Philly Gym Slobs: Are You One of Them?

From Sponge Bob PJs on the elliptical to unwelcome thong sightings, Philly gym-goers' wardrobes could use some shaping up

Lauren Reichert, 23, dresses sporty without being overtly sexy. // Photo taken by Rebekah Borucki at Optimal Fitness in Burlington

Every Halloween, it seems like most women only make two choices for their Halloween getups: sexy or scary. And this trend has made its way out of the costume shop and onto the treadmill. I work out in several gyms and yoga studios in the suburbs of South Jersey, inside Philadelphia’s city limits and New York City. There are two common themes: a bizarre effort to look as sexy as possible while breaking a sweat or the “just rolled out of bed and forgot that I  was going to be seen in public” look. Walking into almost any area gym, you would think that you passed through some sort of vortex and somehow ended up on another planet populated by joggers in pajamas and  Hawaiian Tropic girls on spin bikes.

I don’t know what’s happened to the gym-going population overall, but this “casualization” of our gym clothing choices has gone too far. I don’t need to see your thong hanging out of your pants in the weight room. And it was just yesterday that I saw a girl in actual pajama pants on the elliptical machine. (They were definitely Sponge Bob-print, and she was definitely not 5 years old … or at a sleepover party.)

In my very informal studies, I’ve come across a few categories. College girls and students seem to be the worst offenders of the “just rolled out of bed” look. It’s all about sloppy t-shirts and their boyfriend’s hand-me-downs. Sometimes a brush will make it though their hair, sometimes it won’t. Then, there’s the nearly naked women that aren’t that lovely to see nearly naked. This fascinating sub-group often includes women who have a lot of new-found confidence based on the purchase of some shiny new body parts. The only issue is that the rest of them isn’t so shiny and new. Seeing who steps off the treadmill in front of you can leave you a little confused — Betty Page from the back, Betty White from the front.

City gym rats are definitely different from country gym rats. New Yorkers are always good for a factory-distressed t-shirt with some sort of ironic message or logo emblazoned across the front. I have even — no lie — spotted more than one Brooklynite working out in a fringed hipster scarf. (Thankfully, I have yet to see anyone in Philly make this gym-outfit mistake!  Scarves don’t make sense with tank tops, and they definitely don’t make sense in a steamy, sweat-drenched gym.)

Philly women in their early-to-mid twenties tend to keep it real with 90s basics like leggings and whatever baby T they had leftover from high school. However, they also continue to seem partial to sweatpants with words on the butt (Juicy and Pink should not be following you around the gym!).

However, among all the offenders stands one ray of shining hope: a group of women that actually realize that the gym is a public place where they will — not may  — be seen. They take the time to brush their hair, maybe throw on a little mascara, and put on real workout clothes (read: there are actual clothes made for wearing while working out). Whenever I see these women all put-together and looking ready to work on their fitness without looking like a desperate, overdone Jerseylicious monstrosity, I can almost bet money that they fall into one demographic: the mom of young kids.

Whether these are working or stay-at-home moms, they share a lot in common: they rarely have time for themselves, they’re often covered in some kind of mess caused by someone other than themselves when they are at home, and they spent a good amount of their adult lives letting their bodies be destroyed by thankless little people. So when they have a chance to take a moment of peace at the gym when it’s all about them, they take it. Decked out tastefully from head-to-toe in trendy workout gear like Lululemon or Lucy, they enter the gym looking hot and ready for the business of treating themselves to a great workout. And their cross-trainers almost always match and are always clean. I love these women.

I’m not proposing that there should be a rule that you have to work out in full hair and makeup and hire a wardrobe stylist before you hit the circuit machines, but it would probably make more sense that you dress your fit body with some fitting gear.

Here, my top 5 tips for looking hot at the gym without looking like a hot mess

1. Overdoing the hair and makeup is a no-go and looks like you’re trying to pick up a man, not the weights. Take your look down a notch while still looking pull together and pleasant with a ponytail holder, a bit of waterproof mascara, and a nude tinted lip gloss.

2. You don’t have to spend a fortune at designer fitness boutiques to look fabulous. Mega-stores like Target and Kohl’s feature inexpensive lines by Champion, Reebok, and Fila that offer mix-and-match, budget-friendly pieces that look just as cute as their pricier competitors. Old Navy has also launched a colorful line of activewear options all priced under $30.

3. If you have more bulges after you put on your workout clothes than before, they’re probably too small. Form-fitting looks can flatter every figure, but make sure you’re wearing the right size. The cut should be body-skimming, not turning your extremities blue. This also goes for sports bras. Try to keep everything inside where it belongs.

4. The gym is not an extension of your bedroom, and pajama pants are never an option. Victoria’s Secret has an adorable line of boyfriend-cut sweatpants that are feminine, but comfortable—and do not have the word PINK emblazened across them. Pair them with a sexy racer-back tank for a fresh, young look.

5. Legwarmers are adorable and neon is back in style and keeping things hot. Pick one of these elements to add some fun to your gym wardrobe. Putting every trend together in one outfit can make you look like you’re auditioning for an Olivia Newton John video, not getting serious about shaping up.