My Athletic Training Must-Haves: Clothing

Jen Xu
10 min readMay 5, 2018

I’m a big fan of being comfortable with what I’m wearing, and not being too cold or too sweaty. Of course, it’s not always possible with my job, but I do my best. I wanted to make a post about this for my own references for the future, so I don’t forget all the things I’ve learned from 4 years of working outside!

Pants:

  1. Stretch khakis are essential. For some reason, it’s really hard to find women’s stretch khakis, which is extremely annoying. And I mean really stretchy, not just how stretch jeans are slightly moveable. I ended up buying a pair of men’s khakis from American Eagle. They fit weird though, like they’re really tight in the butt, but if I got a size bigger they wouldn’t stay up. And they’re really short so even when I’m standing the bottom doesn’t touch the tops of my shoes — but this is fine because they’re not overly tight AND I can move around in them. I also have these 2 black pairs from Old Navy and they are slightly stretchy and wonderful. I have some pairs that aren’t stretchy and they feel…not so great.
  2. Khakis with pockets are nice — again, they seem to really suck at this with women’s clothes. I have some pairs that have fake back pockets. Can someone PLEASE explain this?? What is the purpose? Why can’t women’s clothing be fashionable and functional? Sigh. But that’s okay, I’ll just find the best ones I can and then also buy men’s clothing when I get tired of looking.
  3. I haven’t tried long pants they’ve specifically made for hiking yet, but that’s my next step. I’ll let you know how that goes. I imagine it would be wonderful, but maybe not very warm?
  4. There are also “patrol” pants and other types of moisture-wicking and khaki-material pants that Under Armor makes, for one thing. I’m going to try these as well. Pretty much anything that’s moisture-wicking is wonderful.
  5. Rain pants — definitely need these. An extra layer helps with the wind, for sure, but they’re perfect for when it rains. Which happens a lot in Pennsylvania. I have a pair of pants that aren’t necessarily waterproof, but they’re that weird parachute material that’s an extra layer and they’re actually quite warm. I got them from my first rotation at a high school and they’ve been with me ever since.
  6. Leggings — I don’t have a pair of “cold gear” Under Armor leggings yet, but I’ll be getting them soon (and with a government employee discount from govx.com!). So I’ve just been using a rather thin/tight pair of leggings I have — it’s better than nothing, and they have to be thinner and tighter so my pants actually fit over them. It makes an incredible difference!
  7. Shorts — the worst thing is getting the dreaded “swamp butt” in khakis. Well, not the worst thing. I’m there to do my job, I don’t really mind, but I’d rather not have that if I can help it, you know? It’s just uncomfortable. I read that some people were using golf shorts, but a pair of Nike ones at Dick’s were around $70. No way. I went to Eddie Bauer and they just happened to be having a sale, so I got 2 pairs of hiking shorts for $36 each (instead of $60). I got black because it matches with everything. So far, they’re great. No back pockets, which is weird, but 4 other pockets and some zippers! Amazing.
  8. Belt — I’ve worn the same braided leather belt for years. I think I’ve replaced it maybe once, but I liked it because it meant I could pretty much make it any size I wanted, and adjust it by mere centimeters than just holes. Then, at Eddie Bauer I found this “genius belt” that’s a slightly stretchy material, just enough so that it feels like a waistband. So when I sit, it’s comfortable and doesn’t dig into me. It also is really easy to adjust. It’s a hiking belt so I’d say it’s perfect for the job I do!
  9. As an athletic training student, I always had to wear khakis. But I also saw my preceptors/instructors wearing running shorts and sweatpants from time to time. I think that’s fine for practices, but not for games of course. So I’ll just see how wonderful that feels as I grow into this career. Which means I’ll probably want to have soccer pants at least for the somewhat warmer days, because those look somewhat nicer than giant sweatpants.
  10. One more thing — I’ve seen that flannel lined khakis exist… I have yet to see a pair myself in a store, or maybe I haven’t looked very closely. It looks like Eddie Bauer has some but I’ve only been in the store once in the summer. I imagine these would be the absolute greatest pants ever.

Tops:

  1. Polos are not the best. Dri-fit and moisture wicking polos are the best you’ll get, especially for a heavy sweater like me!
  2. Long-sleeve shirts: I always just bring an extra long-sleeved shirt, nothing special. It’s just an extra layer and it’s light to carry.
  3. Cold gear long-sleeve shirt: I have a Nike wool running shirt that I got freshman year without realizing how important it’d be 4 years later. It’s tight so anything and everything can fit over it, which is really important. I also have an Under Armour one for less cold days.
  4. Jackets — I have a “late fall” jacket, it used to be my winter one but now it’s too thin. I’ve never had to use anything thicker because I’m not usually outside doing sports in the dead of winter. I only wish it had zipper pockets, but that’s okay, I wear a bunch of other jackets that usually do.
  5. Rain jacket — I have an Adidas soccer jacket that works for lighter rain, but I always bring my other jacket when I know for sure it’s going to pour. And again, I always bring a few extra jackets. Layers are key, especially for the wind.

