16 Apparel & Accessory to Boost Your Athletic Performance


Last Updated on April 23, 2021

Are you stuck in a fitness rut? Tired of the same old exercise routine? Worried that your lackluster athletic game means you’re not seeing the results you’re capable of?

Workout fatigue is a real thing, and it’s exacerbated by inadequate gear. If you’re looking to turn over a new leaf in the gym, on the track, or out on whatever course you call home, perhaps it’s time to invest in your athletic repertoire.

These 16 apparel and accessory items could help boost your athletic performance. Look for those not already in your lineup and prioritize them as your routine demands.


1. Wireless headphones or buds

As this list of the best wireless earbuds makes clear, there are earbuds, and then there are earbuds. Your workout probably requires the latter.

We won’t venture to guess at the precise mix of needs that govern your search for quality wireless earbuds, but chances are good you’ll want a pair that can actually back up its waterproofing claims. Far too many workout routines are waylaid when sweat or wax accumulation causes earbuds to malfunction or cease operation altogether.


2. Men’s Running Underwear

men running underwear

What makes a great pair of running underwear? As these Faveable top choices make clear, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the, ah, issues guys face during vigorous workouts. Each pair on this list takes a different approach, and it’s really up to you to determine which makes the most sense for your needs. Don’t feel the need to measure up to other guys or do whatever it seems like the rest of the crowd is doing — all that matters is that your running underwear work for you.


3. Compression shorts

Compression shorts

Although compression shorts technically qualify as running underwear, to call them underwear alone would be to sell them way short. True compression shorts work just fine for single-layer outfits, maintaining definition and temperature in high-temperature workouts without sacrificing comfort or performance. When excess padding isn’t required, they’re fine stand-ins for specialized bike shorts. And, compression wear may even have health benefits.


4. Compression Socks

Compression socks help maintain and improve blood flow during exercise. As with other types of compression wear, the jury is still out on whether there’s real medical benefit to regular compression sock usage, but the fact that thousands of serious athletes swear by their efficacy is a point in their favor all the same. Expect to pay more for compression socks than your typical set of gym socks; whether the performance boost is worth the cost will depend on your budget and goals.


5. Compression sleeves

Get the picture yet? Compression wear is serious business for serious athletes. Again, the mantra here should be: “If it works for you, it’s worth it.” Don’t put too much stock in the naysayers’ chatter; be equally skeptical of claims that seem too good to be true.


6. Sleeve or hip holster (for your phone)

Sports walkman

Your wireless earbuds or headphones are only as good as whatever’s on the other end. Rather than clutch your phone or music player like an old-school Walkman, secure it to your frame with a durable sleeve or hip holster. If you’re one of the few committed athletes who doesn’t rely on a motivating soundtrack (more power to you!) your holster may still come in handy for fitness-tracking purposes — after all, you can’t map your route or take biometric measurements when your smartphone is stuck on the kitchen table.


7. Resistance band(s)

Say goodbye to boring old static workouts and hello to reps-on-the-go with a resistance band — or several, if you’re looking to replicate most or all of your in-gym routine wherever you happen to be right now. If the latter, cash in on a multi-band set with color-coded resistance levels. Start light and work your way up to the highest levels as you make your gains, taking care not to overexert along the way.


8. Yoga mat, preferably with a carrying strap

woman stretching on yoga mat

Speaking of working out on the go: few accessories come through in the clutch like your standard-issue yoga mat with a durable carrying strap. Roll it up and strap it to your bag, bike, or back for a truly portable mindfulness experience.


9. Foam Rollers

Foam Rollers

In terms of simplicity, foam rollers may have yoga mats beat. These versatile little workout implements support a dizzying range of low-impact exercises, according to Women’s Health. They’re also great for post-workout stretching and massage, far more so than rigid self-massagers that can’t fold up and fit in your bike bag (they barely fit under the couch or bed, it should be noted).


10. Workout vids (Subscription or a ia carte)

Raise your hand if you’ve tried Peloton’s video subscription service. Don’t be shy.

Look, it seems weird to pay for workout videos of any sort in this era of endless content. But quality still commands a premium. If you need verbal or visual motivation to kick it into a higher gear, shelling out $20 (or whatever) per month in lieu of a full-time gym membership may be just what the personal trainer ordered.

Failing that, spend some time tooling around YouTube’s vast trove of exercise videos. You’ll find a wealth of free instructional and motivational clips there — some long enough for your entire routine, others bite-sized enough to sneak in on a commercial break.


11. A fitness band & connected app

Are you late to the fitness band party?

The bad news about that: right now, as you read this, you know far less about your workout (and how your body responds to exertion) than your band-toting peers.

The good news: fitness bands have never cost less than they do today. You can pick one up for less than the cost of a month’s supply of weekday morning lattes.

For best results, choose a band that’s fully compatible with your smartphone. There’s no sense collecting all that data if you can’t make sense of it in real time.


12. At least one other legit fitness app


Don’t stop at your fitness band and app. Grab at least one other legit fitness app while you’re at it. MapMyRun is super popular for distance runners, for instance; Stronglifts 5 x 5 is indispensable for serious lifters (and amateurs looking to buff up fast).


13. A quality water bottle (Smarter is better)

Fitness bands aren’t the only smart workout accessories worth the investment. Smart water bottles track water consumption to the drop and use real-time data to prompt users to drink more. If you struggle to stay hydrated on long workouts (or your daily bike commute), a smart water bottle needs to be at or near the top of your fitness accessory list.


14. Push-up stands

Tired of sleepwalking through the same redundant push-up positions? Push-up stands, which resemble miniature curling stands, could make a real difference in your motivation level. They may also help ensure that you’re living up to the theoretical promise of your push-up routine by working peripheral muscle groups that sometimes get short shrift in DIY sessions.


15. Multiple free weights (and storage)

Speaking of simple workout aids: In terms of pure ROI, few accessories measure up to free weights. Do your at-home strength training routine a favor and purchase a half-dozen dumbbells in various sizes — ranging from 2 to 15 or 20 pounds, depending on your needs and appetite — plus a compact storage pyramid to keep them out of the way.


16. All-purpose gym bag

gym bags

No one likes a smelly gym bag, least of all your coworkers. Swap out your decrepit old canvas tote for a high-tech bag that offers an optimal mix of storage capacity, compartmentalization, and ventilation. Bear in mind that how you exercise may be just as important to your choice of gym bag as where or when you exercise, as this gym bag guide makes clear.


16. Quick-dry towels

quick dry towel

Take Your Workout to the Next Level (Without Breaking the Bank)

It’s only right to end a list of essential wardrobe apparel and accessories with a reminder that getting in shape shouldn’t mean putting your household budget on a diet. You can acquire everything you need to keep your workout game on point without making undue budgetary sacrifices.

What’s the secret to taking your workout to the next level without breaking the bank? Plenty of experts have weighed in on the topic, and you’d do well to read what they have to say.

MyFitnessPal found more than three dozen fitness experts to offer general-purpose tips for cost-conscious fitness buffs. WebMD has a half-dozen evidence-based budget-slimming tips for athletes seeking advice from medical professionals. And Save the Student offers miserly guidance for athletic youth keen on balancing work, play, and studies on their meager (often entirely borrowed) incomes.

Whatever fitness-facing budget tips ring true, the most important thing is that the healthy new you isn’t completely broke. In the worst-case scenario, you can defer purchasing some of these items until you’re in a better financial position. As any athlete knows, tomorrow is a brand new day.

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