As a personal trainer, you do your best to work out your clients and to help them meet their goals. But, you also have a responsibility to keep them safe and to take reasonable steps to prevent them from getting injured.
You might do this by assisting with lifts, teaching and monitoring good form, and encourage hydration and proper rest. But, there’s one other thing you need to be mindful of when training clients—and for yourself:
What you and your clients wear while working out.
Style and looking good in the gym may be important for some of your clients, but help them to realize that wearing the right type of gear to help prevent injuries is more important.
Whether it’s in the gym, on the courts, on the field, on the track or the trails, the right gear can minimize injuries and improve performance and endurance.
The newer, less experienced clients may choose fitness gear for style, for comfort, or for convenience. They may dig out an old cotton t-shirt and sweatpants for your first session together and add to that an ancient pair of running shoes. Help your clients out by educating them as to how to choose the best workout gear for their training sessions.
Say No to 100% Cotton
Overheating can be a real problem when working out, especially during the warmer months. Your clients need moisture-wicking, breathable clothing, and cotton does not meet these requirements.
When you sweat in a cotton shirt, it gets damp, heavy, and clingy. The moisture just stays there.
This is problematic because damp clothing can cause overheating or even a real heat injury, like heat stroke.
Your clients should be choosing synthetics or blends for workout clothes. These materials will help with thermoregulation during a workout and will be more comfortable
Choosing synthetics is important for more than just comfort, though; the choice of fabric impacts performance as well. Synthetic clothes improve heat tolerance while exercising2, so breathable, moisture-wicking clothes can help your client keep going longer than in cotton clothes.
Here’s what the research says about synthetics as compared to cotton workout gear:
- Synthetics are more comfortable. In a study that compared the two types, the female athletes participating found the polyester (synthetic) clothing more comfortable.
- Synthetics improve performance. They also performed better in the synthetics than when wearing the cotton clothing.4
- Synthetic workout gear may be stinkier, but so what? Studies also show that synthetic workout gear develops a funkier stink than cotton, but the benefits of synthetic clothing still outweigh that slight stench.1 And, you can now find synthetic workout gear embedded with materials that prevent bacteria from thriving in it, which reduces the odor.
Workout clothes are pretty advanced these days, so your clients should have no problem finding synthetics and blends. Most have polyester, spandex, and some moisture-wicking proprietary blend. Encourage them to go out and buy real workout gear instead of relying on old cotton clothes they were going to donate anyway.
Cotton socks SHOULD be avoided too - As with other parts of your body, your feet will sweat when working out. If socks are not breathable and don’t wick away moisture, the sweat can cause friction, rubbing, and blisters, which are painful and also lead to training setbacks. Always tell your clients to look for synthetics in their gym socks too.
Click to view full infographic or here to download PDF and print for your clients.
Wearing compression gear may be great for the figure, but it also has some important training benefits. Compression helps to improve blood flow and circulation, and it reduces swelling. This can result in less pain. Many professional athletes use compression sleeves for this reason.
The studies on compression are mixed, but most have found that there is some benefit to wearing compression gear after working out. In one study the researchers found that compression can help improve some aspects of performance and endurance such as time to exhaustion, running economy, and form.3
The word compression can be seen on many garments that you buy to work out in, but this doesn’t necessarily mean a garment will be compression gear or provide any benefits. The compression that you see on the tag for a pair of $20 leggings, for example, is most likely not therapeutic compression. If your clients want to try compression, they will need to do some brand research to find real compression products.
And of course, some people with certain medical conditions have to be careful when wearing compression. Someone with diabetes, for example, should only wear compression gear if his or her doctor has approved it, and then it should be seamless and not too tight.
Compression may have some benefits, but you also want to make sure you don’t go too far. If workout gear is too tight, it could impact performance in a negative way. The converse is also true, so make sure your clients pay attention to fit and choose clothing that is sized right for them.
Shoes Set the Foundation
Shoes are among the most important pieces of workout gear a person can wear. They are crucial to both performance and injury prevention. There are a lot of things to think about when choosing shoes, but the biggest mistake many clients make is using the same—old— shoe for everything.
