Posts Tagged With: product review

Brooking at Bushy parkrun and seeing what comes out in the wash…

Digested read: test run for the Brooks Juno Sports bra at Bushy parkrun.  Hmm, some promise, but I’m reserving judgement until I’ve done a longer and more strenuous run. For now, good in parts.  Which is still significant progress in my world.  🙂

This is the bra I was wearing (not the actual bra, but a stock image of one)

brooks bra front

and this is the actual parkrun on the actual day I was running in it.  A view from the back of the early stages of the course.  I might even be in this photo, in fact I most definitely am… it’s just I’m not quite sure where.  I’ll be wearing a bright orange beanie hat and my purple running coat.  Good luck spotting me!  Nice though, isn’t it?  #loveparkrun #bushyparkrunisepic

MDH parkrun start

I’m taking my product review responsibilities extremely seriously. If Brooks ill-advisedly want feedback on their bra, than I’m up for it, and not just on any old run either.  This brasserie brassiere would have it’s debut outing at that iconic site of pilgrimage for parkrunners everywhere, Bushy parkrun.  Where it all began.  This is the narrative I’m going with anyway, even though it is stretching it a bit.  The truth is since collecting my sample bra I’d not really been able to face the workout of putting it on again, but fair dos, there’s no point in having it if I don’t give it a whirl, and given I was to be at Bushy parkrun this weekend anyway, why not.  One should never get the absolute truth get in the way of a good story.  Besides, I’m not sure there is any such thing as objective truth, though I do think the claim of ‘alternative facts’ in some quarters is cynical and tenuous at the very least.  Anyway, bottom line, or more accurately top line on this occasion is that my Brooks Bra was in situ at Bushy parkrun last Saturday.

It was pretty cool at Bushy parkrun, but that’s another (long) story, however, suffice to say it was brilliant winter sunshine, ice underfoot but the warmth of a mass descent by Tralee parkrunners on Tour was surely enough to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.  As part of their migration to Bushy parkrun, they were going to greet my mum – celebrity honorary parkrun marshal of Elisabeth’s corner fame – and that point is significant later on, because it meant that I maybe didn’t test my bra to its full workout potential, don’t worry though, there’ll be other runs.

Anyway, you are distracting me. Where was I?  Oh yes, Saturday morning, and I eyed my Brooks bra with some suspicion.  It has considerable heft, and even looks like some sort of alien life form all of its own.  After the heave ho shenanigans whilst trying the darned thing on I was hoping I’d allowed enough time to wrestle my way into it and still make the start line in good time to greet my Irish friends.

In case you haven’t been concentrating, this is the Brooks Juno Sports Bra, it is available in different colours apparently, but I was given the one in black as a sample to try. Frankly though, I’m so desperate for a decent sports bra, if and when I find one that does the job, I don’t care what colour it comes in. It could have sequins and pom poms and a guard of honour of a hundred unicorns escorting me at all times whilst wearing it and I wouldn’t even notice, let alone query it, I’d be so transfixed by its supportive and cosseting properties.  To be fair, if I did notice, that would be quite a cool range of accessories though I don’t know if that’s in Brooks production plans just at the moment.  If I can’t have a hundred unicorns I’d settle for one, or maybe a pair of dragons. Either would be fine…  I suppose if it went for branding along the lines of ‘Make America Great Again’ that would be taking things a bit too far and I’d have to bow out at that stage,  but I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I don’t think that’s a planned initiative either.  Really hoping not.

This is how the Brooks Juno gets described on their website:

Juno £40 – £5040.00GBP
High Impact
For women who prefer a controlled fit, our best-selling racer back powerhouse has it all — it’s the ultimate in support and shape with a customizable fit

Now normally, I’d run a mile (ironically) from a racer back, because unless you have staff on hand to assist you daily I can’t imagine how anyone can get into them.  This bra has a cunning design though,  so that  although the racing back style is present, you still have a bra strap to do up to the correct tightness after you’ve got the darned thing over your head, so that requires considerably less contortion than the ‘usual’ racer back.  You pull it over your head, do up the underband and then finally lob the shoulder straps, which are loose, over your shoulders a few times until you’ve succesfully wrangled them, and then you just slip them through a hole at the front and can tighten them to the required tension.

The wrestling the bra over my head bit was way less stressful this time out.  Turns out, it’s a hell of a lot easier to achieve this physical feat when you have a whole room to thrash about it, as opposed to the rather restrictive confines of a bijou running shop changing room.  Basically, you just hoik the underband into position and then do up the catch as you would on a conventional bra.

 

 

So far, so good.

Of course that is only half the battle.  Then you have the straps flailing about.  It is a genuinely good idea that these are hanging loose, as it does make it a lot easier to get into the darned thing. However, a consequence of this design decision is you have to work out a way to propel the straps back over your shoulder to the front so you can slip them through the hole and fasten the little velcro strap to the appropriate tightness to give the security required, thus:

front strap

I suppose there is a knack to this too, albeit one I have yet to acquire, I basically let gravity do the work and leaned forwards until I had the straps dangling to my prow and then you can reach for them and loop them through.  It was easier than I remembered.  I’m not sure what my actual maximum heart rate was whilst dressing, as I had forgotten to set my Polar watch going, but you know what, I’m going to do that next time just to see, it can be incredibly stressful getting into a sports bra unaided, would be interesting to see if that does typically end up being the most strenuous part of any work out.  We’ll all have to wait and see.  Actually, getting off a sweaty sports bra is even harder, I know of at least one friend who confided in me that they had a brilliantly supportive bra that they’d ended up jettisoning, because after they ran in it they were trapped in it mid removal, helpless until someone (I can’t remember if it was a fellow runner, passer by, known family member or a paramedic) came and offered outside assistance to free them.  That ended up in the bin.  It just seems ridiculous that, for better or worse human kind has put people on the moon and into space, yet for many of us a functional sports bra seems to remain elusive.   …  This bra, does pass the putting it on unaided test, which is a good thing.  I don’t know if that design is unique to Brooks, but I hadn’t seen it before.

