‘Honestly, it’s life changing’ is a regular series where we talk about the weird and wonderful possessions we can’t imagine life without. Think of it as an ode to the mundane, bizarre and, sometimes, wholly unnecessary products in our lives.
If a bad workman always blames his tools, can a lazy exerciser blame her gym kit? I was 25 before I even stepped inside a gym, getting through the whole of university without darkening the doors of its state-of-the-art fitness centre. I didn’t know how to use the machines and, besides, I didn’t want to look silly.
When I got my first job in London, I finally signed up to my local gym, only to roll up in saggy baggy tracky bums or thin-as-you-like black leggings – the kind that cost a fiver and show your knickers. Looking back, I think I didn’t want people assuming I was a “gym person” – and there was certainly no risk of that.
It’s no coincidence who gave them to me. My littlest brother is the biggest gym bunny in our family. He genuinely enjoys working out – weird, I know! – and perplexed by this, I challenged him to show me the light. That Christmas, I unwrapped a present to find the unmistakable grey and orange of a Sweaty Betty bag, containing the snazziest, jazziest pair of leggings I’d ever seen.
Blue, green and yellow with a hieroglyphic print design, they had professional-looking, breathable mesh panels on the front and back of the calves, and were fully reversible to black if the pattern got too much. In January, I wore them to the gym – jazzy side up – and immediately felt different. I was more alert to the curves of my body, but in a good way. I could feel my muscles move and my wobbly bits wobble. And instead of feeling exposed, I felt ready to go.
For the first time that New Year, I kept up my gym habit until April, the point at which I switch from gymming to swimming at my local lido – and even then I didn’t dread getting into a bikini. I wore my leggings to yoga, too, and they actually made me look forward to class. Or at least not mind it so much.
Now, I can’t find the exact same pair to recommend you because Sweaty Betty has a habit of rotating designs as quickly as Katarina Johnson-Thompson runs her 800m. The Power Mesh Gym Leggings (£85) have the same panels as mine, but only come in black right now, while the Power Gym Leggings (£75) are mesh-free, but come in a range of lengths and prints from blue camo to leaves to leopard print – there’s even a quiz to help you pick which styles suit you.
I’ll level with you. Sweaty Betty is super pricey so it’s worth looking out for sales (HuffPost Finds often does roundups) and I’m not 100% convinced expensive leggings are any better than cheaper ones – see what happened when my colleague compared New Look, M&S, Asos and Primark.
But I do recommend having a bit of fun with your sportswear. Since my family initiation, I’ve bought myself two pairs of cheaper leggings: one printed with a graphic snowstorm from Gap (where there’s currently a sale on) and a second flowery H&M set that channel Molly Ringwald’s character in Pretty In Pink (who wasn’t a fan of gym class either). I’ve also got a gym bag covered with jolly ladies in leotards from the Aussie brand Gorman which never fails to cheer me up – they no longer stock that print, but this palm tree alternative is also on sale.
God, I’ve become a gym bore. Here’s where I admit that leggings alone aren’t enough. I still find exercise totally eye-gouging without a playlist – mine starts with Beyoncé‘s Schoolin’ Life and ends with Set You Free by N-Trance (the 2000 remix) via a healthy dose of Little Mix and Carly Rae Jepsen.
But I won’t lie: I now love my leggings so much I’ve become one of those awful people who spends most of her weekend in leisurewear – even when I’ve gone nowhere near a cross-trainer. The moral of this tale? Don’t ever blame your kit, but do give it credit where credit’s due.
We all work hard to earn our money – so it shouldn’t feel like hard work to spend it well. At HuffPost Finds we’ll help you find the best stuff that deserves your cash, from the ultimate lipstick to a durable iron to replace the one that broke (RIP). All our choices are completely independent but we may earn a small commission if you click a link and make a purchase.