x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Getting into gear for active loathing

There may be a way to wear exercise clothing and look fashionable but we haven't found it, yet.

Gym slip-ups: the singer Madonna (right) with her former personal trainer Tracy Anderson after a workout.
Gym slip-ups: the singer Madonna (right) with her former personal trainer Tracy Anderson after a workout.

Only a fool refuses to change her mind. But having spent weeks looking at every piece of activewear (formerly known as "gym gear") out there, I still think it's horrible. My best (and what is quickly becoming my worst) Christmas present this year was membership of a gym. I had let slip to my husband that my new year resolution was to get fit. I also left him hints that the swanky private school around the corner - whose state-of-the-art swimming pool is the stuff of local legend - was advertising reduced weekend gym membership.

Knowing he is a sucker for a bargain (and an outright gym snob), I lost no time in shopping for something to wear. The first gym I joined years ago was full of professional women with a fondness for pink. On my first day I remember putting on the free Tshirt I had been given in my "starter pack" and blushing their favourite shade as I realised I'd got the dress code so wrong. Next was a small, exclusive set-up close to my flat. Fashion-wise it was low-key and seriously sporty, as I learnt to my cost when I wore Christy Turlington's (then) newly launched Nuala range for Puma, complete with a box-fresh white turban and yoga shoes and a Gucci yoga mat.

This time I was determined to get it right and - oh joy - it turns out my lovely gym even has its own shop. This sells Nike's Yo-Girl Tshirts, which have Japanese manga cartoons on the front, along with Tshirts by Velvet and the yoga brand Chibi. Clearly something has happened in the years during which I opted out of the ladies-who-lunge brigade. Instead of being aimed at middle-aged, BMW convertible-driving types, activewear is now designed solely for gap-year students.

Take sports bras - the ugliest clothing creation ever. These are now built into saggy tops, which make you not only look, but also feel, like a blimp balloon. Given all the leggings around, track pants - which, as we all know, make your bottom look big - are the preferred choice and no one has come up with a trainer that doesn't make even Madonna's calf muscles look like those of a rugby centre-forward.

Just as I was thinking all was lost, I got a call from a PR inviting me to a talked-through presentation of the latest Stella McCartney for Adidas range. Despite the designer being a "no show" (meeting McCartney was the only reason I went) and the fact I had to put up with Wings as background music, I was glad I had made the effort. Having become super body-conscious thanks to sweaty sessions with Tracy Anderson, the personal trainer she shares with the actress Gwyneth Paltrow and, until recently, Madonna, McCartney has clearly tried to shake up the modern gym kit.

Before I saw the latest cycling and triathlon addition to the range, I'd have told you her sports collection had a slight feel of "rearranging the deckchairs" in terms of anything new. But then again, there is only so much you can do with a top and jogging pants, isn't there? "Cycling is particularly close to Stella's heart," Emma Willey, the category manager for Adidas, told me. "She comes in on her bike for meetings in London and tests everything before putting it in the range."

Aha. So that explains the slashed mesh tights in breathable fabrics and the super-lightweight bomber jackets, which appear to have the texture of crunchy paper and yet are silky soft. Then there are the jeggings: lycra snow-wash effect leggings inspired by denim skinny jeans and a cotton top with shoulder pads (shoulder pads!). This has been ordered by the Asian boutique Lane Crawford as a fashion rather than a niche-sportswear garment.

Techies will also be interested to learn that the new range comes in a similar revolutionary sports fabric to the ones Olympic swimmers were recently banned from wearing because they made them too fast. According to Adidas's research, many fashion-conscious women want to keep fit but hate going to the gym, which was the entire focus behind the new range. Did anyone own up to gym gear's having everything to do with this, I wonder?

I have been going to my new gym every day, so what, you ask, am I wearing? It's a strange thing but since I told my fashionable friends about my predicament I've been inundated with virtually unworn sports kits of every label you could imagine. You see, it turns out the average new year resolution lasts just six days.