Gym clothes: The things you need, and the things you definitely do not.

Image: Country Road Active make very cute gym gear.

While a kicky new gym outfit can be the ultimate motivation to workout, not having the right clothing can also be a huge barrier to exercise. The activewear explosion has meant that there’s gear available in every style, cut, colour or print you can imagine. But the fact is, you don’t really need that much workout specifc wear to get moving. There are a few key items you do require though.

So here it is, a definitive list of the gym gear you have to have, that’s good to have, and the stuff that’s basically just for fun.

The must-haves

1. A bra that does the job

The right sports bra is the most important garment in your gym outfit. Get this wrong, and your workout will be all kinds of uncomfortable in all kinds of unnecessary ways.  Annoyingly, different sports bras are better for different kinds of activity. If you’re a yoga and pilates kind of girl, you don’t need a steel reinforced monster of a bra. In fact, something softer, like a crop top, is typically better. Meanwhile, if you’re a runner (especially a runner with a D cup or over) you’re going to want something that’s borderline medieval to keep you boobs in place.

The only way to test this (I’m sorry) is to go into your department store or activewear shop of choice, try literally everything on and bust out some air-skipping in the change room. It’s a process, but once you’ve found the right bra, you can just keep buying it over and over again.

I’m typically somewhere between a 10 C and 12 D in bras, and I like this bra by Under Armour for running, and this one from Triumph for yoga and pilates. But every body is different, so what works for me could well be wrong on you. It’s just a matter of trial (and trial and trial) and error.

Left: Under Armour Bra $69.99 Right: Triumph Zen Sports Bra $34.99

2. Comfortable shoes

You only need good shoes if you're going to be doing shoes-on activities like running, cross fit, step class or netball. But if you're going to do shoes-on activities you really, really need good shoes. Why? Because shoes are bras for your feet and if you pick the wrong ones you'll end up in a lot of pain you didn't need to be in. I had a fitting at Athletes Foot recently, and they hooked me up with a pair of shoes that are incredibly comfortable. They're so not my style but unlike the very, very cute shoes I was wearing previously, they don't give me foot cramps or blisters.

If you don't have the money for shoes that fit well, do exercise that doesn't require shoes at all. Otherwise you could end up doing more harm than good.

The nice to haves

Good socks

It's amazing what difference the right pair of socks can make. Whether you're doing sneakers-on sports, or a class like Barre or pilates, having socks that have a bit of padding on the sole and aren't too slippy are a must. There's nothing worse than being that girl in the dance class with a toe poking out. These will make a difference to your workout, but they're far from mandatory. These runners socks are crazy pricey, but super comfortable while these ones from Nike are half-price right now. 

Left: Experia Coolmax socks $34.95; Right: Nike Cushioned socks $6.41

Workout knickers

As anyone who's ever tried to pick out a wedgie mid pigeon-pose can testify, the wrong underwear can really stuff up your workout. Exercise specific undies can make a big difference in your comfort levels, and you can wear them when you're not exercising too. But, if you're not willing to invest (they do cost a bit more than Cottontails), just remember these rules: no g-strings, no seam across the butt crack, no lace - no problem. As far as workout underwear goes, these Lorna Jane seamless briefs are super comfy, and these cotton Wonder Woman briefs would do the trick nicely.

Left: Lorna Jane seamless knickers $14.95; Right: Target Wonder Woman Knickers $10

The "only if you want to" have

You may have noticed there's no clothing in the 'have to have' or 'nice to have' section of this story. And that's because as long as what you're wearing is comfortable enough, and doesn't restrict your range of motion, you can wear whatever you want to work out. I've gone running in my boyfriend's boxers and an old pyjama top before, and it was just fine. If anyone judges you for what you wear to the gym, that person's opinion is not worth paying attention to.

That being said, if you're anything like me, you might think a $400 apres-running cape by Live The Process, or a psychedelic pair of Mary Katrantzou for Adidas sneaker-leggings will improve your fitness game. And maybe it will.  But you don't... you know, need them.

Left: Live The Process cape $375US; Right: Mary Katrantzou for Adidas Originals leggings $160


Or, if you prefer your workout gear to be not insanely pricey, Nat has pulled together a whole gallery for you.

Where's your favourite workout wear from?