The Under Armour Protege for Big Boobs and Saline Noobs: A Running Bra Review
See those MRE's? I want to you to look closely to the side at my frightened newborn. And now, look back at those. Those would be my scary big 32F breasts that could squeeze into a 32DDD sports bra if I was lucky.
I don’t want anyone to believe I have been running around like this my entire life. Babies, breast feeding, and that boob job before my 30th birthday engorged these girls to a monstrous size. I have a love/hate relationship with my frontal lobes. Some days, they are awesome and they come in super handy.
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But now that I'm above well-endowed I DO understand the PAIN (yes, I meant to put that in caps and itallics for great emphasis) of carrying around the extra weight on the front of my body. I also understand the medical necessity for breast reduction. There's the chronic back pain, inability to find workout tops that fit, inability to do ANYTHING without a bra. Add in the fact that I feel like I'm knocking my eye out every time I go for a run and these pimped-out hubcaps can be such a bummer. It's not that I regret the ornamental decor I decided upon a decade ago, but I do want to caution girls who want to have them put on their bodies. If you're a runner, be careful what you ask for.
Extremely large breasts have been linked to a number of physical complaints including back aches, neck pain, suspicious facial expressions, and numbness in the abdomen that requires one arm to cover it. They have also prevented women from doing everything from aerobic exercise to sitting in a lounge chair outside, which is more appropriate for wearing this bikini.
I know from experience in marathon and ultra-running that as I add more mileage to my routine and begin to settle back into a somewhat normal non-baby carrying/feeding vessel, I need more support. Inadequate support during high-impact exercise can damage the Cooper's ligaments, the fibrous tissue that gives breasts their shape. The inelastic tissue can become stretched permanently. Plus, my mama always warned me that what goes up must come down. In other words, I don’t want a pair of knee knockers later in life, so I take care of them now. If I don't take precautionary measures now to take care of them I know that eventually, even if I complimented them every day, my boobs would lose self-esteem. They'd always be looking down.
No way around it, sports bras are a NECESSARY expense and one must know which one is the right one for oneself and for the activities one enjoys. Running lots of miles every week requires a lot of forceful impact and high intensity which could turn my frontal lobes into warming globes (does that even make any sense? Ha-ha, I don’t care. It rhymes and I just want to use as many words as possible from my breast euphemisms list.). Since undergoing mama breast transformation, I've measured a few different sizes than the previous before babies 32DD, so I found a cheap champion sports bra fit the best while my breast tissue tried to settle. I wore the white Champion High Impact bra below in the ING Georgia marathon mostly because it was cheap and being in between sizes, I couldn't find an alternative.
Hey, my eyes are up here!
However, Oprah's favorite Enell sports bra performed a decent job keeping the girls in for a beach 50k while I was still breast feeding in 2013. The black one I have on under my tri-shirt in the photo below is devised to be the industrial strength sports bra.
After a few hours in this device I likened it to a $60+ relative of the straight jacket.
No doubt about it, the Enell is specifically designed to oppress the freedom of breast movement. The front closures were also tricky to secure so I had to work out a handy technique of wrenching my shoulder out of its socket in an attempt to properly secure it. No big deal – but even then the only way the bra does its duty is if it’s clung tightly enough around my ribs to restrict my breathing. It took three volunteer firemen, a can of Crisco, and the Jaws of Life to get me out of that son of a gun. Despite having a sleek ponytail and good make-up for my finish line photo, of course, I felt like my chest housed two bloated humpback whales trying to get out of their inner tubes. Oprah raved about the comfort factor in this bra. Here’s what I think would provide comfort while wearing it: a Xanax flavored smoothie with a vodka chaser.
Ultimately, the Enell reminded me of a bad date bra. The hooks didn't seem at all like hooks. They were more like actual padlocks. The straps felt like they were tied together between the shoulder blades with steel tape. The cups might as well have been made from a hard plastic. Although I do like the front closure, I am fonder of a zip front to hold my running partners in.
However, it's difficult to find a zip front at this size because most sports bras are the compression types. I guess this is because every woman knows there is nothing more fabulous than having your boobs compressed, right? Yeah, there's nothing like strapping a sports bra across the rise of your breasts and compressing them downward to the point that you can see veins popping in your areolas.
