Back in the good old days, otherwise known as the ’80s, male gym goers in the part of Sydney where I grew up kept things pretty simple.
Eschewing anything close to the ankle warmers and belted leotards sported by a few of their female counterparts – as featured in Olivia Newtown-John’s fat-shaming anthem Let’s Get Physical – the uniform was as follows: scuffed white trainers, old soccer socks, stubbies that doubled as lawn-mowing shorts, and a faded T-shirt.
The only concession made towards a gym-specific outfit was the occasional Life Be In It cartoon screen-printed across the front of a tee.
However, dragging myself to the gym instead of the usual open-aired run last week, I was again reminded how times have changed. Standing amid a sea of colour-co-ordinated spandex and lycra, it appears they’ve turned from a den of old T-shirts and moth-eaten shorts into a haven for sportswear marketers.
While there is nothing wrong with putting in a bit of effort, it can be confronting for the person who is already intimidated by the weights room, let alone the inadvertent fashion parade. With that in mind, here are some tips for sweating in style.
Above anything else, your gym clothes need to be selected with comfort in mind. There is no point in looking great in the change room only to spend the next hour trying your best to discreetly and repeatedly pick out a self-made wedgie.
Up top, keep it clean and simple. A cotton or blended fibre tee — though cotton isn’t always the best for breathing — in a block colour works best, as opposed to the trumpeting fanfare of an overly branded or gaudily printed top that leaves you looking like a promotional model or part-time figure skater.
A quick heads-up: white T-shirts can sometimes develop yellow stains in the pits, so buy bleach in bulk or pick a darker colour that’ll hide it.
Also, and this only applies to a few folk, if you’re dancing with danger and using steroids, no one is going to think the resulting liberal sprinkling of neck and back acne is caused by anything but. Your best bet is to steer clear of those singlets and tank tops you’re so fond of. That or stop juicing.
When it comes to shorts, pick a pair that are semi-snug yet loose enough to allow movement. Keep it above the knee unless you are off to shoot hoops and pick a neutral colour so you can mix and match with your top half. Black or navy skins worn underneath are a good bet if you prefer a high-cut, thigh-grazing short, as cream-coloured mesh inserts give the impression that you’re leaving nothing between you and the equipment beyond a thin layer of fabric.
A few paragraphs ago I mentioned that comfort was key above anything else. I lied. It is a close second, but buying the right running shoe is paramount when you work out. Looking good is one thing, but sustaining a knee injury that will plague you for life is quite another.
Don’t ever buy a designer shoe just because it looks good. Make sure it is made for running and, if possible, get it fitted at a store that is dedicated to runners. It may cost you a bit more, but it’ll end up being far less than repeat physio appointments.