You want me to pay $118 for WHAT?

When I saw this post on Jezebel about Athletic Spanx that cost more than $100, my first thought was, WTF?  Except it was not just WTF, but a WTF in big, blinking neon lights the approximate size and shape of the Luxor.

You mean to tell me that I could buy long foundation garments to wear to the gym?  And I can spend approximately two months worth of my water bill to do so?  And then I can get them all sweaty and grody, too?  SWEET.

I was about five minutes into a mental rant about the ridiculous expectations put on women to look good at all times, and how we are always expected to pay stupid amounts of money just to look “presentable,” and how if we don’t look “presentable” people think we are depressed or sad, like we are cats who stop grooming ourselves because we got sick….

…and then I remembered my running bra.  My beautiful running bra, which keeps my girls in place no matter how long or how hard I run, and which keeps the headlights from turning on full-blast when I’m inside an air conditioned gym.

I tried a bunch of the less-expensive ones for a while, but they only worked when I strapped on two of them, which always had the effect of making me feel like a horse with a bondage fetish.  So finally one day I said the hell with it, and I shelled out for an expensive Nike running bra from a specialty running story.

That thing cost me $60.  Sixty dollars!  But oh my god, was it worth it.

I returned to the $118 pair of Spanx today while I was at the gym.  I was on the incline bench doing dumbbell presses when I had a little flash of gratitude for wearing one of my longer, looser running singlets to the gym.  I always get so distracted with irritation when I lift while wearing a slightly snug shirt that crawls up and shows what might be my least favorite part of my body.  It yanks me right out of my workout, no matter how well it’s been going or how badass I feel.

It was at this point that I decided to stop being so judge-y about the $118 pair of Spanx and the women who choose to wear them.  (Even if Spanx does call them the Bagel-Busters.  Seriously, Spanx marketers? Seriously?)

But it doesn’t mean I’m completely okay with it.  (And not just because they are so damn expensive, either.)

Putting aside the questions about impossible beauty standards and the severe anxiety they inspire, can we talk about the practicality of these things?

I’ve never worn Spanx before, but I have worn generic Target-brand shapewear, and having a piece of industrial-strength spandex-nylon wrapped around your waist and stomach really is not conducive to the kind of deep-breathing necessary to keep you going through a serious workout.  Plus, the fabric isn’t exactly breathable.  All I can think of is sweat pooling in the crotch of the pants, then dribbling down my leg as I try to run.

Plus, is it even healthy? According to this NPR article, some doctors say wearing Spanx while playing sports can cause problems:

The startling report comes from Dr. Orly Avitzur, medical adviser to Consumer Reports on Health. She saw a 15-year-old girl last week who had been suffering numbness, pain and tingling in her thigh for several months. A worried orthopedist had sent the girl to Avitzur, a neurologist in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Avitzur knew that tight garments can cause pain and numbness in the thigh if they squeeze the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which runs down the abdomen just below the hipbone. The condition’s called meralgia paresthetica.

And she knew that Spanx are today’s wildly popular answer to the girdle of yesteryear. (Read all about the “It” undergarments in the latest New Yorker.) But she looked at the slender soccer player in front of her and thought, “I’m not going to even ask about Spanx. It seemed ludicrous to think of a young girl wearing Spanx.”

Ludicrous, but right. It turned out that not only was this girl wearing Spanx under her soccer uniform, so was the entire team.

That’s right.  An entire high-school soccer team was wearing Spanx under their uniforms.

Compression garments are one thing, but I don’t think Spanx was intending their gear to be used as therapeutic wear as much as it was meant to be “make my butt look good” wear.

So while I can totally understand why a woman might feel like wearing Spanx athletic wear can only help her by making her feel more comfortable and confident in the gym, I would be wary of doing so when trying to do a serious workout.

What do you think?  Would you ever wear Spanx while working out?  Even if they were athletic versions of Spanx?  Or is the price tag way too steep?

8 responses to “You want me to pay $118 for WHAT?

  1. I just had a conversation with a co-worker who came to me regarding “toning gear” mainly those hawked by Reebok. My advice was that anything that restricts your natural movement or breathing is a HUGE no-no for working out. I understand that compression sleeves, socks, pants have their place for aiding in certain situations but that is for a phsyical advantage… not for looks!! Hopefully I turned her off from buying into the scam that a shirt or capris can make you tone more.

    • I hadn’t even heard of Reebok toning pants until you commented, so I looked them up.

      Here’s the description: “Fitness never looked so good with the EasyTone Pant – part of our EasyTone Apparel Collection, an innovative performance line that uses our proprietary ResisTone bands designed to create resistance as you move.”

      Seriously? Resistance bands inside the clothing?! For EIGHTY DOLLARS?! This is snake oil in clothing form. I’m really hoping you talked your co-worker out of buying this stuff. She’d be much better off spending that money on a set of actual resistance bands and using those to make an at-home gym.

  2. Ugh. No, no, no. Goddamnit, we’re meant to look gross at the gym. If spanx become a wild trend, we hippies who don’t want to wear them will start to feel obligated to, much like bras. Also, I don’t really enjoy yeast infections.

  3. wow – that story about the high school soccer team is really sad. i remember being *incredibly* self-conscious at 15 but the idea of wearing something like spanx (or generic suck-you-in bike shorts, back then) while playing on the softball team would never have even entered my mind.
    i like that on your blog while you acknowledge the unrealistic expectations for what a woman’s body should look like, you also point out how hard it is NOT to take that in – even someone like you who’s writing a blog dedicated to sports/feminism! keeping it real, caitlin. although it also goes to show you there is no easy answer to this stuff and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to shut those kind of thoughts out.

    on an unrelated note, i also recently invested in a new, super supportive sports bra ( and it has CHANGED MY LIFE. no more uniboob!

    • Wow, that is a SERIOUS sports bra. Thanks for the link – I am in the market for a new one and I may give this one a go.

      You are reminding me about playing volleyball in high school, and how during our senior year, our coach changed the uniform so we all wore these spandex short things when we played. It was more in line with what the collegiate teams wore, and also with what some of the better teams in our division were wearing, too, but we all hated them and felt so weird walking around with our butts on full display like that. The argument was that it gave us greater mobility, but all it did was make us more self-conscious. (And besides, if it makes for greater mobility, then why do men’s teams still wear baggy shorts?)

      P.S. Thanks for the nice comments about my blog! 🙂

  4. Crazee Wear baggies. End of story. I have worn leggings, for freedom of movement combined with a barrier between me and everyone else’s staph bacteria, but not COMPRESSION wtf. That thing’s got to breathe. The baggy jersey pants rule.

    Sporrs bras are something else entirely — really a piece of gear that keeps your jugs from chinning themselves or getting caught in the weight stack. The moral equivalent of a jock strap, pretty much.

    I’m enjoying reading through your posts immensely, even when they make my mind reel like this one.

  5. No! No! No!Girls have enough to contend with, without adding spanx to the list of Must Have items. Then there’s the whole issue of how much these things cost – I remember begging my parents for expensive Reebok shoes (that dates me!), does this mean that parents are going to be begged for $118 spanx as well as everything else? The marketing cunning of these companies is outrageous.

    Yes, I’m another one of those hippies who truly hopes these things remain so expensive they NEVER become common!

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