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What to look for when you're shopping for activewear

I don’t know about you, but while we’ve all been stuck at home, the siren call of online shopping has become even harder to ignore – and perhaps because I’ve been working out more regularly now than I ever have before, it’s the lure of the activewear brands that I feel the strongest.

It’s not at all a bad thing. Some days, when I find that my motivation to work out has disappeared into thin air, a cute set of workout clothes can make all the difference – even when no one else is there to see it but myself.

If you spend money on it, you’ll want to use it, right?

It’s understandable that Instagrammable activewear is so tempting – in a sea of Gym Shark/ Lulu Lemon-clad fitfluencers, it’s easy to believe that the perfect gym outfit can make your life better. And while that could turn out to be true, we should always remember that there’s more to activewear than just making your workout selfies look great. They should, primarily, make your workouts better – or at the very least, not be distracting.

Before you add anything to cart, here are a few things to consider:

Before anything else, look at your workout routine

You’ll need different kinds of clothes depending on what kind of workouts you do. If you do a lot of high impact routines, for instance, you’ll need a more supportive sports bra than if you’re a yoga kind of person. If you’re a biker, you’ll need to find a certain length of shorts and stay away from the joggers. If you’re lifting weights, you need to look for styles that won’t get in the way of your mobility.

While there are certain styles that work for a range of workouts, it helps to know what kind of exercises you do the most and keep that in mind when you’re shopping for your activewear.

If you have boobs, sports bras are your best friend

How comfortable you are up top can change the way you move in a major way, which means that investing in a good sports bra should be a priority.

In a bra education talk held for International Women’s Day in March, sports brand Nike stressed that finding the right sports bra is a must as breast tissue can be fragile and sensitive (if you’ve gone on a run or done any sort of bouncing while PMS-ing, you probably know this already). They right sports bra should keep your breasts snug and minimize movement (the breasts, not yours).

You’ll know your sports bra is supportive enough when it feels more snug than a regular bra. To test how it fits, Nike recommends doing the following:

  1. Place one finger between you and your bra, along the band area. If it feels snug enough, you’re okay
  2. Raise your hands above your head. The bra band shouldn’t move up when you do so. If it does, size down.
  3. Pull the strap form your shoulder towards your ears. If it reaches near your ears, size down, or adjust the straps.

Of course, these days we all shop for clothes mostly online (and even in store, trying on clothes isn’t allowed), so my suggestion would be to measure, measure, measure. Take accurate measurements of your underbust and bust (across your nipples), and send them to the store you’re buying from if you can. Once you find the perfect-fitting bra online, use that as a basis for all your future purchases.

Again, consider the type of workouts you like to do. High impact workouts like plyometrics, jump rope or anything that involves your feet getting off the ground definitely require a snug sports bra of the type described above.

But if your routine is mostly low-impact, you can afford to take liberties when it comes to your workout tops. For example, I find that bralette-style bikinis work well for yoga or cycling because the material absorbs sweat and provides enough support while also giving me a good range of mobility.

What material should you look for?

When it comes to fabric, you’ll want to consider two things: breathability and stretch.

Most activewear brands available in the Philippines have items that blend spandex with nylon or polyester. The spandex (also known or elastane, or by the brand name Lycra) gives fabrics their stretch. Nylon and polyester are quick-dry and great for breathability and wicking away sweat though I personally find that nylon blend pieces are slightly cooler to the skin and retains its shape more after several washes. Cotton is good if you like your fabrics natural – but they don’t have as much stretch.

Choice cuts

When you’re choosing tops, look for cuts that won’t limit your mobility or get in the way of your workouts. I find that the simpler the cut, the better. Anything with a lot of straps or elaborate cutouts feel too distracting (and are a bitch to get in to anyway). Usually, just a sports bra will suffice for a top, but if you’d like to feel more covered up, some workout tops hit mid-rib so you get more coverage. You can also look for a breathable tank top to throw on – though if you’re doing, say, yoga, pole, or pilates, it’s better if you’re not drowning in fabric.

For bottoms – you’ll want to go for a cut that will stay put when you move. High-waist bottoms, for instance, will not expose your butt when you squat, and will not roll down when you do sit-ups or crunches. A lot of high waist bottoms also provide compression around your core – which, if anything, can help you be more mindful of your form. Also, shorts are great for the humidity, but if you have thicker thighs (like I do), I would recommend going for leggings or mid-length shorts because shorter ones have a tendency to ride up and chafe when you move.

Also: seamless bottoms. They can save you from any awkward ripping when you squat low, and are generally more comfortable (no awkward camel toe and less chafing).

Does it have to be cute?

Obviously when it comes to activewear, function takes precedence over form. But if you want the most bang for your buck, you’ll want an outfit that you can wear outside of your workouts.

This is mostly a matter of personal style, but usually, workout clothes in darker colors are easier to mix and match with other items in your wardrobe and pass off as “regular” clothes (also, if you’re working out outdoors the sweat stains won’t be as visible). At this point, I’d recommend buying your work out clothes in matching sets – which can be easy to style as you go from your home gym to your Zoom meeting to the grocery.

Local brand Lazy Fare has super affordable crop tops, slouchy sweaters and breezy tank tops in basic colors that are easy to style with your workout wear (their pieces are made from scrap fabric too!).

Where to look

Of course there are the classics: Nike and Adidas. These stores offer a range of pieces that cater to all kinds of sports, and they’re all athlete-tested and approved so you know what you’re getting in terms of quality.

When it comes to variety, you can't go wrong with Decathlon, which has everything from activewear staples like leggings and dri-fit shirts, to swimsuits, cycling shorts, and even wetsuits.

Homegrown brand Inka Atletika has several pieces that can go from gym to swim, and add a pop of color to your wardrobe too. The brand has a lot of reversible pieces – so you can mix and match to your hearts’ content.

Another local brand is Koru Athleisure, which is known for its bestselling leggings that come in full and 7/8 lengths. The brand also has workout tanks, sports bras, and biker shorts that are stretchy and breathable enough to work for a range of workouts. They also very recently started selling loungewear – so you’ll have something to wear on your rest day, too.

I personally am a firm believer in bikinis as workout wear (pretty much how I survived the summer), and I find that Swim Lourdes has great bralette-style bikinis that provide enough support for low- to medium-impact workouts. Plus, you’ll have something to wear to the beach, when beaches become a thing again.

If you’re willing to take a bit of a risk, you can find a lot of bargain buys on Shopee (just make sure to check out the reviews and look at photos from buyers before adding to cart!). A lot of Instagram stores resell Shopee items – so with a little bit of digging (and changing up your search terms), you may be able to find that cute outfit you saw on IG for a much lower price.

Again, you’ll want your activewear to complement your workout routine, and not get in the way of it. By investing in good quality pieces and making sure you buy items that fit your needs and preferences, you may just take your workout routine to the next level – bonus points if you look cute while you’re at it. – Rappler.com

Shop for new activewear with this Nike promo code. 

Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.

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