fitness clothing running in polyester

Workout Clothes, Love and Hate

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Workout clothes. I kind of love them. I kind of hate them. I spend hours and hours in them but think they could be better. It’s a complicated relationship.

When I lost most of my weight back in 2013, I did it primarily through calorie counting. The only exercise I did was dog walking. I had rescued a little hound dog and he needed lots and lots of exercise, so we took long rambling walks, and walking is really great exercise. However, I didn’t do any formal workouts until after the weight had come off and I moved into a maintenance phase.

That’s when I figured out that I needed workout clothes. I got my sister to go shopping with me – she knows about these things. The last time I had worn anything for working out (other than a yoga class) was when I was 13. We still wore “sneakers” back then and I hated every single moment of that freshman PE class. It was the only PE class I needed to graduate, and I swore I would never wear tennis shoes again. (How things have changed…) So, Meg and I hit TJ Maxx and she had to instruct me in the ways of fitness leggings and athletic sweat drying shirts. (I am going to leave sports bras for their own post.)

Over the years, multiple gyms, and races I have figured out what works for me. Cotton clothing is terrible for racing, but it actually is fine for CrossFit. Shorts with tall compression socks work well for trail races, but thick capris work better for obstacle course races, (they provide more protection to shins and knees.) However, I still have problems finding clothing that fits (and works) well.

I thought it was just me, but recently my gym put up a Facebook post asking about new shirt styles for the ladies. I was surprised at how many women said the same thing I did – “Women’s fit” clothing never fits well. It is always too tight. I buy the plain men’s t-shirt instead, and I was surprised at how many other women said they do the same thing.

So, here is my question: considering how many people in America are overweight and working on losing weight, why are so many workout clothes designed for tiny people???

Don’t get me wrong, I know the stereotype of the woman who works out is a woman who is slim or lithe. And many of them are. I workout with a lot of women who are very, very strong, and have smaller frames. I feel like much of the clothing is designed with them in mind.

Let’s start with shirts. As mentioned, clothing designers have created women’s cut shirts, which taper in at the waist. This seems logical, as women have natural curves there. However, these shirts are never designed for busty women. Inevitably, they cut too far in, making them impossible to wear. They are either way too tight across the bustline or the waist or both. And for some reason, they are smaller than even regular women’s shirts. A Large in a women’s cut shirt is far smaller than a Large in a regular women’s shirt. I don’t know why. It seems ridiculous.

Then, let’s look at pants. I like my capris, but the number of pairs I have that roll down is just silly. I seriously have to look at the workout of the day before I pick my pants for that day. Box Jumps? Don’t wear the gray ones! Otherwise, I’ll be hiking them up all night. And for those of us ladies that also like to run – what is the ever loving deal with pockets? Seriously, clothing designers make perfectly practical pockets for men’s fitness clothing. They are designed for pockets that are bigger than a stick of gum!

To be fair, there are a few companies out there trying to do better. My mother just bought me a pair of fitness pants from Giaim that have a lovely high waist that does not roll. And there is this company: Superfit Hero which is doing great, great work. They have leggings for all sizes of women AND they have cellphone style pockets. I have a pair and I love them… unfortunately, I can’t afford to have them for every day. Although I really support what they do and would like to buy more sometime.

I also have noticed Meijer here in the Midwest has started producing fitness clothes for women up to size 3x and they are making an effort to make them look good and be functional. I also love that they aren’t separating out the sizes anymore. They used to have the “X” sizes on different racks, but not anymore. I think that is a good step.

Now I do have to admit, I have fully come to love and embrace the outerwear fitness clothing – the stuff I throw on after the gym. Sweatpants? Heck yes. Trainers with fleece lining? Cold weather heaven. Hoodies and sweatshirts? Amen. For 30 years of my life, I missed out on the comfort of a great pair of sweatpants and hoodie. Sigh…  I know better now. I spend a fair amount of my life in post-workout loungewear and it’s lovely.

What about you? Where do you buy your fitness clothing? What do you like? Do you have struggles finding things that work? What is your solution? I’d love to hear!

This was my first requested post. (Thanks, Ellie!!) And there is more to come. If you would like any topic written about, please let me know!


  1. I totally agree that workout clothes for women need some work. I too have to get men’s T-shirts because the woman’s fit is too tight through the shoulders and waist. And pants are a whole other story. Because I have long legs I have to buy talls which limits my choices and why can’t we have pockets? Why do tall girl pants cost $5.00 more than regular if petites aren’t $5.00 less and the last couple years even the talls are shorter because the new look is “ankle pants”. I do like my biking jerseys. They all have pockets. Some even have zipper pockets. You’ve asked some good questions here and made me realize why I have so many of one kind of pants. If it works, stay with it.

    1. Ankle pants…. oh goodness, yes. I know that is the trend, but I can’t get my head around them. Like you I just feel like I am wearing pants that are way too short. And YES! you have such a good point about pricing! And the pricing between men’s workout clothes and women’s is just insane.

  2. A few months ago I joined a gym for the first time in my life. I went to find some work out clothes and had ZERO luck for all of the reasons you listed. I ended up buying men’s athletic pants. They are long, loose, and have deep pockets (a huge bonus). I went with the white mens t-shirts you mentioned. I don’t look “cute” but who cares?!

    1. I’ve given up on “cute” too. As long as I feel comfortable and something doesn’t ride up (or fall down) I’m pretty happy. I feel like I set a pretty low bar! Ha! But yes, yes, yes to men’s athletic pants! So great – and practical.

  3. I could write an entire blog post in response to your blog post. I have a large bust AND a long torso, so those fitted-waist shirts usually think my waist is at the bottom of my rib cage. And since I have curves, the wide waistband that are supposed to stay up just roll and give me a lovely tube around my waist.

    I’m looking forward to your post about sports bras.

    1. You should totally have a blog and a write a post in response to my post! We could write back and forth on the struggles on finding clothes that are both practical and that fit well! And the fact is, I think that the manufacturers’ are missing the boat – and the opportunity. I think the first company that figures out how to make reasonably priced workout clothes for all sorts of shapes and sizes will do very, very well.

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