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How to Wash Your Workout Gear

Remember the iconic scenes from the “Rocky” movies when Sylvester Stallone runs up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, pumping his fists in triumph as he reaches the top? Now, do you remember what he was wearing? Allow me to jog your memory: a full cotton sweat suit. While Rocky remains an inspiring character, when you consider the advances made in the materials used to construct workout wear, his choice of ensemble would be questionable at best in today’s world.

In 2015, you’d be hard-pressed to find any serious workout gear made from the same fabrics Rocky relied upon. To be sure, there’s a saying in the fitness industry, “Cotton is rotten.” This is a result of the fact that cotton absorbs and holds sweat during (and long after) workouts, making you feel heavy, hot and wet during exercise and then chilly when you stop moving.

The newest class of workout gear made from “technical” fibers will wick sweat away from your body and control temperature close to your skin. This means you’ll be more comfortable while working out, rather than lugging around heavy, sweat-soaked cotton. You’ll pay more for the performance wear, of course, but once you switch, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Just because today’s workout wear is high tech, however, doesn’t mean it’s stink-free. Some brands tout special antimicrobial properties, but, in most cases, a single workout will leave your duds rank and in need of washing.


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Since tech fibers can be more delicate than those of Rocky’s famous sweat suits, there are some general rules you should follow when washing them if you hope to preserve them. If you’ve ever washed your workout clothes only to find that they still stink after the fact, you’ve probably already come to this conclusion. Not only can washing them the wrong way mean they don’t get clean, but it can also degrade the fibers and shorten the lifespan of some very expensive exercise ensembles.

Here are the do’s and don’ts of washing your workout gear:

1. DON’T USE FABRIC SOFTENER

Fabric softener can often be blamed for keeping workout clothes from getting totally clean when they are in the wash cycle. Since it tends to coat these types of fibers, fabric softener prevents them from being able to absorb the water when being washed.

2. DON’T USE TOO MUCH DETERGENT

In the same way that fabric softener can keep water in the wash cycle from penetrating fabrics, so can detergent. Use slightly less than you would for your regular clothes, and this should limit the viscosity enough to do the job.

3. DO USE SPORT-SPECIFIC DETERGENT

There are a number of special detergents on the market formulated for washing workout clothes. If you find your duds are particularly stinky, this is a good thing to try.

4. DON’T LET YOUR GEAR SIT AROUND

Mold and mildew can begin to grow on workout gear that is left in a gym bag or laundry basket. Be sure to get those items in the washing machine sooner rather than later to prevent the buildup of nasty stenches.

5. DO SOAK STINKY ITEMS

By soaking the worst-smelling garments in a nontoxic sport-specific detergent and cold water, you can often eliminate anything that’s particularly pesky when it comes to odors. Throw them in a bucket or sink for a half hour prior to washing.

6. DO USE COLD WATER

Since technical fibers are generally on the delicate side, in most cases it’s best to use cold water to wash them. This will help maintain any special performance properties for many workouts to come.

7. DON’T COOK YOUR CLOTHES

Consider hanging your gear on a clothes rack to dry, or try line-drying outside. These approaches prevent you from drying out spandex, Lycra and other similar fibers.

8. DON’T SUBMERGE YOUR KICKS

Unless you’re ready to turn your workout footwear into lawn-mowing shoes, don’t put them in the washing machine. You can degrade the midsole cushioning and render them less protective when it comes to pavement pounding and other active endeavors. Instead, use a sports odor spray to neutralize odors. For best results, remove the insoles and spray both sides and the bottom of the shoes.

9. DO READ THE LABEL

Performance fabrics often require special care beyond these do’s and don’ts. Always check the label to ensure you’re maintaining the integrity of the performance fibers and any special attributes, like UPF, anti-odor or compression.

Written by Mackenzie Havey, a freelance journalist and coach based in Minneapolis. She holds a master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota and is a USA Track and Field certified coach. When she’s not writing, she’s out biking, running and cross-country skiing around the city lakes with her dog.

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Eco-Friendly Yoga Gear

Although yoga is chock full of strength building and flexibility, the practice is just as much about tapping into your inner good guy and finding more harmony, too. Let that impulse extend beyond your yoga studio or home workout space by choosing some eco-friendly yoga gear that’s as good for the planet as it is for your practice.

ECO-FRIENDLY YOGA MATS

There are plenty of mats out there, but going with a non-toxic choice is a good idea. Shift away from chemical additives by considering these three choices:

JADEYOGA

Using natural rubber and featuring a non-slip surface, Jade mats are some of the toughest you’ll find. Started by a former lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency, the company plants a tree for every mat sold. So far, more than a million trees have been planted — not only good for the planet, but a good indication of the popularity of the mats.

BAREFOOT ORIGINAL ECO YOGA MAT

Barefoot mixes all-natural rubber with jute fiber, so it has all the non-slip properties you want, while being easy on your hands.

PRANA E.C.O. YOGA MAT

The letters stand for “Earth Conscious Offering,” and the mat boasts a toxin-free manufacturing process that churns out mats without PVC, chloride or latex. Lightweight, non-slip and cushioned, the mat has closed-cell construction, which means it can resist germs and moisture.

ECO-FRIENDLY ACCESSORIES

You’ve got your sustainable mat, but your commitment to being earth-friendly doesn’t need to end there. Check out these accessories to round out your gear bag:

MAT TOWEL

An absorbent towel with a non-slip backing prevents sweat from soaking your mat and stays in place much better than an ordinary towel. Check out the Hugger Mugger towel, which is made from bamboo charcoal and is latex-free.


READ MORE > GETTING TO KNOW THE LINGO: YOGA


PROPS

These can come in handy when you need just a bit of help getting into a pose, or as a way to deepen a particular stretch. For example, you might use a block for triangle pose as a way to keep your chest open and your arm supported, rather than collapsing in the pose if you try to reach the floor.

The companies that make eco mats — JadeYoga, Barefoot, Hugger Mugger, Prana and Manduka — also make a number of environmentally friendly yoga props like blocks, bolsters and practice straps (Think: blocks made out of bamboo or cork and bolsters/straps made from organic cotton.)

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SPRAY

Like any workout equipment, a yoga mat can get funky if it’s not cleaned regularly. There are several non-toxic sprays on the market, including a very pleasant one called Mind Over Lather, made with eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils, which have antibacterial properties. You can also DIY a spray using vinegar and essential oils.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT YOGA SESSION

> Women’s Yoga Tops
> Women’s Yoga Pants
> Women’s Yoga Bras
> All Women’s Yoga & Studio Gear


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