BOUNCE, BABY

Meet the sports bra that works with—not against—your body’s nat­u­ral move­ment.

ELLE (Canada) - - Body - BY CARLI WHITWELL

I WORE SPORTS BRAS IN­STEAD OF proper un­der­wire and moulded-cup bras for most of my teens. My flat­ter-than-a-’90s-blowout ch­est had sud­denly be­come a very full C cup, and since I played soc­cer nearly ev­ery day, it was eas­ier to com­press and bind my breasts into a snug sports bra rather than fuss with all those straps and clasps. And, aes­thet­i­cally, I didn’t hate the uni­boob look.

Even though I have since grad­u­ated to grown-up bras out­side the gym and barre class, I con­sider my­self a sports-bra con­nois­seur. So when Lu­l­ule­mon in­vited me to try its new En lite sports bra, I (quite lit­er­ally) leaped at the chance. Which is how I found my­self run­ning on a tread­mill in the brand’s Van­cou­ver HQ wear­ing the bra, with sev­eral tiny re­flec­tive sen­sors at­tached to my ch­est and eight mo­tion-cap­ture cam­eras record­ing my—or, rather, their—ev­ery move­ment. (More on that in a sec.)

Lu­l­ule­mon has been slay­ing in the sports-bra cat­e­gory since its launch nearly 20 years ago (thanks es­pe­cially to its user-friendly sup­port-rank­ing sys­tem). Af­ter so­lic­it­ing cus­tomer feed­back, how­ever, the Cana­dian brand re­al­ized that women of­ten sac­ri­fice com­fort for per­for­mance or vice versa. I can re­late; I’d of­ten squished my­self into a too-tight bra with the hope of get­ting ex­tra sup­port. I fig­ured that the less the breasts shift dur­ing ex­er­cise, the bet­ter, right? Not nec­es­sar­ily.

Here’s where those mo­tion-cap­ture cam­eras come in. As I jogged, they recorded the path of the sen­sors. This info, when up­loaded onto soft­ware, showed in real time how (and where) my breasts moved. Through this biome­chan­i­cal test­ing—which had been done on 100 women prior to my own in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence—the team un­cov­ered some­thing sur­pris­ing: Not all bounc­ing is h

painful. In fact, breasts move in a 3-D fig­ure-eight pat­tern. Re­search is mixed, but ex­perts be­lieve that it’s mostly the up-and-down and, to a lesser ex­tent, for­ward-to-back parts of this mo­tion that cause dis­com­fort, not so much the side-to-side shift­ing, says Michelle Nor­ris, a sports and ex­er­cise science re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Portsmouth, in Eng­land. (If un­con­trolled, that hurt is real: A 2013 study pub­lished in the

found that 32 per­cent of fe­male marathon run­ners ex­pe­ri­ence breast pain. Worse, other stud­ies have shown that women will avoid ex­er­cise be­cause of their chests.)

Then, the eureka mo­ment: Why not re­strict only the move­ment that causes dis­com­fort? “We’re shift­ing from the idea of mak­ing the move­ment smaller to re­ally em­brac­ing it,” says Chantelle Mur­naghan, in­no­va­tion man­ager of en­gi­neer sen­sa­tion for the brand’s re­search lab, Whites­pace. To that end, the En­lite is an en­cap­su­la­tion style, which means that the breasts never touch and aren’t com­pressed. ( Com­pres­sion- style bras squish the breasts to the ch­est—re­mem­ber the uni­boob.) En­cap­su­la­tion bras are thought to be es­pe­cially bene­fi­cial for women with a larger bust, says Nor­ris. “Each breast is en­cased in­di­vid­u­ally in its own cup, ef­fec­tively halv­ing the mass that a com­pres­sion sports bra has to deal with.” Think the same sup­port with less “I can’t breathe” feel­ing and the added bene­fit of a curved shape— un­der­neath a T-shirt, the En­lite cre­ates the same curved def­i­ni­tion as a T-shirt bra. (The ma­teri­al is also dou­ble lay­ered in the cups.) And while, at $98, this is the most ex­pen­sive bra the brand sells, the de­sign has over two years of re­search be­hind it.

Ma­te­rial was thought­fully con­sid­ered; the En­lite is made of Ul­tralu, a sweat-wick­ing ny­lon-Ly­cra blend that stretches eas­ily but springs back into its orig­i­nal form. This en­sures op­ti­mal ten­sion in the un­der­band, the part that en­cir­cles the ribs, which is the main source of breast sup­port. This ma­te­rial means that the com­pany can forgo fussy ad­justable straps, mit­i­gat­ing any dig­ging into the shoul­ders or armpits. “We want to elim­inate all the dis­trac­tions a woman feels so she can focus on the ex­er­cise,” says Laura Dixon, in­no­va­tion de­sign di­rec­tor for Whites­pace. So far, the strat­egy is work­ing. Af­ter I left Lu­l­ule­mon, I headed to Granville Is­land to sight­see and for­got that I was still wear­ing the En­lite— un­til I de­cided to go for a run a few hours later and re­al­ized I didn’t need to change bras. Maybe my high-school self was onto some­thing with that 24-7 sports-bra thing af­ter all. n

The writer tests the En­lite bra in Van­cou­ver.

The En­lite bra ($98, at lu­l­ule­mon.com) comes in Black, Marvel (raspberry red) and Mag­num (grey). It was de­signed for run­ning but can be worn for any ex­er­cise.

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