What to Wear to the Gym: 5 Important Do’s and Don’ts

Going to the gym can be a daunting task. You are going to push yourself as you’ve never pushed yourself before – and in a public space no less! It’s not going to be pretty. 

Depending on your workout, you end up with a lot of snot, sweat, and tears. If that isn’t enough to make you insecure, you’ll be surrounded by people who might be further along their gym journey. It’s easy to see that gap and chicken out before making real progress. 

One thing that will help lessen the gap is knowing what to wear on your first day. The right fit will help you blend in so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Here are the 5 important do’s and don’t of gym wear:

  • Match The Clothes To The Workout

Before you can figure out what to wear you need to ask yourself what do you plan on doing? Different activities and exercises will require different things from your clothes. You need to anticipate your needs. 

Let’s take a look at hiking shoes as an example. Hiking shoes are made for activity. They offer plenty of support for uneven terrain and are very durable. However, there is a reason why people would buy running shoes instead of making do with a pair of hiking ones. Its durability adds weight – weight you don’t want when you are running great distances. 

But in saying that, you don’t necessarily have to get dedicated clothes for each activity. Buying a singlet that is advertised for yoga will do just fine for weight-lifting. The variety has to come in when you are looking for different tech – sports leggings vs compression tights, etc.

Tip: Regardless of your workout, compression clothing is always a winner. Why? Because they are all about improving blood flow and reducing muscle fatigue. You can find compression tops, compression tights, and compression shorts in most fitness stores.

When you dress with your workout in mind, you can avoid common issues like chafing and restricting your range of motion. You also end up having workout clothes that last longer. The extra 5 minutes you spend thinking about what best suits the gym will pay off in the end. 

So what should you have? Your gym kit should have a dry-fit t-shirt/ singlet, a pair of shorts/jogging pants, cushioned socks, and well-fitted cross-trainers for the bare minimum. It’s perfect for the indoor gym, weights room, and beginner fitness classes. If you want to go the extra mile, you can add compression clothing to your rotation. 

  • Dress With The Weather In Mind

Whether you’ll be exercising indoors, outdoors, or a mixture of both – it’s safe to consider the weather. Wear minimal layers with breathable fabrics during the warmer seasons to help stay cool. And during cold days and colder months, switch from a t-shirt to a long sleeve and add a jacket or sports gilet to stay warm.

So what are some of the benefits of dressing with the weather in mind? For one thing, you don’t have to change when you enter the gym. It’s less hassle overall. 

Besides, not all gyms come with the best AC or heating. You don’t want to find yourself sweating like a pig or freezing your socks off before you start your set. Dressing intuitively generally allows for a more comfortable workout.

  • Consider The Fabric And Material 

Not all gym wear is created equal. Separate the good from the bad by looking at the material. Here is a short guideline for what you should look for, regardless of your workout:

  • Stretch – Most workout clothes should be tightly fitted. Fabric with a little bit of stretch helps with your range of motion. 

Tip: Look for four-way stretch fabric.

  • Sweat/ Moisture-Wicking – It’s ideal to stay warm and dry during exercise. Moisture-wicking fabrics help by moving the sweat and drying it before it has a chance to sit on your skin. With this on, you don’t have to deal with a soaked t-shirt after every intense set. It’s easy to clean, plus great for those with sensitive skin.

Note: It’s because of this that 100% cotton gym clothes are out of fashion. Cotton may be breathable, but they also absorb a ton of moisture. You’ll have to frequently change your shirt to stay nice and dry. 

If you have issues with synthetic fabrics, try to compromise with moisture wicking material that have natural fibers. But if you have to wear cotton to the gym, remember to bring back-ups. You’ll need more than one shirt.

  • Durable – You don’t want flimsy fabrics. You’ll be in a highly active environment – you want your fit to keep up. So don’t look at converting old t-shirts and tank tops into gym clothes. They aren’t ideal and probably can’t handle the work. 
  • Other Tech – There are so many great features on the market. Waterproof, heat-insulation, shrink-resistant, and odor-resistant are some features you can find in performance fabrics. So keep your eyes peeled! You have more options than you think.


Yes! – Polyester, Polypropylene, Spandex, and Nylon. For more sustainable options, look into bamboo and hemp blends.

No! – Natural fibers like cotton, linen, and silk without performance tech.

See How Things Fit

Unlike casual clothes, gym wear should have a streamlined fit. Not everyone feels comfortable with that, but there are clear reasons why loose fitting pieces are not encouraged for workouts. Here are some of the few:

  • No guessing games with your trainer – If you are new to the gym, it always helps to have a professional show you the ropes. A trainer can help you create a workout plan and give feedback on your execution and form. If you wear loose and baggy clothes, they can’t always see if you are engaging the right muscles. When you aren’t doing it right, you lose the benefit of the exercise and become prone to injury.
  • No accidents – From sharp edges to wedged weights, the gym is filled with equipment that may snag the loose fabric. You wouldn’t want it to happen while you are exercising. It can distract and even injure you while you are in the middle of your workout.
  • No unexpected peep-shows – Wearing snug fit tights/ shorts can help you stay covered while using equipment like leg-press machines. You don’t want to be like Phoebe’s date, Robert on Friends, whose loose shorts end up showing everything. Put the mouse back in the house!
  • No chafing Chafing typically happens around your chest, underarms, groin, and between your legs. These are areas that may have a lot of repeated motions ergo a lot of friction. You can easily prevent chafing by wearing clothes that stick better to your skin. It’s that simple: no friction – no burn. 

While your gym clothes should fit well, they shouldn’t be so tight that they are uncomfortable and restrictive. When you try the pieces in the fitting room, you should be able to bend and stretch without a problem. This is true for compression gear as well!

Another thing you have to look at is the length of your shorts. It can affect your range of motion and performance. If you are a runner, you have to go really short – think 5 inches. If you are a weight-lifter, you have more room – go up to 9 or 10 inches. Generally speaking, anything an inch or two above the knee is good. 

Know When To Replace Items

You don’t want to go to the gym in clothes that are too well-worn. They might be more comfortable, but they don’t offer the same amount of support. You also don’t want to find yourself ripping your leggings or shirt in front of everyone 

So what are the signs you should look for? For t-shirts, tanks, and leggings – replace them if they are too loose. If you see signs of chafing you know it’s time to upgrade. For shoes, check the treads. If the treads are scuffed off, you need a new pair. You can relegate the old items to lounge or casual wear. 

And that’s about it! Everything you need to know about selecting the best gym clothes! You can now pack your gym bag with confidence.