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Most people I know who like to be active relish the chance to do so outdoors. While summer might seem like the perfect opportunity to move your body around outside — and I mean, it is — there are a lot of things to consider when getting dressed for your workout that may not necessarily cross your mind during other times of year (unless you live somewhere blessedly sunny and hot year-round, like Florida or California).
Seasonal factors like the amount of sun exposure you want to deal with, increased body temp, and more sweat to contend with need to be weighed against more typical concerns, like the amount of support your sports bra offers, or — a favorite topic here at Racked — chub rub. For me, I basically want to be wearing as little clothing as possible without risking chafed thighs or a sore chest, so that means running leggings with some ventilation and a sports bra, or a sports bra plus a breathable tank top.
For others, it could mean anything from shorts to long-sleeved coverage from the sun. Whether your sport is tennis or trail running, we’ve pulled together some of the best options for warm-weather workouts below, broken down by category. Still want more? Check out our comprehensive guide to buying clothes online.
Tracksmith’s running shorts are super thoughtful (like this pair, designed to let you swim mid-run), but can be a little pricey. At $58, the Session Shorts are the brand’s cheapest option, but still come with features like super-light antimicrobial fabric and a secret back pocket. At the lower end of the spectrum, Gapfit’s gSprint Shorts also feature moisture-wicking, breathable fabric and a secret pocket, but ring in at almost half the price (with some colors and prints on sale for $24.99).
Athleta has more than two hundred different tank top styles — and that doesn’t seem to include all of the 251 tank top results currently in the sale section — in all manner of material and cuts, including this ultra-thin one that is the shirt I always hope is clean when I’m grabbing gym clothes (it looks so good on I’ve worn it with jeans, and is extremely comfortable even after getting really sweaty). While the brand can feel expensive at full price, discounted prices start around $8.
H&M’s activewear line has some simple, good options too, including this running top with mesh panels at the armpits in a dry-fit fabric.
Crop Tops & Sports Bras
If you’re more of a crop top or sports bra/shirt hybrid person, head to a site like Bandier or Carbon38, where you can browse all the fashion-y athletic brands in one place — or just go directly to Alala or Varley, which are making some of the best options this season. Target and Victoria’s Secret Sport have some similar looks for less money. Note, most of these sports bra or cropped tank tops have matching leggings or shorts, too, and not all are meant for high impact.
Lululemon makes a ton of different short styles (around 40 options) designed for different activities, but in my opinion the brand’s spandex shorts are what they’re best at. Try the super short Wunder Short if you want something barely there, or go with the six-inch Train Times Short if you are looking for some thigh coverage. They’re high-waisted and feature a mesh panel (for ventilation) and a back pocket, so they’ll work for anything from running to acro-yoga in the park.
You might not expect it, but Nike’s spandex shorts are pretty affordable (they range from around $16 to $35) and come in several different lengths, colors, and prints. Most lack the pockets that Lululemon’s shorts come with, but feature technical fabrics that dry quickly.
Some people, myself included, still go for the coverage of leggings even in summer heat — just look for mesh panels or breathable fabrics if you’re worried about getting too hot. Alo Yoga makes several styles that fit the bill, but the Coast Leggings — which come in a stirrup legging, capri length, and a high-waisted capri — seem to have the most appropriately placed panels for ventilation rather than just fashion (behind your knees where most people tend to get extra sweaty). Old Navy makes a similar version that’s pretty affordable at $25 on sale.
British retailer Sweaty Betty makes some of the most attractive active swimwear on the market; it’s designed to give you support while swimming laps, but look cute enough to wear for a regular beach day, too. Options include swim bra top and bottom sets or one-pieces, like the color-blocked option above or the ultra-simple Dolphin Swimsuit (which we’ve praised before).
Athleisure brand Aday also makes a great active one-piece, with the added bonus of being reversible — opt for white on one side and turquoise or navy on the other. On the cheaper side, H&M also makes a great simple sporty black suit for $35.