Just in case you are in any doubt. These photos are not of me.  It’s much more of a performance and test of character when I’m getting ensconced in my breast armour than these models seem to be experiencing.  I have always had the good foresight not to allow photographers to be present whilst I’m dressing, but strongly suspect my expression would be somewhat other than serene during my attiring manoeuvres.  That model does look extraordinarily pleased with herself for being able to successfully operate a velcro fastening though does she not?  I can’t make up my mind whether I find that annoying, and patronising because being able to dress yourself independently is quite a modest life goal and the picture suggests this woman is pleasantly surprised to find herself smart enough to operate velcro without outside help, or whether it reflects accurately the degree of challenge presented by most sports bra, so hence her relief and delight is not only palpable but proportionate in this instance. You’ll need to decide for yourself.

Once on, I remain somewhat undecided about what to make of the bra.  It feels erm, rather substantial.  It claims not to be padded, but rather ‘cushioned’ I don’t know what the difference is.  Because it doesn’t have differentiated breast cups in the way say my current shock absorber does (it describes itself as ‘unicup’ a bit of vocab that is new to me) it is comfy, but I didn’t feel all that supported.  Now this might be a question of what you are used to.  I’m used to feeling a bit more squished in.  My initial reaction to being less squished is that surely this bra would allow for too much movement for comfort.  Granted, bras that squish you in aren’t comfortable, but you do at least feel like nothing is going to shift.

crush your boobs

Actually, it can be positively uncomfortable in honesty, but less movement. The Brooks is much more comfortable than my current shock absorber, but I’m not sure I felt really held in place.  Maybe I’m not used to the style, maybe the cup size isn’t quite right for me. Hmm.

Anyway, off I trotted to Bushy parkrun with my perforated unicup design purporting to give me shape and modesty.  It definitely gives modesty, I felt like I had a futon strapped to my front, and it does give shape, just not necessarily a desirable one. However, I am at the point I don’t care too much any more about whether a bra is flattering or not – won’t lie, it would be great if it was  – but much more precious is whether it is functional for sporting use.

What I would say is that I very quickly forgot I was wearing it. If  I consciously thought about the bra, I did feel that it was still allowing a bit too much jiggling for my liking, but in truth whilst I was running, I wasn’t aware of any excessive movement at all and it is definitely a comfy bra, and I like the racing strap for security.  I was also a bit dubious about whether a velcro fitting would be strong enough to stay in place once I got going, but that didn’t move at all once fastened, and the velcro strip is long enough you have quite a bit of choice as to your preferred fitting.  Result.

In terms of my ‘run’ well, it was a bit of a special day at Bushy parkrun, because a huge contingent had come over from Tralee parkrun in Ireland and they had kindly brought some birthday cards for my mum in recognition of her recent ninetieth birthday, which they gave to her mid run. She is an honorary marshal/ parkrun celebrity who sits and cheers parkrunners at the 2.5 km point on the course.  Obviously, I stopped to say hello, and then got chatting with other parkrunners of all possible running clubs and parkrun event denominations as they too paused for selfies, birthday wishes whatever.  The upshot was I ended up pausing here, and only starting up again to finish off the route with the tail walkers, which was highly social and a lot of fun, but not really a proper test of my Brooks bra.

Nice selection of parkrun pics though:

 

 

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You can see why it took a while… paused there.

So basically, I only really ran 2.5 km and then just did a stop/ start walk /run to the finish.  I had a lovely time, which was fine and dandy, but got an all time pw (personal worst) and record breakingly high number finish token to boot!  Yes, I do indeed belong to parkrun. Isn’t that lovely!

DSCF7399

But it wasn’t a proper full on run test.  I did power walk about 7 miles in total, and the bra was comfy for that. It claims to have ‘breathable cups’ with (warning, another made-up word fast approaching) ‘drilayer fabric’ and ‘chafe-free bonded seams’.  Now, you need to put this in context of it being  a minus a squillion degrees out there, however I was wearing a lot of layers.  It didn’t chafe, and yeah, maybe I didn’t run all that much, but another professionally fitted underwired sports bra I tried onec had my boobs bleeding, literally, within 30 minutes of first wearing, so full marks for this one for not only not drawing blood, but also for leaving no permanent scaring and even being seemingly comfy.  Not a bad hat trick to pull.

Further more, this bra did indeed feel like it stayed pretty dry, so maybe the breathable unicup drilayer fabric thing has some merit despite its stupid pseudo scientific nomenclature –  and I basically forgot all about the trauma of trying out a new bra. So, my intermediate impression is that this is a bra that merits being worn again, and on a ‘proper run’ which is way further up the food chain than most bras I try get to venture.  It’s still in the running (see what I did there) as a potentially really good sports bra.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love it, yet, but I am open minded about it, and it could yet be a significant improvement on my Shock Absorber which I wear because it fits basically, but feels like the least worst of available options rather than an item I would evangelise about or actively like.  My plan is, to do a proper long run in the next couple of days and see if I can properly put it through it’s paces.  Before that though, there was another big test for this asset protector to pass.  The Wash Test.

