Sunday, March 27, 2011

Athletic Running/Walking Wear for Athenas

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say larger women (and by larger I mean women whose BMI would classify them as overweight/obese) who shun exercise do so because it can be so dadgum uncomfortable. I speak from painful personal experience; over a year ago, when I began exercising, I could not walk more than 2 miles at a 20 minute/mile pace on a treadmill, I could not pedal my bike up a 15% grade hill even in my granny gear, and five minutes on the elliptical was my max. More to the point, I had parts that bounced so violently as to cause bruising, I lived in fear of chafing, and at the end of a workout my hair and body were completely soaked with sweat. (And this was in February).

The long and short of the matter is, it really doesn't have to be that way. Good exercise gear goes a long way toward making you comfortable and getting yourself out of your own way. I have some recommendations, based on my own experiences. Here they are, in order of importance.

1) A GOOD SPORTS BRA. I am a 36DDD, so I speak from experience here. This is a must, and it will make an enormous difference in your comfort level. "Good" depends entirely on the sport. For anything at all high impact, such as running or tennis, there's only one word: ENELL. Yes, they are hella expensive, ugly, and hard to put on, but once you do, NOTHING MOVES. Yep, it's true. For lower impact sports like cycling, yoga, racewalking, and such, I love Moving Comfort. I love Moving Comfort so much, I wear them for everyday undergarments. These two companies took me from painful bruising to not thinking about my boobs at all during exercise. If that isn't a ringing endorsement I don't know what is.

2) SHOES THAT FIT YOUR PERSONAL FEET. For the love of all that is holy, please. Do NOT go to a discount shoe store and stick your feet in the cushiest shoes you can find. Do NOT go to your local mall's Lady Foot Locker. Those people know bupkis. Instead, go immediately to your local running store and tell them what you intend to do with your feet (walk a 5k? run a trail marathon? skip to the grocery store three times a week?). If they don't assess your gait, find a store that does. Once they've listened to you and watched you walk or run, they should bring out a number of different shoes and let you try them on and do your thing in each of them. If they don't, find a store that does. Then, pick the shoes that feel the best on your feet out of the ones they've recommended. Buy them; price should not be an issue, as good shoes will make or break you. Once you've found your shoe, buy new ones every few hundred miles.

3) DRY WICKING SOCKS. Do you know how much sweat your feet put out daily? About two tablespoons. If you wear cotton socks, that water will stay near your feet, keeping them cold, damp, and prone to blisters. Do NOT wear cotton socks. Get some socks with dry wicking capability.

4) COMPRESSION CAPRIS OR TIGHTS. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Spandex? On my ass? No thank you." I ask you to reconsider. There is nothing worse than shorts creep. Except for maybe chafing between your thighs. Neither is pleasant, you'd agree. I have yet to have a problem with either since I invested in compression running capris. C9 by Champion (available at Target) are reasonably priced (twenty bucks) and work reasonably well for the novice run/walker. Again, no cotton. Cotton kills. If you live in fear of people seeing your butt jiggle, layer shorts over compression capris or tights if you must. Me? I don't give a rip.

5) TECHNICAL TEE. What's wrong with an old cotton tee? Go walk/run ten miles in one in 70degree weather and then get back to me. They get clammy and heavy and the seams can cause underarm chafing. (Ask me how I know). Technical tees are available for not much money (ten bucks) at Target. They make you so much more comfortable. Consider it an investment in yourself.

6) HYDRATION SYSTEM. This can be as simple as a handheld bottle with a handstrap (2 bucks at WalMart) or as complex as a hydration waistpack (fifty plus bucks), but you will need to replace fluids. As they say in the Army, "hydrate or die."

Really, that's what you need to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering while exercising as an Athena.


  1. Hi Donna, I have a question about the Enell - I've been thinking about getting one, but have noticed that sometimes my lungs feel compressed and I have a hard time taking deep breaths after a while when I wear sports bras that are effective enough to wear while running, because they just tend to be tighter/more compressive - in your experience, does the Enell avoid that problem, or is it just something you work through?
    Thanks! Amanda

  2. Hi Amanda -- I think I have fewer problems with breathing in the Enell, because the support and compression are throughout the breast area, and not just around the band of the bra, if that makes sense. It does take some getting used to, though. There are great deals on ebay for seconds with minor imperfections so you can try one with relatively minimal investment. Hope this helps!!

  3. Thanks Donna, it's helpful to get some input on that - I'll have to try one soon!