When Well and Good NYC mentioned the opening of the Under Armour flagship store here in SoHo, they specifically spoke of the vast array of training undies the store carries. And, after a lot of good-natured joking around with the #bgg2wlarmy about their own choices for whether or not they train in undies, I had to do a little digging.

Uh, no pun intended. Nothing intended at all.

The fact of the matter is, there is a right and a wrong way to do all of this… and of course, I’ve got a few tips below.*

Do I think you should wear underwear when training? If – and this is a huge if – you aren’t wearing moisture-wicking pants, I think you should. The purpose of moisture-wicking materials is to pull sweat away from the crevasses of the body. The average pair of sweatpants is only going to keep the wet fabric right up against your skin. Since the four basic needs of bacteria are heat, darkness, moisture, and air, cotton pants can actually result in a urinary tract infection or a yeast infection. Yikes.

If you are wearing moisture-wicking pants, however, you’re essentially safeguarded from this problem and don’t have to wear any underwear. Just about any- and everything you need is already built into the pants. Wicking material is usually some form of polyester- or synthetic blend, primarily because these fabrics don’t hold liquid the way other fabrics might. The blended fabrics work together to pull sweat away from the skin, forcing it through the gaps in the fabric only to eventually use the heat from the body to allow the liquid to evaporate. Using this material in your pants makes all the difference in how your skin feels during training, and whether or not you need additional care outside of training. Nobody likes infections.

But what kind of underwear should your wear? Thongs? Bikinis? Boyshorts? I think each kind has its pros and cons. Because thongs are often so tight and ill-fitting for so many, they run more of a risk of transferring bacteria between orifices than simply going commando. If you’re a thong wearer, you’ll need to ensure that they’re the proper size, that they don’t have frilly edges that might irritate during exercise (think of exercises that require you to move your legs quickly in a jogging motion, or bending at the hips in a squatting motion), and that they aren’t so improperly-sized for your body that they are rubbing up and down your genitals. In other words, no transference of bacteria.

When it comes to bikinis or boyshorts, I can’t do it – I don’t want to spend a third of my training time picking my wedgie. But, for those of you for whom bikinis or boyshorts do it, more power to you! These are your safest bet, if not for the constant wedgie-picking (and the panty lines we’ve all grown to despise for some reason, myself included. Ow.) Moisture-wicking or not, these underwear are good for not being shoved up anywhere, minimal rubbing between your cheeks, and the cotton space that rests right at your vagina is large enough to apply a pad for those who have light leakage problems in high-impact activities.

And what of the fabric? Silk, cotton, satin, lace, what?! Keep your fancy panties at home. They’re not breathable, they’re rarely comfortable, and any lace can irritate to the point of rash. If all else fails, go cotton. It’s the best of them all.

Lots of training garments – namely running shorts and tennis skirts – already have built-in underwear in them. Many have mesh or polyester/nylon-blended bottoms on the inside, with a cotton cover across the center of the bottom for added protection. To me, it’s all about the moisture-wicking material. If the inner-underwear attachment has that, then you’re golden.

When it comes to much of the training underwear that’s out right now, I have to admit that I’m really impressed. So much of it covers what I think training undies truly need, but there are a few things I still haven’t seen yet. I’ll share my list and, as you look for training undies that work best for you, keep these few tidbits in mind:

WP_20140530_20_19_48_Pro

Good training underwear should be seamless. During that hour or so of training, you are constantly moving, constantly jumping, hopping, squatting, whatever. There is lots of movement in the hip and waist area, and underwear that are constantly moving, constantly shifting up and down your back can irritate your skin and cause a rash or worse. Seams are extra mass on an already tight space, and should be avoided at all costs.

I’d also like to see a training bikini or boyshort that comes with the same kind of sticky material that you find on the insides of thigh highs to help keep them in place. Seamless bikinis or boyshorts are great, but with all the friction between the undies and the training pants, they’re gonna eventually become thongs sooner or later. Having something that’d work well with the moisture on the skin to keep the undies in place would be a dream.

I’d also like to see underwear that have a little natural padding in the crotch for women who do experience a bit of leakage during medium- and high-impact activity. Far too often, women are embarrassed by it and think they’re dealing with incontinence when, instead, it’s merely a natural reaction their body displays to increased impact. Just like being able to lift a 200lb bar is an ability you develop through strengthening your muscles, so it being able to “hold it” in.

I’d also like to see more options for plus-size women, and it aggravates me that very few of the major brands out there don’t realize what kind of market they’d be securing if they ventured out into training undies for plus-size women. Many women who train regularly are women seeking to change their body size, and if they’re getting smaller, then they’re going to be more able to wear a brand’s “straight-sized” product. Why not encourage brand loyalty now by creating training product for plus-sized women?

And, of course, moisture wicking fabric is always a winner.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and feel of the Under Armour training underwear I checked out! The two on the left – the thong and the cheeky bottom – were both seamless, moisture-wicking, did a pretty good job staying in place (yes, because the store has TRX bands installed in-store, I tried the ones I purchased!), and didn’t irritate my skin at all. Kudos to UA for the great products!

In short, moisture-wicking underwear is an absolute must, both for hygiene and training! But, if you can’t make it happen, then stick with bikinis and boyshorts. All of these risks can be mitigated by changing your underwear both right before AND right after your training session, though, so don’t worry if the undies aren’t on your radar or “to-buy” list just yet.

What about you? Are you wearing training undies? Which brands do you prefer? What tips do you have? And, if you know of a plus-sized brand offering up training undies, share!

*In all things, please remember…. wipe up your booty sweat!