Get Motivated to Work Out by Updating Your Gym Clothes

by Jack Prenter  |  in Casual Style

Getting regular exercise is important for keeping mentally and physically healthy. It’s true whether you run, lift weights, or take a spin class.

Some people understate the positive impact of exercise on your health and happiness. It releases endorphins in the brain, raises your serotonin levels, and makes you feel happier.

So surely the gym is the one place where you can wear whatever, right? You’re there to workout, not to walk a fashion show.

But you could say the same thing about your job. You’re there to work, not to look great.

The truth is, we are always judged on our appearance and we will always judge ourselves on our appearance.

Looking good in your gym clothes is a great way to motivate yourself to go and to feel confident while you’re exercising.

Don’t worry – you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest gym clothes. In fact, in this article we’ll be taking the lean wardrobe concept to the gym. I’ll show you how to look and feel great with a minimal gym kit.

No More Sweatpants

Unless you’re exercising in a basement with no heat, there is no excuse to wear sweatpants. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty as the next man. But it’s a bad habit that I’m trying to break.

Let me justify my opinion:

First, sweatpants aren’t conducive to most physical activity. You shouldn’t be doing any cardio in them. And if you’re lifting weights, they aren’t comfortable for training legs in.

Second, they take ages to wash and dry. A pair of shorts can be washed and dried way quicker than sweatpants. So if you’re going to keep an efficient wardrobe, shorts are the way to go.

Pick out a versatile pair of gym shorts — not basketball shorts or Jersey Shore cotton shorts. They should be thin enough that you don’t feel like you’re wearing anything.

Get Motivated to Workout by Updating Your Gym Clothes

Choose a basic color like a black or navy. That ensures versatility and simplicity.

I often match my running shoes to my shorts. So if you already have a pair that you like, try to match them.


A lot of us only lift weights. That’s fine. We don’t really need any specialist footwear. Many men lift in Converse or similar sneakers.

The problem is wearing those shoes outside of the gym.

You should switch footwear daily so that you never wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. This stops excessive bacteria production and lets the shoes dry out.

When you workout, your feet sweat. A lot. You don’t want to be wearing the same shoes to the gym and for everything else. It’s just gross.

The footwear that you pick will depend on what kind of exercise you’re doing.

  • If you exclusively lift weights and don’t do any cardio (you really should!), then you can get away with wearing almost any flat-soled shoes.
  • If you’re going do any running or standing-cardio, wear running trainers. They aren’t expensive and they help you run with better form, which prevent injuries.

Always try on shoes before you buy them. With running shoes, make sure they aren’t too tight. Your feet swell slightly when you exercise – that can make an already tight pair of shoes quite uncomfortable. In general, you can go up half a size, presuming that the shoes run true to size.

If you’re a runner, look at the sole of one of your well-worn pairs of running shoes. Check to see where they’ve worn out the most.

All of us run a little differently — some of us are flat-footed, others favor the insides of their shoes. Once you know this, you can buy specialized shoes for your running style.

There are different shapes and fits of running shoes, from minimalist shoes to maximalist pairs with extensive padding and cushioning.

It’s up to your personal preference what type of shoes you wear. Most of us will be fine with a moderate to minimalist shoe with a standard amount of cushioning.

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T-shirts, Vests, and Tanks

I love bodybuilding and I follow powerlifting, too. But unless you’re Jay Cutler or Mark Bell, you can fit comfortably into a T-shirt. And you’ll look much better in it too.

Vests and tanks aren’t attractive and they don’t do anything for your figure.

Having some arm-modesty is attractive. The old adage of “less is more” is often true in fashion. And showing too much skin can be a turnoff.

Get Motivated to Workout by Updating Your Gym Clothes

The natural cut of T-shirt collars and sleeve cuffs helps make your arms appear larger. And it accentuates your V-taper because of the tight fit around the shoulders and looser fit around the waist.

Choose a slim T-shirt that hugs you comfortably, the same way that you would want a polo to fit.

A lot of gym clothes brands are cut tighter on the arms, with a strong V-taper and a longer length. These are perfect for working out — they are comfortable, show off your muscles, and don’t ride up as much when you’re exercising.

When choosing a design, adhere to the same principles you do when combining pants and shirts. I often contrast my tops and use them to add color. So if I’m wearing black shoes and shorts, I’ll wear a brighter patterned T-shirt.


