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Archive for the ‘What I’m Wearing’ Category

Behold, the Hoka One One Conquest:

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You may recall my previous review of a Hoka shoe, the Bondi. At the time, I really loved that shoe.  After a few runs though, I realized I had gotten the wrong size, and even with an insole, it was too loose.  Unfortunate, really, because the max cushioning of the Bondi was fabulous for my achy feet.

The first version of the Bondi had some durability issues, so when the new version came out with a reinforced upper, I was eager to try it.  Although I went down several sizes when trying the Bondi on, I just wasn’t satisfied with the fit.  It was just too wide and felt sloppy on my foot.  So I tried on the Conquest.

The Conquest’s fit is much better for me than the Bondi.  It is relatively narrow (compared to other shoes in Hoka’s line) and has a lightweight, seam-free upper. Under foot it is firmer than the Bondi, but compared to more traditional shoes, the Conquest still has an advantage.  I like the quick-tie laces that come with the shoe, though some might want to cut them off to use the traditional laces for a snugger fit in the heel.

The Conquest has a water-drainage system.  That, combined with the high stack-height of the mid-sole, means running through puddles is no problem.  I love the rocker bottom on the Conquest, just like I liked it on the Bondi.  It helps me to mid-foot strike and therefore increase my turn-over, which is important right now as I’m working on increasing my speed.  The rocker bottom and the max-cushioning also feels great — it protects my toes from bending too much, which means less pain from my bunion and pinched nerve in my second toe (Old Lady alert!).

In the looks department, I think it leaves something to be desired, as do most Hoka’s, but that’s the sacrifice you make for a shoe that feels this good.

Every run I’ve gone on since I’ve gotten the Conquest has been in this shoe, with the exception of one run — it was short and I thought I’d wear another pair that I hadn’t worn in a while.  About a quarter mile down the road I was regretting my decision.  You just can’t get the same feeling from a traditional shoe.

My husband and I signed up for the Healthy Human Race Half Marathon Relay at the end of August, so I’ll be training for a faster 10K time between now and then. The Conquest will definitely be my go-to shoe for the summer training season.

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I changed jobs last winter.  I went from one running store to my current place, but unfortunately, all of my current winter running clothes have the name of my previous employer plastered all over them.  So, I’m in the process of purchasing some new pieces for fall/winter.  Because money is always tight, I’ve been thinking very carefully about the best pieces that will be versatile enough to get me through a variety of weather conditions.  If you’re a new runner, you might be in the same boat, trying to decide what you actually need for running through the winter and what is just fluff.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve been thinking and which pieces I have bought or am going to buy.

First thing you have to consider when deciding what to purchase is whether you run hot or cold.  Some people are always cold, some people are always hot, and obviously, whichever one describes you will determine which pieces you need to get for the winter season.  I usually run a little warm, but my hands and ears get really cold once the temperature dips below 50*.  So keep that in mind as I talk about the pieces I am investing in.

Remember that the best way to dress for winter is in layers.  You’ll want a good base layer, a mid layer, and an outer layer, plus protection for hands, head, and feet.

Jacket or Vest: There are great jacket options out there if you are one of those people who runs a little cold or who runs a lot in snow or rain.  You want to look for something that is water-resistant and wind resistant.  You also want to find something that has a lot of reflective details for this darker time of year.  I don’t run a lot in snow and rain and since I run hot, I’m going to be purchasing a vest.  I’ve narrowed it down to two choices:

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Brooks Nightlife Essential Run Vest

Smartwool PhD Divide Vest

Smartwool PhD Divide Vest

I’m trying to decide between the two.  I already have a running vest from Brooks that I really like (but is too big).  However, I’m really interested in the extra warmth that the Smartwool vest would provide.  It’d be great to have both, for different weather conditions, but that is not always an option.

Here is a good option for a jacket.  I like this Saucony one because it is stretchy and breathable in the back, while still providing wind protection where you need it most.

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Saucony Women’s Kinvara Jacket

Base layer: Fortunately, I already have a great piece for this, and I want to share it with all of you, because it is literally the best article of running clothing I own.You might not be able to tell from the picture, but this top actually looks like a fisherman’s net up close.  The tiny holes in the fabric trap heat when used as a base layer under a technical top, and, when used on its own, it regulates body temperature like nobody’s business.  Despite being full of holes, the shirt is really quite warm.  I’ve worn it twice now.  The first day I wore it on a 50* morning, with a wind-resistant vest over the top.  It was a little too warm for that weather, but interestingly, I discovered that I actually felt cooler with the sleeves down than with them pushed up.  The second time was last night, when I wore it under a jacket.  It was misting and chilly, but I still ended up pushing up the sleeves of my jacket, which shows how warm this top actually is.  I probably won’t need anything else for the rest of the season because I can see this top being incredibly versatile.