One problem, I am no domestic goddess.

Now, I want to be really, really clear about some things.  Two things actually:

First, I’d never deliberately put an octopus through a wash cycle, not only because it would be a catastrophe for my smalls but also because octopuses are beautiful, intelligent and curious creatures, that can escape aquariums, use jets of water to short circuit light switches and open jars .  They have even been reported undertaking trekking holidays in Devon.  Though, for the record, I don’t believe they can forecast the result of international sporting fixtures. Well, they probably could, but why would they be interested in doing so?  Just too smart to take an interest I say.

 

 

Second: I have better things to do with my life than hand wash sports bras, yeah, yeah, I get that I’m supposed to but life is too short and used sports kit too potentially rank for me to faffing about with warm basins of gentle bubbles every time I need clean gear.  Anyone who claims religiously to do so, either has someone else to do this for them, or is lying.  All my clothing has to take it’s chances in the same wash cycle.  Even so, I concede I probably do need to refine my technique if this Brooks Bra and I are to have any conceivable future together.

So what happened is this:

Bra got chucked in with everything else on usual wash cycle, but then my wash emerged in one huge knot, not dissimilar to a rat king in fact, though with less animal matter and more polyester and spandex.

rat king

Basically, if you chuck this bra in your wash without a bit of prep then you realise too late, that basically it’s all tentacles that twist and clutch.  To be frank, I might as well have lobbed a couple of octopuses and a giant squid in with my leggings and sports tops for the Gordian knot of intertwined fabric that came out in one enormous clump at the end of the spin cycle.  Oops.  The problem is, you have not only those two loose straps each with velcro fastenings, which have enormous potential to appropriate any other items of clothing they share a washing machine drum with, but also the two loose ends of the hook clasp function as well.  What with that, and my running leggings, and my thermal tights, and my long sleeve thermal jumper and my long sleeve running top it was just one huge knot-tying party in there.  Terriffic,  NOT.  Or Terrific knot more accurately…  Very tempting to get the scissors out, or at least have a major tantrum.

This is an actual picture of my wash:

cutting the gordian knot

I was miffed with myself, although I was able to disentangle all garments eventually, it took an age.  Reluctantly, I have to concede that it would have made life a lot easier if I’d taken the precaution of re-securing the straps and doing up the back clasp before tossing it in the wash, I could even have put the boat out, and kept it separate in one of those net delicate wash baggy things.  Exasperatingly, I’m sure I’ve got one somewhere, no idea where though. Considering how expensive sports bras are, it would probably be a good investment for me to get a couple more.  Maybe, canny sports bra manufacturers would like to start giving these away as freebies to accompany a bra purchase instead of running buffs, which I’ve had as freebies over the years. I’ve got loads of running buffs now, and I do like them, but some bra wash bags would be fab.  Thank you for asking.  I’m not proud, I’d welcome a freebie! Send lots.john lewis brabantia wash bags

So I spent hours of my life I’ll never get back disentangling the contents of my wash,  so be warned.  I’ve sacrificed my time so you don’t have to.  The result was OK, but not as rewarding as rescuing squirrels from tail entanglement and super frustrating because it could have been avoided.

 

 

Afterwards, because I like to torment myself in this way, I did read the actual washing instructions. Now fair play to Brooks, they do concede that you don’t always hand wash your bras.  Hallelujah, some basic pragmatism, they suggest the following:

Care Instructions
Hand washing is ideal, but not always possible. Fasten all hooks and straps, place in a lingerie bag, and use the gentle or delicate cycle. Always line dry, and never use dryer sheets or fabric softeners—they can clog the fabric and shorten the life of the bra.

Whatever, hindsight.  Thanks.

Despite its ordeal by rat king and octopus tentacle, the actual bra seems to have emerged relatively unscathed.  I’m torn between feeling a bit guilty if I’ve trashed it through not observing the washing instructions correctly and thinking you know what, the reality for this sports bra is that’s how it’s going to be treated if it shares a life with me.  For my road testing to have any merit, I should replicate my honest care routine otherwise what’s the point.  Precisely dear reader.  None whatsoever.

The plan now is to let it air dry, and then I’ll don it again for a long and harder run as soon as I get a day when I don’t have to stay in for hours waiting for builders or painters or whatever it is.  It will be genuinely interesting to see what I make of it second time out.

So in conclusion?

I’m reserving judgement, I can put it on unaided, it’s comfy when worn and seems to have survived my less than idealised laundry routine.  It didn’t get me a PB at parkrun, but I suppose I might have to meet my bra half way and actually make an effort to try to run a bit faster through voluntarily moving my legs more quickly to make that a thing in my world again.  The bra hasn’t caused any chafing as yet and it shows promise.  On the less positive side, it seems very bulky, isn’t very flattering and I don’t quite feel supported. … then again the only times I ever do is if I run with one breast cupped in each hand, and I have resorted to that technique on occasion.   I am not alone in this.  FACT.

running bust

Maybe if I could have some sort of genetic modification to enable me to  sprout a couple of extra arms purely for boob holding purposes whilst running – detachable ones would be even better – then that would be fine and dandy and problem solved.  Alternatively, it may be I need to tweak my cup size, though I don’t think so, the fit is good.  Maybe it’s a question of racheting up the tightness on the shoulder straps instead.  Upshot, I’ll stick with it for now and keep it all under review.  Watch this space, or not, it’s up to you.

