Head Butts and Yoga Butts: What works in the gym, doesn’t always work out of the gym

by Charlotte on May 16, 2012 · 42 comments

This, my friends, is the Rear Naked Choke in action. (I think, feel free to correct me if it isn’t.) Clearly Golem in front is not amused but the guy in back is totally laughing. See? Funny.

The Rear Naked Choke Hold came back to haunt me tonight. There I was, sitting in on a jujitsu demonstration as part of my attempt to try out every program Lifetime Fitness offers before my month in fit heaven expires, when I was yet again the only person in the entire room snickering like a 12-year-old boy*. For the record, it’s called “naked” because it means the person doing the submission hold isn’t using anything but their arm to do the choking portion of the program. And it’s still really really funny. I know, I know this is serious windpipe-crushing stuff and MMA fighters are some of the best athletes on the planet. (Truly, they are.) And yet: go stand in front of the mirror and try to say “I’m going to mount you and put you in a rear naked choke hold until you submit” with a straight face. Can’t be done. (And no this was not a live reading of 50 Shades of Grey although if you haven’t seen it yet you must check out Ellen’s reading. Hilarious! And clean!)

Anyhow, my point. As I sat watching what was a very impressive jujitsu demonstration I realized all over again how many things that we do in a gym environment totally wouldn’t fly anywhere else. Just this morning, for instance, as I tried to work out the knot in my right butt cheek courtesy of my corrective exercises by rolling all over a medicine ball, I felt someone looking at me. Someone who was waiting for the ball. Sheepishly I rolled it over and mumbled, “Sorry, I’m done molesting it now. Your turn!” Or the time I had an entire conversation with a friend while I held bridge pose (lay on your back, hips up in the air like you’re petitioning the Goddess of Fertility) and neither one of us so much as blinked. Context is king.

And hey, what happens in the gym stays in the gym, right? (No, no it doesn’t actually. But that’s a post for another day.) But there’s one area that I do have a really hard time transitioning from gym to street and vice versa: my workout clothes. No it’s not a fashion issue (at least not that anyone has told me) but rather one of propriety. In case you haven’t noticed, gym clothes take the definition of “clothes” a lot looser than, say, sportswear. (Okay, what is “sportswear” anyhow? I always hear about it in couture collections – as in “This is Balenciaga’s sportswear line! OOh! Aah!” – and yet they never look the least bit sporty. At all. I don’t get it.)

Like a lot of girls, I usually wear super-tight capri leggings to workout in and while many of those girls seem to be totally comfortable heading to the preschool recital still wearing them, I always feel a little… exposed. It’s weird – it doesn’t bother me a bit in the gym but drop me in the middle of a suburban Target store and all of sudden I get shy. I mean, it kinda looks like you left the house in your tights and forgot your skirt, right? Then there are gym shorts in all their various permutations: running, split, booty, compression, bike and missing. (True story: once saw a guy at my gym cycling in a polo shirt, tighty-whities and black dress socks. Sorry, enough with the random asides.)

Before you call me a prude, I’m not the only person who has these qualms. Several schools and colleges have banned their students from wearing “yoga pants” and one school even famously banned the students’ moms from lolling about in their Lulus in the carpool line because they were “too revealing.” Some women deny that the pants show any more than other clothes but the fact that there’s even a whole website dedicated to girls wearing yoga pants (note: if you click through you will want to punch someone in the face within 5 seconds) makes me think they’re in the minority. Here, let Kim K demonstrate the perils of Kapris for you:

This is also a good demo of how gray is so much less flattering than black. Although I still own a pair.

There’s also the flipside: while the pants may show too much of a pretty young thing, they also show too much of, well, the rest of the population. Poor Bryce Dallas Howard got eviscerated this past weekend for daring to wear yoga pants out of the house and not be a size 0. (The woman JUST popped out a BABY for pete’s sake. Post-partum women get a total pass on yoga pants. And pajama pants. Heck, I loved anything with an elastic waist.)

Image and exceptional commentary from Jezebel

For myself, I have come to a strange compromise that involves so many layers that it makes me glad I spent all those hours playing 3-D Tetris in college (see mom, it DID come in handy!). For example, tonight. I wore my gym leggings with a baggy tee over the top for a quick meeting at the gym for an article, then I threw on a cotton skirt and a fitted jacket over the top of those to have dinner at a restaurant with my family, after which I had to run back to the gym for the aforementioned jujitsu class (late) and I pulled off my skirt as I raced down the hallway with my running shoes untied — causing one little boy to gasp “are those your underwear?!” Finally I threw the jacket back on and ran to the church to pick up my boys from cub scouts, realizing belatedly that I’d left the skirt in my gym bag and the last place you want to be essentially pants-less is in a church. Basically, I’m like Superman. If Superman were a flasher.

