1 | Detagging before trying it on
Just because something is your normal size doesn’t mean it’s going to fit. Sizing can vary wildly between brands, between styles, and even between different colors/prints of the same item. That said, fit is key when it comes to fitness clothing: something that’s too tight, too loose, pinches, or slides around isn’t going to work. It’s important to do your due diligence when it comes to fit.
If you bring something home with you from the store without a trip to the fitting room first, just be sure you try it out before the return period expires. The same rule applies for online purchases. Don’t pop those tags til you’re sure it’s the fit you’re looking for.
2 | Skipping the bend test
In a perfect world, all activewear would perfectly cover us all the time. Unfortunately, the reality is that some fabric just doesn’t cover what you want it to. Be sure you check your booty before walking out of the store with a new pair of leggings. Make sure you can’t see your underwear while standing, then bend and move and make sure that’s still true. Personally, since I lift a lot where I’m regularly squatting or bending over a bar, putting it through the coverage paces is important before deciding whether to buy. Depending on how you wear your activewear, you might not need such rock-solid coverage. Still, no matter what you’re doing in it, if you can see through your pants while you’re just standing normally, you might want to leave that pair on the rack.
If you’re trying on at home, be sure you check coverage in a well-lit area, ideally with natural light. Use a mirror, or, if that’s not an option, ask your partner or a trusted friend to give you their honest opinion on whether your new spandex is decent.
3 | Buying only because it’s on sale
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sales and stretching your dollars as far as possible. That said, sales have a dark side. Finding a good deal can tempt you to spend money on something that’s just not a good purchase. You might end up buying something that’s a little bit ill-fitting or not quite right for your needs just because it’s a good price. I’ve definitely fallen into this trap many times.
The trouble is, if it’s just a little bit wrong, you’re inevitably going to reach for the things that work really well. You might end up wearing your sale impulse buy a few times out of guilt, but it’s probably going to end up relegated to the bottom of your drawer. You might be thrilled you got a deal in the moment, but the reality is that no matter how cheap it is, it’s a waste of money if you never wear it.
4 | Buying without considering how you’ll wear it
All activewear is definitely not created equal. Even if something is labeled as “workout clothes”, that doesn’t mean it will suit your needs. If you’re an avid runner, a cute low-support bra probably isn’t going to cut it. It’s so important to learn the types of fit, fabric, and features that you need for your activity of choice.
For example, fabrics that are cottony to the touch are common in the activewear industry, lululemon’s luon being a primary example. This is the traditional yoga pants fabric. However, that thick, cotton feel can be horribly stifling and hot if you’re into spinning, HIIT, or other high-intensity, high-sweat workouts. Instead, look for slick, lightweight, and cool-feeling fabrics for those types of workouts. Of course, if you do a variety of workouts, your options are a lot more open.
Yes, a lot of this comes through trial and error, so you will inevitably end up with a few styles that aren’t the greatest despite your best efforts. But, working toward learning and remembering what works for you will help you get the most out of your purchases.
5 | Trying it on in a hurry
Sometimes, as soon as you put something on, you know instantly that it won’t work. Maybe it looks bad, or it’s see-through, or it just feels awful. But when it comes to things you might keep, being in a rush can mean missing crucial elements of the fit or feel.
Whenever possible, I like to try on new styles twice (or more!) before deciding whether I want to keep them. If it’s an online purchase, I try on once when I receive it, and then again a couple of days later. Or if it’s a purchase in stores, I aim to try it on one more time before taking the tags off.
By getting some separation between try-ons, it helps me get a more well-rounded idea of what I do and don’t like about that particular piece. For items I really love, a second round confirms that my feelings weren’t just a fluke. And if I’m on the fence, the second try-on almost always helps make my decision clear. Very often, I’ll feel unsure during the first try-on, but the moment I put it on for the second time, it’s an instant yes or no.
Even if you’re only able to do one try-on, slow down. Pause for a moment and tune in to how you feel in the clothes. If you can, try to move around. You’re not going to be standing still when you wear your workout clothes, so check whether it feels good to move in, not just to stand in.
The more you practice, the better you’ll get at evaluating your new wardrobe candidates.