Please welcome today’s guest blogger Kristin Maquire, who has bravely agreed to tackle the unmentionable of women’s workout wear!

I’ve never done a special report on underwear before, but with Christiane Amanpour busy in Egypt, I raised my hand for this opportunity to investigate a recent incident that made me wonder: am I making the right choices to protect my lady parts (and myself from sheer mortification)?

The incident: during boot camp, a very nice lady displayed what we commonly refer to as ‘whale tale’—that prolific view of someone’s thong riding high above his or her (usually, her) pants. Now, I’m not going to bash thongs in general, just in particular: unless you’re paying homage to Jacques Cousteau, the only whale watching your platonic workout partner wants to do is on a boat off Cape Cod. Besides that, WHY??!! I just don’t get it. You say ‘it really wicks!’ but I have greater faith in the laws of geometry, gravity and the almighty breathable gusset. (Though if you must, please tattoo a spout on your lower back so we may all at least get a good chuckle.)

But I’m getting cheeky and a little ahead of myself: to preserve blogalicious integrity (cough), I performed some primary ‘research’ to get to the bottom of what y’all are wearing under your gear.

The Results: gained through wildly anecdotal evidence, these surprised me because I’m a less-is-more kind of girl, i.e. a girl that runs outdoors, doesn’t go to a gym, hop on a shared machine following Mr. Schweddy Balls, or spread ‘em for a trainer. Sorry to give away the punch line, but for all the ladies wearing underwear while working out, you’d expect Victoria’s Secret to be sponsoring races. (Nascar doesn’t count.)

Here’s what I learned:

  • According to some online polls asking ‘to wear or not to wear?’ of the women that responded, most said they ‘always’ wear underwear when working out
  • Of the reasons cited for wearing underwear, the most frequently mentioned were straddling germy gym machines, reducing sweat, and because they can’t ‘imagine’ doing otherwise—it’s practically un-American (maybe this is just locker room mentality?)
  • Yet, after speaking with sales reps at popular retailers Athleta and Lululemon, they confirmed their products come with breathable gussets, designed to perform alone
  • Although Oprah would not take my call, we know she loves her some undergarments; yet, she hasn’t told us how to think about the bottom-half of workout wear, true?
  • My recent race experiences support these findings; it’s hard to avoid noticing red-striped bikini bottoms under see-through lycra (although if you’re going for this look, might as well be bold or charge for advertising).
  • Almost everyone seems to know to avoid cotton….right? (If it’s not good enough for your feet….)
  • Fave brands of undies, particularly for plus sizes: REI, Ex-Officio, Lands End, Body by Victoria
  • Least fave styles: thongs, boy shorts, seamless/panty-line free without enough elastic to stay up for long distances

Okay. I kind of can get there with some of these reasons. Kind of.

But why are we spending so much on gear that is supposed to protect our assets and then shelling out more for these pricey layers? If a $98+ pair of running pants isn’t enough to keep you covered, it should at least have the decency to buy you dinner, take out the trash and massage your feet before and after each run, no? So, if you want to save some coin, join the revolution!

Cardinal rules of going commando:

  • Ladies only, please.
  • Do the see-through test. Get a trusted friend. Put on your pants. Go outside at noon. Touch your toes.  Need underwear = need new pants.
  • If you don’t like your assets in spandex, skirt the issue with a skort or skirted capri. Way more comfortable and flattering.
  • Not too tight and not too loose is just right. Groom accordingly. (Leave the camels at home with the whales.)

Now that I’ve bared my true feelings on this matter, what say you?

Off to give that friend a call, lucky girl.

5 thoughts

  1. Finally! Someone addresses this!

    While I appreciate the argument to leave one’s drawers in the drawer, I must say that I do not trust my super tight, spandex running capris to provide *coverage* on their own. Also, although I can think of a number of times when a ‘whale tale’ on others, although admittedly unattractive, has provided coverage for things I will refrain from cracking a joke about. Last, sometimes I wear my athletic bottoms as part of my casual errand-running attire, meaning I will wear them one morning and then run in them the next before washing them; this double-usage makes it seem necessary to include the debated undergarments.

    I am so curious to read other reader’s thoughts!

  2. While I am totally with you on the whale and the camel, I just can’t give up the undies. I don’t typically worry about any sheer embarrassment, but I do like that “fresh and dry” feeling I get with my danskin and ex-oficio bottoms. The only time I go commando is when I’m wearing padded bike shorts as I have found that the layering causes very unpleasant chaffing and wedgies.

  3. First of all, this is one of the funniest things I have read in quite some time! I love this site! Second, I do go commando in my workout gear. I feel pretty protected by my pants and haven’t had a problem at all. It helps prevent the chaffing from underoos and I feel like it works out better for a full range of movement. I agree that there’s no need to buy the extra workout underwear but I do realize that that’s just a matter of opinion. Happy Trails my fellow commandos and you too underoo slingers!

  4. What a fun read. I had thought about this after my first half marathon last year. I will give it a try this winter as I attempt to get back in the routine of walking on the treadmill (unfortunately winter is still bitter here). But the question begging to be asked in spandex as a big girl, what is too tight?

  5. Well, I recently read this article while looking for advice on overweight runners. I am a competitive runner who has gained about 30 pounds in a year and was surprised to hear of this issue. I run with a lot of men and women and typically the men go undie less and some of the women do too if they are wearing the racing shorts with the built in undies but for the BIG girls (me currently 179 and 5 foot 7), we don’t get enough upper belly support for the kind of pounding we give our bodies. I often do 10 mile training runs and I race trail 50k ultra distances that can take hours over rough terrain. I need support. I also don’t need crotch seams riding their way up into my stomach (lol). On the other hand, I’d like to be able to rip off my clothing quickly when needing a bathroom break and extra layers prevent quick pull downs. I will say trail runners and established back door tights that velcro open and closed and they are useful when running those extreme ultra distances. I have raced for two seasons in Arkansas and have placed in the 1st and 2nd in my age group each year. I may not be typical, but usually my coach laughs at my girdle style panties.

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