Trying to decide what to wear for your workout gets your heart pumping faster than a 100-yard dash; but don't worry, we've got you covered.
Workout wear has come a long way since the days of plain cotton sweat pants and T-shirts. These days, there's plenty of apparel out there that's comfortable, functional and fashionable -- clothes that will have you looking, and feeling, like a pro. Just remember two words: moisture management.
"It's all about dri-fit. It's very popular," says Allison Reeves, an apparel associate at Sports Authority in Fresno.
Dri-fit apparel is designed with a moisture-transport system that wicks perspiration away from the skin and to the garment's outer layer, keeping body temperature consistent, says Brian Constantino, assistant manager at Big 5 Sporting Goods in Fresno. The fabric typically is a blend of several fibers, including polyester and spandex. Tops, tights, shorts, socks and sports bras all come with moisture-management technology.
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A good pair of shoes also is a necessity when heading to the gym. "Don't pick a shoe because it looks good. Go with what feels good," says Aaron Samansky, who owns Sierra Running Company. The store sells a large line of shoes, apparel and accessories for runners, walkers, triathletes and gymgoers.
"If you don't get the right shoes," he says, "your feet are going to hurt, and then other things will start hurting, and you'll get injured and stop exercising."
Sierra provides a free gait analysis for its customers. This takes about 20 minutes and reveals stride biomechanics. About 80 percent of people need a stability shoe, store manager Kyle Cirrincione says; these are for people with a medium arch who need a little extra support. The other 20 percent require either a motion control or neutral shoe. A motion control shoe is for someone with a flat foot who needs the most arch support. A neutral shoe is for someone with a high arch who doesn't require additional support. Cirrincione says the most popular brands at Sierra are Asics, Brooks and Mizuno, which average about $100.
Michael Schielke, a sales representative with Big 5 Sporting Goods, recommends New Balance or Asics ($39-$79) for a nothing-fancy, mid-line gym shoe. "All of them are lightweight. They're kind
of like an all-purpose shoe," he says.
And don't forget the socks, says Steve Moua, footwear associate at Sports Authority. These also are available in dri-fit, and many come with reinforced heels, toes and toe- footstrike cushioning.
There also are some nifty accessories out there that will help amp up your gym workouts, including the iPod and a heart-rate monitor.
"A heart-rate monitor is the most effective way of telling you how your body is doing," Cirrincione says.
"They're also a good motivator to get you out there, and they give you a good way to analyze and track the way you're working out."
Training at the right intensity is key to reaching fitness goals, and a heart-rate monitor ($50 and up) can help. The most common types have a "watch" and a transmitter chest strap worn against the skin. The transmitter picks up signals from your heart and sends them wirelessly to the watch. In addition to heart rate, some monitors also measure the speed and distance you've traveled.
Under Armour compression shirts (about $24 and up) that mold to the body are hot sellers. Black, white and navy blue are popular colors. For those looking for tops less clingy, there are looser-fitting tees and tanks in various brands; prices start around $20. Pink is hot. And, for women, a sports bra that offers comfort and support is a must. Under Armour, Nike and Champion are common brands; prices usually run $20-$35.
The Under Armour trend continues with compression shorts (about $25) in black, white and navy blue as popular items. These usually are worn under a second pair of shorts in black, white or navy. For women, Under Armour and Nike compression tights ($25-$40) are trendy. And long, basketball-style shorts in various colors are hot for guys ($20 and up).
No-show performance socks in black and white ($10 and up) are most popular. Polyester, nylon and spandex blends help keep feet dry and cool.
Nike+ ($85-$120) are hot. They have pockets under the insole for a wireless sensor that sends data such as time, distance, pace and calories burned to a receiver on your iPod Nano. A Nike+ iPod Sport Kit ($30) allows you to transfer your workout data to iTunes and nikeplus.com to evaluate performance history, set goals and challenge others to a virtual race. When buying shoes, look for mesh uppers, which allow feet to breathe, and gel-, air- or foam-cushion technology for support and comfort.
Tune out distractions with the iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano. iPods are more popular than other MP3 players because they're smaller. The minuscule 1-gigabyte iPod Shuffle, which holds up to 240 songs, costs about $80 and clips to clothing. A 4-gigabyte iPod Nano (up to 1,000 songs) costs about $150. Many gymgoers strap iPods to their waists or upper arms. Cases cost $20-$40.