In her new column, Charlotte Sinclair writes on why decent sports clothing can give your workout the boost it needs
The magic of buying new sportswear is that it actually makes you want to work out. There is nothing like a quick haul at Nike or Sweaty Betty to make you think that perfect thighs are a mere hop and a skip (and a punch, run, lunge) away. And they are, they are! Since shopping for sportswear not only makes you feel fitter, it’s the first step - body attuned to mind, action to intention - towards your better, less jiggly self. Important promises are made before dressing room mirrors: I shall wear these fancy new running tights around the park and I shall run four miles every morning before work to show them off. Yes!
No less a forceful motivation should be that you simply CANNOT, MUST NOT keel onto a grass verge, red faced, coughing up a lung, in Jess Ennis-fabulous sports kit. It just won’t do. I once misguidedly wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the false promise, ‘Fit Chick’, to go for a run. When I paused to catch my breath I was berated by a fellow runner: “You can’t wear a t-shirt like that and stop!” Quite. Though I would also say you should never own or wear anything with the word ‘chick’ on it.
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Ever since Stella McCartney brought some much needed chic to our sports bags, work out wear has become a chance to flex our fashion muscle. There are no excuses any more for baggy leggings or grey t-shirts - unless they are soft-weave, marl from Sweaty Betty. The best new exercise gear marries style and function; cutting-edge, techy fabrics designed with fashion in mind. This summer, it’s all about colour and print. And the death of black lycra. (Don’t panic. Sportswear designers are the zen-masters of the flattering cut.)
So, colour. There’s no getting away from it. From Sweaty Betty’s teal blue Stamina crop top, to Lucas Hugh’s crushed berry leggings and H&M’s coral tees, your workout wardrobe has broken out into glorious Technicolor. Even trainers have swerved far from monotonous monochrome. The vanguards of the trend for colourful footwear, Nike’s Free trainers can now be customised in any chromatic scheme. Stella’s version for Adidas comes in orange and aqua or colour blocked like bowling shoes. New for summer are Reebok’s dance high tops in sunset pink or lime green, bringing a kick of street wear into the gym.
Then there’s print. Stella for Adidas has the most amazing lightweight running jacket and matching shorts in a romantic floral pattern that recalls a Gucci silk scarf. Her coral, leopard print, (trust me), capri pants and vest top would bring zing to the Pilates studio. For the brave (since there’s no way you can go under the radar in these), there are rigorously on trend metallic shorts and running jackets in irradiated blue and perky raspberry. Lucas Hugh’s New York collection features swimsuits, sports bras and t-shirts printed with a photograph of the Manhattan skyline at night. On a pair of leggings, the pattern is intercut by black panels, giving the optical illusion (if not the actual reality), of longer, leaner legs.
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There are polka dots at Nike - tiny on silver leggings, huge on pink running shorts - and swooshy stripes on Reebok’s Dance Drop capris. There’s graphic printed H&M crop tops to match with bubble gum shorts (the latter, a steal at £7.99 a pop.) And at Sweaty Betty, the dance statement collection includes a grey vest with an inbuilt, over-layered, canary yellow vest - meaning you can participate in this season’s cropped trend without having to bear any scary flesh. The brand’s Adrenalin Ombre Run capri pants fade in colour from pale green at the knee, up to black at the waistband. By the time the colour meets those areas of our body we most wish to conceal - bottoms, thighs - it’s at its darkest and most flattering.
H&M's graphic print crop top and bright pink shorts
Sweaty Betty's Crop Dance Vest and bright capri pants
Not that everyone wants to hide away. And, frankly, if you’ve sweated buckets to get into your skinny jeans, nor should you. If you could freshly squeeze a grapefruit between your thighs, then you should look at hey-jo.co a range of the chicest most flattering leggings we've ever laid eyes on in a rainbow of stylish shades (now also available at the uber chic Equinox gym .) If you have abs that could slice limes, I would direct you to Michi , a US workout wear brand that specialises in super-sexy, cut-away sports bras, mesh-paneled leggings and absolutely nowhere to hide jumpsuits. (Can you imagine?) The website photographs alone should drive shirkers straight to the nearest kettlebell class. Except... the models are wearing heels! In a gym! I can safely say that stilettos are one fashion item that will never, ever make it into your workout wardrobe.
Lucas Hugh Kepler Capri Leggings in Crimson Ore, £180.90, lucashugh.com
Lucas Hugh Lexington City Print Leggings, £112.50, lucashugh.com
H&M Sports Top with Hood, £9.99, hm.com
H&M Sports shorts in Neon Pink, £7.99, hm.com
H&M Sports shorts bra in White/Patterened, £9.99, hm.com
Sweaty Betty Flaunt It Crop Dance Vest, £50, sweatybetty.com
Sweaty Betty Adrenaline Onbre Run Caprit, £69, sweatybetty.com
Reebok Women’s Dance Urlead Trainers, £65, reebok.co.uk
Reebok Dance Urlead Mid Top Trainers, £60, very.co.uk