January 14, 2011
As a sports bra “expert” with at least a hundred styles and colors in my collection, it’s pretty bad when I show up for a workout wearing an oldie-but-goodie that I’ve convinced myself I just can’t part with! But, given my New Year’s resolve to pare down my ‘stuff’ to fewer but better items, I’ve had to face the fact that while my age old sports bras may be sentimental favorites, they’re just not enough for a pleasant workout.
Even if you don’t think your own ‘Old Faithful’ standbys would take top prize in an “Ugliest Sports Bra contest,” it’s a smart move to periodically check whether they are short-changing your workout (and your breasts).
How long your sports bra maintains its mojo and keeps the girls in place depends on a bunch of different factors. Here are the three most important questions to answer:
1. What’s the basic quality with which you’re starting out? When you invest in a quality brand like Champion, you’re going to score on better fabrics, stronger stitching, more durable spandex, sturdier fasteners and less color fading. Cheap fabrics and elastic are also much more prone to developing those rough, nasty little ‘pills’ on their surface that scrape your skin like sandpaper.
2. How many workouts a week do you give each sports bra? How long your sports bra stays strong and comfortable boils down to total number of 'wearings' rather than just months on the calendar. In the case of your athletic shoes, if you wear the same pair every day you can thrash the cushioning in a hurry and actually put yourself at risk for injury. Same goes for sports bras—if you overuse the same bra day after day you can cripple the spandex power, which means you lose support in a compressive bra and diminish the comfort and fit of more structured 'encapsulation' styles. Straps and rib bands can stretch out, fall down, ride up—big hassle! Going back to shoes, while the uppers and outsole may look fine, if the cushioning is shot the shoe can’t do its job of protecting you against impact. With your bra, if the functional aspects of the fabric are thrashed, the bra can no longer deliver what you need in the way of comfort, support, and perky silhouette.
3. How much off-the-body torture do you inflict on your sports bra? Because you’re out there sweating it hard, sports bras face the additional hazard of frequent laundering. CHLORINE-CONTAINING LAUNDRY PRODUCTS AND HIGH DRYER HEAT ARE THE #1 ENEMIES and exposing bras to these insults will send even the best quality sports bra to an early death. Because bras should always be air-dried, if you exercise most days make sure you own as many as you need to guarantee that there’s always a clean and dry sports bra waiting. It can be hard enough to get yourself launched into your workout—the prospect of wriggling into a cold, still-damp sports bra would make it even harder!
To get maximum life and spunk out of every sports bra, use these TLC strategies:
-Choose warm (not hot) wash temperatures
-Nix chlorine bleach or brighteners
-Stash underwire styles in a lingerie bag to avoid stretching/snagging in the washing machine
-Avoid spandex-wrecking dryer heat like the plague
-Rotate your workouts among several bras
The bottom line on sports bra ‘life expectancy’ is that if you wash and wear a single sports bra 3-4 times per week, you may need to replace it within 6-12 months. You’ll know it’s time to ditch and switch when:
-Your bra no longer feels snug (especially a pull-over style that depends on spandex to support you)
-It rides up and won’t stay put around the rib band (even in the tightest hook if it’s an adjustable bra)
-You change size or shape due to weight gain/loss or pregnancy/nursing
-Your sports bra looks too old and ugly to motivate you to put it on and exercise!
If you’re holding back from an upgrade because you find sports bra shopping a challenge, I’m always available to answer your personal questions and help you find your own perfect style and fit for your size and sport. Just click on my “Ask the Expert” link on the Bra Blog tab, dash down your question or comment, and I’ll be right back at you!