My Favorite Running Stuff

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links)

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SPIbelt, ASICS running shoes, RoadID app, Hyathletic gloves

I’ve been a runner since I was 13. I’ve gone through dozens of pairs of shoes and probably hundreds of t-shirts, shorts, tights, socks, hair ties and who knows what else. I’m not super particular when it comes to my workout gear. I’ll wear a 10 year old ratty race t-shirt just as often as a $50 technical shirt. I don’t care. But, there are some things over the years that I’ve come to love and run with more often than not. Here are a few of my favorite things…

ASICS running shoes. I’ve had more Asics shoe models since high school than I can count and they have all worked well for me. I’ve avoided major injuries for 30 years and have always had comfortable runs so I see no reason to change my routine anytime soon. I’m currently wearing the Gel Kayano 22s and they give me just the right amount of cushioning without too much bulk. I’ve always been a fan of ASICS and would recommend them to almost anyone. I even recently made a convert of my husband!

Road ID app. The Road ID app uses GPS to track your run (or walk, bike ride, hike or whatever) and send eCrumbs to up to 5 people that you designate so they can keep track of you from any web browser. They don’t even need to have the app. I use it to let my husband know when I’m going out for a run alone or when I’m running a race so he knows when I finish. The app also has a Stationary Alert Notification feature that would let someone know if you stop moving for a preselected amount of time. A fantastic safety feature, in my opinion! And, it’s free!

SPIbelt. I don’t run with headphones so I’ve never had a need to carry my phone on my arm and frankly, I find armbands annoying anyway so I wear a SPIbelt. A spy belt is like the sleek, rich cousin of the 80s fanny pack. It’s big enough to hold my phone, keys, ID and a small snack or energy gels but not so big to be bulky or get in the way when I run. It’s usually hidden under my shirt or jacket so no one can even tell I’m carrying it. Another safety feature!

Hyathletic Flux gloves. These are a new addition to my stash of running gear. I’ve only worn them a few times but they’re quickly becoming indispensable. They’re thin and light as a feather. They keep my hands comfortable without making them clammy. In the past, I’ve tried gloves that are too thick and I end up taking them off halfway through my run. I’ve also tried using the thumb holes in my running jackets instead of gloves but they don’t quite keep my hands comfortable. I’ll admit these gloves look crazy when you take them out of the package (you’ll think there’s no possible way they can fit you) but, trust me, they work!
What are some of your favorite running gear items?

Happy Exercising!

I bailed on a race…

20 years ago I ran a race while I was recovering from bronchitis (not the smartest thing I’ve ever done!) I’ve run races after very little or no training. I’ve run races with various injuries. I’ve run races in horrendous weather and on terrible courses. (My sister likes to remind me repeatedly of a 5K I “forced” her to run with me that was seemingly uphill the entire way despite it being a loop course!!)

Once I pay a registration fee I find it very hard to NOT participate in a race. I know in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter whether I run or not. The organization already has the money and in most cases I already have my T-shirt or whatever other giveaway is involved. Although, I do have issues with wearing a T-shirt for a race that I did not actually complete but that’s a blog for another day!!

My point is, that despite having a number of legitimate reasons for not running a scheduled race, I very rarely bail out. Even when, sometimes, I really should.

However, I bailed on the five miler I’ve been training for that was supposed to happen two weeks ago. The Celtic Solstice 5 Miler takes place in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore about an hour from where I live and is a great race. The course is hilly and it’s usually very cold but overall, the race is just a great atmosphere during and after the run. There’s a heated tent at the end with cookies and hot spiced wine! What could be better than that! And this race offers beautifully designed, high-quality jackets with registration. Not a thin, cheesy looking t-shirt but a running jacket.

But the morning of the race, my friend and I would have had to leave at 6 AM and at that time my driveway was a sheet of ice and there was a “wintery mix” coming down. We decided to skip the race for our own safety. We knew the weather was probably better in Baltimore but our current location posed some problems. And let’s be honest, it’s not like this was an emergency. I’m not a doctor, police officer or other emergency worker that needed to be out. There was absolutely no reason for me to be on the road. And yet, I felt this ridiculous need to run because I put my name on the list and paid money. I run this race every year. How could I not go this year?

