Disclaimer – I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or professional fitness guru. I am sharing what I’ve learned through research and experience; you all must use your own judgment in deciding what is best for you and your own health, including checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise or dietary program.
Modesty Warning!! I’m going to speak [write] frankly today about body parts. Just letting you know in case you’re bashful.
Also know as chub rub, heat rash, nipple burn, you name it and someone has a slang term for it. What I’m talking about is friction burn on your tender parts, namely your inner thighs, your bikini and bra lines, your armpits and anywhere else your clothes rub against your skin or your skin rubs against your skin. It’s especially prevalent when we’re overweight. Friends, it hurts. It swells up and turns red. In extreme cases, the skin cracks and bleeds. So not fun.
What can you do? I wear bike shorts or compression pants under my clothing instead of panties for working out. The fabric protects the inner thigh from chafing, and there’s no elastic band to chafe the delicate bikini area. Same on the topside – I highly recommend wearing athletic shirts made from tech fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin and protect it from chafing. You don’t need UnderArmor or other expensive brands – I like the BCG generics from Academy, usually in the $10-$15 range, $7 on clearance!
Then, there’s your new best friend, Bodyglide. It’s basically lanolin in a solid stick, like deodorant. Apply liberally to all sensitive parts before you put your workout clothes on, and it really does help prevent chafing. You can pick it up at any sporting goods or athletic stores; our local Walgreens carries it. It does come in a “Women’s Variety” that smells pretty and comes in a pink tube, but it costs more than the regular stuff. I use the regular stuff.
Unless you have the figure of Twiggy or are a six year old girl, you need a good, supportive sport bra for exercise. Regular Maidenforms won’t do the job. You wouldn’t think of sending your sons out to play sports without a jock strap, would you? Your boobs need the same kind of support to prevent injury and tissue damage. Sport bras come in a wide range of styles for different levels of exercise – I recommend getting a bra for your most strenuous exercise and wearing it for everything, especially if you’re “abundantly blessed”. Invest some time in finding a sports bra that provides the support your body needs. Try on different brands, styles and sizes. A sports bra should have more coverage and fit more snugly than your every day bra, but it shouldn’t bind or cut. You should be able to get up and move without your bust bouncing. Bounce, though it looks intriguing to the male bystander, just sucks the fun out your workout.
My personal favorite is Enell. (Insert angelic voices singing and sparkly light streaming down from above.)
Sports bras do their job either through compression or encapsulation, smashing boobs flat or holding them firmly with structurally reinforced rigid fabrics. This bra fits like a vest, with a long row of hooks up the front; it is shaped for compression, and the inner fabric is silky against the skin with no stretch at all, providing encapsulation. I’ll just be straight up here – I am abundantly blessed. The girls have shrunk considerably with my weight loss over the years, but they are still substantial. I can put this one on, and voila! No Bounce! NO BOUNCE I tell you!
I can’t emphasize this enough, especially if you choose running as your favored form of exercise. You MUST have properly fitted shoes. Properly fitted shoes provide necessary support and flexibility for your feet, legs and back. “Properly fitted shoes” does not mean “so expensive you want to cry” shoes. There are dozens of choices out there that are affordable, and will still protect you from stress fractures and tendon strains.
Go to your local running store and get a proper fitting. They’ll put you on a treadmill to evaluate your gait and then let you try on several styles to find the right one for you. Fittings are generally complimentary, and you don’t have to buy shoes from the running store. Note the brand and style, then hit the internet or your local Academy or DSW and get the same shoe for half the price!
Guess what? Your sweat does not stink! No, really. Sweat on its own doesn’t stink. It’s the bacteria that normally lives on your skin, feeding on the sweat and breaking it down into aromatic fatty acids and chemicals that cause the unpleasant odor. Once the bacteria get engrained in clothing fibers, they can be hard to remove, and yes, they survive the washer and dryer. Your workout clothes can smell nice and pretty like fabric softener when you first put them on, but once you warm up and start to sweat in them, dang if they don’t smell like an old tennis shoe! If you really can’t stand your shirts or shorts any more, there are several things you can do to remove the smell.
Pre-soak the article of clothing in cool water and wring out well. Make a paste by mixing 1 part baking soda with 1 part water. Generously spread the baking soda paste onto the armpit area (or crotch area of your shorts) and let it sit for approximately 30 minutes. Wash and dry as normal. As an alternative, toss a cup of baking soda into the washer with the load of clothing.
White vinegar is acidic and helps to cut body oils. Fill a basin with just enough cool water to cover the clothing and add ¼ cup of white vinegar. Let the clothing soak for 30 minutes before laundering as usual. Alternatively, add ½ cup of vinegar to the pre-rinse cycle of the washing machine.
Hang your workout gear on the clothesline in the sun to dry. Sunlight is bacteria’s most vicious enemy. I hang our bike pads and kits in the sun to dry, as wells as The Architect’s and DirtBikes socks, and it does work.
If natural remedies aren’t doing the trick, there are commercial products that will remove the smell. I’ve tried Penguin Sport Wash, which keeps fabrics odor-free by washing away residues, removing dirt and oil, and neutralizing bacteria. (You can safely wash down coats in it, too.) I can also confirm that it will remove blood and grass stains acquired after rolling – with bike – down an embankment.
Always, always wear a broad spectrum, SPF 15 or higher sunscreen if you are outdoors. Always. And make your husband and kids wear it, too! There are special sweatproof varieties that will last through a workout, but they aren’t bulletproof. Reapply sunscreen every hour or two if you’re sweating or swimming. Generic brands are just as beneficial as the name brands. Consumer Reports analyzed generic sunscreens and gave three their Best Buy rating: Target’s Up and Up Sport, Walmart’s Equate, and No-Ad. Be sure to watch the expiration date, because sunscreens DO expire and lose their “screening” powers. They also lose their potentency if exposed to extreme heat, so don’t leave it in the car, and keep it in the cooler at the beach or pool.
Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and just one of the things you can do to be a good steward of your body. Investing in gear will keep you comfortable and help prevent injury.
Get a Good Bra! Keep the Faith.
Next Time: What to Do When It Hurts