For a lot of women, commando appears to be en vogue, but, in particular, some of my gym girlfriends are choosing to workout without underwear. I’ve been hearing repeatedly from them “It’s more comfortable. Go Commando”. Even though it wasn’t the advice I’d sought, I can’t help considering ditching my underwear on the next workout. But l am still not convinced that trashing them while exercising is something beneficial. I needed more information.
Why You Shouldn’t Wear Underwear When Working Out
Underwear serves two main purposes: fashion and function. Having an extra layer helps keep the genital area and outerwear clean and protected. When working out, how the underwear feels and performs should be more important than how it looks.
A survey done in 2020 showed that 48% of Americans don’t need undies to workout and 18% of those prefer going commando. This survey found that comfort is actually the most popular reason why people don’t wear panties. In fact, 17% of respondents claimed they go commando to feel more comfortable, with another 8% saying they go panty-less to be able to move more freely.
Choosing not to wear underwear while working out may even improve your performance. The OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck says “some women prefer to go commando during running, elliptical, spinning, kickboxing, etc., which affords less chafing, less visible lines in tighter workout clothes, and gives a sense of more mobility and flexibility”. So if you’re someone who chafes easily, try exercising without undies, just to see if it makes a difference. In addition, for the OBS/GYN physician Donna Bell, going commando allows some degree of ventilation that is needed for the genitals since they rarely see the light of day. “Yeast-like dark, moist, sweaty areas,” she says. However, Dr. Bell suggests that if you go commando you should change out of your leggings or shorts right after any type of workout for good hygiene.
In practice, a lot of CrossFit women agree that they feel more comfortable going commando while working out. Check the following reactions of female members of the Barbell Beauties Facebook group. For them, ditching the underwear is liberating and helps avoid chafing or any skin rash:
If you wear good compression leggings they are actually designed to be commando. The compression is good for circulation/blood flow and you get even pressure without underwear interfering.Denise [Barbell Beauties Facebook group]
I’m a curvy girl. I was told by both my coach and my gynecologist to ditch the underwear.Kaleigh [Barbell Beauties Facebook group]
I have thick thighs and have had no issues going commando. I personally adopted the full commando lifestyle and ditched underwear years ago! Only wear them during that time of the month and dresses depending on length.
Underwear is actually not good for your vaginal ph. I encourage all my patients to ditch the drawersJessica [Barbell Beauties Facebook group]
Pros and Cons of going Commando
Whether or not you should wear panties under your workout clothes when you exercise may depend on your personal circumstances. However, you might be surprised to know there are many reasons why athletes should give it a try. There are a few downsides you should consider as well. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of going commando.
The pros of going commando:
- It is more comfortable. For instance, having to fix your underwear at the top of every squat can seriously take away from your productivity at the gym.
- It reduces the risk of developing yeast infections. Panties can trap excess moisture and microbes that enable the development of bacteria and infections.
- It can help reduce vaginal odor and discomfort, allowing your sweat to evaporate and keep odors to a minimum.
- Reduce chafing. With underwear during physical exercises, irritation and chafing of the vaginal area can occur due to the friction generated.
- It protects you from allergic reactions or sensitivities. Many underwear fabrics contain artificial dyes and chemicals.
And to support these benefits, here are some testimonies of ladies who are at the gym enduring high intensity workouts without panties!
So it took me about 3 times before I got used to going commando. Now, I LOVE it. The key is quality leggings.Rosanna [The Women of CrossFit]
Anna says “Join the commando crew! It’s just more comfortable and thankfully a lot of leggings are designed to be that way. And if not, just do what’s more comfortable for you!”Anna [Barbell Beauties Facebook group]
Ok, but what about the downside of working out without underwear?
The cons of going commando:
- Your gym clothes can get spoiled and show wet spots on the genital area. It’s very natural for the vagina to discharge secretions and when there’s no barrier between your clothes and the organs, the discharge can stain the clothes and spoil them.
- You may raise the risk of micro cuts on the sensitive skin of your vulva.
- You can get some skin irritation that can lead to infection or discomfort, especially if you wax or shave your bikini area regularly.
- Your outer layers may become smellier. If you’re panty-free, there’s no barrier between you and your workout clothes. The sweat that was supposed to be absorbed by your underwear goes straight to your leggings.
- You can get bacteria that’s on a seat at the gym (benches, the rowing machine, the assault bike, etc.)
For some athletes, wearing underwear while working out is definitely a good match!
I cannot do the commando thing. Just not for me, so I wear seamless boy-shorts under my leggings. If you can tell I have underwear on. . . . Oh well. LolHolly [Barbell Beauties Facebook group]
I’ve always found commando super uncomfortable, I get like a foo foo wedgie/rub no matter what leggings/shorts I wear! Not to mention the risk of a clothing malfunction! Found tangas to be the least annoying underwear.”Izzy [Barbell Beauties Facebook group]
Tips for Working Out Without Underwear?
As you can see, physicians and female athletes agreed that exercising without underwear is fine as long as you keep in mind a few hygiene recommendations for your safety:
- Cleanliness is definitely the number one concern to keep in mind. Change and wash your clothes regularly. Genitals carry a lot of bacteria. As a rule of thumb, only wear clothes that touch your bare genitals once before you wash them.
- Make sure to shower immediately after working out to clean sweaty areas and prevent overgrowth of bacteria or fungi on the skin. If you are in a hurry, you can use vaginal wipes and change into dry, clean clothes.
- Wear breathable fabrics so that sweat can evaporate away from the skin. Nylon, Spandex, cotton or something advertised as “sweat-wicking” are your best choices for keeping moisture away and keeping the vagina dry even during the sweatiest workouts. Some brands are even using fabrics with silver woven into the clothing. Silver is an antibacterial agent, which is helpful for reducing bacteria buildup in clothes and potentially reducing the risk of infection.
- Look for seamless workout gear because it prevents chafing and irritation, especially if you’re wearing tight leggings.
- Make sure your leggings are thick enough. You’re sweating and you’re going to produce secretions and maybe some normal incontinence, that’s why you better avoid sheer fabrics that can be see-through. Also, the thickness of what you’re wearing can help you stay away from bacteria in the gym.
Fabric is an important factor for going commando. I always either wear the 5 inch inseam shorts, spandex or cotton leggings, or shorts with built in underwear! I can’t workout with undies, I feel like I sweat way more!!For Heather [Barbell Beauties Facebook group]
I think the takeaway of exercising with or without underwear is, it all depends on you and your comfort! Many physicians stated that there is no real downside to going commando when exercising. For them, it truly is a personal preference. As long as you maintain proper personal hygiene and choose breathable fabrics, go ahead and let your lady parts run free during the workouts. And if you are still hesitating, that’s totally fine too! Take it from the CrossFit ladies referred to in this article, you should do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable and confident. This will have a huge impact in the way you approach each workout and life in general!
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Giuliana is a yoga instructor and Crossfitter from Peru who is currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand with her Crossfit Coach (and husband) Tim.