I know, logically, we made the right choice but it drives me crazy that I had to miss that race. It’s still bugging me almost two weeks later. I ran 5 miles on my treadmill to make up for it and have decided in my own mind that justifies me wearing the jacket even though its not really the same!!

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Celtic Solstice 5 Miler Premium Jacket

My point in all this is that one of my goals for 2017 will be to lighten up a little bit when it comes to racing. Or any other fitness endeavor really. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody but myself and my personal health (and safety!) are my priority. That being said, I already have several races lined up for 2017 so stay tuned!

Let me know in the comments what you have planned for the new year.

Happy Exercising!

Exercise is becoming a pain in the ass…

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Actually, it’s becoming a pain in the hips…and feet…and hands…
In recent weeks, I’ve developed joint pain as a side effect of a medication I’m taking as part of my breast cancer treatment. I’m only 43 years old but I feel like I’m 100! It takes me 10 minutes to loosen everything up enough to stand out of bed in the morning. If I sit or stay in one position for more than about 20 minutes, I have to do the loosening up thing all over again.

As you can imagine this is affecting my fitness routine. I have two road races coming up that I’m training for. Not being able to fully flex my feet kind of hinders the running process. When my hips are stiff I move with a sort of waddling motion…like a duck! Have you ever seen a duck run? It’s not pretty.

As with everything else since my cancer diagnosis, I’m trying to take it all in stride (pun intended!) and just figure out a new normal for my fitness plan. Some days are better than others. Some days I’m so uncomfortable that anything more than a 10 minute stretching session is all I can handle. Other days, I feel pretty good and get in my regular routine. So far, all the medication side effects I’ve experienced have been temporary and and my body seems to work through them within a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that will be the case once again so here are a few things I’ve been doing to work through this.

  1. I’ve made my warm-ups longer. Whether I’m going for a run or getting ready for a strength training session, I make my warm-up as long as I need to feel comfortable.
  2. I’ve renewed my commitment to working on my flexibility. Anybody who knows me personally knows that my flexibility is laughable at best. My hips and lower back are always tight and I can barely touch my shins let alone my toes. So now I make sure to stretch (dynamically and statically) before and after every workout. I also use my foam roller daily. And I’ve started to stretch a few nights a week before bed.
  3. I modify my workouts when I have to. And I don’t stress about it. If I’m only able to run 3 miles instead of 5, then that’s what I do. If I need to skip squats because my hips hurt, then that’s what I do. The bottom line is that I’m still doing something. It might not be as much or as intense as I’m used to but I feel worse if I don’t do anything.

If you’re experiencing any kind of chronic pain I hope these tips can help you too. I’ll keep plugging away and hope that these symptoms fade before my race next month.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Look for my Complete 10K Training Plan ebook on sale soon!

New Treadmill!!

 

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I have a new treadmill! Hubby took advantage of the Sports Authority going-out-of-business sale and I got a new ProForm treadmill!

My old treadmill worked fine and I balked a little at spending the money (even with the really good sale) but now I’m so glad we did. I bought my old treadmill used and had it for over 10 years and it more than served its purpose. I trained for a marathon with that treadmill. I knew where the buttons were without having to look. I knew how to twist the broken safety clip so it would stay attached to my shorts. I knew what it sounded like at each speed and how long it took to rise to specific incline settings. That treadmill and I had a special bond. I know, its weird.

But, this new treadmill has some REALLY nice features.

A built-in fan…love that!

An MP3 connection, iPad holder and built-in speakers…all nice features to have. Not something I’m used to but I think I can run and watch Game of Thrones at the same time, right?

And my favorite feature…a programmable intervals setting. I can set my own work interval and recovery interval so I don’t have to keep hitting the Up and Down speed buttons. Yep, I’m lazy.

