Question of the Week: “It seems like there are more sports bras than ever with hooks in the back! Why wouldn’t you just want to pull it on and go, without all that fiddling around?”
Ah, you have a good eye! You’ve picked up on a definite trend in sports bras, which is more adjustability in their bottom bands. While hook & eye closures are a familiar sight on everyday bras of all sizes, it’s only more recently that they’ve shown up on uncomplicated pullover “compression” styles like Champion’s Spot Comfort Max-Support sports bra.
There are good reasons for this trend:
1. Support. The bottom band is a surprisingly important foundation of your sports bra’s support system. It gives you a 360° anchor point around your chest that all the rest of your bra can work against to successfully reduce breast bounce. A hook & eye adjuster, especially in bras sized S/M/L instead of band/ cup sizing, allows you to customize snugness and maximize support.
2. Chafe-protection. A well-fitted bottom band can minimize chafing. Believe it or not, a too-loose band can be more vicious than one that’s too tight because it’s more free to move! With a hook & eye adjuster, you can minimize tissue trauma before it happens. By fine-tuning bottom band snugness, your bra will stay put instead of shifting around and "flossing" you raw.
3. Comfort. If I’ve learned anything in 30 years of researching sports bra fit, it’s that women vary wildly in their definition of what is “too snug,” “too tight,” and “just right.” For every bra I’ve seen that seemed so tight that I marveled at the wearer’s ability to breathe, I’ve seen one so loose I feared it would fall down— and in both cases, the women claimed the bra fit just the way they preferred it! Whatever your snugness preference is, if your sports bra has a hook & eye adjuster, you’re more likely to achieve it. Just one comfort caveat— check to make sure your bra’s hook & eye closure is super-cushioned so the metal can’t dig in.
4. Harmony. Well, it’s not like your bra’s hook & eye are going to produce world peace! But if you sometimes feel like you’re at war with your sports bra and can hardly wait to rip it off and throw it against the wall at the end of a workout, the ability to tweak the band size may be just the remedy needed to reduce that constricting feeling.
With more structured “encapsulation” sports bras, hook & eye closures are often necessary for getting in and out of them, and reaching back to hook/unhook can be tricky and test your flexibility. Here are a couple of strategies to make things easier:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if it’s available from a partner or workout buddy!
- If you have slim hips or shoulders, you might try pre-hooking the bottom band in your preferred position, and either “stepping in” or pulling the bra over your head into position on your chest, then sliding your arms into the straps.
If you have a sports bra question or dilemma of your own, no matter how big or small, I hope you’ll post it, and I’d be delighted to answer!
April 27, 2012
Question of the Week: “Every time I strip off my sports bra after a workout, I have angry red lines on my chest, especially along the neckline and around my ribs. Could I be allergic to this bra?”
The short answer is “Yes, absolutely!” as I’ve personally heard from women who’ve had allergic reactions to elastics, dyes, or other fabric treatments in their sports bras. The heat, sweat, and friction you experience during a workout only aggravate any potentially touchy skin problems you may have.
Here are the most frequent triggers:
• Latex allergies. Although almost all sports bras now use spandex instead of latex rubber to give power to fabrics and elastics, it’s possible that some latex may be present in “vintage” bras or obscure brands from unknown sources. It’s easy to avoid by buying well-known brands and double-checking labels to make sure latex is not listed.
• Chemicals in fabric dyes. It is rare to find natural dyes in athletic clothing because they tend to fade quickly with the constant “sweat-it-up-and-wash-it-again” treatment we give our workout gear. The synthetic dyes needed to keep your favorite sports bra brilliant pink, wash after wash, can trigger fiery skin rashes in some susceptible women. The dyes used to produce some colors are more aggravating than others: blue, black, green, and violet fabrics are more allergy-aggravating than grey or beige. If you have really sensitive skin, sticking to white sport bras (while boring!) could be your best defense against breakouts.
• Hot workout conditions. If you suddenly plunge into exercising in hot environments, your sports bra can give you prickly heat rash. Overheated, sweat-soaked fabrics can actually cause protein molecules in your sweat ducts to swell and rupture, which produces the nasty red rash! In addition to making sure you’ve gradually acclimated yourself to hot conditions, you can protect yourself by choosing quick-drying bra fabrics that help move the moisture away and prevent rash-causing sweat retention.
