I talked last week about beginning your exercise routine right, and I mentioned that dressing for workouts is like dressing for battle. I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that, either. If you’re serious about working out and doing it right, you need to have the proper equipment, and that includes “workout” clothing and shoes.
I’m not talking about wearing certain brands or certain colors–I’m talking about pure functionality here. I see so many people come to the gym in jeans or long pants, old T-shirts, and worn-out sneakers, and then they wonder why their feet, legs, and back hurt 10 minutes into a workout, or why they’re burning up and can’t get cooled off.
When you don’t wear the right kind of clothing and the right shoes for the activity you’re going to do, it’s like sending your quarterback out on the field without a helmet–you’re setting yourself up for injury and discomfort.
First and Most Important: Shoes
Every type of exercise needs a different type of shoe to go with it. It’s not just about wearing any old “sneakers”–your shoes must support whatever activity you’re doing, and different activities require different support. If you’re going to be running or shifting your weight around a lot, you’ll need a shoe that helps your foot stay stable while you do that so you don’t turn or twist your ankle. By contrast, if you’re going to be standing a lot (like lifting weights), you’ll need a shoe that gives your foot maximum support, and so on.
You’ll need to take into account your own individual foot needs here; I’m completely flat-footed, so I need a shoe with extra stability and support built in to keep my ankles from rolling inward and causing me more pain. This is something you can check with your doctor about, as well as checking with a knowledgeable salesperson who can tell you about shoes for sports.
Don’t think your shoes are important to a workout? Take it from me; I last 5 times as long in my Zumba workouts thanks to my current shoes. If your shoe does not support your foot, you’re more likely to sprain your ankle, cause knee problems, and even hurt your hip or back, even if you’re young.
Just as Important: Your Workout Clothes
How much heat can you tolerate while you exercise? It’s largely a matter of where you’re exercising (indoors or outdoors), and your individual heat tolerance, but your clothing must be addressed if you’re going to work out for any length of time.
For instance, if you’re comfortable working out indoors in long sleeves and long pants, that’s great–go ahead and wear what feels best to your muscles. I, however, find that I overheat (and thus get tired) very quickly while exercising, and so a sleeveless top and shorts help keep me ventilated. When I tried to exercise before, I worked out in old jeans and T-shirts, and I couldn’t understand why I got so tired so fast. Then, when I got the sleeveless tops and shorts to exercise, I found my endurance level was much better. Getting the heat off me was the key. (I swear I could exercise 3 times as long in a meat locker or something–that’s how much I hate being hot while I exercise. LOL!)
All kidding aside, if you’re working out in colder weather or colder environments, like an overly air-conditioned room, you’ll want to make sure your clothing keeps your muscles warm. Jogging suits, sweatpants and sweatshirts, etc., aren’t just fashion statements–keeping your muscles shielded from cold, even a little, makes them more pliable and ready to exercise, so that you don’t cause injuries like muscle pulls or even tears.
You’ll also want to make sure your workout clothes are easy to care for. If you can’t just throw ’em in the wash and dryer after working out, you’re likely not to stick to your workout routine; who wants to hand-wash their workout clothes in the sink when they’re exhausted? You might laugh, but if you’re trying to get started back exercising, you want to remove all the excuses you could possibly come up with for skipping the gym, and workout clothes could be an excuse if they’re too difficult to wash and dry.
Whatever you choose, make sure that your clothing does not impede your movement, does not keep you too hot or too cold, or catch on itself/other items of clothing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on workout clothes; I bought my two sets of workout clothes for a grand total of 30 bucks at Walmart. But they fit well and keep me cool, and that’s what’s important.
An important side note for ladies: Get a sports bra–or two. I know it gives us a “mono-boob” look, I know it’s not the most fashionable thing in the world, but it’s better than having to hold your jiggling “girls” with your hands while you’re jumping around. Believe me, I’ve been there. The natural movement of your chest as you exercise will only create soreness, as well as accelerate the effect of gravity over time (you know what I’m talking about), if you are not properly supported. Give your breasts the proper support while you exercise, especially if you’re a well-endowed lady; trust me, it will make ALL the difference. Not only do you breathe better, but you don’t feel as self-conscious, and you move more freely. I layer two sports bras for extra support–it really works!
Dressing yourself in comfortable yet supportive clothing and shoes will help you have more endurance, keep you from injury, and just feel better about working out in general. If you don’t garb yourself for battle, as I put it, then you’re setting yourself up for discomfort and pain, and possibly quitting exercise altogether.
Wearing the right gear is but the next step to getting fit the right way. Next week I’ll be stepping on my own toes by talking about another important bit of fitness: feeding your body the right foods for exercise. Tune in next Tuesday!