I have a love-hate relationship with my sports bras.
I love that they keep the twins in place during runs. (I really don’t need any black eyes; I get hurt enough.)
I hate that over the course of my adult life I’ve had to wear two at a time, tried on 800 until I found one that fits, that they cost so much, that they break down so quickly and that they can cause so much pain if they don’t fit exactly right.
But I had never had the extreme displeasure of “hot spots,” or skin rubbed raw, on that delicate skin under my breasts until a recent run.
Editor’s note: Now, some of you might be surprised that I’ve decided to write about the mounds of tissue (as in body tissue, not Kleenex tissues) that get stuffed into my brassiere each day. The fact of the matter is, though, that this is a blog about running and injuries. And well, I hurt my boobs while running recently. So it’s time to report what happened, so some other sad hurt-boob runner out there can fix her — or his! I’m not here to judge — problem.
While out on a rainy, five-mile run one Saturday morning with the Clock Tower Runners, an independent running club that offers free marathon training, I started to notice a sharp pain on the left side of my chest, inside my bra.
I didn’t think too much of it at the time; I had a run to finish after all. I figured that a tag or a little piece of something had fallen down my shirt and into my bra. Or that something had pinched me. Or that it was all in my head.
It wasn’t until I got home and hopped into the shower that I realized what had happened: My rain-soaked bra had caused the skin under my left breast to chafe, leaving behind a red rash-like mark that was painful to the touch.
I slapped some Chamois Butt’r on it and didn’t think too much more about it.
Until, that is, it happened again. And of course it happened as soon as the first instance healed. Just my luck!
This time, it happened under both breasts. And it hadn’t been raining. I’ve logged hundreds of miles, not just running, but in other athletic endeavors as well, and I hadn’t experienced this ailment until now. And then it happens twice?! I was at a loss…
A light bulb came on later that day as I was doing laundry. I was tossing my sports bras in the wash, when I realized that they were a couple of years old now, and that I had been wearing the same ones since, oh January, when I was 40 pounds heavier!
Duh; my sports bras were too big! And what causes chafing, ladies and gentlemen? Skin rubbing against loose fabric or other skin.
I got out my trust ol’ Body Glide and slathered that stuff along my bra line every time I worked out until I had time to go buy new sports bras. It did the trick and I had no more chafing until I finally trotted into Running Away Multisport in Bucktown and bought two Moving Comfort bras.
While there I learned that Nike recently launched a new line of sports bras aimed at directly competing with Moving Comfort. I tried a couple on. They shouldn’t bother. They clearly don’t “get” boobs. Two problems: 1. They use small, medium and large sizing instead of cup and chest circumference and 2. The cups don’t fully cover the entire breast.
On that note, let’s get to the how-to portion of today’s post.
How to find a properly-fitting bra:
- Try them on. Don’t buy from an online retailer (unless you already know your size and how that brand and model fits).
- Go to a specialty store for help from a professional. No, I don’t mean Sports Authority. I mean the likes of Running Away Multisport, Fleet Feet, Universal Sole and so on, where they’re sure to have high-impact bras made especially for runners.
- This is the one we big-bosomed girls love to hear…. If you’re full-chested, look for wide shoulder or racer back straps.
- Select a bra with seamless styling. Those seams will chafe.
- I say ditch the underwire, it’s just sure to poke out and hurt you. Try Moving Comfort bras if you like your chest to maintain a womanly shape instead of a “uni-boob” look.
- Try on different sizes and shapes. Sports bra sizes differ from regular bra sizes. So try ’em on!
- If you decide to buy from an online retailer, check the site’s return policy. I am a fan of zappos.com for that reason. It provides free shipping both ways and you have 365 days to return an item!
- Apparently (hear my sarcasm?) you shouldn’t hold onto your sports bras forever. They should be good through about 72 washes, when the elasticity is lost or if your weight changes significantly.
- UPDATED! I thought of another one… once you find a bra that you think does the job, run in place or do some jumping jacks. Those bad boys should stay in place and not be bouncing all over. And try slipping your finger under the bra line. If it goes in easy, your bra is probably still too big!
How to prevent chafing:
- Spread a layer of Body Glide or Vaseline along the skin where you think you might experience rubbing
- Wear running clothes made of moisture-wicking fabric
- Pay attention to where seams lie (and avoid them if at all possible)
- Wear snug running gear; loose clothes can rub you raw
- Stay well-hydrated
Here’s to your ta tas. Happy running…!