This preposterous idea for workouts might make all the difference

“I have a preposterous scene for you to imagine. Pretend that you’re walking down a corridor and come upon a row of windows peeking into a small gym. Inside you can see people working out. They all look so earnest and focused, running on their machines and hauling around weights. And then you see something that can’t be right. It’s a girl wearing a dress and she’s doing pull-ups.

“My mind must be playing tricks on me,” you think, and so you look again.

No—you saw correctly. She’s working out in a dress. Who does that? you think.

Well, I do.

Let me explain this bizarre behavior, because it has to do with why I think people aren’t sticking with their fitness goals. Generally I think that we’re overcomplicating fitness, and one way we do this is by believing we have to wear special clothing to workout. I think this belief is the #1 reason we decide NOT to workout. Changing clothes is too much hassle.

Here’s my proposal: Don’t change your clothes to workout.

I can hear your “buts” in my mind as if you were sitting right next to me.
“But I sweat too much.”
“But what I’m wearing is too confining and uncomfortable.”
“But…the chaffing.

These buts are all valid. Workout clothes are designed to function for sweat, movement, and wicking. Obviously they’re the best choice for activity. But you CAN workout in regular clothes, and even regular shoes.

> I’ve seen people walk to work in business clothes and sneakers.

> I’ve seen people do yoga in jeans and a t-shirt.

> And I sometimes lift weights in a dress and (gasp!) heels.

These motions—walking, lifting weights, yoga–are all exercises you can do wearing what you have on right now (exception: heels/dress shoes and walking don’t mix well for long distances), as is rowing, biking, and using an elliptical machine.

If you’re worried about sweat…

If you’re worried about sweat, I have an idea: Break your activity into multiple short sessions that don’t get you too overheated. In Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, Joshua Fields-Millburn talks about how he does pull-ups every time he passes through his hallway. He can now do over a 100 of them! He claims he’s never been stronger or in better shape.

Lastly, if you’re worried about what people will think if they spot you working out in normal clothes, my advice is to play it off totally cool. If you don’t act awkward, you won’t feel awkward. I like to make eye contact, smile and say “Hey,” and then proceed to lift weights like normal. I’m sure people think it’s quirky to see me in regular clothes, but who cares? I concentrate on my routine, and enjoy the feeling of checking off my workout for the day.

Do I wear regular clothes as my normal routine? No. Most of the time I workout before I get to work (in shorts and a t-shirt) and change when I’m done. But on days like today, for instance, when I’m missing my morning session, I’ll hit the gym (and the walking trail) in my dress.

What do you think? If you’re having a hard time staying consistent, could you remove the obstacle of changing clothes? Would that help you follow through?