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Why Christian Girls Should Wear Modest Workout Clothes

By: Bethany Baird

The sun was boiling hot over my little Texas neighborhood. I was determined to run my sixteen miles in prep for my marathon no matter the crazy heat outside. Minus a small break to stop and stretch out the intense cramps in my legs, I’m excited to say I finished the run and survived the heat.

I’ll be totally honest with you, training for a marathon in Texas is not a fun thing to do. Texas summers are hot, humid, and sticky. Those ingredients are obviously not ideal for intense outdoor workouts.

Maintaining Modesty in the Heat

Despite the heat and gallons of sweat dripping down my face, I decided to do something completely radical and totally abnormal. I decided to maintain my normal modesty standards and stay covered while working out in the blistering heat.

As most of you know modesty and workout clothes don’t really fit in the same sentence these days. Especially when it’s over 100 degrees outside.

Modern Workout Clothes

The last time I walked through the workout section in a modern clothing store, I saw yoga pants, sports bras, spandex shirts and shorts, short running shorts and skimpy tanks tops. The exercise world is lowering the modesty bar and slowly but surely girls are getting used to dressing in skimpy clothes while working out.

In my mind this dilemma is very similar to the swimsuit dilemma.

As we’ve mentioned in past blogs, bikinis are the new norm and sadly most of us have just accepted them without a second thought. Most of us have created different (conflicting) modesty standards for the dry world and the wet world and have somehow justified this major inconsistency.  

Instead of having one set of standards for modesty, we now have modesty standards for the dry world, the wet world and now the “sweat” world.

Workout clothes now categorize under a new and different set of modesty standards…just like swimwear.

Must Ask Questions

“Why is it okay to ‘undress’ at the gym, but not okay in everyday life?

“If we’re not okay with wearing skin tight pants and a bra to the grocery store, why would we be okay with wearing that to the gym? If we’re not okay with revealing our thighs in everyday life, why would we be okay with wearing mini athletic shorts on a run?

“As Christian women, we realized it doesn’t make sense for us to be gung-ho about modesty in one location, then drop all the ‘convictions’ in another. What changed? Our bodies didn’t change. The guys around us didn’t change. Reflecting Christ didn’t change. The only thing that changed was the location.” – Quote taken from Project Modesty e-book  

This quote is from our new e-book (Project Modesty) and brings up some really great thoughts and questions. It brings up a topic that most of us have avoided thinking about.

It challenges our inconsistencies and encourages us to rethink our conflicting modesty standards.

The e-book goes on to say this,

“Despite the intense pressure we feel to undress and look sexy at the gym, we have opted to honor Christ instead. We have decided to maintain the same standard no matter what location we’re in. And guess what?! Once we got the hang of modest athletic wear, it’s really not that hard. We have learned how to pair cute shorts with fun shirts to create a stylish, yet modest athletic look.

“We’ve unashamedly worn our modest gear while playing sand volleyball, going for a run, working out at the women’s gym, playing basketball, and even running a marathon!”

Help us Set a New Trend

Our hope is that you will join us by setting a new trend in the workout world. Fashion, modesty and exercise can totally go hand-in-hand. We don’t have to ditch fashion in order to look fun and cute while working out.

In our new e-book, Project Modesty, we have dedicated an entire chapter to this very topic! We also show you pictures of our favorite modest workout outfits. If you are in need of more insight, inspiration or encouragement in this area, I highly recommend reading through that section in the e-book. I would also recommend watching the Project Modesty Video. 

I want to hear from you.

  • Do you have a double standard when it comes to your workout clothes?
  • Do you think it’s okay to have different modesty standards for the dry world and the sweat world? Why or why not?
  • What tips do you have for maintaining fashion and modesty while working out?

Girl Defined Sisters Modest Workout Clothes

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  • The only things that I wear to “work out,” play sports, or go swimming in that I wouldn’t wear elsewhere would be my Nike shorts. I got them a size too big so they come down mid thigh, and I’m a pretty small person so they’re pretty loose. I don’t want to have a double standard, so I’m trying to locate a pair of bikers to come down to my knees or even calves. Do you think this would solve the problem of the shorts being a little on the immodest side?