These compression sports bras may work great for natural breasts, but not so much for implants. Compression alone often isn't enough for a larger size. Runners with implants need that perfect blend of both, encapsulation to support any natural boob tissue, and compression to hold that dang old implant down. Unfortunately, once you get past that D/DD range, things get a lot harder to find, and anything under a 32 band just simply doesn't exist, or if it does, the options are incredibly limited. Champion was the cheapest line I could find with a 32 band fit. Victoria's Secret also has the potential to be a good choice since apparently the new VSX line has 32 bands that even fit like a 30 with the right hook adjustment.
But since maintaining a 32DDD size after weaning my youngest son off nature's perfect sustenance, Under Armour (also carrying a small 32 band fit) has really captured my attention in the world of sports bras. The technology is so cool and different and the product info has really helped me make informed decisions about which ones I like best. I've tried on and worn their high impact bras for the last 2 ultra-marathons and full marathon I've trained for and run and let me just say if I weren't carrying a carb-load on my six pack, this blog post would be completely full of me in every Under Armour sports bra I own. But I’ll spare you.
The fabulous UA is now making sports bras according to cup and band size, not just small, medium and large. The choices in color for big-breasted bras aren't quite the 'Schwag the showgirls show
in Vegas' variety but my favorite UA bra is sold in electric blue. Plus, the Protege is built for running and high-intensity training. I also hear from my Zumba girls that it's good for the extra support and lift (which is good for any activity) and I just really like the way it feels. I wear Under Armour heat gear for every long run and I'm glad the Protege Bra has it. Even though I’m small in the band, The Protege fits like gloves over fast-pitch softballs. And it's sold at a reasonable price for the amount of wear I've gotten out of it. A good bra for me can be a lot more expensive with triple DDD’s (those Enell bras are like $60-70 a pop!). But I've found I can easily fit into what Under Armour has for me in a double DD as opposed to a triple D or F in other brands. The Protégée has held my interest and my bouncing Buddhas in place because not only do I like the look of the front zip, I never have to worry about under-the-boob chafing or breaking out the baby butt paste for protection.
EVERYONE with double lattes needs a good sports bra and this Protégée is fantastic enough to accommodate even Super Big Gulps. For example, the zipper locks and keeps the sisters from flying all over the place. The cups are separated enough so you won’t have the uni-boob thing going on, and did I mention I LOVE the zip front? I love it more than I love to drool over food porn on Pinterest. It’s better than any zip front I’ve ever owned. The zipper locks so it’s not flying all around during a sweaty run. It's easy to maintain and wear for a long time and the support is great. By the way, I put together a little 'cheat sheet' for sports bra-fitting for myself. I thought I'd share it here in case anyone reading finds it helpful:
SPORTS BRA FITTING PARTICULARS:
-Encapsulation: Sports bras with individual cups are better for larger-breasted women than compression-style ones. This distributes and aligns the cups' contents, which should include both breasts. If unable to locate two breasts in the sports bra, look around because they are most likely nearby.
-Racer back: Because they cinch in back, the straps anchor the bra closer to the body, providing more support.
-Straps: Whether they're adjustable or not, the less stretchy the front straps, the more motion control they'll provide. Hold the top of one strap and the center of the corresponding cup, then pull. If you have Tae Kwon Do training, this would be the time to release your battle cry.
-Cups: Repeat a similar stretch test by tugging the top and bottom of each cup; the less give, the more motion control. Whether it's a compression or an encapsulation style, the cup should hold the whole rutabaga with no spillage.
-Slide a finger under the band between your breasts; you should not be able to pull it more than an inch from your chest.
-Reach your arms overhead. You should now be standing with arms pointing skyward, the sports bra encircling you, binding your biceps to your ears. If the band creeps up, it's too big.
Most importantly, get a bra fitting. You'll be amazed and fascinated at what your true size is! Believe me, I thought I was a 34 until recently. This was a shot of truth in my denial cocktail.
Hope these tips are helpful. Do yourself a favor and head over to your nearest Under Armour shop and try on the Protege.
Remain calm. Visualize yourself wearing this sports bra while engaged in a pleasant activity, such as not watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo.
As always, sending good boob vibes your way!
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