Joking aside, this feature is quite useful and I’m really loving it. I’m just getting back into running regularly and I’m using a walk/run or slow-run/run system so this function helps immensely.

Walk 5 minutes, run 5 minutes. Each day I run, I decrease the walk time and increase the run time. I also have plans to use it when I start working on speed again. Can’t wait!

I’m sure all these features are common and available on newer treadmills but they’re all new to me. I like to run outside when I can but my new treadmill has brought out the running nerd in me! I’m so excited to get some treadmill workouts in.

 

Happy Exercising!

4 Ways to Fit in a Run When the Kids are Home

headerimageI run, on average, three times a week. More if I can but, I’m still recovering from medical issues earlier in the year, so three times a week works for me right now. But, the kids are home on summer break….running only 3 times a week is even hard at the moment. How to fit in my runs without having to do them ALL on the treadmill?

First, I’m fortunate to have a teenager at home that doesn’t mind (usually!) watching the littles for 30-45 minutes. I try not to rely on this option all the time because it isn’t fair to my teenager but a few times a month, it works.

Second, I’ve changed my routine so at least one of my three runs is on the weekend when hubby is home. This works pretty well because we take turns working out and keeping the kids entertained.

Third, the middle school is within walking distance of our house and it has an open track. The kids play in the infield or ride their bikes or scooters while I run. It’s a great chance for me to get in an interval workout! And the kids are very active so this works well for them too.

Fourth, I have lots of fit mom friends and family members nearby so we can trade workout time and babysitting duties. On more than one occasion, I’ve dropped the kids at a friends house and gone running. The kids get play time together while the moms get to keep their sanity!

Yes, its a bit of work to fit in running and exercise when my kids are home for the summer but worth it. My kids like to work out with me and have asked for their own fitness trackers so I must be doing something right!

 

Super Simple HIIT

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HIIT, or high intensity interval training seems to be a relatively new buzzword in the fitness world, but, SURPRISE…it’s not!

If you’re a runner you’ve probably heard of Fartlek training. If you’re not a runner, no I didn’t just curse at you in a foreign language. It means “speed play” in Swedish. Basically, a version of interval training developed in the 1930s. This is not a new concept. So, should you stop doing long, slow cardio and start doing intervals? Yes…sort of.

Steady state cardio has its place and is valuable in any fitness plan but adding a HIIT workout to your weekly routine can benefit you in a lot of ways.

  • HIIT can be modified for basically any fitness level from people literally just starting out all the way to pro athletes. There is no ONE way to do HIIT so make it fit your abilities and needs.
  • It can be done in any mode too. You can create a HIIT workout for walking, running, cycling, the elliptical , the rower, a step bench…I can keep going but you get the point. You can include body weight strength exercises for a slightly different but still beneficial HIIT workout.
  • HIIT workouts produce rapid improvements in fitness in a shorter amount of time than a steady cardio workout.
  • Interval training promotes appetite control and blood sugar regulation. It improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular fitness and body weight.

If you haven’t done interval training yet, ease into it with one HIIT workout a week to start. The very simplest form of a HIIT workout would be something like this:

While on a run, start at a moderate pace for 5-10 minutes. Then using landmarks such as lampposts, street signs or driveways, sprint to a specific landmark then slow back to your moderate pace. After a couple minutes or another landmark, sprint again. Do this for 20-30 minutes and then a short cooldown. Super simple…super effective.

If you prefer a more specific plan you can time your intervals to be precise. Start with a 1:3 or 1:2 interval and gradually shorten your rest intervals over time.

For example:
Warm-up 10 minutes

Sprint 30 seconds
Moderate pace 90 seconds
Repeat for 20-30 minutes

Cool-down 5-10 minutes

Again, super simple…super effective. A HIIT workout isn’t complicated so add one to your workout plan this week. Let me know how it goes in the comments.

Happy Exercising!

 

 

No, I don’t ALWAYS love to run…

“I don’t how you can run so much. I can’t run fast or far and it always hurts. You must really love it.”

