Competitive Sports Apparel Tips

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What are compression shorts and how can they help my performance?

Compression Pants Pump Up Performance

When a sports apparel guru says compression wear, we aren't talking about grandma's support hose. Several sports apparel manufacturers offer tights and shorts with strategically placed compression panels to support muscles and, in theory, reduce muscle fatigue. Basically, steady compression stimulates blood flow. Just as compression bandages help wounds heal more quickly by moving fluid away from the wound, compression panels in sports apparel may improve circulation, although there are no randomized, controlled scientific studies on this topic.

Anecdotally, some athletes find these items comfortable, and believe that they do reduce muscle fatigue. But others find them uncomfortable, and don't believe they make a difference in performance. If you want to try sportswear with compression panels, several styles are available from the major sportswear manufacturers. As with any performance apparel, test-drive the clothes during practice and training before a competition.

Are there styles of competitive sports apparel with pockets for gel?

Pockets Are A Jock's Best Friend

Are you annoyed at having to wear a belt with a pouch to carry your PowerGel during a marathon, triathlon, or other endurance event? Fear not. Sports apparel manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and added subtle but reliable pockets to several styles of athletic tops and bottoms that can hold keys, gel, and even a small packet of Advil. For example, some sports shorts have stretchy mesh pockets in the sides, while some shirts have similar pockets in the sleeves, sides, or on the lower back. Some sports shirts have zippered pockets on the sleeves for added security.

Forget about makeshift pockets made of old t-shirts and safety pins that fasten to the back of a running shirt, just above the waist, for a last-minute, do-it-yourself pockets. Fortunately, today's competitive sports apparel makes it easier for serious athletes to carry what they need without adding bulk or interfering with the workout.

What bras are best for preventing chafing during a marathon?

Marathon Women: Avoid The Rub With Seamless Bras

Chafing around the area of the bottom band of sports bras is a problem for any woman during a long workout or competition, regardless of her cup size.

For women who run marathons, chafing is almost inevitable if you have a poorly fitted bra. If you are moving continuously for several hours, something is bound to start rubbing somewhere. But seamless sports bras have made a world of difference. As a moderate, 34B marathon runner, I've found that seamless bras essentially don't chafe at all, and they are so lightweight you feel like you're (almost) not wearing them. Most seamless bras come in a racerback style so there's no strap slippage, which could also cause chafing during a marathon.

But don't run your marathon in a brand-new bra, regardless of the style. Even if it's your favorite, it's best to wear it for a training run and wash it once before a competition, so you are sure that it fits well.

How do I choose shorts for training and competition?

Who Wears Short Shorts?

Calling all competitors: Having the right sports apparel can make a good workout better and a bad one more bearable. This is especially true of shorts. If you have well-fitting, comfortable shorts, you can focus on your workouts and not on the fact that your shorts are riding up. During your training, try some different types of shorts to determine what styles work for you.

Whether you're a competitive runner or a competitive biker, your preference on shorts depends on your comfort and mobility level. For some, wearing the fitted “biking style” shorts for running is more comfortable because baggier running shorts have a tendancy to bunch up between the legs. The bottom line (pardon the pun) is: Never wear a style of shorts for a major competition that you haven't worn in practice; you may experience chafing in areas that you didn't anticipate.

If you prefer a longer, fitted shorts style in women's sportswear, check out the women's 9-inch Power Liner shorts from Champion. They can be worn alone or underneath a baggier style of shorts or pants, or even one of the new “sport skirts” that are starting to cross over from tennis into other sports.

Are shorts or pants better for yoga?

Yoga Wear: Long And Short Of It

For the serious (and not so serious) yoga practitioners, fitted shorts or cropped pants are the best choice for your hard working bottom half, rather than longer, boot-cut sports pants.

The advantage to wearing shorts for yoga is that shorts let the instructor see your legs so he or she can see whether your knees are straight when they should be straight, and bent when they should be bent, and adjust your alignment accordingly. That said, not everyone likes to reveal too much of his or her legs at the gym. To get the most out of your downward facing dog, eagle, or camel pose, without flashing your thighs, choose a Capri-style or cropped pant so you don't trip or slip on the bottoms of the legs. Alternatively, some new styles of sports pants have drawstrings or ties at the bottom of the legs to let you adjust the length to suit your activity.

Athletic sportswear companies have embraced the popularity of yoga, and Champion offers a range of performance apparel for the devout yogi, such as the Low-fit Crop Pant, a comfy Capri-style with a low-rise drawstring waist that allows a full range of movement during challenging classes; you'll flow from pose to pose with ease.

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Lynne Christen