By Terri Rejimbal, RRCA certified coach
Whether it’s donning that suit for an interview or a sexy outfit to impress a date, we know that our clothing choices can affect how others perceive us. But, can our choice of clothing affect our own thoughts?
What we wear can affect how we see ourselves and our abilities by boosting our confidence and improving task-related performance. It’s called enclothed cognition.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, cognitive psychologists Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky from Northwestern University coined the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the influence that clothes had on the subjects’ psychological processes and propensity. Researchers theorized that wearing certain clothing (in this case a doctor’s lab coat) had a causal effect on the subjects to “embody” the clothing and its symbolic meaning of being attentive and confident.
In the 2004 Olympics, athletes in red uniforms won more events than their competitors in blue, prompting researchers to examine if there was a coincidence or correlation between the two colors. Findings were published in the Journal of Sports and Exercise Psychology that athletes who wore red vs blue clothing were able to lift heavier weights and had higher than average heart rates. However, it was inconclusive to determine that athletes who wore red won more often. So, don’t toss out your favorite blue running shorts!
Sports psychologist Stephen Walker also concurs with the notion that what we wear affects how we think, perform, and our confidence level. It’s your power suit. Just by wearing it, you know that you bring your best, most prepared, and confident self to running. What you wear can directly influence your performance.
Enclothed cognition may seem similar to rituals or superstitions like those favorite color socks, shorts, or safety pins that you religiously wear for every race. In enclothed cognition, unlike rituals, you are making thought-out and intentional choices because of the assigned qualities you have given to them. By giving the clothing attributes and power that you believe in, the wearer assumes the implied traits assigned to them.
When you embody clothes, you experience a mental shift. Another example of enclothed cognition is an actor putting on a costume for a performance. The actor expects to have a better performance, making him more mentally prepared for the task. Your race kit is as powerful as a lab coat or an actor’s costume. Its symbolic meaning and the act of wearing it empowers your superpower abilities.
Whether it’s a favorite running outfit, pair of socks, shoes, or color, we all have a power suit. It’s that outfit you sport for racing or hard training efforts. Your power suit prepares your mind and body to perform at a high level. Purposeful chosen clothes are a critical component to this psychological superpower.
So, how can you incorporate enclothed cognition in your routine? Take a look in your closet of running clothes, what kind of mental confidence boost or meaning does each article of clothing give you? Do those shorts make you feel confident and fast? Does that color spark assertiveness or intimidation? I have a lot of running clothes, but there are certain ones that I put on for tough workouts to feel strong and powerful and those for racing because they make me feel fast and confident.
To prepare for the right mindset, try this exercise: Take a moment to check-in with yourself and ask “How do I want to feel today?” Once you identify your intention (i.e., friendly, fierce, strong, confident, etc.) ask yourself, “What article(s) or color(s) of clothing will provoke me to feel that way?” Once you’ve identified the clothing that signifies your desired psychological state, pull out those pieces and engage your superpowers!
Confidence is in the mind. If you believe your clothing choices can empower you to exercise harder, increase focus and motivation, and improve your performance making exercise feel easier, put on your power suit, strike a pose, and hit the road.
Terri Rejimbal is a competitive Masters athlete, a 3-time winner and 8-time Masters champion of the Gasparilla Distance Classic half-marathon; 6-time Disney Masters marathon winner, 7-time Florida USATF Athlete of the Year, and a New Balance product tester. Terri is a RRCA certified running coach and available for consulting or coaching services. Contact Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook/terri.rejimbal, Twitter @trejimbal, or Instagram @bayshorerunner.