My New Breast Friend

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Although each pregnancy is different, there is at least one constant that every woman can count on: Managing the moving target of rapidly-growing boobs.

With a new set of knockers comes a whole host of fun side effects, such as tenderness, veins, pigment changes, bumps and leaks. While I’ve yet to deal with the latter items on that list, I have outgrown all of my bras and am in desperate need of solid support for any kind of high-impact activity.

The only problem? Well, when you go from being able to wear pretty much any sports bra to suddenly needing to be picky about certain features, you don’t have a clue about where to start.

Luckily, Zensah came to my rescue. Not only is the company considered a pioneer of graduated compression apparel, but they’ve also created a new line of seamless sportswear designed with a second-skin fit for greater performance, comfort and mobility.

Having landed in foreign territory, I saw the “high-impact support for larger cup sizes” description of the Gazelle Sports Bra ($53.99) and figured it would do the trick. It’s designed with both encapsulation and compression to provide comfortable support — not to mention it’s seamless, which is a lifesaver, because when you’re eating and peeing around the clock, all you want to do is cut down on any added potential annoyances.

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As you can see, the engineered fabric creates a separator with shaped cups that contour to the body (i.e. encapsulate the ladies) for a natural, smooth fit. Zensah’s high-density Zupport Yarn™ also helps support its claim that this is the first truly seamless sports bra to support mid-to-high-impact activities (i.e. compression at its finest).

Factor in wide, soft straps to prevent dig-in and zoned ribbing for extra support and, according to the company, it’s also 250% more supportive than their other seamless styles. Plus it’s pretty cute, right?

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From the back, you can see how it’s got a body-mapped design for breathability, plus a keyhole to encourage freedom of movement. The proprietary fabric is moisture-wicking and anti-odor to help keep you fresh and dry, too.

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Best of all? I flipped it inside out, and it’s truly seamless! I’m usually skeptical about that claim since any kind of rogue raw edge can rub and chafe, but this one’s soft and smooth.

Ok, ok, I know — enough about what it’s made of and what it looks like. Does it actually work?

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Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. I tested the Gazelle on several runs and it did not disappoint.

In fact, on my very first run with it, I had the best four-miler I’ve had in months. I’m not sure if it was that there was no painful jostling — or maybe because my rib cage could finally expand properly — but I could barely feel it on, it was so comfy.

And that, my friends, is the mark of a good bra.

So good, in fact, that I’ve also resorted to wearing it under street clothes while I’m on my next mission: Upgrading my real bra. Sigh.

Any other tips for wrangling ‘the ladies’ while working out? 
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Give Your Body a Natural Tune-Up with Turmeric

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Growing up, I remember my mom always experimenting with one superfood or another. Whether it was flaxseed, papaya pills, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, wheat germ, spinach, dark chocolate or garlic — you name it, we tried it in the name of achieving optimal health.

So it should probably come as no surprise that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. As much as I like to “eat the rainbow” and get an array of nutrients and vitamins through my diet, I’m not opposed to giving Mother Nature a little leg up every now and then with whatever natural remedy is all the rage.

This is why turmeric is the latest supplement to pique my interest. Well, more specifically, curcumin — the antioxidant found in turmeric.

Turmeric Root

Used for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb in China and India, turmeric is a distant relative of ginger. Not only does it give curry and mustard their bold yellow colors, but it’s been long used to support healthy digestion, promote cardiovascular health and support the immune system.*

Usually, I take daily turmeric supplements in pill form to ensure consistent consumption, and I was in the process of mulling over a post on the topic when Gaia Herbs reached out and asked if I’d like to try their new TurmericBoost products as an alternative. Um, yes!

I say “alternative” because instead of a pill it’s a powdered mix that’s flavored with vanilla and chai spices with no added sugar or flavorings. It comes in two varieties, Restore and Uplift, both of which contain concentrated turmeric extract to support a healthy inflammatory response with black pepper to aid in absorption, along with a prebiotic blend to support intestinal flora.*

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I’m not gonna lie, I was a little worried about mixing the turmeric directly into food; especially because it has a powerful smell. But I knew there was one way to test it for sure — in one of my now-infamous shower smoothies post-ride this past weekend.

