By Kim Portelli
Albert Einstein said, “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.”
A week or so ago, I was unwrapping and hanging some new, summer apparel pieces that had arrived from various manufacturers. Low cut, brightly colored tank tops, capris with sections of sheer fabric running up the legs and shorts that are, well, short-short. The pieces will look fabulous on many of our customers. They are super cute and I’m sure they feel wonderful as our weather heats up. But as I was steaming them, I had to ask myself, “Would they be flattering on my body type? Would they make me feel confident while working out? Would they chafe me in places that I won’t mention?” No, no and definitely yes.
Believe it or not, finding the right running/workout clothes can be as difficult as finding a good-fitting pair of jeans. I’m definitely not an expert, but I do have some suggestions that have worked for me in finding running/workout clothes that make me feel confident, strong, awesome and comfortable while working out.
Choose functional workout clothes that support your exercise. Just because a particular sports bra looks adorable in that purple print, doesn’t mean it will work for every woman. While it might be supportive enough for an A-cup runner, it might not be so good for C- or D-cup women to run in. Another example is running shorts. I envy anyone who can run/walk in running shorts. Try as I might, my thighs start to chafe after 10-15 minutes, even using BodyGlide. Functional bottoms for me are capri tights for the summer and full-length tights in cooler weather.
Along with functional workout clothes, another tip that I strongly suggest is to choose running/workout clothes that are made with sweat-wicking fabrics. These synthetic materials are made specifically for exercising and wick sweat away from your skin so it can evaporate quickly. These materials are also lightweight and breathable, allowing air to circulate, and keeping your skin dry.
These next few ideas not only can be applied to running/workout clothes, but to the rest of your closet, as well. Keep them in mind as you look in your closet and drawers and as you head out the door to go shopping.
Review your current workout wardrobe. To begin with, toss out those old, cotton T-shirts and holey gym shorts, along with any item that you haven’t worn in a year or more. You know that saying, “You are what you eat.” Well, the same holds true for, “You are what you wear.” You wouldn’t show up for a job interview in ratty old sweatpants, would you? The same mentality applies to workout clothes. If you dress for a run in frumpy, beat-up workout clothes, you will tend to feel old and beat-up yourself. Your energy will be low and your run/walk/workout may feel more like a chore. Take a mental assessment of what items you need and think about how many days a week you work out. That will determine what you are shopping for.
Now you are ready to go shopping! Choose stores that have friendly, knowledgeable staffs, like Sole Sports (hint, hint). Seek stores you feel will give you honest feedback about fit, functionality and style. Select items to try on that speak to you and take a variety of different items into the dressing room. Remember, if you are new to running/walking/working-out, you may not have yet learned what styles fit the best or make you feel the most confident.
Once in the fitting room, think about dressing your shape. It doesn’t matter if you are thin or curvy, even workout clothes can be chosen to highlight your assets and camouflage your insecurities. For example, I am not comfortable in strappy tank tops and sometimes, when I do wear sleeveless tops, I chafe. Therefore, I always feel more comfortable in short-sleeved tops, even in the summer. If you are self-conscious about your hips or bottom area, look for longer tops that hit mid-hip or workout tops that are cut longer in back. If your problem area is your thighs, shop for running shorts that are longer and cover more of the thigh area. Whatever style you decide to go with, stand in front of a mirror and perform the moves you will be doing in the clothes. Do a few bicep curls, squats and run in place. Make sure the tops stay in place and the shorts or tights do not ride up. There’s nothing worse than having to continuously adjust a pair of shorts as you run. Another factor to keep in mind is that you want your workout apparel to fit properly. Clothes that are too small could shift or limit your range of motion while you are moving around, while clothing items that are too big add bulk and can bunch up while you are working out.
Believe it or not, well-fitting, functional and cute workout clothes do make a difference when it comes to fitness. When I head out the door for a workout in an outfit that makes me feel confident and comfortable, I tend to workout harder and feel more motivated. Workout clothes can also be used as a reward. I recently purchased a few new running tops and the next few days I was extra excited to workout, knowing that I could wear one of my new shirts. When I purchased them, I did so as a reward for working out consistently the past few months. Try it. The next time you set a PR, or finish your latest training cycle or if you didn’t miss a workout the past month, treat yourself to something new that can be used for your workout routine. Perhaps a new pair of shorts, socks or a new running hat will give you a little extra motivation to stay on track with your training.
My goal in sharing the issues I have finding comfortable, well-fitting running/workout clothes is to let other runners/walkers know that it is OK to find your own style. Just because strappy sports bras or short-shorts are the season’s trendy look, doesn’t mean those styles will work for you. There are cute, functional, appropriate styles for every body type. Find what fits you and have fun with it.