Also this, can’t resist:

The ladies’ bras – not yet something to sing about, but one day… meantime, who can forget this mesmerising top of the pops number?

 

That’s right.  Everyone, but not any more, it’ll stay with you for days now!

You’re welcome.

I wonder if they could do a follow up on sports bras specifically, if I do get one that truly works, I’ll definitely be up for singing about it!

‘Til next time, hold onto your assets and run, run I say!  And don’t forget to report back with your experiences.  This woman’s bra seems pretty solidly in place, but I can’t help thinking she should maybe look where she’s going a bit more.  Then again, maybe she’s running away from someone playing a medley version of The Ladies’ Bras on a mouth organ or accompanied by ukuleles or something, and you’d need to keep your wits about you and your eyes on your pursuer to stay safe in those circumstances.  This is why we should support one another, and respect each others running choices, you never really know someone’s circumstances do you. So don’t judge, just run!

Run-E-Cop-HoldingShot-920x613

For all my comments on Brooks Bras see here – scroll down for older entries

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest – the quest for a perfect sports bra

Digested read:  I’m trying out a new sports bra, a Brooks Juno to be specific, and provided as a freebie conditional on me giving feedback to them about what I make of it.  Oh don’t  fret, I will.  We only got introduced today, so it’s early days, but I will run out in hope (literally potentially, Hope isn’t that far away) and report back in due course

Undigested read: this is how it all began

I’m hardly a digital influencer, but then again, if that means I can duck the pressure and desperation that might otherwise compel me to have Harry Styles tattoed on my face that can be only a good thing.  I mean really, how desperate would you have to be?  It really is taking attention seeking to a whole new level.

kelsey harry face tattoo

So, enough about her, anyway disappointingly, she didn’t even do it, it was all just a publicity stunt – fake news, such a shame it would have been way more fun if she’d been permanently disfigured, oh well.  Anyway, let’s get’s back to all about me.  Today has been quite exciting, for lots of reasons.  Specifically:

  1. Anticipation of snow (I’ve got mixed feelings about that one to be honest, but it’s still exciting).  Mainly so far this has  taken the form of it being unbearably bitterly cold and exceedingly wet sleet under foot
  2. I am now in possession of a new polar watch which is cleverer than me, but could be a boon to my future training sessions
  3. I am officially a sponsored athlete! (sort of) – despite not being an actual digital influencer, so it just shows dear reader, that miracles can happen (but not the one about the perfect bra)

The watch thing has been brewing since last summer.  My dearly beloved TomTom just doesn’t have the battery life I need now I’m looking at longer distances.  I mean in fairness, it probably would for most people, but I’m so slow it just bales on me.  I find this quite traumatic. I’ve loved my TomTom, we’ve shared all my running milestones and adventures from early parkruns (didn’t have a watch when I very first started) to the London Marathon, and the first third of my first (and to date only) ultra.    It feels like an act of betrayal to be retiring it.  Still, it had to happen, and today was the day.  I’ve gone for a Polar Vantage purely on the battery life (30 hours), it has way more functionality than I really need, but so far dear reader, I can report that it’s a hit!  I’ve only worn it for one walk back from the running shop and I’m already alarmingly entranced by graphs about my heart rate, and somewhat miffed by it’s slightly dismissive summary of my efforts.

This watch will leave me nowhere to hide.  When I first had a go with the settings in the shop it queried whether I really wanted to record this (by implication) pitiful level of activity with the incredulous phrasing of  ‘save this short training’ ?  You can feel its contempt.  My TomTom wasn’t passive aggressive in this way, then again, it never talked to me at all.   The Polar is also lamenting the fact that I’ve not done enough today for it to really draw any conclusions about anything.  ‘not enough data to show status’ it says.  I think me and my Polar will have a more purposeful relationship, and it will probably hold me accountable which is good for training purposes, but I feel in casting aside my TomTom I’ve lost a bit of my joyful running innocence too.  My TomTom was my unfailingly supportive, shared fun times, running buddy whereas I think my Polar Vantage is more of a critical friend.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it all feels a bit more serious.  We shall see.  Exciting though…  Still, further commentary on this is for another time.

Onto item three.  Yes, that’s right!  I am officially a sponsored athlete.  Well, sort of. I’ve got a free bra to review, but you have to start somewhere.  A sports bra, specifically a Brooks Juno Sports Bra.  I got an invite to go down to my local running shop and pick one up, conditional on me giving some feedback about it…  Ha ha.   I feel a bit sorry for the Brooks rep, he has (as yet) no idea how opinionated I can be on the subject of sports bras, and how comprehensive my feedback on the topic will therefore be.   There is just sooooooooooooooooooooooo very much I want to get off my chest about bras in general and sports bras in particular.  Bring.  It.  On!  After all, it would surely constitute  contributory negligence on his part if he feels overwhelmed by it, just shows, you should be careful what you wish for and even more cautious in stating that desire out loud.

