A note about this page, and links on this blog! This page is general advice and a snapshot of what you might wear to start running or cross training as a plus-size athlete.
Big Girls have extra issues when it comes to running, hiking, biking, or doing anything active.
We need clothes that cover our bodies, but don’t make us look like King Tut.
We like cute colors, and a fit that makes us feel as active as we are. We need bras that eliminate excessive staring by the opposite sex. And we absolutely abhor Thigh Wedgies. And Chafing.
But getting started as a new runner, or walker, can be confusing, annoying, depressing, and downright mean. Stores typically don’t carry running clothing in our size – and when they do, it’s pretty limited in terms of style and fit. I’ve been an advocate of online shopping for Big Girls for awhile, but when it comes to running gear, it’s really a great way to shop.
When I started this blog in 2008, there wasn’t much to be found in the way of apparel for plus-size athletes. My, how times have changed! Today you can purchase quality plus-size running apparel from Nike, Zella, Moving Comfort, and other, less well-known names. Athleta stocks a variety of apparel for yoga and casual wear. Columbia carries a full line of hiking and athletic wear for outdoorsy plus sized women.
But if you’re new to working out, where do you start? A few lessons:
WICKING FABRIC IS A BIG GIRL’S BEST FRIEND.
What is wicking? Simple: it is a fabric that is specially treated, or constructed, to take the sweat from your body, and to push it to the outside air, causing it to evaporate. Wicking keeps you cool, and dry. It keeps you from getting chafed (when two sweaty thighs rub together, for example), which may be the first, and worst, problem most Big Girls experience when they run.
How do you know if a fabric “wicks”? Every brand (Nike, Addidas, Columbia) has their own technology, named something different. Look for anything with the word “Dri” or “Dry” or even “Active” – you get the idea. ALL of these fabrics are made with a type of polyester. And, when in doubt, avoid cotton (which absorbs water, but just keeps it on your body, which doesn’t help at all.)
Does EVERYTHING have to wick? Yes. Your bra, shirt, shorts and socks SHOULD NOT be made of cotton.
BUILD WITH THE BASICS
Spend Your Dough on Your Shoes. Your shoes will determine if you stick it out as a runner. They will prevent injuries (if they’re the right shoe for you), cushion your knees, correct your foot strike, and be your best friends. If it’s available in your area, you should go to a local running store (even if you’re a walker) and find the best shoe for you. Don’t be afraid to tell them your price limit, or your concerns. The store folks will watch you run or walk, and will put you in a shoe that will get you moving.
I can’t say it enough: This is the most important piece of “startup” equipment you will buy. Take it seriously!
Spend What’s Left On Your Breasts. Yes, we like to joke about it, but running as a Big Girl has some unique constraints. Moving Comfort and Enell are the two most common providers for Big Girls. Personally, I recommend the Moving Comfort Maia and Fiona bras but really, it’s a matter of taste.
Click here for Moving Comfort’s Bra Finder service.
Eliminate the excuse and order up a pair of compression Shorts
Also known as “bike shorts”, these are typically black, lycra shorts with an inseam over 5″ which protects your legs when you run. I’ve tried to run in “regular” running shorts, but really, no one over a size 12 does that. It’s just not possible.
Sleeveless and Short-Sleeved Shirts
If you’re like me, you’d like to run in something that keeps things covered, but also feels a little fashionable.
Searching for a simple, plus-sized sleeveless running top, that fits your shoulders and chest, that you can wear on a variety of other sports? I really like Nike’s new line of lightweight tops – the styles vary by season, but Macy’s has the best collection and you can typically find them onsale!
Best All-Around Plus Sized Shops
Finally, if you’d like to look around, and do your own shopping (and who doesn’t?) I offer you the following links.