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If you feel self-conscious in a tank top or full-length bra top, consider a short-sleeved v-neck top for warm weather workouts. Many style of fitness shirts have v-necks that are subtle, not plunging. Also, anyone with a large neck may find v-neck fitness shirts more comfortable for any activity. A caveat: If you don't usually wear v-necks, don't forget to apply sunblock to your upper chest before going out for your sunny summer day workout.
When you're shopping for a workout shirt, the first thing to remember is that sizes vary with brands and styles. Some athletic shirts have a fitted silhouette while others have a loose, relaxed fit. Ideally, try a shirt on before you buy it. If you're buying a shirt as a base layer, you may want the smaller of two sizes so it fits closer to your skin, but if you are buying a heavier shirt to wear as an outer layer, you might find that a size larger than your usual shirt size is more comfortable.
Some athletic shirts describe sizes based on chest measurements. To determine your chest size, use a measuring tape and measure around the fullest part of the chest, wrapping under the arms and around the shoulder blades.
Athletic shirts also may describe sizes in terms of sleeve length. To determine your sleeve length, place a shirt flat on the floor, and use a fabric measuring tape to measure from the center of the back of the neck, across the top of the shoulder, and down to the wrist.
Some sports shirts are available in petite and tall sizes; petite shirts are generally cut 1 inch shorter in torso length and 1.5 inches shorter in sleeve length. Tall sizes are generally cut 1.5 inches longer in torso length and 2 inches longer in sleeve length.
Moisture-wicking fabrics are the best for workouts, but once you've come home and taken a shower, there's nothing quite like your favorite classic cotton t-shirt for running errands, walking the dog, making dinner, or lounging around at home. Cotton jersey knit t-shirts are soft but sturdy, and hard to beat for everyday comfort. Cotton t-shirts can be machine-washed on a normal or gentle cycle with standard detergent, and most labels say that they can be dried in the dryer. But hang them to dry if you're concern about shrinkage; cotton t-shirts do tend to shrink slightly when machine-dried.
You step outside and start running and realize, “It's cold and I forgot my gloves.” Fortunately, sports apparel manufacturers have recognized my tried-and-true runners' solution of tucking my hands into my shirt sleeves. Several fitness shirts, such as Nike's winter training turtleneck, have built-in “handwarmers.”
How do they do it? The sleeves on handwarmer athletic shirts are a few inches longer and feature thumbholes for you to hook your thumbs through and pull the fabric to cover the back and palm of your hand.
The pro: You have some hand warmth without the worry of losing gloves if you get warm enough to take them off.
The con: Your fingers are still exposed, but thin microfiber gloves will keep them warm and allow your thumbs to fit through the handwarmer thumbholes.
Shirts with strategically-placed mesh panels for extra ventilation and breathability are a recent trend in sports apparel. Several brands including Nike, Champion, and Adidas offer fitness shirts in long- and short-sleeved styles with mesh panels in sweat-prone areas, such as the underarms, back, and chest. The extra ventilation makes a shirt with mesh insets a great choice for a base layer under a vest or jacket in cold weather.
On chilly fall or spring days, and on cold winter days, a mock turtleneck sports shirt keeps the cold air from blowing down your neck so you feel more comfortable and less distracted by the weather during your workout.
Mock turtlenecks aren't as high and tight-fitting as a traditional turtleneck that you might wear casually under a sweater, so you won't feel that the fabric is constricting your movement, and it won't interfere with a jacket collar or hood.
Mock turtleneck workout shirts in moisture-wicking fabrics make a great base layer to wear under a jacket or vest, or they can be worn on top of another long-sleeved t-shirt in extremely cold weather. The double layer of long sleeves will trap the heat and help keep you warm.
Sports shirts with zippers that come to the mid-chest are great for days when it's chilly when you start your workout but you know you'll warm up once you get moving. Most sports apparel manufacturers offer workout shirts in half-zip styles. The half-zip fitness shirts also have stand-up collars that form a mock turtleneck when zipped up for extra warmth. Some half-zips have zippered pocket on the sleeves for gel packs, or side pockets that hold keys and gloves. Most half-zip workout shirts are long-sleeved, you can find short-sleeved half-zips if you look where cycling clothes are sold; many cyclists favor fitted short-sleeved tops with a half-zip.