If you’re the type of woman who takes sports bras with spaghetti straps seriously, stop reading this now and race to the nearest stick-thin-supermodel website (I have no clue what site that might be).
I mean it! Stop reading now! You obviously do not need a sports bra, because you are flat chested and will not be able to relate to the rest of this post.
Go ahead; move along.
Okay, now that they’re gone, I can talk to the rest of you ladies, who know what it’s like to stuff your girls into a serious, industrial-strength undergarment:
In November I took up the “sport” (some might call it “exercise in self-torture”) of running. I hadn’t run in a few years, and I had exactly three leftover athletic bras in the bottom of a spare dresser drawer: two black, from 10 years ago – the first time I tried to be a “serious” runner – and a white one from a few years later. All three have shrunk over the years of bouncing, sweating and washing (but hanging to dry), and my body has gone the other direction. (I now refer to myself as full figured, with homage to the recently departed Jane Russell.)
I had been complaining about the old, uncomfortable bras for weeks, so when Bruce and I went to North Little Rock recently for my annual cardiologist checkup, we went on a quest for a sports bra or two (I had tried to find my old brand online and in local stores but couldn’t find my size in the style I need).
Let me tell you, there are gazillions of sports bras out there, but, for one reason or another, most of them do not work for full-figured women. Let me count the ways:
1. Most of them nowadays go over your head rather than hooking in the back or the front. I wish you could have seen me in the first dressing room, trying to pull one slightly stretchy (not too stretchy or it won’t support) contraption over my head and down into place without causing irreparable tissue damage (or under-my-breath swearing).
On second thought, I don’t wish you could have seen (or heard) me. It wasn’t pretty. At all.
I didn’t even get the thing all the way on before I knew (with that sick feeling a small furry creature gets right before the snake swallows it whole) that it just wasn’t going to work. It would have been stupid to continue trying.
But you know what was even stupider? In another store, I tried on another over-the-head contraption. Same result: Back over my head before it was fully in place.
(Why do they think pullover bras should even exist, anyway? The only thing I can think of is, they’re a fashion statement. For the women who are no longer reading this post.)
2. Most sports bras are too stretchy and not supportive enough. You know, for full-figured gals. The entire point (no pun intended) of a sports bra is to smash you flat so as to prevent bouncing – or so I thought, until I met the sports-bra saleswoman of my dreams (more on that later).
Don’t the sports-bra designers know that the women who really and truly need sports bras are those of us who weigh more than 80 pounds soaking wet? Last time I weighed 80 pounds, I hadn’t hit puberty and running hadn’t even been invented.
3. Sports bras for full-figured women come in exactly two colors: White and black. You could bust me (no pun intended, really) right here for being a hypocrite because of the whole spaghetti-strap thing, but we full-figured gals do like a little variety in our fabric choices every now and then. While I do not believe in wearing your underwear on the outside – as a fashion statement or, poor you, because it’s just so darned hot you have to take your tiny little shirt off when you run – it is nice to have more than two colors to choose from. I personally think white underwear is boring, and I like to have a rainbow of colors to choose from. (And, as far as the lack of variety in big-girl-sports-bra colors goes, thin women – and, apparently, designers – do not even realize this is an issue.)
(Apologies to those who think the preceding paragraph was TMI [Mom, that means “too much information”]. On the other hand, you may think this entire post is TMI!)
So, by the second pullover-bra fiasco, I had learned my lesson, meaning I had exhausted all hope of finding an appropriate bra in my new hometown and would have to go to my old, larger hometown to shop. (Do you know how much I hate to shop? Probably not, but that’s a topic for another day.)
So off to central Arkansas we went.
Bruce and I, intrepid explorers that we were (on that particular day, at least), went to two big-chain sports superstores and two locally owned running stores (we like the latter better, but the two big multipurpose stores were closer – plus we were also looking for bowling balls – so we went there first).
At the first store created exclusively for runners, a new place in the Heights called Go! Running, we found not only a brand I had never heard of (Moving Comfort) but some of the best customer service you could ask for. The owner, Erin Taylor (no relation to me), won me over with her knowledge, friendliness and willingness to serve, even though I left the store without making a purchase. She did order a bra for me, after I had tried on one that was close to my size. She explained that a sports bra shouldn’t just mash you flat and that this particular bra had features that made running more comfortable (I’m trying to spare you the details). She also told me I had several colors to choose from!
She had to take a phone call, so she told an employee what bra should be ordered for me (in a nice bluish-purple) and sent me to the front of the store to leave my contact information. (That evening when I got home, the employee called to say she was about to order the bra but that I would need to pick another color. My size comes in only two colors – you guessed it: white and black.)
After we left Go! Running, we went to Easy Runner, an older, more established store well known to Arkansas runners. (It has moved to the upscale Pleasant Ridge Town Center on west Cantrell Road.) There, they had the Moving Comfort brand in my size (but not the same model), so at least I know that this particular brand runs true to my size. I did not buy anything there but left convinced that the bra I ordered at Go! Running would work for me.
Afterward I wrote a thank-you note to Erin for her outstanding customer service. When she received it, she left a message on my answering machine to thank me for the thank-you note and said it was going up in her office.
I may not be rich, but I am willing to pay a few dollars more for an item (especially an item that is as much sought-after as this bra was to me) when I am treated with the respect, courtesy and friendly service that Erin showed me that day. (I got good service at Easy Runner, too.)
Tomorrow we go back to North Little Rock to finish painting the house and to plant some spring flowers, and I’ll go pick up my black Moving Comfort bra at Go! Running. I hope Erin is there so I can thank her again, in person, for treating this full-figured gal as though I were as fit and beautifully sculpted as a triathlete. And I will probably order a Moving Comfort bra in white and have it shipped to my house.
That, ladies, is how to buy a sports bra.
For another helpful how-to, visit my New Year’s Day post, How to win a race without really trying.