I began exercising with somewhat nefarious intentions, I must admit. A rather good-looking classmate of mine had begun taking French tuitions in my apartment. So I began going on long evening walks at around the time he would visit. Since coquetry, not fitness, was on my mind, my workout gear was (in retrospect; at the time I believed I was femme fatale) completely unsuited for the purpose it was used for: long, gypsy skirts, huge hoop earrings, neon sunglasses and bandanas, worn over sturdy Bata shoes and knee-high socks. Of course, I neither lost weight nor got the guy: the skirts were too cumbersome to walk fast in and they made my backside look bigger than a barn.
But I was 12, and both my fashion sense and my flirting skills have evolved since then. Well into adulthood though, my workout wear continued to be the most unappealing part of my wardrobe. ‘I don’t see why I should waste money on clothes I am going to sweat in,’ I would tell myself, before striding off to buy cheap tracks from Triplicane in ugly shades of grey and navy, which I would pair with my dad’s ancient baggy collared T-shirts and the afore mentioned Bata shoes and socks.
When I started working at 21, things got a little better; I discovered better sports brands and even sports bras. But I continued to think of active wear as a functional thing you wore until it gave way at the seams. Fits, colours, fabrics — anything was game as long as it was available in my size. Also, confession: a lot of free T-shirts formed a part of my workout wardrobe.
Until early this year it struck me rather hard, during class, when I realised that the elastic of my ancient tracks had loosened and slipped down several inches while burpeeing, leaving several inches of skin exposed to the elements. I needed new clothes, and fast. So I dragged myself to a sportswear store to buy new stuff. And walked out, transformed, so to speak.
For the first time, in my life, I have gym clothes that are certifiably “cute”: pink and green-printed tights, pastel-shaded T-shirts that no longer drown me, sports bras with halter necks that peek out from beneath my T-shirts, socks that have sweat-wicking tech! I like the way I look and feel in my new workout wear. I look forward to dressing up to go to my studio, and I’ve been more regular than ever before, thanks to it. I’m performing better too: when I want to give up, I simply look down at my gorgeous new pants and do a squat to get a closer look.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology proves that this isn’t just in my head. The study, done by Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky, brought in the concept of enclothed cognition, where they proved that “Clothes can have profound and systematic psychological and behavioural consequences for their wearers”. The researchers added that their results suggested that, “they do hold a strange power over their wearers”. That probably explains why you feel more confident if you have dressed well for a job or a date, or feel fiercer when you don a karate uniform or wear a pair of boxing gloves.
Good sports clothes are expensive for a reason: they are built for movement and sweat; ensure that you are comfortable, well-supported and safe; ensure that you are confident and motivated all through your workout. And honestly, you don’t need a lot — two or three complete outfits is all you really need — and they last for years. You know that clichéd phrase about dressing for the job you want? I’m putting a fresh spin on it: dress for the body you want. It works. Really.