Recently, we got this question from a beginner Fitocrat:
What should I wear to the gym? As it is with most of us its already hard enough to try to find the courage to go to the gym! I don’t want to show up and and be wearing something that I should not be.
Hey there, Fito friend! High five for going to the gym! Deciding to get started is the first step. The next step is getting dressed. My first instinct is to tell you that it doesn’t matter. Nobody is judging you for your clothing choices, or if they are, they’re jerks. While that is important to remember, let’s break it down a little further.
Workout clothes. You should have them.
This may seem overly obvious, but let me say this: you should actually have a set of clothes that are reserved for going to the gym or working out. This is your workout uniform.
You should have workout clothes for the same reason that we have “work clothes” and “weekend clothes,” or why people tend to dress up when they have an important meeting. Your clothing plays an important part in your mindset. When you get dressed in your gym uniform, you are ready to go to the gym and work out! And that’s awesome.
You are also going to sweat in them. Your workout clothes give you permission to be sweaty, smelly, and messy without worrying too much about things like splitting the seat of your nice jeans or getting chalk on your favorite shirt.
Also: you do not need to spend a fortune on workout clothes, no matter what Lululemon’s marketing department wants you to believe. Eventually you may want drop some dough, but don’t feel like you have to, especially right off the bat. I asked real Fitocrats to send me pictures of what they wear at the gym. Here’s what they wear!
Based off this ad-hoc survey, you can see that tee-shirts, tank tops, and, for whatever reason, zebra print pants seem to be winners!
You should be comfortable in your gym clothes.
“Comfort.” It can mean so much.
First, you should be able to feely move in your workout clothes. They should offer you as much freedom as possible while also not being so baggy that they get caught on things. This is why, sweat pants or yoga pants, tee shirts, and basketball shorts are perennial favorites.
Second, your workout clothes should not be adding to any self-consciousness you may already be experiencing. I find that I’m not very comfortable in tightly-fitted shirts, because I spend some of my precious concentration wondering what other people are thinking about me. I don’t have time for that — I need to squat some dang weight. Special note: When buying gym clothes, squat down in the changing room and make sure the seat of your pants doesn’t feel unreasonably tight. Split pants at the bottom of a squat is no fun. I may be speaking from experience here.
Third, your workout clothes should protect you against needless discomfort. I’m thinking specifically of chafing. If your thighs rub together and you’re planning on running, make sure your shorts are longer than mid-thigh. If you get rashes in and around your armpits, make sure you are getting breathable or wicking fabrics and staying away from tank tops.
Fourth, your workout clothes should make you feel like a freaking superhero. You are wearing them to rock that workout. Make sure the workout never walks again.
There are as many different opinions on what’s best as there are different kinds of shoes out there. In general:
Good shoes for weight lifting: anything with a minimal sole. You want to have your feet connecting as solidly as possible with the floor. I wear Converse/Chuck Taylors, but others love Nike Free, New Balance Minimus, and shoes with Vibram soles.
Good shoes for cross-training: Honestly, any shoes that fit and feel good. Run around the store a little bit. Check out if you want to try minimalist shoes, and if not, just go for whatever is affordable and feels good.
Shoes you should never ever ever ever buy or wear: Shape-ups. Just NO. I’m serious.
Wear underwear that will not chafe! There are specific brands of wicking underwear, if you expect to be sweating for a while, but otherwise just plain cotton work fine. That said, cotton boxers with no stretch can have the bottom-of-the-squat splitting problem. In my experience, it’s best to stay away from ribbons or lace: what feels nice and looks pretty while standing still can cause some gnarly rashes in the long run… or during long runs. Sports bras! This is by no means a comprehensive guide, but in general, wear things you’re comfortable with. If you’re particularly well-endowed, make sure you wear sports bras with hooks for more support. They sell sports bras with underwire as well, for extra hold. I’ve also had some luck with an old regular bra underneath a sports bra. For a much more comprehensive guide, check out this post from the A Bra That Fits subreddit.
Finally, make sure your workout clothes match your activity
Are you going to be cycling long distances? Hiking? Swimming? Running at night? Each of these activities have clothes designed to make you better and safer while doing them. Do some research, ask around on Fitocracy, and see what you see. In general, when just starting out, your equipment won’t be the limiting factor.
Finally, the most important accessory of all: attitude.
Need more fashion in your life? Check out our Fitness Fashion Board on Pinterest!
Special thanks to all the Fitocrats who provided pictures!