July 23, 2011
Question of the Week: “Help!! I’m trying to exercise through a heat wave…and my sports bra (and chest) seem to be taking the brunt of it! How can I avoid hot, sweaty, itchy (and stinky!!) sports bra melt-downs?”
Oh yes, it’s definitely that time of year when every piece of your workout gear gets the maximum sweat challenge! And your sports bra works has to work the hardest because it’s a snug, right-next-to-the-skin first layer.
Sweat isn’t bad, in fact it’s an essential lifesaver—we absolutely couldn’t survive summer heat or a tough workout without its body-cooling power. But it’s still a drag to deal with all the dripping, potential chafing, and not-so-sweet scent trail.
Sweat is 99% water, with only a smidgen of minerals (the salty taste!) and a touch of sugar. Most of the stinkiness comes from the apocrine sweat glands found only in your ‘pits’ and ‘privates,’ because they also contain proteins and fats that are a tempting meal for the odor-producing bacteria that live on your skin.
But back to you and your sports bra—what we know about the specifics of the sweat problem, and what you can do to solve it!
Picky Problem Zones
Scientists who study sweating patterns on the body know that we gals pour out the most sweat in a narrow strip down the center of our back from neck to hip, followed closely by the zone covered by our sports bra in front. And sweat loves to trickle down and collect in the creases between and below our breasts, especially if we‘re a fuller cup size.
Top Sweat-Busting Strategies
Vent it! Just like an open window with a screen helps ventilate a stuffy room, open-weave fabric zones in your sports bra covering high-sweat areas of your body help let cooling air in and dampness out. Look for mesh inserts in the cleavage area and at center back for maximum breathability.
Bare it! In back, think about minimum coverage up and down your spine. That means separate shoulder straps instead of T-backs and ‘keyhole’ openings. If you can’t give up your racerback style, look for it in a mesh version.
Wick it! Do a label check to be sure all bra fabrics are engineered to whisk sweat away from your skin and on out to your top fabric layer, where it’s more easily evaporated. Moisture-phobic synthetics like polyester and nylon are always faster drying than cotton.
Lift it! A big trouble spot for larger cup sizes is the ‘crease’ between the bottom of the breasts and the chest wall where moisture and bacteria from sweat can be easily trapped. When this area stays chronically damp, nasty infections and scarring can result (big ouch!). Look for encapsulation-style sports bras that lift and separate ‘the girls’ away from the torso and each other. A drying sports powder like Zeosorb can also fight unwanted wetness during a workout.
Lighten up! Summer can be a good time to take a temporary vacation from thicker, multi-layer ‘shaping’ cups. They can trap air and act like little ‘down vests’ for your breasts, which might be nice for a cold December run but totally what you don’t want in July!
Keep it clean! If your sports bras are prone to stinkiness or your skin to irritation, you might want to become a little more obsessive about washing sweat and bacteria out of your sports bra after every workout. Instead of throwing your damp, sweaty bras in a clothes hamper where the bacteria can multiply like gangbusters, leave them out to air dry until you’re ready to do the laundry.
Oh, and one more personal tip straight from my workout this afternoon: On a warm July day, there’s nothing quite like screaming down a hill at 30 mph on a bicycle to ventilate and cool down a hot and sweaty sports bra!
Have a wonderful, active week!