Keep on running
April 18, 2012 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Are you a lady? Do you run? Do you know about sports-bras and other lady things? Help!

So my question is twofold:

1) I need a sports bra. I'm a 34GG, UK size. I currently have a Freya Active bra which is a 36FF, bought last year when I last tried Couch 2 5K, which doesn't seem to be supporting me properly now. I also had a Shock Absorber 36G (I think) which I bought before then and wasn't great - I couldn't fit my FFs into the regular bra size I take. What bras are good for running? Should I start with my regular size, or a different one? Where do you tend to go? There is a small branch of Bravissimo, a small John Lewis and a Debenhams where I'm going to be this weekend - where would you start?

2) How do you run when you have heavy periods? I have an IUD, so I get painful, very heavy periods that used to leak onto clothing until I got used to dealing with them. (I realise the ultimate solution is to have it taken out, but for a bunch of reasons irrelevant to this question it isn't happening for at least six months.) I am, however, worried that I'm going to stain my shorts. I'm going to be on week 2 or 3 of C25K by the time Aunt Flo comes back, so I'm not going to be running long distances, but I still want to be absolutely sure I keep my dignity. Is it best to skip a week at that point, or are there ways of ensuring things work properly? I will probably be running in a pair shorts.

Any help that might lead to me minimising excuses not to go would be great!
posted by mippy to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Bravissimo first. Last time I was there for a fitting, there was a girl in the cupicle next to me getting fitted because she played basketball and they were getting quite specific about what bras were good for what sports.

Ring up the store your going to be near this weekend and book a fitting appointment.

Their big shop off Regents Street in London is also open late, if you can get there after work, although I've found that even that store doesn't have everything in every size in stock.
posted by Helga-woo at 6:59 AM on April 18, 2012

I found a great sports bra at Intimacy, which sounds a lot like Bravissimo - it might be a Freya Active, just because I remember it was German. They don't last all that long, so it might be you just need a new one. But a store that is dedicated to bras for magnificently-breasted women (to steal someone's phrase on mefi recently) is your best bet. I used to do mail order and the professionals in the shop did a much better job of finding the right fit and support.

I use a menstrual cup, which are Great for heavy flows and for exercise. While some folks warn against using them with IUDs (saying to break suction carefully and not pull the strings), many use them without any problems. With a quick google I found this discussion in which IUD users mentioned good experiences. Enjoy the running!
posted by ldthomps at 7:00 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wear two sports bras at once when I run (the non-wire kind), with a tighter one on the outside. It's silly, but works. As for the leakage, diva cup and pantyliner. Heed the advice about breaking the seal before you remove it with an IUD. That's a skill in itself right there. Prepare for mishaps until you figure that one out!
posted by iamkimiam at 7:10 AM on April 18, 2012

Response by poster: I did wonder about Diva Cups but I wasn't sure they worked with an IUD? I have been tempted by them before, but also unsure about compatibility and having to deal with them in public places.

My Freya bra, I should have said, is a soft cup. not the underwire. I haven't felt it bouncing, but I did have a look in front of the mirror and it didn't seem to be holding the girls too firmly. I work close-ish to the Regent St branch, so it might be worth going to Bravissimo, but I don't really know where to start. Sports stores are completely useless for any underwear above a B (or indeed any actual clothing for doing actual sport in).
posted by mippy at 7:25 AM on April 18, 2012

2) I am also an IUD user with heavy periods. I use Tampax Pearl Ultra tampons. I pack an extra one in my iFitness/SPIbelt, and stop at a bathroom halfway through my run.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:32 AM on April 18, 2012

Definitely book a fitting with Bravissimo then, they'll help you with where to start. Despite shopping there for years I only got a proper fitting with them this year, because I was scared, but they were really nice. It's made a lot of difference to how I look for bras. Even if you don't find what you like there, it'll help figure out what to look for in other shops or order online.

I don't think sports shops know much about boobs.
posted by Helga-woo at 7:32 AM on April 18, 2012

Response by poster: 'break the seal' over here means the first pee you have after several beers, so it took me a while to realise what that thread was about!
posted by mippy at 7:37 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing 2 bras. Sounds wild, but works.
posted by corb at 8:05 AM on April 18, 2012

I bought this Anita sports bra at Intimacy, and I have absolutely loved it. My sister who is about the same size got this Freya one, which may be similar to the one you have. When I went shopping with her, the saleslady recommended one with underwire for running and other high-impact activities. Regardless of that advice, I think the Anita is great and I recommended it to another friend who plays soccer and had been complaining about her back as a result of poor support. She picked up the Anita and said it made a huge difference for her. I've had a set of those bras for over a year now, so it may be time to phase them out, but I still feel very supported - worlds better than the useless sports bras that come in S/M/L sizing.
posted by Terriniski at 8:12 AM on April 18, 2012

As a big-breasted lady, the two best sport bras:

1) Moving Comfort (focus: comfort, does not come in your size)
2) Shock Absorber (focus: locking everything down)

I would normally recommend (a UK-based company), but they don't have Shock Aborbers in 34GG. Bravissimo DOES carry the D+ Max bra by Shock Absorber in 34GG. So that's where I'd start.

