In Search of the Perfect Sports Bra

Last week I wrote about my favorite brand of fitness apparel.  A conversation with one of my clients after that post convinced me to revisit the fitness gear topic this week with a more focused agenda.  (Sorry guys, this is a ladies only post.)

My client is a retired personal shopper at a high end department store.  It was her job to assist customers in the women’s department to find just the right fabrics, colors, size and style that would look fabulous on each woman based on her unique physical attributes.  She told me that she brought new customers to the intimate apparel department to fit them for an appropriate sized and styled bra before doing anything else.  “You can put a woman in a great designer dress but if she’s not wearing the right bra underneath, it’s not going to look right,” she told me.  She added that most women aren’t wearing the right bra because they’ve never had a customized fitting.

We were just having a chat while she was stretching at the end of her workout, but it got me thinking about whether or not the same is true for women and sports bras.  And while my client was speaking about having the right bra for aesthetics, I do think that having the right sports bra is essential for different reasons.  Namely, comfort, performance and function.

Sports bras aren’t a gimmick.  They are styled differently from and made of different fabrics than regular bras because they serve a specific function and perform a completely different job.  The best sports bras are made of wicking fabrics and may have additional mesh venting features to keep moisture away from the skin and assists the body in the cooling process.  Most are a racerback or halterback design to avoid strap slippage and shoulder impingement issues and allow for full range of motion in the shoulders.

The style of fitness bra that’s right for you is determined by two things: your workouts and your bra size.

Vigorous Workouts: Characterized by vertical movements and heavy perspiration.  Jogging, running, dance-based aerobics classes, HIIT, CrossFit and step classes would definitely fall into this category.  Spinning, boot camp, kickboxing classes and recreational activities like basketball and soccer can also be considered vigorous if some jumping or sprinting movements are involved.

  • A-B Cups: You may think your size doesn’t warrant worrying about a supportive athletic bra but the skin and soft tissue beneath is vulnerable to jarring, multidirectional movements.  Put more bluntly, even small breasted women will sag as they age and wearing unsupportive bras during vigorous exercise will speed that process.  Look for compression sports bras.  If arm movement isn’t important, such as with jogging, then a traditional tank-style strap is fine.  But, if you need full range of motion in the shoulders, opt for racerback styles.
  • C Cups & above: Get the most supportive sports bra you can find.  Companies that specialize in running apparel are a good place to start – even if running isn’t your activity.  Look for cups with multidirectional support.  Even if arm movement isn’t important to you, avoid tank-style straps that will dig into your shoulders.  Opt for racerback styles instead.  You will pay more for the right bra but it will be worth every penny.

Moderate Exercise: Characterized by non-jarring movements and little to moderate perspiration.  Walking, Pilates, yoga, biking, rowing, elliptical, tennis, golf and strength training are the most common examples of moderate exercise.

  • A-B Cups: Moderate support with moisture wicking fabric is all that’s needed.  There are lots of choices in this category.  Most have a shelf bra with supportive, soft cups.  Avoid ones that only have a shelf bra – that is too little support.  Any style strap is fine but if you’re going to have lots of arm movement in your workout, better to get a racerback style.
  • C Cups & above: Get a fully supportive sports bra with moisture wicking fabric and opt for racerback style.  Companies that specialize in yoga inspired attire are likely ahead of the curve in designing supportive yet comfortable fitness bras for full-figured women.

We already have so many excuses for not working out – lack of time, lack of motivation, unexpected events popping up – discomfort from the wrong bra shouldn’t be one of them.  And, it doesn’t have to be.  There are now, thankfully, lots of apparel companies who have done the testing and research and have developed, and continue to perfect, high-quality fitness bras for women of all shapes and sizes.  Find the right one for you.


One comment

  1. I have to say I still love Lululemon! Though they were a bit flimsy when I had more to pack in! Now I’m flatter they are great and I’m finally using my old free to be ones again 🙂

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