Published: September 25, 2014
Before I go running, I tear off several three-inch strips of first aid tape and carefully place them along the perimeter of my breasts: two under each armpit, one underneath each breast, and then four in the middle of my chest. I also stick an oversized Band-Aid on each shoulder.
It is a time-consuming ritual, but one that is necessary. The tape protects the places where my sports bra, which I intentionally wear one size too small, rubs against my skin. Itís all part of an ongoing effort to limit the bounce of my very large breasts during exercise.
Iíve always had large breasts. By the time I graduated high school, I was a 34C. With aging and weight gain, Iím now a 38DD, compounding what was already a physical nuisance. When I see my reflection in shop windows, Iím struck by my stout carriage and the resemblance to my great grandparents from the Lithuanian shtetl.
Itís not just that my breasts are heavy (combined, they weigh nearly five pounds), itís that they move about a minute after I do. Some of my large-breasted friends wonít even consider running because of the physical and mental discomfort.
Those who still try to run donít always find the support they need. When my friend Rina Plapler, 47, of New York City, went to a sporting goods store to try to find a running bra, the salesperson took one look at her large breasts. ďYou might want to consider another form of exercise,Ē the salesperson said.
Ms. Plapler tried to address the issue herself by wearing two bras at once to eliminate ďthe bounce factor.Ē She also tried wearing a size too small, but like me, she suffered from painful chafing.
Chafing, for those who havenít experienced it, can be excruciating. I once thought I pinched a nerve while running because when I took my post-run shower, I felt a stinging in my back so sharp, it was as if that spot was on fire. It wasnít until I noticed it happening with every post-run shower that I realized it was just the water hitting a place where my bra had rubbed the skin raw.
One solution to chafing is to use a lubricant, like Bodyglide, in the spots where the skin and fabric rub together. But for well-endowed athletes, a lubricant can compound the problem by creating additional moisture. When you have large breasts, moisture in the fold under your breasts can lead to yeasty rashes.
To deal with moisture, Ms. Plapler said she once placed cotton balls under her breasts before going on a run. Unfortunately, the cotton balls began to move during the run. ďBy the end of the run, they had all moved into the middle and made this big blob like a third boob,Ē Ms. Plapler said.
And itís not just women of a certain age who struggle. Jenna, a 17-year-old on my nieceís hockey team in upstate New York, tells me that itís not easy to be an athlete with large breasts.
When playing ice hockey, Jenna had to choose between an expensive set of female chest protector pads, molded for the curves of her body, or wearing more affordable menís padding, like the rest of her female teammates. She chose the menís padding to save money, but the ill-fitting gear gaps due to the size of her breasts, leaving her vulnerable to being hit with a wayward puck. So far, sheís already been hit in the arms and shoulders and rib cage. She tried a smaller size, but it was too constricting.
Jenna plays rugby too. She wanted to play wing, a player whose job it is to attack and defend up and down the edges of the field. But because of the size of her breasts, she couldnít bear all the running involved. Instead, she plays fullback, which still requires some running, but is more focused on defense and reading the game.
But she still remains self-conscious when she is running with friends, particularly male friends. ďI feel like theyíre looking at me,íí she says.
My yoga teacher is buxom and very fit. Despite having large breasts, she can twist and bend and stretch into any number of difficult yoga poses. It makes me happy to see that a woman with oversize breasts can excel at yoga.
I asked her if she ever felt self-conscious about having such large breasts in the yoga world. ďIf I ever get enough money, I want to get a breast reduction,íí she told me.
Iíve toyed with the idea of a breast reduction myself, but I could never do it. Iíd feel like I was cutting off a part of my body that makes me, well, uniquely me, like my long toes or my wiry hair that frizzes at the hint of rain.
Perhaps one day, a sports apparel maker will come up with the perfect sports bra for well-endowed athletes. Until then, I will just keep taping and binding and applying a couple of well-placed bandages. And, it helps to know that Iím not alone, that there is a sisterhood of large-breasted women like me out there who still find ways to run, skate, twist and tackle. Because for now, that may be the strongest support Iím going to find.