Heading for the gym? Great! Doing it in a baggy T-shirt and two-year-old shoes? Not so much. Wearing the right exercise gear isn’t just a matter of looking fashionable; it helps you work out comfortably and safely. Here’s how to tell when you need to update your workout wear, and what to look for when you do:
If it’s been a year or more since you bought the bra you’re wearing, you’ve had it too long. Ditto if the elastic is loose, if you’ve gained or lost weight or if you feel any pain in your shoulders or chest when you work out. When you try on a new sports bra, check the fit: The band should lie flat against your ribcage covering your breasts completely and the straps shouldn’t dig into your shoulders.
The type of bra you buy depends on what kinds of exercise you do. For running or aerobics, a compression bra that minimizes movement is best; for walking or biking, look for a soft pullover bra. Go for a moisture-wicking polyester fabric rather than a cotton variety, which holds in sweat. And when you try on a bra, run in place or do some jumping jacks to make sure it’s supportive enough.
Even though your sneakers may still look nice on the outside, hours of pounding the pavement or treadmill take their toll. The result: reduced support to your joints and greater risk of injuries. Experts recommend replacing sports shoes about every 300 to 400 miles, or when they show signs of wear (such as bending too easily in the middle).
When it’s time to buy new shoes, your best bet is to go to a specialty store where you can get your foot measured by an expert. Athletic shoes should actually be a little larger than your regular shoes to allow for swelling. Bring your old shoes, as well as the socks you’ll be wearing and any orthotics or inserts. Look for a pair that feels comfortable from the start; you shouldn’t need to break them in. If you do more walking than running, you want a shoe that bends at the ball of the foot. If you run, talk to the store professional about options such as gel heels and cushioned insoles that increase comfort and reduce injuries.
Pulling an old T-shirt from the drawer may be easy enough, but it’s not the smartest move. Cotton tees hold in moisture, leaving you feeling wet and clammy after a workout; plus a baggy shirt can get caught in gym equipment. Instead, invest in a workout shirt or tank in a synthetic fabric like COOLMAX.
The type you choose depends on the activity; long, loose pants can get tangled in the pedals or spokes of a bike, while gym shorts may make you feel self-conscious in yoga class. For high-impact activity, go for close-fitting capris or shorts in a moisture-wicking material; for less strenuous workouts, choose looser, stretchy long bottoms. It’s time to shop for new pants if the elastic loses its grip or if you’ve gained or lost weight.