We're always seeking out the best workout clothes. That's partly because it’s fun to lace up a pair of straight-from-the-box Nike Infinity Reacts with some sleek-looking compression tights and peacock on the treadmill. But good workout gear can make a major difference in how you perform, too. We connected with experts for their top recommendations on how to better dress the part for your next PR.
The right fabrics will keep you dry
When things heat up mid-rep, you’re going to want to be wearing quick-drying items. That means no cotton. It’s fine to wear those terry cloth joggers to and from the gym, of course, but when you’re sweating, cotton gets wet and stays wet. It’s somehow both hot (a wet shirt makes it harder to cool down mid-push) and cold (wet shirts get clammy quick). There’s a reason “cotton kills” is a hiker cliché.
“Cotton absorbs your sweat and holds on to it, which will start sticking to your body as you work out,” says Nate Checketts, CEO of Rhone. “If you're wearing a more technical shirt, it helps keep you dry and moves with your body better. You can physically feel the difference.” That’s where synthetic fabrics come in.
Smart layers mean both warmth and insurance against overheating
If you’re thinking you can head out there Jurgen Klopp-style and rock a sports sweatshirt without regrets, you’re wrong. Instead, layer up, and do it smart.
“Once you get moving, your body is going to get warm real fast,” says Jes Woods, a coach for Brooklyn Track Club and Nike+. Woods suggests runners leave the house dressed like it's 10 to 15 degrees warmer outside than it actually is, which could mean you’re boldly wearing a tank top when it’s 59 degrees out.
“Layers help you navigate temperature in a smart way,” says Woods. “As your first layer, have something that wicks sweat, then cover that with a long-sleeve full- or half-zip. This way you can shed as needed. And always, always make sure to have your extremities covered.”
When you look good, you might just perform better
But don’t just take my word for it. One study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed that the right clothes can make you focus and perform better. This particular study dealt with lab coats: Participants paid better attention when they were told it was a doctor’s coat than when the coat was presented as a painter’s jacket. But to the authors, this has wide implications: What you wear systematically influences how you think.
For peak performance, this could mean the newest, flashiest gear. But if your ideal workout look is a little rough around the edges – if you embrace the “dust fit” – that works, too. Before a big workout, just wear whatever makes you feel like a legend.