February, March and April are often rife with unpredictable weather – one day may be sunny and warm while the next is gusty and cold. If you regularly exercise outdoors, you’re probably used to outfitting yourself with base, mid and outer layers to help keep you warm and dry; but, it’s not just outdoor exercisers who should layer up.

Gyms typically keep their temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees. While this may feel warm compared to brisk outdoor weather, it can still take as much as 15 minutes to get sufficiently warmed up for exercise. Fail to warm up sufficiently? You could place yourself at risk for injury.

You don’t have to let that happen, though! By layering up for indoor exercise, you can help your muscles get warmer faster, which will allow you to get to the “meat” of your workout sooner. But, rather than throw on unseemly t-shirts and your old college sweatshirts to stay warm, use these tips to choose flattering layers that will make you look hot, even when you’re still cold.


In most cases you only need to add layers to your upper body when exercising indoors, but you still need to make sure you choose pants that will keep your quads and hamstrings warm. Opt for capri- or ankle-length tights made of wicking material. Compression pants are a good bet because they’re made of thicker fabrics that hold your muscles tightly to encourage warmth. If it’s very cold out, throw a pair of sweatpants over the top of your tights to take you from the car to the locker room. You should feel warm enough once you’re inside to remove the sweatpants.


Lululemon Ebb & Flow TankUnlike outdoor base layers, the base layer you wear for indoor exercise is likely to become your primary workout top after you get warmed up. You want it to be a top you feel comfortable wearing around the gym, so avoid tees with pit-stains, armpit holes or a generally unflattering fit. Choose close-fitting tanks or tees made of a wicking material like the Ebb & Flow Tank from Lululemon. For the most flattering fit, look for tops that are long enough to hit the widest part of your hips.


Depending on the outside temperature, you may only need to add a single layer on top of your base layer. Start with a long-sleeved top that has a close-fitting shape, like the Brooks Versatile EZ LS. While wicking fabrics are always a good choice, cotton blends that are designed for warmth also work. As long as your base layer is wicking, the moisture will be carried away from your skin and you will remain comfortable. You may feel warm enough after 10 or 15 minutes to strip this layer off, but you may also find that if you’re lifting weights or doing lower-intensity cardio that you actually feel more comfortable keeping it on.


When it’s especially cold outside, you may want to add a lightweight jacket or hoodie on top of your long-sleeved mid layer. This outer layer will help your body warm up after braving the frigid outdoors. It’s not just the extra layer of fabric that encourages warmth, though. The fit of the outer layer really matters – choose a material that is breathable, lightweight and body-hugging to help hold your muscles’ heat close while enabling full range of motion. Look for full-zip options, like the Athleta Circuit Hoodie, that will be easy to remove during exercise if you start getting too hot.


Most fitness enthusiasts will be able to pull together a cute layered outfit with items they already have on hand, but if you’re looking for new, layerable tops, consider the Shabby Apple Blossom by Albion line of fitness apparel. Almost all of the tops are made with a breathable, spandex blend that hugs the body for a flattering fit. Many of their pieces also boast wicking material and extra length, enhancing overall comfort.

For the perfect layered outfit at the gym, pair the Lotus tank with the Hero top and the Cobra hoodie. All three pieces are lightweight, come in fun colors and offer interesting graphics that will boost your fitness style. Even when worn together, they don’t look bulky; plus, they provide the perfect amount of layerable warmth for any indoor workout.

Header image credit: Lululemon Athletica, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/4975051715/sizes/z/in/set-72157624795704641/