Last night I geeked out. I came home from the gym and realized my online shopping order from the previous week had arrived.
I have officially made it in this word. I'm excited to receive a package of undergarments that look like they were made for a grandma.
Yep, you guessed it. Sorry dudes, you're not going to get into this one.
Today I'm talking... sports bras.
Love them or hate them, they are a necessary evil to avoid unnecessary ... we'll call them "distractions"... during a workout. You gotta holster those girls. And trust me, the day you forget to pack a sports bra in your gym bag is the day you DO NOT forget for a long time. Ya' know what I'm sayin'?
So, let's get down to the brass tacks. (Or bra tacks? I dunno...)
What do I get excited about in a sports bra?
First off, I'm going to say this: every body is different. What works for me may not be the best solution for you. But, I have gone through my fair share of product testing, so hopefully this will help you narrow the field.
Let's start by talking about what I will NOT buy.
(1) WILL NOT BUY: Cotton.
Seriously. WTF! In the day of tech fabrics and wicking technologies, why are sports bras soooo far behind? It seems like every time I walk into a store that offers a decent selection of sports bras, before I can even start looking at size or price, I've already kicked out about 50% of the selection.
Cotton is a great material. Don't get me wrong. It defiantly has a place in this world... just not in your workout wear!
Cotton fibers have a TON of space in them - they are like a sponge. And a sponge's job is to absorb water... and keep it there. So why would you want that sitting directly against your skin you during your sweat-like-a-pig fest?
Unfortunately, I do have a few cotton losers in my collection. I've even been duped into thinking if a bra has an inner layer of wicking material and an outer cotton layer, it might work. Not.
Being that I dropped at least $20-30+ on these bras before I realized how much they sucked, I have a hard time throwing them out. Yes, I'm stuck with them and they DO end up in my rotation (begrudgingly).
So, this being said, I eliminate anything that looks like this:
(2) WILL NOT BUY: Fancy
Ok, I'm going to use a general term here and make this a bucket category so I can check off a bunch of options at once. "Fancy" includes anything embellished, push-up padded, zippered, lacey, bejeweled or similar.
When discussing these, I feel like it's necessary to take a time out for another SERIOUSLY WTF comment. I want to know who is wearing these damn bras and why. I don't care how good your guns look, YOU ARE NOT MADONNA, OK?!?!!
Also, I cannot IMAGINE the pain of doing a truly good, heart pumping cardio workout for 30-60+ minutes with a freaking zipper, metal stud or lace up bodice chafing me the entire time. Or better yet, a push up bra boosting the girls up even closer to my face... yes, I'd LOVE a self inflicted black eye, please. The makeup that I couldn't get off my face pre-workout, and is now sweat smeared all over the place, isn't quite enough of an eye enhancement for me as it is.
Not to mention, most of these bras offer little to no compression (I'll talk about this more in a minute). Chafing + No Compression = I'd rather just wear a normal bra.
Manufacturers - stop. Seriously. STOP MAKING THESE!
So, this being said, I eliminate anything that looks like this:
(3) WILL NOT BUY: Built in bra tanks
This is category is a little touchy, I know. Some people love these things. A workout tank with a sports bra built in... all for $20-40? SOLD!
But here's the problem - most of them offer no support, start to stretch once you sweat, and eventually...
EEP. Not good. Well, unless your one of the Kardashians, maybe?
Ok, ok. True confessions. I do sometimes wear tanks with built in bras for hot yoga or other low impact activities, or add a second simple compression bra underneath for the workouts that need that extra support. But I don't rely on these for my ground zero coverage.
Technically, I guess this is a "proceed with caution" rather than a will not buy. Sorry about that.
Ok, ok, ok... enough nos. What DO I actually buy?
First, lets talk compression. I touched on this briefly above. The harder you're working out and bouncing around, the more compression you're going to want. Are you doing yoga? Are you running? The level of intensity for your workout will dictate which bra I recommend.
For high impact (running, cardio, etc), my favorite bras, oddly enough, come from Kohls. And this is what I was geeking about last night - a package arriving from Kohls. I am seriously 90 years old. Ugh.
Anyway, I know I've said shop at JCP or other places for reasonable priced workout gear... but I just haven't had much luck in other stores when it comes to good compression bras. Kohls offers the largest selection I've seen in a retail store, aside from a specialty running/sports shop. Plus, if you factor in their endless sales, their "Kohls Cash" days, and any other random discounts they happen to offer... in the end you get a great bra for a reasonable price.
HOWEVER, Kohls stores are often hit or miss when it comes to having your size in stock when you want to buy it. So, once I have a chance to try on bras in store, I've found I prefer to shop online for repeat buys.
My ultimate favorite bra from Kohls is the Champion 360 Max Support Bra.
You should be able to buy this one for around $30-35 on sale.
The reason I love this one so much is because the entire inside front panel is seamless, which means no chafing (for me) on my long runs. This says a lot, because my bras all work for cross training classes, but as soon as I hit about mile 4-6 on a 8+ run, I get some serious chafing issues with all my other bras. For some reason, the way a bra sits on my chest bones just above the bust line ALWAYS creates a chafe mark (or two). But this bra doesn't. Hallelujah! I now own 4 of these, and intend to keep buying them for as long as I can.
This bra does come in a few bland colors, but I personally prefer white - bleach that sweat stink out, baby! But no fabric softener, and be sure to line dry. That will keep your bra smelling fresh and keep the compression/wicking fabrics strong.
The only down side about this one is the shoulder straps are not adjustable and it's a racer back. So, if either of those points are a deal breaker, you might prefer the next bra I'm about to talk about.
My second favorite bra (which I have to admit I'm technically still testing) from Kohls is the Champion Double Dry High Impact Sports Bra
You should be able to buy this one for around $35-40 on sale.
The reason why I recommend this one in addition to option one above is... the straps are adjustable and padded at the shoulder. Plus, this is not a slide over your head option like number one above. This bra has a fully open back with hook and eye closures. So, no bra boogie to get this thing on/off.
The only reason I'm hesitant about this one right now is, I think it might chafe me on long runs. I'm not sure yet, since I think a wash or two might soften up the fabric and solve this issue. Aside from running, it's great for cardio and other stuff, so if you're not a runner you've got nothing to worry about in my eyes.
For lower impact (biking, yoga, or double duty under a built in bra tank), my favorite bras come from Target. Usually these are the bras I want to peek out from under a tank, and since Target offers a good range of fun colors in their basic sports bras for around $12.99, I like them. I don't know that they are any better/worse than someone else's basic compression bra... it's just that I haven't had a reason to go elsewhere. Plus, Target is close to home. So, good enough!
WARNING: this is NOT for running or jumping! So don't blame me if you try to do something beyond a leisurely stroll in the park, ok? Also, don't bleach your colored bras!
I prefer this style, since the straps are wider and offer better support.
This style isn't too bad if you want adjustable straps.
And that about does it!
Oh, one last thing before I go... none of the above touches on underwire. Yes, I used to require it in my bras back when I was worried about keeping a nice shape... but that flew out the window as soon as I started doing real workouts. So, nothing in the above includes underwire. You may proceed in this area at your own discretion, but for me it's restricting and pointless for working out.
If you want a little extra sports bra entertainment, watch this:
And since I threw a Kardashian dig in above, why not watch this:
OK, I'll stop now. Ta-ta! (LOL!)