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Brooks Equilibrium Base LS

While you don’t have to spend the money on this top, you’ll definitely want to invest in something that is moisture wicking and is fairly tight.  The base layer is the most important one because this layer will be right next to your skin.  Make sure to pay attention to the seams (you don’t want chafing!) and fit.

Mid layer: A mid layer piece can be worn on its own or with a base layer, depending on the temperature.  You can find a good mid layer pretty much anywhere (even Target or Costco).  Again, pay attention to the fit and seams, and make sure it has moisture wicking properties.  My favorites this year?

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Smartwool NTS Light 195 Printed Zip T

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Nike Element Half Zip

I like a half-zip because you can unzip it if you get a little too warm, which, if you remember from the beginning of my post, happens a lot.  But basically, you are just looking for something that is going to give you a little extra warmth over a base layer.  Being moisture wicking isn’t as important with this layer, (since, hopefully, you will have a technical top as your base layer) but it doesn’t hurt!

Tights: I’m sure someone could make a reasonable argument for wearing pants for winter running, but you’ll never convince me.  I like a tight for several reasons.  First, it doesn’t drag on the ground, getting wetter every minute you are out there.  Second, it won’t allow wind to sneak its way up through the bottom.  Third, because it is tight next to your skin, it prevents chafing and bunching.  In some situations you might want to do a base layer tight (like a Smartwool long john) under a warmer pant, but I’ve never been in a situation that calls for that.  I have a pair of tights like this Nike pair below, but it has my old employer’s logo on it.  I’ll probably invest in this Nike pair for this winter.

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Nike Element Shield

Although again it’s hard to tell from the picture, this tight is great because it has wind panels built in to the front.  During winter running you’ll probably notice that your thighs get really cold, really fast.  This tight protects your thighs from the wind and the rest of the tight is a nice thermal weight.

I also already bought this tight for the not-so-cold days:

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Nike Epic Run Tight

Remember, you’re going to be most concerned about keeping your core and extremities warm, so a really warm pant or tight probably isn’t that important.  I find that I’m plenty warm most winter days with just a light tight.

Undies: Weird, right?  You wouldn’t think that underwear would be something you’d want to be concerned about.  But trust me, without undies for the winter, you’ll discover soon enough why they are vital.

Personally, I wear underwear during the winter to keep from chafing and give me an extra layer of warmth.  But running undies aren’t just for ladies.  Guys, you will definitely want to invest in a pair too.  Many of the men’s undies have wind protection on the crotch, which I imagine would be helpful.  I’ve heard horror stories about guys getting frost bite down there, and that is definitely not an area you want to take any risks with.  My favorite pair of running undies is from Road Runner Sports.  For men, I would suggest either of these two options:

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Smartwool Men’s PhD Lightweight Wind Boxer Brief

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Brooks Men’s Equilibrium Wind Brief

Hands, Head & Feet: Obviously, you want to protect your extremities whenever you’re going to be exposed to cold and wind.  I like an ear warmer/headband because it still allows the top of my head to breath.  When it’s really cold I’ll go with a hat (and ladies with long hair, look for a hat with a hole in the back for your ponytail — it makes life so much easier!).  I’m currently thinking about this option:

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Smartwool PhD HyFi Training Beanie

You may also want to consider a neck gaiter or a balaclava for really cold days.  I like a neck gaiter, because I can pull it up to cover my mouth and nose if I get really chilly.  I’ve been eyeing this one at the store, mostly because I think it’s super cute. 🙂

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Smartwool Pattern Neck Gaiter

For my hands I like a glove for warmer days and a mitten for when it’s really cold out.  If you’re planning on running through the worst of the winter, you’ll want to look for something with wind protection as well as warmth.  My favorite mitten for this kind of weather is the Saucony Run Mitt.  It’s really warm (we’re talking <20*) and it has plush cloth on the thumb and along the inside of the glove for wiping your nose (I know!  Running companies think of everything!).

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Saucony Run Mitt

Finally, don’t forget your feet!  When it’s chilly out, your feet can go numb with the cold.  You also want to think about the fact that you’ll likely be running through snow and/or puddles.  A cotton sock would be the absolute worst choice for this because once it gets wet, it stays wet, and then your feet will get even colder.  I like a merino wool blend sock for winter.  Merino wool is a great temperature regulator and once it gets wet, it will dry really quickly.  When wet, merino wool will also keep your feet warm.  Since you know I like toe socks, my options for the winter are Smartwool toe socks or Injinji toe socks in NuWool.

