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Getting the Rundown on Sporting Apparel in Bristol

A local sports enthusiast offers tips on dressing for an outdoor adventure

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Mike Sarnowski, a partner with www.MadAthlete.com, has an extensive background in sales and project management for apparel manufacturing specializing in athletic wear. An avid cyclist and runner, Mike recently completed the 24 Hours of Untamed New England Adventure Race. He lives in Bristol with his wife Alix and their children Lily and Peter.

The fabric of athletic apparel continues to evolve over the years. What is the current trend?
It is all about “compression clothing.” The theory is that compression fabric, which is made using a blend of spandex, helps support muscles during exercise and then minimizes the pooling of the blood after exercise, lessening the recovery time for an athlete while also helping remove lactic acid in the muscles. This helps a triathlete, for example, to finish a long run one day and go on an extensive bike ride the next day with less risk of injury. With the growing popularity of triathlons across the country, compression clothing has filled a valuable need. The technology started out with medical patients and then made the transition to athletes.

How is the material used as clothing?
The most common uses are as socks, and sleeves for legs and arms. A sleeve isolates and focuses on one part of the body. A leading company that incorporates both the function and the fashion of compression clothing is Zensah. They make sleeves in every color imaginable.

What is the biggest influence you have seen in sports apparel?
For years, athletic wear was manufactured in very basic colors - black, white, navy, green – and running shirts and shorts in shapes geared to men. Then companies woke up and realized a large percentage of their customers are women athletes and there was a huge business opportunity to design and manufacture for women. We now see colors we never would have imagined ten years ago with pink being the most popular and neon colors from the 1980s are back. At the start of a race when you look down there is a rainbow of color from all the footwear and socks, which you never would have seen before.

What is an example of a new apparel design for women?
The popularity of the skort or running skirt has taken off. It looks great but more importantly because of the movement of the fabric away from the skin it allows more airflow. Also the capri workout pant is worn both for exercise and as fashion apparel.

As an athlete, what do you look for in sports apparel?
Three important needs are sun protection, wicking and safety. It is important to have clothing that has UV protection, is quick drying and has some reflective features for visibility. In the last 15 years the technology of wicking has been perfected – this is material that pulls the moisture from your skin to the outside of the fabric which lets your sweat evaporate into the air.

With Rhode Island weather that can change on a dime what is helpful to have before you head out for a run or bike ride?
A hat or visor and a packable weather resistant jacket that is breathable. Remember if it is waterproof it is not always breathable!