Fact: I am not the only woman who has ever felt self-conscious while working out. In fact, as most women will have a body hang-up of some sort at some time in their life, the idea of hitting the gym has likely been an intimidating thought for most of us.
For me, my size DD+ chest meant I was always nervous to jump/run/jog/bounce in public. At 15, it was because it hurt. At 17, it was because I was told I may be marked down in my ballet exams because I had to wear a different leotard in order to cover a bra. At 18, it was because I didn't want to draw attention to the one feature I hated most about myself. At 19, it was because I feared lewd comments from strangers as I ran. By the time I hit my 20s, it was because of all these reasons put together.
And I'm not alone. Bravissimo recently surveyed 1,500 women with a cup size D and above, and "60 percent honestly admitted that at some point in their lives they felt that they couldn't take part in exercise or sport because of their boobs." This is backed up by the University of Portsmouth's Breast Health Research Group who found that breasts were the fourth biggest barrier for women when it came to exercise, only after energy, time, and health.
As age has caught up with me, not exercising isn't really an option anymore, and I've had to suck it up and push past my insecurities. If you want to do the same, here's my advice on what could help.
Find a supportive sports bra
This may sound obvious, but considering that research suggests up to 70 percent of women still wear the wrong size bra, it probably doesn't hurt to mention.
According to the NHS, the movement of a woman's breasts during exercise can range from four centimeters during a walk, to 15 centimeters when running, which can cause ligaments to stretch resulting in long-term sagging. And of course, there's the pain of a bouncing, unsupported breast.
For bigger breasted ladies, you should be fitted properly first, before parting with your cash. And remember, the type of bra you require will depend on the activity you plan on doing and your breast shape.
In general, Bravissimo explained that sports bras tend "to have a wider back and are more covering than a normal bra" as this makes them more supportive. You should feel that your bust is held into your ribcage, and if you're wearing a bra without underwire, this will mean less separation between the breasts.
If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or just a little insecure, the best way to break down your barriers is to take a buddy on your run/dance class/trip to the gym. While this isn't always possible, if you can find a schedule that works for you and a pal, we guarantee it will build up your confidence over time until you feel okay to brave it alone.
Think outside the box
Fat-burning doesn't need to mean running and jumping alone. There are other exercises you can do that won't lead to your balls bouncing and you feeling embarrassed.
We spoke to personal trainer Dottie Fildes who clued us in on some fat-burning exercises you can do in the gym or the comfort of your own home.
Dumbbell Squat Overhead Press
Starting with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, hold the dumbbells up at your shoulders so a part of them are resting. Keep the weight back in your heels as you lower your hips to knee height. Fire up your glutes to bring yourself back to starting position. Using the momentum from the squat, raise the dumbbells up above your head, rotating the wrists to the front as you do. Lower the weights back to shoulder height and repeat.
Plank Crawl Outs
Start in a standing position, bend your knees, and walk on your hands out into a high plank position. Walk your hands back towards your feet, bending your knees as you do so and return to standing. Repeat as fast as you can.
Starting on hands and knees, lift your knees about an inch off the floor. From here, kick your left leg through your right hand and right foot, lowering your left hip towards the floor, lifting the right arm up to create space for your chest. Return the left foot and right hand back to starting position and repeat on the other side. Keep repeating on alternate sides.
Before you start rowing, make sure your feet are strapped in securely and the dampener is on an appropriate resistance. Holding onto the bar, reach forward towards the cage, then driving through your heels, use your legs to gain power while simultaneously pulling the bar in towards your body. As your legs reach full extension, lean back on the seat and continue pulling the bar into your chest. Extend the arms back towards the cage and bend your legs to return to the starting position.
Start in a high plank position with your hands on two dumbbells, complete one press up (bring your knees to the floor at this point if needed), once you return back to plank engage the core, maintain stability in the hips and lift one dumbbell to your hip keeping your elbow in close to the side of the body. Repeat on the other side. Jump both feet toward your hands, standing up with the dumbbells, complete a shoulder press before placing the dumbbells back to the floor and jumping the feet back to high plank position.
Strengthen your core
Having larger breasts could make you prone to back pain on a daily basis. If you want to take part in weights or strength training, this poor posture may affect your form, causing the problem to worsen. The fix? Strengthen your core. Here are some exercises Dottie recommends to beat the strain.
Lying down on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees, lift your legs up so your hips are also at 90 degrees, then lift your arms up towards the ceiling. Engaging the core, lower the right leg down towards the floor while simultaneously taking the left arm back towards the floor behind you. Only take each limb as close to the floor as you can without letting your spine come away from the mat. Return the leg and arm back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet hip width apart. Pushing your heels into the floor tilt your pelvis under and gradually lift your hips up towards the ceiling making sure you squeeze your glutes and keep your core engaged. Slowly lower your spine back down to the floor vertebrae by vertebrae to return to starting position.
Point Alternate Arm/Leg Reach
Start on hands and knees, knees placed below the hips, hands below the shoulders. Draw your belly button in towards your spine. Keeping your spine in this position lift your right arm out in front of you whilst stretching your left leg back. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds before lowering back down and repeat on the other side.
Hip Flexor Stretches
Kneeling on the floor with your hips above your knees bring your right foot in front of you resting your hands on your thigh for balance if needed. Squeeze your left glute, keep your chest lifted and slowly bring your hips down towards the floor as far as you can until you feel a stretch across the front of your left hip. To increase the stretch, lift your left arm up towards to ceiling and take a slight tilt over head to the right. Repeat on the other side.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.