    • Elizabeth Williams

      If the shorts are a little too short for your liking, you could always wear spandex leggings underneath 🙂

  • Hailey

    This is a tough one for me. Most of my workout shorts probably are a bit too short; I wear my softball gear a lot even when it’s my own workout outside of team stuff. Although, I am normally in my bedroom alone with the door shut doing workout videos unless it’s a team workout in which case we have to wear pants and t-shirts. It’s so much easier in the winter, I have pairs of loose sweatpant-type things.

  • Kayla

    Hi there! I just have one question. I’m starting Volleyball this school semester and everywhere I look, all the other girls on my team are wearing the short workout shorts and tight tank-tops and such. Meanwhile, I’m in basketball shorts and a t-shirt. My parents are very strict about what I wear, like no tank-tops (at all), shorts must not be any higher that a little past the knee and neither the pants or the top can’t be too tight. I totally respect their rules on what I should wear and everything but whenever I go shopping, my choices are pretty limited. Do you have any tips on how to look cute and be comfortable without compromising my standards, busting my wallet or upsetting my parents? Ant tips from anyone would be REALLY appreciated!

    • Celtic Princess

      I hadn’t read these comments before posting one up top, but a ballet leotard with short or cap sleeves can usually fix tank top problems without bunching up like a T-shirt would, and they come in all kinds of colors too 🙂

    • Hey Kayla! I played Volleyball for 6 years, and let me tell you, volleyball is an extremely difficult sport to stay modest in. I don’t know if you’re starting high school or jr. high, but many teams require girls to wear spandex and tighter-fitting long-sleeved jerseys as part of the uniform. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about that. However, for practices, I always wore loose running shorts (at finger-tip length) and a t-shirt, and I was able to stay cool and comfortable while staying modest. You can find appropriate running shorts at places like Walmart or Target for pretty cheap, just don’t go for the Nikes! They’re expensive and are pretty short!

      • Kayla

        Ok, thank you! I’ll keep your instructions in mind next time I go shopping!

  • Moriah Mari

    Convictions aren’t convictions if they’re not consistent.
    When I work out I wear sweatpants (hopefully ones that are flattering:) and a cute/fun t-shirt. Enjoy finding workout t-shirts that express you and are fun to wear!

  • Jade D

    Just a little tid bit to keep in mind for all the woman reading this awesome blog post!
    Be mindful that it’s not just the length of your shorts, it’s shape. If your showing your shape then yeah, it’s a distraction! I’ve seen a lot of girls wear shorts with leggings underneath and be aware that there is really no difference between shorts with or with ought leggings! I love reading Girl Defind! Keep shining 😉

  • Celtic Princess

    One modest workout idea I’ve been exploring a bit lately is wearing a cap sleeved ballet leotard underneath a cute exercise tank. That way I can still wear the fun motivational exercise saying, without baring all that goes on under there… I usually have to cut the shelf bra out, though, because I am rather large up top, and with the shelf bra it pulls the neckline lower than I would like.

  • Karen D

    Great post and topic! My girls and I when working out like to wear the nylon swim skirts/tennis skirts with leggings. We make sure the skirts r at least knee length. It is breathable, stretchy, and light but the skirt provides the perfect coverage! Can’t tell u how many people have come up to my girls and husband complimenting and thanking them for their modesty and setting the bar. So grateful for all opportunities to point others to Christ in all areas! Love girl defined and thank u for your service in Christ! There are not very many around us that have had their eyes opened to modesty a d while my girls press forward paving the way and saying no to the cultural norm it is encouraging and refreshing for them to see they are not alone. God Bless!

