In the last week, I have become a sports bra expert, thanks to my new job at Runner’s High in Orange County. I’m the only female working at the shop, so it quickly has fallen upon me to bone up on bra knowledge, and deliver a sports bra presentation to a bunch of motivated (but under supported) Extreme BootCamp recruits. And now, since I am well versed in the sports bra, I am going to share some lesser known tips to to you lady readers. I apologize gentlemen, but know two things: 1. This is really good info you can share with your lady loved ones (along with the tidbit that you must wipe baby girls from front to back while changing their dipers — that’s Front to Back, okay?) and 2. If there were a running jock strap or a running cup, I would be more than happy to have a guest blog about such protective and supportive items (anyone want to volunteer?).
I want to mention one thing before I start: If you are currently wearing two or more sports bras for support and motion control while you work out, please don’t believe this is the only option for you. Please please please consider checking out a variety of sports bras. A lot of women wear multiple bras, and while perhaps this is comfortable for you, there are other options. Promise. Okay, onto the bras.
The first thing to be aware of is that there are two types of sports bras:
1. The Compression Bra
This type of bra compresses your breasts. It takes those bad boys and sucks them flat into your body, creating that dreaded “uniboob.” While it does a nice job of flattening you out, in terms of support or motion control, it offers about as much as wrapping a nice ribbon around your rack and tying a bow over your side boob. Basically, it holds you in, but up and down motion is going to remain. These sorts of bras tend to work best for smaller chested ladybird, but that isn’t to say a busty gal who compares herself to Jessica Simpson wouldn’t find herself comfortable in them as well. The compression bra is always slipped on by simply pulling the bra over your head as though it were a really tiny, tight T-shirt. These bras do not offer much in the way of support, other than the way the fabric is put together.
2. The Encapsulation Bra
So what is really neat about this bra is it separates each breast and supports it, much like a traditional bra that you prance around in during your office holiday party. This type of bra offers a ton of support in a variety of ways: it usually slips over your head, and then also has a zipper or hooks in the back of it to reinforce security. The straps are almost always adjustable (if they aren’t I would keep looking until you find one that has adjustable straps), and some are equipped with triple or quadruple padded underwire, or a material that acts as underwire. Instead of attempting to have your rib cage open up and engulf your breasts, the encapsulation bra really is a guide for your chestscape.
What all sports bras have in common is a lot of fancypants technological features. I admit, that I did not even know these things existed — I’ve been wearing the same rotating set of sports bras since my first year of college — they are cotton, compression bras. And while I’m still anti-schwag, there are some really neato-bandito qualities of the new-fangled sports bras that have been produced in the last ten years.
Sports bras these days come with specially designed wicking fabric. Much like the ever popular Under Armor brand, all sports bras (no matter the company) that are not cotton have properties that suck sweat away from you, as if they were full of tiny fairies slurping on straws to draw the sweat out of your pores and off of your skin, so you stay drier than a petrified forest. Okay, maybe not drier than that. But you stay pretty freaking dry.
They also are designed to avert any sort of abrasion (if you continue to feel discomfort, you either are in the wrong sized bra, or you might want to consider using BodyGlide or TriSlide where you are feeling pressed in upon) that might be considering occuring as you move. They are seamless, and any piece of the bra that is supportive (such as the adjustable straps or the hooks in the back) are swaddled and padded so there is no chance in Atlantis that they are going to dig into you. Trying them on made me wish Victoria’s Secret would take a hint.
If you retain nothing else from this blog post, I need you to remember this: It is imperative that when you try on a sports bra, you must perform activities in the dressing room in in that you will be doing in the real world. The dressing room is a rehearsal space for your training, or whatever lies ahead. I doubt you’ll be sipping olive-laden martinis in your sports bra — you’re going to be MOVING, so move in it! Doing jumping jacks, or jogging in place, or hanging out in downward dog is essential to knowing if the bra is right for you.
Trying on sports bras in your typical bra size is a great leaping off point. Just know that sports bras, like every other piece of women’s clothing, are sized based on nothing but the company’s warped sizing policy. You may be a 36B at Victoria’s Secret, but in sports braland, you could be just about anything. Start where you think you are and move from there.
If you want to measure yourself, here is how Champion, a huge purveyor of sports bras, directs you to do so:
1. Measure the band (under your breasts).
2. Measure around the widest part of your chest (over the nipples, basically) but keep it a little loose — this is the “bust.”
3. Add 5 to the first number if it’s under 31, or 3 to it if it’s over 31.
4. Subtract your band number from your bust number. If the difference is 1, you’re an A cup, a 2, you’re a B cup, and so on.
Honestly, I find this method to be completely inaccurate, but maybe it works for you.
Finally, look for bulges (or ask someone to look for you), If you’re rolling over the back of the bra, it’s not because you are oddly shaped — it is because the bra does not fit. Tell yourself the company sizes small, and get the next size up.
Choosing a Color
Any color but black or white is going to show sweat as obviously as a neon light on a Ferris wheel. If like me, you’re a sweater, be sure that you’re okay with that if you want something pink, green, gray, or blue. Also, any bra that looks really cute is most likely a low-level compression bra, and is not going to offer you the support you need. Remember, you are working out in the bra, not wearing it to impress anyone. So go for support rather than cuteness. I know it’s hard – we all like things that look adorable and fashionable. But trust me.
The Bottom Line
Try on a variety of bras and see what works for you. Try on bras that don’t look appealing at first glance because you can’t guess how they are going to feel. Much like your running shoes, your bra choice should not be selected on color, the basic look — it should be based on how you feel in the bra. Are you comfortable? Do you feel like you could run 2, 5, 9, miles in it? Be sure to check out how you move in the bra — lift you arms over your head, rotate your torso, play leap frog, and make sure the bra fits you.
Comfort is the most important factor in sports bras. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t want to wear it. So make sure you really like the bra.
A Few Popular Bras That I Can Get Behind
Top Two Really Supportive:
The Enell — this is definitely for the pirate’s booty, busty bar maid types. It’s really expensive, but it’s the most supportive bra you can find on the market.
The Champion Powerback Underwire Sports Bra — I know it looks like a regular bra, but this Powerback is extremely supportive, affordable, and is going to get you from point A to point B with minimal movement.
Top Regular Support:
The Dori Bra by Moving Comfort — this bra is fantastic for any level of support needed. It’s really comfortable, remarkably chic, and works with a lot of different body types. If you aren’t sure where to start, start here. This is my new favorite sports bra by far.
The Alexis Bra by Moving Comfort — good for medium support, this bra is almost cute (an unheard of) while offering plenty of comfort and stability.
There you have a it. A really quick sports bra tutoriale. Now go out in the world and meet your sports bra! Shake it’s hand, give it a smile, and become best friends forever!