Quitting drinking. Doubling your salary. Writing that novel. All eminently admirable resolutions but, frankly, if that’s what your to-do list for 2015 looks like you may as well file it away now to recycle come December 31st. I know I'm never gonna stop drinking and writing that novel is taking its time. But hey, what about getting in shape? Not only is this achievable, but you’ll also make everything hanging in your wardrobe look infinitely better. There’s a reason Hedi Slimane sends rail-thin rockers, rather than Ricky Gervais, down the runway.
But while willpower’s all well and good, the real way to guarantee you’ll pull on your workout kit is by ensuring you look as good in it as the suit you pull on afterwards. Unless you’re bench pressing your bodyweight with the rest of the guys from Cell Block H, that demands a bit more than cutting the sleeves off an old hoody. And don't get me wrong, I'm not an expert at working out, quite the opposite really, but if there was one thing i needed to do when I did workout, it was to look good doing so.
Your bag is one thing that is essential if you are going to start to get into shape. Carting your kit to the gym in a ‘Bag For Life’ smacks of man who doesn't take his physique seriously. It won’t matter if you can deadlift double your bodyweight if you exit the gym looking like you've just done the weekly grocery shop. Yes, your bag’s often stuffed with rather ripe kit, but it should be able to take you from workout to weekend without breaking a sweat. That means high quality leather or canvas on the outside and a sealed inner to ward off any untoward whiffs – a zipped holdall is perfect. Again, you’ll appreciate an antibacterial or odour-killing lining when you toss your bag under your desk post-lunchtime session.
When it comes to your shorts – length matters. If the hem’s brushing your knee, then you’ll swiftly find yourself veering towards Woody Harrelson in "White Men Can’t Jump" territory, especially if your shorts are emblazoned with psychedelic patterns more suited to the bedroom walls of a student stoner. But steer too far in the other direction and you’re just a perm away from Kevin Keegan in his 1980s pomp. The sweet spot is mid-thigh: short enough not to impede your movement on the treadmill, but with enough material so that you aren't ejected from the gym for indecency when you squat down to grab a barbell. Get a pair equipped with an internal mesh – à la your swimming shorts – to avoid mimicking the pendulum of a grandfather clock as you run.
If you’re one of the men who suffered through an overnight queue outside H&M to grab the Alexander Wang collaboration, which disappeared from shelves faster than Usain Bolt out of the blocks, then you’ll understand the appeal of pouring your pins into Lycra. But if you’re not the kind to stride through town sporting little more than ‘Wang’-emblazoned tights, rest assured that, when you’re working out at least, leggings are more high performance than high fashion. Compression leggings not only offer much needed insulation when you’re jogging in frost, they also support and prime your muscles to help them function at their optimum efficiency. That means enhanced performance, less soreness the day after and, much like a corset, the elimination of any unsightly wobble from your turkey-stuffed thighs.
Despite their prevalence on weight room floors, don’t be tempted to wear anything that reveals more of your torso than it covers. Deep V tees and spaghetti strap vests have no place in your gym bag. And training shirtless is only permitted if a) it’s 1975 and you’re at Gold’s Gym on Venice Beach, or b) the rest of your marine regiment have ditched their tops in an effort to soak up that Afghan sunshine. Otherwise, rest assured that fabric is your friend, both in the sartorial and performance stakes. Forget this season’s trend towards billowing silhouettes and plunging hems. Your shirt should neither flap about, nor stop you turning your torso: opt for something form-fitting in a material with elasticity.
Your style of shoe is probably the most important and the type depends on how you choose to burn off that extra festive five pounds. If you’re more into heavy metal than high intensity interval training, then your gig shoes will serve you just as well in the squat rack. That guy popping veins under the barbell in Chuck Taylors isn’t a style victim – he’s actually taking advantage of flat, solid soles that don’t compress, even under heavy loads. Copy him. Although don’t apply the same logic to his denim shorts and muscle vest combo. Those more keen on cardio than dumbbells need shoes with more upper support to stop them rolling an ankle, and a spongier sole to cushion their joints from impacts. If you’re training for an ill-thought through marathon, which you signed up for after the sixth whiskey on Stephen's Day (not just the odd lap of the park which you’ll be dissuaded from at the merest hint of moisture), then get your gait checked before dropping your hard-earned cash.
These items are simply a starting point as opposed to a definitive list. Dependent upon your personal preference, circumstances and overall training and performance needs, this list is likely to develop. However, armed with this active wear know-how, you’re left with few excuses not to get yourself fit this year.