So the email came, and I’m not going to lie, my first reaction was to think ‘yay, a freebie’ and then my second reaction was to feel highly dubious there’d be anything at all I’d be able to test drive.  I went to a Brooks Bra fitting once before, a couple of years ago and at a different shop.  Despite me having said in advance that I required a larger than average cup size when I went there was absolutely nothing to accommodate me, with the biggest size available being a D cup.  A D cup FFS!  Whilst there are many svelte runners out there, there are a fair few of us with more ample assets in dire need of brassieres that will banish the bounce.  It was not only humiliating but made me increasingly angry.  I felt like a freak of nature.   And was in tears by the time I got home, of frustration more than anything else.  There was a whole presentation about how essential it was that women have proper support when exercising which I found incredibly patronising, I KNOW, this is why I am forever on the quest for a perfect bra, one that supports, doesn’t chafe and isn’t too horribly sweaty.  I’ve given up on flattering, that’s never going to happen.  Also, one that I can put on unaided.  Many sports bras seem to assume you have a team of staff on hand to dress you of a morning, FYI, astonishing as it may seem, I don’t.  So, top tip for all bra manufacturers, it isn’t giving a lecture on the importance of wearing a decent bra that will sell your product to me, it’s providing a bra that actually fits.   Why is that so hard for many bra manufacturers to grasp?  Whilst I was partially pacified by a complementary prosecco and a discount on some road shoes, I was still spitting tacks.  The average woman’s cup size in the UK is often cited as a D or double D – and if that’s the average it surely follows some will be bigger as well as some smaller.  It just seems such a cop out for sports bra manufacturers to claim they have amazing sports bras when they can only accommodate cup sizes A – C  that doesn’t seem to me to be such an engineering challenge, yet judging from the conversations I have with my female friends, a decent bra eludes us all…

sports bra problems

I feel sports bra manufacturers are decades behind what they could be offering, Bravissimo was a game changer for me and many other women I think …  what sports companies might learn from their approach.

Inspiring big boobed women to feel amazing!
Since Bravissimo was founded in 1995, our mission has remained the same: to inspire women with big boobs to feel amazing, to celebrate our figures and to offer a wide choice of beautiful styles to uplift big boobed women in every way!

Not sure that Bravissimo products actually made me feel amazing, but they did at least stop me from feeling like a freak of nature, as when they came on the scene it was the first time I’d ever had a bra that actually fitted.   I spent an absolute fortune with them the first time I visited their shop and binned every other bra I owned.  Bravissimo was a significant step in the right direction.

Every silver lining has a cloud though.  Confidence was quickly overtaken by public humiliation as is so often the way…. I was so keen on Bravissimo as a company, that I used the women who set it up and their business success as a ‘real life’ example for a lecture I was delivering on entrepreneurship to a group of about 300 undergraduate engineering students.  My logic was that it would be could to have some women to use as role models alongside the usual cliches of successful entrepreneurs like – at that time – Richard Branson and James Dyson.  Plus, I was working at Coventry University at the time, and Bravissimo started in Leamington Spa, just round the corner.  Local too.  Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong?  On reflection, uttering the phrase ‘their, genius, was in identifying and exploiting a gap in the market to cater for bigger breasted women such as myself‘ to this audience that was comprised of about 98% male youths was possibly not my wisest hour.   Still, that’s how you learn isn’t it.  Also, alas, doesn’t even close to my most embarrassing moment, not by a country mile, but those stories are for another time.

After all, even this svelte marathon runner said running for 19 miles carrying a puppy with her made running  feel twice as hard.   You missed that story?  Where have you been?  Basically:

Runner Khemjira Klongsanun was seven miles into the Chombueng marathon in Ratchaburi, Western Thailand, when she saw runners dodging a puppy. Stopping at the side of the road, Klongsanun attempted to coax the trembling puppy over to her.

With no houses nearby, Klongsanun concluded that the pup must have been abandoned. Rather than leaving it behind, she carried it for the next 19-miles, crossing the finish line with the pup in her arms.

and she added – wisely

“Running almost 20 miles carrying dog was truly a challenge. It was two times tiring than a normal marathon but I did it anyway just because he is adorable.

I’m sure it was a challenge, easily two times harder than a normal marathon. So imagine what it’s like carrying my two puppies with me on my long runs?  And they aren’t anything like as adorable as an abandoned actual puppy, so yep, it can be a problem.  Also, look at the state of the poor pup after being bounced around for 19 + miles.  No wonder many women get put off running by lack of suitable boob support.  Hence my fantasy about one day having my own bespoke sports bra that meets all my criteria, and which saves the work out for the run rather than elevating the heart rate to an alarming degree just trying to get the damned thing on!

Hmmm, I’m still not sure I ever have, but I’ll keep an open mind.

Anyway, this is why I was very keen to try out a sports bra freebie, even if I wasn’t massively confident it would be up to the task in hand.  You have to try these things.

So, went down to Front Runner.  And was greeted by the enthusiastic Brooks Bra rep.  He actually does bras and shoes, but this was a bra day.  The bra in question was the Brooks Juno, which apparently retails from £40 – £50.  It is apparently High Impact and ‘For women who prefer a controlled fit, our best-selling racerback powerhouse has it all — it’s the ultimate in support and shape with a customizable fit.’  Well, we shall see.

brooks bra front

So first things first, the rep tried to talk me through a set piece on why it’s so important for women to have a correctly fitting sports bra.  I must admit I was a bit impatient about this.  See above. I know exactly what the issues are, I am on a perpetual quest for the elusive holy grail of a well fitted sports bra.  However, credit where credit is due, after I’d rolled my eyes at this, the speech was truncated and we cut to the chase.

