I remember when I first stepped into the gym. So many people wearing shiny new activewear and sipping from sports bottles with funny gym slogans on. I felt a little out of place in my old workout vest and leggings!
Fast-forward a few months and I was in the grip of activewear buying fever. I ended up with a wardrobe bursting at the seams with leggings, vests and sports bras which I ended up wearing for just a few months before they didn’t fit anymore. More usefully, I did invest in a pair of cleats, a foam roller and lifting gloves that have really paid off in the long run.
So what workout gear do you actually need when you’re first working out? This post will (hopefully!) help you decide.
Activewear isn’t just designed to make you look good. It usually contains special material that helps you stay dry and sweat-free when working out. You can read more about its benefits here.
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t buy a whole ton of activewear right from the get-go. Over the course of your fitness journey, your body is going to change shape and size. This means that you might only get to wear your brand new leggings once before they don’t fit anymore! Get yourself a couple of pairs of leggings, shorts or tracksuit bottoms, plus a couple of vests or t-shirts and, if relevant, two to three sports bras. Ladies, make sure you never wear the same sports bra on two consecutive days – it’ll wear them out quicker.
Around a month into my fitness journey, I ended up getting some pretty impressive calluses on my hands. It was at that point I realised I needed weight lifting gloves.
I don’t just wear my gloves for lifting. I also wear them when doing any kind of HITT and in my circuits and bootcamp classes. That’s because my calluses didn’t just come from gripping a barbell or dumbbells, they also came from hitting the ground hard when doing burpees, hanging from bars and even from the rowing machine!
Weightlifting gloves can come in several forms. Some come with added wrist support which is great if you suffer from weak wrists. However, one thing I would say here is that you should consider swapping these out with ones without wrist support every so often to allow weak wrists to build up strength. There’s also callus guards, which don’t cover your whole hand and simply cover the top of your palm and bottom of your fingers. These are good if you don’t like being restricted too much. There are leather gloves, and neoprene ones – both of these increase your grip. However, leather gloves can’t really be chucked in the wash with the rest of your activewear so they may start to smell after a while.
Weightlifting gloves don’t just protect your hands. They can also increase performance and help you lift a personal best. If you’re serious about lifting regularly or you notice your hands getting a bit battered, definitely invest in a pair. Try out a few different styles and eventually you’ll find some gloves that work for you.
I could honestly write a whole separate blog post about the different kinds of shoes out there available for all kinds of workouts. But I’m going to try and breeze through this one.
Lifting shoes will help you perform better. Unlike your usual gym trainers, weightlifting shoes haven’t got any cushioning in the sole so you can generate more force. More force equals more weight that can be moved which equals better lifts, squats and whatnot.
Not sure whether lifting is your thing just yet? Try a pair of Converses. They’ll still work better than your running trainers.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about trainers. When I first started I had one pair, now I have close to twenty. That’s a bit of overkill, however, you do need to consider getting more than one pair of trainers, especially if you are working out regularly and you are doing different fitness activities.
For example, I have a pair of Nike Free RN Distance running trainers for errrr running and Nike Free TR 6 trainers for general HIIT and gym work. I have some trainers I wear for studio work and others I run outside and do events with because they are sturdy but I don’t mind wrecking them or getting them wet and muddy.
If you’re an avid and regular runner, consider investing in some decent running trainers. There’s plenty of debate over what pair is the best on running forums, so I’ll leave you to do your research. If you’re going to do more general fitness and gym stuff, then a trainer that can take from HIIT to a short run to squats will suffice. The TR 6’s that I have are pretty much designed to do that. Check the flexibility in the sole and the grip – you’ll want decent grip if you’re going to be doing lunges and the like.
Foam roller/lacrosse balls
You may not have come across a foam roller before. These are, in my opinion, little tubes of terror that massage every kink and knot out of your muscles. They are essential to preventing injury and, quite frankly, a necessary evil. I foam roll at least twice a week or maybe more if I’m feeling really stiff. There’s a lot of different foam rollers out there, from smooth to vibrating, so research which is best for you.
Alternatively, you can use a lacrosse or tennis ball. This isn’t as effective as a foam roller, but it is good for on-the-go fixes and if you travel a lot. I keep one of these in my gym bag at all times.
A water bottle
When I first started out, I used any old water bottle I could find lying around my house. But apparently it’s not very good for you and besides, there’s loads of gym bottles on the market which are way cuter. Having a proper gym water bottle has made a difference in one area of my life – spinning. You’ve got a very short space of time in which to take in water and messing about with a screw top water bottle can really waste time! Having a water bottle that I can drink from straightaway but which doesn’t leak as made all the difference.
A gym bag
You’ve got all your new equipment, but nowhere to store it! That’s when you need to get yourself a gym bag. Whether it’s a rucksack or one with many different compartments, a gym bag is a good idea if you’re going to the gym regularly and need to fit working out into a busy schedule. At one point, between work, home and my boyfriend’s home, my gym bag contained no less than three different gym outfits! It can also hold pre and post workout snacks, along with spare socks and underwear (trust me, pack a few extra sets for the days you forget them!)
Phew, you have got a lot of equipment by now, right?! Well, depending on what fitness activity you’re doing, you might want to consider some specialist equipment as well. If you get to this point, you’ll probably have a good idea about what you’re looking for. However, just as a rough idea, if you’re spinning regularly you might want to invest in cleats, if you’re boxing then consider getting some hand wraps and decent boxing gloves (to avoid the gym’s smelly pair!) and if you’re lifting heavier then it might be time for a weightlifting belt.
Whatever your equipment, remember it’s you that ultimately makes your workout. So get out there, get fit and get yourself the workout gear that you need to make your workouts the best they can be.