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With her fall goal race right around the corner, one of my best running friends went in search of the perfect versatile tank to wear on her big day. She fell in love with the Brooks Pick-up Running Tank Top, but couldn’t decide whether to go with the red or the blue. She was leaning towards the blue, but asked my opinion. I remembered hearing somewhere that red equals fast.
“Really?” she asked skeptically. “With all my training, strength work and mental preparation, could something as simple as the color of my shirt affect my running performance?”
She had a point. I had to investigate. When I did, I was shocked to discover an entire sect of psychology devoted to studying how color affects us. And guess what: psychologists say wearing the color red can improve athletic performance. But, so might blue! So what’s the right color shirt when you want to race your best? Well, it depends.
The rumor I heard about red was only sort of right. Red won’t make you faster, but it might improve your performance in some situations. If you are racing for place, red could help you come out on top. That’s because studies show that red has an intimidating effect on some of your competitors, but even this isn’t always a sure thing.
Red is a great choice for men who aim to compete against other men. Ladies, if your goal is to chick as many guys as possible, definitely wear red. But, if your goal is to race for place among other women, then red might not help you very much. That’s because the intimidating effect of red is far more pronounced in men than in women.
Red is a risky choice. Before you put the red shirt in your cart, you’re going to want to consider this: research shows that some people are prone to choking during performances when exposed to the color red. This might counsel against wearing red where you see it on yourself the most, like on long sleeves perhaps. And because the color red is stimulating, you might reconsider wearing it if you tend to get too keyed-up or anxious before races.
What about blue, you ask? Blue is a safer choice. While a blue shirt might not make you look intimidating or feel more energized, there are definitely benefits to racing in blue. Particularly if you tend to be one of those people who tends to get overly excited, who overthinks, or is easily distracted, blue might look great on you. In contrast to red, scientists suggest exposure to the color blue makes us feel safer, more open-minded and more at ease, which might help those who are looking to focus on executing a race plan while quieting negative thoughts or other distractions.
And what about all those other colors?
It might not be what you expect, but the best color for optimal performance could be green. One study found that cyclists who were exposed to the color green had lower perceived effort than those exposed to red or gray.
Yellow might be your color if you’re heading to a race and looking to make new friends, as people associate yellow with friendliness.
Interestingly, black, purple, and pink are all associated with sophistication according to researchers, which might make them good choices for coaches. Choose black if you want to also convey power, purple if you want to also convey authenticity, but opt for pink if you want to convey warmth along with your sophistication.
What color did my friend decide to choose for her Pick-Up Tank? She went with her gut and bought the blue. No matter what the studies show one thing is clear: there is no one-size-fits-all-runners when it comes to color. If there’s a color that makes you feel great when you wear it, then it’s the right one for you.
What’s your favorite color to wear on the run?
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