It’s late January, and as I predicted, new year’s resolutions are in full swing at the gym. The Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) at Queen’s university, where I work out has become MUCH busier in comparison to attendance before the holidays. Along with all the new faces at the gym, comes the inappropriate gym etiquette and fitness faux pas being perpetrated at an annoying frequency. Thus, as a means to vent my frustration and also as a guide for those who are new to the unique social environment of a gym, I have put together a 3 part series on proper gym etiquette (be sure to check out Part II and Part III). Today’s discussion focuses on proper athletic attire.
Proper gym attire should really a no-brainer, or one would think. When coming to exercise at a gym, some sort of athletic garb is most appropriate; running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt is an ensemble that always works well, and doesn’t attract too much attention or ridicule.
Here is a brief list of things that should and should not be worn at the gym (all of these items I have personally witnessed over the years).
What to wear: Shorts are a very obvious and comfortable choice, one that I stick to exclusively. Some people prefer to wear longer pants (i.e. track pants, or the uber-popular black athletic pants for females - a la LuLu Lemon style).
What not to wear:
- Jeans: not the most giving fabric. Certain exercises, such as squats or lunges may be particularly difficult to execute. Also, just in case this wasn’t abundantly obvious, combining low-rise jeans with an exposed thong string is a sure-fire way to get much (well-deserved) ridicule. (Yes I have actually seen this).
- Short-shorts: when it is the tight Spandex type shorts popular among female volleyball players, it may draw some attention from the men. If you are a female and you don’t mind male attention, or you feel that it spices up your workouts – go for it! Then again, a gym can be a bit of a meat-market so if often doesn’t matter what you wear – people will stare at you. On the other hand, if you are a male, wearing short shorts that are loose, combined with a lack of underwear, is NOT the right attire for many exercises – lunges, deadlifts, squats come to mind. In this instance, the row machine is a particularly poor choice. (I have witnessed this first hand back in highschool when a teacher did this very thing on a rowing machine and exposed himself to all the students).
What to wear: T-shirts are the way to go, especially if they are made from a dry-fit or moisture wicking material that will keep you nice and dry despite sweating. Some people prefer cut off sleeves (I’m included in this category) or basketball jerseys, and many females wear athletic tank tops – all are fair game.
What not to wear:
- Layered shirts: some males feel inadequately buff and thus decide to layer their clothing to appear bigger. This really can’t be too comfortable, and unfortunately everyone can see you have 5 t-shirts on.
- Sports bras ONLY (i.e. without a t-shirt or tank top over it): Now I know many males will disagree with me on this one, but if you are a female and you’d rather not get gawked at my all the guys around you, this would also be a poor choice. On the other hand, if you are at the gym to find love rather than actually work out – best of luck to you! (BTW – the last time I saw a female wearing a sports bra, it was part of the low-rise jeans, exposed thong ensemble – no joke!)
- Dress shirts: there is a time and place for a crisp buttoned shirt – like a job interview. Alas, the gym is not that place.
What to wear: Any sort of athletic shoe (excluding soccer cleats, golf shoes, etc.) will do – whatever you find comfortable. If playing squash or basketball, you can get special court shoes, but otherwise a good all around running shoe will suffice for most activities.
What not to wear:
- Sandals/flip-flops: Aside from looking like an idiot, when in an area with lots of heavy objects being tossed about (especially by people with poor gym etiquette – discussed in a later post) you want your feet covered and at least somewhat protected.
- Barefoot: This is sort of like the above, but takes a special type of person to pull off.
- Workboots: Ok, so on the other extreme you have someone so worried about foot injury that they decide steel-toe work boots are the only footware appropriate for the job. While I commend you on being so concerned with safety – workboots really aren’t meant for athletic performance, not do they look reasonable with a pair of shorts.
What to wear: nothing…ok, maybe a headband for females with long hair. But that’s it!
What not to wear:
- Toques – unless your gym operates at sub-zero temperatures, keeping you head warm is not an issue…and of course, you risk once again looking like an idiot. (This may be a Canadian phenomenon, I’m not sure)
- Bandanas - Ok, we all know you’re tough and everything, and are potentially in a gang, but unless you are marking your turf around the squat rack, leave the bandana at home.
- Baseball caps – This one is fine. But as a personal choice, given I am guaranteed to sweat, do I really need a hat to absorb that sweat and make my head smell?
- Goggles – unless you are playing squash or doing laps in the pool, goggles are not necessary while doing bicep curls
What to wear: Really, nothing. A towel is usually a good idea, particularly if you suffer from hyperhydrosis (excessive perspiration). Some people also like wearing weight-lifting gloves to avoid excessive callous formation on their hands. Othewise, accessories are not necessary