So here’s what I whipped up, using my immersion blender:

  • 1 frozen banana, quartered
  • 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder
  • 10 ounces unsweetened almond milk
  • 1.5 tsp Gaia Herbs TurmericBoost: Restore

Simply blend all ingredients until smoothie reaches your desired consistency. Prepare with a handful of ice cubes if you like it thicker and colder. Pour into a glass, and enjoy!

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With a warm, bitter flavor and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of ginger, the turmeric blended seamlessly into my smoothie. In fact, with the addition of the vanilla and chai spices, it reminded both Ben and I of one of our favorite holiday drinks: eggnog.

This one went over so well in the husband taste test that I’m excited to try Gaia’s other turmeric recipes here. The Pumpkin Chia Pudding and Overnight Oats look especially interesting because I’m always looking for healthy, grab-and-go breakfasts after my morning workouts.

Now, the disclaimer: Always be sure to check with your doctor before you start mixing herbs and medicines so you don’t experience any adverse side effects.

Turmeric is known for being potent and playing well with others, so it might be something worth looking into if you’re searching for a more natural way to support your health and facilitate recovery.* Here’s a handy guide (below) with some additional information on turmeric’s health benefits, side effects and cautions if you’re interested in learning more.

Totally Turmeric: Your Complete Guide to Turmeric
“Totally Turmeric” on Health Perch

Why Gaia Herbs, in particular? Well, just as I like to shop at local farmer’s markets so I know where my produce comes from, I like the same level of detail when it comes to herbal supplements.

Every product manufactured by Gaia has a “Meet Your Herbs” number printed on the label, which allows you to trace every aspect of the product ingredients. This includes where the plants were grown, production methods, laboratory test results of safety and purity, along with information about scientific research and traditional use of herbs.

If you’re like me and are conscious about what you put into your body, that kind of transparency is much appreciated.

**Enter to WIN** Gaia wants to know how you ‪#‎livelifebrighter‬: Show how TurmericBoost helps you live a brighter life for a chance to win the ultimate smoothie pack + tons of healthy weekly prizes. Click here for details and to enter!

Do you ‘spice’ up your recovery process with supplements? 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Disclosure: I received samples of Turmeric Boost and received additional compensation from Gaia Herbs for testing their product, but all opinions are my own.

Brace Yourself: Title Nine Fit Fest (+ giveaway!)

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If you read my recent piece on the nine things you just shouldn’t wear when working out, you know that one of my pet peeves is unsupportive sports bras. Because the last thing us ladies want to worry about during a workout is painful, sag-inducing bouncing, right?

Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

But who actually enjoys shopping for sports bras?! Most of us are unsure about our size (all the measurements!) and are even more clueless when it comes to how it should fit (strap ’em down or hike ’em up?). And don’t even get me started on the process of trying them on; it takes a Cirque-du-Soleil level of contortionism to wrestle into some of the styles out there.

If you’re anything like me, you emerge a hot, sweaty mess from the dressing room with nothing more than a deflated ego to show for all that effort. So you make an educated guess, hope for the best, shell out some cash and then get the hell out of there with something — anything.

Sound familiar? 

Well, it turns out that bra experts at Title Nine feel our pain — literally — and are making it easier (and more fun) to find the correct sports bra by hosting local “FitFest” events to help every athlete find her perfect fit and get on the road to a more comfortable workout.

