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    Guidelines for Selecting the Ideal Sports Bra for Enhanced Exercise Performance

    Embarking upon the pregnancy phase introduced an unexpected fitness obstacle: addressing my increasing chest proportions. At the outset, my tactic involved sheer simplicity—I opted for the firmest sports bras to control bounce, under the assumption that it would permit me to engage in sprints and burpees during my Barry’s Bootcamp regimes unimpeded.

    Nonetheless, my method proved flawed. Research funded by Lululemon earlier in the year exposed that an excessively constrictive underband could hinder respiration, which could, in turn, complicate your workout routine. The examination, involving nine proficient female joggers, indicated that constricted bras caused shallower, more rapid breaths. Remarkably, the respiratory strain surged by 16 percent.

    “Adjusting the bra’s underband to be less constrictive led to a noticeable decline in oxygen consumption,” observes the principal researcher, Shalaya Kipp. As an accomplished steeplechase athlete at a collegiate level and a doctoral candidate studying exercise physiology at the University of British Columbia, Kipp possesses the authority to support her observations. The findings demonstrated that even a minor reduction in oxygen consumption—about one to two percent—could have a notable influence on performance. “For context,” Kipp elaborates, “saving two percent of oxygen during a marathon might lead to approximately three minutes off the time. For any long-distance runner, this represents a significant edge.”

    While the research primarily focused on runners, its ramifications extend to a wide range of physical activities. Kipp stresses, “The critical question concerns the level of chest compression induced by the bra, a consideration relevant to all athletic pursuits.”

    The revelation was that none of the participants had sought professional bra fittings—they had each chosen overly tight bras, inadvertently intensifying workout difficulty. This tendency is not uncommon: previous studies carried out in Australia disclosed that a staggering 85 percent of women elect sports bras that do not provide an accurate fit.

    Kipp speculates on the reasons behind this common error. She proposes that women are habituated to choosing garments that seem to slim their appearance, disregarding comfort or proper fit.

    Moreover, Kipp points out that women often judge bra suitability while at rest, neglecting the expansion of their chest with vigorous breathing while exercising. Although the underband may feel adequate at ease, the perception changes significantly during dynamic activity.

    Conversely, donning a sports bra that is overly relaxed and lacks adequate support can be detrimental to workout quality. Insufficient constraint can amplify impact forces, expedite muscle wear, decrease running stride, and distort normal movement patterns.

    Therefore, while it’s key to opt for a robust sports bra for high-impact physical endeavors, some individuals, including myself, have erred on the side of over-tightening for ultimate stability.

    Criteria for an Optimal Sports Bra: Six Essential Tips

    In the aftermath of her study, Kipp has selected a larger sports bra and admits to experiencing more relaxed breathing while engaging in various physical activities. Numerous athletes corroborated this when, after receiving professional fittings before the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, 17 percent noted improved athletic output with the appropriate sports bra.

    Despite the scarcity of specialized sports bra fitting services for the general public, there are measures one can adopt to secure a fitting that’s both supportive and agreeable.

    Recognize the Foundation of Support

    Before trying on a sports bra, recognizing the foundational elements of its support system is vital. Chantelle Murnaghan, PhD and VP of research at Lululemon, demarcates the three predominant designs: compression bras that push the chest closer to the body, encapsulating bras that offer individual cups for each breast, and variations that incorporate both these approaches. Murnaghan notes, “There’s no universal solution to support; it’s about discovering what meets your personal needs.” Encapsulation bras, especially, may be advantageous for individuals with larger busts facing constriction around the ribcage.

    Check the Underband Elasticity

    For sports bras featuring clasps at the rear or a front zipper, Murnaghan advises performing the finger test: sliding a few fingers under the band should be possible. When pulled, the band must not extend beyond an inch, an indicator of adequate reinforcement. For styles you pull over the head, verify that the underband snaps back while still accommodating finger space underneath after wearing.

    The ideal sports bra will wrap your chest firmly and seamlessly from every angle. Be cautious of both spillage and gaps – your target is the ‘just-right’ fit, resembling Goldilocks’ optimal bedding choice.

    Evaluate the Straps

    Preferences for straps can differ according to an individual’s shoulder contour and breadth. Murnaghan suggests verifying that the straps neither dig into your skin nor slide off during lateral movements—you might need to explore different strap styles, such as racerback or classic, to pinpoint the perfect fit.

    Zero in on the Feel

    Since a sports bra is a companion during strenuous physical exertion, its comfort level is crucial. Murnaghan proposes assessing how the bra distributes pressure and whether the fabric’s edges are soft enough to prevent irritation and chafing.

    Perform a Motion Analysis

    After the bra has passed the stationary mirror inspection and the comfort tests, it’s crucial to undertake a dynamic trial. Kipp suggests engaging in minor in-store activities like hopping or running (if a treadmill is present) to truly assess functionality. While it may appear unnecessary, for Kipp, confirming a positive exercise experience is essential.


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