Way too often I see guys wearing long white tube socks. This isn’t 1997 and you’re not in high school anymore.

In the gym, there are only two acceptable types of socksankle socks and no-show socks.

I always prefer no-show socks — they don’t break the lines that your shoes create against your leg.

If you choose ankle socks, match them to your shorts and shoes. They should never be lighter.

I’ve seen guys wear black shorts with white socks and it looks okay… but it would have been far better if they’d worn black socks instead.

Regardless, I’m still going on record to say that no-show is the best option.


Has it ever been stylish to wear huge headphones to the gym? I’m not sure, but it definitely isn’t now.

Small running headphones are more than enough for your workout. And if you’re running, they’re be far less likely to fall off.

A good pair of running headphones should come with different earbud size options. That way you can select the bud that fits your ear best.

Headphones that wrap around the ear aren’t great aesthetically. But if music is super important to you, this might be worth the sacrifice while you do cardio.

It’s difficult to find high quality headphones in a range of colors. Most often you’ll find them in black or white. However, you should try to match the color of your headphones to your T-shirt or shorts for the best look.

Either way is perfectly acceptable and both will look great. Avoid introducing another color into the outfit that doesn’t match anything else.

Building Your Gym Wardrobe

Now that we’ve discussed each item and what to avoid, we can think about bringing the pieces into an overall wardrobe.

I’ve already convinced you that shorts are superior to sweatpants. They’re more versatile and easier to launder.

Most men who go to the gym will be going 4-6 times per week. So it’s important that you have a good rotation of gym clothes. And that you always feel comfortable and ready to kick some ass.

Each day you’ll need a fresh T-shirt and a clean pair of socks.

You can wear a single pair of shorts for up to 3 days before washing them. And in the spirit of a lean and efficient wardrobe, you should keep just a single pair of running shoes.

From there you can build from the ground up to create an attractive outfit. With only one pair of shoes, ensure that you’re letting them dry out between workouts.

Don’t wear them for the rest of the day. This will keep them clean and allow you to get away with just one pair.

Basic Gym Outfits

A gym outfit consists of only a few pieces, so you can easily tip the balance and make it look busy or unmatched if you aren’t careful. You have three essential items: shirt, shorts, and shoes.

The key to always looking great in your gym clothes is to match two of those three pieces.

Yes, you can choose to have them all different and still look great. But you’ll always look solid by matching two pieces. With this basic approach you can easily create attractive outfits without having to think too hard.

To keep your wardrobe as lean as possible, match your shoes and shorts. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a bunch of the exact same T-shirt colors from trying to match them with your shoes.

This is one example outfit:

How to Get Motivated to Workout by Updating Your Gym Clothes

The athletic top is made out of thin, quick-drying, lightweight materials. This kind of shirt is the ideal choice when you’re going to break a sweat in the gym.

Here are three more examples of tops you could wear to workout in.

How to Get Motivated to Workout by Updating Your Gym Clothes

In the middle we have a basic cotton T-shirt. It’s cut a little longer than usual with high armholes to allow freedom of movement. Otherwise, pretty standard.

On the right, we have a cotton and elastane T-shirt built to fit bulkier men who lift weights. The shoulders are raised, there’s extra width in the chest and back, the arms are tight, and the neckline leans forward.

I love the design too. It reminds me of the military with a rugged feel. It would look fantastic with black shorts and shoes.

Bringing It All Together

You can easily create efficient gym clothes combinations to look and feel great while you workout.

Building a gym wardrobe doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. Start today by replacing some of the items that you already have with fresh workout clothing.

  • Take a look at your shorts and running shoes. Do they match? If not, which one are you going to replace first?
  • If your shoes are already old and worn, it might be time to replace them so that they match your shorts.
  • Once you’ve got shoes and shorts that you’re comfortable with, you can move on to your tops. Throw away any old T-shirts that you don’t like. Replace them with better-fitting tops that match your new wardrobe.

Updated, better looking gym clothes will help you feel motivated to workout. And you’ll look great while you do.

Don’t let your dapper look slip at the gym. Build a stylish and lean gym wardrobe, starting today.

What do you like to wear to the gym?

Which combinations do you find most comfortable and fun to wear?

If you have any questions or comments, hit me up on Twitter. You can also find join other readers on Effortless Gent’s Facebook page, or DM me on Instagram!