Get outside. Hiking clothes for the plus explorers.

This is how I feel when left to wander in the woods. Not bad, eh?

I think I’ve said it before here, but I’m a freak for the outdoors.  Give me the choice between gasping up mountain passes or watching the latest episode of something average, and there’s no contest.  The fact that I’ve spent the majority of my adult life in Chicago (and now London) means that I seriously value my time outside, and when given, I try to explore in the manner of most control freaks – with good gear, good maps, and enough stuff to get me through any tight spots on the trail.

I started hiking as a 16 year old, with my father, stepmother, sister and stepsister, on trips to Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.  At that time, I wore what we all wore – cotton shorts and tee shirts, sports bras and high-ankled hiking boots.  I’d return from an average day’s work with my super fit dad and stepmom a sweaty, gross mess, the necks of my shirt mis-shapen, my shorts baggy from sweat and we’d get up again and do it the next day.

Today, I sometimes long for that time – when clothes were baggy and hid everything, and when I never thought twice about jeans for a long hike.  Today, though, I know the benefits of having good, technical apparel that can take you on an 8 or 10 mile hike that starts at 80 degrees and ends at 40; with jackets that keep the rain out and release the heat from within; and base layers that let you stay out having fun even when a chill sets in.

But I’ve realized recently that there are a lot of plus athletes still out there hiking in their husbands clothes, or in their own casual wear. They get hot and cold, and chafed and is it any wonder they don’t go back?  No.  But the good news is there are now a few select manufacturers putting together some great pieces for you to get your outdoors on.

Columbia Sportswear 

Columbia has long been the marketer of the “everyman” approach to getting outside.  For that, let me say up front, THANK YOU, you smart people. The company was one of the first to offer a good windbreaker in plus sizes, and if you enter any Dick’s Sporting Goods in the States, you’ll find a good variety of apparel that wicks moisture away, is of a decent level of quality, and is at an affordable price point.  Columbia’s sizing can be very generous (in their coats, for example); and in the plus market, they have a wide variety of things that you can purchase online and in some stores.

Women’s Tamiami II Short Sleeved Fishing Shirt. It’s also just plain dandy for hiking.

Now, I’m a firm believer in teaching a girl to fish.  And by that, I don’t mean trout-fishing (though Columbia does, and has a whole line devoted to helping you fish in better clothing). I mean this:  “teach you to shop for your own apparel and you won’t always need me.”  So, a few bits of advice about shopping with Columbia – online at least.  As I’ve not been in a retail store that carried their products (some Cabelas, Dicks, and Sports Authority offer items), you may be limited to the online shop, but go with it, and learn a few tips to still get a deal, and then learn how to get the stuff that fits you.

First, their clothes for plus-size women are listed under the category of “Extended Sizes”.  Like Nike & REI, if you want to search for their stuff online (and not through their site directly), you can Google “Columbia Extended Size” and you’ll find a whole host of people selling the same products, and sometimes they’ll even be on sale!

Second, Columbia offers both technical and casual wear in the plus range.  You’ll need to be careful about what you buy from them, and by careful I mean: read the labels.  Columbia still markets (in large part) to people who like the aesthetic look of hiking clothes, but never intend to do any hiking in them. If you’re not one of those folks, remember the golden rule, and eliminate from your cart all of the options with cotton.  This will include most of the hiking trousers and several of their shirts.

Third, and most of you will know this one – be careful about the sizing. READ THE MEASUREMENTS.  If you are a pear, chances are you’re going to have to order up in the pants sizes (same if you’re tall.)  I also find their shirts (the technical button-down variety) to be un-pear friendly, but others may not have that problem.  I was hiking with my friend in Toronto last month, and she had on a great shirt that I was coveting (see below.)  I would highly recommend this shirt as an example of Columbia getting it right for us.

Finally, watch the sales.  Columbia has a big Clearance section on their website, and the inventory changes regularly – it’s a perfect place to get a deal.

Best of the bunch:

The Tamiami shirt below is a good recommendation to start – snap buttons, a back vent, split sleeves, and four colors to suit your fancy – it’s also quick drying and would dress up enough for town if you needed it to.

