Written by Imane Dodo
Image by @joahbrown
Finding the right gear, especially as a beginner, can be a herculean task given the number of brands and the amount of information out there. Believe it or not, fitness gear is very technical, and good brands think of every single aspect when making them, including comfort, aesthetics and durability. Unfortunately so many brands today disregard these aspects but thankfully, there are many good brands out there to suit activities, budget and style, and I will give you all the tea to optimize for whatever you value in fitness gear (style, comfort or value).
Choosing the right brand
Just like regular clothes, determine your style, budget and activity. Some brands tend to have more colourful and patterned fabrics (e.g. Sweaty Betty) while others use more minimalist, plain fabrics like Nike or Lululemon. If you want to be the star of the show at the gym, then the former is calling your name. As a beginner, I recommend going for classic styles to build your wardrobe and versatility especially if you workout a few times a week.
On the budget, I have noticed that price, to a certain extent, generally tends to be correlated with quality and durability for workout gear because from the little I have heard, GOOD fitness fabrics tend to be expensive to buy and manufacture. It all depends on your preference and you should go with whatever suits you best but in general, look for fitness gear with thicker fabrics, which tends to perform better on durability, look and comfort (think Lululemon (thicker fabrics) vs Gym shark (softer fabrics).
Next, determine the activity for which you are shopping for. Though subtle, most brands tend to be specialized in certain activities. For example, Nike & Adidas scream running & gym training, Gymshark for weightlifting while Lululemon and Sweaty Betty are more popular amongst the Pilates and Yoga communities. Other brands such as Vale, North Face, Patagonia and Lafuma are safe bets for outdoor activities like hiking.
Picking the right size
The quality and enjoyability of your workouts is heavily dependent on your gear as it affects your range of movement, so choose carefully based on the activity you are buying gear for.
Perform these three movements in the fitting room to ensure the right size leggings: squat, lunges and rotation (fingers behind your ears, lift one leg and rotate your body towards the leg that is up, as if you are doing a standing bicycle). If the legging does not slip, jackpot! If it does, size up or down and repeat.
Low impact activities like yoga are more forgiving than running, which requires a higher support bra especially if you are blessed with a generous chest. There are three items to test when trying a bra:
- Bust: Put your arms up above your head. If the bra moves, you need to size down
- Band: The band has to be tight but comfortable. Put one finger in between your bra and your body to test that the size is right
- Straps: If you can tighten the sleeves until your ear level, you need size down.
It is critical to seek professional help for shoes. Having the right support and shoe shape is important to protect your knees down the line and ensure that you can still walk in your old age (literally). Comfort, support, shape and material are critical factors to consider when buying shoes. Choose flat shoes for indoor training and shoes with high cushioning for running.