Sweating in style may mean a better workout

Let's admit it: Most of us secretly scoff at the guys dressed like Tour de France contestants zipping down the boulevard in second-skin unitards embellished with pseudo sponsorships and technical fabrics meant to inspire world record speeds as they cruise into the coffee shop.

DEBRA D. BASS
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Modified: June 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm •  Published: June 6, 2012
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Let's admit it: Most of us secretly scoff at the guys dressed like Tour de France contestants zipping down the boulevard in second-skin unitards embellished with pseudo sponsorships and technical fabrics meant to inspire world record speeds as they cruise into the coffee shop.

It's overkill. It's laughable. It's fantasy. And it's often uncomfortable to watch (can't you pack a pair of real shorts, buddy?). But is the wardrobe choice really superfluous?

Not really.

It's a costume, yes. And it's probably going to make only a modicum of difference in the cycling time of a typical rider, but in the long run, some argue that the people who see themselves as professional cyclists because they look like professional cyclists are more successful cyclists. That means that they cycle more often.

In essence, how you feel is important, and it's not just the moisture-wicking.

Some wonder if professional-looking cyclists perform better because hard-core cyclists tend to buy hard-core gear or if hard-core gear inspires hard-core cyclists. Common sense will tell us the two are probably related.

The same theory holds true for interview clothing, the attire of bankers and even symbolic outfits such as a lab coat.

Researchers at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University determined that having subjects wear a lab coat identified as a doctor's coat actually increased their performance on certain tasks.

The researchers described the phenomenon as "enclothed cognition." It's a scientific concept that echoes the Pollyanna fashionista motto that if you look good, you feel good and that makes everything better. Now, it's more clear that if you look good or at least look the part, you really do perform better.

Perhaps it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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