Now, I’m just going to be honest about this, because it is only fair to be so. The rep was very good, clearly knew his product and is sufficiently experienced to be apparently devoid of embarrassment whilst discussing cup sizes, bra fitting and the relative merits of the various options on offer.  However, I’m not sure I was entirely comfortable having a man doing the fitting.  I think it’s just that bras are an emotive issue, and I think that there is something about the lived experience of running in an ill-fitting bra, the shame of not being able to wrestle in to one, the body shaming that seems to go hand in hand with the impractical, seemingly misogynistic, styles presented so often that are literally, not just figuratively impossible to get into on your own, that I just don’t know if it is possible to empathise with if you haven’t been through it.  I did ask him if he’d ever actually tried to put on a bra.  Well he had, but only over a T-shirt and frankly, whilst I fully accept moobs are a thing he wasn’t in possession of them, barely an A cup.  Now I’m quite shallow, and also quite desperate for a bra, so I got over my concerns pretty fast as a necessary hurdle to obtain the test vehicle on offer, but there’s no doubting it could be a barrier for many.  It may be though, it isn’t even necessarily a gender thing.  I’m mindful that this experience was way more positive than my last Brooks Bra Fitting disaster which was with an extremely petite, androgynously shaped  and youthful woman, who (I’m sure unintentionally) made me feel like an entirely different life form to her.  I said I was worried about them not having my size, and she assured me they were a very responsive company catering for all sizes ‘up to a D cup even!’ and then looked horror struck and aghast when I pointed out what I’d have thought was self evident to a bra fitter worth their mustard,  that I’m often busting out of a F if it’s a mean cup fitting.  She looked embarrassed on my behalf and then frankly disgusted. It was a horrible experience.  I would credit the fitter on this occasion with being less judgmental, more sympathetic and honestly very sincere and helpful.  but I don’t think either of the fitters I’ve encountered could speak from personal experience.  Back to Bravissimo, all of their fitters are candidates for the products they sell, that inspired not only confidence, but grateful relief. Finally a fitter that understands me!  There is such a gap in the sports manufacturing market for women with any kind of curves let alone an actual rack up front.

The next challenge was being given a tape measure and heading off to the little telephone box sized changing room to measure my ‘rib cage’ (are there ribs under there somewhere?) and then the widest part of my chest.  You can measure over your current bra he said, but I’m not convinced as if that isn’t a decent fit you’ll just replicate that error surely?  In any event,  I was wearing a sports bra anyway (my current one is a rather worn out Shock Absorber) so the suggestion was to measure without anything on up top.  This is not in and of itself a challenging task, but my those changing rooms are hard to manoeuvre around in. There is a large square pouffe thing which takes up most of the floor space, and then a free hanging full length mirror I ended up squashed up against, and I seemed to keep crashing into it as I tried to get the blooming tape measure round, and I hadn’t got my glasses with me and my it was hard to read those numbers off the tape without them.  Maybe if they are going to have male sales reps, which is fair enough, and I don’t dispute they know their products, but perhaps encourage women coming for one of their mass bra fitting evenings to buddy up so they can help measure each other.  Have the prosecco first too maybe!

phone box

Interestingly, the size he came up with for me based on my measurements,  was the same as that for the Shock Absorber model I came wearing.  One was found for me in black (all the samples were black, but there do seem to be a wide range of pretty cool colours on the website which was a pleasant surprise, though I doubt the average running shop would be able to carry such a wide range.)  I liked the purple, which I was told is actually midnight blue or something.  Errant nonsense on their part obviously, but don’t worry the important thing is the colour was fab.

My first impression of the bra  though, as it was handed to me, was its heft. Although described as ‘unpadded’ – I later read they call it ‘cushioned’ it was extraordinarily thickened fabric, almost like slapping a memory foam mattress on your chest.  I’m not sure what to make of this.  I’m quite self-conscious about my bust size as it is, and this bra initially felt like I was nailing a figurehead to the front of ship with an already substantial bow!   A whole new category of buxomness was in danger of being sported here.  I mean, I know it needs to be pretty substantial to offer support, but this is fairly unforgiving in form.  Still, if it works, I’ve always known a flattering bra is a hope too far.  Maybe I need to channel my inner figurehead, these women are not apologetic about their physiques, though at least one of them is looking pretty pissed off, and clearly having similarly failed to find any suitable corselette is going commando. Good for her, why shouldn’t she, why shouldn’t we indeed, desperate times call for desperate measures..

Anyway, I was duly dispatched back to the changing room to try it on.  Oh my gawd. It has quite novel fittings, which in theory should make it easier to get on, but it was unfamiliar.  This was like doing a personal challenge on the krypton factor.  The challenge required a cool head, stamina and intelligence as well as physical agility.

This bra has a racing back, but with a twist.  The band that goes under your boobs actually includes an eye and hook fastening  on that bra strap as well, meaning it can be put on without being at maximum tightness which is very good news.  Also, the shoulder straps are unattached to the front, so you can therefore hoik the bra over your head before tightening everything up once your breasts are in situ.  Blimey, what a performance.  I’m surprised they didn’t send a rescue party in to see what had happened to me.  Bet they were thinking about it, but just probably panicking about the etiquette of who to send in first.  The problem was the dimensions of the changing room. You need quite a bit of flailing around space to get into a sports bra, and this changing room was most definitely not bigger on the inside. How superman manages to twirl round in a phone box and emerge in his cape and all I can’t imagine.  I mean it probably helps that he has super powers, but I bet he wouldn’t be able to do that if he had to include donning a sports bra as part of his wardrobe.

