Are your workouts starting to feel ... well, like work? It could be time to freshen up your exercise routine with some edgy new fitness fashion. Of course, we know that new clothes can’t make you more fit, but they can inspire you to get out there and strut your stuff. Pull on a new crisscross strappy tank before yoga class, and your sun salutations will likely take on a limitless flow. Put away those tired old hiking pants and try a trail skort, and you’re sure to get some extra spring in your step.
To help you find the latest must-have workout wear, we’ve done the legwork by trying out the apparel offerings for three natural lifestyle activities: yoga, hiking, and Nia (a mix of dance, yoga, and martial arts, in case you haven’t heard of it). Why these three? Unlike more traditional sports, these activities are noncompetitive, have few if any rules, can be done alone, and often invite reflection and meditation. Even better, they require minimal gear, a bonus in our book. So go ahead and hit that mat, climb that trail, or get out on that dance floor. We bet these duds will help you hold downward dog for one more breath, walk another mile, or get your groove on for an extra song.
Our favorite yoga outfit
Prana LoLa Sport Top ($37) >>>
Despite its sexy silhouette, this tank reliably covers all relevant body parts and has a supportive Coolmax bra. The Meryl fabric is a specially spun nylon that moves sweat away from your skin, leaving you comfy and dry. Runner-Up: Blue Canoe Romance Top ($21). This graceful preshrunk organic cotton tank complements feminine curves, while the special strap design keeps the top in place.
Be Present Mobility Pant with Side Slit ($63) >>>
As soon as you slip on your first pair of these capris, you’ll want one in every color. The stretchy fabric—a blend of cotton, nylon, and spandex—moves with you and dries quickly. The side slits also help with movement. Runner-Up: Om Time Foldover Pant ($40). The boot cut has modern appeal, and the lightweight cotton knit won’t drag you down. Even better: The rollover waist staves off any fear that these tights will creep down during downward dog. After class, pull the gaucho-style Ka Raja Pants ($45) over the Foldover Pants for optimum style.
Other great yoga items
Manduka PurpleLite Travel Mat
(71-inch mat, $52; 85-inch mat, $68)
What makes the pricey PurpleLite worth buying? It’s thick and durable—and because the mat will last, it won’t end up in a landfill anytime soon.
Luminaire Mat Bag
($30 for standard size; $40 for larger size; prices may vary)
This nylon bag has plenty of pockets and vents that allow your mat to breathe between uses—especially handy for hot-yoga lovers. The side-loading feature makes it easy to stow and retrieve your mat, too.
Flatter yourself. “The day of everyone wearing one-size-fits-all black tights is gone,” says Shannon Paige-Schneider, owner of Öm Time, a yoga boutique and studio in Boulder, Colorado. Today’s yoginis have many options when choosing pants or tops, so there’s no need to settle for an outfit that doesn’t feel good on you, whether you’re a new mom (think: extra bra support and tummy coverage) or a wiry college student (think: lower-slung pants and strappy tanks). If you’re not sure what style is most flattering, ask the in-store salesperson for honest advice.
Make it last. Try to select items made from lasting fabrics, such as a cotton-spandex combo or a stretchy synthetic nylon, that can be worn for multiple sun salutations, session after session. Avoid too-delicate fabrics that aren’t machine washable and dryable.
Keep it consistent. Seasons and styles change, but your yoga clothes shouldn’t have to. Choose outfits that aren’t so trendy they end up in next year’s Goodwill pile. And layers can help with changes in weather. For example, at winter solstice pick a long-sleeve top that drapes naturally over your tank. Once in the studio, take off your top layer and enjoy a heated Bikram session. When summer arrives, leave the long-sleeve top at home and sport the tank solo.
Source: Shannon Paige-Schneider.
Our favorite hiking outfit
Athleta Muscle Print Tank ($39)
Wear this wildly patterned top on the trail … or anywhere. The extra coverage on the shoulders prevents chafing under backpack straps, and the hip length keeps the tank from creeping up and bunching under a waist belt. The polyester-spandex combo wicks moisture away from your body and dries quickly. Because there’s no built-in bra, you’ll want to pair this with your own.
Mountain Hardwear Cosmopolitan Skort ($50)
No more frumpy zip-off pants for female hikers. This warm-weather skort boasts a clever wrap system: The piece looks like a full skirt, yet the hidden shorts stop any embarrassing exposure when you take a long stride. The low-rise waist offers stylish comfort, and the hidden rear and side zip cargo pockets provide storage options for keys or energy gels. An added bonus: The cotton, nylon, and spandex twill fabric doesn’t stick to your skin.
