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Running and breasts

At 261 Fearless, we try to remove the barriers that prevent women from running. Whether they’re big or small, breasts can make women hesitant to run or make running difficult. We want women to experience the health benefits of running, including the fact that regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of women developing breast cancer by as much as 30 per cent. We want to share how we directly address breast health in our community, to enable women to run comfortably and confidently, whatever their breast size.

The extent to which breasts prevent women running is only now being unveiled. One study found that breasts were the fourth biggest barrier to participating in physical activity. Embarrassment, discomfort and fear of harming breast tissue are just some of the reasons women give when it comes to why their breasts stop them running.

Here are some of the ways we take action on breast health and running:

  • Acknowledging breasts as a reason why women might be hesitant to attend a woman running group
  • Understanding how big breasts can affect running form, efficiency and confidence
  • Making sure members, particularly new runners, are given good information about sports bras
  • Stressing the importance of regular physical activity to reduce the risk and recurrence of breast cancer
  • Creating a supportive environment where women feel able to have conversations about breasts
  • Educating our Coaches and Master Coaches on the latest news and research on breast health and exercise.

Lori Fox, Coach at 261 Fearless Club Greater New York – Rochester has first-hand experience of helping women to realise how important the right sports bra can be and starting the conversation about breast care. She was delivering the 261 Activate You program which helps inactive women to get into regular exercise and includes lots of education about women’s health. ‘I was leading a fun game with tennis balls in stockings for a group of women who had done little exercise before,’ explains Lori. ‘The biggest takeaway from the exercise was the visual effect. When we demonstrated running with the tennis balls hanging low in the stockings, the women were able to see how their breasts move when they run in an ill-fitting bra. In the beginning there was a lot of laughter watching the tennis balls swing wildly about, but as connections were made between the fit of the bra and the impact on running, they took the exercise more seriously. We were then able to have a healthy conversation about getting fitted for correct bra size.’

A well fitted sports bra can make a huge difference to a woman’s confidence to run but also to her ability. Minimising breast movement makes running easier. It’s more comfortable, allows you to stride out and helps you to keep good posture and running form. But not every woman is happy to go to a bra fitting. ‘The majority of comments came from the larger breasted women who spoke about the embarrassment of getting measured for a bra,’ says Lori. ‘Because of their embarrassment they bought bras off the rack without being fitted which typically meant they were in the wrong size.’ Studies have shown that as many as 85 per cent of women are wearing the wrong size bra.

Embarrassment was not the only factor, ‘A lot of the conversation was about the cost of running bras,’ continues Lori. ‘Some of the women said that they couldn’t afford to buy a good bra, it was cost prohibitive.’ This can often be where the power of community steps in. Easy conversations allow women to share and recommend brands, fitters, discounts and top tips such as wearing two bras or a tight fitting sports top over a bra. Hearing how other women have prioritised their own breast care can encourage, those that are able, to justify the cost of a new sports bra.

During Meet Runs, 261 Fearless Coaches show members how to run as ‘proud women’ with their shoulders back and down. For many this is a big change from their hunched over posture that they’ve developed over years, often as a result of not wanting to draw attention to their breasts. ‘Comments from boys at school and my lack of understanding of wearing a properly fitted bra, let alone a sports bra, left me self-conscious about ‘bouncing’ while exercising,’ shares Lisa Ruggles, a 261 Coach in Bicester, England and Club Director at 261 Club UK.  ‘Fast forward many years to when I began running, I struggled to find a bra that minimised bouncing. I tried all the high-street versions suitable for DD+ breasts but found they either chafed, needed me to be proficient in contortion or didn’t provide enough support. I was so relieved when I discovered my current brand, as they tick many boxes and are pretty too.  Many of our members struggle with the same feelings I once had. I enjoy sharing my experiences and pointing them to some sports bra brands that have researched and developed suitable bras that keep our breasts healthy and secure when exercising.’

We don’t have all the solutions but the woman-only space of a 261 Meet Run is the ideal place for breast health to be addressed and discussed. It’s a safe place where these very important conversations can begin and women can feel comfortable to exercise regardless of their breast size.

Read about running and the pelvic floor

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