Pants are a tough thing for manufacturers of plus size apparel.  Stomach? Hips? Ass? Saddlebags? Thighs?  I honestly do empathize with the makers of these clothes, and give them props whenever they create something technical and made of a fabric you can’t swim laps in.  The Women’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pant  is a great attempt by Columbia to do what we’d like our hiking apparel to do – look cute, be functional, and have some options in terms of color.  At 5’8 1/2, I struggle with Columbia’s inseam (and with my new friend, Mr. Stomach, I struggle with the hip measurements) but if I were purchasing right now, these would be on my “try” list.  They look great and get great product reviews, and at $70, are probably worth the investment.  They’re also just that little bit more stylish than what I’ve seen from REI and others, that I would probably try them even if it was a stretch. ($70).

 

REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) 

Most of you know I love REI. They were impressively the first retail outlet to provide a consistent line of active clothing for plus size women, and that continues to this day.  Like Columbia, you can find their stuff online – and in this case, it’s exclusively online, unless a store near you receives a return in which case the best time to nab it is at one of their semi-annual sales.

REI’s Taku Jacket – a superior waterproof, breathable jacket that will withstand any outdoor adventure.

Online,the search function you use to locate clothing is “Extended Sizes”.   Today, they stock a variety of basic jackets, fleeces, winter and waterproof wear, and a good mix of four season hiking wear.  Their people are experts, and they sell (for the most part) very high quality clothing – what they miss on, they often fix in the following season, and they warranty everything for life, so if you have a problem, you can walk into a store or ship it back and you’ll get it fixed.

I’ve been a power purchaser from REI and have owned the Neo Jacket (an excellent softshell for getting around Chicago before it gets really cold – or snowshoeing in the rockies when it gets time for fun); the lightweight rain jacket (does everything advertised) and the Sahara shorts and pants.   The most technically impressive rain jacket they offer (the Taku) is currently on sale at a STEAL of a deal $107 (trust me, you’ll never see a better shell in our sizing); and the purchase of my year was a no-longer-on-offer Capri pant that I can’t even show you a picture of.

REI also has an online outlet (www.reioutlet.com) and they sometimes feature plus size clothes (usually Moving Comfort stuff, which has had a hideous track record of poor colors and even poorer fit over the last few years in their plus line).   But if pushed, the value at REI is in their own branded line.

REI’s house fitness brand is the OXT line – and it’s very good for base layers – I’ve gotten a lot of cross-functional wear out of the tops.  But for hiking, kayaking and travel, my all-time favorites are the REI Lightweight Polartec brand of clothes – they’re great for layering, and when you can get them (they sell out quick) they’re perfect additions.  Right now, they’re only offering the bottoms – but in the past, they’ve offered multiple options in the plus sizes for tops.  Worth a pickup, if you’re looking.

 

LL Bean 

Oh, LL Bean.  I want to wish them a warm, warm welcome to the party for finally providing an assortment of high-quality technical jackets which can help you hike, bike, and explore more.  This season’s fall line seems to be the best yet, with 100 weight fleece (in jacket and pull-over form), the trail model rain jackets (in short and long form) and a reliable windbreaker for those days when you want to be out for a run but don’t want the weight of a waterproof jacket.   (I’d give you pics, but we seem to be having technical trouble doing that).

LL Bean has tended to unflattering, boxy styles in the past, so see what happens when you order – but it looks as if they may have created some good options this year.  If you’re hiking, I would advise staying away from 200 weight fleece in your pack – it’s VERY bulky and it doesn’t pack well – and go for synthetic down or real down vests instead.

Next post we’ll handle some of the gear recommendations for the best hiking you can do – in the meantime, happy shopping!

Sal

 

 

If I were Queen?

Last year, at the Royal Wedding. I was plotting even then.

We’ve had an amazing few weeks here in England, what with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the kickoff to the Olympics, and just yesterday, the Queen’s “Birthday parade” and the “Trouping of the Colour” – something akin to the Queen’s troop inspection, down there on the Mall.  As I was catching some of the procession yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of a song by the boys Great Big Sea, called “If I Were King”.  It got me wondering: what would I do, given the opportunity, to set the world afire as Queen?

Oh sure, I’d have to start with ditching the metric system.  I mean, I’m sure it’s great and all, but I’m just about done with screwed up cakes and cookies.  What? That’s too self-indulgent?  Hm.