Runners-Up: Isis Cassandra Short ($58). Just can’t see yourself hiking in a skirt? During warm weather try these shorts designed for real women with real hips. The Velcro waistband is adjustable for a fine-tuned fit. Cloudveil Peak Capris ($90). Pull these stretchy, almost-too-cute-for-hiking capris on when you need a little more leg coverage—say, off-trail bushwhacking. Also available in full-length pants ($105) for cooler days.
Patagonia Women’s Houdini Full-Zip ($135)
Be prepared for unexpected breezes with this incredibly lightweight (4 ounces) jacket that will protect you from wind and drizzle.
Other great hiking items
Patagonia Capilene Base Layers (various prices)
Looking for sports bras and undies? You can’t beat the chafe-free seamless styling and moisture management of Patagonia’s Capilene garments. Some of our favorite designs include the Women’s Capilene Mesh Bra ($34) and the Women’s Capilene Hipster ($18) briefs.
Horny Toad Flower Visor ($18)
This low-profile terrycloth visor keeps the sun’s UV rays out of your eyes and off your face. Unlike other visors, this one is stylish and feminine, featuring an embroidered flower on the headband.
CamelBak Moxie ($70)
Great for travel, this hydration pack (70-ounce water bladder) converts from a backpack to an over-the-shoulder sling pack so you can take it on a tour of local trails and city shops—all in the same day.
SmartWool Adrenaline Mini Crew Socks ($15)
These wool-nylon blend hiking socks breathe and control moisture—and they’re not the least bit itchy. The women’s version has a tapered toe and narrower heel than the men’s design.
Avoid cotton. “Cotton is bad news for hikers,” says Anne Muzzini, who leads women’s back-packing trips for Sierra Club Outings. “It traps moisture near your body, so you get cold more easily.” Instead, the Walnut Creek, California-based Muzzini recommends choosing synthetic fabrics that insulate when wet and dry fast.
Lose your belt. Belt buckles interfere with your backpack’s waist belt. Instead, many current styles of hiking shorts, capris, and pants have Velcro adjusters or low-profile belts sans buckles. These give you the perfect fit without extra bulk.
Go lean. Avoid clothes that bunch up under a backpack and anything that doesn’t layer well. “When the weather changes, your fleece jacket needs to fit under your rain jacket, for example,” says Muzzini. Choose a jog bra, tee, vest, and wind and rain shell with lean lines. Also, look for low-profile princess seams on your tops, which help the garment form to a female’s shape and will prevent rubbing and chafing.
Source: Anne Muzzini.
Our favorite Nia (Dance-based workout) outfit
NiaWear Bell Sleeve Top ($50)
So you want to move? It’s hard to stop yourself once you don this top. The dramatic design with flared sleeves really sways with you as you dance. And you can take this look from dance floor to restaurant.
NiaWear Short Skirt ($30)
This stretchy skirt intended for layering over the NiaWear Diva Bells Pants has a flirty, scalloped hem. The flattering length effectively covers you, so you don’t feel bare even when bending over. When dancing in this skirt, you’ll not only have a sleek look—you’ll feel hot!
NiaWear Diva Bells Pants ($52)
The low waist on these machine-washable pants compliments most shapes and is comfortable enough for long dance classes. The bell bottoms are fun and flare expressively as you move. If you perspire when you dance, you’ll be happy with the quick-drying synthetic fabric. The pants look great alone and even better with the NiaWear Short Skirt.
Be dramatic. Instead of playing down the female figure, choose colors, textures, shapes, and fabrics that enhance your body’s movements while dancing. For some women, that means a tight and sleek outfit; for others, the clothing design is loose and full. “Know what makes you feel alive, sexy, and fit,” advises Debbie Rosas, cofounder of Nia with Carlos Rosas.
Find the right fabric. Cotton feels great, but it doesn’t hold its shape or color after several washings, according to Rosas. “A little Lycra hugs the body and can move [with you],” she says. “The right fabric and the right fit is how you can create a ‘moving conversation’ with your body.” The design will also encourage you to integrate the hips, pelvis, chest, and spine into your movements.
Shake your booty. “Clothes that expose individual body parts, as in the shoulder, help me be aware of that body part, so I can move it more consciously and with more joy,” Rosas says. Her personal favorites are low-slung pants that keep her moving her belly and pelvis and thus engage her abdominal muscles.
Source: Debbie Rosas.
Managing Editor Pamela Emanoil enjoyed testing out hot, new outfits and having her yoga sessions count as work.