I am not a fashionista by any means.
I tend to steer towards black and grey tops and faded jeans.
I add lipstick and a pair of heels and basically hope for the best.
I would never claim to know much about trends or how to accessorize properly, but there is one thing I know quite a bit about…
The obsession runs deep.
When I started work as a physical therapist in 2000, the normal attire included dress pants, a button down shirt and closed toed shoes. I was a professional and looked the part and never dreamed of wearing my ratty workout clothes to the office.
Two years later, I was hired to run the Pilates and PT programs at an upscale Denver athletic club. My office uniform just wouldn’t cut it and so I followed the pack and started wearing fitness clothes to work.
In 2003, this meant my old soccer track pants and black tank tops with a zip up sweatshirt for the days I got cold.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was all I knew and, honestly, all I had.
Then the first Lululemon opened in Denver and my life changed.
It wasn’t even a full store. It was just a small room they were using as a “beta” store to see how it would do.
I had never owned or even tried on clothing like that. Clothing that actually fit and seemed to hug the right places. Clothing that, while acting as athletic gear, could also be mistaken for professional attire if I played my cards right.
Fitness clothes that excited me!
I still have those first three pieces I purchased. It was the beginning of a very long and loving relationship that continues to this day.
It was the first time I realized that clothing could have a HUGE impact on the effectiveness and enjoyment of my workouts.
Since then, I have continued to work in places that require fitness clothes as my daily outfit. Because of that, I have tried just about every brand and every piece out there to find what works for me.
Here are the requirements I have for the best fitness clothing:
The fit of the clothes.
People say that most women walk around their entire life wearing the wrong size bra because they never find the right one. I think athletic clothes are the same! They should fit you in all the right places and be loose in all the right places. They should NOT be loose around the waist and should NOT be tight around the rib cage so your breath is cut off. Whatever your size, you should find clothes that make you feel good and beautiful!
The longevity of the fit.
This is HUGE for me. I have tried numerous “high end” brands of athletic pants, only to find myself pulling them up at the end of a long day because they’ve lost their elasticity and are falling down. I want no part of an exposed booty crack when teaching or taking a spin class, thank you very much.
Variety of prices and styles.
I like to have some brands I can go to for my crazy and fun patterns, and some brands I can go to for the basics that I could wear to a business meeting if need be. I want some that I don’t mind getting baby spit up on, and some that I save only for Pilates classes. My tastes range, so I need a few different companies that are my “go-to’s”.
Survive the sweat battle.
I’ve bought shirts for running in the past that smelled so bad after five workouts I had to throw them out. Yes, I had washed them. Some materials just don’t take to sweat well. That’s ok if you are doing a gentle yoga class or teaching a personal training client. For most of my workouts, though, I’m smelly, so I need my clothes to NOT be.
Expensive clothes will play dual roles.
Yes I have some expensive workout pants in my dresser. But each of them has served their purpose ten times over because of their versatility. When I was working 40 hours a week at Harmony, I often times would teach 4 classes in the morning, drive straight to a business lunch meeting, hit the gym for a quick lift and then back to the office for physical therapy patients. Those pants did it all! I just had to bring a change of shoes and a nice shirt to throw over my tank for lunch.
Some of you may be nodding your head because you understand the love of athletic clothes like I do.
Some of you may be shaking your head wondering what the big deal is and why would you ever invest in more than sweat pants and t-shirts.
I also know some of you may be thinking “I could never fit in to or wear something like that.”
Please believe me when I say “You CAN”.
I am here to tell you I completely and deeply believe that, if you feel confident about how you look, you will get a more effective and motivating workout.
I get excited to put on my clothes for a workout. I even lay them out beforehand sometimes (I’m weird, I know). It’s NOT because I have a lot to chose from or because I’m a small size.
It’s because I put them on and I feel STRONG.
It’s like a soldier puts on war paint, an athlete puts on a helmet or a professional puts on a business suit.
There is something that changes mentally if you have even one single outfit that says, “This is your body and it is beautiful. Be proud and let’s do this.”
You don’t need to invest in a lot! Just one good pair of pants and two tops is all you need for walks, at home Pilates workouts, gentle runs and stretching.
To help you navigate it all, I’ve put together a list of the best fitness clothing I have found. There are absolutely no affiliates or relationships with these companies. They simply have my vote as some of the best that work for me personally. If you want the complete list and my Ultimate Guide to Workout Clothes, click here!
Here we go!
Far and away my absolute favorite. I have tried every brand under the sun trying to find someone who compares in areas of fit, longevity, style and function, and I still haven’t found them. I know they can be expensive, but it’s worth every penny if you spend your money smartly. This is the place to invest in that one good pair of pants (find one of their reversible pairs to get 2 for the price of 1!) and maybe one basic tank. Now that I know my sizes with this brand, I tend to run in the store and go straight to the sales rack. I scan my size and if there is a basic black tank on sale I’ll grab it knowing I’ll get my money’s worth. You can also shop online under their “we made too much” tab for some online sales. Finally, they do free tailoring in all of their stores. Don’t be afraid to just go in! I’ve found fits for all sizes of women, and they are always extremely nice. On a side note, I’ve never had a problem with see through pants :).
Runner up: Lorna Jane Active Wear
This company does everything right for moderately priced and basic pieces. They have a great mission and wonderful customer service, so I always feel good supporting them. Right now you can only shop online (unless you are in Canada and can hit some of their pop up shops). They don’t have a lot of selection, but that is really nice sometimes if you get easily overwhelmed like I do. I love their full length tight pants and tank tops. I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of them and can now see a little pulling at the waistline, but nothing to complain about for the price! I highly recommend checking them out (they have a good men’s line as well!).
Runner up: Zella (found at Nordstrom) I have heard great feedback about options for large chested women with Zella
I discoverd a pair of Champion pants at Target earlier this year and was absolutely blown away. They were $22 and I LOVE them. They fit like a dream and have performed well with Pilates, yoga, spin and toddler food thrown at them. I’ve had them 6 months and the logo is wearing off, which is something I would expect from this low price. I know they won’t last as long, but I’ll hopefully find another pair. I did buy a second pair in another pattern and should have tried them on first, because they are completely see through when I do squats. Oops. They still work around the house. I also have a great basic black tank I love from them and I really love their sports bras. With low prices, I recommend taking some time to try on in the store to make sure they fit the way you want. Then have fun! It’s easier to take a risk paying $20 for that neon green tank you want, and saving the basic black pants for the more expensive purchase.
Runner up: GapFit by Gap
I hope this helps get you started or introduces you to some new brands. There are so many out there and many more that I love. This is a basic list, and for a little more comprehensive list you can get my full guide to workouts clothes here!
The most important thing is that you feel beautiful, because you are.