Unless you’re fashion-conscious, it doesn’t really matter what you wear to the health club, right? Well, think again. What you wear during workouts can literally determine how you feel and how you perform. While you don’t need to purchase top-of-the-line, brand-name apparel to get a better workout, there are still certain qualities about your gym clothes you’ll want to pay attention to, such as materials, comfort, fit, layer-ability, and appropriateness to the activity.

Material Matters

The #1 rule for fitness club apparel? Never wear 100% cotton. Cotton is comfortable and feels great on your skin when it’s dry…but when it gets loaded down with sweat, watch out. Not only will it cling to you, irritate your skin, and cause chafing, it holds in body heat, hindering your body’s self-cooling mechanisms. Ironically, the dampness close to your skin can also leave you chilled. This is why it’s important to look for workout clothes that feature one of the following adjectives on the label:
• Moisture-wicking
• Performance
• Technical

For the best workout experience, look for synthetic fabrics and blends for everything that touches your skin –not just your shirts, but shorts, socks, and undergarments. Ladies, this especially includes your sports bras.

Comfort Counts

Don’t make the mistake of buying new workout clothes without trying them on and moving through every range of motion. Avoid anything that restricts movement, no matter how amazing it looks on you. Also keep in mind that active wear tends to fit tighter than regular clothes, so you might have to go a size up. Pay attention to rough areas, seams, tags, and anything else that might cause irritation during movement. For optimal comfort, choose active wear with a small percentage of Spandex, so it will move with you.

Fit: Don’t Be Sloppy

If you’re still self-conscious about your body or just don’t like drawing attention to your curves, it can be tempting to wear baggy sweats and tanks. Not only are you hurting your self-esteem (look good, feel good), you won’t be able to see if you’re using proper form through each move. Wearing baggy clothing around complex, moving equipment could also pose a safety hazard if it gets caught on something or causes you to trip.

Layer-ability: Active Wear for all Seasons

To get the most out of your workout wardrobe, choose items that can be mixed, matched, and worn all year round for maximum comfort. If all you have are shorts and tanks, consider adding long-sleeved compression gear, a light moisture-wicking jacket, and a few capris or pants.

Be Appropriate

Besides choosing clothing appropriate to your activity (for instance, yoga pants might not work the best for cycling), there are a few pieces of fitness center etiquette to observe. Choose active wear that:

• Keeps you modest during every move
• Doesn’t smell like ten years of sweat
• Won’t otherwise offend anyone around you

As you can see, it is important to think about what you wear to the fitness gym, but not in the sense of fashion or how much it costs. That being said, having decent-quality active wear you look good in and feel good in can’t help but add to your motivation to reach your fitness goals.