    • @Karen D That’s awesome! I’m so encouraged to hear that you and your girls are striving for modesty while working out. Thanks for sharing. -Bethany

  • Elisabeth

    When your running should the top come down over the pants, and is it okay if it fits well or should it be loose too?The reason I ask is because I always exercise in the same workout, or run gear, and though the pants come down to my knee and are some what loose, the top since I’m a small girl is 14-16 and I’ve had it for a few years and so it fits me very well.Thanks girls!!

    • @disqus_TaI5znAfWZ:disqus I’m not sure I totally understand your question, but I’ll do my best to answer it 🙂 I would just encourage you to make sure your midriff doesn’t show when you workout. Also, be aware of how tight your top is. The goal is to honor God with your wardrobe even while working out. Don’t compromise modesty just because it’s hot or inconvenient. 🙂 -Bethany

  • Belle

    Honestly I don’t wear pants at all not at the gym or just at all and it’s because Deut.22:5 which says not to wear mans clothes just think about it men can’t wear dresses or skirts only we can and no matter what u do to them pants really aren’t modest at all they show ur whole legs figure is all u need is a knee length skirt and maybe with some leggings and ur good to go

  • Josie Harris

    Love it. It’s always extremely awkward when I see someone working out in very skimpy clothes. When I workout, I do wear shorts and a tank top because let’s be honest, it’s hot and humid and sticky and I don’t want to wear more clothing than I need to, but the shorts aren’t skin tight and I’m not wearing only a sports bra. I do try to honor God with the way I dress. If I feel uncomfortable in it I don’t wear it. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing shorts or tank tops. The shorts don’t need to be right up to ya booty though!:P

    • @josieharris:disqus Great thoughts! I’m so glad that you are striving to honor God with your workout gear. That’s awesome 🙂 -Bethany

  • Very thought-provoking! Running cross country in south Texas, I can totally relate to you Bethany. I wear loose, half-thigh length shorts paired with compression shorts that are a little longer. I try to pick sleeved shirts that are dri-fit and not too tight. It’s hard, trust me. It’s not the least expensive choice. It does warrant criticism from many. It’s not the most comfortable option. But I hope that it makes a statement and honors God. Thanks again for the encouragement!

    • @moriahpro31:disqus That’s awesome that you are thinking about modesty and do your best to incorporate it into your cross country gear. Way to go! -Bethany

  • Abby

    you don’t have to wear alot of clothes to look modest, so if you are intent on boiling in the sun just to look modest why not wear lighter/less clothes that still covers the “essentials”.

    • Great points Abby! I agree, longer doesn’t mean more modest. When I trained for my marathon I wore long light weight thin athletic shorts and a thin athletic t-shirt. It was very light, cool and breezy. It’s definitely possible to dress breezy and modest. Modesty doesn’t have to mean heat stroke 🙂 -Bethany

  • MaryLou

    I’m a gymnast. What do I do?

    • painting

      During practices you could wear sport shorts over your leotard…….i dont know if that would work because im not a gymnist, but its just a thought.

      • Hailey

        Yes! MaryLou, some gyms allow their girls to wear shorts and/or leggings, sometimes even T-shirts, over their leos. Ask your coach. Although the problem is they would probably have to be tight shorts so they wouldn’t get in your way.

    • @maryLou Great question. It can be really hard to align competitive sports uniforms with your personal modesty standards. I’ve noticed that most organized sports teams don’t take modesty into consideration which makes it really difficult for us as Christian girls :/ @painting and @disqus_8Tzn08gHi3:disqus both had some great suggestions though. You could talk to your coach about wearing shorts and t-shirts to practices. It’s worth a try!

      I have to be totally honest with you though. As an extremely competitive girl myself, I had to make some hard decisions when it came to my organized sports choices. If I was going to be consistent with my modesty standards, I had to make sacrifices.

      I chose not to pursue swim team, gymnastics and ballet because of the uniform they required girls to wear. Instead I chose to participate in basketball, softball and volleyball. Each of those teams were run by a christian organization which took modesty into consideration and chose uniforms that were much more modest than the typical.

      I would just encourage you to carefully think through your modesty convictions and decided for yourself if gymnastics can work with those convictions. Sometimes we as Christians have to sacrifice and make hard decisions to honor God in all areas of our lives.

