Shopping for a bosom buddy

PHOTO: Shopping for a bosom buddy

A good friend, some say, is like a bra. She is supportive, uplifting and above all, stays close to your heart.

For the avid exerciser, a good sports bra is indeed a bosom buddy. Like your most trusted confidante, it will never leave you hanging; never let you down, even as you flounce and flounder through life's precarious terrain.

Many underestimate the importance of a good sports bra. Just as you wouldn't run a marathon in your flip-flops, you shouldn't exercise without a proper, supportive bra either. Unless you fancy sagging pendulums for breasts.

When you exercise without proper support, your breasts will bounce in a figure eight, causing wear and tear on the supporting ligaments. This may cause breasts to stretch and sag over time.

The larger your cup size, the greater the force on your breasts, and the more support they need to avoid damage to connective tissues and ligaments.

Wearing an unsuitable bra during your workouts may also lead to painful chafing when the breasts rub against the fabric. A sports bra that pulls moisture away from the skin will help you stay dry and comfortable while you sweat it out.

While breasts will naturally succumb to gravity with age, you can fight the sag by wearing a sports bra that provides sufficient support while you exercise.

The number one thing you need to know when you're sports bra-shopping is that, not all sports bras are created equal. That bra that stretches with you in a pretzel pose during yoga might not hold up to an intense session of running. That bra that boosts a B-cup might be too tight or uncomfortable for someone with larger breasts.

For optimum fit and comfort, it is important to pick the right style of sports bra to go with your type of exercise, whether it is a session of high-impact circuit training, dancing or lifting weights.

Generally, the more intense and physical your form of exercise, the more supportive your sports bra is required to be. Also keep in mind that larger breasts will need more support, even when you engage in lower-impact activities.

Here are a few things to consider when looking for a sports bra:

Style

There are generally two different types of sports bra - a shell-style bra that compresses the breasts, or a two-cup bra that encapsulates each breast.

In most cases, a shell-style bra will work for those with smaller cup sizes, say an A or a B, or for low to moderate impact workouts, such as yoga or line-dancing.

However, if you have Dolly Parton's proportions, you should look for a sports bra that encapsulates each breast in a separate chamber instead. Bras that have two separate cups with a divider between them will help reduce bounce, and offer better support than the simple shell bra.

Wide shoulder straps

The devil is in the details. In this case, it's in the size of your bra's shoulder straps. Believe it or not, the simple shoulder strap can help determine whether your sports bra is a loser or a keeper.

For starters, straps should be wide, and they should feel comfortable on your shoulders.

Those who are well endowed, in particular, should keep a lookout for bras with wide shoulder straps. This is because they help distribute weight better than narrow straps, and can help prevent potential health problems such as back pain and poor posture.

Out-of-the-way seams

When shopping for a sports bra, you'll want to keep an eye out for seamless fabrics, seams with rolled edges, or seams that are covered to help prevent chafing. Just imagine being rubbed raw in the most delicate of places while you exercise. Ouch!

So, make sure that the seams of your exercise apparel are in places that won't get in the way during your workout. You can start by looking for strategically placed seams and stitching that will allow room for some stretching, and help cushion the breasts, but doesn't allow them to bounce.

Moisture-wicking fabric

The fabric of active wear has one main purpose, and that is to wick away sweat and moisture from your skin, and out to the exterior of the fabric. Most active wear, including sports bras, usually work in such a way so as to help keep the wearer cool and dry.

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid sports apparel that are made of 100 per cent cotton, because once you start sweating, they'll stay wet. This can spell disaster for your skin, especially when you've planned a long workout.

The moisture that is trapped between the garment and your skin can irritate the skin and result in rashes.

Many moisture-wicking fabrics are made from polyester blends, which absorb very little water, letting you stay comfortable and dry. The general consensus is that these fabrics work very well, and that's probably backed up by the extraordinary price tags attached to them.

When in doubt, always get the bra with the most support. A higher-impact bra will work for a lower-impact sport, but never the other way around.

While trying it on, try jumping up and down, swinging your arms, and moving around in the dressing room. If a bra pokes, rubs, slips, bulges or constricts your breathing, put it back.

More importantly, make sure that your breasts are supported, and not bouncing around in the bra. To make the most of your sports bras, rotate them so that you can get at least a year's use out of each one.

In any case, just remember that the only thing that should be bouncing up and down while you're working out, are the balls of your feet!

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