Starting an at-home workout can be as challenging as the workout itself. There are countless other things you could be doing—work on your computer, loads of laundry, tuning in to your favorite show from a comfy couch. Fortunately, the secret to boosting your motivation to work out at home is already in your closet: It’s your workout clothes.
Yes, the clothes you exercise in can not only improve your performance while working out, they can help get your workout started. “When you put on fitness gear, it is not dissimilar to an athlete putting on their uniform or an actor putting on their costume,” says Dr. Jonathan Fader, performance coach at SportStrata and former psychologist to the New York Mets and New York Giants. “When you put these specific clothes on, you initiate this process of getting into character that reminds you that you are ready to work out and you have a specific task to perform.”
Because getting dressed for a home workout is half the battle, make it as easy on yourself as possible to do so. If you exercise in the morning, put your workout clothes on right when you get up, rather than cozy sweats you’re less likely to want to change out of. If you work out at night, put your fitness clothes on as soon as you finish dinner or before you crash on the couch for some pre-workout TV. This way, you’ll be ready to go when it’s go time—and less likely to skip a workout since you’ve already got your activewear on.
Now, are certain articles of clothing more motivating than others? Yes and no, say Dr. Fader and his colleague Liv Massey, also a SportStrata performance coach. “In my experience, clothes that represent high performance tend to inspire higher performance in those who wear them,” says Dr. Fader.
“There may be a functionality element to this, such as more support in running shoes or a design that creates less rubbing and chafing, that creates performance gains,” agrees Massey, “but generally, the main element that predicts performance is of a more mental genesis.”
It could be a placebo effect, she notes, where you think that a piece of apparel will make you perform better, and that belief itself leads to a better result in performance. “If you have a lucky old t-shirt that when you wear it, you experience your best performances, you are going to continue to be reinforced to wear it!” she says. “Or, perhaps, we feel that we owe it to our clothes and to ourselves to exert more effort and energy during a workout where we are wearing apparel that was expensive and made to produce better performance. We spent the money—we should do everything we can to see the results, too!”
Whether you opt for high-performance gear or a high-school-era tee, what matters most, from a motivational standpoint, is that you’re choosing workout clothes that make you feel good. “This increased confidence can actually contribute to performance gains in addition to motivational improvements,” says Dr. Fader. “Fitness clothes help you feel more confident in your abilities and more inclined to get out there!”
Or, in this case, to stay in.