September 25, 2009

Barres and Bras

This week I’ve really been lying low with my weeknight activities. It seems to have been a slow week for bookclubs, wine tastings, and other meetups, so most nights, my only plan has been to head home for a workout and some major TV catchup. With all the new fall shows, I’m totally behind, even on shows that I know I will love (um, Glee? From what I hear, that was me in high school… and yet I haven’t yet watched a single episode!). I guess the combination of being a musical theater girl and going home every night to watch TV just makes me an ultra loser 🙂

But tonight, I had something cool lined up. I was invited to participate in a Nike focus group about sports bras. In addition to getting to talk about a cool subject, express my opinions that would influence their customer shopping experience decisions, and receiving some cool swag, they also threw in a free class at Crunch, a chain of gyms known for their awesome classes. The class in question was called Barre Assets, and it was supposed to use ballet steps/stretches to really give your legs a good workout.

I was really curious to see how this class would go. I used to be a ballet dancer, and a lot of times I’ve been pretty disappointed by dance classes that are just really simple and not a good workout. Furthermore, with my frequent marathoning, I knew my legs were already pretty strong. How bad could this class be?

I arrived at the studio to find a lot of people who had clearly taken the class before and seemed ot know what the routine would be. The instructor was very nice, asking if anyone was new, and I raised my hand along with one other girl. She asked if we had any dance experience, and we nodded, and she said that it would help us to follow along but that we’d still get a crazy workout even if we didn’t know ballet.

We started with some pliés (squats, basically) and lunges, as well as a lot of relevés (heel raises) that got my thighs and calves burning. I was surprised to find that after just 5 minutes of this low-intensity stuff, I was already heating up and starting to feel a sweat breaking out. From there, we moved over to a set of ballet barres in the back, and worked on more pliés, some tendus, and finally developpés (full extensions). The instructor demonstrated arm movements with the exercises but said we didn’t have to do them if it was too confusing – having the ballet experience, I found it more confusing not to do them 🙂 I was egotistically pleased to find that I was the “most dancer-like” one in the class and that I still had ingrained in me the grace that I got from 15 years of hard ballet training.

At the same time, the workout was killer! My legs were visibly shaking as we did grand pliés, particularly when we went into them and then pulsed at the bottom. At the same time, my arms were getting tired from holding them in second position (out to the side) for the exercises. I could also feel my stomach muscles working to hold my balance, and knew they too would be sore the next day. It was really a total body workout that I wasn’t expecting, and I loved it! I want to try to find a workout DVD that’s similar to this class; otherwise, I may try to go for one more class and sneakily tape record the instructor 🙂 I know I could just do the exercises at home on my own, but I know I’ll totally cheat and go short on the stretches/holds/pulses without having it all timed out for me.

From the class, I headed home for a quick clothing change and snack (steamed broccoli with a Laughing Cow light cheese wedge melted on top – yum!), and then off to the focus group. Midtown East was totally jammed with people, cars, and police due to the big UN meeting, and I found myself arriving 10 minutes late because there were no buses to be found and my cab got stuck in traffic. I dashed up the stairs at the humongous Niketown store (wow that place is huge – I had never been there before and really had no idea), apologizing as I slid into the one remaining seat at the table.

The group leaders passed me some written surveys to fill out, describing my favorite sports bra and what I look for in a sports bra shopping experience. The favorite sports bra questions were a little tough. Unlike regular bras, where I look for pretty designs and good construction, I am so cheap when it comes to sports bras. My sports bras of preference are those cotton ones that come in a pack of three for $10 at Wal-Mart. They may not be high tech, but I just layer them with a wicking tank top that has a built in bra and call it a day. The only other sports bra in my collection is a Oiselle that I won from a blog giveaway – it’s made from a poly-lycra blend that’s super soft but a little too flexible to really provide support. Lately, however, I’ve lost a bit of weight (including up top) and it’s become decent, so I brought that one along as my favorite since I figured my cotton Hanes cheapo ones were a little embarrassing 🙂

Turned out I had nothing to worry about. One of the girls in the group confessed that she didn’t even wear real sports bras, opting to just get a tight fitting shirt and let that do the trick (though she also admitted it didn’t work so well). Despite the fact that I had never really given much thought before to what makes a good sports bra and a good sports bra shopping experience, I think I was able to provide a lot of insight and come up with some good ideas. Among them include:
-Design a sports bra that has a slot at the chest band so you can slip your heart rate monitor in and not have it compete with the elastic on the chest band, causing chafing
-Offer appointments for biomechanical analysis with a treadmill to see if it’s the right sports bra for you (i.e. doesn’t make you bounce inappropriately)
-Instead of just creating tags that talk about the positive attributes of each bra (wicking! Smooth! Compressing! Bounce-free! Will make you PR by an hour!), tell who this bra is good for. Larger breasted marathoners? Smaller breasted basketball players? We all have different needs and I’d rather find the right bra for me than just have every bra tell me it’s the best.
-For signature lines with only a few in the line, have a trial size that’s in black/white/nude/a neutral color for each style. That way we can do a better job picking the right bra for us based on fit instead of just picking the pretty colored ones.

We got to preview the styles that will be coming out in Nike’s new line, and like the New Balance fall preview, it was cool to see all the options and the technology. Who knows – maybe this has even inspired me enough to go spring for a fancy-dancy sports bra instead of my cotton cheapies 🙂


7 thoughts on “Barres and Bras”

  1. I hear ya on the ballet thing. I did ballet (along with pointe, tap and jazz) for 16 years. I’ve missed it on occasion and tried to find some classes to fill that void, but I have never found anything suitable for me and always come home feeling like I’d be better off doing ballet stuff I remember in my living room.

    Totally check out Glee… it rocks!

  2. Blah – thank god I don’t have boobs (or large pecs). I’m not sure that i could deal with one more thing to think about while running! 🙂

    But, super cool that you were able to participate in the focus group!

  3. I personally find that sports bras are very important. I just bought a new one to add to my rotation. Moving Comfort-Fiona in light pink. I love that it’s REALLY supportive so the girls stay put when I’m running or doing any other strenuous exercise AND it’s very wicking friendly.

    My other fav is a champion bra. The best ones I find are those that mimick a BRA but have more support and wicking. Aka, they are adjustable and have two straps that go straight back and hooks in back. I also think a comfortable bottom elastic (with fabric covered) piece is highly important to reduce chaffing on long runs.

  4. OMG I thought I was the only one who bought those 3 packs from WalMart!!! LOL! I mean they get the job done without chaffing and I have such a hard time finding bra’s small enough for me!!

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