We love working out. It makes us feel great, look awesome, and allows our insides to be happy and healthy. What else do we love? Our workout clothes. Especially those ultra-comfy yoga pants that we never want to take off. Well, you'd better take them off - along with all the other stuff you just poured copious amounts of sweat into - because there are some not-so-nice side effects from wearing workout clothes beyond their intended use. Here are some common errors you might make with your exercise garb without even realizing it.
1. Get Rid of that Abdominal Sweatband, Period
Look, we get it. You want to have a sexy waist. Think of Scarlett O'Hara, whose attempts to get in the good graces of one Ashley Wilkes had her tightening her corset so she measured a measly 17 inches around. We're over that now, right? Right??
Apparently not, because the abdominal sweatband is a thing. The theory behind it is that it burns extra fat around the waist while you exercise. Not only is there zero science that reinforces this belief, but wearing this restrictive band can also hurt you. Along with causing potential overheating (which can lead to dizziness, weakness, and even death in extreme cases,) the sweatband actually makes it harder to lose fat.
You can also ditch those colorful terrycloth bands you use to soak up sweat from your wrists and head, unless you wash them after every use (or are super sweaty and can't imagine life without them.) Sure, they're helpfully taking your sweat, but they're also creating some nice bacteria that sticks around and hops back onto you with the next workout. Who needs more forehead acne? Not you.
2. If It's Too Tight, It's Not All Right
Sure, we like to look hot when we're working out. We haven't put all that effort into exercise for nothing - we want to flaunt those new muscles and tight butt! And while most workout clothes are made with breathable and stretchable fabrics, there's a laundry list of problems that can occur when workout clothes are too tight, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. If you really aren't excited about extra joint pain or yeast infections, it could be time to reassess your wardrobe.
On the flip side, clothing that's too loose can also be a hazard, but in a different way. Tripping over flared yoga pants or getting untucked drawstring sucked into exercise equipment can put a damper on your efforts. Leave the jewelry at home, too. There's nothing more annoying (and embarrassing) than having your hoop earrings entangled in the yoga mat.
3. Stop the Flop with the Right Sports Bra
There's no way you haven't seen her: the workout goddess with a huge chest who just can't seem to figure out that when she's bouncing all over the place, it ain't good for anyone involved. Even worse, that sports bra is all she's wearing up there. Recall one Sue Ellen Mischke, the Seinfeld character who never wore a bra; when Elaine gives her one as a gift (and as a hint,) she wears it as a top. Yes, popular culture is absolutely to blame for sports bras and no shirts.
Runners especially may be guilty of wearing a sports bra that's extremely comfortable, yet doesn't provide enough support. It's not surprising that female runners consider breast pain one of their most common complaints, and that many of them just aren't using the correct size bra. Along with chafing and neck/back pain, breasts with improper support can experience tissue damage.
Full-figured women are even more affected by an ill-fitting bra, whether doing a slow jog or attempting to break a personal record. Instead of suffering from never-ending flop, take the time to determine just what works best, which will save you a lot of aches and pains in the future. (Wider straps are a good place to start.)
Whatever type of workout you're doing, be it low or high impact, you should keep your sports bra nice and clean. It's also a smart idea to replace them around every six to nine months or whenever they show wear and tear. Keeping the girls happy makes it such a small price to pay.
4. If the Shoe Fits…Well, the Shoe Has to Fit
Remember the '80s and '90s, when some of the coolest sneakers around were Tretorns? That adorable V-shape on the side came in all kinds of fun patterns and colors, and were totally form over function. Ah, things have changed. Now we wear athletic shoes for…athletics. Sigh.
Nostalgia aside: not only do your sneakers (or trainers, running shoes, insert name of choice here) have to fit correctly, you have to know when to give up the perfectly broken-in pair and treat your feet to a new set. Not only can worn-out soles and arches damage joints, but fresh footwear keeps you from getting knee and foot pain.
You're probably aware of the sheer number of shoes from which to choose, based on your preferred exercise. There are some standard items to remember, such as not wearing walking shoes for running, and not wearing hiking shoes for cycling.
You know what else is a good indication that it's time for new shoes? When everyone around you starts fainting because of the smell.
5. I Just Made You Say "Underwear"
Here's something that may or may not surprise you: You can make your workout underpants-optional (unless your gym has some kind of weird rule against it.) If your workout pants have moisture-wicking properties (and some even have antibacterial fabric,) then let the breeze cool your nether regions as you do those crunches.
However, most of you probably like it a little more old-fashioned (no doubt thanks to years of Mom's horror stories regarding being in a car accident while wearing inappropriate undergarments.) In this case, there are certain pieces to avoid, starting with thongs; these tend to create friction while you move, resulting in urinary tract infections (UTIs) and vaginal bacterial infections. And steer clear of unbreathable satin, which, although soft and pretty, can also cause irritation.
6. The Fabric of Our Lives
Back to Seinfeld (it's just so good for providing examples.) Remember that episode where George convinces the manager of the Yankees to switch to all-cotton uniforms, which he felt would breathe better? That was great in theory - but then they shrank, leaving the team unhappy and uncomfortable. While this might be an extreme example to dissuade you from all-cotton workout clothes, there are reasons to make sure you're using gear made from the correct fabrics.
To reinforce a previously-stated concept: Clothing needs to wick away sweat. Cotton is great for absorbing sweat, but it's not great for drying it. This means the sweat is still hanging out with you, and that's kind of gross. It can also give you chills or cause breakouts. Washing cotton is relatively easy, but drying cotton clothing can shrink them if the heat is too high. So when you reach for that Salvation Army t-shirt before going for a run, think about replacing it with something a little more durable that probably won't stink as badly, either.
Bottom Line: If you're an exercise fiend or just like to dabble, you need to wear the right stuff. The point it to improve your health, not muck it up. So do your homework before walking, spinning, lifting, etc. to make sure you're not doing more harm than good. Happy workout!