Coach Wendy writes: We have all seen them... breasts bobbing up and down or even swaying in directions that appears to be up and down and sideways! Or what about the squashed melon look!
The 'bobbing' and 'melon' looks are not overly flattering and more importantly they pose a threat to our breast health, they hinder our breathing and our ability to maintain good posture whilst running.
Often the secret ingredients to participation in anything, are feeling comfortable and supported. Our external and mobile body appendages are no different from our emotive needs and they too need to be supported and feel comfortable whilst participating in sport. All athletes, regardless of age, gender and ability, who feel comfortable and supported - participate longer and enjoy the fitness process so much more.
For women who run, especially those with a fuller figure or those returning to running after a break, purchasing a running bra is not always easy. Finding a running bra that fits well, looks great and feels great is often a challenge.
A bra that looks great on someone else, may not quite feel as good on you and the reason is that we are all different. Thankfully now, there is a far greater selection of running bras on the market to choose from and women runners can select from a number of tailored sports bras enabling us to have a winning combination of wearing fashionable gear, feeling great and exercising at the same time.
Gone are the days of wires, cups and corsets and for the women with fuller figures, the new technology of bra design has enabled a lot more women to 'feel supported' especially whilst running. Likewise for smaller breasted women, the latest fabrics have improved comfort greatly.
When you are working out what items of clothing to spend your money on, next to your shoes, I consider your running bra to be your second most important purchase. I always recommend when women find a bra that they like, that they buy 2 bras of the same style.
So what is a good bra?
Design, support & comfort and function, rather than label and looks!
Nowadays there are essentially two types of running bras on the market, the popular crop-top style or the more traditional cupped bra.
The crop-top singlet style, are made from two layered stretch fabric and are an all in one bra with a cross over back design. These bras have a firm elastic band around the base of bra, which sits just below the breast line. The shoulder straps of these bras are more in keeping with a 'halter-neck' style and the wide bands (often 2-3 centimetres wide) ensure a flat and comfortable fit with even weight distribution. The outer layer of this style of bra often comes down to the midriff, enabling these styles of bra to be worn without a running top. With these bra's being double lined, they have minimal seems and are extremely comfortable but they are better suited to smaller breasted women.
The traditional bra design, modified with thicker stretch fabric, wider supportive cups, wider and adjustable shoulder & back straps, is the preferable choice for women with a fuller figure. For some women they feel more comfortable wearing both, a traditional bra made for sporting women under a crop top style bra.
Regardless of your preference of style or needs, a good bra is supportive, looks nice and makes you feel great. A good running bra has all those requirements as well but provides firm supports your breasts whilst running - breast movement is minimized, especially the up and down motions. Equally important, a good running bra allows you to breathe effectively and supports your posture, which in turn enables you to run more efficiently and with greater ease. The other unique feature of a good running bra is that once you put it on, it stays there! You require your bra to remain in place, to stay firm and supportive regardless of whether you have been wearing it for 5 or 50 minutes. The last thing you want to be doing is constantly adjusting it, pulling it down, or repositioning it whilst running.
Conversely a poor fitting running bra may, if it is too tight, restrict your ability to breathe due to the strap design and pressure and may cause shoulder and neck pain. Breasts that give that squashed-melon type appearance are often as a result of an overly tight crop top style bra. Likewise, bra's that are too loose enable the breasts to bounce excessively and after a while will become extremely uncomfortable. Over a period of time women who run with poor breast support often notice that their breast tissue begins to sag. Often to compensate for a poor supportive bra, women will round their shoulders, impacting on their posture and their ability to run effectively.
So when you're buying your running bra, seek the advice of other women runners as to what models they have found comfortable. Most sports clothing shops will have helpful staff that will assist you with your needs. Whilst you are in the fitting room, jog up and down on the spot and test how supportive the bra feels. If you notice areas that annoy or are uncomfortable i.e. the bra is too high under your armpit or that it flattens rather than supports your breasts - these are signs that the bra is not ideal and best you try on other models.
To all those women who have wanted to experience the buzz of getting fit through running, there is a bra out there that will provide you with the support you need. So organise yourself a coach or a training buddy, slip on your new running shoes, pull on your new bra, shout yourself a nice new running top, open the door and go. The world of exercise awaits, just remember you deserve the best support!