Buying A Sports Bra|
Making the Best Choice For You
What's the first thing you think about when you get ready to workout? The right shoes? The best technique? How much water to drink? Which shorts, tights, or jackets to wear?
All important stuff. But let's get down to basics: None of the above is as important as the right sports bra. Let's face it, no matter what gear you pack in the bag, or how good your technique is, without the right sports bra, you will be uncomfortable (to say the least) and you will not get the most from your workout. But who talks about bras? So let's break the code of silence. Out-of-sight is never out-of-mind if the bra ain't sitting pretty.
With all the different styles these days, you'll need to figure out your needs based on your activity and your size, as well as your taste in appearance and style:
Shape - First, comes the all important question of shape, to have or not to have. There are two basic styles of sports bras: "compression" and "encapsulation." To put it bluntly, smooshed or shaped.
Compression is the kind without cups that smooshes breasts close to the body to minimize motion; they usually pull on overhead. Fine if you don't mind the "mono-breast" look. Encapsulation styles have cups to give some feminine shape, but often include other kinds of straps or underwires. They frequently hook, velcro or snap in the front or back.
Bounce Control - To figure out how much control you need, think about your activity. Runners need more than walkers. Snowshoers need more than ice-skaters. Mogul-jumping downhill skiers need more than serene cross-country-ophiles. Basketball players need more than cyclists. The more impact or the quicker movement, the more control you'll likely want.
For the record, compression tops allow less movement. Fit -- Be honest about your your sizes, both cup and rib, because some styles are not suited for some people. Women with larger cup sizes, but smaller rib cages may need an encapsulation style with clasps to accommodate the difference. Very large- busted women usually find compression styles less comfortable, particularly pulling it on overhead when one wrong move might trap you in odd poses.
Elastic rib band - Wider elastic around the ribs usually (not always) eliminates bras riding up, while longer cut bras without elastic bands directly underneath the bust line offer less support. For someone prone to chafing (I speak from experience), be sure any elastic is smooth or covered by fabric.
Design - Again, consider your activity and not only how much freedom of movement you need, but where you need it. Take a look at the armholes and back style.
Armholes are cut close to the shoulder offer more coverage and cause no problem for someone hiking or cycling. But a runner or aerobic student needs deeper armholes for less binding.
Back styles come in two types: traditional U-back such as on a regular bra, and racerback or t-back styles where the two shoulder straps join into one after they cross the top of your shoulders onto your back. Racerbacks allow better movement, but can be harder to get on and off.
Now that you got all the shape, style and fit things down, you need to consider the fabric and its construction. Wearing your old cotton or nylon bras might be economical, but they don't have the technical benefits of support, wicking, or warmth of today's selection made from performance fabrics for moving and sweating, nor are they made to withstand the wear and tear.
Performance fabrics for sports bras come from man-made fibers, such as polyester, polypropylene, acrylic or nylon, then are blended, finished, woven, or designed in different ways to create the properties a manufacturer desires, such as wicking, softness, stretch, or warmth. Many top companies, not only Champion Jogbra but also top athletic firms like Adidas and Nike, line bras with a fabric such as Coolmax to absorb and wick sweat away from your body. Sweat not only gives you a chill if it stays next to you, but can increase chafing. Other performance fibers, treatments, and fabrics to look for are polypropylene, Supplex or Intera.
For all bras, look for flat-locked seams and bindings, and soft thread (nylon is a killer), and avoid tags or tag placement that might chafe (ribbon-soft ones never do).
Read hangtags for details, and prepare to sweat in comfort.Contributed By: Therese Iknoian
Therese Iknoian is an award-winning and internationally published fitness/sports journalist, has consulted on educational programs for the likes of Nike, and has written numerous books, including Mind-Body Fitness For Dummies, Tai Chi For Dummies, and Fitness Walking. She is an exercise physiologist and former nationally ranked race walker, and has partnered with her journalist-husband, Michael Hodgson, on four web sites: her own www.TotalFitnessNetwork.com, plus www.GearTrends.com, www.AdventureNetwork.com, www.SNEWSnet.com