What 20+ Years of Athletics Have Taught Me about Clothes

by Alex Francis

Discount Augusta Sportswear

Alex Francis sports a UCSB screen-printed Augusta Sportswear Sweatshirt

Alex Francis is an in-house writer for Clothing Shop Online and NCAA Division I track and field veteran. Get her expert advice on fitness, fashion, and so much more on Clothing Shop Online.

Our favorite Athlete in action!

If there is one thing I’ve learned from a lifetime of athletic activity (aside from, you know, the importance of staying healthy), it’s that wearing the wrong clothes to a workout can make even the most fun activities feel like torture. Loose, sweat-soaked shirts and baggy, ill-fitting pants do nothing but weigh you down both physically and mentally. So don’t make the same mistakes I did: invest in high-quality athletic apparel right from the start.

A Little Bit of Background

I took my first ballet class at the ripe old age of two, and by the time I started kindergarten, I was already playing on a soccer team. Most recently, I spent four years on an NCAA Division I track and field team mastering the art of throwing heavy things (look up the hammer throw; you won’t be disappointed). And while I didn’t quite achieve the Olympic status I was hoping for, I did learn a thing or two about how to look the part.

From huge sweatpants and baggy t-shirts to short shorts and tank tops, I’ve worn it. And through it all, I’ve learned that the most expensive athletic apparel is definitely not always the best. I’ve had $70+ pants that were nothing but a distraction and free giveaway shirts I wore until they were threadbare. In the end, I realized, all that really matters is that the clothes you wear don’t hold you back from the reason you’re wearing them: to exercise.

A Few Dos and Don’ts

Above all else, you want to be comfortable and confident in the clothes you’re wearing. So rather than trying to emulate someone else’s style, think instead about what will work for you. That said, there are still a few rules I’ve found to be fairly universally true.

With comfortable clothes, Alex can focus on her game

Don’t wear clothes that are too small. If your clothes are too small for you, they’ll feel restrictive, ride up constantly, squeeze you in all the wrong places, and force you to spend more time adjusting your clothes than focusing on your workout. That doesn’t mean tight is necessarily bad. It just means you shouldn’t try to squeeze into something that’s too small. Something similar to the fit of Badger’s Ladies’ B-Core Long Sleeve T-Shirt is a good compromise between form-fitting and non-restricting.

Don’t wear anything too big, either. If you wear anything excessively oversized, you run the risk of having your pants fall down or your shirt fly up. I once wore a pair of yoga pants to track practice, because I thought they looked great on me. Then I slipped on a pant leg in the middle of a throw, fell, and almost took a nine-pound hammer to the head. That was the day I learned to value function over fashion.

Do wear appropriate undergarments. Ladies, pick a sports supportive sports bra, like All Sport Ladies Mesh Back Sports Bra. And guys, no one wants to be able to see up or through your shorts. Whatever you wear, just make sure you’re covered.

Do dress in layers. My team used to have a rule requiring us to wear long pants to practice if the temperature was below 80 degrees. This may sound excessive, but properly warming up your muscles is crucial during any workout. So wear pants and a sweatshirt over your shorts and shirt; you can always take them off once you start to sweat. Something like Rawlings’ Quarter-Zip Dobby Pullover would fit the bill perfectly.

A Few Final Things to Consider

T-shirts vs. Tank Tops: Do you like to have the option of wiping sweat on your sleeve? Do you need as much shoulder mobility as possible? Personally, I always prefer the coverage of t-shirts compared to the breezy feeling of tank tops.

Loose vs. Tight Shorts: This is a tricky one because even if you prefer the feel of loose shorts, I recommend wearing a pair of spandex under them. It’s better to be safe than end up flashing everyone around you.

I’ve found that the best spandex leggings are the ones with thicker material and wider waistbands. The thick material ensures they won’t be see-through in the sun, and the wide waistband helps keep them from slipping down.

Sock Length: This one often goes overlooked, but I found it was particularly relevant for outdoor activities. If your socks are always the same length, you’ll eventually develop a distinct tan line on your leg. To avoid that, rotate between ankle socks, crew socks, and even knee-high socks if you’re feeling bold, throughout the week.

My final piece of advice is just to make sure you like your workout clothes. The more you like them, the more you’ll look forward to wearing them and the more fun working out will be. Stock up on athletic apparel on Clothing Shop Online; your workout and wallet will thank you!

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