Okay, I know it might not be so happy for everyone out there, but let's just play pretend for a moment.
As I was having difficulty coming up with a post today, I decided that I would write about a topic that I'm asked about on a pretty consistent basis: What is the best sports bra for big boobs? (Sorry to not use the scientific term, but you know what I'm talking about.)
So many people don't realize the perils of being a member of the Big Boob Club. It's not all fun and games and sitting in a chair, bouncing up and down, people! I have some friends who have had so many issues thanks to sports bras. In college, I watched a good friend struggle on a daily basis because she used to wear two or three sports bras at a time. It really used to upset her, and she was constantly in a lot of pain. I wish I knew then what I know now so that I could offer some help. I just didn't understand the struggle!
When I was still a member of the Modest Boob Club (pre-, what I like to call, Delayed Onset Adult Puberty), I never had to think much about sports bras, or bras of any type for that matter. Pick one that you like, that's a fun color (or not), and go work out. I never had to think about which sports bra I was going to wear for which activity. Now, of course, it's a completely different story. If I want to go play volleyball or go for a run, I need to make sure that I wear one of my A-list sports bras (oh yes, I've ranked them in my head). Yoga? I can throw on one of my B-listers. Advanced planning for workouts has become a necessary part of my routine, and the sports bra is one of the main reasons. I can't imagine how much more challenging this would be if I felt like I had to wear a gaggle of sports bras at one time!
At some point during the Great Boob Explosion on my body, I came to the realization that I was going to have to buy all new bras (2 cup sizes up -- can you imagine only owning bras that were two full cup sizes too small?!), but it took some time for me to also realize that I was going to need all new sports bras. I mean, they're so stretchy. What's the big deal, right? Wrong. And after having a sore chest from volleyball week after week, I bit the bullet, and decided to hit The Google.
Well, let me tell you: The Interwebs are not terribly helpful in determining which sports bras are best for busty women. Instead, what I found were tons of clearly-sponsored posts about maybe two or three hideous sports bras that made me sad from just looking at them. Was this what I was doomed to endure the rest of my physically active life?
Before I really get into the thick of it in this post, let me start with this caveat: I do not have a HUGE chest. If you wear one of those letters they don't carry online at Macy's, I can't say that this will help you. But maybe it will. As I previously stated, there's not much decent information out there.
Anyway, let's begin, shall we?
The Uniboob Dilemma
(Do not Google "uniboob" at work. You have been warned.) This is a big one. I constantly hear complaints about sports bras creating a uniboob. At first, I didn't get it. I thought, what are you trying to accomplish here? Do you want to look sexy while you're working out? If so, why wear a bra at all? But after dealing with some serious uniboob situations, it started to make sense. I don't like my boobs squished together. (Hello boob sweat! Welcome to my shirt!) It's uncomfortable and seriously sweaty. Sometimes, it can even hurt. But, let's be honest here: In order to get the best support, they need to be put into the same room, at least. They don't need to be one on top of the other (ew and ow), but they probably shouldn't be swinging around on their own, running a race to opposite sides of the street! You see, that's part of the challenge of finding the perfect sports bra for you. Finding the perfect fit that has the perfect amount of support. Sometimes uniboob happens. But it doesn't necessarily have to.
I've found that I have different strap preferences for sports bras than I do for regular bras. For regular bras, I really have to have adjustable straps. For sports bras, not so much. I've tried both, and I've found that the types with adjustable straps aren't as practical when it comes to higher impact workouts. They're often thinner straps, which can get uncomfortable when you're running a great distance or working out for an extended period of time (e.g. volleyball tournaments). I like to stick with what I'll refer to as stationary straps (non-adjustable) that are probably at least 50% wider than the straps I wear on my regular bras. You might find this to be the opposite for your body, but I've yet to find adjustable straps that are more comfortable than these stationary straps when it comes to sports bras. (Note: This is a pretty awesome bra glossary. And no, stationary straps are not in there.)
I cannot begin to tell you how much I hate back closures on sports bras. They're a pain in the butt, and the material is often uncomfortable. Think about the sports bras you might have with snaps or hooks. Now, how many of those have a different material on that part of the bra? From my experiences, the hotter I get during a workout, the more noticeable the weird fabric is on the back. I would much rather pull the sports bra over my head and squeeze them in the sports bra. This is part of the reason I'm not in love with my Lululemon sports bra. I basically have to hook it in the front, twist it around, and then pull my straps up. Not fun. I once had a sports bra COME UNDONE during an intense workout. AWKWARD. That being said, I do have a B-list sports bra that has one hook on the back, but it has some racerback action going on, so the hook just adds a little extra support. I've forgotten to hook it a couple of times and not even noticed. Oops!
The band style is kind of a big deal. I have some that have little bumps on them to keep the bra in place, while others have weird lining in them that actually make me itchy once I start sweating (not A-listers). You really want to make sure that the band fits well and is a comfortable material for you. Running or lifting and having your bra slide up or down is really a pain in the bum, and not something you should have to deal with. You especially don't want one of those bands that is too loose, sliding up, and giving you some serious underboob problems. I'd say that the band is one of the top three most important things for me when determining if a sports bra will work for me.
I really prefer sports bras that have some sort of molding in the cups. This really helps with support, and goes back to that whole uniboob discussion. They don't have to be super duper separate with 15 inches between each cup, but they should have some separation that you can see when you're not wearing it. At least a light lining is suggested. How many of you have been at the gym and seen the lady with the nipples? (Not that there is anything wrong with nipples, before the nipple activists come after me.) You know what I'm talking about, right? You have a top on that might be tight, and you're sweating, and maybe it's cold in the gym. Or your shirt and sports bra combo are a little too sheer. Yeah, that. If you want to avoid that, make sure you check for that lining. It's the truth.
