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Gym-class heroes

Under pressure to get fit and feel the burn? Make sure you find the right kit for the job – and that you look as stylish as possible, says Rebecca Gonsalves

The last verse of “Auld Lang Syne” has barely trailed off to an incomprehensible whimper and the bubbly in your glass still fizzes away, but already the pressure has begun to mount. New year, new you.

What will you resolve to change about yourself this year? How will you smooth out those imperfections? Whether they are of the too-short-of-breath or too-large-of-thigh variety, there is plenty in these early days of the year to help to inspire you to be the best you can be.

Motivation can come from any direction – whether you've signed up to an expensive gym as a treat, plan on jogging around the park with a colleague at lunchtimes (spurred on by the chance to leave your work in the office, but not the gossip) or will be catching Zumba fever at your local church hall – there must be a reason so many rave about it, after all. However you choose to get the blood pumping, there are some basic bits of kit that you mustn't scrimp on.

Take that battered pair of Converse for a start – they're not going to absorb the shock of running on the pavement, and there's nothing to put you off exercising more than the pain of shin splints or a sprained ankle – just think of your knees, please. If you're feeling flash, take a trip to the fifth floor of Harrods, and experience its personalised sports-shoe service. Called "Mi Adidas", the process begins with a 45-minute consultation with the in-house experts, who will analyse your running style and gait with a virtual video of you running on a treadmill. Once the problem areas are identified, you choose from two unisex running shoes and then the fun starts. Every aspect of the trainers can be customised, from the technical – width of both feet, the density of the midsole and insoles – to the purely aesthetic – 800 colour options and optional name embroidery on the side (for what it's worth, I'd go for "Champ"). There's also the option of a thermo footbed to ensure a perfect fit.

If this makes you feel exhausted before you've even started, Nike's iD range offers a similar chance to put your own stamp on your shoes, choosing between styles, colours and cushioning online.

Shoes sorted, the next vital purchase is a sports bra – as in so many things, you can never underestimate the value of support, and let's face it, giving yourself two black eyes is not a good look. Loved by those in the know, Anita Active has a range of supportive bras which will stabilise the soft tissues and minimise pain when exercising. They are available in a range of support structures for everything from low-impact sports such as yoga to high-impact exercise such as running. The usual suspects are also well equipped to, ahem, handle your assets – Triumph has a great range, as does Marks & Spencer.

These are the necessities and although it can be worth shopping to the top of your budget, finding the right fit is most important – this is not a time to buy the first item you find.

Building up from the basics is the next step, and as with exercise, caution is recommended – though there is no need to check with your doctor first. There are all sorts of sporty styles from which to choose. If the idea of a traditional sports brand conjures up the wrong memories of school PE classes and not having the right kit, both Adidas and Puma have big-name signings creating design-led pieces. For Adidas, Stella McCartney was first inspired by the lack of colour and choice in women's sportswear and has stuck to her guns, focusing on performance and using technical fabrics since the collaboration began in 2004. At Puma, Hussein Chalayan – that stalwart of innovative design – has chosen a colour palette of coral and purple for a spring collection inspired by the velocity of wind and flight. Not just for the gym, the outerwear pieces incorporate technical fabrics and details such as mesh panels.

For gear that's recognisably meant for the gym, GapFit has a range to suit most types of exercise, from contoured leggings for running to a choice of high- or low-rise looser-fit trousers for dance, yoga or pilates. The bottoms come largely in basic blacks, but inject some colour into your workout with crop tops, T-shirts and hoodies in a zingy citrus palette.

Trousers can be too hot for some workouts, of course, so consider shorts; you may feel self-conscious in the changing room but once you keep your cool when exercising, any qualms will fly out the window. Nike's range of running shorts are well thought-out with secret pockets and inbuilt knickers, while the sports-luxe label 3.1 Phillip Lim has a vibrant pair of towelling shorts which would work well for yoga now – and a trip to the beach later.

A zip-up jacket is worth investing in, too, especially if you're exercising outside – after all, you'll need to eliminate any excuse possible.