Home Fashionably Fit The Ten Commandments of Gym and Workout Wear

The Ten Commandments of Gym and Workout Wear

by Erika Nicole Kendall

There are rules to workout gear.

I mean, there just are.

When I go out to train, when I’m truly in the moment, no one else exists in the room. If not for my kids and Eddy, I could easily say no one else in the world exists.

But before I actually get down to business? I see everything. On my way out the door? Everything, I see it. And, thanks to some of the worst workout attire choices ever, that “everything” includes parts of some of y’all that only your gynecologist should see.

And, trust me, I’m not looking for it.

Even worse, as a trainer, when it’s my job to observe your entire body as you execute a move, I don’t want to accidentally become intimately involved with you because your clothing ain’t right.

I mean, c’mon. I’ve been traumatized by this stuff… but I lived to tell the tales. More importantly, I survived for long enough to give you some guidance on what you need to have the most effective, properly fitting, and least offensive workout attire ever, leaving you looking fierce, flawless, and fully covered up. #nocoinslots

Okay, okay, let’s get real. The most important issue of wearing the proper workout gear is injury protection and prevention. Clothes that are ill fitting are one of the greatest contributors to exercise injury, either from falling or moving inappropriately or from constant readjustment. Ideally, workout clothes would be seen and not fidgeted with, but that’s not always the case. Perhaps I can help with that.

Here are the ten commandments of fitness fashion:


1) Thou shalt wear training shoes to train. As much as I am happy to see a black lady designer entering the athleisure sphere, I’ve got to say: seeing Beyonce on that treadmill with what appeared to be sneaker wedges on made my head hurt. But my head also hurts when I see people wearing Jordans on during a workout—I mean, seriously…if you’re going to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a pair of shoes, the least you could do is make sure they’re actually built for what you’re using them for—or women who think it’s “cute” to perform weighted squats in high heels.

Training shoes are meant to support you both when you’re strong and when you’re weak from exhaustion but pushing yourself (as you should.) Squatting like a bawse in high heels (or, by extension, sneaker wedges) only means that, when you’re two sets in and your legs start to feel weak, you’re far more likely to damage your ankles when they start to give because you’re quivering. Training in Jordans—especially distance running—means you’re potentially putting a lot of wear and tear on your joints. You might not feel it today or even tomorrow, but you’ll feel it sooner or later. Let’s try to not feel it at all, ok?

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2) Thou shalt try on and test out thine workout gear before buying it. Once upon a time, Lululemon—who I shamelessly love—got a little bit more attention than they wanted… much like the women who were buying and wearing a particular line of pant they made, because the pants were practically see-through whenever they bent over. Now, as frustrating as that is, a huge part of avoiding that frustration is testing it out before you buy. (The only excuse for not doing so, if you ask me, is if you’re buying something you’ve bought before.)

“Sheer pants” aren’t the only thing to test for, either. Whether the shirt will roll up your stomach while you run, whether your tights will show off the crack of your behind while you spin, whether your pants will allow you to stretch and bend and extend your legs enough for squatting, whether or not your privates are exposed by the shortness of your attire, whether your sports bra can handle you being Chesty McBreasterson, whether your attire is too restricting and prevents you from breathing (or peeing, for that matter), whether the constant pulling and tugging of your pants because they keep falling down will result in a camel toe situation and so on.

Try it on. Do a squat or a few jumping jacks in it. Do a mirror check. If you’re not completely comfortable, if you can’t move in it without having to constantly adjust it, then chances are high it’s not for you. This leads me to my next point.

Check out my guide to buying your dream sports bra!

3) If thou hast ample junk in thine trunk, thou shalt buy workout clothes a size up, not for thine current size. Those of us with a little junk in the trunk need to feel encouraged to buy a size up so that our tights can cover it all and we can move unrestricted. Those of us who are a little chesty should feel encouraged to only see our bra sizes as guides and not finite boundaries. If a good bra fits you weird, going a size up might turn it into a great bra. If a shirt gathers in the waist and rolls up when you train, going a size up might make it perfect for you.

Lots of women don’t go a size up because they think it means that’s their size, and they don’t want to emotionally “accept” they’re not the size they thought they were, but that’s not the case, here. What this truly means is that the garment is cut weirdly and you need to find the version of these weirdly cut garments that’ll best get the job done. If the goal is “making sure I don’t share my drawz with the world,” and the answer is “go a size up in your tights,” girl… you better stop playin’.

