I managed to get the local GP to give me a note excusing me from gym PERMANENTLY after my first horrifying day in my rural-Kentucky public high school phys ed class. I was thin and bookish and just thirteen. First I had to undress in an open locker room and then put on rough navy blue bloomer outfits worn with athletic socks and Keds. I had no breasts and no hair that wasn’t on my head, and I was freaked out by all the hormonally altered big girls in my class. And that was before I entered the chamber of torture known as a gymnasium.
The health teacher was also the phys ed teacher, and my, my, wasn’t she just full of move move move!!! She had a whistle that she blew when we were to move move move in another direction. This woman honestly expected me to run up and down bleacher stairs. And she then expected me to participate in a game of volleyball, where those Amazons in my class tried to kill me by knocking the ball over the net with the kind of force I had never seen before. Needless to say, I ducked and put my hands over my face whenever the ball came my way. And I simply walked those bleacher stairs. I was not going to sweat, and I certainly did not want to fall. The phys ed teacher was extremely unhappy with my lack of interest and participation, even though I explained very thoroughly that I had always been frail and not everyone was meant to do this sort of activity. The post-exercise group showering and changing back into school clothes was even worse than the initial disrobing, since everyone (but me) smelled of sweat.
I called my favorite GP that day and told him that he simply had to get me out of gym class or I would drop out of school. I remember that he asked what he should write that would allow me to be permanently excused from the compulsory exercise program. “Frail. She is frail and anxious and has a fear of balls hitting her,” were my instructions. “It is the truth. Plus, those outfits itch and are ugly.”
I was excused, permanently, from gym. The health/phys ed teacher was pleased. My classmates were delighted that they had something else to torture me with. It worked out just fine.
I have been working out with personal trainers since I entered my forties. Exercise and sweating were never appealing to me, but toned arms, abs, and legs sounded good. But I could never find anything comfortable and attractive to wear. Finally I settled on Danskin tights and a series of white stretch T-shirts covered by a knit top without sleeves in various attractive colors. Sort of like scrubs in the OR. But there was only so much I could do with those, either.
Exercise clothes have become very big fashion moneymakers now. But I still look at most of them with a baleful eye. These are my choices for the outfits no one should ever wear in a public gym.
Cleavage-baring tops. The treadmill or the yoga mat is no place for cleavage. Wardrobe-malfunction fears would keep me from lifting those five-pound weights over my head!
Pants that cause camel toe! And I see these on the street and in the airport all the time. These are really leggings, not exercise pants, and should have a top that covers the pelvic area, at least. And this fashion advice applies to girls and women of all ages.
Midriff-short tops that expose the belly. The utterly fit fifteen-year-old dancer/model in this outfit looks great. But how many of us have abs like this at any age?
Mid-calf tights hit my leg at just the wrong place, emphasizing the infamous “cankle” that I certainly have.
Low-rise tights: Who wants to stretch and show off the skin on her butt? And this style always gets too-close-for -comfort to the genital tissue as well. No one but a gynecologist would tell you this.