As unhealthy (and somewhat shameful) as it is, I spend a massive portion of my waking hours scrolling through Instagram. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: it’s not an addiction, I swear. Well, maybe it is, but that’s a topic for another day. Back to the topic at hand — if I am to believe the fitness content which Instagram delivers to me, women who work out in the gym are sun-kissed health goddesses who perpetually sport chiseled abs and perfectly curled eyelashes. They also happen to be so confident in their own skin that they’re comfortable with working out in just a sports bra. With leggings, of course. What were you thinking?
I can’t recall the exact moment where I started to have issues with the way my body looked, but I’m almost certain it was somewhere around puberty where, you know, boys started showing interest in girls and I realised that my body was always a little too something for the boys.
I was too tall, too hairy (not even embarrassed to put this on the World Wide Web — sorry, Mom!), too chunky around the thighs, too broad at the shoulders, too fat at the arms, etc.
To sum it all up, my body was not appealing.
For years, I internalised that thought, and it showed in the way I dressed. My arms were “huge” in comparison to other girls, and I fervently shunned wearing tank tops in fears of revealing their size. You’d never see me leave the house in something other than over-sized dresses and shirts through my late teen years. Ah, if only I could turn back time…
After some necessary growing up and an overhaul in my mental lifestyle, I started working out a lot more seriously. My current boyfriend always told me that I’d look killer if I plucked up the courage to just work out in my sports bra (in his defence, he thinks I look killer no matter what), but I never was able to commit to going tankless.
The turning point happened when I hired a personal trainer, and we had to take progress pictures. Yep, you guessed it: sans-top. The first time I did it, I was incredibly self-conscious — I could literally feel the my fats overspilling, bulging, squeezing out from the sides of my leggings. Then I did it a second time, and a third, then a fourth. Each time, I spend a little less time pulling up my leggings in bids of covering up my tummy: instead, I spend more time smiling in front of the camera; thankful that all of my physical and mental progress is being captured and immortalised.
As I gained more confidence with hanging out in just my sports bra, a thought came to take root in my mind.
Why the heck am I covering up my incredibly cute sports bra with my meh tank top?
And so — the very next day, after a brief mental battle with myself in the changing room and a minor case of nerves, I took off my tank top and marched into the weights room with my head held high. Before you misunderstand: it’s not because magical confidence came to possess me, but because I believed that if I held my eyes high enough, I wouldn’t catch anyone’s eyes…
That was day 1 of working out sans-top, and today marks day 30. Here’s what happened in the past 30 days:
#1 — I was stared at, and I didn’t care
By both genders. You see, it’s only human nature. It’s skin — our eyes are naturally attracted to it. I came to accept it, and the stares no longer bothered me. Just concentrate on why you’re at the gym, and focus on crushing your workout. When you’re working through a particularly heavy set of deadlifts where your face turns into this angry red mess and you emit deep, primal and guttural sounds, people naturally avert their gazes. They’ll be busy with their own workout program too.
#2 — I came to accept all my belly fat rolls
There is simply no hiding them when you’re doing any form of abdominals exercises in the gym — especially when you’re only decked out in a sports bra. I felt ashamed of them in the first week of my sans-top experiment, but I came to realise that everyone experiences some extent of fat rolls when sitting down, or when the torso is shortened. Besides, the most critical person of your body in the weight room is probably yourself: no one else is noticing the crinkles in your mid-section.
#3 — I saved money on tank tops
In turn, I’ve spent it all on the latest, trending pastel-colour coordinated sports bra sets, and I’m not ashamed. In addition to saving money spent on tank tops, I’ve also saved myself the hassle of washing above-mentioned clothing articles. Wink.
As it turns out, working out in only a bra is pretty damned liberating, and it’s honestly not as big of a deal as I’ve made it out to be. Also: my boyfriend is incredibly glad for this change of mindset. Double wink.
Thanks for reading! If you want an evidence-based approach to nutrition and fitness for women, be sure to check out Thrive With Science. You’ll like it — I promise!