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As we all know (or should know), the most important foundation for any workout is a bra designed specifically for each of our unique body types, sizes and activities. Title Nine’s FitFest aims to help ladies address all those pain points — and more — by featuring:

  • Personalized bra fitting advice from a “bravangelist” expert
  • An expanded assortment of bras for every size and shape
  • Bras for different activities: sports, work-to-workout, everyday and date night
  • A “Bounce-ath-a-lon” for people to put bras to the test, with stations like hula hooping, jump roping, running and burpees
  • Snacks and drinks (because, duh, pretty much anything is more fun with a glass of vino in hand)

So when the invitation for Portland’s FitFest landed in my inbox, I knew we were in store for an interesting evening of bonding over…boobs! I’ve never been professionally fit before, and with all the different workouts I do, I figured my Bravengelist would have her work cut out for her.

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Jamie, Tasha, Liz and I met up for happy hour, and then we made our way over to the event to check things out. After mingling with some of Portland’s fittest ladies (bloggers and industry folks), the Bravangelists met with us one-by-one to get down to business.

First, they took personalized measurements and asked a few questions about our preferences, lifestyle and favorite activities. Next, they combed the racks for styles that would be a good match.

My Bravangelist, Jamie, pulled several bras that would be good for high-impact workouts, as well as a wide range of cross-training activities. Basically, I told her I needed the girls to be able to take whatever I throw at ’em, so she went straight for the heavy artillery styles with all kinds of snaps, straps and adjustable pieces.

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As I tried on each style, Jamie came in to check the fit and how well it performed with a variety of bounce tests. Mostly this consisted of me jumping up and down to test the support of each bra.

Normally I grab a cute one, guesstimate my size and try it on to make sure it fits ok, but after going through the FitFest, I see now why it’s so important to try a range of styles at once. Not only does it give you more variety from which to choose, but when you try them on in succession, you also have a much better idea how they perform in comparison to one another.

Also — I’m not a fan of mirror selfies…but in the interest of #keepingitreal,  I’m including one shot of the bra I ended up choosing.

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I picked Moving Comfort’s She Be Fierce Bra in Celery Stripe ($44), which delivers all the features us less-endowed ladies demand without feeling overbuilt, overpadded and overdone. It’s easy on/off, there’s separate encapsulation inside to avoid the dreaded “uniboob,” plus the material’s supposed to dry crazy-fast after the sweatiest of workouts.

And I just love the name, which happens to be based on Shakespeare’s line, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” Whether he was talking about this bra or the wearers, I’d like to think he was right.

But the best part of the evening? 

Well, if boobs are funny, then boob balloons are funnier. And apparently we’re all 30-something-going-on-13 because we really got a kick out of these things.

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Interested in attending a FitFest in a city near you? Visit TitleNine.com for a full list of participating locations and details.

Or, better yet, CLICK HERE TO ENTER my giveaway for a FREE PERSONALIZED FITTING (either in-store or by-phone, depending on location) and ONE SPORTS BRA! 

Note: Winners within driving distance of a Title Nine store will be asked to redeem their prize at the closest/preferred retail location.

Good luck, and remember to give your girls some support!

5 Surprising Myths About Running Socks

Source: Runner's World

Source: Runner’s World

Too often we’re seduced by the lower price of a product that invariably costs more over the long haul. – Bill Howard

What is the single most important piece of equipment for runners? If you said shoes, you’re close – and like many of your fellow pavement pounders, you’ve probably invested a good deal of time and money in finding the perfect pair.

But as the only source of protection between your feet and a potentially run-crippling blister, socks can mean the difference between a triumphant or a terrible outing, even in the highest-quality footwear.

I wrote a while back about some of the best socks for runners, but with a mind-boggling number of options available, how do you pick the pair that’s best for you?

Gus Blythe, founder of Drymax Sport Socks, was kind enough to weigh in on a few of the common myths about sport socks; he’s made it a mission to keep athletes’ feet happy and give them one less thing to worry about when training and racing.

So…let’s talk socks, people!

Myth #1: What you see is what you get

Contrary to what most of us probably think, socks are not to be used exclusively as decorative ornaments or as a way of helping to compensate for the imperfections inside of shoes; rather, they are standalone pieces of equipment and should be evaluated as such.

