I know – from tough, first-hand experience – that, when it comes to going to the gym, it’s often the first steps that are the most difficult. And we can really get bogged down in the little details; I see it all the time when I get asked questions about taking up weightlifting. What trainers should I wear? Do I need a really good sports bra? Will I have to tie my hair up? I think I forgot my bobbin… Maybe I’ll just go tomorrow instead.
I’m not making light – trying something new, especially something we’ve never done before, can be really overwhelming and scary. I know I was terrified when I did my first class at Lift – firstly, that I’d be totally rubbish (I was, and it didn’t matter) but secondly, that I would do something wrong and show myself up for the amateur that I was (and still am).
Anyway, with that all in mind, I decided I’d start a semi-regular (because how often do things I call “regular” end up being so?) series aimed at essentially answering those little niggling questions people have that may prevent them taking the first step. First up:
What trainers should you wear to the gym?
This largely depends on what you’re going to be doing in the gym (duh!) but, as 99% of what I do is weightlifting, 99% of the gym questions I get are about weightlifting, too! We can start there – although, with one notable exception, all of the runners I wear can be worn to lift weights, to do a HIIT class (I do a 7am X Fit class in FlyeFit on George’s St that gets the sweat pumping in a serious way and is a great little 30-minute wake-up session), a spin session or kettlebells.
The one thing I generally don’t do is run – and for that, I would always recommend getting a gait analysis (that’s where a trained expert will analyse your foot strike – how your foot hits the ground – and recommend the perfect runner to minimise the impact on your shins, knees, hips and the associated joints). They do free gait testing in some Life Style Sports, Elverys and in the new Sports Direct on North Earl St.
(Duh!) Weightlifting trainers
I got a pair of Adidas weightlifting shoes for Christmas, from D8Fitness – the Powerlift 3.0. They essentially give you a really strong base for your lifting and offer great ankle support so that your ankles won’t fall in while you’re lifting. I find them especially brilliant for squatting and deadlifts. The heel is slightly raised, which gives you a teeny bit of elevation to help with squat depth. The one caveat? They’re not super flexible, so if your workout involves a lot of prowler runs, intervals and so on, you’ll have to change shoes between exercises, which is a lot of hassle.
If you’re serious about lifting, though, I’d highly recommend them. I had to size up a half size (which I never do!), so bear that in mind if you’re purchasing.
Nike also does a version – the Romaleos – but I’ve never tried them so can’t say what they’re like, and they’re €100 dearer than the Adidas pair. I know some people are just die-hard Nike heads though, so if that’s your poison, I’m sure they’re decent!
Flexible, natural fit trainers
My Nike Frees are both my oldest pair of trainers and my most-worn – they’re super comfortable with a neutral “ride” (trainer-tech-speak alert!) which essentially means that they don’t have a hugely supportive sole. Instead, the sole flexes to match the natural arch and bend of your foot, so you’re pretty close to being barefoot, at least insofar as the effect on your feet.
I have an orange pair that have survived a three-hour hike in Cuba, a seven-hour hike in Crete and several trips in the washing machine – and there’s life in the old trainers yet. I bought mine in the Nike outlet in Kildare Village (it’s very good, as is the one in Blanchardstown) – but they’re also available in a range of colours on Nike.com and Net-a-Porter has a white version that I think is identical to mine, on sale for €84.
Converse – yep, good ol’ Converse
When I first started lifting, I was really baffled as to how there were people in the gym, lifting seriously heavy weights, wearing Converse. Surely they were doing it wrong! Shouldn’t someone tell them?! (There is nothing worse, in gyms, as in life, than a newbie who thinks they know everything, incidentally.)
But, as it happens, Converse are pretty good for lifting – because they’re so simple. They’re super flat to the ground, again allowing you to get that “barefoot” feel. Because they have no heel cup, you can push your heels directly into the ground (getting “grounded” is really important when it comes to heavy lifting, and pushing through your heels can really help correct your form).
If you buy the Chuck Taylors (the high-tops), you get the added benefit of lacing them up your ankles for a little more stability without stiffness (because they’re essentially like a sock). They’re pretty much the next best thing to lifting barefoot or in your socks, which is another option! It just doesn’t work for me really because so much of my lifting is done in a Strongman class session, and I wouldn’t want to be taking on and off shoes in between exercises.
Nike Zoom trainers
These have a little bit more support in the soles – which means that I basically wouldn’t wear these for a heavy lifting session, especially if I was focusing on squats or deadlifts. For both of those lifts, I like to be a little closer to the ground, whereas these are basically designed for running, so have a good bit more support.
That being said, they’re super comfy – I love the Nike Flyknit range because they wash really well and they’re so breathable, meaning that my feet never get super sweaty in there. (Gross, but I can’t help it – I’m a heavy sweater.) My Zooms are probably one of my comfiest pairs, and the pair I’ll go for if I’m walking to the gym, or around town afterwards because they offer good support but are also perfect for a HIIT lifting session (where we’ll focus on high reps, with low weights) or any kind of gym-based classes.
This pair is on sale on Net-a-Porter right now.
Your bare feet
This won’t come as a huge surprise, given all of my “barefoot ride” spiel above – but you can lift weights in your bare feet, as long as you’re careful!
This won’t be for everyone (I don’t do it, for example, and I’ve been lifting weights for two years), but I included it so that you know the most important thing: it really doesn’t matter what trainers you wear. Sure, you’ll probably want to have shoes on your feet going in the door of the gym, but if you’re working with a trainer to get a weightlifting routine going, they’ll help advise you – and they’ll be able to work with whatever shoes you rock up in. I mean, probably don’t wear six-inch stilettoes, but you get the gist.
(Incidentally, I’d always recommend a personal trainer to start off; it’s so important to get the basics right and it’s really reassuring having someone there to make sure you don’t injure yourself or do something stupid!)
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