The Best Of Plus-Size Activewear

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
I used to think of the gym as punishment; the place I got sent for a treadmill time-out because of my egregious crime of being not thin. So, it made sense that my gym clothes reflected my lousy attitude — they were ill-fitting, full of holes, and generally perfect for a sulky teen. But, when working out became something I actually looked forward to, something began to change.

It started with shoes. I used to wear the same sneakers until holes wore through the soles. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that quality workout shoes might actually be more comfortable — important, even. Ankle support? Heel cushioning? What a world! Slowly, as I began investing in decent sneakers — and sports bras that were less than 10 years old — I realized it felt good to dress like a grown-up. And, screw it — it looked better, too.

Of course, there are many plus-sized women who never let size get in the way of great activewear. But, it's a novelty to some of us, and with good reason. Until recently, there's been a dearth of brands that produce good-quality, supportive, and stylish items in inclusive sizes. But, thankfully, designers are beginning to catch on to the fact that the XS women of the world aren't the only ones who enjoy a kick-ass tank and soft-yet-durable joggers.

With the help of our intrepid styling team, I found a cache of size-inclusive activewear pieces that feel great throughout a workout — and look pretty cute too. Just for showing-off purposes, we shot them in action at Equinox, the gym where I spend most mornings sweating it out before work (usually while wearing a little less makeup than in these pics). 

Look, there is no shame wearing your worn-out, '90s Les Mis T-shirt to work out. Frankly, when I'm staggering out the door for an 8 a.m. session, I'm proud of myself for remembering to put a shirt on, period. No way do you have to look cute at the gym. But, if you want to, it's nice to know you can.

The Anti-Diet Project runs on Mondays twice a month. You can also follow my journey on Twitter and Instagram at @mskelseymiller or #antidietproject. Hashtag your own Anti-Diet moments, too! If you're new to the column, you can check out all the entries here.


Photographed by Lauren Perlstein; Hair and Makeup by Andi Yancey; Styled by Bethie Girmai.    
Advertisement
1 of 5
Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Battle ropes are one of my favorite tools because they're a hardcore workout on your entire trunk, arms, shoulders, and — if you get creative — legs. But, more importantly, they make you feel like a fucking Roman warrior driving horses into battle. I'm all about the workout fantasy.

Capris are my go-to exercise pants, and these are my new favorites, with super-soft fabric, a comfy, high waist, and a bright stripe down the side. The top is what I call "fancy gym" — I'd wear it to a class when I have to stare at myself in the mirror for an hour.


Lane Bryant Livi Active Signature Stretch Logo Active Tank, $29.95, available at Lane Bryant; C&C Sport Bra, available at Equinox; Katie K Active Signature Urban Capris, $59, available at Katie K; Nike Nike Free 5.0 2014 Sneakers, $99.99, available at Foot Locker.
2 of 5
Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
I know I'm in the minority by loving the StairMaster, but what can I say? For me, it's the most satisfying, time-efficient cardio out there. Yeah, it's really hard, but if I've only got 15 minutes, this is the workout I'm going for. You can do it facing forward or sideways-stepping, to work more muscle groups. (Bonus: no boob-bouncing.)

A word on sleeveless tops: Give them a shot. I used to keep tank tops in the corner of my dresser I reserved for not-in-public clothing. But, since getting into activewear, I've learned to embrace upper-arm exposure — or, at least, to not dread it.

The gym is a great place to step out of your clothing-comfort zone, because no one is looking their most glamorous. More importantly, no one is looking at you. They're looking at themselves, or at Law & Order: SVU reruns.


Lane Bryant Livi Active Signature Stretch Back Interest Tank, $34.95, available at Lane Bryant; Lane Bryant Livi Active Zip Front Sport Bra, $54.50, available at Lane Bryant; Athleta Floral Flow Skinny Up Pant, $84, available at Athleta.
Advertisement
3 of 5
Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Ah, my happy place. As great as a good workout feels, I think the victorious walk into the locker room feels even better. This is the face I make after beating my speed record on the treadmill, or finally mastering the kettle-bell swing. (You know, before the other ladies in the locker room are like, "Excuse me, can I get to my locker please?")

Supportive sneakers are mandatory. I could write a thesis on the importance of finding the appropriate shoes for your stance and exercise preferences. But, I'll also say that having pretty sneakers sure doesn't hurt. Is it frivolous? Yep. But, whether it's a workout or a party, wearing shoes you love is a great motivator to get you out the door. I like my gym shoes really bright, kind of girly, and orthotic-friendly.


Old Navy Women's Plus Active Mesh Tank, $11.97, available at Old Navy; C&C Sport Bra, available at Equinox; HydroChic Pedal Pusher Styled Swim Shorts, $48, available at HydroChic; New Balance 1500v1 Sneakers, $109.99, available at New Balance.
4 of 5
Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Yoga is my first fitness love — and, one of my most challenging workouts in terms of body confidence. Sometimes, when I can get out of my head and into the zone, I come out of a class feeling like the most sane version of myself. But, other times, all I can think is, Oh God, my shirt is riding up, and everyone can see my stomach, and now I have to leave the country.

My solution: Whip it out. I used to solve this problem with ever-more-giant pants and T-shirts, but that just left more fabric to fall over my face when I went into a shoulder stand. Now, I throw on something small or fitted — bonus points if it shows a little midriff. Not only does this outfit make yoga more comfortable, it forces me to get more comfortable with me.

There's only so long you can freak out about your belly showing before your brain gets bored and moves on. This small slice of exposure therapy just gets you there faster.


Lane Bryant Livi Active French Terry Tie-Bottom Jacket. $69.95, available at Lane Bryant; Puma Watch Me Leave Studio T-Shirt, $30.00, available at Puma; Lane Bryant Livi Active Signature Stretch Floral Capri Legging, $34.95, available at Lane Bryant.
5 of 5
Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
I am so obsessed with these pants. I wore these pants to my friend's house, and when she didn't immediately comment on them, I screamed, "DID YOU NOT SEE MY PANTS?" These are the pants I save for mornings when I just cannot get going. I lay there in bed, thinking, Oh, but the pants. If I get up, I can wear the pants. And, lo, I am out of bed.

Yours might not look like mine. You might be into stripes or polka dots or shiny, little shorts. But, everyone needs a pair of getting-out-of-bed pants.


Equinox water bottle, available at Equinox; Lola Getts Lola V-Neck Sleeveless Polo, $47, available at Pinks And Greens; Lane Bryant Livi Active Zip Front Sport Bra, $54.50, available at Lane Bryant; Athleta Floral Fade Sonar Capri, $74, available at Athleta; Puma Narita V3 Heathered Women’s Running Shoes, $65, available at Puma.
Advertisement