Performance where it matters, by James Cracknell OBE

Performance where it matters, by James Cracknell OBE

Back in the day when I was an elite athlete, my guiding belief was “never settle.”  For me, that meant continually searching for a higher performance level, in the same way that big wave surfers are always searching for a break that nobody has ridden and then working out how to ride it.  Never settling didn’t just apply to improving my physical capacity but also the equipment I used.  Ironically, the most personal piece of equipment was given the least thought, my clothing.

We spent so much time testing and refining the boats and oars we ultimately used at the Olympics but simply just raced in the kit we were issued. So, unlike any other piece of equipment, the clothing we actually raced in was pretty much hit or miss in terms of fit and comfort.

Familiarity, comfort and reliability are why people run or workout in an old t-shirt or long sleeve that they wouldn’t be seen wearing anywhere else. In other words, if it fits, there are no annoying seams, it doesn’t get soaked in sweat, isn’t too hot or too cold, then we hold onto it. I know I do. It’s not my lucky t-shirt rather my go to workout top.

At the polar opposite, we find today’s sadly disposable fashion world. When I say this, I'm referring to a world inundated with cheap materials, meaning clothes don’t last and ultimately, and quickly, end up in landfill. Sport specific gear and workout gear certainly hasn’t gone as far down this road but it has definitely turned onto it. 

Evolution and improved performance of materials are justifiable reasons for manufacturers to bring out a new range. However, many “new” ranges are often ones that deliver a greater profit margin for the manufacturer with a product that is inferior and doesn’t last as long for the consumer. Hence, we stick to our go-to t-shirt.

I’m not a caveman saying “those round wheels will never catch on”. I have enjoyed and benefited from kit innovations. In rowing, lycra was a game changer, as were seamless shorts and base layers. Breathable thermal layers kept us warm and let the sweat out, and in the “glorious” British cold, wet and windy days vented gore-tex came into its own. When the sun made an appearance and excessive sweating was the problem, moisture wicking tops earned their spot in the wardrobe.

The problem was that as kit became more functional, it was inevitably more specific so more was needed, eating both wardrobe space and your wallet.  This wasn't ideal but ultimately had to be acceptable when I was a full-time athlete, but when sport and exercise are enjoyable hobbies in an already busy and expensive society, it's not.

This is why I enjoy training in YouBamboo’s gear. When I first pulled on a t-shirt it felt wrong to go for a run, it was too comfy. I thought to myself "sports kit isn’t supposed to feel like this!" I did a hard session, where it exceeded my expectations by absorbing moisture and being breathable, meaning sweat didn’t cling to the t-shirt or myself. Right now, I’m enjoying running and sweating it out in the Louie-Arthur Quarter Zip. This is because it does a great job at keeping me warm in the typically freezing UK winter, and again because it absorbs sweat and is incredibly breathable, it doesn’t accumulate moisture, the last thing anybody wants when exercising in cold weather.  These truly are tops that keep you warm when it’s cold and help cool you when it’s hot, massively boosting your performance.

Other benefits may not sound sexy, but are game changers for performance. They’re antibacterial, antifungal, odour reducing, don’t need to be washed as much, last longer and keep their shape. Which of those is the sexiest I’ll leave up to you.

Aside from the qualities I’ve already mentioned, the unique advantage of bamboo is its sustainability. It grows fast, needs no watering (besides rainwater), needs no artificial fertilisers or harmful pesticides, it can be harvested without destroying or uprooting the mother plant, and finally it releases 35% more oxygen per hectare than trees. If you still aren't convinced, even the packaging it comes in is bio-based and compostable.   

Probably the only thing that has been relaxed about the last year is our dress code. Whether it’s working from home, watching Netflix or exercising, if you’re like me you will have picked the comfiest clothes from your wardrobe. For me YouBamboo is the material equivalent of a Mars Bar, it helps you work, rest and play...