Will a “Smarter” Bra Make You a Better Runner?

This Canadian-made “smart” bra could be the running motivation you’ve been looking for.

OMbra

Even though I’m a fitness instructor, I’ve always been an uncommitted runner. In fact, I never really liked running until I tried a new activity-tracking sports bra called OMbra. To my surprise, this Canadian-made “smart” bra helped me quickly improve both my running performance and motivation.

How? Turns out, OMbra made me realize I’d been running too hard, racing (and cursing) my way through every run. No wonder I didn’t love it. Drawing from my personalized activity metrics, the OMbra, with its companion mobile app called OMrun, coached me toward a more efficient, injury-preventing running style.

In about eight 30-minute workouts, I’ve noticed an upswing in performance. More importantly, I’ve become more motivated to get out there and log kilometres. Here’s why.

How OMbra Works

Created by the Montreal-based company OMsignal, OMbra tracks fitness metrics through a rectangular tech-device – about the size of a small bar of hand-soap – that you snap on and off the bra’s bottom band.

When I set out for a run wearing my OMbra, I sync it first to the OMrun app on my iPhone so it can collect and store metrics like cadence, distance, pace, calories and heart rate as I run.

Unlike most other tracking devices on the market, this smart bra also measures how efficiently I’m breathing as I work out (think: sucking wind versus steady, rhythmic breaths). The better the breathing, the more energy you conserve as you work out. This helps you challenge yourself without overdoing it.

Why I Feel More Motivated to Run

A standout feature of the OMbra is how it uses all the personalized metrics mentioned above to determine what zone you’re running in: Endurance (somewhat challenging but manageable), Race (booking it) or Peak (full throttle). You can check the app to see what zone you’re in throughout your run.

The running coaches behind OMbra recommend spending most of your time in the moderately paced Endurance zone to reduce your risk of injury while gradually ratcheting up your energy and fitness level. The theory here is that most people run too vigorously for their abilities and wind up injured, exhausted and/or discouraged. Admittedly, I found it tough to stick to the Endurance zone at first because it felt too slow, but I soon got used to the new pace.

The results have been motivating: My breathing efficiency has improved and I burn around the same number of calories going at a moderate pace compared to a shorter run at a decidedly more gruelling speed. I also feel more in the moment as I jog along, which has increased my enjoyment and drive to run more often.

What About OMbra’s Fit and Design?

I worried at first that a bra designed for activity tracking might be the undergarment equivalent to some wrist-based activity trackers on the market: techy but not cute. Not the case with OMbra. Its fit, style and design are on par with what you’d expect from any leading sports bra. I’d wear it for exercise even without all the tech extras.

Ensuring the right fit is important to get the most out of the data readings from the bra’s built-in sensors. Don’t go by just your usual bra size – follow the bra-fitting guidelines on OMbra’s website. Cost: $189 CND for the full starter kit; $79 CND for each additional bra; omsignal.com.

Amanda Vogel is a certified fitness instructor in Vancouver. She blogs about health and fitness products at www.fitnesstestdrive.com.

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