I hear this all the time. From fellow runners and non-runners.

Runners love every minute of running and it’s not hard for them…yeah, right!

I’ve been a runner since I was about 12 or 13 years old. You don’t stick with something for that long if you don’t love it on some level. I do love running over other forms of exercise. But, some days, running is not my friend! Just because I’m a regular runner and it’s a part of my life doesn’t mean I LOVE running ALL.THE.TIME.

I have days and sometimes even weeks when running just SUCKS!

In the winter, it’s a monumental challenge to convince myself to pile on the layers and go out when my husband is sitting in front of the fireplace with a steaming cup of coffee. When I’m not super pumped to go running and I do it anyway, my legs don’t always cooperate. My quads feel like lead and my calves feel like someone has held a lit match to them.

I usually have no problem running in all kinds of weather but wind gives me a headache so runs in March can make me feel like I’m running with a vice clamp around my head instead of my hat!

Where I live, it’s very humid in the summer so if I don’t get out early in the morning, my run can be less than enjoyable to say the least. I come home dripping as if I ran through a sprinkler and I feel like I’m trying to breath through a straw.

When I’m training for a specific event and not hitting my goal workouts or times, I get very frustrated and angry at running. And I definitely don’t love it then. I know on a logical level this makes no sense at all but its how I deal with it!

Individual runs can suck for a variety of reasons but there are times when I struggle (for weeks or months, even) to get and stay motivated to run. The thrill of a good run just eludes me. Full disclosure: I can’t always tell you why this happens because, believe me, if I knew I might be able to do something about it! I keep an exercise log so sometimes I can pinpoint a specific time (the dead of winter) or event (a head cold I was slow to recover from) that I have a hard time pushing back from but other times it’s just a lack of interest.

When that happens, I take time off. I don’t stress about it. I don’t worry about it. I don’t force myself to run. That could lead to injuries and I don’t like the idea of dreading something that I don’t even HAVE to do in the first place. I do other forms of exercise and wait for my natural motivation to return. And for me, it always does eventually.

Running has been my salvation during very tough times in my life. It has kept me sane and strong. It helps me relax when I’m tense or stressed out and gets me energized when I’m feeling sluggish. When I start snapping at my family members…I know its time for a run. Of course, I’m tired afterward but I’m refreshed and ready to handle general life chaos.

Running is my joy in good times. I love the simple act of just being able to run whenever and wherever I want. I have a treadmill that I’m happy to use when necessary but running is so simple that all I really need is a good pair of shoes. I can run through parks and paths and parts of neighborhoods that you can’t drive through. An early morning spring run is my favorite, when I still need a jacket but it’s not so cold that I’m really uncomfortable. It’s quiet and I can run in places where all I hear are my footsteps.

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One of the most fun races! I do this every year with a group of friends.

Some of my favorite times have been running races with friends or running around the neighborhood with my kids. The first time my son ran a 5k with me is one of my all-time best memories. My husband is not a runner so when my kids showed interest in it, I was beyond excited to share it with them.

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Me, my son and my sister.

I know that running is not for everyone. Physical limitations might prevent it or horrible memories of laps in PE class or suicide runs at sports practice could be the reason. I get it! But running isn’t an either/or kind of thing. You don’t have to only love it or only hate it. There’s room for both in your exercise plan!

Have You Ever Run a Virtual Race?

I know, it sounds weird and pointless but I promise, there are lots of pluses to virtual racing.

First, what the heck is a virtual race, you ask? Well, it’s a race you can run anytime, anywhere at your own pace. You can run (or walk!) your usual route around your neighborhood, do laps on a high school track or run the whole race on a treadmill. There are lots of organizations that host virtual races of all distances and many of them use the race fees to support various charities.

When you register, you may receive a downloadable race bib, a window of time to complete the race, a t-shirt and a finishers medal. Not all virtual races offer these things but it’s more fun if they do! When you’ve completed the distance, you can upload photos and results to the organization’s website or social media sites to share your achievement. You can challenge friends or family who live far away to a race and still have the experience of doing something together.

