My shoulder is sore. Not from doing heavy duty exercise, but from trying to put on a sports bra.
That’s right – danger lurks in a seemingly innocent piece of undergarment and can cause a lot of distress!
Back then (yes, I’m ancient), sports bras came in “cupless” styles and were cheap, though they didn’t provide much support.
The surface was flat with no cups and a narrow elastic band at the bottom was meant to hold the boobs in place. Or, they’d come with a built-in shelf bra.
As manufacturers improved their products, they introduced sports bras in a variety of designs and materials.
Branded ones are not cheap (they cost more than RM250) because they promise a lot of things – a light material that wicks sweat and dries quickly; different support for varying intensity levels; ultra-tight compression ones that fit like second skin, especially catered for high-intensity sports; soft, breathable and removable cups that provide extra structure and coverage; and superior bounce control, racer back, scoop back or T-back styling, among others.
Granted, they are superior in comfort once you wear them; but they still leave a hole in your pocket, and in my case, lots of heat rubs and anti-inflammatory gels.
I’m not exactly well-endowed, so I tend to go for the hookless ones that can be pulled over the head.
I never had problems putting on and yanking them off before.
If I’m dancing or doing floor rolls and somersaults, the seamlessness is easier on my back as there are no hooks to irritate my skin or cause abrasions.
So, over Christmas, I splurged on some branded athletic wear. It was a compression-styled one, which squashes the breasts close to the chest to minimise motion.
Like I mentioned, I’m small so I don’t really need compression tops, but I liked the trendy design and opted for them.
The sports bras didn’t seem that difficult to remove when I tried them at the store.
Perhaps I was calmer then and not rushing for class.
Anyway, last week, it took me 20 minutes to put it on, and midway through, I started perspiring from fatigue.
I couldn’t take it off or pull it down, and no one was home to help!
Arms dangling helplessly, I felt defeated and wondered what to do before mustering all my strength to finally pull it down.
I was late for class while my shoulder screamed in pain – thankfully, I didn’t dislocate it.
Another gym buddy had to help peel it off after a sweaty workout, and in the locker room was when I realised many women face the same problem.
So many of the ladies were helping each other remove undergarments, especially compression tops and bottoms.
One lady even told me she suffered a rotator cuff tear trying to remove her bra!
I’ve always been told that a sports bra with a good support is essential to prevent discomfort and breast pain.
You don’t want to suffer from tissue damage that might lead to stretch marks and sagging.
In my varsity days, as a dancer in training, no student was allowed to wear a sports bra under her leotard.
The body lines had to be visible and unobstructed at all times, especially in ballet classes.
Because a vast majority of dancers are small-chested, this isn’t a problem, especially since most leotards come with a full lining inside.
The top-heavy ones would have to wear an extra leotard camisole for added support, and/or a nipple sticker.
But now I realise that even the smallest breasts can experience permanent dama-ge to connective tissue over time if you neglect to give them the right support.
Experts recommend that women wear an encapsulation-style sports bra (i.e. those with separate cups) over the uniboob compression kind.
As breast tissue moves in a figure-of-eight pattern when you run, walk or jump, using a bra with cups will support you better.
And from my experience, stick to the ones with adjustable hooks and straps.
Traditional bras have hook closures at the front or back, which makes taking a bra on and off a lot easier, saving you a lot of agony.
The right sports bra should have a band that fits snugly around your rib cage, but not too tight.
If you can fit two fingers between your body and the band (but not more) that’s the sign of a good fit.
Wider bands tend to be more supportive than narrow bands.
Shoulder straps should feel secure and provide minimal stretch to reduce up-and-down movement.
Weight fluctuations, childbirth and menopause can all affect the size of your breasts, so your next bra will not necessarily be the same size as your current bra.
Studies have found that 70% of women do not know their proper bra size.
This can be detrimental for those playing sports, because when it comes to sports bras, size does matter and an ill-fitting bra can result in chafing, upper back and neck strain, and droopy boobs.
So, protect your front assets and your limbs by getting a sports bra that can be speedily worn and removed.