Chances are you have multiple pairs of athletic shoes in your closet, and some are better than others for certain workouts. Here’s some help in choosing the right footwear — whether you’ve got the shoes or need to buy a new pair — based on what you’re using it for.
General training days:For gym workouts that include weight training plus any athletic moves like plyometrics, agility drills or sprints, your best bet (and most cost-efficient option) is a do-it-all cross trainer.
Editors’ Pick: Reebok CrossFit Nano (made for CrossFitters but will work for all general lifting), $90-$120, Reebok.com
Running Days:Cross trainers can do almost everything, but if you’re doing medium- to long-distance running on a regular basis, you’ll want the added cushioning and foot-friendly engineering of a true running shoe.
Editors’ Pick: Spira Stinger 2, $110, Spira.com
Serious Power-/Olympic-Lifting Days:If you do big lifts like squats and deadlifts and Olympic moves (cleans, snatches) as part of a general lifting program or CrossFit, a pair of cross trainers will suffice. But if such lifts are your main focus, consider a specialized lifting shoe. Can you do squats in a pair of running shoes? Sure, but the heavier and more fatigued you get, the less safe it is, so tread lightly (pun intended).
Editors’ Pick: Pendlay Weightlifting Shoes, $130, Pendlay.com
Upper-Body Lifting Days:Only doing chest, back, shoulders and/or arms today? Feel free to make a fashion statement in some retro high-tops or a pair of Vans because high-level cushioning and support won’t be totally necessary. Just use caution when doing heavy standing lifts like standing shoulder presses.
Editors’ Pick: “Design Your Own” Chuck Taylor All Star Hi Canvas, $80-$95, Converse.com
Running shoes are sort of like car tires: Determining when to buy a new pair isn’t simply a matter of eyeballing the old ones and making a snap decision. Rather, mileage should be the primary judge. “We recommend changing out your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles depending on the shoe model and the runner’s personal gait,” says Bennett Grimes of Brooks Running (brooks running.com).
Hours of wear (or about once a year) after which a pair of cross-training shoes should be replaced, according to Dick’s Sporting Goods.
You may know what to do at the gym, but do you know what clothes to rock? We asked Bennett Grimes, apparel merchandise and design associate at Brooks Running (brooksrunning.com), to weigh in on a couple of key issues regarding workout gear.
tight vs. loose-fitting workout gear:“An athlete should wear what feels most comfortable to them. Each person needs different types of apparel at different times, so the right piece to wear is the one that feels best. Some athletes swear by tight clothing on a rainy day to keep cold, wet clothes from being weighed down and waterlogged. Tighter clothes tend to keep muscles warm during activity, so some people also prefer tights, for example, when they do faster workouts. Others don’t want to feel restricted during these workouts and look for a looser fit to allow for movement of the muscles. These things are very individualized and will vary depending on the athlete and their personal preference.”
when to toss that ratty old pair of gym shorts: “While many people wear the same pair of shoes to run in until they wear out, most wear a number of different shirts and shorts during that same time period. Some athletes are harder on their active apparel than others, whether that be a result of the environmental conditions like heat, wind, etc., or how frequently the piece goes through the wash cycle. The harder and more frequently an athlete uses a piece, the sooner they will need to replace it — especially if it’s a favorite shirt or pair of shorts that gets worn more often than others. Overall, the time to change out apparel is very subjective for each individual.”
Schiek 425 power series lifting gloves These have gel padding in the thumb and palm areas plus “easy-off fins” on fingers for convenient removal. $35; Schiek.com. Rogue leather lifting straps Don’t let your hand and forearm muscles be your weak link on pulling exercises. Try these bare-bones straps. $17; RogueFitness.com. Vitamin shoppe shaker bottleKeep this handy at all times. After workouts, put protein in it, add cold water, shake vigorously, drink, grow bigger. Done. $3; VitaminShoppe.com. Ogio 7.0 athletic bag Fit all your gym gear in this bodybuilder-friendly duffel, which includes a separate shoe pocket and food storage compartment. $110; Ogio.com.
You own a smartphone, but what are you doing with it? Hopefully, you’re using it for more than just talking, texting, emailing and playing Sudoku. Today’s smartphones can serve as a virtual personal trainer, which is way cheaper than the living, breathing version. Here are some of the best apps money (a few dollars or less, that is) can buy, depending on your goal.
for the gym rat:The Gain Fitness app allows you to customize training programs for your mobile device — everything from strength workouts to interval training to yoga. GainFitness.com
for the runner: If you have an iPhone (3GS or later), you can link it up to a pair of Nike+ running shoes to keep track of time, distance, pace and calories burned — all while listening to motivating music. NikePlus.com
for the crossfitter: The WODzilla iPhone app allows you to track WOD performances, one-rep maxes and personal goals while also letting you keep up with your gym’s programming when you’re traveling (or slacking off). WODzillaApp.com
for the dieter: Livestrong’s MyPlate Calorie Tracker app is great for anyone who likes to keep accurate tabs on fuel consumption throughout the day. One aspect we like about Livestrong’s calorie-counting programs is that they let you enter specific brand-name products (i.e., Chobani Greek yogurt, Grape-Nuts cereal) instead of just generic foods. Livestrong.com
gymboss This versatile interval timer will help keep intensity levels high in the gym, like when doing lifting circuits. $20; Gymboss.com
skullcandy fix in-ear earbuds These buds are specifically designed to stay in your ears even during vigorous activity like throwing weight around. $50; Skullcandy.com
polar ft4 heart rate monitorIt’s an entry-level heart-rate monitor, but it’s still accurate and will help ensure cardio sessions are performed at the right intensity. Plus, it counts calories burned. $100; Polar.com
If you’re into high-intensity interval training, you’ve likely tried Tabatas, the ultra-effective protocol that involves eight 20-second intervals separated by 10-second rest periods — it’s four minutes of pain that can translate into hours of fat burning thereafter. Smartphone Tabata apps are great, but iPod Tabata songs may be even handier. (You do have an iPod, right?) No need to keep an eye on a clock; just let the music tell you when to work and rest. For about a dollar, you can download any number of Tabata songs that play fast-paced music for 20 seconds followed by slower beats for 10. Search “Tabata” on the Apple iTunes store. Most selections involve dance/house music, but if that’s not your style, choose “Tribal Tabata” for something less clubby.