How do you feel about yoga pants outside of the gym – appropriate or not? For those of who get shy like me (and I’m not knocking those of you who don’t!) what do you do? Always shower and change at the gym? Shimmy into a new shirt at a stoplight? And what do you do with your sweat-soaked sports bra that is now seeping dampness through the new shirt?

*I would like to note that the men teaching the technique remained very professional through the whole thing and politely ignored me as I tried desperately to remember what real grown-ups do.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby May 17, 2012 at 12:03 am

My current solution is to only work out in the evenings and just stay home afterwards. On the rare occasion I have to go out I wash my face, leave my damp hair up, and try to remind myself that showers are a modern development and that I wear deodorant. The fiancé swears I don’t smell. I’d shower but I never have time and it dries my skin out intolerably to shower more than once a day. And my curly hair requires that time to be before work.

I think yoga pants are fine outside of the gym personally. I dont think they’re anymore revealing than many things women wear. I get too sweaty to do anything but change completely though.


A-man-duh May 17, 2012 at 12:19 am

Perfectly fine with yoga pants outside of the gym! In fact, when I see others in their yoga pants and I’m in my work clothes, I’m super jealous! Of course lately I’ve been wearing my yoga pants to work, since I’m 6 months pregnant and I refuse to go buy maternity pants with only 3 weeks left in the school year! And I make sweaty post-gym trips to Target all the time… Haven’t been kicked out yet.


Laura May 17, 2012 at 12:24 am

I think if the shirt is longer, they are OK. I think it’s weird when people just wear leggings (in a non gym setting) and a tight shirt. Too much spandex. I am guilty of going places after the gym in my running capris though.

Other things that should stay at the gym –

Nice snatch. How is your jerk?
Rolling out inner thighs on foam rollers.


Amy N. May 17, 2012 at 12:26 am

I love running in my spandex capris, or even booty shorts when it’s hot. However I start getting uncomfortable wearing them before the sweat dries. (this from a gal who grew up a dancer and had no problem costume changing in the wings of a stage). I guess it’s that whole appropriate for the activity thing. Spandex is great for working out. But I just can’t doing it lounging around.


TS May 17, 2012 at 1:04 am

The tight yoga pants? The one that Kim’s wearing. Yea, I wear that with a really long shirt. Like tunic style. If there’s a slight chance that you can show camel toe, wear a long shirt.

But regular exercise pants? The ones that aren’t skin tight? I wear those all day, man they’re comfy.

The second picture, the woman with the baby. That’s not skin tight, I see folds of fabric. I honestly don’t see an issue there, it looks like regular pants to me. There’s no stretching happening, it’s appropriately sized. What, she’s supposed to go around in Hammer Pants because right now she isn’t size 2? OMG, THE HORROR!!!

The thing is that there’s a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate. There’s some pants that look great on me, and yes, make my butt look good. But if I gain 10 lbs, it’ll be inappropriate for me to wear outside the gym. There’s a certain point where some of these bottoms go from pants to tights or vice versa. It’s just an issue of judgement.


EmmaS May 17, 2012 at 3:27 am

I love spending the whole day in my yoga pants, if I don’t have to go to work. During weekends and holidays, I usually don’t shower until before dinner, and I walk around all day in yoga gear.
But I do a little bit like you: I usually put a short dress on top. I have bought several dresses only for that reason, and I think it is the perfect solution.


Caitlin May 17, 2012 at 4:59 am

I see nothing wrong with kicking it in some yoga pants. I go to the store while wearing them after the gym sometimes. I do draw the line at the compression booty shorts that I like to wear when I run. I love to run around in them, but the second I’m no longer running, I feel like I’m walking around without any pants on.

P.S. You are right – Girls in Yoga Pants makes me want to punch someone. I should have listened to your warning.


Kaelin May 17, 2012 at 9:11 am

I would be right there snickering with you!!! I have always found wrestling soooo inappropriate! How is that manly?

I am a bit shy about my capris, but I have found longer tanks and tees to wear with them when I am out in public after my gym time. But I do love to wear them, so comfy!!

And the girl with the baby??? She is wearing loose PJ pants…. poor thing. Why is society so critical with new mommies?


Sue May 17, 2012 at 9:44 am

Usually, I don’t wear my workout clothes in public, they are for workouts after all. I often run during lunch break (thank the heavens for showers at work), or through my neighborhood after work. I don’t shower at my gym, instead I use baby wipes, a towel, and some deodorant, and put my ‘normal’ clothes back on.