Okay, well, then let me speak for my people.  My gorgeous, smart, sexy, stunning, dedicated, overworked, exhausted, want-to-exercise, sometimes-hate-our-selves, kick ass people.  What could I do for MY people, to make the world better, for the Plus athletes in all of us?

1. Everyone works 8 hours a day.  But only 8 hours.  This includes moms and managers, bus boys and grandmas.  We “work” in some form – but only for 8 hours a day and when it’s done, we gots time for healthy dinners and walks in the park and maybe even flirting with some hot dude in the Quickmart.  I believe that this place exists, and it’s called France, or Italy, depending on your assessment.  It’s a good place.

2. There are bike lanes in every city.  And none of this “painted” stuff – real bike lanes which prevent my people from getting hit by lorries or buses or doors from Trixies texting in one hand and checking lipstick with another.  They make it safe for all of us to ride where we want. My people, the people of occasional knee problems and a preference for non-weight-bearing exercise, they love the bike lanes.  They thrive.

3. We spend as much to develop effective Sports Bras as the lady did who designed Spanx.  The result is a wicking, separating, flattering, no-bounce dream of a sports bra which is far more comfortable and has an equal impact on the waistline as Spanx.  My people become more toned – because they are running now without threat of pain/bounce/chafe-o-rama- and get there without the aid of 10% lycra and at a cost that could (and should) be spent on LBDs and killer heels.

4. Every person who wants to become a runner gets a “runner starter kit” desgined specifically for plus-size athletes, and comes complete with a support group and coach to run their first 5k.  The starter kit has the right shoes (and of course comes with a free fitting!), shorts or capris which prevent chafing; a sports bra which neither dislocates your shoulder to put on nor leaves angry red welts to remove; and a shirt which neither clings to the boobage, the belly, or the butt, but rather skims appropriately in all locations while covering chicken wings aplenty.  It also includes a watch with run/walk intervals that you can actually USE and a water bottle pack which fits your waist – not the waist of Mary Kate Olsen (sorry, MK).

5. Running stores, retailers, apparel makers, etc. all offer at least one item from every collection up to a size 3X.  It is priced the same as the regular collection, in the same colors, and sold IN THE SAME STORES as the other parts of the collection – not online, but in a physical store. My people would get to try things on without the looming threat of yet another post office return.

6. Any store which claims to want to improve the health and wellbeing of the community around them, and which holds a license to sell sporting apparel shall hold, once per week, a workout course of some sort which caters to new athletes and only new athletes.  It is free, and it does not require the participants to drive somewhere else to do it.  It is also be realistic – no lunges, no scary shit.  Simple, effective, easy stuff.  Maybe (shock!) a walking group.  Maybe an “introduction to running” group, where you run for one minute, and walk for five.  EASY. NOT SCARY.  FREE.  Minimize barriers to entry and people will come.  HOW HARD IS THIS?

7.  All of my people learn how to swim as part of the elementary school education.  Yep. All of them.  Maybe I’d make it a requirement that you couldn’t get a license to drive if you didn’t pass a cycling test as well – because as many of us know, most of our journeys are under a mile – and why do them by car if you know how – and can physically do them – by bike?

8.  Overweight athletes are on the cover of major running, cycling, and triathlon magazines as frequent as their percentage of the sample of athletes they represent would require.  For example, runners, who comprise at least 40% of the running population (best guess, on a country-wide basis in the US) are on the cover of Runner’s World 40% of the year, reflecting the REAL look and feel of the running community.  Same for Triathlete magazine, and Bicycling (on a % basis).  Apparel stories for all magazines would include – for EVERY issue – recommendations on purchasing for Plus athletes to encourage more Plus athletes to be active.  Again, part of the social contract.   If Runner’s World, Triathlete, and Bicycling, just to name a few, can’t spare the column inches, we’d have a few suggestions for the stories they could trim down.  Just a few.

9.  Core strength for everyone! I’d enlist my former PT to run the nation’s course on “how to build a better core”.

10.  Every workplace has showers and a place to change before or after a workout.  This is good because in the Kingdom, at least once per week we commute on our own steam. We walk or run, or cycle.  But we need a place to shower or change before or after, and so we have it.  And no skanky showers, either.