1. Choosing a Shoe for the Weight Room
If your client is going to be doing a lot of weightlifting, proper shoes will be important so they can lift more and stay balanced.
Running shoes are too soft to be used for heavy weight lifting. The cushion can make you feel off balance and can lead to improper form. The lower to the ground your client is, the better he or she is set for weightlifting and plyometrics.
Weightlifting shoes are important for keeping you close to the ground and stable, and therefore for generating more force to be able to do the heavy lifting.
Also, the heel in weightlifting shoes can help you squat deeper because of a bigger range in the ankle. This helps keep the body in better alignment by keeping the chest upright.7
Cross training shoes can be useful for clients who are going to be lifting but also incorporating some cardio and just need a little more support than a minimal or lifting shoe.
2. Choosing a Running Shoe
Choosing shoes for running is a completely different task. Running in the wrong type of shoes can result in serious pain and injury. Cushioning is important for injury prevention because it protects the joints from impact, which is especially needed for distance running. Stability is also important. There are three different categories of running shoes based on this factor:
- Stability. These shoes have medial support, which helps stabilize runners who tend to overpronate.
- Neutral. Neutral running shoes are neutral in support, which means they work for runners who supinate a little or over-pronate only slightly.
- Motion control. These running shoes are for people who severely over-pronate.6
Size is also a factor to consider carefully when choosing running shoes. If the shoes are too small, there will be more friction, which can cause blisters and you can also lose a toenail from the excess rubbing.
A good rule of thumb is to use your thumb. You want to have at least a thumb-width of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe. This helps to account for swelling in the feet.
A very obvious but somewhat overlooked point when picking the right shoes is how much the person weighs. People who carry more weight will need to have more cushioning for joint protection. Their shoes will also run out of cushion faster.
3. When To Toss Running Shoes
This is a no-brainer, but for some reason, people tend to think that if they buy a pair of shoes, they should be good for a few years. Make sure your clients know that shoes used for training of any type need to be replaced regularly.
Running shoes will last about 500 miles at most.6 This can mean something different to everyone. For some people, 500 miles is three months. For others, it's six months or longer.
Counting miles is helpful, but a good general rule is to listen to your joints. When you start to feel pain while running, your shoes are probably worn out and ready to be replaced. This can be said about most athletic shoes. Also, remind your clients that lighter shoes wear quicker than those with more cushioning.
Wardrobe may seem like a small part of training, especially to your newbie clients. This is why it is part of your job to educate them about the importance of choosing the right gear for the right activity for optimal performance and minimal injuries.
1. Callewaert, C., E. De Maeseneire, F.-M. Kerckhof, A. Verliefde, T. Van De Wiele, and N. Boon. "Microbial Odor Profile of Polyester and Cotton Clothes after a Fitness Session." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 80.21 (2014): 6611-619. Web.
2. Davis, Jon-Kyle, C. Matt Laurent, Kimberly E. Allen, Yang Zhang, Nicola I. Stolworthy, Taylor R. Welch, and Michael E. Nevett. "Influence of Clothing on Thermoregulation and Comfort During Exercise in the Heat." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2016)
3. Engel, Florian Azad, Hans-Christer Holmberg, and Billy Sperlich. "Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing?" Sports Medicine 46.12 (2016): 1939-952. Web
4. Hooper, David R., Brendan M. Cook, Brett A. Comstock, Tunde K. Szivak, Shawn D. Flanagan, David P. Looney, William H. Dupont, and William J. Kraemer. "Synthetic Garments Enhance Comfort, Thermoregulatory Response, and Athletic Performance Compared With Traditional Cotton Garments." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 29.3 (2015): 700-07. Web.
5. "How Long Do Running Shoes Last - A Guide To Running Shoe Durability." How Long Do Running Shoes Last - A Guide To Running Shoe Durability. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
6. "Running Shoes: How to Choose the Best Running Shoes." REI. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2017.
7. "Why Olympic Weightlifting Shoes Matter." Tabata Times. N.p., 09 May 2013. Web. 10 Jan. 2017.