By Cassie Angu
In this new era of functional fashion, trendy workout outfits have become closet staples for men and women.
Running to the store, class, or gym in designer workout gear is becoming the norm as more and more department stores include fashionable performance wear into their clothing lines.
Athletic gear that people wear outside the gym–think, to run errands and go to class–is known as “athleisure.” Forbes reports that consumers spent $323 billion on athletic wear, a figure that has been steadily climbing ever since.
On average, from head to toe, a high-end workout outfit could run upwards of $300. Despite the heightened popularity and increasing availability of workout gear, major activewear companies are keeping prices high with the constant advancements in fitness fabrics.
These tips will help you maintain efficiency without forgoing quality when trying to be fit and fashionable.
- Be a Minimalist
Across the board, most quality workout gear is pricey. For those of us on a tight budget, it may make more sense to spend less and buy more–the more workout outfits the better, right? Not necessarily. A Fitness Associate at Fit To Run in Tampa, Florida, says you only need enough workout outfits for each day you work out.
“If you work out 4 days a week, you probably only need 3 or 4 workout outfits,” he says. He stresses that if you’re going to spend money, you need to spend it where it counts. “[Clothing with] dry-fit fibers absorb and hold moisture from sweat and keep you cool during your workouts,” he says. If you are an avid runner or like taking your workouts outside, he also suggests buying fabrics infused with UV protection.
- Know Your Fabrics
To maximize the lifespan and efficiency of your workout clothes, it’s important to know exactly what is used to make them and what you specifically need them to do for you before buying. Though it seems cliché, the label is the greatest insight into what the company you’re buying from created the item to do. Be sure to read closely so you know you should clean them (usually in warm water, and dried on the lowest setting possible). Adding ¼ cup of baking soda to your laundry helps maintain freshness and optimal cleanliness (this article from Reader’s Digest gives more tips on how to have the freshest clothes possible).
Most performance fabrics today are made of the following fabric blends:
Bamboo: Bamboo pulp is a perfect combo for what the Fitness Associate suggested every active person wear while exercising– it has a natural tendency to block UV rays from the sun, is light, and absorbs moisture. It has also been shown to reduce odors and keep you cool while you exercise.
Cotton: Cotton is great for keeping the sweaty stench away while you work out. A downside, though, is that cotton has practically no moisture-wicking abilities. You will look drenched after a hard workout. For low intensity workouts, cotton is a go-to fabric.
Nylon: Unlike cotton, nylon will have people guessing if you were fresh out of the shower after a hot yoga class. Aside from its quick-drying properties, it’s also super soft and stretchy – which means it’s strong enough to handle any workout.
Polyester: Polyester is known for being a powerhouse when it comes to activewear. It protects you from harsh UV rays, keeps you cool (or warm in winter months), is lightweight, wrinkle-resistant, and doesn’t absorb moisture, so it just evaporates off your skin and not into the fabric. With that comes the major downside: Over time, polyester can begin to smell. Since it’s practically a plastic fabric, it can also foster bacteria growth.
X-STATIC: Fairly new on the market, X-STATIC is the newest technology in keeping sweat smells at bay. It incorporates silver fibers into the material that prevents smelly bacteria from growing in your clothes during and after a workout. Popular activewear companies have incorporated these fabrics into their ultra pricey pieces to keep their customers dry and smelling amazing before and after they workout.
Many of the high-end clothing brands use these pricey fibers to create their clothing, which explains why their retail prices are so steep. Understanding the qualities of each fabric helps you make the best decision on why you may want to splurge (or save) on certain things over others.
- Don’t Get Caught Up in the Hype
Many athletic companies would argue that you couldn’t do without their fitness gear if you want to perform at (and look like) a real athlete’s level. Though having appropriate workout apparel is crucial, beware of falling into the trap of buying items simply because they’re “new” or “cutting edge.”
Though having high-end workout pieces are nice, if you’re on a budget they’re not necessarily must-haves. Student athletes Natalie Hinds,a swimmer from Midland, Texas, and Isis Young,a basketball player from Berlin, New Jersey, have had the privilege of wearing store brand and high-end workout gear. In their eyes, the necessity of high-end apparel is debatable.
As a swimmer, Hinds has definitely seen a difference wearing high-end performance wear. When wearing a “regular” suit, she says she swims two seconds slower. But she also agrees that psychology may be involved.
“It’s worth it just because I think if you work out in “regular” clothes versus a name brand you’re going to feel better about yourself – at least I do,” she says.
Young, on the other hand, feels as if you can come to a happy medium.
“I would choose high end products on certain products, but definitely not everything. Maybe a couple of thermal shirts and shoes. That’s the only thing I would splurge on,” she says.
The key here is being honest with yourself about what you need from your workout apparel and sticking with that.
You probably need a good pair of shoes, a few trusty workout shorts or leggings, and 2 to 3 sports bras for the ladies. Anything else can be picked up on sale or taken from your closet.
Before starting a new workout regimen or diet, be sure to consult with a trusted physician, nutritionist or personal trainer.