The 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Running or Working Out in a Costume

A lot of things can go wrong here, if you're not careful.

Runner Andi Sawin, pictured here as the sneaker, and her friend, Carolyn Stellatella, the bubble gum and also creator of both costumes in full.

Runner Andi Sawin, pictured here as the sneaker, and her friend, Carolyn Stellatella, the bubble gum and also creator of both costumes in full.

With Halloween coming up this weekend and a slew of spooky workouts to keep you occupied — not to mention, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, which just so happens to be taking place this Saturday — we figure more than a few of you are planning to get sweaty in a costume sometime in the next few days. So we reached out to the experts — i.e. fitness instructors who teach Halloween-themed classes and runners who’ve been known to suit up in crazy costumes for races — to find out what you should take into consideration when planning a workout-friendly costume.

Behold: The 10 Do’s and Don’t of Running or Working Out in a Costume. Your sweat glands will thank us later. 

1. Try to create the costume out of runner-friendly materials. “Especially in a longer race,” says the ODDyssey Half Marathon’s Carl Ewald, “you have to consider chafing as enemy #1.” Our other experts concurred with this advice. One suggested wearing Spandex underneath the costume to protect your skin, and another said to invest in lots (and lots) of BodyGlide Anti-Chafe Balm. Another idea: Under Armour makes superhero running shirts. Hey, why not? 

2. Consider the temperature. Whether you’re working out indoors or outdoors, know this: Most costumes amount to extra layers that will add heat — potentially, lots and lots of it. If the workout environment is warm, you definitely want to make sure your costume is lightweight and breathable (i.e. no full-body Lycra suits). Take a lesson from Body Cycle Studio’s Shoshanna Katz: “I taught an 80s-themed Spin class once and wore those tight silver shorts from American Apparel. It was awful.” If you’re headed outdoors into potentially rainy weather, says Ewald, “make sure the costume will not act as a sponge and add 20 pounds to your run.”

3. Consider the length. Almost all of our experts mentioned length as a potential issue in workout costumes. Think about it: If you’re taking a dress-up Spin class and you have a long, flowing cape, it WILL get stuck in the pedals. If you’re running and wearing something bulky that goes past your knees, it might affect your stride. Shorter — i.e. no longer than your waist — is always better.

4. Make sure you can, um, see. Are you wearing a mask? Make sure it doesn’t totally obstruct your vision, please. And while you’re at it, make sure it allows you to breathe normally, too.

5. Makeup is a bad, bad idea. Especially if you get seriously sweaty. You’re not only contending with it running down your face and being unintelligable by the end of your workout, you’re also gambling BIG TIME with your poor pores and potential acne. “If you wear makeup or any kind of spray paint in your hair or on your face, please, please be kind and bring your own towels!” says Juliet Sabella, owner of The Wall Cycling Studio in Manayunk and Phoenixville. “It stains everything and the towels have to be thrown out.” 

6. Headbands with anything attached are a no-no. We’re talking about things like Mickey or Minnie Mouse ears, or insect antennae. “They don’t stay on my head when I’m not working out, so I wouldn’t expect them to when I am,” says Body Cycle Studio’s Erin Moffitt. When she dressed up as Minnie Mouse, she found Minnie ear barrettes that clipped into her hair. “They stayed perfectly!”

7. Note: Wigs are hot. See #2.

8. Carefully weigh the necessity of extra props. They can seem like a good idea in the moment, but unless they are securely attached, they can be both annoying and problematic.

9. Take the costume for a test drive. Almost all of our experts emphasized that it is crucial to try your costume out before you work out in it. This is especially important for something like a half marathon, where you’ll be wearing the thing for a few hours. At the very least, run around the block a few times (yes, you’ll give your neighbors a few laughs) and notice if it rubs you in the wrong place, if it throws your form out of whack, if it makes you feel overly hot, etc. That way you have time to rethink it before show time.

10. When in doubt, keep it simple. This one is optional, of course, but you shouldn’t like you need to go big or go home. Fitness Alive’s Holly Waters suggests just slapping a tail on a pair of running shorts and calling it a day.

The resounding conclusion from our experts? Have fun. “My theory is pretty simple,” says Andi Sawin, the intrepid runner in the photo at the top of this post, who’s dressed as a Converse sneaker. (Her friend in pink is the gum the sneaker stepped in — clever!) “Wearing these ridiculous costumes are short-term, so take the pain for the few hours for all the smiles, laughs and good memories!”

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