The right exercise clothes can improve your workout -- and your attitude
You don't have to wait until you're fit to look good while working out. In fact, experts say, what you wear to the gym can go a long way toward helping you stay motivated and confident -- and can even improve your workout performance.
"Putting on a flattering outfit motivates people to actually go to the gym or to exercise outdoors in public," says performance coach Larina Kase, PsyD, MBA, president of Performance and Success Coaching LLC in Philadelphia.
This, of course, raises the question: Just what is flattering? That depends on your individual body shape and size, says Kase.
As a general rule, though, she suggests that black shorts, a sports bra, and a colored top -- lime green, soft pink, and shades of blue are in style right now -- are a flattering choice for most women.
Men tend toward black for their workout outfits, which is always a safe choice, says Lynne Brick, BSN, president and owner of Brick Bodies and Lynne Brick's Women's Health & Fitness in Baltimore. "Everyone looks great in black, regardless of size, shape, or fitness level."
Those who are not confident about their body images should look for workout clothes that provide good coverage, says Melissa Ediger, assistant product manager for New Balance fitness apparel.
A short-sleeved shirt and mid-thigh-length shorts with a relaxed (but not oversized) fit are a good choice for men and women alike, she says. Heavyset people may experience leg chafing while working out, but wearing compression or bicycle-type shorts under a looser pair of shorts will eliminate this problem, Ediger says.
Aside from avoiding anything unflattering (there are usually lots of mirrors in a gym!), it's a good idea to stay away from any outfit you don't feel good about, says health educator Victoria Moran, author of Fit from Within: 101 Simple Secrets to Change Your Body and Your Life.
"Exercise requires energy, and putting on the sweats you wore for three days straight when you broke up with your last boyfriend or girlfriend is an energy-zapper," she says.
After all, workout clothes serve both a practical and a psychological purpose. "On a practical level, you need special workout clothes simply because street clothes are either too constricting, or they'll rip, or they're made from non-breathable fibers," Moran says. "But psychologically, you need special workout gear to convince yourself it's time to work out.