What you wear can make or break a workout.
Fussing with your shoes or socks can mess up an interval treadmill workout, bulky cotton T-shirts can weigh you down during functional training sessions and scratchy fabric can cause discomfort.
"Whether it's limiting your range of motion, weighing you down or just plain uncomfortable, the wrong gear can prevent you from taking your training to the next level," says Wesley Pederson, a certified running coach and personal trainer at Equinox Fitness in Newport Beach, California.
Clothing designed for training—and your body—will keep you focused on what matters most: your workout. Before you head out for a run, jump on the spinning bike or walk into the weight room, pay attention to the layers and material you put on.
Look for Technical FabricsWhen it comes to shopping around for apparel, product descriptors like "moisture-wicking" and "quick-dry" should be a go-to for runners and endurance athletes. These performance-enhancing fabrics are typically made with polyester and nylon blends, which are lightweight and help dissipate sweat. These types of fabrics are particularly handy in spring and summer.
"Companies nowadays are doing an amazing job of creating apparel specifically made with a runner's needs in mind," says Pedersen. "These new technical fabrics are designed to give you the comfort, protection and flexibility to function at your top level."
For colder weather, these high-performance fabrics can be layered without adding bulk. And when the thermometer really drops, you can add wool pieces into your wardrobe, which keep you dry and warm without picking up stinky workout smells.
Regardless of the time of year, one fabric Pedersen advises staying away from is cotton, which holds in moisture, leaving you cold, wet and weighed down. Save your old favorite college tee for less-rigorous activities—like sleeping.
Shop in the Right Section
Proper gear for runners will be found in the "running" section of a store. Yoga pants may be ultra-flattering, but they're not made for lengthy, supercharged workouts and shouldn't be on your shopping route.
This is also true when choosing your shoes.
"Don't look to cross-trainers to get you across the finish line of your next race," Pederson says. "Running shoes are designed with the cushion and support needed to protect your foot from the repetitive motion of hitting the ground."
Pedersen suggests going to a running specialty store to find the right pair. "They'll analyze your stride to see what type of foot strike pattern you run with (heel, midfoot, forefoot) and suggest the best option for you," he says.
Go for ComfortYour best friend's favorite running gear might not be what's best for you.
"Every athlete's needs are as individualized as our fingerprints," Pedersen says. "You've got to do your own research and experimentation to find the perfect fit for you."
This means testing out different brands, styles and sizes, and ignoring the trends. Instead, focus on form and function.
"The gear you choose should allow you to move freely and easily, so that you have nothing else to worry about except getting in a good workout," Pedersen says.