Alright, so this is important. Probably the most important. If you're doing a medium- to high-impact workout, you really want to make sure you're getting ample support. I like to put on a sports bra and ask an important question: Do I feel like it's hugging me? If I feel like it's embracing my chest, I know it will have enough support. If it doesn't feel just a pinch snug, then I know it's not going to provide any support for me once I start getting my workout groove on. Now, I'll admit it -- I have never tried on a compression sports bra. One day I will, but for the time being, the idea terrifies me. I'm mostly just afraid that I will get stuck in one, and some poor sales associate will have to come and rescue me, with boobs flying everywhere. Nevertheless, I have tried on and own sports bras that provide significant stabilization. As soon as I try on a compression sports bra, I'll let you guys know -- regardless the outcome.
In addition to the "hug" or squeeze of the fit, you also want to make sure that you're getting good support all the way around. Pay attention to your back. If you have too much of your back exposed, you're probably not getting enough support for a medium- to high-impact workout. I really prefer racerback styles for this reason. I never thought I would, since I don't really fancy them in regular bras, but I really love them in sports bras -- and I don't even really wear racerback tops!
Oh, and another thing: Stay away from those cami sports bras! They aren't supporting ANYTHING except your bra-buying habit.
If a bra doesn't come in a specific bra size or cup size, I almost never consider trying it on for a good sports bra; and, by good, I mean a sports bra that I can wear on a 4-mile run or to play beach volleyball for hours. These bras just never seem to have enough support, so I don't even bother with them any more. Ambiguously-sized sports bras are sort of like the "friends" you made in that club bathroom back in college. They seem cool and fun for that initial moment, but you certainly aren't going to hang out with them again. Did that make sense? Probably not...
Trying On a Sports Bra
So you're in the store, and you have a pile of sports bras in your fitting room. Now what? Well, it depends, sorta. What kind of activities are you planning to participate in whilst wearing your new sports bra? If you're a runner, run in place in it. How does it feel? Are you bouncing more you'd like? If so, throw it in the DO NOT WANT pile. If you're bouncing around like Tigger in the room, that does not fare thee well for the future, my friend. Since I know I do a lot of jumping and running, I do both in the fitting room. No shame. I also bend over to make sure that I'm not popping out of the sports bra. I shake 'em like a Polaroid picture, too. You have to check them out at all angles, okay! Does it feel like your chest is in a Vulcan death grip? Then it's too tight. Are the straps digging in your shoulders? Then they're not right for you. Just think of trying on sports bras this way: Whatever you're doing in the fitting room while you're trying the sports bra on, you're going to be doing at least 10x that amount of activity when you're actually exercising. If it doesn't work for a couple of bounces in a fitting room, why would it work over the course of a workout?
Don't be afraid of random spots of mesh on the sports bra, my friends. Mesh is awesome! Okay, there are some types and placement of mesh that maybe aren't the best, but in general, mesh is pretty great for sports bras. I'm not much of a sweater, but the Great Boob Explosion definitely delivered sweat to that area, and I hate that underboob sweat, man. It is so gross! Especially if the sweat has soaked through your shirt in just that concentrated area. Yuck! I like a sports bra that at least has some mesh on the back to aid in ventilation and cutting back on sweat. I feel so much fresher after a brutal workout if I'm not a dripping torso by the end of it.
Now, here's something: Once you start finding sports bras that work for you, Keep them in good condition! That means don't put them in the dryer! They will get all sorts of jacked up!
So... Which Brands Do I Like?
As I stated at the front end of this never-ending post, I have just dipped my toes (boobs?) into this area of activewear. I haven't tried them all, or even close to it. I have tried a bunch of different styles and brands, and I am just going to provide a couple of examples of styles/brands that have been working for me. This doesn't mean that it will work for you, but it's at least a good starting point. You can find more of my sports bra reviews here, which will update as I post more.
- Moving Comfort Vixen - I absolutely love the Vixen, and am not ashamed to admit to owning them in more than one color. These get me through volleyball tournaments, long runs, hiking, climbing, and any other activity I can think of. They get the job done. They come in a variety of colors, and I often see them on sale at sporting goods stores, as well as online. I recently decided to purchase another Moving Comfort style, and I'll let you know how it goes.
- Victoria's Secret Pink Yoga Bra - I honestly have no idea what sort of magic they used in creating this sports bra, or even how you can get one (I can't find the same style on the VS website), but I bought this bra a while back, and I'm not even sure why, to be honest. I didn't like anything about it at first glance. It has quite a bit of padding, and I think it's a push-up bra, and it says it's for yoga, but this is another A-lister for me. It works for all of the other activities I've listed above, and has really stood the test of time. This one was a dark horse in my bra stock.
When you find a brand or style that works for you, don't be afraid to stick with it! If it ain't broke, don't fix it! I know people who do the same thing for jeans, perfume, and lipstick. Isn't a sports bra at least a little more important?
Honestly, I wish I could design sports bras, because I think there is definitely not enough attention in this area of activewear. Sports bras are an essential part of your fitness wardrobe! But some of the options out there, geez. It's like they're either designing solely for utility or fashion -- never both. Anyone out there a designer who wants to holler at a sister? I have ideas!
What's your favorite sports bra? Do you have some D-listers you need to get rid of? Have questions? Please don't hesitate to send me an email!