Everyone has their own incentive to work out. For some, it’s wanting to be able to lift all the heavy things. For others, it’s to work off stress, or gain some energy first thing in the morning. Whatever your driving force may be, I think we can all agree that there’s just something about a pair of leggings that slips on like butter and hugs all the right places that makes smashing out a sweat sesh incredibly rewarding. Maybe it sounds a tad materialistic, but it’s true: Your clothes can affect your workout just as much as the right mindset can, and if you don’t believe me, just ask Mindy Kaling, who’s now sporting the most epic lavender Nike threads from head to toe, courtesy of her personal trainer.
On Feb. 2, Kaling uploaded a vibrant photo to Instagram showing off two things: 1) her stellar lunge form, and 2) a brand new set of athleticwear, which, she wrote in the caption of the post, was a gift from her trainer, Jeanette Jenkins. “The cutest @nike outfit from the best trainer in the world @msjeanettejenkins!” Kaling captioned the photo. “Doing lunges is a lot more enjoyable now, kinda.”
Personally, I’ve never trained with a professional, but lunging for workout clothes seems like a pretty sweet arrangement to me.
Granted, Kaling is known for her quirky humor, but something tells me she wasn't lying when she said that working out feels a lot more fun when she’s decked out in some awesome Nike gear that’s both functional and fashionable. So maybe there really is some truth to the catchphrases “look good, feel good” and “dress for success.” According to David Helwani, founder and creative director of luxury knitwear apparel brand TWENTY Montreal, it might be completely psychological, but the clothes you wear — training or not — can definitely affect your mood and motivate you to get sh*t done in every aspect of life. “Whether it’s your work attire for a specific big meeting or heading to the gym,” Helwani tells Elite Daily, “the more comfortable and confident you feel in your performance gear, the better you perform.”
Case in point, in a 2015 study published in the academic journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers found that participants who took a cognitive test dressed in formal attire over casual clothes proved to be better abstract thinkers. In other words, looking their best made them feel their best, and that level of confidence was reflected in their performance, whereas dressing in clothes that were more laid-back and comfortable proved the opposite.
It turns out, Helwani says, the same concept can be applied to the clothes you wear when you work out. “I believe women (and men) want to look put-together,” he explains, noting that there’s been a “total shift” in how consumers approach the activewear space. As far as he can tell, throwing on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt isn’t doing it for many gym-goers anymore, and that's because being active is becoming more mainstream. “The active portion of your day is now part of your everyday routine,” Helwani tells Elite Daily. “Thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing activewear indicates that there’s a true passion for an overall healthy and stylish lifestyle, which are now inseparable.”
Looking good isn’t the only perk to sporting a new pair of Fabletics leggings or an Old Navy tank top during your workout, though. Michelle Wahler, CEO and co-founder of Beyond Yoga, tells Elite Daily that the type of clothing — think fabric, design, and make — matters in terms of your overall physical performance, too. For example, “when you are wearing the right compression, wicking, vented leggings to SoulCycle,” Wahler explains, “you are going to physically perform and feel much better than if you are overheating in old sweats or even a poor-quality legging that is not breathing or [is] sliding down in the back.”
Of course, picking out the perfect pair of leggings, or compression shorts, or a sports bra that actually supports you, can be tough — especially when you consider just how many athletic-wear brands are on the market these days. Plus, not all of us have trainers like Jeanette Jenkins who reward our efforts with a complete ensemble for our next session, so where do you even begin? According to Wahler, the best strategy is to shop for your activity.
"The type of fabric and the design of items suggested for [cycling], hot yoga, or pilates are all different," she explains. "Your body moves differently in each class, so you may need different levels of bra support, a higher rise on the waistband, or a more breathable fabric." Also, don't forget that your body is just as unique as your workout, so keep an eye out for brands like Forever 21, K-Deer, Katie K Active, and Adore Me that are size-inclusive.
Once you've narrowed down the type of activewear you're scoping out, Wahler suggests picking out a mix of practical staples, and fun pieces that spark joy and excitement. "Lastly, pick something quality," she says. "Yes, you might spend slightly more, but these clothes take a beating, and it will show. We regularly hear from people that have had a pair of leggings for years and swear that they still look new — that's the difference that quality can make."