20 Fitness Essentials For 2021
Summer is edging dangerously close, which means it’s nearly time for us to engage in our annual bout of brutally honest self-examination, leading to the inevitable conclusion that we’ve once again left it too late to get a six-pack again this year. Oh, drat. But while physical perfection might prove elusive, that’s not to say that we should give up on our attempts to become slightly fitter versions of ourselves, if only because we’re finally free to actually go outside and do some exercise.
With that in mind, we’ve done a little shopping and picked out the 20 items that we believe are the essential components of a healthily stocked gym bag, including a broad selection of sweats, technical sportswear pieces, recovery gear, and three – yes, three – different pairs of sneakers. If we fail to work out this weekend, it won’t be for a lack of proper kit.
The zip-up tracksuit
To men of a certain age, the tracksuit will forever be associated with Mr Lee Majors as Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. To others, the most obvious reference might be Stormzy, Run-DMC or even Mr Fidel Castro. The point here is that the zip tracksuit is more than sportswear. But it’s sportswear nonetheless, and remains a great option for warming up. This one, from Moncler, is a particularly luxurious version.
The lightweight gilet
A gilet? For running? Has the world gone mad? Well, yes it has. But, despite initial appearances, this is something on the more practical side of things. Insulating, lightweight and designed so you can move your arms freely – it’s the perfect training companion on a less than sunny day.
The running sneakers
What do Mr Ralph Lauren, Undercover designer Mr Jun Takahashi and some of the recent Palace lookbooks, shot by Mr Juergen Teller, have in common? The chosen footwear of these fashion insiders is the decidedly functional output of decidedly functional outdoors brand Salomon. Not that this information should sway your decision when it comes to running shoes. Although the fact that long-distance and sky runner (sky runner!) Mr Kílian Jornet wore a pair while recording the fastest accents of the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali and, depending on who you ask, Everest might turn your head. The XT-Wings 2 Advanced model features a chassis specially engineered for stability and weight distribution, Contragrip outsoles and triple-layered EVA midsoles, as well as the patronage of all the above.
The performance sunglasses
Many sunglasses made for exercise are – and let’s be honest here – a bit dorky. They conjure mental images of early 2000s bros in giant trousers and incongruous ski beanies, maybe even some frosted tips. However, these, by DISTRICT VISION are stylish enough to just wear in normal life. But you should sport them when you work out, too. They’re made from extremely lightweight nylon and titanium. They’re also anti-glare, shatterproof and repel water and oil. Durable, stay-in-place, and stylish? The Holy Grail of sportswear.
Having worn little else for the past 12 months, we fully understand that you might be sick of the sight of sweatpants. But that’s no reason to swear off them entirely. These navy sweatpants neatly bridge the gap between loungewear and activewear, and are a smart choice for low-intensity workouts, yoga or outdoor exercise in cooler climates. (And they’re still just as good for weekend Netflix binges.)
The yoga mat
Foam yoga mats are ideal for beginners who need a touch more cushioning. But once you’ve graduated to intermediate level, consider opting for a woven one, such as this from By Japan and local weaving experts Ikehiko. The textured surface is much more breathable (goodbye sticky hands) and offers considerable more grip for tricky poses.
The running shorts
These shorts are quite short, yes, so they may make some of the shyer among you recoil in leg shame. However, you have not felt the true freedom of a good run until you liberate your legs from shorts that are, frankly, too long and not made for runners. Tracksmith, as the name suggests, specialises in gear for stretching your legs and tests its products on professional athletes, so you can be sure you’re getting something fit for purpose here. Lightweight and anti-microbial, these shorties have built in briefs for support (in case you’re worried about that) and will help you reach those mile-high goals.
An essential element of the modern-day casual wardrobe, the sweatshirt may have long ago transcended its athletic origins but that doesn’t mean it’s undeserving of a spot in your gym bag. This version from Sunspel is cut from a navy jersey cotton and elevated with smart finishing touches, such as the classic V-shaped reinforcement at the neckline. Very Mr Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, if you ask us.
The wireless earphones
Don’t let a pesky thing like a cable get in the way of a decent workout. As well as boasting noise cancelling tech, Master & Dynamic’s wireless earphones also earn bonus points for having extra staying power so, unlike other models, they won’t be knocked loose by the slightest of breezes.
