Thursday 22 March 2018

Let's get physical

After decades of being sidelined, fitness wear for women is finally not only being taken seriously, but, in the hands of Penneys, it is also affordable and dynamic-looking

Sports bra, €7; leggings, €13 (in stores end of January); trainers, €16 (in stores early February)
Sports bra, €7; leggings, €13 (in stores end of January); trainers, €16 (in stores early February)
Workout jacket, €25; sports bra, €5; leggings, €13; trainers, €16 (in stores end of January); socks (part of three-pack), €4 (in stores mid-January)
Sports bra, €12; leggings, €13
2-in-1 T-shirt, €8; baseball cap, €4
Vest, €7; leggings, €7 (both in stores end of March); trainers, €16 (in stores early February)

I have been sporty all my life. Thus I can state unequivocally that traditionally, in Ireland, performance wear for women has been dismal. Not even sports shops took women's athleticism seriously. It was always an add-on to men's styling.

The recent insulting 'relevance' debates as to women's rugby and football, were a further reflection to me of the resistance there is to encouraging women into sport. As a sportswoman, it all drove me bonkers, needless to say. Sport isn't just about competition - though I loved competing; it is about camaraderie, physical satisfaction and stress relief.

In the 1980s, Jane Fonda's fitness videos revolutionised women's fitness and clothing. But despite the massive consumption of boldly cut, coloured and motif performance wear then, women's performance wear went on to be ignored. Women in Ireland were consigned, again, to generic tracksuits for a further 20 years.

When Stella McCartney for adidas launched 10 years ago, I thought, 'Finally!' Too soon, it became 'designer' and not so broad reaching. But it served to identify, yet again, that women - oh my gosh, how radical - want dynamic wear for their activities.

The recession got us active, as running was free and a massive stress release. Amazingly to retailers, a new market was identified in a recessionary time; women's fitness wear (my teeth are now totally ground down from gnashing).

Nice fitness wear is hugely important to make you feel good about yourself and your body, especially when one is working out alongside gym bunnies. "Our customer wants clothing that will stand up to a workout in the gym but also looks really great, should she want to wear it to meet friends," says Angela Bannerman, Penneys' director of buying, womenswear.

A coordinated outfit is always the most flattering, and Penneys does them, in sizes eight to 20, down to matching gloves and sports bags. All Penneys stores currently have designated fitness and well-being areas, selling weights, foam rollers, mats and other sports aids, and for-activity-designed skincare and cosmetics.

Ladies, please, get a proper sports bra. If you don't wear adequate support, your breasts will be reaching your pelvis prematurely. Marks & Spencer do high-impact sports bras from 32A to 42GG, and also prosthesis styles for women who are post surgery. Do not wear an underwire bra doing a workout. Penneys do non-underwire light-to-medium control bras from 34B up to 40DD. Have I been explicit enough?

Now, go. Walk. Run!

Photography by Alex Hutchinson

Styling by Courtney Smith

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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