My good Mother will testify to one simple fact: I am a horrible sucker for a pair of funky, garish shorts…
Indeed, if you are a member of PGTW, or you are a follower of mine on social media, you will have undoubtedly noticed my guilty passion of colourful gym clothes; and my growing collection of groovy shorts has become a bit of a talking point amongst my athletes in the #GPTDreamTeam!
Why do I wear them, you ask? To answer this question that is probably on the tip of your tongue, I thought I would delve into the psychology behind our clothing choices and how it affects our thought processes and behaviours when it comes to going to the gym and exercising.
Prepare to get your groove on, crack open the wardrobe, and improve your confidence when training on the gym floor…
“Enclothed Cognition” – The Psychology Behind Fashion Choice
To begin with, let’s explore the general psychological phenomenon that explains how fashion choice can affect our thought processes and behaviours in an everyday environment. The term I shall use throughout this article will be ‘enclothed coginition’; a theory that arose out of a 2012 scientific study by renowned psychologists H Adam and AD Galinsky.
Enclothed Cognition – the effect which clothing has upon a persons mental process and the way they think, feel, and function, in areas like attention, confidence, or abstract thinking.ScienceDirect.com
This complex-sounding phenomenon is relatively simple in reality. If you’ve ever experienced a heightened feeling of confidence deriving from putting on a certain item of clothing (e.g. dinner dress, tuxedo, blazer etc.), then you have felt the impacts of enclothed cognition in the flesh.
Naturally, this varies from person to person; the clothes that empower one individual may serve to reduce another’s confidence, and vice versa. For example, someone may feel particularly confident/comfortable wearing a suit and heels, whereas when summertime looms and the bikini comes out of the chest of drawers, that same individual may experience a drop in self-esteem and a reduction in confidence when out and about.
This is an important thing to keep in mind throughout the remainder of this article: the clothing that empowers YOU is entirely personal, and I am NOT trying to encourage you to wear groovy shorts to the gym everyday! Instead, after reading this article I want you to have a think and decide what outfit will empower you to feel more confident in the gym and hence improve your performance…
5 Ways That Fashion Affects Your Fitness
#1 – Boosts Self-Confidence
Continuing the idea of enclothed cognition, what you wear can have a significant impact on your self-confidence and motivation when you are training in the studio or on the gym floor.
When you wear something that you like the look of, you automatically begin to feel better about yourself and thus feel more comfortable in what can be a pretty intimidating environment. There is no greater feeling than investing in some new gym garms, cracking them out of the packaging, and walking out onto the gym floor feeling like a million dollars. Indeed, it is this sort of positive mental triggers that can increase self-efficacy and thus improve performance.
And, considering that a lack of confidence is one of the major barriers preventing people from achieving their goals and attending a gym on a regular basis, this effect could prove central in getting a grip on your health and fitness!
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#2 -Increases Motivation
Buying some groovy new gym gear can be a bit of an investment, particularly if you are a fan of the Big Boys like Gymshark, Gym King and MyProtein. Although some of the clothing may be a bit on the ‘spenny side, this may serve as a psychological kick up the bum…
Once spend the money on things YOU feel comfortable and confident in, you will hopefully feel slightly more accountable to turn up consistently to train; after all, if you’ve invested a fair amount some groovy outfits, you don’t want to let it go to waste and collect dust at home, right?
#3 – Promotes Feelings of Self-Efficacy & Belonging
If you are new to the gym, you will undoubtedly experience the racing heart and relentless anxiety when you first walk out onto th gym floor; and many new gym-goers suffer with Imposter Syndrome, whereby they feel like an ‘outsider‘ in unknown territory.
One thing that isn’t going to help deal with these anxieties is turning up in some grotty t-shirt from your school days and a pair of trainers that the dog went to town on years ago and have never really recovered; this will just perpetuate the Imposter Syndrome feelings, and will thus disuade you from returning on a regular basis.
The solution? Get some nice gymwear to help give you that feeling of belonging! I’m not talking about kitting yourself out with the entire Mens Range from GymShark; just a couple of nice t-shirts if you’re a bloke, or leggings and tops if you are a gal will do.
These, and a decent pair of trainers, will do absolute wonders in enhancing feelings of self-efficacy, and help you to become comfortable in the gym environment and thus maximise the chances of achieving your goals.
Self–efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainmentsAlbert Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997
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#4 – Dress For Success : Feel The Real Deal
One of the original scientists behind the 2012 study on enclothed cognition, Hajo Adam, has previously explained how we as humans tend to associate particular types of clothing with success:
“It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing… I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out.”Hajo Adam, 2012
Therefore, by purchasing some nice gymwear, you are setting yourself to achieve your fitness goals by donning the percieved ‘uniform’ for success in the gym. Simply wearing a piece of branded sports clothing from the likes of Nike or GymShark can evoke a sense that you are destined to succeed, thus optimising your training and encouraging a high level of effort!
#5 – Accelerates Recovery
Moving more from the psychological aspects to the physiological impacts, making certain choices regarding what you wear to the gym or out on the road can significantly improve performance and accelerate recovery.
Compression Garments, for example, have the ability to increase blood flow to working muscle groups, increase lactate removal from muscle tissue (the presence of which is the leading cause of muscle cramps), and regulate body temperature in cold weather. Investing in good quality compression clothing can therefore have significant benefits from a physiological standpoint on how you perform in the gym or running outside.
Don’t take it from me; take it from Nick Harris, a top human performance expert who created HPE Activewear:
I’d advise investing in good quality compression wear; this type of kit increases circulation and blood flow to the heart, delivering much needed oxygen to working muscles, reducing fatigue and soreness by managing lactic acid accumulation, helping to improve power, endurance and recoveryNick Harris, HPE Activewear
Finding What Works For YOU
As you can see, fashion very definitely does have an impact on you and your fitness, particularly when it comes to working out in a gym. From self-confidence to physiological recovery from exercise, having the right sort of clothing to workout in can play a significant role, both physically and mentally, in your workout routine.
However, there is no right-or-wrong brand/type of clothing when it comes to making the choice as to what gym garms you go for. As I said at the start of this article, it is entirely personal, and you should choose something that YOU (and only you) feel comfortable and confident working out in.
Thankfully, we are living in an age where people are becoming more and more accepting of all different body types; indeed, we are finally starting to celebrate all shapes and sizes that we humans come in! The body-positivity movement has stimulated the formation of many different gymwear brands catering for people who mainstream companies have often disregarded. I am talking about specific lines catering for plus-sizes, pregnant women, and disabled athletes.
Don’t think that, just because it isn’t GymShark, it isn’t a worthy piece of gear to wear out on the gym floor; anything that empowers you to train at your best and feel confident in the gym is a good call in my book. Plus, 99% of gymwear companies will be selling gear that is fit for purpose anyway, so just find something you like the look of!
The Final Word
Hopefully, after reading this article, you can understand why I like to sport my multicoloured shorts on the gym floor. As well as being specifically designed for sport and exercise, they are something that I myself feel empowered and confident wearing. At the end of the day, I have always had a slightly quirky fashion sense, and so the wavy garms I wear in the gym are merely an extension of what I enjoy wearing on a day-to-day basis.
Going to the gym is far from a fashion-parade, and should never be viewed as such; however, taking pride in how you dress to workout may help you develop confidence and belonging in the gym community, therefore giving you even more of a nudge ever-closer towards your health and fitness goals.