The training sneakers
Like vegans, CrossFitters are, perhaps unfairly, stereotypically identified by stereotypically self-identifying themselves as such at any given opportunity. (There tends to be divergence when it comes to diet.) But what you rarely hear from CrossFitters is complaints about their shoes. That’s because Nike’s Metcon imprint has become the unofficial footwear of the discipline, not to mention the actual official shoe of five-time champion Mr Mat Fraser, the so-called “fittest man on Earth”. The sixth iteration of the ever-improving line is made from a breathable mesh, with a low and wide base providing maximum stability and a Hyperlift insert for weighted exercises. (For vegans, may we suggest these.)
The massage gun
As Mr Chris Elvidge of this parish put it when these ingenious massage devices launched at MR PORTER, a Theragun is “a power drill for your muscles. But in a good way”. Designed to ease tension, aches and niggling pains, it aids with rapid recovery and comes with an app offering customised advice depending on your exercise or activity levels.
The OG hoodie
Champion has a tangible streetwear credibility that feels very apt for now. But this is forgetting that the brand was founded over a century ago and can claim to have made the first ever hoodie. Yes, we’ve been wearing the things a lot of late, but we’re not sick of their comfort or practicality just yet – especially when they come so quality assured.
The compression tights
Stretchy trousers seem like they’re all the same – they’re stretch and they’re trousers, what could possibly be innovative about that? Turns out, a lot. 2XU’s compression tights are composed to wind and rain proof jersey that will also keep you warm and odours at bay. Fantastic, right? But they’re also good for your circulation. To the uninitiated it might seem counter intuitive that compression (ie, squeezing) improves blood flow, but the masters of science tells us that it is. So really what we’re saying is that these trousers make your workouts more comfortable and potentially more effective. Now you just have to pull them on (easier said than done) and go.
The trail running sneakers
“What goes up must come down,” is an idiom, attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, that applies to trail running as much as it does errant apples. But when there’s an actual mountain to climb, it can be easy to forget the second half of the maxim. Thankfully, Swiss performance brand On has that covered. Designed for lightweight support on even the trickiest of trails, its Cloudventure model features Speedboard technology, which flexes to maintain balance on uneven ground, as well as Missiongrip for traction. And, given that you’ll (hopefully) always land on your feet, the Zero-Gravity foam delivers cushioning on impact.
The foam roller
Active recovery is considered a vital element of any good workout plan and the humble foam roller is your best friend in this regard, helping to ease aches and pains and stimulate blood flow to the muscles through self-massage. Therabody’s Wave Roller takes the concept a step further, adding a vibrating motor into the mix.
The cotton jersey shorts
Founded in 1998 as a yoga apparel brand, lululemon take a more considered approach to its training gear. We’ve selected these shorts because they are the perfect excuse to ease ourselves gently back to the gym rather than go all guns blazing.
The water bottle
You know that faintly plastic-like tang you get when you drink water from a sports bottle? LARQ’s nifty receptacle will render it a thing of the past. The self-cleaning gadget purifies your water every two hours by blasting it with UV-C light to get rid of bacteria and bio-contaminants.
The yoga sweatpants
If this past year has taught us anything, it is that we need to be a little more mindful and present when it comes to our lives. And that includes training and fitness. So, all those plans to start yoga are going to turn into a reality. We promise! And we can’t see a better way to facilitate our endeavours than with these Nike Training sweatpants, tailor made for doing a #downwarddog or #sunsalutation.
The gym bag
As affirmations go, “Command The Day” is pretty forthright. Given that it’s the handle lululemon’s multi-functional duffle bag goes by, you know it’s not messing about. Indeed, symptomatic of the busy lives we lead, this holdall goes about mastering all tasks by compartmentalising, with a padded laptop pocket, an exterior pouch for a water bottle and the interior sectioned off for sports shoes and sweaty gear. You could call it divide and rule.
The trail running T-shirt
Getting out into the wilderness for some exercise? Then Arc’teryx, which specialises in outdoor gear, is the brand for you. This T-shirt looks simple, but is made from Phasic FL, a lightweight jersey that wicks moisture, provides protection from UV rays, and helps regulate body temperature. Flat seams that won’t irritate your skin and reflective trim complete this highly utilitarian, but decidedly unflashy tee. Happy trails to you!