“Semper ubi, sub ubi” or workouts you can do when you’ve forgotten your sports bra

Right-o. It happens to everyone at some point.

You forget something that you feel is critical on your trip to the gym.

Then you consider ditching the whole workout because of that forgotten item.

Stop right there. Remember this:

My top list of items forgotten includes:

  1. sneakers
  2. sports bra
  3. socks
  4. towel
  5. watch
  6. ipod

First off, a tip on how NOT to forget things needed for the gym.

  • Get a luggage tag, one of the cheap ones that has a piece of paper inside a water-resistant cover.
  • Write on this tag everything you need to take to the gym. Include the obvious.
  • Attach this to your gym bag. Now you no longer need to roll out of bed and remember anything. Just follow the list and pack the bag.

If you forgot item #1, well, go in stocking feet. No one will notice. Just be really careful, particularly around the weights. Stubbed toes aren’t good. Neither are crushed ones.

If you have no socks, well, wear whatever got you to the gym in the first place. Or skip the socks. Or grab a mat, an exercise ball and a jump rope and do yoga, jump rope and do core stuff. Stuff where bare feet aren’t unusual. Hell, try out the treadmill (but go easy at first if you’re not used to bare feet).

No towel? Shower at home after. Forgot your watch? Go by how you feel. Ipod? Suck it up and exercise without it. Really.

But that’s not why you’re here. You’re here because you forgot item number two on my list of things commonly forgotten. I’m guessing you’re female, but I have heard that supportive underwear for men fall into the same category.

You forgot your sports bra and, let’s face it, bouncing without one really hurts some people. Even small-chested people don’t enjoy chest-specific lessons in the combined effects of gravity and momentum. So jokes aside, what do you do? You could wear the bra you came with, but if it’s a lacy, frilly, unsupportive thing or cuts in when you exercise, you might be better off without it.

First, put on what workout gear you brought with you.You are not leaving without a workout.

Then look in the mirror. If you are self-conscious, this is the time to worry about nipples showing through a thinner exercise top. In such cases, I sometimes throw on an extra t-shirt. Most times I tell myself that I will not be the only person in the gym with nipples and just don’t worry about it, but if you’re socially sensitive, an extra shirt or a couple of band-aids will help.

Much of what you do depends on how easily you feel discomfort. The key is to avoid abrupt jostling and sudden changes of direction.

For cardio, try (from least jostling to most):

I avoid the elliptical and treadmill and even spin classes and upright cycles when bra-less. I find the bounce too much and the workout that I can get when trying not to smack my chest off my chin is woefully inadequate.

But if you forgot a sports bra and are looking for a real workout, what you need, after a stiff warm-up on the recumbent bike, is circuit training. You need to keep your muscles moving without bouncing. So do your exercises slowly. Let me say that again. SLOWLY. Keep motions fluid and smooth. But keep your muscles moving.

Below are some ideas, tested recently on a day when I forgot my sub ubi. This is a guideline only and should get you thinking of things you could do. Don’t just copy my workout. Build your own, too. Pick a couple of exercises from each category and alternate them. Do a set of chest presses and while waiting for your one-minute recovery between sets, crank out a set of crunches. Then do chest presses again, then lunges or dips. Keep moving.


  • Leg press,  leg extensions,  leg curls or any of the leg machines
  • squats (large-chested people may find these uncomfortable)
  • walking lunges (not the ones that keep you in one spot, but the ones that keep you moving forward)


  • pretty much anything goes here, but supermans or swimming will be easier on the chest than good mornings
  • if you do decide to do good mornings, grab a flat weight and hug it to your chest.
  • planks are very good.
  • leg lifts, crunches, etc.
  • be careful on the BOSU or Swiss ball. If you have awkward balance, you may tip and swing more than you’d like.


  • chest press using the free weights
  • dips & pull-ups
  • any of the back exercises like rowing weights or the lat pull-down
  • most of the machines keep you relatively stationary and while I generally prefer free weights, some exercises that require large arm movements also lift and drop your chest.

But don’t leave without doing a workout. Expand your exercise routine, think creatively and get moving!

Any ideas? Send them on!


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