7 Things You Need to Know About Your Workout Clothes

With the early stages of 2016 a new workout routine under your belt (...or not), come the opportunity to shop for a new gym wardrobe! But with all the cute options out there and all at different price points, where do you begin? How much should you really spend on a pair of black leggings? What's the right kind of sports bra for your workout routine? And how do you even take care of your gym clothes to ensure they last the longest? We did some digging and got all the answers for you:

1. Those leggings are expensive for a good reason

Shopping for workout clothes can put a dent in your wallet. If you’re looking for name brand or designer workout clothes, you’ll definitely have to splurge a little. But why are workout clothes so expensive?

"There are a lot of reasons why some workout clothes are more expensive than others," says Alexia Clark, a personal trainer. "Sometimes it could just be the 'brand name' but there are a lot of workout clothes that are made from special materials that fight against odor and dry fast so you won't be drenched during your whole workout." Higher priced workout clothes made with sweat-wicking abilities and UV protection will last longer. If you’re worried about the price tag, keep in mind that the items you’re looking at will likely have better performance than cheaper items. It will be worth it in the long run (pun kind of intended)!

2. Wash the entire outfit after every use

Some people think it’s okay to wear workout clothes more than once before washing them. However, this can cause bacteria and yeast to build up, especially if your gear is tight-fitting.

"Gym clothes should be washed after every workout," emphasizes Stephanie Alexis, founder & chief stylist at Style Studio. "There are some clothes that can be worn multiple times before washing, such as jeans, but workout clothes are not one of them. After a workout session, you and your clothes are sweaty, stinky and more than ready for a good wash."

Haley Cahill, a graduate from Appalachian State University, had a negative experience after wearing a sports bra more than once before washing it. “I've always tried to get 2 to 3 or even 4 to 5 wears out of a sports bra before tossing it in the laundry,” she says. “I would typically come home from the gym and shower, but I'd let the sports bra air dry and throw it back in my gym bag for the next day.” Haley noticed that she was getting bad acne on her back and chest, and it only cleared up after she wore a clean sports bra every time she worked out. “Even if I had a light workout and didn't sweat much, I can only imagine the dirt and bacteria that was getting trapped on the sports bra in addition to sweat,” she says. Doing an extra load of laundry is definitely worth avoiding bacteria growth!

Related: A Guide to What Kind of Underwear You Should REALLY Be Wearing to Workout

3. Let each piece dry before putting it in the hamper

If you put sweaty workout clothes into your laundry basket without letting them dry, you’re giving them an environment to grow bacteria in. You may think this doesn’t matter since you’re washing them anyway, but it can give them an unpleasant odor.

"I usually hang my sweaty workout clothes on the side of my hamper so let them dry out a bit before throwing them in with the rest of my clothes," Clark says. "That way my whole hamper full of regular clothes that are not made from special odor-fighting [materials] doesn't get smelly."

In addition to making your clothes smell, putting sweaty workout clothes in your hamper can cause bacteria to grow. "If your gear is super sweaty, let it air dry before throwing it in the hamper so it doesn't grow any mold," says Jenna Transtrum, owner and founder of Senita Athletics. After spending the money on nice workout clothes, bacteria is the last thing you'll want!

Jenna Adrian, a sophomore at Drexel University, makes the same point. “You should never toss them in the hamper while they're still damp and sweaty,” she says. “This can result in a musty odor that is difficult or impossible to get rid of. Instead, hang them up (over the back of a chair, on your drying rack, etc.) to let them dry, then toss them in the hamper.” This simple hack will save you a hassle later on and keep your workout clothes smelling fresh and clean.

4. Avoid fabric softener

Although fabric softener can make your clothes smell good, it’s not ideal for workout clothing.

"Many of the sweat-wicking and compression materials don't do well with the softener and it will shorten the life of your garments," says Victor Adam, a health and fitness expert. Transtrum and Kyle Kranz, a running coach and social media coordinator for SKORA, agrees with Adam: avoiding fabric softeners or extra fragrences is your best bet! If you want your clothes to smell good, try a scented laundry detergent instead. If you spend the money on nice workout clothes, you want them to last!

5. Avoid high heat

Hot water and heat can break down the fabric your clothes are made with and lead to shrinkage. When washing your workout clothes, make sure you put them in cold water. When it comes to drying them, air drying is your best option—drying on low heat if it's a must.

"If it is compression (or generally elastic) it is usually best to dry workout cloths on a medium or medium-low heat," Adam says. "Again, most workout gear will be sweat-wicking/fast drying, so the lower heat won't slow the drying process down much." If you're worried about the material or possible shrinkage, stick to air drying.

"After washing your workout gear, I think it is best to air dry them either by hanging them to dry or laying them flat," Transtrum says. "The dryer could shrink your workout gear or affect the stretching fabrics." If you don’t have the time to air dry, it’s okay to put your clothes in the dryer on the lowest heat setting. As long as you avoid high temperatures as often as you can, your workout clothes should last longer and fit you how they did when you bought them!

6. The best materials are...

When it comes time to buy some new workout clothes, you'll want to know which materials are the best.

"Cotton workout clothes are not going to dry fast," Clark says. "I try to stay away from those because I hate the feeling of heavy sweaty clothes. Mesh and nylon/elastane tops are great!"

So what should you wear, if cotton isn't the way to go? "The best materials to work out in are the technical or performance fabrics," Alexis says. "They are usually made with polyesters and or/Lycra blends; they are designed to draw sweat away from the body. Try to avoid rough fabrics that could irritate your skin during a workout or repetitive movement." The most important thing to remember is to wear workout clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident!

7. Wear them with confidence

Wearing workout clothes that make you feel confident is extremely important. If you feel more comfortable in loose clothing, go with that. If you feel like you have more flexibility and range of motion in more form-fitting pieces, go ahead and rock it!

Now that you know the ins and outs of your workout clothes, you should have no problem hitting all your fitness goals! If you’re spending the money on nice workout clothes, be sure to take care of them correctly so they’ll last you as long as possible. You won’t only look great, but you’ll feel great too. Have a fantastic workout, collegiettes!