It’s that time of the year again – the clocks are ticking down to your holiday, the clothes are bought, the diet’s going well but you still need to shift a few more pounds. So it’s the last resort – there’s still just time to take   advantage of all those offers out there and burn off those calories in the gym. But can you really turn up in those sweaty old leggings you wore when you were pregnant? Is a whole new outfit in order? And if there is a realistic compromise – what is it?

I have often heard it said that nobody looks at you when you’re in the gym.

I’m afraid however, that’s simply not true.  When I’m pounding away on the treadmill or doing my 20 minutes on the exercise bike I’ve sometimes found myself counting plug sockets  – so I’m afraid there’s no way I’m going to miss spotting a turquoise shell suit.

My view is to treat the gym like any new sport. If taking up tennis at the local club you know you’ll need some kit but you certainly won’t be buying a thousand pounds worth of titanium racquet. To start with buy a few essentials – they will make you feel good and perform better. Then, when you feel that body shaping up, and you’ve had a chance to admire other people’s gym style that’s the time to visit the Nike store and perfect your gym look.

One word of warning. Whilst a lot of gym style is down to personal preference and confidence there are two key items you must buy and buy carefully, sports shoes and sports bra. Everything else is window dressing – get those wrong and you’ll come out in worse shape than you went in.


  • Head for department stores – they stock inexpensive gym collections at competitive prices and have a wider range of sizes than mainstream sports brands. Put your trust their buyers to have spotted mainstream styling.
  • Try outlets such as Sports Direct or TK Maxx – the jumble sale atmosphere conceals the fact that you can buy last year’s styles from top brands at a fraction of the list price.
  • Look for quality sports fabrics – these possess properties such as moisture wicking to keep you cool and can stand frequent washing.
  • Be prepared to pay for a good sports bra that fits you – small or large – not only will it support your bust and prevent injury to your back, but it saves embarrassment and stops you sweating all over your lacy undies. If you aren’t a standard size try Bravissimo or – not only will you find a bra to fit, but you’ll have a choice of styles.
  • Buy the right trainers and socks – at this stage you don’t need to spend a fortune on specialist shoes or the latest styles. Just buy a pair of boring, but well fitting cross trainers – from a sports specialist if you can find one. They will last you ages and can always be upgraded if you find yourself becoming wedded to a particular activity.
  • Take care of your hair – keep your hair up and away from the nape of your neck or your eyes when you exercise. And remember, you don’t need to cut hair short if the gym bug takes you – modern dry shampoos are a godsend and mean you never again need to wash your hair in the gym if you can’t face it.
  • Enjoy choosing playlists and accessories for your MP3 or Ipod – essential to stave off boredom and you now have an excuse to buy those little armbands you can slip your player into.
  • Layer – it can be chilly if you’re the first in the gym, and there’s nothing wrong with starting off with a pair of sleeves.
  • Dress for your body shape – you will see crop tops, sports bras worn on their own, teeny shorts and tight tops. Great on a toned, firm young body but not so good on the rest of us!
  • Keep groomed – shaving legs, underarms etc and a little fake tan can make a world of difference to your confidence before you step into the gym.



  • Grab whatever sweatpants and baggy t shirts you have in the drawer left over from your last fat phase – treat going to the gym as a new adventure and plan accordingly.
  • Buy the cheapest t shirt and leggings you can find – the heavy wear and washing will cause them to shrink and stretch with gay abandon and you’ll look sloppy and feel worse even before you’ve started your workout.
  • Rush out and buy a shiny Lycra leotard, leg-warmers and footless tights a la Jane Fonda circa 1980. They don’t look good, don’t feel good and nobody but nobody wears a leotard in the gym any more – except perhaps Russian gymnasts.
  • Pile on the make-up before going to the gym – you will look silly when you get there, and even worse after you’ve sweated for an hour. Gym etiquette seems to allow for the remains of the day’s make up after work and a faint dusting of powder if you want to catch someone’s eye, but otherwise just glow naturally.
  • Go too baggy – wear a sweatshirt into the gym by all means but make sure you’ve got a t- shirt underneath for when you warm up. Same with bottoms – big baggy sweatpants will get in your way so try something lighter. Cycle shorts, crop leggings, and dance bottoms can be flattering – just choose the right weight fabric and fit.

And finally DO have fun and DON’T panic. We’re all considerably more worried about our own wobbly bits than we are about anyone else’s.

Getting Style Fit – what to wear at the gym