• Surplus friction. Sustained friction from a too-tight (or too-loose!) sports bra can cause skin-breaking abrasions that are not only painful but set you up for infections. Hot and sweaty conditions increase the amount of friction inflicted on your delicate skin. To minimize the damage, choose a bra that feels sleek inside and out (including stitching and fasteners), and fine-tune the fit around your chest so your bra stays comfortably put rather than shifting around and “flossing” you raw. Use a sport lube for extra protection.
I’m always interested in hearing more about this “touchy” subject, so if you’ve had your own nasty reaction to a sports bra, I hope you’ll share it here!
April 24, 2012
Question of the Week: “I’m seeing a lot of ‘hook & loop’ (aka Velcro®) adjusters on sports bra straps these days. I’m afraid to try them because they sound scratchy, look kind of thick, and frankly I’m not sure I trust them to securely hold up the ‘girls’! Am I wrong about this?”
One thing I know for sure— when it comes to wanting your sports bra to be absolutely reliable and comfortable, you are totally entitled to question anything and everything! And if you’ve had less-than-wonderful experiences with Velcro®-like fasteners in other products at times, I totally understand your hesitation.
But first, let’s talk about why you might want these grippy tapes in your sports bra in the first place. Given that it’s possible to adjust a bra strap with the small, light metal “slide” we’re all familiar with, why go for a potentially thicker solution such as hook & loop?
As it turns out, while most metal strap adjusters are perfectly comfortable for many women, they can irritate some bodies. That’s especially true when the strap adjuster is located in the front of the bra and the metal slide ends up in a bloody fight with your collarbone once you’ve put it in the perfect position. So if you’ve had bad experiences with metal slides poking your bones, and/or you simply like being able to easily adjust your strap length after your bra is on, picking a sports bra with a front-mounted hook & loop adjuster can solve both of these problems.
What’s really good to know is that some of the best advances in hook & loop technology have actually come from the intimate apparel and sports gear industries, because the demands for both comfort and performance are very high. For example, Champion was one of the first brands to develop and use shiny, stretchy, body-friendly hook & loop in sports bra straps. The resulting product, the Seamless Underwire, is still a best-seller after seven years.
Not only have the hook & loop surfaces themselves gotten a lot cushier and less abrasive, but the tapes they are mounted on are now lighter, less stiff, and (sometimes) stretchier so they flex and move when you do. New-generation hook & loop adjusters also keep their strength much better when wet than the old stuff that may have failed when it got sweat-soaked. These modern versions are hugely improved in theory, and confirmed in practice, judging by the generally glowing feedback I’ve gotten from hundreds of women, especially fuller-figured runners who absolutely, positively demand “no-fail” in their sports bra straps and fasteners.
That said, I’ll add just one tiny word of caution, and that’s when it comes time to launder. The grabby little hooks in the tape are also very glad to snag other delicate fabrics that may be comingled in your laundry load, and the loop side can get imbedded with lint (which makes it hold less securely). So always connect the loop and the hook surfaces before you throw things in the washer to minimize damage to your sports bra and your other favorite workout duds you don’t want snagged. And, of course, keep high heat off the hook & loop surfaces by air drying after washing (you aren’t still putting any of your sports bras in the dryer, are you?!).
If you’ve had a love or hate relationship with hook & loop in your sports bra, I hope you’ll share your insights (and warnings!) with the rest of us below!
Have a super, active week!
April 16, 2012
Question of the Week: “I love an underwire bra for everyday wear, but the idea of metal in my gear during a workout scares me a little. How do I go about finding a ‘wired’ sports bra that won’t poke or hurt me when I’m kicking it hard?”
You’re not alone in loving your underwires! They’ve become popular for day or night because they can create maximum separation, support and anchoring with minimum weight and bulkiness, which are all great qualities to bring to a sports bra!
You’re an especially good candidate for an underwire sports bra if your “girls” are fuller and demand more support, and if you prefer separation and shaping over minimizing your curves (regardless of your cup size.) If you have problems with your sports bra’s bottom band “riding up” onto your breasts when you’re jumping and reaching, switching to a model with an underwire can help keep things securely anchored in place.
While there are great underwire sports bras specifically engineered to comfortably withstand whatever exercise torture you can inflict on them, they will only work in your workout if you pay attention to the specific quality and fit.