A huge caveat: Shock Absorber bras do not have any wiggle room in the fit, so please try them on in person, if possible. I had to send my Shock Absorber back to Figleaves after I couldn't even get the band to close on my back, in my regular size.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:14 AM on April 18, 2012

Have you seen the Enell sports bra? It's the only thing that works for me. Not sure about UK availability. :( But maybe it is easily available! :)
posted by pupstocks at 8:53 AM on April 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

I wear a "normal" bra under my sports bra when I run. It gives "the girls" support and keeps them stabilized when running. Nothing's worse for me than running and having my breasts bounce around. And the honking from cars driving by, ugh!
posted by loquat at 8:59 AM on April 18, 2012

1. In the US I ordered a whole bunch of bras from Title Nine tried them on and then returned the ones that were not a good fit. Not sure about international shipping.
Happy Running.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 9:16 AM on April 18, 2012

Seconding the enell. I am a big girl, I run, and it's the only thing that's ever worked adequately for me.
posted by zug at 10:49 AM on April 18, 2012

I wear this bra from M&S (I know), which I like enough that I've bought a couple so I don't have "I need to put a wash on" as an excuse not to go running! I also quite like the look of this one.
posted by featherboa at 12:43 PM on April 18, 2012

YES to Enell (search my comment history for Enell to read other stuff I've written, including buying tips). I'm roughly your size and it works very well for me. But it is a love/hate type of bra.

Two sports bras is so bad for your neck and shoulders! I used to do it in grade school and high school for soccer and I had chronic neck problems - stiffness and muscle knots that didn't go away until I started using the Enell.

I had an IUD and used a Diva Cup. It was fine with my OB and it worked very well.
posted by peep at 1:10 PM on April 18, 2012

Diva isn't the only menstrual cup available. Other makes and models might suit you better. Some types are made from softer silicone, so the seal is easier to break. You might take a look at the IUD-tagged threads at livejournal's menstrual-cup community. Also note this article from Family Practice News suggesting that cups with IUDs don't really present a problem.

I'm not an IUD user, but I'm partial to the Yuuki, a Czech-made cup with very soft silicone/light suction. (Unless I'm planning to be upside down in any way, such as doing yoga or reading on my stomach, in which case something less flexible works better.) Whatever you do, though, back it up with a pad.

About bras: Freya's wired sports bra, whatever it's called, works beautifully for me, much better than Shock Absorber or anything else. But obviously everyone's shaped differently.
posted by tangerine at 3:12 PM on April 18, 2012

I am an Enell FANATIC. So, n-thing that recommendation in a big way. Please get one, they are so weird, but they do the job better than anything I have tried.

I also agree that Diva Cup or similar might be a good option, but also feel free to give yourself permission to not run or run slower/shorter distances that week. Taking ibuprofen every 6 hours starting the night before and into the couple of days of your period should help you "stay ahead" of cramps. I've found that despite conventional medical wisdom, exercise actually intensifies my cramping rather significantly, so don't feel bad if you need to take a day off or slow down--the couch to 5k program is perfect for that because you can repeat a week whenever you feel like you need to.
posted by araisingirl at 5:44 PM on April 18, 2012

Regarding bras, nthing a fitting with Bravissimo. As a somewhat endowed runner, I am a big fan of Shock Absorber. One thing to bear in mind is that your regular bra size can differ from the sports bra size - for non-sports bras I usually wear 28F but my sport bra is 30DD and fits very snugly.
posted by coffee_monster at 2:37 AM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all your comments!

MoonCup is the most widely available here (Boots sell it) but I've been put off by the initial investment in case it doesn't work. (I also live in a shared house so boiling it might be tricky.) I'll do some research.

I've not been keen on M&S since they measured me as a 40C, and when they didn't have the 36FF I wanted in my size suggested I take a 40G (?) Not sure if Enell is available here, but a fitting might be the first stop.
posted by mippy at 3:34 AM on April 20, 2012

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