Anytime I've left home in my running shorts and sports top, I don't ever recall thinking to myself, "damn, I feel pretty" or pass by my reflection and think "I'm one sexy girl."

Let's face it, when I'm wearing those less-than-flattering running shorts, I'm not feeling all that sexy or feminine. In fact, I feel like a guy -- not that there's anything wrong with guys -- but that's not quite the look I'm after. And I'm not saying that I really care what the heck I look like when running, but it would be nice not to feel like a boy for once.

When Nicole DeBoom -- yes, the 2004 Ironman Wisconsin winner and triathlete husband Tim DeBoom -- sent me a GymGirl skirt to review, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about wearing a skirt for a workout, but I figured I'd give it a try. Tomboy that I am, I imagined the potential jabs from my guy friends during a run: "what took you so long ... did your skirt blow up over your eyes ..." you get the picture.

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I didn't expect wearing a "running skirt" would actually make me feel any different, but it actually did.

The GymGirl skirt is a short skirt, with slits up the side and "shorties" -- which are form-fitting shorts underneath. The shorties are made of a mesh poly-spandex blend (80 percent nylon, 20 percent spandex) that are the most comfortable and flattering I've ever worn. Honestly, I wish everything in my closet was made of this stuff (they're working on a T-shirt made of this material, so I'll probably be first in line to buy one).

The shorties have no elastic on the legs but they stay put without riding up, and they're breathable and seam-free so there's no rubbing or chafing. There's a pocket on the leg for an ipod (along with a handy slit for the cord so it doesn't get tangled up) or other small item.

GymGirl hits the road

GymGirl's ipod pocket
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The first thing I noticed when wearing the GymGirl was the material: It's soft, light and comfortable -- like silk. I've worn many different running shorts and never felt such smooth, soft material. The combination of this soft material and mesh shorties underneath makes it luxuriously comfortable to wear.

My first test was on a run. I didn't have to adjust them or fiddle with them during my 45-minute run. I felt comfortable, and somehow "light." By light, I mean just a little more graceful -- and for me, feeling graceful is unusual (graceful isn't a word one would use to describe me). And sure enough, I didn't feel like a boy, a welcome respite for my forgotten feminine ego.

I've also worn them for aerobics and elliptical machine training and was equally pleased with both the look and feel during these workouts.

Meet the other skirts

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TransitionGirl was the first style DeBoom created, so she did a great deal of wear testing on the skirt. She wore a bright red TransitionGirl skirt when she won the 2004 Wisconsin Ironman.

The TransitionGirl is actually a functional and stylish way to cover up areas you'd rather not have jiggling for everyone to see on the running and cycling portion of a triathlon. It's feminine and flirty, but gives a more modest option to those who aren't thrilled about wearing just a swimsuit.

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"I developed this style with the idea that you're doing a tri on a hot day and want to wear a tri suit, but don't want your butt to show," explains DeBoom "The skirt is sexy and slits up the side, but it's more modest than just wearing a swimsuit. The concept is an adjustable race belt with a technical skirt, worn low on the waist, with a pocket for nutrition."

MarathonGirl is made of the same silky skirt material and magical mesh underliner as GymGirl, but instead of shorties underneath you'll find "spankies," which are like really nice underwear -- a huge step up from the typical white cotton liners found in most running shorts and skorts.

DeBoom will introduce technical sport tops and bras, a fitness dress and a cycling skirt this season. As a cyclist, finding a pair of cycling shorts that don't make you look lumpy with sausage legs would be a welcome change. DeBoom said her cycling shorts would be based on the GymGirl skirt -- same fabric, lightweight, with sleek padding -- but with cycling features.

SkirtSports also has a few non-technical clothes, visors and other items that are worth checking out. The Web site is hip and fun -- it's worth a visit even if you're just browsing.

Visions of pink

The idea for SkirtSports struck DeBoom in 2003 while she was out for a winter run, wearing all black, decked out in a snow hat and men's extra small clothing that just wasn't working.

"I was running and I saw my reflection in the window and thought 'we've got to make some changes here.' I scribbled some notes using the words 'pretty' and 'sexy'; something to push the limits a little."

But how do you start a clothing line without knowing anything about it? It was pretty intimidating. But very few companies start with a big budget. Most start with a passion and that's what we're doing here," continued Deboom.

Fitness dress
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Her vision was to create a clothing line that would cross over into two areas: lifestyle and fitness. She focused on today's multi-tasking motivated woman with a career, family, and for whom fitness was a priority, but not the only focus in life. Clothes needed to be functional, yet fun and stylish.

"The demand for something like this in our society, to be both fit and feminine, has come on strong. We're riding the wave of pink, which makes you think of women's causes and supporting people. We really hit our stride with the skirts -- it's a trend that's picking up. I think it's great that many of the bigger companies are coming out with their own fitness skirts, because we're known as the leaders and specialists in skirts -- we're leading the charge."

SkirtSports was started out of DeBoom's basement in July 2005, and has been growing steadily. They've moved into a warehouse situated between two automotive businesses and promptly painted the warehouse floor pink. "I like to think we're 'cleaning up the neighborhood,'" DeBoom joked.

Skirts in the future

The overall goal DeBoom has for SkirtSports is to promote fun and fitness with women in mind. The design is fun, flirty and sexy, but she also hopes that wearing her line will give women the feeling of being part of a special club just for women.

Along those lines, she's hoping to bring this philosophy to a girl's line and to promote fitness for kids. "The best time in your life to really have fitness is while you're growing up. We grew up doing sports, but it's different now," adds Deboom. "There are video games, etc., and kids aren't as active. The girl's line, from age 3 and up, will be great."

Teens and young girls struggle with body image issues and offering girls an option to the skin tight and unflattering workout clothes currently available is long overdue. At an age when how you look is so important, perhaps skirt alternatives can make the difference for girls who otherwise may be too self-conscious to exercise and may lessen the pressure to be unhealthily thin. Comfortable styles like these are a step in the right direction.

For those of us who have struggled with limited options in women's fitness gear, SkirtSports offers a welcome change. And there's nothing wrong with looking and feeling feminine during a workout. Perhaps it'll put a stop to all those "did your skirt get in the way" comments once and for all.

For more information, visit Prices: GymGirl, $70; MarathonGirl, $60; and TransitionGirl, $40.

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