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Finding kit that fits is a huge issue for big women, in fact its a problem for all sorts of women because funnily enough we are all different sizes and more importantly different shapes, and with sports wear we can’t always be as creative as we can be with every day fashion items you know like disguising and hiding our problem areas…so we are kinda stuck with what is out there, and we simply have to grin and bare it when it comes to letting it all hang out, after all running leggings are running leggings right?

Well no not exactly.

Tomorrow I will be co presenting a running fashion feature with Nell McAndrew for ITV’s This Morning show, where we will be kitting out the 3 ladies I am coaching for the Run for your life challenge. Now these 3 ladies are all very different in size, and when I spoke to the head of the This Morning fashion team last week…I gave her all my ideas about good places to get good kit (aside from my own range, which can not be showcased tomorrow due to OFCOM rules) and what to look for and then I wished her and her team good luck as they sourced enough items to choose from for the show.

I can’t wait to see what they found.

I have a car picking me up at 7.40am tomorrow to get me in for a rehearsal before the show goes live (so yes I should really be asleep by now) but I figured while this issue is a hot topic and likely to get a bit of media interest I would pull together a little bit of info on this subject, a top 6 things to consider when buying running kit if you are not your typical runner type (whatever that might be). You can also find some further info on our Kit That Fits campaign page.

So here goes…here are the 6 things you should think about when buying new kit…things that are within your control and can really boost your confidence.

1. Sports Bras – This is a crucial bit of kit. I know this sounds obvious but for many of us its a tough job locating something suitable, but if you can’t find one in your size this does not give you permission to give up and not bother. Women have always had to run (think cave women) and sports bras are a relatively new phenomenon, so just strap those beauties down which ever way you can. When I started out I wore one bra on top of another and that worked fine for 6 years or so. But do find a way to give yourself the support you need though as it will give you confidence and prevent pain and chaffing. If you seriously can’t find a sports bra in your size hound the major brands and tell them it’s not good enough to exclude you and that you have a right to exercise safely, put pressure on them to change their sizing policy.

2. Leggings – These are the best technical bit of kit you will ever invest in…so invest in them. Do your research, and expect to pay a reasonable amount for a good pair. Try loads on before you commit. Check for drawstrings, a must if you don’t want to be pulling them up all the time and check for how see through they are once you have managed to squeeze yourself into them. If you are worried about showing your bum, there are plenty of ways of covering it up…think skirt, tutu, long vest, shorts. Jogging bottoms are an option but they will create chaffing and can make you overheat too…I think they often make women look unflattering and masculine.

3. The Big Brands – Most running shops stock the well-known brands up to a size 16 or 18 if you are lucky, but often these sizes are not accurate. It is sometimes easier to locate big sizes in these brands online, but be prepared to send stuff back often. Unless consumers tell the big brands that their sizing is problematic nothing will change…stop buying kit that is too small in the hope it will fit you soon…that is money in the pocket of the big corporates and another thing to beat yourself up about back home. Remember there are other places to find kit…you don’t have to wear the brands that other runners wear to be a part of the running community (although it would be nice to have the option)

4. Be creative – Look differently at other types of clothing to find what works for you. Many supermarkets and catalogues now sell workout gear although be warned some of it is more what I would describe as leisure wear, so know what kinds of fabrics you are looking for. Try outdoor clothing stores and army surplus stores, but steer clear of the mens sections if you can, we still want to look like women right? Remember you can customise with fashion items and accessories, so think about what styles and cuts suit you outside of your running and try to integrate that into your running wardrobe. Off the shoulder tees for example make me feel sexy and work great over a coloured crop top style bra…experiment with some old T-shirts and a pair of sharp scissors.

5. Think shape – Running wear isn’t very forgiving when you have lumps and bumps, but lycra can be useful in terms of holding you in and stopping the wobble if you are clever about it, so think about how to use different items as shape wear. Try to eliminate visible lines around the belly and bra area if these make you self-conscious, and experiment with base layering to hide whatever it is you want to hide, and to add detail. I find wearing two vests gives me the support I need so it doesn’t matter if one rides up and keeps me warm on cold days. A well positioned race belt can work wonders in terms of holding tops down as can certain items of fancy dress when racing.

6. Colour – Be bold. Be bright. Be noticed and not just for health and safety reasons. Don’t just stick to black and navy as a way of covering yourself up and hiding away. Why shouldn’t we be able to wear brighter colours and nice patterns. I know some of you don’t want to stand out, but chances are people are looking at us anyway (we look at all types of runners, so it’s not just because of your size or shape) I always think of that quote by Mae West, “better to be looked over than overlooked”

Hopefully there are a few nuggets there for you. Buying decent kit is hard, but it’s not impossible. The main thing I think is to rock your look and make an effort to build confidence through the kit you wear. I always put a bit of make up on to race and think about how my hair might look (think headbands), and I always try to colour coordinate just to make me feel a bit better. It does work.

Of course You are under no obligation to look good when exercising, especially for other people…I mean you are exercising for goodness sake, it’s not a fashion parade, but equally if looking good is going to make you feel better and encourage you to run more often then hey make it work for you.

I find making my running kit a talking point has really helped, and if you would like to try this approach out too…check out our Too Fat to Run and Don’t judge just run merchandise available in our shop with tshirts from as little as £15. The feedback we get back from our customers is that not only do they fit great and wash up nice, but the slogans are empowering (despite what you might initially think) and actually make them run more often and even faster (honestly I am not making this up)

I hope you manage to catch the ITV thing tomorrow, if not why not watch it on catch up?

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