For so long, I felt a touch of jealousy when I'd show up to a workout class or head out for a run and see a woman in a cute sports bra. Oftentimes, I'd look down at my own simple black bra that I'd been wearing for nearly every workout for the past three years and feel like I was never going to be "fit enough" to wear just a sports bra at a workout.
Growing up, nearly every woman I spotted with the confidence to rock a sports bra top was very obviously an athlete who was undoubtedly more fit than I could ever be. It took some time and a lot of soul searching, but I finally kicked my fear of sports bras to the curb and now wear whatever I want, when I want. Here's what I learned along the way.
Focus on Fit
I realized half of the reason I wasn't comfortable working out in a sports bra was that I wasn't physically comfortable in my bra. I assumed because I had a larger cup size, I needed my bra to be as tight as possible so I was locked in. This resulted in me buying two of the tightest fitting bras I could find and wearing them at the same time. This also resulted in me nearly passing out during a run because I couldn't breathe.
Limiting my lung capacity wasn't the solution, so I started to think of sports bras as, well, bras. I looked at cup size, band size, support level, padding, neck cut — all of the usual things I'd think about when lingerie shopping. Bras like the UA HeatGear Armour® High Heathered Support Sports Bra ($55) take all of this into consideration with gel-coated underwires, adjustable straps, and performance pads for the most comfortable and supported workout possible. And nope, no restricted breathing necessary.
Match Your Bra to Your Sport
When it comes to bras, it's not one size fits all. So why would one sports bra work for all sports? I assumed that I because the boring black, bib-like bra worked for me once, it must work for me forever across the board. However, once I started investing in different bras for my different activities, I instantly found myself feeling more confident throughout my workouts.
Lower-impact options like the UA RUSH™ Low Sports Bra ($40) give me the ease to move and bend when I'm practicing yoga, while the Armour® Mid Sports Bra ($28) allows for slightly more support during Spin class without being a full-on compression option. Breaking away from thinking I had one option allowed me to see that I could be a whole lot better equipped for my workouts. And yep, I'd feel way more at ease ditching the tank when necessary.
Nope, No One Is Watching
More so than anything, there was a mental hurdle I had to overcome. Admittedly, I equated wearing a sports bra — a performance piece — to my fitness level. I assumed that wearing a sports bra in public was a signal of a level of athleticism that I'd never achieve. But once I understood the fallacy of thinking my body wasn't good enough and should be covered up while I worked out, I was able to break the connection between my clothing choices and body image.
I was working out to show my body love and take care of it. Why shouldn't I feel comfortable enough to outfit myself however I see fit? One day, while on a particularly hot and humid marathon training run, I knew I was overheating and needed some relief to keep going, so I ditched my tank and ran in my sports bra for several miles. My body felt free to move and enjoy the sport I love so much. And guess what? Not a soul cared. In fact, no one even noticed.
The rules I had once created in my mind about who could and couldn't wear a sports bra applied to me — and only me. Freeing myself from that restriction allowed me to fully embrace my relationship with fitness. I didn't need to be a certain level of fit to exercise proudly in my sports bra if that's what my body called for. Today, whether I work out in a sports bra or in layers of clothes, I'm reminded that working and moving is a bigger statement about my fitness level than anything.
And you better bet I'm going to wear whatever gear I need to help me perform to the best of my ability.