There are a few things that I’m really over reading about on social media. If I’m reading about it then that means people are ACTUALLY having these irrelevant and unnecessary conversations. I just feel like we should, as a society, be BEYOND these things. Perhaps, I expect too much of humans.
Disclaimer: I must admit that I have great privilege in that most of the time I ask for forgiveness (or not) instead of permission. I’m not expected to wear a uniform to work. I also work in education which really tries hard to NOT be a corporate environment BUT I mean, who are we kidding? A College/University is a business. My clients happen to be 18-22 year olds. Often really great 18-22 years olds who wish me Happy Birthday, make me laugh, and leave me donuts and honeybuns.
The topic that made me itch today was, “Are workout clothes appropriate for work?” REALLY?! The world of athleisure is a thing and people like Hannah Bronfman (major crush) are helping women understand how to step up their athletic wear to make it fashionable and appropriate enough for work. I laughed a great deal when a colleague shared with me a TODAY show segment about athleisure and how they advised women to whip on a strappy heel with their sweatpants. WHAT?!
I think at this point the term athleisure just makes me giggle BUT I take the meaning behind it seriously as a professional woman who floats through the world juggling a nice number of roles and wearing a few different and stylish hats. I’m also a person who does really great work in leggings, t-shirt, and sneakers because I’m not worried about my Spanx rolling, a run in my tights, and my left pinkie toe killing me in heels as I hustle around a brick campus.
I work and live in one of the most obese states in the US. I’ve always been overweight. I come from a large people and I REALLY enjoy biscuits. Working out makes me feel happier, relieves me of stress, and infuses me with a great deal of energy. I’ve also been known to lose a few pounds. When I work out, it’s an act of prioritizing me over my work, which makes me not resent the amount of time that I devote to my professional life. By taking care of myself, I can provide a better version of Krystal to all of the other stakeholders in my life. I’m better for my bosses, my students, my staff, my friends, my colleagues, and my family. If I’m healthy, that leads to less time out for sick days or doctor’s appointments. I also work in an environment in which, rather I’d always like to or not, I serve as a model for my clients. Modeling the Way is a critical piece of working in Student Affairs and if I can make time to engage in fitness, then perhaps I can serve as encouragement for a overly involved student to do the same. We urge our students to practice self-care and make wellness a part of their life. For many of them this means incorporating physical activity into their day. There’s even a hashtag called #SAFit to encourage folks in my field to include fitness into their packed and often student directed schedules.
All of this sounds pretty great, right? A happy, healthy, motivated, confident, and engaged Krystal is the best Krystal to have on your team. Not the grumpy sloth I become after skipping days of Barre3 or whatever ClassPass adventure on my schedule.
Then why do we keep admonishing people for sporting workout gear to the office? This is actually improving my work and if I’m getting the job done then should we really be hung up on what I wear to the office? What we’ve defined as professional dress, for many reasons, needs to be updated. Many of the women that have adopted athleisure as their work style, talk about it as a way of being comfortable while they work. These clothes help them perform at their self-defined personal best.
Here’s the thing, we preach balance and life prioritization, but don’t want to always deal with the reality of what this looks like in practice.
There are times when I could make it to a fitness class in time if I didn’t have to worry about changing clothes or I could make it back to the office in a more timely manner if I didn’t have to take the time to do my entire morning routine for a 2nd time post workout. This is balance/prioritization in practice. If this isn’t acceptable, then I might just forego a workout because I don’t have time to change in a phone booth like Superman.
Yes, I know there are all of these office friendly workouts that people integrate into their day and that’s fantastic. I’ve done some Barre3 10 minute workouts in the middle of my office but sometimes, you need a good lifting session or some time on the TRX. Unless you have the best office EVER (if you even have an office) , these things might be super difficult to make happen between your desk and your decorative fichus.
Instead of looking at someone in a dri-fit top and a pair of workout pants as messy, lazy, unprofessional, and disrespectful, what if we looked at this person as just trying to get it all done in the best way they can? What if we looked at this person as someone who has their priorities in order? What if we looked at this person as working hard to be their best in order to do their best work for and with others? We put athletes up on pedestals and invest billions of dollars in high performance clothes that we hope will make us look, play, throw, shoot, swing, run, jump, flip, catch, kick, row, box, ski, and swim like they do BUT don’t bring that mess to work! Work, the place where you’re expected to perform like an Olympian for at least 40 hours of your week.
Now, I must admit that when I do wear workout clothes to the office I tend to do the following:
- Wear an oversized top to cover my bum.
- Ensure that what I wear is so fresh and so clean.
- Choose items that are black. I don’t rock my most colorful leggings on these days.
- Make sure that I’m not too exposed.
- If I happen to workout and then go to work, I take grooming items with me to freshen up at my desk or in my car. Deodorant or Dove’s Dry Spray , BeautyCounter’s Rose Water Spray, wipes, and fragrance. The goal is not to show up as a sweaty and smelly mess.
- Make sure that I have a light load of meetings post workout.
I know that these 6 items are my own way of contributing to the problem but to be honest, they also just help with my comfort level. I know that some of my friends feel they could never just pop back into the office post workout because of the amount they sweat in the process. I get that and this kit has helped me not be as concerned about this issue. I also would never wear leggings or workout pants without covering the junk in my trunk. I just can’t! No shade to those who do. You have much more confidence in your behind than I do.
I just think we’ve got to effectively design the outcomes of our office culture and be open to the steps that need to be made in order to achieve those outcomes. The tech world has certainly figured this out as my friends who work at Google and Microsoft rock sneakers, t-shirts, and jeans, but what about everyone else? Do we really need to discount a person’s entire skillset because they wore a pair of sneakers, workout leggings, and a t-shirt to the office?
Stop with all the policing and get back to work. Let people be great.