Whether the reason is a limited budget, lack of advertising, or simple modesty, when it comes to buying new sports bras, many women grab the first option on the rack and head for the door. The consequences of wearing a poorly fitted sports bra can be worse than just pinching your toes in tight sneakers; problems can range from basic discomfort to chafing materials, digging straps, bouncing pain, tense shoulders, and even restricted breathing.
"A huge number of women are experiencing some breast injury from tissue moving up and down or in and out during exercise," Susan Nethero, the owner of 16 Intimacy stores countrywide, told Self Magazine. "Without ample support, ligaments get elongated, so there's premature loss of elasticity and, hence, stretch marks. If we can reduce breast movement with a sports bra, we can reduce those effects. It's even more significant than wearing the right regular bra everyday."
When you need a new sports bra
Step one is to examine the sports bras in your closet. If a bra is more than 12 months old and you are a frequent exerciser, it's time to replace it. More specifically, here are five signs that it's time to replace a favorite sports bra:
The fabric is starting to lose its shape
The bra is not offering the support it once did
The fabric is pilling along edges and borders
The elastic is stretching out
Your body weight has changed significantly
Once you've decided that it's time to buy a new sports bra, the first step is planning how you prefer to be fitted. Lingerie experts say that at least half of women are wearing the wrong size bra, and cheating themselves of the chance for comfort and support. To avoid that pitfall, decide whether you want to do your own measurements at home or go to a store that offers fitting services to shoppers.
Making careful measurements
To measure yourself, stand in front of a mirror wearing a non-padded bra and use a cloth tape to get your bust measurement (at the fullest part of your chest) and your band measurement (around your ribcage, just under your breasts). Add three inches to the ribcage number for the final band measurement. Some experienced retailers like to double-check this adjusted band number by measuring around your torso beneath your armpits—the numbers should be about the same.
Once you’ve made the appropriate measurements, determine your cup size. Subtract the adjusted band figure from your bust measurement, and look up that number on a common fitting chart. There is a perfect cup for every unique body type out there, but common results are:
1 inch difference = A cup
2 inch difference = B cup
3 inch difference = C cup
4 inch difference = D cup
Picking the right level of support
Now it's time to head to the store. On your way, think about your favorite type of exercise, so you can pick a sports bra with the right support level, whether you need it for biking, running, or another activity. Sports bras are often broken down by impact level so that you can find one that is perfect for your sport of choice. That breakdown generally looks something like this:
Once you've found the appropriate size and support level, it's time to talk about the difference between compression and encapsulation. Put simply, compression bras minimize bounce by hugging your bust close to your chest with stretch fabric, as opposed to conventional cups. Encapsulation sports bras use a different strategy, supporting your bust from beneath with separate molded cups, like a regular bra.
Choosing which one to buy is more of an art than a science. Some suppliers say that compression style bras are best for A and B cups, specifying scoop-back designs for low-impact activities and racer back designs for higher-impact exercise. Encapsulation sports bras are a better match for C and D cups, though there is plenty of room for exceptions to this “rule.”
Other experts say the ideal sports wardrobe should stock both style types, allowing a woman to choose the best bra to match her daily workout. In the end, you are the only expert who can say what's best for your body. When shopping for a new sports bra, it’s a good idea to bring at least three bras into the fitting room and take your time finding a winner.
Smaller options, like Brunton's Echo compact 10 x 25 binoculars, have become the go-to choice for daytime sporting activities and long distance outings. Their light weight and small size makes them an easily handled accessory. However, compact binoculars are limited in their ability to collect light, and users are likely to become less comfortable with the image during extended periods of use. Their specs generally range from 8 x 25 to 10 x 25.
Taking care of your new sports bra
Follow the above steps carefully and you’ll likely improve on your exercise fun and comfort levels. But once you get home from the store, it's important to take care of your new investment. To help your sports bra last at least 12 months, avoid the spin cycle and hand wash the garment after every few uses instead. Use a gentle detergent and avoid fabric softeners. If you must put it in a washing machine, fasten any hooks first. And try to avoid putting your sports bra in the dryer—even on a low setting, the heat can break down your new bra’s elastic, causing it to wear out well before its time.
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