Yep.  I think those are good starters for the Kingdom of Plus Athletes.  Wouldn’t it be grand?

Sigh.

For now, we’ll just have to take on all of those challenges on our own.  And yes, we can do it.  And yes, we can keep driving the bus.  But gosh, sometimes, don’t you wish it was just a little easier?  I know I do.

Selecting plus-size triathlon apparel for racing and training – the Spring 2012 guide for Athenas

Most triathletes admit that great gear and clothing makes training and racing more comfortable and efficient.  For plus-size triathletes (who manufacturers typically define as anyone over a US Size 16), the desire to look good – and feel good – while racing and training is no different than that of the average triathlete.   But until recently, the simple act of finding apparel in Athena sizing was nearly impossible.

Not anymore.  In the past few years, manufacturers have slowly begun to offer running, cycling, and triathlon apparel ranging from sizes from 16-24.  Danskin, Moving Comfort, Nike, C9 for Target, Pearl Izumi, Zoot, Terry Bicycles, New Balance, Sugoi, REI, Junonia, and Aerotech Designs each offer apparel in a variety of sizes, technical sophistication, and styles to suit everyone from the first-time Sprinters to the returning Ironman.  For many women, though, selecting training or racing apparel online (the only location most are sold) remains a challenge.

As an Athena with her eye on the Virgin London Triathlon in September, I’m searching for a multi-purpose top for run and bike training, and a pair of cycling capris and shorts for my daily ride to work and weekend long rides to the country.  I’m also in need of a new racing kit (top and shorts).  Here’s a quick view to how I’ve selected my kits, and a few rules to keep in mind as you shop this season.

1.    Prioritize your needs.   Purchasing Athena triathlon clothing requires compromise.  It’s unlikely that you’ll find a piece which is as flattering as your favorite little black dress, in the color you were born to wear, with the technical fabric worthy of an Ironman, at a bargain price.  Before you begin, consider what’s most important to you – and assess your options accordingly.

This season, I want comfortable training apparel that looks great.  On the bike, that means flat seams, great fabrics, and a women’s specific chamois; for both cycling and running, I want a multi-purpose top that fits but isn’t too baggy, and won’t catch the wind.

For my racing kit, I want a supportive and fast-drying, cool top which will fit under my wetsuit; and a pair of racing shorts with a stash pocket.  Both should be quick-drying but supportive fabric, with no risk of chafing.  Great colors are a bonus.

2.    Your measurements rule.  Write down these three measurements:  the widest part of your bust; your natural waist; and the widest part of your hips.  Understanding your sizing makes reviewing apparel options simple and eliminates unnecessary purchases and returns.  Generally speaking, once you know your sizing, you’ll also understand which manufacturers you can rely on for purchases.

From smallest to largest (Size 16 or XXL to Size 26), search for your apparel from retailers in this order: Zoot, Sugoi and Pearl Izumi; Danskin, Moving Comfort, and New Balance; and Terry Bicycles, Nike, Aerotech Designs and Junonia.

At 44-38-49 (measurements I’m certain my grandmother and mother will be appalled that I’m admitting, but which I offer in service to you, dear reader),  I limit my search to those with generous XXL sizing and dedicated plus sizes.   

3.    Select clothes that are well made and fit you well – and which may not be specifically made for triathlon.  Triathlon apparel tends to run very close to the body, which can be a challenge for many Athenas.  But racing in baggy, cotton clothing can lead to painful chafing and make you look bigger than you are.  Why bother when there are plenty of clothes out there which can fit you properly?  For my search, I select clothing no more than 1.5” larger (or smaller) than my measurements.  I also considered running, yoga, or other cross-functional tops in addition to triathlon-specific tops.  Not sure what’s a technically superior short?  Look for flat seams, quick drying fabric, a non-bulky chamois, and comfortable leg openings.

The final selections

For training – comfortable gear that gets the job done.

The Shirt. Nike’s Extended Miler is great for everyday running and cycling.  (MSRP $42, 1X-3X)

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The cycling capris. Terry Bicycles’ Knicker Plus capris (MSRP $100, 1X-4X) are  comfortable and ultra-flattering, and make early morning or evening rides a breeze. 

