In recent years, the gym has become an increasingly popular destination between both genders; it is no longer just the “guys” place. With women embracing fitness, health and lifestyle changes like never before it is key to note the many different companies catering to their needs by introducing specific women’s athletic clothing and equipment. Companies like Lululemon and Nike have helped women take fitness to the next level and equipped them to do so. But beyond the hefty price tag of Lulu and other more prestigious companies, women’s athletic fashions can also be found in plenty of more affordable places such as, Target, Walmart and even Superstore.

No matter where your budget takes you, it is important to be prepared for the gym so you are able to put your best foot forward when caring for your body. Whether it be running trails or hitting up a bootcamp class, good shoes and even something as simple as being able to move freely makes all the difference in the world. But through all of these options for different sports bras or shorts, what are key staples in the wardrobe of a true GymNut? Below is my list of the gym essentials every woman should have in her closet.

  1. Proper Shoes

Solid running shoes that are designed for your individual foot type can literally make or break your workouts, I promise you. Improper shoes can cause serious injuries such as shin splints, as well as contribute to bad knees and lower back pain that can take months to recover from. There are plenty of shoes on the market and finding the right combination of support and give to support your bodies’ needs is crucial.

Also keep in mind that running shoes typically boast a lifespan of six months before their foam mid-sole will compress and compact from continued impact. In cases of hard training, you may be required to replace your footwear more frequently to ensure you maintain proper support.

For those of us who “over-pronate” (meaning you have flat, under-pronounced arches which can cause your feet to cave/turn in when you stand) you should look for shoes with increased mid-sole support such as Asics or Saucony which can counter-act this issue. If you are a woman looking to focus on weight training or fitness classes, you should invest in a ‘cross-trainer’ style running shoe which is built to be light and compact. When lifting weights, shoes with too much support towards the heel (meant to absorb the impact of running) can throw you off balance in your positioning, potentially changing attempted movement patterns entirely, making you more prone to injury. Fitness classes, on the other hand, require a great of lateral and cross-floor movements, and a cross-trainer will allow you to maintain a flat stance throughout and decrease your chances of twisting an ankle.

A great way to find the right shoe is to go straight to the professionals at a place such as The Running Room or Sport Chek. They can help find shoes for more than just running and ensure that all your individual needs are met.

  1. Shorts

This may seem obvious but having a good pair of both tight and loose shorts will be a great addition to any gym-fanatic wardrobe. They are perfect for hot outdoor workouts or even sweaty runs and weight-training sessions, as they give you the freedom to move without restriction or the fear of getting caught on anything. I find doing leg day in shorts is also helpful as you can better see the muscles in your legs working and that allows you to target and critique your workout as necessary.

  1. Pants

In my opinion, pants are best suited for days with limited leg work. As most athletic pants have a slight flare to them, it makes running or lunging a bit more difficult as there is more and more fabric surrounding your feet. Yet, pants are great for the days where you really want to focus on form or do something slower such as yoga or upper body lifting. They are also extremely comfortable, which makes pants the perfect rest day go-to staple.

  1. Full and ¾ Length Leggings

These tight pants or capris are probably the most popular out of all work out gear. They can be worn casually with a pair of boots and a sweater and they can also be worn to shred it up at the gym. The skin-like fit of the pants allows total body movement and sweat resistance while still giving the actual skin some protection. These are especially good for outdoor cardio and bootcamps. Did I mention that they make your bum look incredible and allow that deep bending in the hips? Squat away, ladies.

  1. Properly Fitted (and supportive) Sports Bra

This is absolutely crucial for heavy chested women, as this ‘burden’ can cause some serious back pain if not properly supported. Your chest can also can get in the way and cause discomfort if left un-restrained. Some women wear everyday wire bras to the gym and I cannot fathom what they must be feeling during their workouts. Finding the right amount of support depends almost entirely on your chest size and they type of exercise you choose. Victoria’s Secret, Lululemon and a company called Athleta have many different levels of support to pick from. For the bigger-chested ladies out there, check out the ‘Ta-Ta Tamer” sports bra from LuLu Lemon.

  1. Tank Tops and T-shirts

Great for almost any type of work out, tanks and tees can come with or without bras built in and can come in almost any colour, shape and size. These are the legging of the shirt world and are the perfect, if not most essential staple in a GymNut wardrobe. If you are looking for a tank top to use during some seriously sweaty gym-sessions or hot yoga classes, keep an eye out for the high-tech fabrics which allow for better ventilation and moisture-wicking properties. The ‘Run Swiftly’ tank from LuLu Lemon is another great option for this, or many of the Underarmor and Nike Tech Tanks you can find at your local sporting goods store. Want to avoid the price tag? Here’s an insider hint: Look for shirts with a higher percentage of polyester, as it is known to be a moisture-wicking material, while cotton will absorb moisture and hold it on your skin.

  1. Headbands

For women, hair in the face is one of the top most annoying things to deal with when trying to work out. Although your hair may be up in a ponytail, it is never truly out of your face until it is actually stuck back. Headbands are a cute way to slick your hair back in its place without looking like a total mess at the end of things. Going to the gym is not about dressing to the nines. It is about feeling good and achieving your physical goals. With the above staple items for women, those goals will be made a bit easier to obtain… and also very fun to shop for.

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