Bra talk

I was at the gym this morning, getting my sweat on in the cardio area, and in front of me were a row of young women from the local 6th form college, dutifully doing their weekly 30 minutes of cardio under the watchful eye of what I assume is their PE teacher.

Gazing at the row of skinny backs, something caught my eye. It wasn’t that two of them were still wearing their school jumpers, although that is a bit odd. Nope, it was the fact that not one of those girls was wearing a proper sports bra. (Maybe the ones wearing their jumpers were, I couldn’t be sure.)

Brosephs, you might think that makes me sound a bit weird. But any woman will tell you that you can see the difference between a regular bra and a sports bra, even from the back, at a distance, and through a white polo shirt. And, honestly, I was shocked that these girls aren’t told to wear the most basic and fundamental bits of sports kit. I’m sure their PE teacher wouldn’t let them do cross-country running in kitten heels. So why do gym cardio in your normal bra?

It got me thinking about me at that age. I rode horses (all that “rising trot” :-O ) and did athletics at school (I say “did” as this doesn’t suggest that I in any way excelled or pushed myself) all without a sports bra. But that was one hundred years ago. I guess I assumed or hoped that things had changed.

Did you know that over 3/4 of British women don’t make a habit of wearing a sports bra when they train? That’s according to a report commissioned by sports bra brand of the year, Shock Absorber, released last week. Of the 1000 women surveyed, 76% don’t regularly wear a sports bra when exercising. 34% of them say it’s because they want to look good while exercising. This baffles me, for three reasons. 1) Who cares what you look like? 2) Who can see your bra anyway? and 3) Since when has the saggy-boob look been one you’d strive for if you can avoid it?

A few weeks ago, I attended a press day hosted by Sweatshop and supported by top researchers from the University of Portsmouth. (Side note: did you know Sweatshop was started by Chris Brasher, CBE? I didn’t!) The event was to let us know about the forthcoming launch of Sweatshop’s dedicated bra fitting service, “bra bars” and bra amnesty, but I learned a few things too.

Sweatshop is already loved by runners in particular for its gait analysis and shoe-fitting services. The stores are now going to be an excellent place to go if you want to buy your first sportsbra, or make sure your next one is the correct size, fit and design for your chosen sport. I was fitted for one there and then and, despite thinking I’m pretty savvy about a) my sport and b) my boobs:
– was given a bra which was a different size to my existing bras
– was recommended a bra I probably wouldn’t have chosen if left to my own devices

The bra I was given – the Shock Absorber B4490 – is lovely and my favourite (of many that I now own!)

I was fitted and advised by one of Sweatshop’s specially-trained people and can tell you that if she is indicative of the levels of service and expertise you’ll get in-store, the bra fitting service is going to be a winner. The male shop staff have also been trained up, although won’t be expected to get quite as up-close-and-personal. The (free) bra fitting service was rolled out on the 1st October, so your local Sweatshop should be ready to rock. Some stores have been kitted out with a “bra bar” to showcase this all-important bit of kit (after all, sports shops have had walls dedicated to shoes for years!). And, if you look at the Sweatshop website, you’ll see there are various videos all trying to help us with booby-health!

Wearing a sports bra really is important. Before I heard the research figures about how few women wear a sports bra at all, I would have focused on the importance of choosing the right type/fit/design of sports bra. But perhaps it’s more important to simply say


Seriously. If you exercise, please wear one. I wear one to walk the dog!

One more thing – the sports bra amnesty. Sweatshop stores now feature “bins” through which you can donate your old, unwanted sports bras. You’ll get £5 off the purchase of a new bra, and your old bra will get recycled, with proceeds going to The Microloan Foundation, which supports women in sub-Saharan Africa. (Sweatshop will also donate £1 to the charity for every new bra sold during the campaign.) They’re aiming for £30K this year. So find all your old bras and get rid! (I dropped off about 10 when I went to the press day, haha!)

Bra talk is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


8 Responses to Bra talk

  1. I guess that as a teenager you are so conscious of your boobs that even buying your first bra is a big deal, and there was no way that I was going to change it for PE as I was too self conscious to expose my body.

    I wish there was a Sweatshop near me. I’ve just discovered that I have changed sizes in my everyday bras and have been wondering how I was going to find the right sports bra to fit my new size.


    • thefitwriter says:

      I suppose so! But if teachers had told my parents “the girls must wear trainers, horrible-shorts-with-stripes-on-the-sides, and a sports bra for PE”, I would have been taken to buy one, just like any other bit of school kit.

      There’s a storefinder on the Sweatshop site but perhaps there isn’t one near you, I don’t know how widespread they are. Shame, as it is a good service!


  2. Ooh, well done for flagging up this issue. I’m always amazed by how many people don’t wear them (especially for rowing). Apart from anything else, who wants their nice bras to get all sweaty. Ewww.


  3. ihavetriedit says:

    I think I could live in a sports bra. If only they looked good under my nice sweaters! GREAT advice…and if girls are so concerned about changing, there is always the bathroom stall…OR you can put your sports bra on over your regular and slip it out. That’s what we did when we were in Jr. High! Found your blog via “tag-surfer”


  4. Sally says:

    Sometimes when I’m at circuits I have to look at the floor to avoid seeing the Crimes Against Breastage that go on there. Sometimes, it’s so bad it makes me wince.


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