Terry's Knicker Plus tight handles the morning commute and then some.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mac daddy training short. Pearl Izumi’s PRO In R Cool short (MSRP $150, XXL fits to 47.5” hip, with just enough stretch to suit our 49” tester) is a technical dream with non-binding waist and leg openings and a UPF 50+ that can cool the body’s surface temperature up to 5%, a significant benefit for plus-size athletes who can be challenged with temperature control.  

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These shorts. The fit of an amazing piece of technical gear, great chamois. Check PI's sizing charts for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For racing: a kit to take you to the finish.

The swim/bike/run short.  Danskin’s 7” Tri Short (MSRP $52, to XXL/ 20 ) is long, lean, and worry free with flat seams, a light racing chamois; multi-panel, wicking construction; silicone leg grippers and a small back zip pocket.  A tried and true tri short practically fitting most up to size 22. (available at Danskin.com or REI.com).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nike’s Women’s Shape Sport Top (MSRP $55, 1X-3X) isn’t made for Triathlon – but it serves a purpose for Athenas, works great under your wetsuit and promises to dry quickly.  Sturdy shelf-bra included; but feel free to supplement with your own.

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Plus Size Triathlon Clothing: Summer 2011 Edition

I am always amazed this time of year how the stats start bumping up at PlusRunner.  I’ve been live here for a couple of years, and without fail, every summer, there’s a mad dash to the site for people looking for plus-size triathlon apparel.

It’s not easy finding these items in your local multisport store, where most small box retailers don’t see the kind of foot traffic in “our” sizes to “justify” expanding the line.  I understand the concept of buying for the market, but it still smarts a bit when you find that you’re not quite a member of the club you know you’ve earned entry into.

So, with that in mind, welcome to the Plus Runner’s Third Annual Triathlon Apparel preview.  This is, largely, a web-based exercise.  There are rules for those of you who want to buy cute stuff in the right size, and it pays to keep them in mind:

1) Try to buy with enough time to return something if it doesn’t fit.

2) Look for technical quality if you’re going to spend some cash.  For us, that means: flat seams to reduce chafing, technical fabrics which dry quickly, and for tri shorts, silicone or similar leg grippers and multi-panel construction (multi-panel means the short is more likely to move with you – and not tear or rip if it’s overstressed.) 

3) If this is your first season, and you have a budget, buy things you will use again if you stay interested in one of the sports – but maybe not all three. That means rent a wetsuit if you can, and focus on sportsbras, shoes, and shorts which will be re-used if you’re cycling or running. 

So, for this season, a few old favorites and a few new finds.  My favorite manufacturers are, in no particular order, Danskin, Nike, and Pearl Izumi (which I actually haven’t featured here today).   Secondary favorites include Junonia and Athleta.  And finally, Aerotech Designs makes a plus-size tri short and suit which you can use, but reader feedback has been mixed (sizes are very large, and the pad can feel diaper-esque). 

Tri Shorts

Danskin makes two different shorts which tend to sell out rather quickly each year.  Offered in a Size XL and XXL, their sizing starts where Zoot ends.  Both a 5″ and 7″ inseam short are offered, and this season’s have (as always) a contrasting panel on the sides of the legs which looks super cute and coordinates with all of their other apparel.

Danskin has long been an advocate in the triathlon market for women becoming more active, and their size offerings reflect their commitment to the idea that plus-size women can use triathlon to be more fit.  They also sell a variety of shorts at Wal-Mart (though that line tends to be more “light active” with cotton, etc.)

Danskin’s Triathlon Short Blocked 5″ Print Style – compression style, flat seams, drawstring waist, mesh pockets, and silicone grippers.  Retails for $48, but some sale items at $24.    They also offer a 7″ inseam solid black style, (which is what I wear, and love).  Finally, for those who need more room than Danskin can provide, check out Aerotech’s tri shorts – up to Size 5X.

Danskin's 5" short

If you’re doing a short race and don’t need a chamois (and by short, I mean most sprint triathlons, where you will be on the bike for less than an hour) I would recommend purchasing a standard compression short.  These shorts can be used for anything you want to do that’s active – particularly walking and running – and you will wear them for years.  Moving Comfort offers, I think, the best short in this market right now for our size (even Nike only offers a longer walking short – which can be far too warm on the hottest days of summer). 