So there you have it.  Key pieces for building a winter wardrobe:

  1. Base layer
  2. Mid layer
  3. Outerwear (jacket and/or vest)
  4. Tights/Pants
  5. Hat/headband
  6. Glove/Mitten
  7. Warm, wicking socks
  8. Sunglasses (Ok, so I know I didn’t talk about this, but for me, sunglasses are a key part of my running wardrobe at any time of year.  During the winter I find them especially important because of the snow and rain, as well as sun reflecting off the snow.  This is something else I’ll have to be investing in here shortly, because I accidentally ran over my good pair of sunglasses with my car.  I’m probably going to get a pair of Smith Optics sunglasses with interchangeable lenses.  Once I get a pair, I’ll definitely be posting a review, so stay tuned!)

For those of you in Rochester, most of these pieces can be found in our store!

 

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My muddy running shoes, post-run

Every day at my job I see different types of people looking for running shoes.  Some of these people aren’t very serious about running, and just want something cute.  Others are just getting started and don’t really know what to do.  Still others are very serious runners, who know exactly what they want (and have been running a lot longer than me).  But my biggest pet peeve is when people complain about the color of the shoes: “I wish they were black.  These are going to look really dirty.”

I hate to tell you this, folks, but if you are worried about whether or not your running shoes get dirty, you are in the wrong sport.

You see, for me, and I suspect a lot of other runners, a really muddy or dirty running shoe is a badge of honor.  It indicates that you are a “serious” runner (whatever that means)– that you are more worried about the distances you go and your splits than about whether or not your clothes match*.  When your shoes are at the end of their life**, they should look like they’ve been through hell and back,  not like they’ve  just come out of the box.

So please, stop worrying about what your shoes look like, and start worrying about where they’ve taken you.

* Don’t get me wrong, I care deeply about whether or not I look cute when I go out for a run, but it’s not my only concern.

** For the love of God people, please, please, please replace your shoes more frequently.  A running shoe should last 300-500 miles, if you’re only wearing it for running.  If you are 120 pounds and you only run 10 miles a week, and don’t wear your shoes for anything else, you are looking at a maximum of 1 year.  If you weigh 250 pounds, and run the same amount of miles, your shoes should last you no longer than 7-8 months.  Anyone else, do the math.  But please, replace your shoes frequently.  If you are wearing a stability shoe, this is even more important.  The dual-density foam in the stabilizing part of the shoe doesn’t break down as fast as the rest of the shoe, so over time, you end up with a much larger medial post compared to the rest of the shoe than when you started.  This can mean you are over-correcting and can lead to injury.

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RoadRunner Sports Velocity 6″ compression short

Do those abs come with the shorts?

A month or so ago I ordered several pairs of these shorts from Road Runner Sports.  The reviews on the site seemed to indicate that these were fantastic shorts, so I thought I’d give them a try.  I prefer running in tights to eliminate thigh chafing and shorts-bunching, the nightmare of all larger-thighed women athletes.

Quick review:  Great shorts with a lot of awesome features for a reasonable price.  May be a bit short for some.

So, what awesome features do these shorts have?

The waist band on these shorts is wide enough for comfort and includes a drawstring.  However, there really is no need to tie the drawstring because these shorts stay put.  Next, these shorts include a tiny zippered pocket on the left hip.  The pocket is small, but would be big enough to fit a key or chapstick.  The length of these shorts is perfect for me.  But it might be a bit short for some people.  The leg band does not include a silicone gripper, which would be a nice touch, but to be honest, these shorts don’t ride up much at all, so they really don’t need it.  These shorts also have a small lining, right where you need it, so you can wear these shorts without underwear.  Finally, these shorts have attractive flat-lock seams that run diagonally across the thigh, creating a nice shape.

My only complaints are that the short only comes in black, grey, and a superhero midnight blue (more colors would be nice) and that the Road Runner Sports logo on the leg quickly starts to peel off after only a few washes.  However, other than that, the shorts have held up very well after repeated washings.  Also, keep in mind that, despite the description, these are not true “compression” shorts.

The best part about these shorts is that they are only $31.49 with the VIP discount from Road Runner Sports.  They are available up to an XL, which will fit a 34″ waist.

These are absolutely my new favorite running shorts and I look forward to getting a lot of use out of them this summer!

