Photo Credit: Joos Mind
When I was younger, firmer, and semi-blindingly confident, my standard workout attire included a sports bra and shorts. The sports bra looked like I'd hijacked it from Barbie's Dream Wardrobe and the shorts could fit Jessica Simpson's beloved MaltiPoo, Daisy, (RIP, sweet girl.) I thought I was hot shit and wanted everyone to know it. Plus, I sweat like Michael Jordan (profusely and at the drop of a hat) and have always felt the less material to adhere to my body, the better.
Once I hit my 30s and things started rubbing together that had previously moved independently, my uniform shifted to a tank top with built-in sports bra and non-Lilliputian-sized shorts. It is not obscene or overtly sexual, and could not be construed as offensive to anyone, unless they are offended by exposed knees or the Target C9 Champion line of exercise apparel.
So you can imagine my surprise when this morning, as my girlfriend took me to her state-of-the-art gym in Rochester, Minn., the woman behind the counter informed me that my outfit was inappropriate. (Please, this woman hasn’t seen inappropriate -- in my early 20s, I would wear see-through bras and skirts the size of postage stamps to clubs and dance on giant blocks.) Actually, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised -- the same thing happened six years ago, the last time this particular friend and I worked out at her gym together. Except that time, I was actually approached and informed I’d need to cover my shoulders with a towel if I wanted to continue burning calories on Mayo Clinic property.
Keep in mind, I was not at a mosque or Jerusalem’s Western Wall. I was exercising. I was lifting weights, not praying to a higher power. And I can maybe understand a dress code asking women to not wear gym shorts minute enough to reveal the lower half of their butt cheeks, but exposed shoulders are simply not wrong. Sorry if this offends you, but if you think exposed shoulders are wrong, you need to buy yourself a lifetime membership to Prudes R Us Workout World.
Other items on the banned list at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center at Mayo (you’d think the founder of Slim-Fast would be more supportive of showing some skin):
Wearing only a sports bra
Cut-off t-shirts or shorts
Bathing suits that are not specifically designed for lap swimming
Scrubs or altered scrubs
Sneaker mules (without a back)
Oh, and you must wear a swimsuit in the sauna and steam room.
The gym maintains that the goal of their dress code in to "provide a non-intimidating, comfortable environment for all who utilize the centers." That’s nice and all, but who are they to mandate what people find intimidating or uncomfortable? I’m sure there are many people like me who go to the gym to workout and are too busy obsessing about their own bodies to even notice what other people are wearing. Also, I know I'm married and off the dating scene, and might not be entirely in touch with what passes for sexy these days, but in general, sweaty shoulders and upper backs sprinkled with bacne are not considered overtly-sexual and therefore distracting to one’s workout. Besides, what about those of us who think the sight of a man fighting off heat stroke in a pit-stained, perspiration-soaked, long-sleeved tee shirt is far grosser than the same man in a tank top? Or the fashion-conscious among us who are deeply offended by sweatpants, which are on the "Approved" list?
Fortunately, I was caught in my pink lucy tank top after our outstanding yoga class, and was able to avoid getting ejected by Padma the Shoulder Patroller. But next time I visit, I’m hitting that steam room naked underneath my towel and anyone who tries to stop me is going to get a sharp, exposed, intimidating clavicle to the groin.
Have you ever felt confinded by a gym dress code? Chime in below.