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4 features your sports bra must have

Oprah's Bra Whisperer shares 4 must-have features and her favorite sports bras.
sports bra
(Photo: David Lawrence/Women's Health Magazine)

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For many, especially the well-endowed among us, choosing bras can be potentially as demoralizing as bathing suit shopping (though for different reasons).

The trouble: If you head to nonspecific shop, you flounder on your own.  At old-school lingerie stores, while they know their stuff, you’re likely to get felt up by an elderly saleswoman, who smells of Virginia Slims and pungent perfume.

Still, finding the right bra is quite important and, for those of us who work out, a truly supportive sports bra is an essential contraption.  Just ask Susan Nethero, the owner of 16 Intimacy stores countrywide and “The Bra Whisperer” endorsed by Oprah et al.

We got the 411 from the master on picking the a sports bra that truly fits your body:

You may think you’re wearing a perfectly acceptable sports bra.  In fact, you’re probably not: “The majority of women today are wearing what we call ‘compression’ sports bras, which creates stability by pressing down against the chest wall,” explains Nethero.  “But that’s actually the worst way to get support.”

Breast support is essential medically for maintaining firmness and skin integrity, asserts The Bra Whisperer, who has to restrain herself from approaching jogging strangers on the street with bra suggestions:  “A huge number of women are experiencing some breast injury from tissue moving up and down or in and out during exercise.  We know that 9.5 million women exercise without wearing a sports bra at all — just a bra shelf in a tank top or a regular bra.  Without ample support, ligaments get elongated, so there’s premature loss of elasticity and, hence, stretch marks.  If we can reduce breast movement with a sports bra, we can reduce those effects.  It’s even more significant than wearing the right regular bra everyday.”

That’s why Nethero and her crew of trained experts approach bra fitting like a science.  If you were to make a complimentary “Bra Fit Makeover” appointment at any of Intimacy’s locations, you’d be in for a 45-minute personalized session that would involve answering questions about your lifestyle, re-learning how to correctly put on a bra and even – for sports bras – jumping up and down on a trampoline!

After chatting with Nethero, I was happy to learn that the bras by which my fellow “Fit Like Us” blogger Bari and I both happen to swear — Lululemon’s Ta Ta Tamer and Ta Ta Tamer II respectively — seem to fit the expert’s credentials for decent options.

Does your bra fit the bill?  Here’s Nethero’s checklist below:

1. Cups!
It’s really important that your bra has cup sizing (as opposed to small, medium or large compression style), so there’s support for each breast, just like with an underwire bra.  This is important for daily vanity reasons too: Pressing the tissue down in a compression bra makes you look wider.  Nethero’s philosophy is to lift the breasts up and get them centered because it gives more torso length and creates a sense of balance.

Keep reading for 3 more must-have features, and The Bra Whisperer’s favorite sports bras.

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