This is an awkward post to write, because, believe it or not, I do go to gym and walk the gym floor everyday and I am not exactly a living fashion statement. I am just a gal who wants to work out, and if I could find exceptionally cool clothes to wear I would. Actually, I would rather spend my time hiking than browsing through stores looking for something to wear. Anyway, after raising all the problems of finding real gym clothes for real people in my previous post, this post is all about what I really wear.
My first venture into spoiling myself with exercise apparel was sport socks… because of all the gear, socks are the most affordable. Turns out… fantastic sport socks make a difference. Comfortable feet means that you can be out there for longer… it’s a thing. If you are looking for a gym pick-me-up, get yourself some sport appropriate socks. Running socks for running really make a difference to how you feel on a run and as a new runner… I need that little edge.
Good leggings are hard to find. You have to try them on and you have to see if you can actually jump around in them. If you can run on the spot in the change room then do so. Because, while a lot of gym is standing or sitting with weights, you will have to run around quite a bit too. The tragedy of leggings that don’t fit right, well I just can’t stand to think about it. I like high waisted, I have a lot of tummy to tuck in! I looked and looked for leggings and after a nationwide man (leggings) hunt I settled on the plain old supermarket variety.
I do have one pair of really fancy leggings that I bought online, I love them but I would not recommend shopping online, because like I mentioned before, sizing from brand to brand is completely inconsistent and it was months before I could fit into the ones that I ordered online. Not to mention only when they actually fitted did I realise the pockets hadn’t been stitched closed in production (way too late to return them). While I love these leggings, can I just say… the pocket designed to carry my phone, would have been a real bonus if it was an actual pocket and not just a flap of fabric.
When I began working out, even finding a comfortable t-shirt to fit, without any gaps whatsoever, was a challenge. Luckily four weeks into the Healthy Weight Programme we were gifted with gym shirts, and I confess I have washed and worn mine over and over again ever since. I do have other sporty t-shirts… my ParkRun50 and TotalsSports 10K shirts are favourites; I earned them. Perhaps my next spoil should be a workout t-shirt!!!
When I started working out, I wore tank tops with inner bras to gym class and they were fine… until we got more active and then they really weren’t. Let me just say… you need good foundation wear. Sports Bras are essential gear… without them you are really limited in what you can actually do.
The bad news is that you actually need more than one and they are off the charts impossible to find in plus plus sizes, unless you want to pay an absolute fortune. The thing is they don’t actually sell plus sizes in sport stores because, and I have been told this again and again and again… “There is no demand.” (I have to ask, “Who isn’t demanding?”). So then I looked online. Online gym apparel stores market that they have Plus size gear… they will even have: XS, M, L, XL, XXL, all the way up to XXXL… “Available”… but when you actually click through to buy they will be “out of stock” in the bigger sizes every time. I have actually emailed and asked two of these stores about this… you know a gal has to do her research, and neither of them got back to me, though I noticed the one store did change their sizing online to only be XS, S, M, L and XL, after my email.
I got my lucky break in foundation wear when I was at the Two Oceans Running Expo, with all the apparel companies there… I was thrilled to discover Triumph was there and not only that, they were there with measuring tapes and a wide variety of sizes and show specials. It took about two seconds to be measured, and two more minutes to try them on and I went home the happiest person in town. Six months later and many cm lost, I am once again in the market and waiting eagerly for the next running expo. When I fully intend to get remeasured and to shop again.
Well here comes a home truth that you probably don’t want to hear… but folks we are not talking glamour here… I love swimming and now that I have finally gotten the courage to get back in the pool I am not about to give up this privilege any time soon. If I told you I bought the bathing costume I am wearing more than ten years ago… and after the trauma of trying to find a bathing costume while I was pregnant with one of my kids, I never want to go costume hunting again… ever. I swam through my pregnancies and finding a functional costume when you are pregnant deserves a life time achievement… down to the very popular plus size store that told me I shouldn’t be swimming in “That” condition… are they crazy?! I really have no intention of trying to find a new bathing costume any time soon, actually ever… so this costume is going to have to last my lifetime. I cannot even fathom where to start looking, but I can guarantee you if I were to start looking around, it won’t be in any of our local sport stores, which leaves a lot less sporty options to choose from and bathing costumes that are not actually for swimming in, which could end up fairly awkwardly in the gym pool, that almost every person in the gym has to walk past on the way to their workout.
I am only going to talk briefly about shoes… just to say that comfort overrules everything here. And unfortunately the more you pay the more comfortable you will be, but the more you pay is no guarantee for comfort either. You have to know exactly and specifically what your feet need. When I began my fitness journey I was quite happy in my croc sneakers… until I literally ran out of them. I kid you not, even my feet lost weight! I bought myself a pair of trail shoes, because we do a lot of hiking… it was totally worth it. Six months later when I had walked them flat – I bit the bullet and instead of leaving my workout shoes until we had some cash available for them… (you never will have the cash… and your kids will always need stuff urgently), I had to put myself on the the priority list… and now running shoes are on the budget. I know I will need shoes every six months or so… not that I am doing masses of mileage… but I run three or four times a week, I do the time and I need the shoes to go with it. If one of my kids took up a sport I would make sure they had the gear… I have to treat myself just as well. I still haven’t plucked up the nerve to step into an specialist running store, to try on running shoes… with two 10km races under my belt, I consider myself a very beginner, but I am guessing the day will come when I decide comfort is a bigger priority than being a beginner!!!
All I can say is persist until you find something that works, because even the slightest discomfort: the socks that are too tight, the zip that slightly scratches, the sleeve that is just too long… all these things will become an excuse to give up on a day when the going gets tough. The things you never even notice during your daily routine, become the biggest problem when you enter an actual race. Accept the battle, and keep looking till you find something that fits comfortably. Great gym clothes, that you love, are a rare and exciting find. When you do find them, don’t save them for special occasions… wear them again and again. Enjoy them, because they are a treasure indeed.