Love Your Body

How I became one of those people who wears only a sports bra at the gym

As part of "Wear What You Want" week, one TODAY Style writer devised her own dress-code experiment at the gym. Here's what happened.

I never meant to become one of those sports-bra-at-the-gym people.

Many of us would have to admit that we’ve judged women who do it, no matter how ripped they are (or maybe because of how ripped they are). It's not body-shaming so much as confidence-shaming: Who does she think she is? What is she trying to prove?

Perhaps a better question is, Why are we so bothered?

I’ve been both bigger and smaller than I am now, but this is my body’s happy place: a weight I can maintain with little effort beyond a generally healthy lifestyle. While I’ve come to love my curves — and definitely prefer the relaxed mindset that comes with them — I’m aware that I don’t look like a fitness model, and I’d always relegated the ab-baring tops to those with, well, abs.

It started with the magic of high-waisted workout pants. I’ve long believed in the motivating power of cute gym clothes, so I stashed away the baggy T-shirts and adopted a new silhouette, pairing high-waisted leggings with crop tops that ever so slightly showed off my waist.

I was shocked to discover that my workouts were getting better and better. It was cooler, temperature-wise, and easier to move without all that extra fabric. Without the need to adjust my clothing, I could focus on getting the most out of my workouts. I’d even catch sight of myself in the mirror and think, “Dang, girl, you fine” ... which would push me to go harder.

Still, donning just a sports bra seemed like an unnecessarily bold and even attention-seeking move.

Then, one overcast morning, I wore a sweatshirt without a T-shirt to the gym only to find myself dripping and miserable after 30 minutes. I could cut my workout short ... or I could lose a layer. Could I really be one of those people walking around in just a bra?

I could. And incredibly, the sight of my soft abdomen didn’t cause anyone around me to burst into flames. My hangup about working out in a sports bra was not unlike the intimidation many feel about going to the gym in the first place. We don't need to meet some arbitrary, nonexistent standard when, in reality, nobody cares as much as we do.

Embry Roberts
I wear this for me ... not for you.

Once I realized that everyone else was too busy with their own workouts to give my body more than a passing glance, my attitude changed. A sports bra still isn't my go-to, but I totally understand why women who feel comfortable would opt to wear one. (Here are some TODAY Style favorites!) And they should be able to make that choice for themselves — after all, men work out shirtless all the time.

What do you think? Is it OK to wear just a sports bra to the gym?

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