      I’m proud of you for thinking this through! Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help 🙂 -Bethany

  • Chelsy Bontrager

    this is spot on! I was literally just discussing this topic (how people seem so comfortable wearing nothing to the gym) with a friend the other day, and then read this post! So good! Thank-you for sharing!

    • @chelsybontrager:disqus So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the encouragement 🙂 -Bethany

  • Men wear short shorts, and sometimes go shirtless while working out, all the time. No one says that they have to cover up for women (or other men!). Why can’t we all just overlook what people choose to wear, and try to get to know the person on the inside?

    • Jesusfreak17

      I actually am really bothered by guys who go shirtless and I wish they would be modest too! As Christians, modesty is a way to point to God’s holiness and to honor him and the other people around us. It’s hard to get to know people if you’re distracted by what they’re wearing. You are correct though that the heart behind what we where and do is more important, which is why people end up having different standards of modesty. 🙂

      • Jinny

        Avert your eyes. What counts as modesty is different to each person. To me, being immodest means dressing in ways that call attention to yourself. If you’re training for a marathon and everyone else is in shorts and a tank, and you show up in pants and a long t-shirt, you’re making yourself stand out, which is immodest, though to you, standing out is perfectly modest as long as your knees don’t show.

        • Avi yah

          Hmm, I see it differently.
          As christians we are supposed to and ever gonna be “standing out”, according to the bible.
          “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
          Romans 12:2
          “Standing out” as different is by no means immodest, it is part of our testimony of a renewed mind, and pointing to the Saviour.
          What good is salt for, when it lost it’s flavor?

    • Avi yah

      When no one says it, then let me say it. I find ripped, topless men VERY attractive, and therefore distractive, and I see men as equally responsible for being modestly dressed as women.

      • holly patterson

        Absolutely lol

    • holly patterson

      Excellent point

  • Sarah

    I’m also a christian, and although i wouldn’t wear anything too outrageous- that’s out of personal preference rather than any set rules- I train in martial arts and the gyms can be hot. Personally I’d rather opt for a sports bra and shorts than pass out during training and i don’t want loose clothing that opponents can grab! Its important to look after yourself and your body- sometimes “skimpy” workout clothes are more about function than immodesty, but each to their own. You do whatever makes you comfortable- but working out in heavy clothes when its hot could do more damage than good.

  • Lemon

    This post may be old, but I feel like such an old hand sitting down to this topic, I wanted to say something. 🙂 Last year I had a major skiing accident, tearing my ACL, MCL, and PCL. Needless to say, after the short-term recuperation, working out became a huge chunk of my life. When I go to the gym, I will wear a cotton tee or a loose spandex short-sleeved shirt. Now that it’s colder, I will sometimes wear track pants since I don’t have a problem with [moderate] pants. More often, though, I will wear shorts for temperature purposes. I’m 5’2″ with most of my height from the waist up, so it’s easier for me to find shorts that work, sometimes easier than finding long pants. Also, I got a hefty brace for more sports and “real” exercise which I’m gradually getting into, and that should be worn against my skin. It goes about halfway up my thigh, and is too big to wear sweats over it. My shorts are looser and do cover the top of it, I believe. I guess I could wear tight leggings under the brace, with shorts over top, but I have pretty thick legs (and, yes, they’re short and I love them 🙂 and leggings tend to give me circulation issues. All this to say, I have been there and done that and can wholeheartedly sympathize with you all! Dressing for exercising can plain and simple be a pain in the neck.
    I very heartily agree with you ladies: we can dress for particular situations without having double standards. But certain situations call for certain modes of dress. If I wore a skirt to the gym, not only would I feel awkward but I would stand out like a sore thumb. It is my firm belief that there is a balance in dressing not to blend in the world, but not to draw attention to yourself, either. That is 90% of the modesty concern, right there.
    I think this is one of those life situations that can really throw us a curve. It’s important to desire to honor God, but not be setting rules to follow, or expecting others to follow our convictions. I am so inclined to following rules; it can be really upsetting observing others who don’t share my standards. It requires trust in the Holy Spirit to lead others as He leads us, and in His timing. The boundaries which He gives to me He may not give to others, and vice versa.