Aine May 17, 2012 at 10:29 am

I am happy to wear workout clothes any time I get the chance. In public. To Home Depot. To the library. To bed. In the garden. To the grocery store. They’re the most comfortable clothes I own, and if I get a little fat they still fit mostly. Of course, I try to buy them in my size, wear underwear, and make sure I don’t have any cameltoe showing, but even if they don’t look smashing on me I’m going to wear them anyway. I figure, don’t look if you think I’m nasty.


Cort The Sport May 17, 2012 at 10:43 am

I have no issues wearing gym clothes, running clothes, or biking clothes to the store, to pick up kids, whatever! One many occasions I have parked at the kid’s school and left on a run or bike, returning just as the car pickup line is full swing! It’s a small enough town that most people are aware of my workout “habits” and I hope give me great leeway for that! I’m the same mom who has biked on the trainer at swim and soccer practice, and run laps around the soccer field so I have firmly established myself as an oddball anyway :-)


'Drea May 17, 2012 at 10:43 am

After hot yoga last night, I totally went to Target in soaked clothing and did not care. It was 8:30 p.m., I needed bananas and some other stuff and no way was I going home to change. I wasn’t even near home anyway…


Alyssa (azusmom) May 17, 2012 at 11:34 am

Since yoga pants ARE my work clothes, I wear them pretty much everywhere. They’re SO comfy! Banning them seems a bit silly. What better way to ensure that high school girls them wear them constantly? (And, yes, scrolling through the “girls in yoga pants” DID make me want to slap someone. Preferably the guy who runs the site. Maybe I can call his mom and have her slap him for me…)
As far as designer sportswear, as far as I can tell it’s clothing for hanging out on the yacht, at the polo grounds, or at the country club. Not for actual, y’know, MOVEMENT. Other than lifting a glass.
Finally, TMZ and its commentors (sp?) should go away. Way, far away, to a deserted island. Where they can talk smack about each other and leave the rest of us in peace. That is, those of us who have moved beyond the high school mentality.
And maybe they can take all those Housewives, Mob Wives, Basketball, Baseball, Football, Curling, etc. Wives with them.


Melissa May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I wear loose-fitting workout clothes, so I’m not really worried about exposing myself (except in particularly short shorts, but I avoid those 90% of the time, too. I’ll occasionally wear them in public…if I want to stop by the store on the way home from the gym, it doesn’t bother me. Especially since I turn so beet red when I work out (and for a good half hour after) that I assume anyone who sees me will know that they’re exercise clothes and not just PJs.


Dr. J May 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I suppose since I wear “pajamas” at work, I do not have the right to criticize anyone’s attire :-)

In case you are interested, I reviewed the Intelliskin Performance Apparel this week.


Morgan May 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I wear yoga pants in public like nobody’s business, but then, I’m a yoga teacher. Banning clothing that shows off the female form is an incredibly misogynistic act and speaks more to the judgmental nature of those banning it than to the ladies who know that a cozy pair of yoga pants can go a long way toward making a stressful, busy day that much more comfortable.


Alyssa (azusmom) May 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm



Kira May 18, 2012 at 11:09 pm

THANK you. Well said.


redhead May 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Well, some brands are definitely made and cut differently than others – and buying yoga pants in the size that fits you (and not the number that you want to wear) can make a huge difference! I have leggings that really should not be worn as pants, though they’re technically cut thick enough – some I wear under skirts, and some I wear under running shorts in the winter. But my yoga pants, which are made to be yoga pants and are not leggings-meant-to-be-worn-under-skirts that I’m wearing as pants, are a totally different story. I wouldn’t wear them to a wedding, but I often stop at the grocery store or sometimes a restaurant on the way home and it’s never a problem!


Whitney @ Whit Likes Fit May 17, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I absolutely prefer wearing my gym clothes to regular clothes. On the weekends when it’s warm, I throw on my running shorts or capris with a tank and a hoody and I’ll rock my yoga pants when it’s cold. I think gym wear is perfectly acceptable outside of the gym. Plus it makes me feel fit. I feel like if more people had to wear their gym clothes around in public maybe we wouldn’t have such an obesity crisis?


Marla-Deen May 17, 2012 at 8:21 pm

This is SUCH a dilemma for me! I even made it my New Year’s Resolution to do a better job of getting out of my workout gear and actually getting dressed for the day! However, I still find myself in the grocery store in sweaty, smelly workout attire AND not getting a shower until 4:00 pm, smack dab during homework hour! I definitely need help on this one! I have taken to always carrying an age appropriate long sleeve shirt with me for all occasions, though!