Simply put, pretty socks may be easy on the eyes but could very well be hard on the feet. It’s important to remember that feet are blind when shopping, says Blythe. After all, how much will you care about the color or logo on your socks mid-race?

Myth #2: Soft in your hands means good to your feet

When I’m sock shopping “soft” is one of the top criteria on my list – but what feels heavenly at first touch doesn’t necessarily indicate high quality, so dive deeper and look at what the sock is made of to be sure you’re not being sold smoke and mirrors.

“Many manufacturers use a fabric softener so their socks feel soft on the shelf to your hands,” says Blythe. These socks will work better after they are washed once, but may feel different afterwards, as opposed to brands such as Drymax, which Blythe says are softener-free and race-ready out of the package.

Myth #3: One style fits all

Unfortunately, just as there is no hard and fast formula for choosing the ideal running shoe (I’ve shifted loyalty among several different brands since taking up the sport nearly two decades ago), choosing a type of sock tends to be part art, part science — so prepare to experiment a bit in order to find a good fit.

For example, if you wear orthotics or insoles, you’ll probably need to look for a thinner sock with more protection in potential trouble spots, whereas a runner with narrow feet might want a bulkier sock to keep feet from shifting in shoes.

But regardless of your situation, remember that every foot is different, and what works for one person may not work for the next, so take into account these personal preferences when shopping.

Myth #4: Price is an indicator of quality

When buying socks, it’s better to think in terms of value instead of price. And even though we’ve been trained as shoppers to equate high price with high quality, it’s more important to consider the fabric and features versus getting caught up in the marketing magic.

Fewer bells and whistles might work for a quick workout or light cross-training, but do your homework if you’re looking for socks that will last for the long haul. Alas, there are no shortcuts, and what you skimp on at the register your feet could end up paying for in the end.

“If you think you can find the best sock by looking at price or by the best-known brand, you’re wrong,” says Blythe. “It’s foolish to pay too much for a sock, but it’s worse to pay too little.”

Myth #5: You’re not a real athlete if you don’t get blisters

In the past, we’d applaud runners who were able to forge on despite having horrible blisters. But thanks today’s new sock fabrics and technologies, athletes can continue to push their limits more comfortably — racing smarter, not just harder.

That means taking proper precautions to prevent blisters in the first place, which requires feet to be kept as dry as possible. And while many socks provide adequate protection for a few miles, the addition of sweat and repetitive movements over many miles, plus shifting up and down hills, makes blister prevention an increasingly difficult task for non-specialized socks, says Blythe.

“Choose your socks wisely,” he cautions. “Your feet depend on it.”

How do you keep your feet comfy for the long haul (and those long runs)?

Recipe: Baobab Recovery Smoothie

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After spending too many hours passed out on the couch after long runs, I finally perfected a formula for being able to salvage afternoons after intense training sessions:

Hot shower + Smoothie (*consumed in shower) = Ticket to feeling like a million bucks

And the more nutrient-dense the smoothie the better, so my body can start repairing itself as I go about my day.

Which is where Baobab comes in: I just heard of this most “super” of the superfruits recently and decided to give it a whirl after learning about its almost-too-good-to-believe benefits…

  • More antioxidants than any other superfruit, even acai, blueberries and pomegranate
  • High soluble fiber content (50% by weight)
  • A raw, whole, organic food
  • Ethically and sustainably harvested, even helping impoverished African communities
  • The planet’s highest plant source of calcium
  • More iron, potassium and magnesium than most other superfoods
  • Six times the Vitamin C of oranges
  • Rich in electrolytes and has a very high bioavailability
  • Contains no fillers or added sugar, sodium or preservatives

With a sweet, tangy and pear-like flavor profile, it’s an ideal addition to recovery smoothies to help boost your immune system, minimize inflammation and enhance digestion after tough workouts.

I think it’d work best for enhancing the flavor of berry-based smoothies, but I put it to the test in my standard peanut-butter-and-banana protein shake and was pleasantly surprised by the light taste and slight tang.

