Half the challenge of a workout is motivating yourself to actually start, and cute workout gear definitely helps with that.
But it’s easy to get caught up in all the cute workout clothes without noticing it piling up at the back of your closet, because unlike our everyday clothes that we see every morning when we open our closets, our workout wear is usually stuffed haphazardly in a drawer.
There was actually a time when I wanted to start a fitness Instagram, so I bought bright, matching workout sets literally just for the pictures. My closet is 90% black, so it was ridiculous of me to think I’d ever wear a neon green sports bra or army print leggings to the gym.
When I decided to downsize my fitness wardrobe, it broke my heart to get rid of all these cute pieces I’d barely worn (because let’s be real: activewear is expensive!). But I had to be realistic that if I hadn’t worn them yet, I probably never would.
Whether you’re building your workout wardrobe from scratch or downsizing like me, here are a few ways to make the process a little less painful, as well as a few ethical options to get you started.
Don’t Get Caught Up In Numbers
There’s no set number of items you should own; what matters is that each piece you do add serves a purpose and actually gets used.
Somebody who thrives on winter hiking will naturally need different (and probably more) items than someone who practices hot yoga.
Think about the kind of workouts you do and the pieces you’re likely to wear. If you love to run, keep your extra-supportive sports bras and maybe ditch the less supportive ones (FYI, Lolë has a great selection).
Build Around Your Basics
Activewear is the time to have fun with your wardrobe; you can experiment with prints and colours that you otherwise wouldn’t in your day-to-day wardrobe. That being said, I would suggest choosing either tops or bottoms as your neutral and adding colour through the other piece. I only wear black bottoms to the gym, so I add colour through my sports bras and tops.
If you love leggings with wild prints on them, opt for neutral tops. Having a specific colour scheme in mind will help you stay focused when adding new pieces to your wardrobe.
Regardless of your style, I think everyone should own a pair of full-length black workout leggings (thick, well-made leggings like these ones from Tonic Active. Tonic Active uses high-quality Italian fabrics and environmentally-friendly production to make beautiful, minimalist workout wear.).
When you have a hectic day of running around, you can just throw on a sweater or a button up and some boots, and you’ve got an outfit that you can wear to coffee with a friend or a quick meeting without looking like you’re on your way to the gym.
Think About Your Comfort
It already takes a lot of effort for most of us to make it to the gym.
We don’t need any more obstacles holding us back. So get rid of anything you don’t feel comfortable in or that you wouldn’t wear to workout right now. If you don’t feel comfortable in spandex short-shorts but are holding on to them in hopes that one day you will, get rid of them.
I can’t tell you how many pairs of shorts I got rid of that I’d been holding on to until the day my thighs were “toned enough” that I felt comfortable in them (actually I can: 5). It’s okay to not feel comfortable in certain pieces. What’s not okay is wasting your money on something that will remind you every time you dress for a workout that you’re still not comfortable wearing it.
A Workout Jacket/Hoodie
Does anyone else hate that feeling after a workout when you have to slide your winter jacket over your sticky, sweaty arms?
I always carry a lightweight workout jacket with me because it absorbs sweat without ruining my everyday clothes.
I like this one from Patagonia, which is, in my opinion, one of the best activewear brands when it comes to environmental awareness and social responsibility. Patagonia has clothes and equipment for every sport, and they’re incredibly transparent about their footprint.
Choose Quality Over Quantity
I mean, this is kind of the premise of minimalism, but I want to reiterate it because it kills me to see people opt for a cheap pair of Skechers or the latest trendy Nikes without doing any research into their footwear. Running shoes affect your feet, your posture, and the environment.
On top of the fact that the materials used to make running shoes—leather, nylon, and synthetic rubber—are awful for the environment, the actual process of manufacturing a pair of running shoes accounts for as much as 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Allbirds is a San Francisco-based sustainable certified B Corp footwear startup. They use items like recycled plastic bottles and cardboard, castor bean oil, and even sugarcane to make their shoes. And their designs are super simple, aka every minimalist’s dream.
For avid runners, Brooks and Newton are recognized as two of the most eco-friendly footwear brands. Newton was the first footwear company awarded B Corp status, but Brooks also has some sold sustainable practices in place from production to packaging to their suppliers. They even developed a biodegradable midsole!