Here are the questions you’ll want to answer when you’re shopping for your perfect style:
- Is the actual wire well-covered to protect your skin from injury? Paying for quality here will definitely pay you back. For example, Champion’s Powerback Underwire and Seamless Underwire sports bras use wires with cushioned tips and triple-wrapped coverings to make sure you don’t get poked or scraped (and that your bra lasts longer). When it’s time to come clean, even a top-quality underwire bra needs special handling. Washing yours in a simple mesh lingerie bag to keep the wire’s casing from wearing thin and fanatically avoiding the dryer can add months to your bra’s active life.
- Does the curve of the underwires fit the curve of your “girls”? For greatest comfort, the half-circle curve of the underwires will match the curve of your breasts at their base.
- Does the underwire (including the ends) lie smoothly on your chest wall, not on your breast tissue? If not, that’s a clue that the cup size you’re trying may be too small. Try moving up a cup size to get an improved fit and better separation between your breasts. Don’t get locked into preconceptions about your size—just keep experimenting with cup and band size combinations until you find the one with cups that comfortably corral the “girls” and wires that lie as flat as possible on your torso.
- When you bend forward and twist from side to side, do you feel any discomfort or poking on your chest wall or breasts? If, like me, you’re short in the torso or your breasts look more like wide ovals instead of circles, it can be difficult to impossible to find an underwire that lies comfortably flat and stays clear of your breast tissue when you’re pushing a hard workout. If that’s your reality, wire-free and pullover sports bras can be much more forgiving in fit and comfort, especially if one of the “girls” is a little different size than the other (yup, that’s me too!).
But even if you find you’re not
compatible with underwires, you don’t have to compromise on performance. Carefully engineered wire-free styles like Champion’s Spot Comfort Full Support
sports bra can still give you great shaping and the high support needed to get you through the most strenuous workout in style and comfort!
Wired or wire-free, hope you have a week of terrific workouts!
April 10, 2012
Question of the Week: “Shooting hoops is the one workout I’ll happily do for hours! How to I find a sports bra that can keep up with me and support me through every shot and fast break?”
I love your question and totally share your love of basketball! When I first played it in the mid-1960s, girls weren’t even officially allowed to run the full length of a basketball court during a game! But fast-forward more than 40 years, and our game today definitely matches the men’s in excitement, intensity and execution!
It’s not just your feet that take a pounding—when it comes to workouts that put a sports bra to an extreme test, basketball is near the top of the list. When you’re kicking it on the court, you’re doing a continuous combination of sprinting, jogging, jumping, bending, throwing, catching, reaching, twirling, and sudden direction changes… and you need a sports bra that can respond to each and every challenge.
Let’s break down the game plan into three simple parts:
Super Support. First, all that pounding up and down the court, as well as abrupt stops and changes of direction, produces maximum bounce. So make sure the sports bra you pick is rated for top-level motion control. Especially if you’re fully figured, look for firm non-stretch cup fabrics, and adjustable straps and bands for personalizing support, so your body and breasts move together as a team instead of fighting each other.
Strap Smarts. Second, picking the right kind of bra strap is absolutely key to being able to forget about your sports bra and concentrate on your game. To be on your game, you have to constantly reach up, down, and around to move, control and defend the basketball…and that definitely challenges your bra straps’ ability to stay put! When your arms are moving in every direction, you need at least a bit of stretch in your straps so they can stay firmly anchored on your shoulders.
When it comes to strap style, a crossback or racerback bra automatically prevents slippage and gives your arms great range of motion. If you need or prefer more conventional straps for support, make sure they are attached closer to the center in back to help prevent strap slip, and look for adjustability so you can customize strap length and fit. You want just enough “give” so your shoulders don’t become chafed and cut into and the bra’s bottom band isn’t yanked up onto “the girls” every time you leap for a rebound.
Dressing Room Drill. Last but not least, whether you play basketball or billiards, the same advice holds true once you hit the dressing room to try on sports bras: Do everything you can to simulate the moves you use in your game, at the same intensity you do them on the court. In the case of basketball, that means jogging, sprinting and jumping in place (while observing in the mirror) to test bounce control, and then reaching in every direction, leaping for an imaginary rebound, and mimicking your famous fade-away jumper to make sure your straps and bottom band are going to stay secure and comfortable.
So, have a great weekend, get out and shoot some hoops, and let yourself be inspired by all the great moves you’ll see in the this year’s tournament!
March 30, 2012