I love virtual races for so many reasons…
You can run them when YOU want to. You can pick races where you ALWAYS get a medal! That’s reason enough for me and exactly why I did the “Race to Oz”.

Look at this beautiful medal!

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The Race to Oz Virtual race hosted by MakeYesHappen.com

You can do a “group” run and it doesn’t matter if there are faster or slower runners in the group. If you’re self conscious about what you look like when running or how slow you run – it doesn’t matter. Some races even let you run the distance cumulatively so if you haven’t run far in training, you can still do longer races. You just complete them over time instead of all at once.

Virtual races make you feel like you’ve accomplished something without the stress, nervousness and hassles of a large race. You don’t have to get up early (unless you like running in the early morning). You don’t have to run in bad weather or park 5 miles from the starting line. You don’t have to deal with crowds or worry that the finish line table will be out of bananas by the time you get there. Most importantly, you don’t have to use porta-potties! Yay!

For me, virtual races help me stick to my training plan. I don’t travel out of town for races but I like having a goal I’m always working towards so virtual races help fill in the gaps when I don’t have a regular race on my schedule.

Here’s a few other medals I’ve gotten for virtual races. I love the uniqueness of them! The Day of the Dead medal glows in the dark and the blue portion of the Department of Mysteries medal is see-through.

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More virtual race medals

Don’t get me wrong, I love real races too, for different reasons, but virtual races definitely have a place in my fitness plan.

Here are some organizations that offer virtual races that I’ve done in the past:

Gone For A Run
Make Yes Happen
Virtual Pace Series
WillRunForBling.com
Active.com
Hogwarts Running Club

Comment below with any other organizations that I missed.

A Beautiful View…

And it just happens to be during the 6th largest 10k in the U.S.

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The Chesapeake Bay Bridge

I’ve lived all my life near the East coast and driven (or rode when I was too young to drive) over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge hundreds of times.
The view while crossing the bridge is amazing. As a child, I was giddy in the backseat as we approached the toll. I couldn’t wait to see the water and smell the air. No doubt I was excited but the bridge itself was just a means to an end. A way to get across the great Chesapeake Bay and to the beach beyond.
In 2014, a close friend told me about the inaugural Across the Bay 10K race. I loved this idea and signed up the first chance I got. It was such a great racing experience that I immediately registered again for 2015 (and have already registered for 2016).

Register for 2016 here

My friend and I talked 3 others into joining us this year and we stayed together the night before which made for interesting race prep!
Because my little running group was staying on the eastern side of the bridge, the shuttle ride to the start gave us the perfect view of runners in earlier start waves already crossing over. So energizing to see before our own start! The weather was perfect this year. Sunny and just warm enough to really enjoy it.

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Our Little Running Group

The first quarter mile or so is on solid ground as runners spread out en route to the bridge. I know its silly, but I was giddy again, like a kid, as soon as I stepped on to the bridge. Being on foot gives you a new perspective. You see so much more when you’re not speeding by in a car. This is definitely not your average road race. I’ve never seen so many people stop in the middle of a race to take pictures. (Admittedly, I took pictures too, but I never stopped moving!)

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As far as the actual run, it was pretty uneventful. Basically, a really big hill and a straight line. The last mile was tough but I could hear the finish line music long before I could see the finish so that helped me push to the end. Our small group had split in two during the race but none of us crossed the line alone. The finish chute was packed shoulder to shoulder and slow moving but the after-race expo had lots of food and drink options to help celebrate our accomplishment. Another note: the cell service in the finish area and expo was terrible so be sure to arrange a meeting place in advance so you aren’t wandering aimlessly!
Running across the bridge allowed me to look at it differently. This time it wasn’t just a means to an end. It was exciting being up that high and looking out over the Chesapeake Bay. I highly recommend this race to anyone who can make it! Maybe my little running group will be a bit bigger next year.

 

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Did you run this race? Tell me what you thought of it.