Socks/shoes:

  1. I learned early on that ice bags can help keep your feet dry and warm, although they tend to get really sweaty, but it’s not as bad as getting them soaked by the rain. You just wear them over your socks and tuck them in the socks, but make sure to tie your shoes tighter…I learned that the hard way.
  2. I’ve seen posts that wearing too many socks and having your boots too tight can cause issues, so I’ll have to look into that.
  3. Smartwool (which I guess is a brand of socks) is something I’ve heard to use, but I think any wool socks would be great. Also, one time I wore really long soccer socks under my leggings, which were both under my khakis and that felt GREAT.
  4. Shoes: I’ve found that shoes with a lot of drop and too much cushioning actually hurt my feet. My Nike Pegasuses actually hurt my feet, and I think it’s because of the drop and squishy-ness. I do better with flat “training” shoes, but I still make sure to rotate my shoes all the time. A lot of people use hiking boots in the mud/rain/cold, and when I did that my feet ached terribly because it didn’t allow me to push off on my toe. I’ll have to get better hiking shoes if I plan to do that. Also, I have to wear men’s sizes because for some reason every damn shoe company makes their shoes more and more narrow as we move into the future.
  5. Another thing for shoes: I have a pair of Flyknits that breathe really well and I love them in the summer. I tried to avoid wearing them early in the spring season though, because they’re really thin and my feet would freeze. So I guess you could say I have seasonal shoes, but not on purpose, I just like the way they looked and they feel really comfy.
  6. Last thing for shoes: the only problem is that most sports teams for colleges require you to wear Nike because it’s the most common sponsor, and their shoes are my least favorite. Then again, I’ve never had to wear Adidas shoes, but I could get away with the Sambas and other flatter shoes (but also, most schools tend to give those ultra boost-esque shoes that don’t do too well for me). But I always make it work, whether by wearing mens shoes or finding very specific ones that fit right.

Warm gear:

  1. Earmuffs or one of those “head scarf” things: my only issue is that when my ears get pressed down for a long time, they start to hurt along with my head. But I’ll wear these for as long as I can.
  2. Beanie: always good for those cold windy days when earmuffs and those head scarf things don’t cover the top of your head. The only thing is my head is really big, so sometimes hats are slightly tight and hurt my ears. The other issue that sometimes my hats get stretched, which then makes them harder to stay on my head.
  3. Gloves: quite honestly nothing blocks out the wind and cold that well so I always do gloves and use my pockets. Also, I sometimes wear rubber gloves under my regular gloves and that helps.
  4. Hand warmers — just remember that sometimes gas stations don’t have them until it’s actually cold out, it was tough getting them in October.

Other:

  1. Hat — it’s sun protection, helps at least a tiny bit with the cold, and I just like the way I look in it, aside from all the functionality.
  2. Sunglasses — I usually take them off when I’m talking to someone or looking at their injury, but I almost always wear them otherwise to keep my eyes safe and make sure I can see what’s going on. And you can really closely watch kids for their form and positioning without them realizing, which can be important for some injuries/soreness.
  3. Blanket — I always brought a blanket out to softball games, and it was wonderful because with the heater under us in the dugout, and the blanket over our legs, it was like a little heat bubble. Definitely saved my butt a few times. And it’s helpful even without a heater. I’m going to find one that’s more towel sized
  4. Chair — this is more for those tournament days when it’s understood that you can’t stand for all 10 hours of the day. I borrowed my former roommate’s chair all the time because it was this tiny, light thing that folded up into a small pouch. This summer I’ll be working some soccer/lacrosse tournaments (thank god there’s no football right now!), so I’ll definitely need that, but I don’t feel too happy about lugging around a heavy chair. I’ll see what happens.
  5. Clips on your backpack — for your water bottle, hat, and a few times I’ve rolled up a blanket, tied it with a shoelace, and then clipped it to my backpack.
  6. A strong bladder — I say this jokingly, but it’s true. I do have to work on this! But it’s so necessary for doing a good job and being there when you need to be. I tend to get nervous about needing to use the restroom…which makes me need to use the restroom.

Food:

Okay, I realized that this is actually a huge key for me feeling comfortable! So I’m going to list all the snacks that are filling and healthy.

  1. Yogurt — I don’t eat yogurt currently (I don’t know about the future), but it’s definitely a great snack for the earlier part of your day before it gets gross and warm.
  2. Nuts: I’m really lucky not to be allergic. I usually bring almonds, cashews (YUM but really expensive), walnuts, and sometimes peanuts.
  3. Plantain chips, sweet potato chips, veggie chips.
  4. Fruit — I usually do bananas, oranges (pre-peeled the morning of because it’s easier that way), grapes, strawberries, apples.
  5. Granola bar — now of course there are some that are unhealthy and might have lots of sugar and fat and unnecessary things, so I’ve talked with my mom about making it homemade, so that’ll be an experiment soon. But they’re definitely an easy option.
  6. Chia pudding — I do 3 tablespoons per about 1 cup milk (but it might be 7/8 or 3/4 cup milk). I usually do vanilla almond milk. It thickens up and then becomes somewhat like a pudding texture and it’s great. It’s also really filling! You just have to make sure you bring it in a thermos if it’s hot out so it doesn’t spoil.
  7. Rice cakes with peanut butter — the rice cakes aren’t too filling, but the PB is and it’s a nice combo.
  8. Chocolate coconut covered almonds — a little chocolate never hurt anybody! I get these from Trader Joes and they’re amazing in my trail mix, just a few makes it more fun.
  9. Protein bars — not my favorite because there’s lots of sugar sometimes, or extra stuff I don’t really want. But really great when you forget to buy snacks one day and that’s all you have.

Be prepared as you can, but prepare for the unexpected.

Being an athletic trainer requires a lot of imagination and creativity, with the funds and supplies that some places are able to get. It also requires you to be able to react to all types of situations. You never know what to expect. You can prepare for every potential scenario in your head, but it doesn’t always work out. And that’s extremely true for weather, which is why I check the weather all the time…but maybe a little too much. So for the most part I try to prepare well, but I also try not to bring too much and stress out, because being an athletic trainer also requires selflessness. You might not be comfortable all the time, but efficiency matters more sometimes.

But thankfully it’s the summer, where I won’t need much more than a hat, sunscreen, and a water bottle. And a toilet somewhere very nearby. Here’s to getting the best tan lines ever!

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Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.