Moving Comfort for Women Compression Short – available in size 1X and 2X.  $38, flat seams, wide no elastic waistband, and 9″ length.  For larger sizes, I recommend Junonia’s compression short.

    

Finally, if you’re not thrilled with wearing compression shorts for an entire race, check out some of the great butt-covers on the market this year.  Athleta offers a CYA skrit in a 1X and 2X in both print and black; ($39) Terry offers its Wrapper ($50), and Danskin also offers one.

 

Terry Wrapper – $50, Good prints, and this stuffs in your bike bag for quick toss-on after a ride or workout. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tops

The top question plagues us all every year.  Working backwards from the run, many of us plus-size women can’t possibly complete a 3-26 mile run without a bra.  I mean, I like minimizing equipment, but this is one I can’t live without.  I’ve talked plenty about bras elsewhere in this site, so I’m not going to do it here, except to remind you to SKIP THE COTTON.  Oh, and BodyGlide all around for a triathlon.

But, working backwards, if you need to wear a bra, you’re likely going to have to also swim in that bra – because there’s no point in losing 10 minutes trying to delicately put it on in Transition (wet. in a hurry. Yeah, right?).  So, assume you’re going to be in a bra.  Then, if you’re going to be in a wetsuit, you need to have on the lightest tank you can get your hands on.  Typically, these are second-skin, swimsuit-type tops for the skinny and regular size girls out there. 

If you want to wear a more body-hugging tank (either alone without a wetsuit or underneath one) you can buy the Danskin top featured below.  I have never worn this only becuase I’m a bit conscious of the winter survival pack which I wear around the midsection which somehow always seems to last through the summer (see tire, spare.)  But if you’re not body-conscious, or you just don’t care (something I advocate but in this case can’t do myself), try this:

Danskin’s Tri Top $52, mesh inserts, shelf bra, flat seams, back stash pocket for your Gu.

New Balance Lightweight Tank (up to 2X)

New Balance has offered quite a selection lately because of its affiliation with the Susan G Komen and Avon 3 Day programs, and we’re better for it.  Though the sizes only cover up to a 2XL, their lightweight tank is a good option if you’re looking for something to throw on after the swim – or even wear in the water.  It’s much lighter, for example, than the Nike counterpart.  There are several more to choose from if you don’t like this style – simply do your own apparel search at New Balance in your size.

Junonia’s Quick Wick Tank – less body-fitting, very cute, and would be great for yoga. Not sure of the fabric weight – looks heavy to me. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nike’s Border Tennis Tank  – $45

This is a tank that will have plenty of room, wick well, and look good.  I’ve now got three of the Nike tops and I love their weight and look.  They’ll be a bit bulky on the swim, so if you’re going for this one, assume you’re swimming in just your sportsbra.  For a closer fit, check out the Dedication Long Top, which you could wear in the water.

And for now, kids, that’s it for this preview.  Let me know what you think – do you want more options? More color? More sizes?  What are you wearing this summer?  Let me know – and get moving!

See you on the path…

A few brief thoughts: stop wickin’ out – a guest post by Kristin Maquire

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.

Update: The Danskin Tri Shorts are IN!

 

Danskin 7″ Triathlon Short – $48, available up to a Size 22 (essentially)

Just got a call from the most excellent client service representative at Danskin (Gina, thank you!) who has informed me that they’ve just received a shipment of their super-functional, wicking, great-fitting 7″ triathlon short. 

They have a limited stock, but there are about 150 of them in currently in a Size XXL, and another 300+ in an XL, so if you are looking for a short, check this one out.   REI, which previously had them in stock in an XXL and XL, is out of stock in this 7″ model, but still has the 5″ model in.

Click here to access the page on Danskin’s site (you cannot navigate there from the main site – there is a problem with the indexing on the online catalog, which is tech speak for “no one connected this short to the main page”).

Updates: Little Red Ride Report, Born Fit, and General Awesomeness

Hi all!

A few quick notes here, and then I’m punting you over to Plus Athlete for the Little Red report!