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Today I’m going to talk about the plight of most girls searching for a way to comfortably exercise: where to find a supportive sports bra.

This is a problem that is particularly troublesome for any of the well-endowed ladies out there.  But I’ve been told by women with less up top that they have difficulty finding a good bra too.  So while this post will speak directly towards the large bosomed, I’m sure any of you will find good advice here.

The importance of a good, supportive, and comfortable sports bra cannot be overemphasized.  Any woman who needs to wear a bra on a regular basis can tell you this.  If you’re uncomfortable not wearing a bra walking around the house or to work, you will definitely be uncomfortable with a bad bra at the gym. I’ve talked to women in the past who have given up running or walking because their breasts hurt when they did their activity.  It’s sad that this is probably the most important piece of workout gear, an item that can make or break a workout, and yet it’s almost impossible to find the right bra.  I mostly blame this on the manufacturers, who apparently can’t figure out that some women need more than marginal support and wear larger than A cups.  But you’re not completely alone in your fight.  You can find good sports bras out there, if you know where to look and if you’re willing to do the work to find the right one.

Boobs don’t just bounce up and down, they also bounce side to side, in a figure-eight pattern as you run, so it’s important to look for something that stops the bounce in any direction.  It’s also very important to make sure you have the right fit.  80% of American women are wearing the wrong size bra, so I would suggest getting a professional fitting as soon as possible.  You’ll be able to find the right fit for your every day bra, but you will also be able to find the right sports bra, especially if you need to order it off the internet, like many women do.

Let’s start with the bra that I wear, the Enell.  The Enell bra is probably the ugliest you will find.  It looks like a straight jacket.  The fabric is not all that flattering.  The seams across the nipple area generally show through most workout shirts.

However, and this is a big “however”, none of those things matter when you consider the fact that this is absolutely the most supportive bra you will find.  Generally, I would suggest this bra to bigger gals, though I think women with smaller breasts might appreciate the support and coverage as well.  This bra comes in five colors and ten sizes.  The largest size is designed to fit someone with a 50DDD chest – so this bra should fit almost everyone who is looking for support.  While the seams in the nipple area aren’t all that flattering showing through a shirt, Enell tells us:

The arch seam of the ENELL SPORTS Bra is designed to create a unique encapsulation and compression fit for well-endowed women.  This patented form fitting feature helps to minimize the “uni-boob” look.  We have conducted research and trials using a seamless molded cup, and this greatly compromised the performance of the support.  ENELL stands behind the Science of Superior Support & Comfort in our SPORTS Bra.  Therefore, at this time, we are not willing to eliminate the arch seam.  However… our research team is always looking into alternative seam applications.

All of this is undoubtedly true.  The bra does not have that traditional “uni-boob” look and it does hold everything in place.  I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Next, I want to tell you about another bra that I will wear for low-impact activities and the company that makes it.  Moving Comfort makes bras for every activity level.  They also sell tops, bottoms, and underwear.  I actually own a Moving Comfort compression short which I really do like.  The bra I want to tell you about is the Maia, found here for $46.  The Maia is extremely comfortable, with wide, adjustable straps, a 3-hook closure in the back, an underwire, and molded cups.  The Maia for me is best for low-impact activities like biking and yoga, though for women with less to support, I think it would be great for high-impact activities like running as well.  The only downside of this bra is that the front does come up rather high, much like the Enell above, which can make wearing certain v-neck tops a bit difficult.  However, several times I’ve worn this bra with the top of the bra showing like a camisole over button-down shirts.  The great thing about this bra is that it is comfortable enough to just wear around the house, but supportive enough to wear out-and-about.

These are the two bras that I own and can vouch for, however, I’d like to point you to one more resource for bras, Title Nine.  Title Nine is a great women’s only fitness clothing company that sells bras, tops and bottoms, as well as shoes, accessories (like yoga mats), and even everyday dresses, skirts, and skorts for the active girl.  Title Nine’s bra selection is extensive.  But luckily they have a great selection tool.  They also test out everything they own and each bra is usually accompanied with several reviews.  Title Nine organizes their bras into “barbell” categories.  A 4-barbell bra is for high-impact activities and for larger chests.  You can also shop by cup size as well as by activity.  I ordered my Moving Comfort Maia bra from Title Nine, and they also carry an Enell look-a-like bra called The Last Resort.

Another option for women who wear a D-cup and smaller is to go to a local running or fitness specialty store.  For example, The Running Room carries many great brands including Moving Comfort, Nike, and Champion.  However, if you’re well-endowed like me, you will probably not have much luck finding something to fit you in a local store.  You will most likely have to find something on the internet.

