February 4, 2011
Boy, I wish I had a dollar for every time a woman has asked me, “Why do I have more problems with my nipples showing when I’m exercising than I do the rest of the time?”.
If too-visible nipples are an uninvited visitor during your workout, you’ll hardly be surprised that it’s one of the most common issues we girls have with our breasts and sports bras. Most I’ve talked to say, “It’s not that I’m hyper-modest or embarrassed to have nipples—it’s just that I want to be the one that decides if, when, where, and under what circumstances I make their presence public.”
So what’s going on during a workout that can switch the “headlights” up to high-beam? It’s partly our anatomy, partly our physiology, and partly our heredity.
Here’s the anatomy part: Nipples contain a ring of mini-muscles directly connected to a dense nerve network that’s very sensitive to temperature and contact—even a slight breeze. When these nerves are stimulated, the little nipple muscles are automatically prompted to contract and stand up in the same way you get goosebumps elsewhere on your body. While this reflex is a definite plus for breastfeeding (makes it easier for the babe to “latch on”), it’s not so welcome when we’re exercising in public!
The physiology part of the equation kicks in especially hard during a workout. First, even lower-impact sports will create extra jostling and contact between your breasts and your bra, which can cause your nipple nerves and muscles to fire off and firm up.
A second provocation is your jazzed-up metabolism, which is great for calorie burning but can leave your sports bra sweaty and damp. As you cool down post-workout, the clammy fabric on your skin literally sucks heat out of your body, leaving you chilled. When you’re cold, your skin reacts by raising up your body hairs and nipples (major goosebumps!) to trap as much heat as possible.
Whether or not too-frequent “high beams” are a problem for you also depends on your personal DNA—nipple prominence and sizes vary widely, and workout conditions that might set off a reaction for you may not affect your running buddy at all.
So if visible nipples are a natural phenomenon that’s bound to happen, what’s a girl to do?
If you pick it carefully, your sports bra is definitely your first line of defense against public display of nippleness (PDN)! Here’s what to look for:
-The simplest and most effective solution is a shaper sports bra with contour cups made from thicker ‘spacer’ fabrics that maintain their own shape and totally obscure the silhouette of any bumps that might be underneath. Two top choices are Champion’s 1050 T-Back Shape Sports Bra (sizes 32A to 38D) and 6843 Shape Underwire Sports Bra (34C to 40DD).
-A shaping seam across the bra cup in the area of the nipple can also help camouflage erratic “bee stings”. Make sure you pick a high quality bra with no rough stitching or unfinished edges on the inside that might chafe and hurt.
-If you don’t prefer spacer fabrics or cup seams, you can still get partial relief with firmly molded non-stretch inner cups, featured in Champion’s new 1602 Spot Comfort Full Support Sports Bra (34C to 42DDD). They will push back against the contour of your nipples instead of taking their shape like softer stretch fabrics do.
-To decrease dampness and risk of skin chill, make sure your bra cup fabric includes moisture management technology (you’ll find it in 100% of Champion’s sports bras).
-To minimize stimulation from excess bounce, look for a high support sports bra with a snug fit that doesn’t let the ‘girls’ slosh around inside the cups.
Have you had a good, bad, or even ugly experience trying to camouflage your too-perky nipples? In the interest of science and helping your active sisters find positive solutions, I hope you’ll take a moment to share it here!