How to exercise in glasses

How to exercise wearing glasses: 4 active alternatives to your everyday specs

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There are plenty of excuses not to go to the gym without steaming specs being one of them. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives for those of us who don’t already have 20/20 vision, says glasses wearer and fitness fan Francesca Librae. 

If you’re a regular gym goer and glasses wearer, you have likely experienced the inconvenience those pesky specs can pose while trying to work out. For me, a 35-year-old new mum who’s desperately trying to re-learn how to move my new body, wearing glasses while exercising can often serve as one more excuse not to hit the treadmill.

As my fellow spectacle-wearing fitness fans know all too well, wearing glasses to sweat poses a unique set of challenges. Much like a pair of ill-fitting trainers will stump your run or a pair of foggy swimming goggles will sink that swimming session, having your glasses slip, bounce or steam up when trying to run, lift or dance is a real struggle. Not being able to see properly can affect everything from the quality of a workout to the safety of a run and the frequency with which you make it to the gym. 

Not being able to play your favourite sport or do an activity that makes you feel good because of dodgy eyewear is possibly one the most frustrating things. After all, you can’t choose suddenly not to see clearly by going without your glasses… and yet, wearing them can make everything feel 10 times worse.

So, what options are available to the average glasses-wearing gym-goer? As the daughter of a spectacle guru (my dad is the director of one of the largest manufacturers of eyewear in the UK), it’s an issue I’ve explored in great depth. With some relief, I’ve discovered that there are a wide range of options out there. I asked optometrist Adam Harris from The Eye Station for his expert tips for making exercising in glasses a little easier. 

Contact lenses

Perhaps the most obvious solution to steamy specs is to stick in a pair of contact lenses. Not only are contacts often more comfortable that wearing glasses, which may slip off or break, but they provide unobstructed, clear and crisp vision. With no frames to obstruct your peripheral vision, you’re able to view more and react faster.

Unfortunately, however, contact lenses aren’t option for everybody. I’ve worn them a few times but find them almost impossible to wear and keep in – and I’m far from unique.

“Contact lenses can lead to dryness of the eye, which can be an issue when exercising, so make sure you speak to your optician about the type of exercise you want to do and whether they are a good fit,” Harris advises.  

Impact-resistant lenses

Did you know that you can request special impact-resistant lenses in your glasses? If contacts aren’t for you, ask your optician about polycarbonate and Trivex lenses – a much sturdier solution than regular glass and plastic lenses. These lightweight lens materials are relatively ‘soft — which means they can absorb energy without lens fracturing.

Mary Weiland is an avid marathon runner with a sturdy prescription. An Iron Man finisher, she explains that she has a separate pair of lightweight glasses exclusively for exercising. “You can still wear your fashionable glasses for work and wear a sports brand for the gym. Oakley has a great pair of lightweight glasses that have a really soft nosepiece with a good grip. They don’t bother me during runs and they don’t slip, which was a huge issue for me.”

Mary has run marathons in her glasses, which don't fog up thanks to their small size.
Mary has run marathons in her glasses, which don't fog up thanks to their small size.

It may seem obvious, but when I asked around most of my bespectacled friends, many hadn’t considered the option of buying a separate pair of glasses purely for exercising.

Harris points out that you can also buy frames with contact resistant lenses to avoid shattering. “Your daily glasses are not designed for sports usage,” he explains. “It is not just the frame itself that needs to be suitable for any given sport or activity, it is the lenses also that need to be impact resistant and not shatter into small eye damaging pieces in the event of a heavy impact.

“Glass lenses as opposed to resin lenses are generally not suitable for any kind of sports usage.”

Neoprene straps

If sticking to your usual specs is a must, a strap or band can be an excellent solution for keeping your glasses in place while you exercise. Some folk have even been known to use an elastic band to pull the backs of their glasses together, or to secure them with a kirby grip. But if you’re looking for something a bit less DIY, checkout neoprene straps, particularly if you do water sports.

Neoprene is soft, durable, waterproof and easy to clean, which makes it ideal for active and adventurous water sport enthusiasts. A strap made from it will hold your glasses in place even during a rigorous workout and won’t get wrapped around or caught in equipment when used correctly.   

Sport-specific frames

Even with these products in mind, there are still a multitude of sports out there that offer a unique set of challenges. Take swimming for example. There are goggles out there that can be glazed with polycarbonate lenses made up to your exact prescription. For diving, masks or goggles come already fitted with a mild +1.75 correct built into them in the lower part of the lens. making it easier to read gauges or the time.

For sports such as shooting, archery or fishing, Harris recommends wearing polarised lenses to protect your eyes from constantly looking at the reflections in the water or for looking into the sky. He also suggests wearing ‘over glasses’ – a frame designed to be worn over your existing eyewear. Over glasses are also a good solution for avid tennis players.

Cyclists will find that there are many specifically designed frames available that allow the fitting of your prescription lenses into a specially designed lens holder. That then sits behind the interchangeable sun lens frame. These frames are made for high-impact resistant polycarbonate to provide maximum eye protection in the event of an impact.

Pub-sports glasses

Even recreational activities such as snooker or pool have custom glasses available to players to help them avoid eye strain. The frames are often referred to as ‘upside down’ frames that enable you to still see the balls clearly when bending down over the table so that you are not looking over the top of your lenses. In fact, snooker legend Dennis Taylor has endorsed them himself.

How to beat sweat-fog

As for that pesky sweat-fog that hinders your vision? Many sports brands, including Oakley, Smith, Nike and SportsRX are now making attractive prescription eyewear with the express intent of the wearer being able to see and sweat fuss-free. Weiland says that she tackles fog by wearing smaller lenses: “My glasses only steam if they’re too close to the skin, so I buy small lenses and I find that they sit better and provide less of a surface area to fight the fog.”

It’s clear that there are a multitude of options out there for us four-eye fitness fanatics. Between the daily stresses of kids, jobs or simply not having enough time, there are already a multitude of excuses not to go to the gym – don’t let your glasses be one of them.  

For more fitness tips, check out the Strong Women Training Club.

Images: Getty

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