America — it’s the land of opportunity. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We expect to live our lives how we want to, dammit, and for some people, that includes not only the right to bear arms, but the right to bare butt.
You might have noticed that nudism has slowly evolved in recent times from quirky lifestyle choice to social movement (Free the Nipple, e.g.). Now, it’s taking off in the fitness world… sort of. Naked yoga and naked Pilates have been around awhile, but lately there seems to be a surge in gyms offering naked classes, and more gatherings, races and contests in many sports. Case in point: the Bare Booty 5k Fun Run at the DeAnza Springs Resort along the California-Mexico border. Which made us wonder: Are all these tackle-out athletes onto something? Take a naked, sporty journey with us…
In the Beginning
First, it’s worth acknowledging that some of the earliest true athletes competed naked in the original, pre-Bob Costas Olympic Games. Classical historians suggest that this was done to thumb their noses at their geopolitical enemy, the Persians, who didn’t allow public nudity themselves, and whom the Ancient Greeks considered barbaric. Thus, nudity became almost nationalistic, a sort of symbol of Greekness, in addition to representing strength, virtue and self-discipline (perceived qualities that help explain why the tough-as-nails Spartans were the most ardent of ancient nudists). When the Greeks invented a newfangled kind of space called a “gymnasium” (which actually comes from the Greek word for “naked”), they were a place for all sorts of self-improvement — in the nude.
In the subsequent nearly 3,000 years, a lot of stuff happened — Christianity’s elevation of modesty and the rise of puritanism among them — and most non-primitive cultures came to regard nudity as sinful, freakish and transgressive. Yet here we are in the 21st century, a time when we’re challenging social norms more than ever, while fitness has become a completely normalized component of culture. Was it inevitable that some people would want to combine the two?
Apparently: There’s a whole bunch of people regularly signing up for naked gym workouts, naked running races, naked surf contests (which the Polynesians were probably doing when they invented the sport anyway), naked bike rides and many, many more. But considering most of us don’t care for the idea of accidentally making a wiener sandwich between the weights of the pulley system, let’s consider the good and bad points of trying it out.
The Pros and Cons of Exercising Naked
Let’s start with the pros. First off, for those looking to truly sculpt their bodies through exercise, there’s no better way to go. With a mirror, you can see exactly what you’re doing and how your body is moving accordingly — whether it’s yoga, weight lifting, Pilates, stretching or whatever else.
Proponents also say that seeing yourself nude helps lead to empowerment, greater self-acceptance and literally being comfortable in your own skin, which are the kinds of goals that people have when they decide to start exercising in the first place.
The other obvious advantage is that there’s less restriction of movement. No clothes bunching up; no wedgies; no soaked, clingy shirt or undies. It’s just you, and if clothes get in the way of proper technique, you can now move more freely — some weightlifters work out barefoot for this reason. (Another pro: There’s that much less laundry to do afterwards.)
On the cons side, well, inevitably, there’s the sweat issue. One thing that modern workout clothes do very well is capture all your sweat, you slimy, disgusting thing, you. As you’d imagine, gyms with special nude workout programs have pretty strict towel rules for the machines and equipment, but still, without those layers of underwear and compression shorts running interference, it’s hard to imagine a single towel fending off a serious case of swamp-ass.
Then, of course, there’s the issue of no support. And while you might think that this is purely a female problem, consider this: Exactly how much fun do testicular torsion or hydrocele sound?
So, should you work out naked? As with anything to do with your naked form, it’s really a matter of personal choice. It definitely takes a leap of faith to go anywhere beyond your front door without clothes on for the first time, even in a (supposedly) safe space like a gym or yoga studio’s special naked workout program. And as we mentioned, there are serious hygiene and injury-related concerns to keep in mind.
The good news is, if this sort of thing sounds like a good idea to you, or if you’re even just curious about it, there are more options than ever to exercise without clothes, so get out there, whip it out and give it a try.
Two things to remember, though: First, only do this in places where there’s an approved naked class. As you might imagine, things didn’t end well recently for this guy who stripped naked at his local Planet Fitness in New Hampshire (a state that might want to rethink its motto of “Live Free or Die”).
And second: For the love of God, don’t forget that towel.