Home » Fitness » Essential Gear, Part 3: Athletic Wear

Essential Gear, Part 3: Athletic Wear

This is the third part in a multi-part series of what kinds of “essential” fitness gadgets are out there, whether you could possibly live your life without them, and whether they’re worth it anyway.

Photo © ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica##Lululemon Athletica##

What to wear? What not to wear?  Appropriate attire has been a dilemma since the first neanderthal put on a loincloth and some beads before heading out to kill himself a kudu. Now that you’re an athlete extraordinaire, you can’t just look at clothes as appropriate or inappropriate, casual or business casual, formal or scandalous. You now have to shop based on function. How important is technical fabric, anyway? Is is better for your gear to be loose or form fitting? And who on earth spends $60 on a shirt destined for stinky armpit sweat?!

Expensive Athletic Wear

The old-fashioned way: Baggy t-shirt, sweatpants, tennis shoes, done.

But is it worth it? The purpose of athletic wear is to a) not be naked, b) not ruin your nice clothes, c) have a greater range of movement than you would in, say, your skinny jeans. However, clothes can and do achieve a lot more than simply avoiding a ticket for indecent exposure.

New exercisers often feel extremely self-conscious at gyms and group classes. If that’s you, then I definitely encourage you to buy a nice outfit or two that will boost your self-esteem. It’s hard enough getting motivated to workout. If a cute tank top and shorts that show off your ass help you overcome your aversion to the gym, then I say, more power to you! However, there’s no reason to let a concert t-shirt and PJ shorts keep you from getting healthy. Once you run a couple races, you’ll be neck-deep in event t-shirts anyway, many of which provide technical tees over plain cotton ones.

If you’re a veteran exerciser and you’re still working out in street clothes, you will likely soon discover that you need higher quality workout apparel. This usually happens after doing some epic fitness event wearing cotton. Cotton + sweat + time = CHAFING. You will not appreciate the value of technical fabrics until your first hot shower post-chafe. It burns like the devil fiddling on a hot tin roof, and it can take up to a week to heal.

I actually still have red marks on my arms from an unfortunate armpit chafing session three months ago, despite wearing a technical tee. It hadn’t occurred to me that the inner part of my arm rubbed against the hem of the t shirt sleeve every time I swung my arms. That would have been a good workout to do in either a sleeveless top, or a fitted, long-sleeved top. A long-sleeve top with no seams on the inner part of your arm plus fitted leggings go a long way towards preventing armpit and inner thigh horror stories.

If you’re female and enjoy cleavage sized C and up, it’s worth it to shell out some bucks for a good sports bra. My first tip: Never buy a sports bra that comes in small, medium or large! Always, always, always buy sports bras that have a band and cup size. Be prepared for the most effective sports bras to be the ugliest ones. If your favorite cardio activity is high-impact (think running, horseback riding, jumping rope), consider the Lululemon Ta-Ta Tamer. It’s kind of hard to get into, but once it’s on, your girls aren’t going anywhere.

Lulu products are generally worth the cost because they’re both cute and very well made. (I’ve only ever worn out one Lululemon item, and it’s probably because it was a hoodie I wore almost every day for three or four years.) If you’re worried about cost, just don’t sign up for their enewsletter… it’s too tempting.

What’s your favorite brand of athletic wear?
Do you buy expensive clothes, or work out exclusively in free schwag?

4 thoughts on “Essential Gear, Part 3: Athletic Wear

  1. Ain’t nuthin’ for free….of course, I’ve never been invited to advertise anyone’s brand, esp. not of athletic gear! LOL!

    When I started running 4 years ago (at age 43, the same age John “The Penguin” Bingham started), I jumped in feet first. I went to our local RoadRunner store, got gait-analyzed, bought expensive shoes, special running socks, skorts and tops….if I was going to do something, I was going to do it right!

    And you know something, I still like those running items made from technical fabrics. They wick the moisture away; my socks don’t get soggy; my shirt doesn’t weigh a ton after sweating a ton… I LOVE those socks…

    I don’t run anymore — OA in the hips and now I have 1 bionic hip and am getting another, but walking works up a sweat, too. And if you sweat, you’ll like performance fabrics. I have found that Target and Walmart have good capris and t-shirts. And I’m fond of Champion Double-dri wicking shirts for men (can’t find them for cheap for women).

    I am smitten with wigwam ironman triathlete socks. They’re thin; they keep my feet cool and dry. I wear them all year round here in San Diego, even when I’m not out exercise-walking.

    I;m also fond of Champion athletic bras — inexpensive and effective for this less-than-B person. I used to shop at Title Nine Sports….and I adore that store…. but I can’t afford their things until I have a steady income….and I can’t justify their need to the man who pays my bills…sigh.

    1. When I started running, the only thing I spent a lot of money on were my shoes, which I got at a local running store. I remember doing most of my winter runs in a Coca-Cola sweatshirt I got on sale at the supermarket!

      I totally agree with good socks and Champion bras, though. My favorite sock is Balaga, and I ran for years in a Champion bras from Target and Kohl’s that worked really well, as long as I replaced them when they got worn out. I think I gain weight in my boobs… my Champion isn’t as supportive as it was 15lbs ago. 😛 Still works great for the gym, though!

  2. i am also a huge fan of lululemon gear for running, gyming or even lazing. their stuff stays in place so much better than anything else i ever have worn, especially for running or really bouncy aerobics classes. i love their all-sport bra. technical running socks have changed my life as well.

    i have yet to run farther than 5 miles at one go, so i have yet to experience chafing and blisters and missing toenails. i might barf if i lose a toenail, though, so i kind of hope that never happens.

    1. LOL, I know what you mean about losing toenails. Gross! From what I’ve heard, that mostly happens when people wear shoes that are too small and/or don’t keep their toenails trimmed.

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