Keep your body (and mind) comfortable and confident through change
Unlike pregnancy, there’s no big countdown to midlife. You don’t have a set nineish-month-window to prepare for what’s coming. Gradually, or maybe suddenly, it just sort of happens and you need to find a new groove.
For chemical reasons and simple sands-of-time reasons, the midlife body will change. Almost certainly it’ll change into a different body to the one you had 10 years ago. It may change shape. It could be bigger in some areas, achy-er in others. It might not even feel like your body any more.
So midlife is definitely time to re-evaluate your sporty wardrobe to ensure you’re supported, safe and can continue to enjoy the brilliant benefits of exercise to mind, body and soul.
Here’s what to know:
Breasts and bras
We advocate for well-fitted sports bras at all ages, but in midlife it’s non-negotiable – even if you’re not in high performance mode.
Breasts can change size and shape all through life but in midlife it’s pretty much inevitable. Why? One of oestrogen’s many jobs is to keep skin and ligaments supple and strong. Into perimenopause, oestrogen levels fall causing skin to lose its firmness and ability to bounce back.
So to ensure your breasts are comfortable and optimally supported in sport, the advice is to get measured, choose and wear a well-fitting bra, always. If you can, use your bra’s adjustability settings to respond to changes in your size and shape over time.
You might be thinking that you’ve been wearing the same old-faithful sports bras for years and it hasn’t let you down yet. We admire the commitment, but now could be a good time to reevaluate. Beyond only changes to the size and shape of your breasts, it’s also a fact that sports bras’ supportiveness is compromised a little bit each and every time you wear and wash it.
We know now that after 25 washes, a sports bra offers 30% less breast support.
Time to say goodbye? Now’s the moment to ask that question.
If you aren’t yet convinced well-fitting sports trainers are essential, read this.
Otherwise, you may already know the sports shoes (style, brand, fit) that work best for you but it still pays to re-evaluate in midlife. At the very least, check your current pair aren’t past their prime and that they’ll continue to support you in the best ways possible.
There’s a heightened risk of injury in midlife, especially when it comes to knees, ankles and hips, so you need to be doubly and triply sure your shoes are fit for the job.
In selecting a pair of sport shoes, we suggest you test several brands and sizes before committing. And by test, we mean really test: lace them up fully (right to the top) and try them out on-the-job to see how they handle in your chosen form(s) of exercise.
As netballers that means testing them (ideally outside as well as inside) when jumping and running, stopping and starting, to assess comfort, support and how well-anchored your heel feels. Any doubts and it’s back to the rack.
Clothes and kit
Following on from the previous point, the last key message regarding clothes and kit in midlife is to find comfort.
That seems an obvious thing to say, but comfort may be in short supply during a life-stage where the old sense of normal is completely upended.
Midlife can be a great and liberating life-stage – but it probably won’t all be plain-sailing. Daunting things happen: from changes in size and shape, to added stress, insomnia, unpredictable periods, leaking blood and / or urine … the list goes on.
A woman’s confidence, certainly her body-confidence, may take a big hit so if you aren’t comfortable in figure-hugging kit, dresses or light colours then opt for an alternative if you can. Also common in midlife, women can feel like they’re running on the hot-setting, so try to find natural fibers, breathable fabrics and wicking technology as the right choice of clothing can really make a difference. Some sportswear also has an antimicrobial finish to help with the pongy aftereffects of a sweaty workout or a hot flush.
Lastly, it’s worth saying that women in midlife often start to care less about what others think, and instead put more value in how they feel in their clothes. Rightly so. Whatever your kit choices, don’t let being uncomfortable, physically or psychologically, hold you back from enjoying your netball.
A message for coaches and clubs
It’s a wonderful thing when women find a sport they commit to. But in midlife, that commitment is put to the test for reasons you’ve just read.
With that, can we think about softening kit requirements for the sake of participation?
Can we be more inclusive? Can we do darks instead of lights? If it has to be figure-hugging dresses, can we think about different shapes and sizes before settling on designs or a fitting process?
We can all play a part in keeping women involved in the sport they love – even when life’s in transition.
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