It did the trick post-run, but it’s also an excellent option for a quick grab-and-go breakfast!

Baobab Recovery Smoothie

Ingredients: 

Directions:

  1. Add first six ingredients to blender, and blend until desired consistency.
  2. Top with sprinkle of granola. Relax, sit back, and enjoy!

Fun fact: Since Baobab has a high pectin content (around 25%), it offers the benefit of being a natural thickening and binding agent for a nice, rich texture in recovery shakes.

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Harvesting baobab provides a cash crop for women in southern Africa and encourages protection of ancient Baobab trees, so it’s an ingredient you can actually feel good about using.

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Plus, the flavor’s also light enough where it’ll blend in seamlessly with pretty much anything — from smoothies and other drinks to oatmeal, baked goods, yogurt and sauces. Cheers to that!

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Got any other good tricks for post-workout recovery?

8 Tips for Ditching Runner’s Trots for Good

To quote that infamous childhood book, “All living things eat, so everyone poops.”

True enough, especially if you’re a runner. And if that’s the case, there’s a good chance you know this all too well, having likely discussed it extensively with a handful of close runner friends.

The Diarrhea Dilemma

While we like to think our workouts are accompanied solely by philosophical conversations, some inevitably spiral into war stories about bodily functions. But as prevalent as these intestinal issues (aka “Runner’s Trots) may be, it’s a topic that’s not addressed in all circles.

So what’s a trot-troubled runner to do?

Well, first, realize that you’re not alone — more than half of us have experienced exercise-related GI disturbances. And, second, there’s a lot you can do to prevent (best-case) and handle (worst-case) it. But it also helps to understand exactly what’s happening so you can make an informed plan of attack.

Desperately Seeking…A Restroom

According to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, “there are three main causes of GI symptoms: physiological (reduced blood flow to the gut), mechanical (bouncing effect of running, for example) or nutritional.”

As you exercise, the body diverts blood flow away from internal organs to support working muscles and cool the surface of your skin. Combine that with intestinal “jostling” and heavy/fatty/fiber-filled/sugary foods, and you’ve quite literally got a ticking time bomb in your gut.

Avoiding The Runs on Your Runs

Don’t want to make “that” emergency call during a long training run or veer off-course for a mid-race porta-potty pit stop? The former used to happen to me frequently, and the latter got me at mile 16 of the 2002 Chicago Marathon…sans TP; ’nuff said. 

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Here are my eight tried-and-true tips for taming those tummy troubles for good.

1. Develop a pre-run routine. Develop a system (mine’s coffee) to “get things moving” before you head out the door, and you’ll drastically decrease your chances of a mid-run meltdown.

2. Hydrate before, during and after. Dehydration compounds stress on the GI tract, so be kind to your colon and it may just return the favor.

3. Avoid common triggers. Things like NSAIDs, ibuprofen, sugar and fiber are known to irritate or stimulate your intestines, so refrain from ingesting ’em in advance of workouts.

4. Track your habits. Keeping tabs on what you ate and how it affected you during a run can be quite revealing! I know that quinoa, for example, leaves me doubled over…while I can eat potential triggers like dairy, beans, dried fruits, etc. with no issue.

5. Experiment with fuel type. Again, what works for a runner and his/her digestive system can vary from person to person, so take the time during training to see what agrees with you — and what doesn’t.

6. Play with fuel timing. Some people start jogging while chewing their last bite of breakfast, while I prefer to give myself a few minutes to digest before heading out the door. It may take some trial and error to find your rhythm, but it’s well worth the time.

7. Slowly increase intensity. Going too fast or too far too soon can result in GI backlash. Allow your body to acclimate to the stress of speed workouts and long runs by easing in with a warm-up and building a foundation before going all-out.

8. Whip your gut into shape. I consider probiotics my secret weapon for not just gut balance, but also overall health. After experiencing success with them over the past few years (i.e. long runs that bring joy instead of fear), I’ve been taking Sound Probiotics, which came highly recommended from my Coeur pal, Erin, who’s also an accomplished Iron(wo)man.

