants-shoesIt may sound ridiculous, but athletic shoes all manage impact in different ways depending on what their purpose is. For instance, running shoes are designed to handle the impact from steady forward progress. Consequently, they aren’t designed to handle the repetitive lateral movements of step or aerobics classes (you’d want to wear studio shoes or cross trainers for these activities.) Failure to wear the appropriate type of athletic shoe could lead to joint pain, shin splints and other avoidable injuries.

Another clothing item that needs to be chosen based on the activity you will be performing at the gym is the sports bra. Like athletic shoes, different sports bras are designed for very different activities and they are generally broken down into three levels of impact: low, medium and high.

This is a fairly simple classification system with each level corresponding to a different type of exercise activity. For instance, low impact bras are suitable for activities such as yoga and Pilates; medium impact sports bras are suitable for lifting and cycling; high impact sports bras are suitable for kickboxing, dance classes, step aerobics and running.

Furthermore, women larger than a B cup should make sure to purchase sports bras with underwire for added support during medium and high impact exercises.

While sports bras and athletic shoes must be chosen based on their suitability to specific exercises, more general principles can be applied to choosing clothing fabric. Essentially, the clothing that you wear to the gym should fall loosely into two categories: cottons and tighter wicking fabrics. Which one you choose to wear is based on personal preference but each has specific qualities that recommend them.

Wicking fabrics are specially engineered fabrics (usually with proprietary brand names like Nike Dri-FIT) that wick sweat away from your skin. Clothes made from these fabrics tend to be tighter fitting and more expensive than their cotton counterparts. Cotton, by contrast, is looser, cheaper and decidedly low-tech but some people will find that it breathes better and that they just prefer the feel.

In addition to different fabrics, shoes and sports bras, it is necessary to considerate one basic accessory: the sweatband. This also comes down to personal preference but it is an item that everyone serious about his or her workout should consider wearing. Sweatbands keep sweat from streaming to your hands and down your forehead and thus allow you to exercise without stopping constantly to towel off. Not every activity necessitates sweatbands but they are something to consider especially for classes like spinning and step aerobics where you can expect to sweat a lot.

The last thing to consider when choosing gym clothing is one simple rule for winter: cover-up before you go outside. Even if you choose to exercise in nothing more than a t-shirt and shorts during the winter months, make sure that you bring some post-workout sweats to wear when leaving the gym. Especially after a tough workout, it’s tempting to just wear a jacket over your gym clothes on the way home but not covering up and allowing your muscles to get cold will slow post-exercise muscle growth.

With these tips in mind, it is possible to pick the right clothing to wear at the gym and avoid the mistakes that hamper your workouts and even lead to injuries. Along with understanding what exercises to perform and what diet to eat, it’s important to understand what clothing to wear at the gym if you are going to get the most out of your workout.


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