1940s-PhoneBooth

There was much cursing under my breath, breaking out into hot and cold sweats and crashing into the mirror going on.  Another top tip for shops selling sports bras, is have a changing room big enough for women to contort themselves into the required shapes that pulling on a sports bra necessitates.  For this one, once you have it over your head and done up (relatively OK because of the design, which yes, is innovative) the next step is to some how hurl the straps that are now dangling down your back, so they hook back over your shoulders.  Eventually I worked out the way to do this is to lean forward and reach up and grab the straps from over your shoulders and then pull them over and hook through where they fasten with velcro.  I liked the velcro fastening option by the way, it feels like it will stay put, which was surprising, and allows you to alter the strap length with ease.  I didn’t look anything like as serene as this model whilst dressing.  I was all blotchy skin, fine film of sweat, bedraggled hair and blood shot eyes by the time I was safely in.  I emerged from the changing room looking like I’d done ten rounds with a mountain lion, only with me the mountain lion won.  Good really though, got to be sad about the demise of an endangered species whatever the provocation.

_105492823_gettyimages-1061398502 mountain lion

Oh well.  Practice makes perfect possibly … perhaps …

The bra definitely has some interesting features, but I’m not yet sure the extent to which they will deliver on promises, plus it is still a ridiculous performance to get it on unaided first time of trying.  It’s no wonder so many women are put off from ever starting running.  It’s a complete fantasy that you just cheerily pull on your shoes and off you go, all carefree and at one with the world…

Once on, first impressions were, that the under strap was a good fit and overall it felt comfy.  I wasn’t sure about the level of support though.  It has a unicup rather than a separate cup for each breast, and I felt this leaves more potential for movement.  I’m used to feeling more held in place.  On the other hand, there is less extra fabric strips as in the Shock Absorber so it feels smoother against the skin. I queried the fit, but the rep said that these bras might just feel different as they are supposed to support you without squishing you, so maybe it is a question of getting used to it.  I did try a smaller cup size, which I consider was pretty tenacious of me, as getting the darned things on and off it is a mighty deterrent to trying all over again. This is why I could never do triathlon, all that faffing around and changing of gear.  Oh, yes and I’ve remembered the other reason I can’t do triathlon, I can barely swim and I have none of the required fitness, and also it has zero appeal, but other than that, it’s the faffing around with changing that puts me off.

To those who have not been through this process, it might sound improbable, but by the time I’d got the smaller cup size on and off, and back to the original again I had no idea which was the better fit. The smaller cup size was too restrictive, but the larger one has so much fabric to it.  In the end, as it’s a trial, I went with the size that is the same as my existing bra, and I’ll see how it goes.  Fair play to the Brooks rep he was very patient and did seem to understand the issues, but the real test comes when I’m out and running does it not…

First impressions then. Well, some interesting features, it was still a struggle to get into but it was doable, whereas I’ve tried other sports bras that I could hardly get over my head.  The fabric feels soft and I like that you can adjust the straps with ease.  I do find the absolute bulk of it off putting, and weirdly because it’s comfy on, it makes me doubt whether it will provide sufficient support. I think it’s fair to say it isn’t love at first sight, but then again, I’d be the first to admit that I’m so jaded by my forty plus years of trying to get a bra that fits I’m highly doubtful anything will do the job however supposedly ‘new’ or ‘innovative’.  Having said that, I am quite looking forward to trying it out on an actual run, I want to be proved wrong on this.

Calvin-and-Hobbes-Running

The good news is that the request for feedback appears genuine, and I really do welcome that.  I wonder if some sports companies are guilty of getting feedback in an echo chamber, if they only provide bras for smaller cup sizes then of course there will be no demand for larger ones, because they don’t sell them.  And I think those of us with more generous proportions are of course going to have different requirements to others.  So we’ll see.

Here’s to new bounce-free bounding across the [parkrun trails and my beautiful backyard peaks.

out on the trails

What do you reckon dear reader?  Worth a punt?  Will I end up casting off all my existing bras in favour of this new offer?

Honestly, right now I have no idea.  No idea at all.

Oh, by the way, quick plug for ‘Smalls for All‘ if you dear reader are also sorting your bras and ditching the ones you know you should never have bought in the first place, and jettisoning all that don’t fit in favour of a newly discovered comfy and practical option then why not consider gifting any that are ‘lightly worn’ to have a new life with the beneficiaries of Smalls for all.

Would be great if Sports Bra manufacturers could organise bra amnesties and collect clean lightly worn bras from their customers who are persuaded to move over to their particular products and ditch their own kits….

smalls for all

Smalls for All is a Scottish Charity which collects and distributes underwear to help women and children in Africa. We help those living in orphanages, slums, IDP camps and schools, as well as providing underwear to hospitals to help those suffering from medical conditions like obstetric fistula.

If you’d like to donate underwear, here’s the brief – All you have to do is buy a packet of ladies’ or children’s pants and send them to us. They must be new and while we collect all sizes, those we need the most are for children aged 3-15 or ladies size 8-14. And while we collect all colours, the ladies’ pants in greatest demand are black – in full brief, midi, mini or high leg (in the smaller sizes).

We also accept new or ‘gently worn’ bras which can be any size, including sports and nursing bras, but not teen, cropped-top style or bikini tops. (By ‘gently worn’ we mean bras that are in good condition and still have good wear left in them.)

