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Choosing a Sports Bra and Triathlon Shorts

June 17, 2009

When looking for women’s triathlon clothing, the sports bra and triathlon shorts are the best place to start but probably the trickiest to select.  Primary considerations for selection are:
1.    Material
2.    Fit
3.    Support
4.    Comfort

After finding a match for these considerations, then choose style and design.

Material
Stay away from cotton and look for technical fabrics.  Cotton based fabrics tend to absorb and hold onto the moisture and water and can rub and chafe the skin during activity. Cotton may not fit the body as close and comfortable as technical fabrics, like polyester and spandex that wick away sweat and fit different body types more closely creating a more comfortable racing and training experience.

Fit
Many women I know select clothing that looks attractive according to the color and design.  As long as it fits “just okay” in the store or looks good in the magazine or website they will buy it.  However, if the fit of the triathlon short or sport bra does not feel comfortable or it does not compliment your body type and provide support it's a bad idea to buy.  That cute pink leopard print sports bra that hurts your chest when you run in it or the pretty silver and lavender triathlon shorts that squeeze your thighs too tightly will sit in a drawer or closet after one uncomfortable experience.  In order to find out if a sports bra or triathlon shorts fit correctly, try on different brands and be sure to ask other female athletes with a similar body shape to your own what brands fit them best.  

The Sports Bra – Support and Comfort

Women's common complaints about tops are:
Triathlon tops, jerseys and sports bras don't give me enough support and I have to double up on bras.” 
I can't find a sport bra that fits me right and the straps hurt my shoulders.”  

Comfort and support are key!

There are many bike shops, tri and running stores that sell a variety of sports bras but don't settle for a sports bar if you don't feel 100% comfortable after trying it on.  Look for a store with a large selection of sport bras for women of all different shapes and sizes.  Fabrics should wick away sweat and you can find styles that you can wear under casual or work outfits too.  

Ask about the return for policy.  Good companies will allow you to return the bra if you are not happy even if purchased on-line.

Two companies that I like are Title Nine and Athletica.

Triathlon (Tri) Shorts – Comfort

Most common complaints I hear about tri shorts: 
It looks I am wearing a diaper.”
They fit so tight that it squeezes my leg fat and I feel uncomfortable.”  

How should tri shorts fit?  The bottoms of the tri short should not squeeze the legs tightly.  Look for a thin pad that provides enough comfort for long rides but without the bulky appearance of a diaper.  Seams along the hips, crotch and thigh areas provide all over support. 

Options to consider for shorts include high or low rise and shorter or longer length to accommodate  different body types and preferences.  Companies may offer special bike short for longer rides with a thicker pad without looking like you are wearing a diaper.  Many cycle specific shorts are even cutting down on the sham size because it does not provide more comfort according to many female cyclists and triathletes.  Once you have fit and comfort, then choose color and design.   You will love to train in a bottom that just feels good.

Two companies that I like for their shorts is De Soto Sports  and Zoot Sports.

Summary
When searching for your next triathlon outfit, remember that how clothing fits and feels to your body is the key.  You will feel and look better when you choose a sport bra and triathlon short that fits your body type, rather than trying to fit your body into a size or color you think is appealing.

Even Oprah realizes the importance of proper fit and dedicated an entire show to the fit of the bra. She concluded that when a bra fits a women's shape rather then being to tight or loose, the bra compliments her body much better by providing a smooth comfortable appearance under her clothing. Women are all different shapes and sizes and we are proportioned differently from top to bottom.  As long as we are aware of our shape, size and match the many different clothing options to our true fit and comfort level we will look and feel our best.