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Some sports jackets are made from nylon while others are made from polyester, and both have their place depending on your needs and on the weather. A 100% nylon fabric is very lightweight, and it will keep out all water, but it doesn't breathe as well as a polyester jacket. But the polyester jacket may allow some dampness through in a very heavy rain, although today's high-tech styles are very water-resistant.As a competitive runner, nylon sports apparel is a good choice for warming up and cooling down before and after a competition because they will trap the heat and help keep you warm, but a nylon windbreaker alone can be too hot during a workout. When going out for a long run, choose a breathable, polyester jacket that moves moisture away from the skin.
That said, some nylon jackets, such as those in Champion's O2 Cool collection of sports apparel, feature mesh vents under the arms in down the back so you have the wind resistance of nylon with some added breathability; great for a short run on a wet or windy day.
Even on a warm day, you may start to feel chilled after a workout as your body cools down. If you're taking a yoga, Pilates, or aerobics class at the gym, bring a lightweight, moisture-wicking sports jacket to slip into afterwards, especially if you have worked out in a tank top or sports bra. The moisture-wicking jacket will absorb some sweat and control that post-workout chill, which is especially helpful if you're not going home right after the class. Some good choices include Nike's Dri-Fit lightweight zip-front jackets or Adidas's ClimaLite styles. Pull-over jackets with hoods and half-zips are great for the post-workout, too. Since wind- and water-resistance isn't the primary objective, this is an occasion for the fashionable but functional workout jackets with curved seams or designs.
You may find hooded jackets annoying to wear while working out, but consider a sports jacket with an optional hood if you run outside in cold weather. Several styles of sports jackets, such as Gore-Tex's XCR jackets, have detachable hoods that you can keep zipped into a pocket if you think you might need it. Or, keep it at home with your gear on days when you know you won't need it. The advantages of a hood: A hood covers the entire back of your neck, and you will be surprised at how much warmer you feel on a day when the wind chill is 20 degrees below zero but you want to run outside anyway. For extra warmth: Pull the hood up over a hat, ear-band, or balaclava.
A good sports jacket is a sports apparel investment; high-quality, moisture-wicking sports apparel can be expensive, but a quality jacket will last for years if you take good care of it. For best results:
-Hang it up. When you come home from a workout, don't leave your sweaty, damp jacket balled up on the floor. Hang it on a hook or hanger so it can dry quickly.
-Wash it gently. Sports jackets don't need to be washed very often since they aren't worn next to the skin. When needed, wash sports jackets in cold water on a gentle cycle and hang to dry. Don't dry clean a sports jacket; the chemicals can damage the fabric.
-Replace when needed. The water resistance of even the best quality sports jackets doesn't last forever. You know it's time to replace your sports jacket when you notice that water doesn't bead up on the fabric, and you feel moisture coming through the jacket and making your sleeves damp. But don't abandon your old jackets; they can enjoy a second life as windbreakers or casual outerwear even if you are no longer wearing them to run in the rain.
Ideally, when you're shopping for a sports jacket, you can visit a store and try on several styles. If you're buying a jacket that you plan to wear over several layers, pick a base layer shirt and a middle layer shirt from the rack and try them on with the jacket. You won't get a true sense of the fit if you want the jacket for winter wear and you're trying it on over a tank top in August.
Sports jackets are essentially unisex, but women with long arms, long torsos, or broad shoulders may find that men's jackets are a better fit. However, there are plenty of great styles for women. A must-have sports wear item for active women is Champion's Women's Cotton Jersey Hooded Zip Front Jacket. This sports wear is made of 100 percent cotton and has a shapely silhouette for a feminine look and the sleeves are roomy for the freedom to move.
A fleece sports jacket is a perfect outer layer for casual activities, such as walking the dog and going to and from the gym. Fleece jackets are warm and wind-resistant, and although densely knit fleeces are somewhat water-resistant, a fleece jacket is a better choice for casual wear and moderate activity than for a run in rain. Fleece jackets come in all styles and sizes, from classic, stand-up collar styles, to trendy hoodies and shawl collars. If you want a fleece jacket to run in, check the label to be sure that it's breathable, but for casual wear, any fleece that flatters you is fine.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|