Earth Day 5K Training: Lessons from REI on Support and Compression

Every body needs support. Some need compression too.

Week two of my Earth Day 5K training is almost done (one more run on Saturday before week three begins technically) and I’ve learned a lot. Mostly that my calves cramp up habitually at the outset of every run. That’s been a painful lesson that led to the lesson of perseverance, which is painful in it’s own way. Because, you know, inertia.

But most importantly, what I’ve learned is a whole lot about sports bras thanks to one of the flagship REI’s MVS (most valuable salesman), Hadley Whittemore, who, despite not having any breasts of his own, has an impressively intuitive knowledge of what it takes to outfit them for running.

First, the basics: A sports bra has a lifespan of a year, according to Mr. Whittemore, before the elastic begins to degrade and let you down. Literally.

Next, if you’re over a C-cup, you need support AND compression. Those with smaller cup sizes tend to just need support, to keep breast tissue from jostling around, but those of us with a more ample bosom need some seriously powerful strapping down to ensure those gals don’t go rogue.

Just how serious of a strap-down I learned in the dressing room while trying on a Rebound Racer bra from Moving Comfort, a major player in the sports bra business. But not before being warned by my man Hadley. “It’s going to be tight and a bit of a workout just getting into it,” he explained. “It’ll be a little stiff during the break in period.”


And he wasn’t joking. At one point, while contorting myself into it, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror and had to laugh out loud at my struggle. I also had a fleeting paranoid worry that I was being watched—kinda like when you fall or bump your head in private and still look around to see if someone saw you do it. Once I was in, though, what a feeling! Fort Knox has nothing on a Rebound Racer—I felt a sense of security like never before. If sports bras of this strength and caliber didn’t cause uni-boob I’d wear one all the time. I ended up with the easier-to-don Endurance Racer because I liked the color better. Hey, I am a style editor after all. And what if I want to pull a Brandi Chastain at the end of the 5K? 

Lastly, in what you’ll find is a through-way and common denominator in clothing for sport, you’ll want a bra that is made with a material, like polyester, designed to wick moisture away from the body to reduce chaffing and a post-run chill. Because, no body wants that.

The bearded Mr. Whittemore works in the women's apparel on the second floor of the South Lake Union REI and is available for all your athletic outfitting needs.