Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’m clueless when it comes to fitness fashion. I used to walk with a group of friends, but when I had kids, I just didn’t have time any more to work out. Now, I’m almost 40, close to 200 pounds, and determined to join the Y and get moving after the holidays are over. Any advice on what I need to get started, and where to find plus-size fitness fashions?–Tina
DEAR TINA: Stressing about what to wear (something I do when I’m faced with ANY new social situation!) only adds to the anxiety of joining a gym and dealing with the whole sweating-in-public scene. Luckily, there are LOTS of people in your same situation—women-of-a-certain weight who are beginning or are already committed to healthy living and exercise. That means fitness fashion designers are creating all kinds of solutions for plus-size women. So, here’s a list of the basics you’ll need, plus some specific recommendations for styles, manufacturers and pieces to add to your wardrobe.
Bras and shoes. These are THE most important purchases you’ll make if you plan on doing any type of cardio activity that involves impact. Walking, running, even elliptical training, Zumba, boot camp—everything except maybe swimming (which has its own issues), cycling and rowing—involve lots of bouncing, which can lead to real discomfort if you’re big up top. Check out my recommendations for fitness bras for well-endowed women. Shoes are so key, too, to keeping you comfortable and injury-free. The more pounding an activity involves, the more important it is for you to do some smart shoe shopping. This article from WebMD gives you all the info you need.
Basic black pants. Slimming and versatile enough to accommodate anything from treadmill walking to Zumba to yoga. A slightly thicker, moisture-wicking fabric will help smooth you out. A lower rise (just under your navel) and a boot-cut silhouette will be flattering and allow you to move with ease. Choose a tighter Capri style if you plan on getting into Spinning or stationary cycling to avoid snagging your pants on the equipment. These Nike pants (yes, even fitness fashion icon Nike makes styles in plus-sizes!) feature Dri-fit to keep you cool, and a wide waistband for comfort and support. More affordable and just as flattering are the Champion C9 Semi Fit Pant.
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Technical tees. Forget those old cotton t-shirts: Tops made of so-called technical fabrics—blends such as Dri-Fit or Champion’s Duo-Dry—really do help you keep cooler and more comfortable during a workout. The Champion C9 line has long- and short-sleeved versions in sizes up to XXL at a great price.
A light jacket. Something to throw on when you’re going to and from the gym or on an early morning walk. Again, choose a technical fabric to help disperse and evaporate moisture. A style that hits just below your bottom and is slightly fitted will help define and lengthen your waistline. Moving Comfort has great, durable, fashionable choices, like this Commitment Shell Jacket, in sizes up to 2x. It—like many of the latest fitness fashions—features slimming details like offset seams that create the illusion of a slimmer shape.
Socks. Cotton socks are a big no-no—they trap moisture and lead to blisters and athlete’s foot. Invest in pairs made of synthetic moisture-wicking blends or—believe it or not—wool socks specifically designed for fitness pursuits. The merino wool used by companies like Icebreaker is super-light and breathable. Look for styles specific to your activity—for instance, walkers and runners might want and need more padding than, say, a cyclist. If you haven’t committed to a particular pursuit, look for socks labeled “training” or “multisport,” like Icebreaker’s Multisport Ultralite Mini.
Undies. It’s no use investing in pants made of technical fabrics if you’re wearing cotton or nylon panties underneath. Invest in three to five pairs of panties like the Barely There Breathe Bikini.
Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Spryliving.com. Ask her your question here.