Courtesy of Sarah Bregel

The Mesh Workout Pants That Legit Taught Me To Love My Body

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I'm the kind of person who would rather wear exercise clothes than regular clothes. In fact, exercise clothes essentially are my regular clothes. If I put them on first thing in the morning, I find I’m way more likely to workout, plus as a stay-at-home parent, clothes I can sweat in are key. So a few weeks ago, when I was gifted some new workout gear, I was thrilled with the swag. I got some flower-patterned capris just right for spring, a new sports bra, and a pair of full-length black workout pants.

The leggings were as soft and stretchy as any stretchy pants-lover could ever hope for. Upon further inspection, however, I realized they had sheer mesh inserts, a trend that I've been seeing on leggings everywhere this spring. At first, I vowed I would never wear them. But little did I know that the mesh-paneled leggings not only would improve my confidence in my own body, they'd seriously up my workout game.

Courtesy of Sarah Bregel

When I first saw the leggings from 90 Degrees by Reflex, I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud. Although I'd seen them everywhere in magazines and online, I hadn't actually seen anyone wearing them, and the whole concept of mesh-paneled leggings just seemed odd.

"Why do these exist? Am I supposed to look sexy during my workouts now?," I wondered. "Can’t women do anything without having to look good doing it?"

As a feminist, the concept of sexy workout gear just irked me. After all, I go to the gym to break a sweat, get in shape, and get a mental break from my kids, not to pick up dudes or have people admire my super shiny legs. Still, they were brand-new, perfectly nice pants, and I didn't want them to go to waste. So I tossed them in a drawer and made a mental list of people I could pawn them off on.

One morning, however, I skipped doing laundry and found that I had run out of clean stretchy pants. It was between the sheer leggings and jeans that make my kids say, "Why are you so fancy?" I wasn't going far, so I opted for comfort and put on the new mesh-paneled leggings. I instantly noticed how the soft waist tucked in my wobbly bits and how the fabric subtly sculpted my butt. I was feeling pretty good, and even had a little pep in my step.

"What? Do they look super weird? Should I take them off?" I asked self-consciously.

My bubble was quickly burst, however, when my husband saw me on the stairs. He let out a chuckle, then quickly covered his mouth.

"What? Do they look super weird? Should I take them off?" I asked self-consciously.

"I mean, what exactly is the purpose of those?" he wondered out-loud. I admitted I wasn't exactly sure. But damn, were they comfy and perfectly molded to my a**.

Later, I walked down the street to my neighbor's house so our kids could play while we had coffee.

"You'll have to be honest with me about these pants," I said.

"Hmm..." she said, mulling it over. "Maybe you should just keep them for going out?"

I decided she was right. Sheer fitness clothing was not my thing. That afternoon, before my evening trip to the gym, I changed into a less showy pair of trusty workout pants that had been worn a thousand times and had holes in the crotch.

Courtesy of Sarah Bregel

As I plugged my earbuds into the treadmill and found the home-makeover show channel, so I could fantasize about dream houses while plodding at a slow-to-medium pace, I glanced up. An uber fit 20-something woman was doing weighted lunges across the gym floor. And she was rocking my sheer workout pants! I almost tripped over my running shoes as I watched her sculpted shoulders press dumbbells over her head, which were almost certainly way more than I could lift. I realized that she didn't look ridiculous at all. She looked fierce as hell.

Instead of feeling embarrassed by my peek-a-boo thighs, I embraced them.

It occurred to me that perhaps motivation, in the form of sheer leggings that took me slightly out of my comfort zone, was not such a terrible thing. I decided to actually give them a try. The next day, I wore my new pants to the gym and felt myself actively step up my game. Instead of feeling embarrassed by my peek-a-boo thighs, I embraced them. My legs might not be rock solid, but they’re pretty strong, I thought to myself. Why couldn’t I show them off a tiny bit?

As I worked out, I imagined my legs growing more sculpted. I jogged longer and harder, then did squats and lifted weights instead of immediately running to pick up my kids. When we left the gym, I strutted out the door, feeling powerful and strong. It could just be my imagination, but I already feel like I've toned up a bit.

The sheer leggings are now my go-to and I’m not afraid to own them in all their power. Perhaps the magic pants are fooling me. But even if they are, I'm basically content to let them.