Gym workouts warrant careful clothing choices

Columnist Mark Longacre says that the right attire can make or break a trip to the gym or a workout regimen. It’s that time of year again. I don’t mean the beginning of the semester–I

Mark LongacreColumnist Mark Longacre says that the right attire can make or break a trip to the gym or a workout regimen.

It’s that time of year again.

I don’t mean the beginning of the semester–I don’t think anyone actually cares about that–it’s the time for New Year’s resolutions. It’s that time when every student, professor and teacher’s assistant flock to the gym.

While I give serious credit to people for motivating themselves to go to the gym, there’s one thing that sets experienced gym rats aside from resolution-ers: The gym rats understand gym apparel. I understand the gym isn’t a runway, but your gym attire can be the difference between enjoying yourself and never returning.

Planning a gym outfit involves knowing your body and how it reacts to various conditions. For example, when I run, I sweat more than a Broad Street runner crossing the finish line. But when I’m weight training, my body is drier than the Sahara. With my body’s needs in mind I begin the process of picking out a workout outfit.

It’s easiest to start with the innermost layer and work your way out. Because I sweat more than a criminal in a courtroom, I always wear spandex shorts underneath my running shorts. Spandex makes the perfect undergarment because it’s lightweight and breathable. Anyone near the finish line of a run knows that any extra weight feels like a ball and chain dragging you down.

Breathability is also important because the skin respires. Although skin isn’t as efficient as the respiratory system it still processes oxygen, which means you need to dress it in a material that aids in the respiratory functions.

Don’t get me wrong, I love spandex, but it leaves nothing to the imagination. Fortunately, almost every exercise apparel company has a similar line of clothing that wicks sweat away from the body without being a second skin. Wicking materials, like Nike’s Dry-Fit line, are lightweight and breathable, while drawing sweat away from the body. When cotton or polyester is saturated they’re incredibly heavy. Because of their synthetic base, Dry-Fit shirts don’t absorb water like conventional materials.

In addition to the proper material, the color can make or break your exercise outfit. One time I made the mistake of wearing gray to the gym. Naïve Mark didn’t think anything of it until I reached the third of five miles on the treadmill. The light gray shirt started out almost the same color as the newspaper but quickly turned as dark as this typeface. After that day, I will only wear white, navy and black.

Once you’ve determined what materials work for your body, it’s important to pick a pair of shorts. One would think picking a pair of shorts is easy, but there’s a science behind the proper shorts for each activity. Running shorts are typically the lightest and most fitted shorts available, and basketball shorts are usually longer and weigh a little more than running shorts. Weight is an incredibly important factor to consider when running because it takes more effort to propel your body forward with every additional ounce.

Much like with any going-out outfit, your shoes are the most important part. The right pair of shoes can completely alter athletic performance, but the perfect pair varies from person to person.

Personally, I love minimalistic footwear. When running, lifting or playing racquetball at the IBC Student Recreation Center, I wear a pair of Vibram Five Fingers because they simulate being barefoot without actually walking barefoot through North Philly. Barefoot technology isn’t for everyone though, and can cause injuries if used improperly. Check out City Sports at 16th and Walnut streets for a recommendation on the proper shoes for your sport of choice.

Once you know the basics on what works with your body, feel free to have fun with your outfit’s colors and accessories. If you wanted to go completely gym chic, try to pick a motif and express it using the colors and accessories in your outfit. For example, you could go New England-tennis-chic by buying all pastel colors, a Rolex and a martini glass in lieu of a water bottle. Or you could try going green by buying attire made from post consumer fiber and a BPA free, reusable water bottle.

In order to be successful with a New Year’s resolution, you have to be motivated to work. Whether you’re investing money into your gym clothes or just really want to get in shape, find your motivation and an exercise routine that meets your needs, and stick to them. In the world of exercise, nothing is impossible if you really want it.

Mark Longacre can be reached at

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