A little PSA: Sound’s the first probiotic engineered for the competitive athlete.

Why’s this important?

Well, during training you’re more susceptible to illness and fatigue due to the sheer amount and intensity of exercise. And since as much as 80 percent of your immunity resides in your digestive tract, I consider these little pills my insurance policy for optimizing training and recovery.

After an initial adjustment period (very mild bloating), I’ve been thrilled with the results. Not only have I been able to up my mileage without incident, but I’ve also managed to avoid all the nasty bugs circulating this season — which is especially impressive considering my daily ClassPass studio-hopping habit.

That’s a small investment for exponential results. Need more incentive? Use code KINETICFIX for 10% off if you want to try ’em yourself. 

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If all else fails, though, consider stashing some toilet paper and a few wet wipes in your run belt for peace of mind. Plotting routes with public restrooms also helps, but if you’re concerned it might be something more serious, consult with your doctor to check for underlying health issues.

And whatever you do, don’t underestimate the effect that soothing your gut can have your overall experience, let alone performance, during training and racing. After all, as marathon legend Bill Rogers once famously said, “More marathons are won or lost in the portable toilets than at the dinner table.”

How do you prevent those mid-run stomach rumbles? 

The Case for Yoga Pants (+ prAna Discount Code!)

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Throughout my high school and college running days, “workout gear” meant — quite literally — anything hanging on by its last thread: extra-large cotton t-shirts, stretched-out tube socks and over-sized shorts with elastic waists, for example. You get picture.

But my attitude changed in 2002 when I bought my first “splurge” item — a Brooks long-sleeved tech shirt — at the Chicago Marathon expo. In a classic rookie move, I wore it for the first time to run 26.2 the next day…but miraculously it performed beautifully in all of its sweat-wicking, non-chafing glory.

That experience forever changed my view of workout gear: No longer were my tops and bottoms merely “something to sweat in;” they became part of my training arsenal — not only to keep me comfortable and to help me perform, but also (occasionally) to be a major motivating factor in getting my butt up and out the door for workouts.

Because, let’s face it, when we look good, we feel good. And when we feel good, we can take on the world. Or at least a 6 a.m. spin class.

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Case in point: When prAna and Fit Approach partnered up last month for the #TakeTheLeap challenge in which we were encouraged to #BringYogaBack for 30 days.

I knew it was going to take a lot more than old fashioned willpower to get myself on the mat throughout the month. Don’t get me wrong — I love yoga — it’s just a challenge being present and working quietly when your default is hard-charging, goal-oriented workouts.

But when prAna sweetened the deal by throwing in an outfit from their new Early Spring collection, I knew we were speaking the same language. If you build it, they will come; it you make it cute (and comfy), they will om.  

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First on my wish list was the Florence Capri in Neon Orange ($79). Because neon orange.

If the color’s not enough to get your heart pitter-pattering, the design will have you swooning. From the flattering wide waistband to the compression Chakara performance fabric to the smooth seams, these pants fit like a second skin — without being overly constrictive.

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And then there’s the Piper Top in Cool Green ($69). I stepped slightly out of my wheelhouse with this one; I’m not usually partial to blousy tops, but sometimes you just need a nice, relaxed drape to skim, rather than squeeze, your stomach.

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Another lovely detail is the drawcord hem; loosen it up for longer coverage, or cinch it up to shorten the length and for added security — aka if you’re not into baring that belly during inversions.

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But my favorite feature that made this pick a no-brainer? The straps!

They’re adjustable, and I’m not just talking about the bra-type sliders. Nope, these babies can be converted from traditional shoulder straps to an X-back for both support and style purposes.

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Mindfully designed. Built to last. And best of all? Available at a discount, just in time to brighten up your wardrobe for spring! Use KineticFix’s special code (psps15KF) at checkout for 15% off your entire order.

Happy shopping — and sweating, friends!