Sports bras, for the love of god!

One of my main activities since I got to Amman three months ago has been gym-going.

It’s partially due to a determined effort to annihilate stubborn fatty deposits around my thighs. But my dedication to the gym is mainly because otherwise I’d just never leave the house. I  have so little going on right now that killing an hour at my crappy ladies-only gym every day is a relief.

MissPiggy I still have a ways to go before I look this good in my leotard.

There’s no space for stretching or floor exercises; the casing on all the dumbbells is peeling off; and the personal trainers are constantly consuming junk food inside the office — yet I’m happy with Fitness Uno.a

Hours spent at Uno have revealed to me that Jordanian women are not very good at gymming. I’m excluding the women who attending Zumba classes etc. from this discussion. Group instruction may spike the enthusiasm of the exercising female in ways that machines, mats, inflatable balls and free weights might not. This discussion is limited to that segment of women who frequent the DIY zone of the gym. These women are largely unenthusiastic about the whole enterprise.

88% of the women at Fitness Unob appear to have an extreme dislike for cardio. The time they dedicate to floor exercises and weights is somewhat more productive. By they fall flat when it comes to cardio, which is important for weight loss and cardiac health.

A sample cardio workout of one 20 year-old who had the misfortune of choosing the machines next to mine this fine morning: 15 minutes on the treadmill at 5 km/hr (just a little over 3 mph) with zero incline, a lukewarm go at the elliptical on zero resistance for a total of 8 minutes, followed by one long baleful glance at the recumbent bike before doing a round of sit ups.

Why this extreme aversion to cardio, even amongst the young and able-bodied?

imagesCardio — is it that they find it excruciatingly dull, or is something more insidious at work here?

That led me to General Observation No. 2: Jordanian women are poorly outfitted for working out. By that I mean their apparel choices lack functionality for moderate to strenuous exercise.c Girls are wearing sneakers that provide little to no support instead of proper training or running shoes. Older women dress in clothing made of textiles that retain sweat rather than fast-drying wicking materials. Then there’s the odd faff who shows up to her personal training session bedecked in Cartier bracelets and a Rolex.

But by far the worst fashion offence against functionality amongst the women of Fitness Uno, and most likely the main culprit behind their hatred of cardio, is their out-and-out refusal to don a vital piece of sporting apparel: the sports bra.

The majority of these women wear normal bras to work out every day. From the massively endowed to those with the most average of mammaries, they tackle the treadmill with only brassieres for support.

With one regular-bra-wearing woman, one of the few at the gym to do cardio with any sort of conviction, the situation is so dire that I actually have had to restrain myself from discussing it with her privately. I feel sympathy pangs in my own bosom as sacs 1 and 2 flap and flop, unsupported, with every energetic stride she takes.

I can’t offer Bounce-yTits@Uno unsolicited advice for a more comfortable workout. To do so would imply that I spend my own workouts staring at her breasts — which I clearly do. But she doesn’t need to be made aware of that fact.

Because something as close to 60% of women who go to the gym aren’t wearing the right sort of bra, here’s a post explaining just how vital it is to don a good sports bra the next time you hit the gym.

The first commercially available general exercise sports bra, invented in 1977, was the “jockbra,” the prototype being literally two jockstraps sewn together.

images-1This sad-looking thing is a jockstrap, a device used by men to minimise the unwanted movement of stuff when they do jock-ish type things. This model seemed like a good one to follow in order to minimise the unwanted movement of lady stuff while pursuing an active lifestyle. Fortunately, the design evolved past that initial phase into the sports bras we know and love today.

That’s it for history. Now onto the technicalities of why it’s super duper important to wear a sports bra.

The celebrated bard known as Ludacris once sang, “When I move you move (Just like that).” That’s what your breasts do. Physical activity causes breasts to bounce up, down, and around in a figure eight shape. This is the case no matter what size you are. Continuous repetitive movement can thus cause a lot of soreness in the area.

Even more dismaying is that excessive motion can cause sagging. Yes, sagging. That’s because our breasts have no muscles and are held aloft by delicate ligaments that break down easily. Once those ligaments stretch out, there’s no bouncing back.d

Sports bras specifically address this motion problem. Running without any bra at all can cause the average woman’s breasts to move up, down and around by up to 9cm. Wearing an ordinary bra reduces this motion by 32%. A good sports bra can reduce this by 80%. That means less sagging in the long-term, which is obviously a good thing.

This handy undergarment does its job in one of two ways: compression sports bras limit motion by compressing the breasts to the chest; encapsulation sports bras involve individual cups that surround and support each breast. Combination compression-encapsulation sports bras give the wearer the best of both worlds and offer the most support.

imgresA visual aid. Lots of people dislike that uni-boob look that compression sports bras lend to breasts. Personally, I don’t mind it, but combination bras are the best choice by far.

“Shimmels,” are tank tops with a built in shelf bra. These are great for low-impact activities such as yoga, Pilates or gardening, but aren’t the best choice for running.

It’s also important to note that the straps play a role. Spaghetti straps provide less support than wider straps. Racer-back straps are more supportive than both spaghetti and scoop back.

images-3In case you were wondering, this is a racer-back.

Thus more well-endowed woman who cuts her workouts short due to breast soreness should opt for a racerback combination sports bra.

Another enormous plus of the sports is that they’re made of the aforementioned wicking material, which helps keep that area dry and comfortable. That, along with restricting excessive bouncing, helps prevent chafing and sore nipples. I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.

Ok, now I feel like I did my bit to better the lot of womankind for the day. Spread the word!

  1. Not the gym’s real name.  (back)
  2. A made up statistic but I’d hazard that it’s an underestimation.  (back)
  3. Also some of their outfits are ugly, but I won’t belabour that point.  (back)
  4. There are, of course, legions of bra naysayers out there. But I do think for high impact sports, it is definitely a good idea to wear a good sports bra.  (back)