Sports bras are one of the most underrated pieces of fitness equipment. However during a marathon, your breasts can move up and down as much as 3.1 miles beyond the 26.2 miles of the race. That is a lot of lost energy that could have propelled you forward during the race. Beyond the impact on performance, a poorly fitted sports bra can lead to pain and stiffness in the upper back, neck, and shoulders.
Myth #1: All sports bra are the same
Size, style, and quality matter. A good sports bra comes in both a band and a cup size instead of just small, medium, and large. A more specific size ensures a snug but comfortable fit. Sports bras also come in different levels of support or impact. The level of impact should match the intensity of your activities not your breast size. Low impact bras are best used for activities with minimal rapid up and down and side to side movement such as yoga. High impact bras are geared toward activities such as running that have more rapid, repeated up and down and side to side movements. Sport bras also vary in style. Different styles vary in the design of the straps, the degree of coverage, and the type of fabric. You need to find a design that fits your needs and is comfortable during your activities.
Myth #2: More supportive= more compression
Wearing a tighter, more compressive bra does not efficiently limit movement in your breasts. Rather you put unnecessary stress on your rib cage and upper back. The extra compression through the ribcage decreases your ability to expand your ribcage and lungs. This limits your ability to take in air during exercise. Tightening the straps of your bra compress the muscles of your upper back and shoulders. This compression limits shoulder motion and causes the muscles to reflexively tighten and stiffen. Rather than getting a tighter, more compression bra to limit movement, try getting a properly sized bra that is rated at an impact level that matches your activity.
Myth #3: Wearing two bras at once is more supportive
Just as noted above more compression is not effective. Not only does the compression of two bras have its own issues, but the layers of fabric decrease your ability to wick away sweat and increase the friction between your skin and the fabric. If you feel like you need to wear two bras, then you are not in the correct size or style bra for you.
Myth #4: The size you measure dictates your true bra size
Getting properly measured is very important. However, the size you measure is just a starting place. Once you have an idea where to start, you need to try on a variety of different sports bras styles around your measured size. Every woman has a personal preference on how they like their bra to fit. Sizes also vary across brands and styles. For example, a 36C in one bra may not have the exact feel and fit as a 36C in a different brand.
Myth #5: Once you are fitted for a size, that is your size for life
Bra size changes from time to time. Your size can change due to a number of factors including weight gain or loss, changes in muscle mass and distribution, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and age. For this reason it is important to be re-fit regularly to ensure you have the correct fit for you. It is also important to note that as brands update and release new sports bras the sizing and fit of a certain type of bra may change.
Myth #6: Sports bras can been worn for years
Just like your running shoes the elastic and other material of your bra wear out over time. The material wears out with repeated use and washing. As the elastic becomes less responsive the structure and support of the bra is compromised. Typically, your sports bras need to be replaced every 6-12 months. How often you wear your bras and wash them along with where your body places the most stress on the bra can affect how long it takes your bra to wear out. Some signs your bra is beginning to wear out include chafing in a new area along the bra line, tenderness in your breast after working out, or an increase in strain through your mid back and shoulders when working out.
Sophie McDonald DC, MS