Women’s Activewear

It’s about time to get into gear and complete your New Year’s resolution to stay active. Now that you’ve committed to your health, you can start building an athletic wardrobe that is comfortable, functional, and flattering. Just because you’re sweating doesn’t mean you have to wear old clothes.

Dressing for exercise

When you exercise, whether it’s outdoors or in the gym, you will experience dramatic changes in your perception of temperature. This is why layering is important. You’ll always want to exercise in the ideal environment because temperature discomfort could affect your health and deter you from finishing your workout. The following are some pieces of activewear that are easy to layer for maximum comfort.

Exercise tanks and T-shirts

Not just any tank top or T-shirt will do. Mixed-fiber shirts won’t breathe, trapping bacteria and staining at the underarm, which is not a cute look for any woman. An activewear tank top or T-shirt should breathe — look for 100% cotton or a synthetic wicking fabric — and also can be bought with a shelf bra for extra support.

A shelf bra is a bra built into the top that has an elastic support designed to hold your breasts in place. The shelf bra will do little for a large-breasted woman, unfortunately, but there are appropriate sports bras available for these women too. If you feel too cold in just a tank top, you can slip on a pullover to cover your arms.

Women’s athletic shorts

For rigorous sporting activities such as cycling and running, fitted spandex shorts are ideal because they won’t obstruct movement or ride up your thighs. If you wear loose-fitting shorts on a bicycle, you will soon find that you will need to pull them back down as you’re riding, which is uncomfortable, embarrassing and disruptive to your rhythm. Bermuda-style shorts are looser-fitting shorts that end just at the top of the knees. They are good to wear for playing tennis, going for a walk or a hike (and if wearing spandex makes you feel uncomfortable).

Athletic socks

Yes, you can buy athletic socks. They are thicker than everyday socks, and they breathe so that sweat doesn’t get trapped and make your feet smell.

Socks that are too thin will give you blisters. If you are wearing a sneaker that is a bit too big, consider doubling up your socks. Cotton socks breathe best, but newer synthetic socks have sweat-wicking technology to keep your feet cool and dry.

Choosing a sports bra

If you don’t want to bother buying anything else, at least buy this piece of activewear. You don’t want to find out what exercise can do to a regular bra. Because a woman’s support needs vary from person to person, there are subsequently several types of sports bras to consider. Compression bras press the breasts against the body to minimize motion. These bras don’t have a clasp in the back and are pulled over your head. Women with smaller cup sizes find these more comfortable than women with larger sizes. They come in scoop-neck and racerback styles, where the straps in the back form an X. This bra is not meant to shape; it will make your breasts look smaller, but will be extremely comfortable while running or playing active team sports.

Encapsulation bras have cups built in like a regular underwire bra to maintain shape, and are ideal for supporting larger breast sizes. These bras also frequently have mesh in the cups to reduce sweating. These bras have the clasp in the back, or sometimes a zipper or Velcro.

Keep your size in mind and try on several bras for fit. The straps should fit snugly on the shoulders but not pinch the underarms. Wide straps are less likely to cut into the shoulder blades than thin straps. Pick several bras that you like and take several sizes into the dressing room: your usual bra size as well as one above and one below. For more vigorous activity or larger busts, look for a full-coverage bra with no spillover. If the fabric wrinkles, then the bra is too small. You should be able to fit just one finger under the band in the back and on each side or the bra is too tight.

How should activewear fit?

Form-fitted wear is best for yoga enthusiasts, cyclists and runners. When you run, you’re going to want shorts that don’t chafe between the legs. Semi-fitted clothes don’t hug so tightly but aren’t loose enough to get in the way of running, outdoor sports or high-impact workouts. Relaxed-fit is roomy and comfortable, but is not meant to be oversized. Looser clothes shouldn’t be so loose that they hinder low-impact activities like hiking.

Shopping for activewear

Large athletic companies like Nike, Reebok, and Adidas make all varieties of women’s activewear. You can shop for activewear at a large sports store like Sports Authority, or most department stores have a section devoted to women’s sportswear. Discount stores like Target also offer their own low-cost lines of activewear. You might want to start with a store that offers a return policy, since activewear preferences can differ widely from woman to woman. Sports bras can be expensive, so be sure to try on a variety and only buy one that provides adequate support and comfort. Try a brand like Champion, which offers a variety of sports bras. Danskin makes breathable spandex pants for running, biking, dancing and yoga. For the best deals, check at the end of the summer when retailers are clearing their stock for the fall. With these basic tips, you’ll stay fit and look good doing it!

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