Heading into a fitness studio can be a fraught moment. It’s a space where we naturally think about bodies, and studios—thankfully, not Align’s—are often plastered with mirrors. Add that to uncertainty about what’s required for different classes, and beyond “wear what’s comfy,” it’s just tough. So, I turned to a few experts.
As for the basics, Randy Ferguson, an Align instructor, and Karen Kraus, a local wellness coach and kinesiology lecturer, were nice enough to explain what’s best for some of the studio’s signature classes. Karen says yogis might consider something form-fitting, so that the teacher can check that you’re using proper form and your shirt’s unlikely to flip over your head in downward dog. The same goes for Pilates and Align Barre, though women will likely want to add a sports bra (men, boxer briefs will be your friend for similar reasons), and some may prefer to wear socks (if that’s the case, I recommend “sticky” yoga toe-socks—they may look and feel odd, but they’ll give you traction). Leaving your ankles exposed is handy (see what I did there?) so that you can grasp your legs in some poses.
In a class like Prana Stretch, on the other hand, Randy recommends loose, comfortable clothing, and, since the class involves being touched by another person in assisted stretches, you’ll probably want to go with full coverage. It not only makes you feel more comfortable, it prevents skin burn when the instructors shake out your legs or swipe their hands across your shoulders.
Karen wanted me to remind Align’s students that the most important thing is to find what you can move in, but she got into some real talk right away. Most people’s thighs touch. For real. So even though women’s running shorts come in (as I was perkily informed at Sports Authority) 3” or 6” inseams, most women would need “butt butter” (a real thing) to pull that off. Instead, Karen says, “I love running in longer spandex shorts, even if it’s not always the most fashionable way to hit the streets!” She also suggests topping off tight crops with a tennis skirt or a pair of loose shorts if it’ll let you focus on your workout rather than creeping seams (I believe we all know what I’m talking about).
Still, I know these basic tips aren’t enough. So I also reached out to style and body image writer, Sally McGraw. She’s teamed up with Karen in the past for a podcast called “Strong, Sexy, Stylish,” so she knows from combining comfort and confidence in the studio .
Sally gave me four prime tips, particularly pointed toward female students:
- Go for the fit. Echoing Randy and Karen’s tips, but from a fashion standpoint, Sally says the self-conscious gravitate toward oversized tees and voluminous pants, but these are unwieldy for a workout and can make a body look bigger than it is. Fitted workout wear “not only allows you freedom of movement, it tends to show your figure as it is, rather than adding phantom volume.” Sally is quick to say, “If you’re sized-out of brands like Lululemon or Lucy, consider Juno Active or this list of resources.” Everyone deserves to work out and feel great doing it.
- Try a capri skirt. “If you want to downplay your hips or suffer from P.C. (perpetual camel-toe) like me, a workout skirt/capri combo—a skort!—can be just the thing. The skirt skims the hips and butt, while the capris fit to the leg. A great solution.”
- Be aware of necklines. “Lower cut tops are typically flattering, but in plank, you can end up giving the world a good look at ‘the girls.’ Consider how low you want to go!”
- Don’t compare. “It’s not really a style tip, but it’s worth mentioning. You are you. Your body is your own. Resist the ever-present temptation to compare your shape, size, or style to anyone else. Ragging on yourself for not looking like someone else won’t build muscle or get you closer to your fitness goals. Instead, focus on your power, strength, and determination and try to let the rest fall away.”
In the end, there are practical considerations, style concerns, and even cost involved in picking out your workout wear. And yet, no matter what you show up in—take, for instance, my barre gear for today: a Target-acquired tennis skort, a sports bra, and a Diamond David Lee Roth tee—it’ll serve your purposes.
The only accessory you should always leave behind is judgment. The last thing you need is to be confined by insecurity, body shame, or the size on a tag when you’re busy seeing what your body can do. Cheap shorts or pricey capris, cut up sweatshirts or just-the-basics sports bras, your body is about to surprise you.