Upgrade Your Gym Kit
Ensure your workout wardrobe is as fit for purpose as you are.
Have you noticed how it’s become socially acceptable to hang out in your gym gear all weekend? Up until recently, you wouldn’t have been seen dead picking up groceries, getting your hair cut or meeting a friend for coffee in Lycra and a hoodie.
Good job, too, because you probably used to exercise in a pair of dangerously threadbare soccer shorts and a paint-spattered Nirvana T-shirt. But sports apparel has upped its game. Far from being a sorry last stand for old garments no longer fit for public consumption, performance fabrics are more sophisticated, the shapes and silhouettes are more flattering, the designs and logos less garish. It’s enough to make you actually want to, y’know, do some exercise, rather than merely give people the impression you might.
Whether your preference is compression layers or jersey sweats, here’s our edited pick of workout apparel and accessories guaranteed to raise the bar.
Given that we tend to work out in the vicinity of where we either work or live, it’s highly likely we will bump into people we know. But most of us would prefer not to – especially if we’re a bit shy or feeling porkier than usual. Mr Inconspicuous minimises the chance of having to exchange awkward, half-naked pleasantries in the locker room by exercising off peak, avoiding all eye contact (damn all these mirrors!) and maintaining a low profile. He keeps his workout gear monochromatic and any interactions monosyllabic. He wears ear buds and a don’t-talk-to-me expression at all times. The classic aesthetic he is channelling is Rocky Balboa training in simple grey jersey hoodie and sweatpants worn with a loose-fitting soft stretch white T-shirt and plain black running shoes – though we recommend something with more cushioning and support than Rocky’s Converse All Stars.
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In this age of internet dating, gyms and fitness classes have a dual purpose. They double up as pick-up joints. As well as checking everyone else out, the Gym-Mirror Selfie Taker is captivated primarily by his own reflection – understandable, given the impressive results of all the work he puts in. So while his sculpted triceps and his burgeoning ego are inflated with the post-workout pump, he’ll proudly share a selfie with a humblebrag caption (eg, “Working off last night’s cheat-day burger!”) followed by a 2in column of hashtags such as #legday #fitfam #doyouevenlift, etc. And just as he knows his best filters and angles, he also knows that the gym floor is a catwalk. His outfit is carefully considered and coordinated. So he’ll fist-bump and bro-hug his way around the room in designer sweats – a Thom Browne hoodie and matching sweatpants – with Balenciaga sneakers, perhaps accessorised with a cashmere beanie, oversize headphones and a green juice. Then he’ll strip down to a skin-tight 2XU base layer of muscle vest/tank and compression tights. And then in the locker room he’ll theatrically peel this off like he’s starring in his own Diet Coke ad before strutting around in a towel – all ripped, tanned and hairless – for far longer than necessary.
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You’ll probably hear him before you see him. This CrossFit evangelist (pssssssssshhhht!) believes it is absolutely A-OK (hut-hut-hut-hut) to drown out the high-tempo muzak mix with his Neanderthal grunts as he flirts with a hernia/prolapse/aneurysm while power-squatting his sizable bodyweight. (Guess what: it’s not.) Between sets, he’ll make his pecs jiggle and passive-aggressively exchange ludicrous bro-science in a game of one-upmanship with his training partner. These strongmen generally favour a loose-fitting vest/tank and old-school drawstring shorts. Afterwards they’ll throw on a hoodie and sweatpants from reassuringly athletic brands such as Nike and Todd Snyder + Champion before lumbering stiffly back to the locker room to gulp down a muscle-building supplement like it’s Popeye’s spinach. By the way, the safest answer to the question “Dude, can you spot me?” is “Probably not, sorry.”
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Where there is Lycra, there is lucre. Barry’s Bootcamp, SoulCycle, Boom Cycle, Flywheel – the recent explosion in pay-quite-a-lot-as-you-go group fitness classes is shaking up the old model of under-used annual gym memberships. It has also created cults of acolytes who bounce around on endorphins, green juice and smugness. If they’re not wearing their favoured class’ branded merch, then they’re in colour-coordinated Nike Dri-FITs and Flyknits. Most of these classes follow a tried-and-tested formula: turn the lights low, turn the music up and have a trainer-cum-motivational speaker up front barking orders on the beat through a Madonna mic. The darkened warehouse club vibes lead many devotees to favour neon-accented apparel, so how’s this for a head-to-toe ensemble? An orange Nike Dri-FIT T-shirt and black shorts worn with matching Flyknits and coordinating Suunto watch. Accessorise with a complementary Triggerpoint roller. Remember, orange is the new black.
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People who perspire freely on the treadmill will ideally want to wear antibacterial sweat-wicking gear in colours that don’t show up telltale wet patches. Unfortunately, this isn’t always practical on the over-packed commuter train to work. But you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to technical running apparel. Steer clear of basic cottons and instead seek out Nike’s Dri-FIT range, which will help you look as well as run your personal best. Iffley Road’s Drirelease fabric serves a similar purpose. Committed runners never knowingly show less than 93 per cent leg, so try these retro split-thigh shorts from Soar Running. Feeling competitive? The bods at Athletic Propulsion Labs claim the technology inside its Windchill sneakers will shave nine seconds off an elite runner’s mile time. Wear them with cushioned Nike running socks to avoid blisters. For those who love to keep all their social media followers fully apprised of their daily exertions, strap this GPS-enabled heart rate monitor sports watch from Suunto to your wrist. It will ensure you don’t get lost (hopefully unlikely if on a treadmill) or over-exert yourself. Finally: in the UK, they are called bumbags; in the US, they are fanny packs; 2XU is calling this a utility running belt. Discuss.