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The Sports Bra Quest

By Hailey Eber for

The search for the right sports bra can reach mythic proportions -- requiring "Oprah" specials, credit card debt, and advice from long lost friends…or so the world would have you believe. I’ve typically favored some cheap numbers from Target, on the rare occasion when Target has any left in size medium that aren’t neon green. But, as I’ve said in previous posts, my increasingly long long runs have been finding fault with Target’s offerings…and by fault, I mean more than a wee bit of chafing. Let’s just say I’d be embarrassed for someone to see the aftermath lest they imagine I’m frequenting leather bars on a nightly basis and/or engaging in a line of employment far my profitable than my current one.

To rectify this year, I headed to my favorite local running shop earlier this week in search of some saleswoman-ly guidance. Alas, the only lady I saw was behind the register, while a swarm of men in yellow shirts roamed the floor. I headed over to the sports bra section unaccompanied. Naturally, there was a page from O magazine touting the wonders of one of the models on offer. It looked…shall we say, “architectural.” I’m not flat-chested, but I suspect I require less in the way of support than Oprah. I also despise the bulge that some intense sports bra tend to create. A rack of numbers labeled “seamless” caught my eye. I found one of each brand in my size and black (simple, classic, goes with anything) and headed towards the one female employee for some lady-to-lady talk. Alas, she was helping another customer.

“Anything I can help you with, m’am?” a chirpy male co-worker next to her asked.

“Actually, I just had a sports bra question,” I said.

“Oh, he knows a lot about sports bras,” the female salesperson said earnestly, looking up from her interaction with the other customer. I imagined their extensive running store training. Apparently it wasn’t just limited to an in-depth discussion of neutral vs. support sneakers and watching enthralling videos of over-pronators on treadmills. There was also a special presentation on women’s undergarments.

Okay then, I thought, I will talk to this young fellow about sports bras. No shame, this could be amusing. “Are these the best bras for chafing issues?” I asked, starting us off with a cozy icy breaker.

“Um, those are good,” he said, striving to be professional but still awkward. “What’s really important is support, would you like to try them on to see if the support is good.”

I sensed “support” had been a key tenet of the sports bra training. A few minutes in the dressing room revealed that one model did indeed offer more “support” -- or was at least tighter.

Still in need of girl talk, I headed back to the checkout line, but not before I ran into my male sports bra spirit guide. “How were they? Did they feel supportive?” he asked.

“Yes, yes,” I quickly assured him as I made a beeline from the saleswoman.

“Hey,” I said to her, forcing a chill, girl-to-girl intimacy, as if this whole conversation might take place amidst cosmos and discussions of favorite "Sex and the City" episodes while licking the brownie batter bowl. “What do you think of these sports bras? Are they the best for chafing issues?”

“Yeah, I have both of those,” she said. “That one is tighter and really holds you in place, but sometimes I like to just throw on the Saucony one for a quick short run.” She seemed so wise, this salesperson who had actually used a sports bra firsthand. She was the girl at the slumber party who had already rounded third base, reporting back to her virginal friends from the frontlines.

“And they don’t chafe?”

“Not much. Are you using BodyGlide? It’s helpful to rub some of that under your bra.”

I looked up blankly. I wasn’t using BodyGlide. Other than this one issue, I wasn’t having too many chafing issues just yet, so I wasn’t prone to greasing up. I didn’t even own any BodyGlide. Suddenly I felt like that one junior high standout who hadn’t been briefed on what would happen when her period came, while all her peers had their backpacks stuffed with Kotex wings in preparation for womanhood’s pending arrival. Somehow, I realized, I probably knew more about men’s nipple issues while running–and had the image of a man finishing a half marathon with two red lines of blood streaming down his shirt forever etched in my head–than I did about the limitations of the sports bra and its need for lubrication on long run. Why did I know about men putting Band-Aids on theirs udders but not this? Was this yet another sad sign of our failure as a society to understand and openly discuss the issues facing women? Or just what happens when you rely on your older brother and/or a male personal trainer for your running guidance? Did I really need that special book for women runners I kept getting Runner’s World spam emails about?

I pushed a stick of BodyGlide across the checkout counter in addition to my newly chosen sports bra. Then I went home and finally succumbed to those emails. My copy of "The Complete Book of Women’s Running" is on its way.

Training Week 4 Summary

Miles logged: 26.5 miles

Longest run: 14 miles

Long run fuel: Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids… inspired by a Runner’s World email I received with the subject line “The Swedish Fish Secret”

Post-run recovery food: Mango-banana smoothie with as much Orgain Sweet Vanilla Bean protein drink added as I could without making me nauseous

New equipment purchased: A bonanza week. In addition to the aforementioned boob sling and BodyGlide, I also took home a new pair of Mizuno Wave Rider shoes after my loyalty to Asics was killed by a pair of shoes that fell apart, not just wore out, after less than 3 months. The Mizunos are lighter weight and less cushiony than my previous standby, the Asics Cumulus. They are also, I must admit, a really amazing solid aqua color instead of the standard white with some accent color.