Before I conclude, I just want to re-emphasize the importance of find a good sports bra before commencing any kind of exercise regimen.   A ill-fitting or unsupportive sports bra could be the difference between sticking with your fitness routine and quitting after a few trips to the gym.  I should know: prior to buying my Enell bra, I made do with two ill-fitting cotton bras that really didn’t help much.  Every time I thought about going to the gym, I thought about those ugly bras, uncomfortable bras, and then, more often than not, thought better of making the trip.  Now, if you’ve had a chance to check out these bras, you have already probably noticed that a good bra is expensive.  Let me tell you though – it is worth it!  Not only will you find yourself at the gym more often, you’re also going to prevent saggy breasts.  If you don’t wear a good supportive bra, the connective tissue at the bottom of the breast can actually tear from too much bounce, causing your breast to sag – and I’m pretty sure none of you want that!  Make the investment in a good bra, and you’ll be thanking yourself later.

Between these four sources (Enell, Moving Comfort, Title Nine, and a local running store) you are sure to find a bra that works for you.  If you can’t find anything there, send me an email or write a quick comment and I will try to point you towards some other resources (I’ve done the research so there’s no reason you should have to do it too).  If you have any suggestions for other bras I should try, please let me know in comments.

Bounce-free workouts are possible, ladies!

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I promised a review on the Bondi Bands I ordered and now that I’ve had a chance to use them several times, and in several different situations, I can give all my loyal readers my take.

Quick summary: Totally awesome.  Why haven’t I bought these before?  Where have they been all my life?

A few days ago I was at the gym and saw a woman with this beautiful paisley headband/bandanna on.  I frequently have problems with sweat rolling into my eyes and I hadn’t yet found a sweatband that didn’t make me look like a total dork.  My solution in the past had usually been just making liberal use of that scratchy towel they provide you at the gym.  It worked and I had no reason to think that there would be another solution until I saw this headband.

When I got in my car I immediately pulled out my Blackberry and did a google search.  I found the Bondi Band website immediately.  I scrolled through some of the options on my tiny screen and came to the conclusion that I absolutely had to have one of these things.

As soon as I got in the door at home I pulled up the website and started surfing.  Bondi Band offers multiple products:

  • Wicking sweat towels
  • Light sweat wicking headbands
  • Heavy sweat wicking headbands
  • Wicking hats
  • Wicking ponytail hats
  • Swim caps
  • And more!

The Light sweat wicking headbands are made of lycra and come in a variety of beautiful colors and patterns.  I ordered the Pleasant Perfume version.

I also ordered three different Heavy sweat wicking headbands.  These are made from a CoolMax material and are specifically meant for working out.  I ordered the Sun Symbol pattern in white for myself, the Coach band for my husband who coaches track at a local high school, and one for my 17-year-old runner cousin that says “Some girls chase boys – I pass ’em.”

The items arrived quickly, within three days of ordering them.  I first used the lycra version as a headband after a late night out when I felt absolutely no desire to get up early and shower before heading out.  As described on the website, the headband stayed put throughout the day.  Because it is a wide headband, you can fold over the top or bottom to wear it wider or smaller.  I received several compliments on my headband and have worn it several nights since then.  It is perfect for just pulling my hair back after a long day at work.

Next I tried out my “heavy sweat wicking” headband with the sun decal.  I wore it for a 3.5 mile run at the gym, both on the track and on the treadmill.  The headband stayed put throughout my workout.  It didn’t ride up in the back or in the front, which is the trouble I’ve often run into with other headbands.  Additionally, I didn’t need to use my scratchy white towel at all during the workout.

Next came the real test: today I wore it during a spin workout.  For some reason I sweat a lot more when I bike, so I wasn’t sure how well the headband would fair.  Again, it stayed put throughout the workout.  I did have to use my towel during the workout, but mostly just for the beads of sweat that were forming just above my eyebrows.  Otherwise, none of the sweat that normally trickles down my forehead and into my eyes made it past the BondiBand.

Since the BondiBands are only $8 a piece, I anticipate ordering a lot more in the future.  I particularly think they’ll come in useful when it starts getting warmer and I spent a lot of time outdoors running and biking.  I’ll probably invest in one of their triathlon themed headbands for the tris I have planned for this summer. Or maybe this one:

I think this phrase might be apt as I’m slogging my way through a race this summer!

So now I have to ask: anyone else have suggestions for running/biking/swimming accessories that I just have to try?  Leave your suggestions in the comments!

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