Exercise for Beginners - What to Wear

Caucasian woman working out on exercise mat
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If you're just starting out with exercise, you may have no idea how to choose the right clothes you need to feel and look good.  And, what you wear is important - Your workout clothes help you stay comfortable, regulate your body temperature and avoid embarrassing fashion disasters at the gym.

There are no hard and fast rules for what to wear, but there are some tips that can help you decide what to wear for your workouts.

Tips for Buying the Perfect Exercise Clothes

  • Think comfort. Shorts, tee shirts, tights...wear whatever feels good to you. Test your clothes before you go to the gym (or wherever you're exercising) to make sure your clothes don't chafe, ride up, slide down or show more than you want.  If you're a woman, you might not feel comfortable with tight clothes.  My favorite thing to wear is a skort (find a variety at Amazon.com).  They're comfortable, flattering and offer lots of coverage.
  • Protect yourself. Wear light-colored clothes, a hat, plenty of sunscreen and sunglasses if you're exercising outdoors during hot weather. You may also want to invest in clothes made of special wicking material such as CoolMax. This stuff keeps you cool and dry in the summer and warm in the winter...you don't need fancy fabrics, but it does make workouts more comfortable.
  • Invest in quality, sports specific shoes. For weight training and low impact activities consider cross-training, running or walking shoes, like these ASICS Women's Sana Crosstrainers, available at Amazon.com.  If you're going to be running, you'll want a running shoe so your feet will have plenty of support. Similarly, if you're participating in a sport such as basketball, football, etc. you'll want a sport-specific shoe so you don't hurt yourself.  In fact, I think yours shoes should be one of your biggest investments.  The wrong ones can ruin a workout and cause long term problems.  More about Athletic Shoe Selection.
  • Be safe. Make sure your clothes and shoes have reflective material on them if you're out and about at night.
  • Be picky about your workout socks. If they're too thick or thin you could get blisters which can ruin a good workout. Learn more about the best socks for exercise.  My absolute favorites, both for men and women are Thorlo Experia socks, available at Amazon.com.
  • Choose clothes to fit your activity. If you're running or walking, a simple pair of shorts and tee shirt might be fine. If you're doing yoga or Pilates, you might choose more fitted clothing so you can move freely but stay covered. You can also find clothes for every size, including plus size exercisers.

There's no right and wrong when it comes to exercise clothes. It's whatever makes you feel good and keeps you comfortable.  Some people go to the gym and see people wearing tight-fitting, matching outfits or expensive exercise clothes.  That can be a little intimidating, but you really don't have to go that far.

The best thing you can do is wear clothes that make you feel good and that you don't have to worry about while you're working out.


As you exercise over time, you'll get a better idea of what clothes work best for you, so start with comfort and go from there.

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