Fitness: Fashion for workouts, plus tips for choosing better bras

Tips for better bra

Without a supportive bra, regular activities like running can cause a woman to develop breast discomfort and even damage to the ligaments that hold up the breasts. This lack of support might also contribute to tension and strain in the upper back and neck. Here are five things to consider when shopping for the right sports bra to avoid these problems:

1. Think impact. Look for the label on a sports bra indicating it’s for low-impact, medium-impact or high-impact activities. Most women should never wear a low-impact sports bra that’s right for walking or yoga for a high-impact activity such as running or aerobics.

2. Divide and conquer. If you’re a woman with an A- or B-sized cup, you might get away with a compression sports bra, especially if it has a racer-back style for added support. Compression bras are those that restrict the breasts by pressing them against the chest wall. But for optimal protection and support — essential for women with a cup size of C or larger — the encapsulation style is the way to go. That means each breast is supported by a separate cup.

3. The other secrets of support. For optimal support, straps should be wide with minimal stretch and adjustable. But the workhorse of support is the band at the bottom of the bra, especially if it’s wide. The most supportive sports bras often feature extra layers and side panels.

4. Stay cool. Moisture-wicking fabric can help keep you cool and avoid chafing.

5. Get fit. Your sports bra size may be different from your regular bras, so try on several sizes before buying. See how the bra feels in motion by waving your arms around or jogging in place. If the fit is right, you should be able to slide two fingers under the strap. And no, it’s not normal to feel like your breathing is restricted when you’re wearing a sports bra! That means it’s too tight. When in doubt, consult a bra-fitting expert in a specialty shop or department store.

Fashions in workout clothes come and go — think leg warmers — but some things don’t change. It won’t do much for your motivation if your shoes pinch, your running shorts chafe or your shirt is a soggy mess.

Here are a few shopping pointers if you want comfortable workout clothes that will support, not sabotage, your fitness efforts.

Most fitness clothing manufacturers now offer fabrics that wick moisture away from the wearer’s skin. These might be called dry wicking or technical or performance fabrics. COOLMAX and SUPPLEX are two examples of this type of material. If you expect to be sweating a lot, these fabrics will save you from the extra weight and clamminess of a wet all-cotton shirt. And for outdoor exercise in colder weather, these fabrics make a good first layer that can be topped by a warmer middle layer, and a wind- and water-resistant jacket.

“Some of these performance clothes, like a new bamboo line we carry, also are odor-resistant,” says Cindy Keene, who manages the Edward Health & Fitness Center Pro Shop, which is open to the public.

For year-round outdoors enthusiasts, there also are fabrics available with built-in SPF protection and even insect repellent.

The new fabrics support one of the biggest trends in fitness wear: outfits that can go from the fitness floor to the next stop in your life, whether it’s a lunch date or a round of errands. Keene says less than half of the clothes sold at the Pro Shop are workout only.

Consider fit and style, as well as fabric, when looking for clothes that allow you to move freely. A little spandex in a fabric is great, but more than 10 percent can be restricting. Try on your fitness wear before buying to ensure both proper fit and a style that doesn’t rub the wrong way. Watch for fabric that feels good to the touch, flat seams, and edges that won’t dig in or chafe when you’re in motion.

We can’t talk about comfortable workout gear without mentioning shoes and, for women, the right sports bra. Select properly fitted shoes that are designed for your activity — don’t use walking shoes for running, for example. Finding the right fit and supportive style is equally important for sports bras. See the sidebar for tips on sports bra shopping.

According to Keene, yoga capris and fairly form-fitting tops are popular looks, but she also sees people working out in their favorite tees and sweat pants.

Whatever clothes give you comfort and freedom of motion are great. But if rocking the latest active-wear styles helps you enjoy your workouts, that’s good, too. The current look also includes more florals, contrasting color blocks and shimmery fabrics that look like leather.

To keep up with what the fashion gurus have to say about clothes for workouts and beyond, check out fashion sites like the newly launched net-a-sporter.com.

Cindy Eggemeyer is the executive director of Edward Health & Fitness Centers, with locations in Naperville, on the campus of Edward Hospital, 801 S. Washington St., and in Woodridge, at 6600 S. Route 53. For more information, visit www.edward.org/fitness. Cindy can be reached at 630-646-7915 and ceggemeyer@edward.org.

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Tips for better bra

Without a supportive bra, regular activities like running can cause a woman to develop breast discomfort and even damage to the ligaments that hold up the breasts. This lack of support might also contribute to tension and strain in the upper back and neck. Here are five things to consider when shopping for the right sports bra to avoid these problems:

1. Think impact. Look for the label on a sports bra indicating it’s for low-impact, medium-impact or high-impact activities. Most women should never wear a low-impact sports bra that’s right for walking or yoga for a high-impact activity such as running or aerobics.

2. Divide and conquer. If you’re a woman with an A- or B-sized cup, you might get away with a compression sports bra, especially if it has a racer-back style for added support. Compression bras are those that restrict the breasts by pressing them against the chest wall. But for optimal protection and support — essential for women with a cup size of C or larger — the encapsulation style is the way to go. That means each breast is supported by a separate cup.

3. The other secrets of support. For optimal support, straps should be wide with minimal stretch and adjustable. But the workhorse of support is the band at the bottom of the bra, especially if it’s wide. The most supportive sports bras often feature extra layers and side panels.

4. Stay cool. Moisture-wicking fabric can help keep you cool and avoid chafing.

5. Get fit. Your sports bra size may be different from your regular bras, so try on several sizes before buying. See how the bra feels in motion by waving your arms around or jogging in place. If the fit is right, you should be able to slide two fingers under the strap. And no, it’s not normal to feel like your breathing is restricted when you’re wearing a sports bra! That means it’s too tight. When in doubt, consult a bra-fitting expert in a specialty shop or department store.

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