Pesach has “passed over” for another year, and it’s usually around this time, with spring fighting to break through, that thoughts turn to exercising outside and enjoying the beautiful weather. But what to wear, what to wear? My mother always taught me, “clothes make the man,” instilling in me the importance of respecting one’s own body, for it houses our precious neshama, and dressing accordingly.
In addition to purporting an accurate self-value and serving as protection from the elements, the choice in clothing can affect one’s outlook, both internally and externally. Furthermore, choosing the wrong clothes can often result in detrimental consequences, stripping us of our confidence or ability, hindering our true potential. More specifically, with regards to exercise, running in the wrong sneakers, for example, can hamper your gait, and sweating in the wrong fabric can chaff your skin; not to mention the fact that, as frum Jews, dressing appropriately for exercise comes with its own set of unique challenges. Let me suggest some tips for choosing the right exercise clothes, and getting the most out of your workout:
Most Jewish adults wear some sort of head covering, including kippot or hats for men, and sheitels, snoods or teichels for women. Needing to cover one’s head can sometimes feel like a blessing (for all you balding guys out there) and sometimes feel like a curse (sheitels in the summer, need I say more?), and figuring out the best way to adhere to religious protocol while also training hard is no exception. Everyone’s situation is different—long hair or short, summer or winter, sweat like Niagara Falls, or merely “glow” with minimal perspiration—the best choices of head covering will keep hair and sweat out of your eyes, and wick moisture away from your skin (see below).
Cotton and other natural fibers are soft and comfortable, and are good for light workouts, such as walking or stretching, but, because of their absorbent quality, aren’t very good if you anticipate sweating a lot. When cotton becomes sweaty, it can feel heavy and cling to your body causing chaffing and soreness, far from ideal for more intense or aerobic activities. Choose a fabric that provides wicking—i.e., it draws the sweat away from your body. This will help keep your body cool while you exercise, and also minimize chaffing. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, Lycra and Spandex are effective.
Depending on your own body image and personal style, you may prefer workout clothes that are loose and cover most of your body, or tighter and more form-fitting. Either way, choose clothes that are not restrictive, allowing you a full range of motion.
Know Thy Season
If you’re exercising outdoors, always be cognizant of the weather. Temperature, precipitation, humidity, lighting and particulates in the air can all affect the quality and safety of your activities.
Layer your workout clothes during colder months, and even during fall and spring if you exercise in the early mornings or late evenings. Wear items you can easily remove (and carry or wear around your waist) as your body temperature heats up during your workout. You lose 40% of your body heat through your head and neck, so choosing the correct headgear is very important; in the winter, double-layered hats are a good option, and in the summer, I find a light bandana made from a synthetic material (rather than a bulky cap) works very well.
Wear lighter-colored clothes in the summer, and be wary of slippery leaf fall in the autumn and ice in the winter. Puddles after a heavy rain aren’t too much fun either if you happen to jog right into them.
Finally, for those men who favor running often, you may consider adapting a dedicated running top to incorporate four distinct corners, allowing you to attach tzitzit directly onto the top, circumventing the need to wear an additional layer underneath that may be uncomfortable during hotter temperatures. I advise consulting with your Rav to discuss the options.
In next week’s article, we’ll discuss the five remaining exercise clothing tips, including (5) tailoring your attire to the activity, (6) getting inspired, (7) supportive undergarments, (8) appropriate footwear and (9) tzniut. Don’t miss it.
Chemmie Sokolic is an ACSM-certified Personal Trainer, and owner of Frum & Fit LLC. Chemmie can be reached at [email protected]. Visit www.FrumandFit.com or www.Facebook.com/FrumandFit for more information.
By Chemmie Sokolic