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Dress For Success - What to Wear to the Gym

Sep 29, 2022

What you wear to the gym can make or break your level of comfort during a workout. It seems like you should just be able to throw on whatever you have and start moving, right? To a point, you can. But, if you’re a little more intentional with your choices here, you may be able to improve your workout, decrease injury/wear and tear, and feel more confident and positive overall. So what should you wear to the gym?


One of the biggest mistakes any level of gym-goer can make is wearing the wrong shoes. Over time, wearing shoes that aren’t suited for your activities can cause overuse damage, imbalances and injury. It can affect the form and efficiency of your exercise, as well.

There is a big difference between running sneakers and training sneakers, and you do not want to use either for the opposite activity. The good news is, it’s easy to find the right shoes if you go to a store or online. Simply search for “running sneakers” for running/walking and “cross-training sneakers” for anything else you do in a gym.

Running sneakers support forward movement. They are not ideal when it comes to lateral movement, meaning if you try to wear them while doing movements like lateral step-ups, ladders, shuffles, side lunges, dance, cardio kick, etc., you may find yourself unsteady and potentially hurt. They are also lighter, less supportive and less durable than trainers. Training sneakers work multi-directionally, meaning they allow your foot to do every movement well, from squatting to kicking to doing Zumba. They have sufficient support which keeps your foot from getting too wobbly and messing with your form. In short, trainers support your foot for multiple exercises, runners support your foot for running/walking.

What if you’re going to warm up on the treadmill? You can wear your trainers safely for a mile or two on the treadmill without issue. Ideally, you’d have a pair for running/walking and a pair for gym sessions - this will increase the life of your shoes and make sure your feet are set for any activity. If you’re on the fence and you’re not going for crazy runs, stick with the trainers.


When it comes to clothing, one of the most important parts to consider is material. There are many materials out there used to make your clothes, but the average ones you’ll see in workout gear are cotton, polyester, spandex, nylon and bamboo. Oftentimes, your clothes will include a mix.

Cotton is great for weight lifting, yoga or lower intensity sessions. It is light, airy and comfortable, but it definitely holds onto sweat and will stick to you during higher intensity workouts. Polyester is a good choice for higher intensity sessions, as it won’t wrinkle, won’t absorb moisture, and is quite breathable. However, polyester is a fabric you can wash and still be unsure if you washed it – it stinks, so be warned. Spandex, nylon and bamboo are all good for multiple activities, weather conditions and sweat levels, though they tend to be a bit more expensive. Again, many options may include a mix, so try out what works for you and pick something you feel comfortable moving in, don’t chafe in, and can keep clean and fresh.

What about this “moisture wicking” title you see on some active clothing? Moisture wicking clothing can be made of any material (like spandex, bamboo, etc.) that doesn’t hold onto liquid. All it means is that the fabric used stops sweat from entering too far into the material. As a result, you won’t have a pool of it stuck to your body and your sweat can properly evaporate and produce a cooling effect. Do you need it for your average gym session? No. Is it nice to have for higher intensity workouts? Absolutely!

Another clothing tip: wear layers! You never know whether the temperature inside or outside is going to be cold or warm, especially as your body starts to get going. Layer up so you can take off or add on as you need it. A good example might be a pair of capris leggings with a tee-shirt and workout jacket.

Proper clothing and shoes can make a big difference to your workout and how you’re feeling after you’re done. Of course, there’s no need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Set your priorities, know your activity and what you need for it, and do your best to set your body up for success. Also, as usual, if you have any questions about what you should be wearing or if what you have is appropriate, reach out to your trainers!



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