4) If thou hast a menstrual cycle, thou must track it. And be prepared. Once upon a time, I was teaching a class, and I was leading my students through their warm-up routine before I started to destrooooooooy the—uh, moving on. One of the girls had on a cute pair of white tights with mesh cutouts, super sexy, right? Except, Aunt Flo paid her a visit right in the middle. I, trying to figure out how to get her attention without drawing attention to her in a mixed environment, simply made everyone touch their toes, walking around adjusting people, so it’d seem completely innocuous when I tapped her to stand and asked her to excuse herself and check her tights.

Don’t let this be you. It’s a mortifying position to be in. Accidents happen, and we all—rather, those of us with sense—recognize that. But it takes a toll on you emotionally, and it makes it difficult to come back to a place that you really enjoy, all because you had an experience like that.

Track your cycle, carry “protection,” and stay on top of it before, during, and after you’re in the trenches.

5) Thou shalt not wear waist trainers when you train. This is self-explanatory but, in case you’re needing a few more words on it, check out this post.

6) Thou shalt be smart about working out while wearing makeup. I know lots of people snark on working out with makeup, but what I’ve learned over time is that the bulk of these women are either working out during their lunch break or fresh after work, and spending time wiping it all over before they train takes away precious time from putting in the work. I mean, I get it. I’ve left from work and had an hour and a half to train and get to my daughter’s school to walk her home before. I wasn’t even thinking about my makeup.

If you’re going to be that person, be smart about it: when your sweat results in your eyebrows melting off and dripping into your eyes, leaving you legally blind on the gym floor, this is not a win. When your mascara drips down your face, this is not a win. Eyeliner wiped across your forehead… not a win. Invest in proper waterproof makeup if you must. Waterproof mascara, clear waterproof gel for your brows, and a good solid waterproof eyeliner can do wonders. Or at least invest in some super-strength makeup wipes that can get the bulk of the stuff off in less than a minute’s time.

Also? You’re beautiful. Go barefaced sometimes.

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7) Thou shalt buy clothes that keepeth thine chosen sport in mind. If you’re taking spin classes, bell bottom pants are a hazard. If you are practicing yoga as a beginner, baggy t-shirts are a hazard. Many, many activities require special kinds of gear to ensure maximum safety for beginners. Check in with your instructor, or your gym’s trainers, or a trusted resource to ensure that you’ve got what you need to stay as safe as possible when you work out.

8) Thou shalt only workout in designated workout clothes. Period. Dassit. I’ve had the pleasure of having my non-workout workout clothes fall off of me at the most inopportune times. I’ve seen women try to do high-impact workouts in their regular underwire bras. I’ve seen people try to sneak in a lifting session in their jeans. (Good luck squatting in those.) Set aside clothing used explicitly for working out, and only wear that clothing.

9) Thou shalt keep thine underwear to thyself. If I can see boxers, it likely means your shorts or pants are long enough that they could impede your leg movement. If I can see your g-string, it means your pants are too low-rise for your figure. We’ve discussed workout underwear before, but what we need to focus on here is, for whatever method you choose, preventing your underwear from showing up… and showing out.

If you experience underwear sharing with every pair of tights you wear, consider investing in a pair of high-rise workout tights or a pair of workout undies. You’ll never experience slide-down, and you’ll never struggle to hide you underwear again.

It’s equally important to note, however, that those of you who wear tighty whities or full-bottom bikini underwear choose underwear that can handle your activity instead of riding up at every turn. There’s nothing more traumatic than watching someone dig a wedgie out of their hind quarters, only to reach for a piece of gym equipment without washing their hands. Trauma.

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10) Thou shalt feel comfortable in whatever thou wears, and accept the right of others to do the same. Whatever you choose to leave the house wearing, it’s most important that you feel confident, comfortable, and ready to take on your chosen activity. Confident and encouraged people perform better, have more successful workout sessions, and leave feeling better than they came in because they spent less time pulling down their shirt or picking their wedgies. Nah, I’m playing. But, less time messing with clothes or struggling with ineffective and inefficient gear means more time putting in work! And who wouldn’t want that?

What did I miss, y’all?

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christine williams April 3, 2016 - 12:05 PM

And when you start losing weight it’s time to get new clothes. It’s hard to run when your shorts are sliding

Milaxx June 23, 2016 - 8:47 AM

Can I add that there is a difference in the suit you wear to the beach and the suit you wear to water aerobics? I’ve seen too many women in the pool thisclose to a wardrobe malfunction cause they’re flexing at the pool.

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