Tired, exhausted, exhilarated sweaty and sore. Just some of the sensations you may experience after a training session. The way you feel after a workout is affected by the time and intensity of the session but, surprisingly, it can also be affected by your clothing. With the wrong clothing the emphasis can be on the sweaty and sore end of the spectrum, while with the right clothing you’ll find that not only do you feel exhilarated but also remain motivated. Surprisingly, given that it’s easy to order sports equipment online at great prices, many people overlook the important roles it plays in effective exercise techniques. There are different factors that affect how comfortable, or not, a training session is and when it comes to clothing the main focus should be on the types of fabric you choose along with finding the right clothing for the right type of exercise.
Sweating, the Details
From car engines to nuclear reactors, engineering design has followed the lead of our bodies when it comes to cooling systems. The body works in the same way as your average nuclear reactor when it comes to overheating; namely by using water to keep us at the optimum temperature and avoiding us shutting down (hypothermia) or exploding (heat exhaustion). This natural cooling system requires two fairly basic things in order to work; hydration and air. Hydration comes in the form of water and/or sports drinks (producing sweat) while air acts to aid evaporation of the sweat on our bodies. The hotter we become the more sweat we produce and the cooler we become the less we produce. In theory, clothes can only get in the way of this process as the ancient Greeks clearly knew (gymnasium being derived from the phrase ‘to train naked’). Today, in practice, social niceties and cold climates make clothing an essential part of training.
Cool, or Cooling, Clothing
Given the fact that the natural cooling process is the best way to remain at the right temperature during exercise, and that modern sensibilities require clothing, it makes sense that the gym clothing you choose should aid, not hinder, this process. Fabrics which have wicking qualities are the preferred option; wicking means very much what it suggests. Sweat is drawn from the skin to the fabric and evaporates quickly away. This both aids the cooling process and avoids the problem of becoming too sweaty, which can lead to the body cooling too much. For gym based training, in regulated environments, clothing made from breathable fabrics, polypropylene or polyester mixes, are perfect for removing excess moisture. A base layer of a high quality wicking material is also ideal for outdoor exercise (running, cycling, rowing etc) but layering techniques should also be applied. Cotton is not an ideal fabric for gym exercise; it does remove moisture quickly but also retains it, leaving clothing heavy, moist and uncomfortable. The result, apart from potential soreness, is that it can rapidly cool you after an intense exercise session to a point which is far from pleasant. (Cotton is fine for those who only indulge in light to moderate exercise regimes, for example those beginning a training fitness regime).
Cold Conditions and Comfortable Clothing
The art of layering has long been practised by those who engage in active outdoor training and pursuits. The principle is simple; layers trap air between them which is in turn heated by the body. Layering guards against extremes of temperatures and is widely used by mountaineers, hikers and sailors. The basic combination of clothing is as follows; a base layer with good wicking qualities, a thermal layer with insulation qualities (modern manufactured fleeces and/or wool) and a final waterproof layer. The latter should be breathable to allow for evaporation but not allow the ingress of water. For those who have training regimes that include indoor and outdoor exercise, workout and training clothes that change according to the seasons (physical, not fashion) make sense. In hotter conditions breathable fabrics are necessary while in cold weather layering as described above is essential. Layering will allow you to aid the natural temperature regulation of your body as you warm up, exercise and cool down, keeping a stable, well regulated temperature as you go. Temperature regulation also affects the amount of energy your body uses, meaning a stable temperature helps to focus your exertions on the desired effect, be that weight loss or muscle gain. Thin, breathable waterproof layers are essential for outdoor training to avoid additional cooling by becoming wet which will reduce the effectiveness of training, and leave you tired, cold and lacking motivation.