  • Joanne

    Where do you get your modest workout gear? Particularly pants! Thanks

  • holly patterson

    Wow what a bunch of crap. Where what you like this is a free country! We live in America’s not the middle east be grateful you can wear tight pants and shorts! It’s funny cause I never see one blog about men covering up and being modest. They wear tank tops that are super revealing and tight shorts th a show their butt. Heck even running around without a shirt on yet it’s completely fine and no one says anything about it. It’s sexist and a double standard. It teaches women their body is something to be ashamed about. Women wear cute things cause they like them and it’s fashion not because of guys! We do it because we like it has nothing to do with guys. You don’t know someone’s heart and to judge someone based on their attire is continuing a sexist mind set that everything needs to be blamed on women. Women in the middle east get raped and killed and are completely over covered up. So it doesn’t work and it’s superficial. You need to stop focusing on what women are wearing and work on your actions. That’s what God cares about. Not being a gossip, not being mean or judging how others dress.

    • a.Christian.for.Ron.Paul

      The blog post is actually spot on and it’s your comments that are a “bunch of crap”. Here’s a point by point break down of why…

      1. I disagree that modesty standards teach women (or even
      men) their bodies are something to be ashamed about.

      Instead, it places
      higher value and significance on the body and its special relation in
      marriage. The Bible teaches us that our bodies are not our own, but
      bought by the Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. Furthermore, when married,
      our body is joined to our spouse. The husband and wife become one body
      at that time. The husband’s body is for his wife and the wife’s for the
      husband. Our intimacy is not to be shared with the public and instead
      belongs in the beauty of marriage. That’s the primary purpose why we
      should be modest.

      And that’s why it’s shameful to take the intimate parts of ourselves and share them outside of our marriage. That includes our intimate body parts, emotions, and thoughts. It’s why even emotional affairs are wrong.

      And it’s why sleeping with a prostitute is wrong. Yet, in our society, we’ve become so indifferent to God that many people (men included) are dressing more skimpily than the prostitutes on the streets.

      So it’s not that the body is in any way shameful. In fact, it’s beautifully created by God. The shameful thing is the misuse of our bodies.

      2. At the USA’s foundation, there’s wasn’t a freedom to wear whatever you want (or lack there of). That’s not in our Constitution. Never has been. If you think contrary, try walking in public with just a hat on and nothing else. You’ll be arrested in no time.

      3. Yep, we do live in the US, not in the Middle East. So why don’t you instead be grateful that these citizens can express and act in their desire to wear modest clothing? Why do you have to be so judgemental?

      4. I’m a man and I wear modest clothing all the time. However, it’s a lot easier for a man to get a modest pair of athletic shorts than it is for women. In general, men’s clothing is a lot more modest and the modest choices are LOT easier to find.

      There are blog posts about men being modest. For example, check out “Modesty and the Christian … Man?” by Landon Chapman at EntreatingFavor. But they are less than those for women. Why? Christian men don’t blog as much and it’s not as big of an issue for Christian men (or the reverse for women lusting). I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but the percentages are certainly not close.

      5. I wasn’t born yesterday. Some women wear things regardless of what guys think, but it’s not all women. There’s a significant percentage of women that do care about what guys think. There are women’s magazines, TV shows, websites, YouTube channels, and more devoted to such topics. Such women do try to wear clothing that is sexually attractive to guys. Young, single women in particular are prone to falling in this trap.

      Furthermore, today’s “fashion” definitely cares about what guys think. That’s why much of society’s current fashion is sexualized to the extreme. When women wear next to nothing in the name of fashion, they’re pawns in a godless culture.

      6. It’s you that needs to stop focusing on women who are wanting to dress modestly and work on your actions.

      7. Who said anything about judging people? Did you actually read the blog post? It doesn’t have anything to do with judging people.

