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Style Advice

The best activewear for hitting the gym

The best activewear for hitting the gym

So far, 2021 has divided us into two camps: those who exercise to pass the time in lockdown, and those who took gyms closing as the excuse they needed to take three months worth of rest days. But as gym doors swing back open in many places, it’s time to hit the weight rack once more – and why not look great while you’re at it? After all, you’re more likely to do something if you’ve got the perfect outfit. So strip off your old sweat pants and slip into a gym kit that feels as comfy as your lockdown look, and is more likely to inspire you to work up a sweat.


Unlike outdoors sports where performance and speed are affected by your outfit, cardio and lifting at the gym can be a bit more laid-back. So if you’re returning to the gym, or have newly signed up after a year of home workouts and aren’t ready to invest in the full gear, then no worries. Your workout gear doesn’t have to be high-end – in fact, your loungewear and gym kit can be almost interchangeable (as long as you lounge in it pre-gym and never after). 

A good quality vest in a light, breathable fabric is a step up from your loungewear, but feels just as comfy. So you can take that cosy at-home feeling out to the gym with you without having to wear the same pieces. Just make sure the vest fits you well. If it’s too loose, you’ll have a lot of skin on show. 

If you mix up your gym workouts with cardio, a light running top that you can also wear for weight training is worth having in your workout wardrobe. After all, gyms reopening doesn’t mean the end of outdoor exercise. There’s a lot of crossover in workout gear, and while you’ll probably want specific pieces that improve your performance for running and cycling, when it comes to the right top for you – whether that’s long or short sleeve, tank top, or muscle tee – you’ll find you that you can probably wear for any kind of gym exercise.


If you’ve bought any clothes at all in the past year, it’s probably been sweatpants. But instead of resigning them to the back of your wardrobe as lockdown restrictions ease, why not give them a new lease of life at the gym? Sweatpants were originally designed as old school gym clothing, not lazy at-home wear. So if you’re doing static workouts, like weight lifting, that don’t require a high-performance fabric and won’t leave you sweating as much as cardio, it’s the perfect opportunity to get more wear out of your at-home lounge pieces.



Photographed: The North Face Class V Short (£49)

However if – like us – you’re someone who feels more motivated to go to the gym (or anywhere) if you’ve got an outfit that makes you feel great, then use this opportunity to pick a pair of gym bottoms that stand out. If you prefer to wear shorts for their freer range of movement, it’s easy to find a pair that you can wear anywhere. Practical shorts can serve you through any workout, as well as summer days out at the park or on hikes so you can trust they won’t be a single-purpose purchase.


While you can wear pretty much any trainers to the gym, after the best part of a year off, you might want some extra support while you ease back into heavy lifting. Weightlifting shoes are often overlooked by casual gym-goers, but there are plenty of styles that look just like regular gym shoes so you can look the part without worrying about injuries. Unlike your light, cushioned running shoes, they should be stiff and flatten the foot for extra strength and stability.


The only problem with dedicated weightlifting shoes is that they lack the padding and support you need for cardio or plyometric exercise. So if you prefer to mix things up, opt for a running shoe that will protect your ankles and improve your performance when you’re on the mats or the machines. Unlike weightlifting shoes, they double up easily for any gym workout, and might even encourage you to run there. 


Photographed: Nike Resistance Band (£24)

Beyond the fact you’ve probably not lifted anything over 5kg for a few months, going straight back into the wild after so long in lockdown can bring its own anxieties. One way to reduce stress and be Covid-safe is to take your own gym equipment with you. A resistance band is easy to carry but hard to clean, so rather than using the old, stretched-out band at the gym, bring your own. Plus, there will be no excuse to skip workouts since you can use it at home on those low-effort days.

Similarly, if the idea of a communal water fountain isn’t so appealing right now, take a larger water bottle. A litre bottle can be filled up at home and will see you through the whole work out, so you won’t have to refill while you’re there – bonus points for avoiding the weirdly competitive guy who wants to ask you how much you can lift.

Words: Ella White
Styling: Freddie Kemp