Self-portrait with treadmill. The only way this could be more hilarious is if I took it on Instagram.
If there is a more abysmal arena for plus sizes than workout gear, I don’t want to know about it -- exercise apparel is bad enough.
If you are merely looking to cover your nakedness while working out, classic T-shirt-and-shorts options exist, but if you’re more discerning (or annoying) about what you’re wearing even at the gym, the pickings are tragically slim.
LUCKILY FOR YOU, I’m here to share my experiences as both a compulsive shopper and a person who really does give a crap about whether I like how I look while exercising. (I mean, have you been in a gym lately? There’re mirrors EVERYWHERE.)
This Old Navy tee wants to wick with you.
Old Navy Women’s Plus Active Moisture-Wicking Tees
So it’s supposed to wick. I’ve never been 100 percent clear on what a wicking action was supposed to look like; my best guess is that things that wick are supposed to slurp up the “moisture” on your body, which in any other context we would call sweat, or perspiration if you prefer more syllables.
Does this top wick? I don’t know. Now is neither the time nor the place to elaborate on my own proficiency for sweating, a gift I came by honestly being descended from a line of the most impressive perspirers you ever did meet. I will say that it is very comfortable, fits well, and is made of cotton. It MIGHT be slightly less soppy post-workout than my wicking-deficient tees, or that might be the power of suggestion talking.
Nevertheless, I really love this top. Ordinarily I think ruching is a bit stupid but it actually works in this instance to improve the fit. My only caution is that Old Navy’s plus line tends to run large, and I like my exercise gear to fit snugly. So I just go down two sizes, and problem solved. (If you are a lady who prefers to work out sleeveless, let me also recommend the GoDry Active Tanks, which are marvelous. They are also alleged to wick, but whatever.)
Old Navy's compression pants say: "FUPA ahoy!"
Old Navy Women’s Plus Active Compression Capris
“Oh no, Lesley,” you might be thinking, “I couldn’t possibly wear such snug-fitting pants at the gym.” YES YOU CAN, if you want to. Certainly, these pants will not hide your magnificent FUPA so much as they will caress it gently, outlining its vivid contours for all your gym-going comrades to admire. No doubt, if you are unaccustomed to full-on Spandexing it up in front of strangers, these pants will be a challenge. But they are a challenge you can rise to.
The Old Navy compression pants are also supposed to wick, although I have not experienced any noticeable wickery happening around my nethers while wearing them. The product page says they also have a “hidden compartment” at the back waist for storing stuff, but it must be hidden really, really well as I haven’t found it yet.
(They also come in a full-length version, if you are a person who likes having your legs entirely encased in fabric. I am not. If I could work out in a dress, I would.)
If Old Navy really wanted to make me love them, they'd start producing these with "FATASS" emblazoned across the rear.
Old Navy Women’s Plus Yoga Capris
YES, we’re still at Old Navy. Have you noticed how cheap this stuff is? Seriously, I only buy workout wear from them, just like how I only buy bras at Lane Bryant.
These yoga capris are a little more forgiving than the compression capris above, being thicker fabric and cut wider through the leg. The other bonus? They last freaking forever. I’m not even exaggerating. I have a pair of Old Navy Yoga Capris that are at least seven years old and I’m still wearing them. And that’s with fairly significant chub rub action going on every time I work out. They wear like iron.
(Want a pair of workout pants that are roomier still? Just My Size can hook you up with these loose-fitting mesh capris, and you can pretend you’re training for the WNBA.)
Tennis skirt by Junonia. Perfect for dorks like me who hate putting on pants to go to the gym.
For many years, the gold standard for plus-size workout wear was Junonia. The primary reason for this was that nobody else was really making any, unless the errant pair of poorly-made 3X yoga pants in Wal-Mart counted.
I have had chronic sizing issues with Junonia myself, plus their prices occasionally border on the ridiculous, which makes me not their biggest fan. But I am glad they exist because they are still one of very few places you can find activity-specific exercise apparel like the tennis skirt above, or these padded bicycle leggings, or a triathlon-appropriate aquatard.
It’s pretty awesome to be reminded that no matter your size, these are things you can strive for, and for that, I’m chronically grateful to Junonia.
The fabled Enell Sports Bra. One of these touches Oprah's boobs, I hear.
OK, so I am not especially blessed in the boob department. I barely require a B-cup, so I tend to work out in whatever bra I happened to be wearing when I changed into my workout clothes. I recognize, however, that others have to take special care with busty concerns before hopping on the elliptical and pumping away.
For several years now, I’ve been reliably informed by many prodigiously-boobed worker-outers that the Enell Sports Bra is the holy grail of breast-harnessing mechanics. Apparently Oprah likes it, and they pass them out to the sad and tormented fatties on The Biggest Loser, which frankly is not a real great selling point so far as I’m concerned. But I suppose you might look past the association to keep your girls in line.
For those with slightly less pressing chestal concerns, Champion also makes a wide variety of sports bras both underwired and wire-free, all of them pretty affordable. Some of them are even kinda cute.
It's a headband... with a SECRET!
The Halo Headband
I mentioned the sweating thing, right? Any workout -- no matter how tame -- ends with me half-liquefied. It only really annoys me when it’s running down my face, and a few years ago I finally got fed up enough with that to do a little research into perspiration solutions.
After a few weeks of making do with a rolled-up bandana, my investigations led me to the Halo headband. This thing is really just your standard stretchy headband, except it has a strip of yellow rubber on the inside that settles on your forehead and acts as a little gutter funneling the sweat away from your eyes.
Wow, this got totally gross. Whatever. It works. I think it’s also supposed to wick, but again, I wouldn’t know wicking if it walked up and kicked me in the shins. I realize this isn’t specifically a plus-size thing, but I’m fond enough of this product that I thought it worth mentioning.
What do you wear to work out in? Are you a matched-set lady or a concert T-shirt-and-basketball-shorts kind of athlete? And are any of you into those wacky futuristic toe-sneakers? I can’t see myself ever owning a pair but I find them fascinating.