Please send your smalls to:

Smalls for All
108 Buchanan Crescent
Eliburn, Livingston, EH54 7EF
United Kingdom

Please enclose your email address so that we can acknowledge safe receipt of your donation.

Or you can order online

We’ve set up an Amazon wish list for new pants, so you can order online and have them delivered directly to Smalls for All if that’s easier. Go to our Amazon wish list.

Just a thought.

So there we go. Glad to have got all that off my chest so to speak.  I did warn them I could be very opinionated and candid on this topic, I expect the nice people at Brooks will be completely thrilled!

feedback

Be careful what you ask for…

For all my comments on Brooks Bras see here – scroll down for older entries

 

 

Categories: running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pants to Running – in celebration of Runderwear

It’s pants!   They’ve come.  After much procrastination, I finally got round to ordering some and now they are here, look:

dscf0416

I am a committed athlete.  This is official, and the evidence is here for all to see.  I am now in possession of my newly purchased Runderwear, and it says on the box VERY CLEARLY INDEED that basically, if you are anything less than a committed athlete, it would be not just irresponsible, but dangerous to wear them.  When marketing companies talk about being a ‘committed athlete‘ that’s pretty much synonymous with being ‘enormously talented and accomplished’ mostly.  I mean, to be fair, we all have our off days, and some of us (well OK, me for example) might be working towards being ‘enormously talented and accomplished’ rather than actual secure in that status just yet, but basically, now I have my go-faster, no-chaffing runderwear, my running credentials are secured in perpetuity.  Have pants, will run!  ‘Don’t stop me now as I’m having a good time‘ (as the song says, though granted it doesn’t differentiate between type 1 and type 2 fun).

dscf0419

Sooo, obviously, excited and delighted to be in receipt of my new runderwear, next challenge was to give them a literal and metaphorical test run.  I began by just wearing my pants around the house.  They are ‘low rise hipsters‘, according to the label on the box,  though the company seem to take it on trust that you are qualified to wear them.  I personally don’t have a full beard, though I do have an arrangement with many female friends to come and visit me at my hospital bed with tweezers to sort out my rogue chin hairs if ever I end up in a coma.  A living will of sorts in fact.  I also got a pair of ‘briefs’ and an ordinary ‘hipster’, so I could work out which style of runderwear I liked the best, but, honestly, they look very similar to me.  They don’t come with any instructions so I put them on the wrong way round at first (surely that nice star logo should be at the front), but I got there in the end without outside assistance, so I’m sure you will too.  Don’t be scared.

They are all however super-comfy.  I wont lie, they aren’t the most flattering of undergarments I’ve ever worn (and I have worn some shockers in my time), but they do feel lovely.  Anyway, who’s going to see them apart from other runners who are taking a professional interest in such matters? –  and flashing your pants at fellow athletes at the start of parkrun say, is perfectly respectable.   Personally, I’ve never risked running commando, but I’d say these really do feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all down under (pants wise, I still wore my running leggings on top).  I think these pants and I are going to be friends. Runderwear Ambassador, you weren’t lying, these could indeed change my life!  For this I thank you.  Sorry it took me so long to see the light.  Here is a photo of our local Runderwear ambassador in action, you can really see how having the correct pants helps with running technique here.

runderwear ambassador.jpg

I had been toying with doing the last Trunce of the season in any case, but these newly arrived knickers had me chomping at the proverbial bit to get out there and run and see how they would fare put through their paces.  I can truthfully say I haven’t been so excited to be in possession of new pants since Independence Day 1999! (Pretentious reference coming up alert).

I was on holiday in Peru when I availed myself of a local laundry service.  Because I’d been travelling for a while, I handed over all my sordid clothing in one huge heap to a local woman for washing.  And I mean, all of it, I kept back only what I was wearing throwing caution to the wind.  The following day, it all came back, beautifully cleaned, ironed and folded and I paid the requisite fee.  It was only when I started going through it all, I realised that every single pair of my faded and tatty M&S knickers was missing.  I was left only with the pair I stood up in.  Even at the time I found this hilarious.  Frankly, if someone was desperate enough to want to keep my knickers I could not begrudge them this, but it did lead to a practical challenge in terms of replacing them.  The quest to buy knickers clarified why my M&S cheap and cheerfuls might have been so highly prized.  Knickers were nowhere to be found.  It was several days later before I finally came across a three pack in a market in some other Peruvian town.  They literally, had my name on!  I was soooooooooooo excited.   I had to have them.  I can’t remember now what they cost, but I do remember they were lemon yellow and had no elastic so were essentially completely useless.  Wouldn’t have been any good running say, but they brought me much joy, as you can see.  No it isn’t a picture of me wearing them, don’t be silly.

knickers-in-peru

Actually, that’s the only thing that would have made me like my Runderwear delivery more, having my name emblazoned on the outside of every pack as an integral part of the packaging design.  It would make shopping choice for running gear so much more straightforward if the most suitable kit did always have your name on it.  I wonder when suppliers will wake up to the potential of such an innovation.

So, have pants, will run.   Test run to take place tackling the Trunce.  You’ll have to wait for my next post to find out how both they and I fared… Ooooh the excitement, the anticipation.  I know, who’d have thought it only took some new knickers to refresh and refocus my running ambitions.  Just goes to show – Top Tip everyone  – the secret of continuing to run is understanding what motivates you.  For me, today, it was discovering for myself the joyful potential of runderwear!

I know, who’d have thought it eh?

Categories: motivation, running | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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