Kayla May 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I used to be anti yoga pants, anti sweat pants in public and anti leggings as pants… but then laziness happened.
As a theater major I am required to wear yoga pants most days of the week, and let’s be honest they are pretty freaken comfortable as well. I loved that I was able to go to the gym or yoga directly after a long school day without having to change my outfit.
In New York City I feel like basically everyone accepts yoga pants as acceptable attire for running errands and whatever else. I never feel self conscious about it


Suzanne May 17, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I don’t mind workout clothes outside of the gym if you’ve actually just gone or are on your way to work out. However the trend seems to be just to wear them all of the time among the younger crowd. Started with the Nike Tempo shorts and now it seems to be the tight running capris. They wear them to class, to the store, to the movies, etc.

I’m intrigued by the school that tells the moms they can’t wear their gym clothes. I notice at my daughter’s school (private with a strict dress code, no uniforms though) that some of the moms don’t wear much clothing. There’s one mom who is a CrossFit trainer and is in amazing shape but wears her Lulu tiny shorts/tank to come to school. And then others that do similar things. Probably they would all assume I’m jealous, but like you I’m pretty self conscious of gym clothes outside of the gym, aside from running shorts.


Kiya May 17, 2012 at 10:29 pm

LIFETIME! I WORK AT LIFTIME! Ok, super random and not really related, but it made me excited.

As a former dancer and group fitness instructor, I pretty much live in tights, leggings, & yoga pants. I wear them EVERYWHERE. And get stared at. I tell myself they’re just jealous of my hott bod…. Are you telling me they’re not?!


Kiya May 17, 2012 at 10:32 pm

former dancer and *current* group fitness instructor… man, I need to make sure things make sense before I post them!


Casey Kay May 17, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I have a few pairs of yoga pants I will wear in public, but the way I see it is as long as they aren’t see-through it’s not a big deal. Even on the larger ladies. As long as people can’t see your underwear it doesn’t really matter.


dee May 18, 2012 at 4:33 am

I don’t want to punch anyone but i do want to say a high-pitched, REALLY?? to you. How on earth did you find that website? I’m now lost in all the other links at the top. (I wear yoga pants all the time i’m a bit creeped out if someone took my pic now.) Anyway, having said that – please show your kids these websites before they get into social media – i mean, be verrrry careful what you post and what you allow your friends to do.


deb roby May 18, 2012 at 8:26 am

I cannot even wear those skin tight capris inside the gym without a long t-shirt over them. And they don’t seem to make shirts long enough anymore. And all of those skin tight things are missing a pocket.

I program my workouts on a program in my phone. How do I keep it safe in my ghetto gym without a pocket?

But workout clothes that fit well -but not skin tight- I live in those! And I rather gleefully once spent the entire weekend at BlogHer in a running skirt. Not that I run…

And who is that second lady? The one with the baby? Why are they eviscerating a woman who is not a celebrity?


The Girl in Yoga Pants May 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Holy crap, are you talking to me? LOL I wear yoga pants all the time. Thank you for the pass, as I am a postpartum mom. In my defense for wearing them non-postpartum, I certainly make sure I don’t have the Kardashian thing going on. I don’t think they show off too much. I only wear black in public and make sure they are made of sturdy, dense fabric. You know, the kind that prevents cellulite from showing and keeps your thighs from wobbling around all over the place. They give my butt a lift, too. I like that. Personally, I can’t believe places are banning yoga pants. I’d start a protest.


Matt May 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I don’t know why but this article makes me want to take a time machine back to the 80s so we can all watch the folks with muscle shirts and ankle warmers……….while they go grocery shopping.

Let’s face it, the gym is a strange place where we do strange things. We think it’s cool but others may not. They do think it’s funny though. :)


SeeAlliRun May 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I recently had surgery that prevents me from wearing pants with hard seams. I quickly got over my fear of wearing yoga pants in public. Most of the time I wear tunics style shirts, or short dresses with leggings though, so at least I don’t look like revenge of the pyjama people. I’m still against running shorts in public though with the exception of maybe when I’m on vacation in the south.


MsC May 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Totally agreed, ‘camel toe’ shaming, it’s a disgrace, and now you can buy inserts for your pants/pants (google camelflage, I find it difficult to believe it isn’t a joke) to pretend you don’t have labia? Another case of women having to worry about things that make them a woman
I despair


Jennie May 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I wear yoga pants EVERYWHERE.


Sarah May 20, 2012 at 3:09 am

I also feel awkward wearing gym clothes outside of the gym, especially tight capris and running skirts. I don’t know why, but I just feel so exposed! The other problem is the cat calls. Men apparently can’t contain themselves when you have a pair of tight black pants on outside of the weight room. (like you said, context matters.) I have no problem with wearing skirts and capris that aren’t workout pants outside of the gym, so who knows. Usually I just deal with it, and change when I get a chance, but then again I am nobody’s mom and I don’t even have to dress to impress at the moment because I’m a PhD student!


Carly May 21, 2012 at 4:30 am

Me, I prefer to do my yoga at night. It makes me relaxed and ready for rest


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