Sunshine on My Spandex

Sunshine on My Spandex

How to beat the heat (and the sweat) with the latest in workout gear technology

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Women's tennis outfits from Tennis Zone in Centerville.

Women's tennis outfits from Tennis Zone in Centerville.

Dress for success” is a phrase we liken to men in sharp business suits or women with perfectly coiffed hair and a refined ensemble as they step into a meeting.
But it’s not exactly one that is paired with cranking out 40-plus miles on a road bike, or with a tennis player who swings her racquet with forceful ease. And it’s definitely not one we link to a sweaty runner pounding the pavement.

But why not? After all, the gear we choose to use or wear for a sweat session is, in fact, a large deciding factor in just how “successful” that workout will be. Planning on throwing on a cotton T-shirt for a run? Prepare to be miserable. Throwing on a dark shirt before hitting the tennis courts? Think again.
It’s not rocket science, but it’s a mistake we make often: Showing up ill-prepared for a workout. But with warm summer weather baring its sparkling teeth, choosing to not safeguard against toasty conditions is a risk not worth taking.

“The right gear is going to make you happier,” said Eric Contreras, manager of Runners Plus on Miamisburg-Centerville Road (runnersplus.com). “And it will improve your performance. [They need gear] that will make them comfortable, and want to get out and exercise.”

Contreras says the most important piece of “equipment” to consider is shoes. Poor-fitting shoes or ones that are inappropriate for a particular foot can lead to injury, and cost a fitness enthusiast his or her ability to pursue a sport. Get a gait and foot analysis — simple as that. Runners Plus offers one before they help you pick out shoes and it’s a necessary step in the shoe buying process.

You’ll thank ‘em later.

Next on Contreras’ gear list is a proper sports bra for women (protect the girls, ladies), followed by socks and performance clothing.

The keyword when it comes to what you are putting on your body? Breathable.

“Performance clothing, like moisture-wicking fabric, keeps sweat away from your skin, so you’re less bogged down by what you’re wearing,” Contreras said.

Samer Ortiz at Tennis Zone in Centerville (thetenniszone.com) agreed with Contreras, adding that tennis players should choose light clothing when playing outdoors in order to stay cool while exercising in the sun. The same color choice, of course, goes for any outdoor sport. Fabrics to consider when choosing performance wear are a polyester blend, bamboo and merino wool. Yes, wool. Trust me, it’s not the sheep-y wool you’re thinking of — I thought the same thing at first. But this fabric is oh-so-light.

When I visited Runners Plus, Contreras pointed out a few options, including the Nike Miler Short Sleeve T-Shirts for men and women, and a Nike Miler Tank for women. All of the tops are made from Nike’s famous Dri-Fit technology, designed to draw sweat away from the body. Other brands, like Adidas and Under Armour, make similar products for keeping the body cool.

As for socks, the EcoSox (ecosox.com) made from bamboo are a prime example of a choice that will keep feet comfy. The bonus? EcoSox are made by BBS Hoisery, a local family owned and operated business with a store in West Carrollton.

No matter your spot, Contreras said there is one golden rule to keep in mind when choosing your apparel: “Cotton is rotten.”

Don’t believe him? Try going for a long bike ride in a pair of cotton shorts or pushing through a run in a tank top made from the fiber. And if you’re like I once was and think “real” athletes don’t need expensive stuff to make them good at what they do, then cut it out. You might balk at the price tag of some performance gear (I sure do), but all you need is a few pieces at a time to slowly build your arsenal and ensure heat stroke is not in your immediate future.

Which brings me to my next point: Hydration. Talk about a summer exercise necessity.

“The body naturally loses more water/sweat in the summer, working out or not, so the need for additional water intake is essential,” said Amie Hoff, a NYC-based fitness consultant and founder of FitKit.com.

Hoff and Contreras both recommended carrying a hydration belt, like FuelBelt (fuelbelt.com), for long or particularly hot workouts.

And for those days when water just won’t do the job, other hydration elements, like Gatorade, are good to have on hand, Contreras said. You aren’t down with the excess baggage (i.e. sugar) Gatorade brings into the picture? Consider an electrolyte drink, like Nuun tabs [nuun.com], that pack the same punch without all of the additives that are in other drinks. (See photo)

OK, ready for a workout? Not so fast, eager beaver. Experts say one of the top mistakes we all make is thinking: summer weather = I’m a superstar athlete.
“Always use the first couple of workouts outdoors to gauge how you feel (eg. Am I tired? Am I sore? How fast can I go? How much water did I drink today?), so you can start to know how your body reacts in different climates/elements and then prepare accordingly,” said Laura Jackson and Amanda Quinn, co-founders of Canadian-based FitChicks (fitchicks.ca).

When I asked Contreras to tell me the biggest mistake people make when taking their workouts outdoors, he pointed to the sunny sky peeking through the store’s windows and said, “They come out of winter and they see this nice weather, and they go too hard too soon, leading to injury.”

So, take it easy folks. Get the gear in check before taking your workouts to land, sea and sky. (OK, maybe not sky, but you get the point — we’re going outdoors. Stick with me.) And don’t go all-or-nothing right away.

See ya out there, kids.

Caroline Shannon-Karasik has been a long-distance runner for 15 years and is a certified Pilates instructor. She is the author of the healthy living blog, TheGSpotRevolution.com and can be seen running throughout the streets of Dayton on a daily basis. Yes, she’s the one with the freakishly long arms.

Reach DCP freelance writer
Caroling Shannon-Karasik at
CarolineShannon-Karasik@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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