It’s the London Marathon this weekend and if you’re anything like me it may inspire you to dust off your running shoes or gym membership. The sports bra is very much a part of women’s fitness routines today, growing more than 20 percent in popularity year-on-year to become a market worth almostt $3.5 billion in 2016 in the U.S. alone.
But no matter what size you are, a sports bra that fits incorrectly can totally ruin your workout and affect your health. Our bust size fluctuates throughout the month from hormones alone so it’s important that we make allowances for this by making sure we are wearing the right sports bra. Hagen Schumacher of MyAesthetics has given us 5 tips to make sure we pick the right sports bra.
5 tips for buying the right sports bra
Are you being measured and fitted correctly?
Any kind of exercise, particularly high-impact fitness like HIIT, running or tennis, places tension on the supporting muscles of your breasts, so it’s important to ask yourself the right questions when investing in your next purchase and take the time to have a professional fitting. To find out your sports bra size, remove your top but keep your bra on. Have a professional fitter measure you around the smallest part of your lower bust, where the band sits and round up or down to the nearest even number.
Then, measure the fullest part of your bust. Go through a letter for each inch of difference and you’ve found your cup size. Beware of the stores who are just after the sale; they’ll tell you you’re whatever size they go up to, thus doing you a major disservice. Fit is doubly important for new mothers, especially during lactation. IBCLC board-certified lactation consultant, Leigh Anne O’Connor says her primary advice for women who are lactating and working out is to avoid tight-fitting sports bras.
Choosing a bra that’s too tight can lead to milk ducts becoming pinched or plugged, which can cause a breast infection if the blockage persists for too long. If you have breast implants, it’s in your best interests to wear a sports bra during work-outs in order to avoid traumatising and scar tissue from tearing.
How do you know when you have the right fit?
The University of Portsmouth recently led a study into exactly how breasts move while a woman is running, and uncovered a surprising answer. Researchers realised breast tissue can move up to 15 cm while running, in all directions – up, down, forward, backward, and side to side, ultimately tracing a figure-eight pattern. So, when it comes to a sports bra, this means you need to find one that offers good support in every direction. It is estimated 80 percent of women wear incorrectly sized bras, which is probably due to bras being adjusted to fit the cup size and ignoring the band size.
The band of your sports bra should sit where the band of your everyday bra does, fitting firmly around your chest at an even level. Your shoulder straps should provide support without digging in or leaving marks. You should be able to set the hooks on the loosest setting when you first begin wearing your bra, so you can tighten it as it begins to naturally lose elasticity. When it comes to augmented breasts, it is important to invest in a supportive sports bra rather than one with a compression fit. Compression bras may squeeze implants unnecessarily, but a supportive sports bra will also take the burden off the connective tissues that help keep the breasts in position.
What’s wrong with your sports bra?
Tell-tale signs your sports bra is the wrong fit:
The band rides up in the back, or you’re using the tightest hook
It’s a tell-tale sign the bra is either too large or stretched out, which means it won’t provide proper support, even if the straps are intact.
The straps dig in to your skin
While strap style is a personal preference, straps shouldn’t hurt. If they do cause pain, it’s because the band isn’t offering enough support.
It’s made of cotton
Special technical fabrics are designed to support the breast and wick away moisture, while cotton just stretches out and sops up sweat (ick!). Seek out sweat-wicking fabric with air holes, ideally under the breast and across the back.
There’s spillage when you bend over
Do a downward facing dog in the dressing room. If it ends in a nip slip, the bra isn’t for you.
You’re stuck in it
A sports bra should come off as easily as it goes on. If you struggle to remove it when you’re clean and dry, think about how uncomfortable you’ll be when in a sweat after a workout.
How to pick your sports bra by activities
Most sports bras are designed to provide three general levels of support, namely low, medium and high. Low-support bras are best for low-impact activities like walking, yoga/pilates and strength training; medium-support is suitable for brisk walking, rollerblading and cycling; high-support is designed for sports like running and aerobics.
Compression style bras do not have cups and are usually worn by pulling them over your head. The structure of it compresses the breasts against the body to limit movement. This type is usually more suitable for smaller breasts, or for low to moderate impact workouts.
Encapsulation designs have individual cups surrounding each breast and providing shape. Women with larger breasts or those doing high impact sports should go for encapsulation because it offers maximum support. There are now sports bras which offer a combination of compression and encapsulation. These encapsulate each breast individually while also compressing the breast tissues against the chest. They offer the most sturdy and complete type of support for women of any breast size.
When it’s time to upgrade
Just like all bras, sports bras stretch out over time and it’s recommended they’re replaced after four to six months, depending on the frequency of wear and quality of care. Have a bounce up and down in the mirror every month to check if the fabric has lost some of its elasticity, if the cups are rippling (a sign they’re too big) or whether the band shifts as you move.