We all have that one sports bra. The one you’ve had since high school, full of holes with no elastic left. While it’s supported you through the years, over time, it’s lost its ability. But like an old boyfriend, you keep it around because it’s comfortable.
Sports bras are supposed to be your boobs’ best friend, but an ill-fitting one can turn into their worst enemy. Too small, and it will smash and suffocate while on and be nearly impossible to take off. Too big and it won’t do anything for you at all. Either way, you’re setting yourself up for an uncomfortable workout that may even do damage to your body.
According to Renelle Braaten, founder and president of ENELL, who creates state-of-the-art, high-quality performance sports bras for women C cup or above, “An ill-fitting or unsupportive sports bra, especially while engaging in sports or strenuous activity, can cause premature sagging of the breasts and stress on your back muscles,” she told DietsInReview.com. She explained that this can cause breast, back, shoulder, and arm pain. “It can also cause headaches, indentation, scarring, chafing and/or improper posture.”
It’s such a problem, in fact, that many women cut their workouts short or skip them entirely. This isn’t news to ladies, however, as we have been coming up with our own ways to deal with poorly fitted sports bras over the years. Some girls wear regular bras under their sports bras to get the support and coverage they need, while some double up on two sports bras in an attempt to stop bouncing and avoid blacking out their eyes.
Carla Birnberg, writer and author of the new book What You Can When You Can: Healthy Living on YOUR Terms remembers the pain of finding the right bra and despite being small chested, would also double up. “Being a member of the Tiny Tata Tribe I do think I have a lot more choice and flexibility with regards to what type of sports bras I wear. But back in the day when I was an aerobics instructor and sports bras weren’t as good even with my small endowment I wore two.”
The sports bra industry is starting to listen, and our options have, indeed, gotten better. With the recent advancements in sports bra technology, Birnberg finally found a good fit. “It’s also important to find a sports bra that makes you feel good about yourself and how it looks on you. I do love that about Venus Williams’ EleVen apparel line. She’s a big believer in look good play well.”
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
“Your lingerie bra size and sports bra size are equivalent, which means that if you know what you wear in lingerie, you should be able to easily determine your sports bra size,” Rebecca duRivage-Jacobs told us. She’s the associate product line manager for Moving Comfort, a brand that offers alpha sizing (XS – XL) and cup and band sizing (30-44 and cup sizes A-F) for a range of sizes that fit all body types.
Rebecca suggests getting sized often because a woman’s body is constantly changing, especially if you are working out consistently. In fact, since both are made for support and go through such a beating, Moving Comfort recommends you replace your sports bra as often as you replace your running shoes (which is roughly every 300 miles).
She also recommends looking at the four main features of a bra before choosing one:
- Materials: You’ll want a lightweight and breathable performance material.
- Seams: They are the prime culprits for chafing.
- Bottom Band: The bottom band of any bra is the foundation of support.
- Shape: A design and style you like that also flatters.”
Sounds simple, but girls with larger breasts have a little more to consider, and a proper fit is more crucial for both function and comfort. “If you have a larger cup size then you should look at sports bras that are offered in cup/band sizing,” advises Kim Lim, Product Manager for Soybu, an active apparel company for women, girls and men.
“When engaging in high-impact sports or movements, women with a C cup or larger should look for a high-impact bra that provides support and allows for movement. For higher impact activities, look for thicker straps and adjustable bands. The bra should not be too low cut to avoid spilling out. For lower impact activities (yoga, pilates, walking, etc.), bra pads are highly recommended, as they provide fuller coverage along with a little more support than the body fabric itself.”
Smaller chested girls don’t have to be so picky and can go for the off-the-rack choices. “If you have smaller breasts then you should start with the level of impact your sport requires and then look for features and fabrics you prefer,” says Kim. “If the bra is offered in XS-XL sizes then I would start with the size you wear for athletic tops, then make sure the band is snug and the bra offers proper coverage.”
THE SPORTS BRA PERFECT FIT TEST
All bras are different and even if you grab one in your size, just like a pair of jeans, there’s no guarantee it will fit or be comfortable. Before you fork over your hard earned money, give it a quick test:
- Bend over: Nothing should spill out of the top.
- Jump up and down: You shouldn’t bounce more than an inch up and down.
- Pump your arms: Simulate the friction you’ll feel when you run. Then imagine it multiplied by thousands of times. You should feel OK with that.
- Lean back: Press your shoulders against the wall to make sure nothing on the back will poke you during ab exercises.
- Take a deep breath: Make sure your band is supportive but not so supportive you can’t breathe. Take a few deep breaths to make sure. If you wear a heart rate monitor, try your sports bra on with it, as they all hit at different heights.
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