      It presupposes that its intended audience is seeking to follow 1 Timothy 2:9 (“…that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty…) and asking relevant questions to the point. It’s seeking to help women to see the inconsistent standards that they have.

      You, on the other hand, did judge the author. And with your post you’re adding more of society’s pressure for the readers to conform to the world’s standards rather than God’s. You start your post with “Wear what you like”, but you don’t actually think that. You want the author and her intend audience to shut up and wear what YOU want. And what YOU want is what society has told you to want. How do I know this? From your post.

      8. I don’t know people’s hearts, but I do know their words and actions. You can tell a lot about a person’s heart from their words and actions. That’s the only way we know people.

      There’s something fundamentally wrong when we as people take things that only belong in marriage and place those things outside of marriage. A woman or man who dresses immodestly might not be doing it for nefarious purposes (example, to seduce a married person). But there’s certainly something wrong. There’s usually insecurity, pride, or some other core heart issue that’s going on. Whatever the case, it leads to the individual hurting themselves and the people around them.

      Each individual, including yourself, is uniquely created in the image of God. When we do things that are contrary to His ways, we always end up hurting ourselves and those around us.

      9. God cares about modesty too. That’s why He’s given us instructions about it in the Bible.

      Hopefully I wasn’t too blunt for you as I reciprocated your bluntness.

  • Nereyda

    I used to struggle with this problem too. I wanted to work out but couldn’t find modest work-out clothes. I was complicating my life with this issue, honestly, until my sister gave a wonderful idea. Now what I wear when I work out is a long-sleeved or short sleeve workout shirt, leggings( sometimes the very long ones but when it’s hot I used the mid-leg ones), and finally, a comfy skirt. The skirt is usually short and very fresh when it’s hot, but I keep it modest. This really works for me! I’m the type of christian who wears skirts all the time so this is perfect for me. I know many ( especially if you are not used to wear skirts) would feel uncomfortable, but it’s worth a try. I’m 18 yrs old and I do worry about what other people might think about me wearing this, but I’m learning not to care because it’s who I am, and I’m proud of myself ( yes, I am and I know God is too). So, i just feel as if I’m being bold wearing different clothes, and I like that. I try to be a confident woman. This is what I do, but believe me, there are many other ways to stay modest while working out. Blessings~~~

  • Lainey

    My mom and I like to cover up as much as possible when working out, so in the summers we will wear boy shorts and nylon t-shirts(appropriate tank tops which we rarely find:/). In the winter, we like to wear work out sweats that aren’t skin-tight, paired with our nylon shirts with an Under Armor hoodie. If anyone likes to wear shorts that are above the knees, you can make them more modest by wearing them over work-out leggings. 🙂

    • Ejanson

      You can always buy a pack mens basic t-shirts and cut them to make appropriate tank tops!! It’s cheap and you get exactly what you want 🙂

  • Jewel Mitchell

    A friend of mines mum makes these cool tights and skirts combined out of spandex type material. They are still modest but they also let you move freely.

  • Reythia

    “Despite the intense pressure we feel to undress and look sexy at the gym…”

    I literally know no one who chooses their exercise clothes based on the criteria of how sexy they are. People where spandex and tank tops and sports bras for one reason: because they’re comfortable in them.

    If you’re not comfortable wearing a sports bra and shorts to run in, then by all means, don’t. But don’t claim it’s some sort of morality play. As a girl who grew up as a gymnast, running around in next to nothing for years, I fail to see what the big deal is. It just makes a lot more sense to dress comfortably and practically for the sport you’re playing, than to dress in heavier clothes that make it harder to move around freely.

    If I want to look sexy for my husband, I’ll wear a fancy dress and makeup, or else slinky lingerie. If I want to get disgustingly sweaty playing ultimate frisbee with a couple dozen people of both genders, I’ll wear a sports bra, shorts, and running shoes. I’m sorry you can’t distinguish the difference between the two situations.


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