Why what you wear in the gym really matters

Once upon a time, you went to the gym to look good out of it. Not anymore. Your private tryst with torture is now a social spectacle; your workout could end up being the background to someone’s mirror selfies or Insta stories. So it’s no longer safe to work out in an old tee and nondescript track pants! A modern and trendy gym is a showcase of fashionable sportswear, but does it actually motivate us to work harder?
“Whether it’s workout gear or normal clothes you have to love your outfit and it has to love you,” says Alison McLaughlin, Master Trainer for Rad Mobility, yoga, Pilates and barre teacher, and Lululemon ambassador for Middle East. “If wearing a cool outfit makes me push a little harder, I’m all for it.”
A spokesperson for German sportswear giant adidas says, “The style of product you wear will boost your confidence in your abilities, which in turn will improve motivation and focus.”
Manal Rostom, Nike athlete and its first hijabi coach, subscribes to this theory. “When I look good, I am not only motivated, but I can focus. When you lace up, you must be the best version of yourself.”
Well, research reveals a direct correlation between what we wear and how we perform. Experts term it enclothed cognition, which refers to a kind of mental shift you experience when you wear certain clothes. “Wearing the correct workout equipment also improves technique,” says adidas.
Catherine Hanson Farid, Director of Operations, REPs UAE, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, agrees that feeling good in what you are wearing will give you a bit of a boost, but it’s not on top of her list. “Great music is what pushes me through a tough workout.”
Jessica Wall, a behavioural health coach, also disagrees that having the latest apparel is essential to getting through a hard workout. “Irrespective of what you wear, be sure to surround yourself with the right people, as they’re the ones who can help you get through the toughest of workouts.”
Rebecca Koch, advertising professional and avid crossfitter, doesn’t feel trendy sportswear gives an edge: “A mental edge has nothing to do with what I’m wearing and everything to do with what my goals are. Conversely, I think the proper gym clothing works where the material and technology keep you comfortable.”
Quality is key
Clothes for exercise have been fashioned-up over the past few years, and sportswear brands are making sure that they are staying ahead of evolving trends. “Activewear pieces are now incorporated into an already street-style outfit instead of more casual and fitness-focused attire,” says adidas.
Rostom agrees. “As a hijabi, it is particularly challenging to not just stay ahead, but be trendy. I’m selective where I shop and do my best to keep my style fresh and make sure that I add my own twist to my outfits.”
McLaughlin says, “My workout gear has to be comfortable, durable, and needs to make me feel supported. It also has to be versatile across different workout platforms because I participate in different sports; yoga, powerlifting, running, and grocery shopping.”
Consumers prioritising trendy health and wellness routines is fuelling the activewear market. “The effortless style has been popularised by millennials with an interest in urban street style and fitness,” says adidas. “Apparel and shoes are not only comfortable, but versatile and can be worn on many different occasions.”
Impress gym peers?
You’ve heard the phrase dress to impress, but does it apply to the world of fitness? “Of course there will be some people that dress to impress in the gym,” says Hanson Farid. “If you love fashion then that’ll extend to your gym wardrobe — and why shouldn’t it?”
Sometimes, it’s the type of gym and peers that influences how you dress. As Melanie Williams, a communications professional, says: “In my gym maybe 10 per cent dress to impress, but in a gym packed with impressively-fit people I notice about 60 per cent dress to impress.”
What to wear to the gym
Catherine Hanson Farid, Director of Operations, REPs UAE, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor
Image Credit: Supplied
Women and men need to wear what they feel good and are comfortable in. Catherine Hanson Farid has some dos and don’ts when it comes to working out in public.
Shorts: These are great to wear to the gym, especially in this weather. Avoid ones that are too short and revealing.
Long Leggings: A must-have for both winter and summer and the great thing is you can wear them outside the gym too.
Light coloured leggings: Steer clear of light colours such as white leggings, particularly if they are see-through!
Tank: It’s nice to see a man in a nice branded tank if they are rocking a buff upper body!
Loose fitting t-shirt: If the upper body still needs some work then it’s best to stick to a loose-fitting t-shirt.
Dirty gymwear: Avoid wearing clothing that is not fresh and clean.

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