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By Michelle Turken

I look, for lack of a better word, ugly when I go to the gym. My go-to workout outfit is made up of a deodorant-stained UCI T-shirt, baggy red soccer shorts and a faded hoodie from my high school cross country days.

At the beginning of the quarter, in a zealous attempt to fulfill my overly-optimistic “get fit” New Year’s resolution, I decided to go to the ARC and run a few miles on the treadmill. As I rounded the corner into the Fitness Lab, I expected to find a bunch of buff guys in sweats showing off at the weight machines. Instead, I walked into a room full of Lululemon devotees, whose bootylicious spandex put my lumpy, discolored soccer shorts to shame.    

If you haven’t noticed, looking cute at the gym is very much “the thing”. As if going to the ARC isn’t already intimidating enough, now you don’t just have to outlast the girl sprinting a 5:30 mile on the next treadmill over, you have to look prettier then her, too.

It’s only in the last few years that these gym-shaming forces have coerced us into dressing the part, driving us to shell out the big dollars so that we can style it during an ab workout. Gone are the days when we immediately changed back into our everyday clothes after a trip to the gym. Our workout clothes have become our everyday clothes. You’ll be hard-pressed to go a day without seeing a Lululemon logo plastered on a headband or staring at you from the folds of a $79 tank top.

With minimum wage at roughly $10 an hour in the OC area, how can we “poor” college students have bought into these expensive workout trends? For the majority of us, the bulk of our diet consists of Ramen noodles, coming in at a whopping 25 cents per pack, with the occasional mocha latte for a caffeine boost. Yet Lululemon’s cult culture has us convinced that paying $110 for a pair of leggings is totally normal.

There is an elitism associated with being, or at least appearing to be, “fit.” It is no longer enough to go to the gym, work out, take a shower and go on with your day. Personal fitness is no longer a private activity, but something that needs to be flaunted, to be broadcasted over a loudspeaker. Your workout gear has the potential to do just that: serve as a walking advertisement of your fitness status. The more expensive the workout clothing, the larger the ad.

Why have we allowed this to be so? Fitness should be a fun way to blow off steam, not an added stress in your already chaotic life. Far from giving us a confidence boost during our workouts, expensive workout clothes leech our attention from the very thing that should be our main focus while at the gym: exercising. We spend so much time obsessing over how we look that we forget the ultimate purpose of our workout, which is to work out.

So the next time you head out to the ARC, stick to what’s comfy and practical. Don’t worry, your worn UCI tank and sagging capris will match your tomato-red face and sweaty hair perfectly!

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