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Let's Talk Boobs

Don't let breast pain hold you back from moving!

My first ever blog post and yes, I am going to talk about boobs. Don’t let breast pain be the reason you don’t get out and move! I suffered with this and thought I was alone until a fellow ChiRunning instructor recently shared this article from the New York Times which discusses a study from researchers at the Biomechanics Research Laboratory at the University of Wollongong in Australia. They looked at how breast size affects how women participate in physical activity.


“The results were consistent and rather worrying. As women’s breast sizes grew, their participation in physical activity declined, particularly if that exercise was vigorous...Many of the larger-breasted women also reported that they believed that their breast size prevented them from exercising easily, even in low-impact activities like walking or swimming.” - New York Times


I was a closet breast pain sufferer. I never talked about it. When I was at my heaviest I was a size 38H and at a towering 5’ 2.5”, my breast size played a huge role in why I was not exercising. I had never exercised in my life and at 40 years old, I couldn't walk up the stairs without getting out of breath. I started by walking in place in front of the TV because that was the most I could do. Over time, encouraged by friends and coaches, I committed myself to a variety of strength and conditioning classes, started running, conquered obstacle course races, and eventually made my way into triathlons. With all of that, even now, after losing over 100 pounds and keeping it off for over seven years, I am still sensitive to this issue. Three main reasons:

  1. The bounce factor was very painful and embarrassing.

  2. My bra straps cut into my shoulders and caused painful red marks.

  3. I had difficulty finding a bra that fit well.

Let’s face it, those cute workout bras that you see advertised do absolutely nothing for large breasted women. Most runners will say that running shoes are the most important piece of equipment. I say the right fitting sports bra is the single most important piece of equipment for women runners. Even the ChiRunning book, which I LOVE and highly recommend, completely ignores the importance of the right sports bra. (Yes, that is an affiliate link to the book and I will get a small percentage if you purchase the book from my link.)


My advice:

Get measured! Either measure yourself or get measured. Buy the bra that fits your measurements and don’t worry about what size you need to wear. I have heard some women wear two bras. With the sports bras on the market now I do not think two bras are necessary. Keep trying sizes and bra styles until you find the right fit. The band should be where the support comes from, not the shoulder straps. There are many sites out there that will help you find the right fit. I like HerRoom.com because of how well they help you find the right fit and their return policy. I have no affiliation with the site but have been using them for years.


High Impact: Look for bras that are categorized as high impact bras. It is my understanding, I am not a professional in this area, that these are designed to help reduce bounce. I’ve found that medium impact bras just are not supportive enough.


Shoulder straps: Look for wide straps with padding. I find that the cross back bras offer more support but can also pull more on your shoulders and neck. I like the convertible bras that allow you to switch between cross back and regular straps.


Shape: I have found that some sports bras for larger cup sizes have a strange cone shape while others smush you together for the very unflattering uniboob look. Why is this? You will likely need to get an underwire bra to avoid the uniboob. I’ve not found a good sports bra yet that separates and supports without a wire. If you find one, let me know!


I have had a lot of luck with Freya sports bras. I have no affiliation with them. These are just the ones that I have had the most success and comfort using.


If you have hesitated to exercise due to embarrassment or breast pain during activity, I would love to hear from you. Share your story with me at walksmartrunhappy@gmail.com.


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