Do I Really Need a Sports Bra?

Ladies, before you read any further, just look down at your Girls and say “hi”!  Whether you describe them as “firm and fruity”, “spaniels’ ears” or “puppy dogs’ noses” they need your support.  There are few things more disheartening than seeing a woman playing sport or out jogging, with her best assets bouncing like rubber balls.

Here we’re going to look at why we need sports bras – so the answer to the question above is “yes you do” – how to get one that fits well and is comfortable and how to care for it.

Why do I need a special sports bra?

According to research by therunningbug.co.uk, your breasts move independently from your body with each step on the treadmill – an average of 9cm.  That means that if you run a mile, your Girls have bounced up to 135 metres!

Even if you have well defined pectoral (chest) muscles, the breasts are sitting on top of them and have no muscles of their own.  Their only support is by ligaments and the skin so once these get stretched and damaged there’s no return to their normal shape: they end up sad and sagging.

Apart from the long term cosmetic damage, isn’t it uncomfortable and distracting to be physically active with your breasts jumping about and having their own game of basketball on your chest?!

When you look at it like that, you can understand why it’s as important to invest in a good bra as it is to get the best running shoes.

Won’t my everyday bra do?

Your daily bra is designed to support the breast in regular daily activities in our largely sedentary lives.

A sports bra is designed to absorb the bounce so that the breast doesn’t move as much as it would otherwise.

What to look for when shopping for a sports bra.

  • Look for a bra designed for high impact activities.  Yoga bras or sports tops aren’t suitable for running and you may find a high impact bra too fitted for yoga class.  So tailor your bra to your activity.  Bras should be marked with the activity levels that are suitable for them.
  • Go for a brand you know and trust.  And when you find a bra from that brand that fits perfectly and is comfortable,buy sports bra buy more than one.
  • Don’t go for a sports bra with under wiring as they can be uncomfortable and rub the skin.
  • Try it on.  A 34B in one brand can be quite different to a 34B in another.  Take a bra in the cup size you usually wear, a smaller one and a larger one into the changing room and try them all.  Any wrinkling or bagging means it’s too big.  If you’re bulging out of it or the seams are digging in to you then it’s too small.
  • If you’re shopping on line then check the site’s returns policy.
  • While you’re in the changing room, bend over, stretch up and jump/run on the spot to test its capacity to minimise bounce and stay comfortable.  It shouldn’t twist, ride up or cut into you.
  • Check in the mirror that the support comes from the thick elasticated band under the breasts (holding the bra in place) and the band of fabric at the sides and under the breasts which should be cup-shaped.  The bra should compress the breasts but without squashing them so that their movement is restricted.
  • Make sure the straps are wide and don’t dig into your shoulders.
  • Try a variety of back fittings too – the standard bra back and the racer back design – to see which suits you best.  Look for adjustable straps and fastenings.
  • Which fabrics?  Most sports bras are made from synthetic materials such as polyester and have Lycra/Spandex to help them keep their shape. Modern synthetic fabrics such as CoolMax or Drylete that are good at wicking away sweat from the body so look at the claims made by the manufacturers.  Cotton bras stay wet when you sweat so avoid 100% cotton.
  • If you have a larger chest then look for brands that are designed for you.  Moving Comfort, Shockabsorber and Enell all make bras to fit larger chests.
  • If you’re not sure about your bra size (and up to 80% of women are wearing the wrong size) look at this article.

Caring for your sports bra.

As you use and wash your bra its elasticity will be lost and it will be less effective in giving you the support you need.  So replace it every 70-80 washes or if your weight changes.

Wash it on a cool wash with detergent and allow to air dry (rather than on a radiator) or tumble dry on a low heat.

These actions will help to preserve the elasticity and the support in the bra.

Elspeth Raisbeck

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