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Sportswear that’s stylish and practical | Rick Edwards

I have signed up to do one of these insane obstacle races in 10 weeks’ time. You know – 12 swampy miles punctuated by walls that are too high to get over, slopes too slippery to climb, water too icy to swim in, and wires too electrified to touch (although they will definitely touch, and electrocute, you). I have been assured that when (as in, if) I finish the event I will be overcome by the sense of achievement, and warmth towards my fellow competitors. Currently that feels quite a way off. What I am embarking on is two months of hellish exertion and pain and frustration. I’m trying to do some form of exercise every day, which is bad enough, but even worse is that it means I am obliged to wear sports kit every day.

The words “sports kit” make my heart heavy. They immediately conjure memories of white vests and thick blue shorts with elasticated waists and the terror of forgetting to bring it to school. (“You’ll have to wear this skirt from lost property, etc.”) Frankly, the situation hasn’t improved much. The majority of athletic apparel is in colours made popular by Stabilo. I realise that this is partly for safety, but you can take “being visible” too far. And given the pace I’m going at, I don’t want to draw attention to myself.

Consequently, I’ve been going for monochrome stuff (sometimes with lurid trainers, for fun). Yesterday I set out for a run in a simple grey marl Nike tee, quite fitted, and came back having sweated so much it was reminiscent of a Rorschach ink test. Not at all flattering. So from now on I’m sticking to white or black, and loose cut, and maybe a Sars mask for disguise purposes.

Gymwear is even trickier. I do more reps of staring at other people’s clothing choices than I do of, say, squats. Recently I was very taken by a man on the shoulder-press machine who was wearing smart black shoes, bootcut jeans and a military-style peacoat, done up to the collar. He would fall asleep for two minutes, then wake up, do some presses, and then go back to sleep again. Pretty lively stuff; hard to recommend. Lots of gym-goers now seem to be wearing “compression” tops and leggings: if you’re in shape it looks great, but if you’re not, you end up resembling an icing bag being squeezed. So I’m steering clear until I’m sufficiently lean.

I had been wearing regular jersey hoodies to go to and from the gym, or run in, but they just aren’t breathable enough. So I was pleased to discover a brand called Arc’teryx, which makes simple, light outdoor gear – but that doesn’t look super outdoorsy. I now have one of their featherweight running jackets that keeps me warm, but not too warm, and dry.

Unfortunately I suspect that getting all the gear together is the easy bit.

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