I was lucky enough to spend this weekend in Utah, taking part in the Little Red Riding Hood Ride with fellow blogger Diane, and riding friends and all around cool women Jeannie, Kym, Karen, and others.  The weekend was a total hit, but I wanted to share a few key finds that might help you ride this summer!

First, serious props go out to my LBS (local bike shop) On The Route here in Chicago.  They packed and shipped my baby Trek without problem, and the folks in Logan who put her back together at Sunrise Cyclery rock, too.  If you’re looking for the epitome of great technicians with a flair for the helpful, these are your guys. 

Second, I had the good luck to run into the reps from Born Fit (based in Denver) who make maternity AND general fitness clothing.  They were displaying at Little Red, and shared the really good news that they’re now producing running, walking, and general fitness apparel up to a size XXL.  I can’t say this enough: their stuff is cute, it’s functional, and it works for pregnant women, so I’m pretty sure they’re going to do just find in the Plus market!  Take care to watch the size charts, but if you’re looking, I would recommend checking out their lines, especially their capris and short sleeved tops for summer.

Finally, good news from Chicago – the weather’s been so good, the lake temp is up to a balmy 65 degrees, which means this week, you should expect a report from me on triathlon training – and my first open water swim of the season.  I’ll keep you posted on whether I lose feeling (or, I should say, when.)

See you on the path!

Alert: Danskin XXL Tri Shorts Available at REI!!!

Okay kids.  As you know, finding triathlon clothing for women over a size 14 is tough.  Danskin, who (in my humble opinion) offers the best Tri short in that category, their 7″ Triathlon short, has not re-ordered stock for their online store yet this year.

I spoke with a rep from Danskin today, and they are not going to have new stock in, and available online, until at least July.  (They’ll call and let me know when it’s live). In the meantime, GOOD NEWS.  REI is stocking the 7″ Triathlon short in a Size XXL online ($48) , and you can order it now.   It comes in plain black, or, if you prefer a shorter inseam (5″), you can get it in a Black/Aqua combo in an XL or XXL as well.

If you are planning a later season race, I would suggest that you purchase your shorts now if you can.  These are fantastic training shorts, and they can usually fit up to a Size 20/22 (depending on where you carry your weight.)  The folks at Danskin let me know that REI is the only group carrying this stock, so if you want in, you’ll have to go to REI to get it.

I know you’re thinking “Wow, do I really have to spend $48 for a pair of shorts?”  The short answer is no, you don’t.  But your life will be much easier if you do.  You can wear these puppies in the swim, on the bike, and on the run, and you never have to change clothes. The legs have silicone grippers, so they’ll stay put.  The fabric is quick dry with flat seams, and is comparable to what you’d get with the Big Boys, Zoot and Tyr.  And the 7″ inseam is modest without being crazy long.

You may also notice that REI is stocking the Skirt Sports Tri short in an XXL as well.  My professional (er, non-professional) opinion is that the Danskin short is a better fabric, construction, and all around better short than the Skirt Sports option.  SkirtSports is trying valiantly to serve the larger market, but unfortunately, their materials and design just aren’t up to my standards.   Simply put, you’re not getting $60 worth of shorts with their design.

As for Danskin, I’m a big supporter of these shorts.  After years of trying to wear Men’s TYR shorts and looking for something with a better fit, I found these.  I wore them last year and am a Raving Fan about how well they work.  So if you need shorts, go get em.

See you on the path!

UPDATE!!!!  As of 7/7, Danskin has received their shipment!  Check here for details!

Deal Alert! Tri apparel you need to check out!

I know, I know, I’ve been a delinquent poster these past few weeks! Forgive me, please! I’m back at a full-time job and it’s been an interesting ride!

But fear not, readers! I was wandering the lunch web today and found a couple of steal-of-a-deal-deals you need to know about if you’re racing this summer.

The All-in-One Women’s Tri Top (Zoot! In Sizes That Fit!)

First, REI Outlet has listed a Women’s 09 Tri Top (impossible to come by during the season) in an XXL (which equates to a Size 14-16, measurements of 43-45 bust, 37-40 waist, and 44.5-47.5 hips). Rather than assume you know if you’re a “14” or a “16”, grab the tape measure and see if this MIGHT fit you, because if it does, it’s a PERFECT addition to the tri wardrobe. It will solve all your problems as a “one stop top” you can wear in the water, on the bike, and on the run.  Keep in mind, it’s going to be “slimmer” but it will be worth it in the water and on the bike. 

You don’t have to be an REI member to shop there (though I recommend the one time joining fee because they have some of the best clothes out there for larger men and women). AND you can ship free to a store in your area, but right now, they’re also offering free shipping.

Zoot TriFit Tank Top ($44.95 down from $70.00). Sizes XS-XXL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tri Shorts You’ll Want All Summer

For the guys, Zoot is offering their Tri Zoot 8″ triathlon short in a Size XXL for a SUPER steal, too, at $42.00. They include the leg grippers of silicone (but not those sexy quad muscles pictured below).  Also, a couple of stash pockets for your gu’s, and a nice, “it’s not really a chammy” chamois to give you just a stitch of comfort on the bike.  If you don’t own a tri short, and are wondering if you should buy one before you start training, the answer is yes.  Buy these, because this is the best price you’ll see all year.

This is last year’s model, so you’re getting a break on the price (these are normally $72.00). Click here, or on the picture below to link to Zoot’s site for purchase.  Measurements: Fits 38-40 Waist (I would think you could probably stretch that an extra inch or two, but don’t hold me to that…)

For more apparel guidance, check out the “most frequently read posts” at right, or on the “what to wear” page above.

Sweet Plus Runner Clothes for Not a Lot of Coin

It’s that time again. You’re getting the itch to go outside and run or walk  or start tri training and you suddenly find yourself wanting something new and shiny to go along with it.  So what to purchase that won’t break the bank?  A few ideas…

Danskin is having a sale – they’re moving warehouses and are offering 30% off any order over $100, so if you’re looking to stock up on your summer triathlon apparel, this is the time to do it.  Reader favorites include:

Danskin 7″ Triathlon short (Sale, $41, Sizes L and XL remain).  XL will fit up to 45″ hip measurement!

I wore this short last year and can vouch for its technical creds. It’s got leg grippers that don’t hurt (but won’t let your leg ride up), quick drying fabric, and most important, it’s not a Zoot short designed to fit a pre-pubescent girl 🙂  The 7″ length works well for us larger girls, though there is a 5″ available here, which is offered up to an XXL.   

The short has a drawstring waist but lays flat, and the black goes with everything.  The chammy is barely there, but provides just the right amount of comfort for a 12 or 26 mile ride at your next (or first) race.  It also has what I like to call the “BCO” (Butt Crack Optional) additional piece of fabric that runs up the, uh, back of the short, keeping in mind that sometimes the stretch is a bit tooooo much, if you get my drift…..no free peeks here.

Trust me when I tell you this is the best short in the business if you’re not wearing standard, name-brand apparel. Danskin has done their homework, and if you’re preparing for a race this summer, this is the short you want.

Terry Wrapper Plus (1X-4X)

Terry makes great clothes for women who like to bike, and if you need apparel right now, EVERYTHING is on sale.  One of my favorite ideas is this little wrapper skirt – because let’s be honest, we like to wear the bike shorts, but we don’t always want the world to see the tushum. 

The Wrapper Plus is just that – a quick little wrap skirt to throw on after a ride. It fits in your bike bag, and you can wear it riding too…it’s great if you want to cover up on race day for your run, or whatever. 

Price: $30.00 – regularly $60.  You can find it (and many other GREAT summer cycling apparel deals) here.

Road Runner Sports: Men’s Asics Ready-Set T

Believe it or not, the PlusRunner has some male fans, too! And I’ve been searching for good apparel for them ever since my friend Demiah (a new member of the Nike Running Club in Chicago) alerted me to their plight.  Well, turns out that they have trouble finding clothes too.

Alas, Road Runner Sports does a good job of listing out the apparel for guys up to a Size XXXL.  This tee, from Asics, is a great staple, and runs up to an XXL (50″ chest) and comes in at a light $19.99. 

Price: $19.99.  You can find it (and many other men’s larger shirts) here.

That’s it for today – I’ll be back later this week with some thoughts on getting ready for spring, and will share with you the race calendar for the season!

See you on the path…