We all have things we like. Although I tend to stay true to the running gear I like, I am more than willing to try out new things that grab my attention (in a good way, not in a marketer’s-dream way). Here’s what I swear by:
“I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine, and he shall be my Squishy.” After failing with the Ride 5s and Kinvara 3s (not to mention all the other heaps of shoes I tried on in the store), I finally found a perfect pair of long-run shoes (which have turned into my daily running shoes) – squishy enough to cushion my legs, but not so squishy that it’s like running on sand. Supportive enough to keep my injury-prone shin happy, but neutral enough to not irk my knee or make me feel like I’m running on the outside of my foot. What is this embodiment of perfection? It is the Brooks PureCadence. In neon pink. Running in these shoes is like running on clouds. Or marshmallows. Or marshmallows on top of clouds. Either way, my feet have never been happier. I may or may not have several pairs lined up under my bed, including several pairs of the 3rd gen.
For clothing I tend to stick pretty close to my hometown brand – Under Armour. I’ve worn Nike, Brooks, Saucony, and countless other brans, but Under Armour takes the cake for my reliable everyday training shirt. Their UA Tech Shortsleeve V-Neck is one of the shirts I swear by for warm workouts. Light enough, but not see-through, long enough to hit my hips but not oversized or tunic-like, these shirts are comfortable and have never chaffed. I’ve been wearing these since I got my first in 2001 and love them. They come in some seriously great colors, too. Another great option is the UA Sonic long sleeve and short sleeve shirts. They’re greating for wicking away the sweat during runs – the fabric is super light and airy – and they’re also great for cooling down after a hard workout (I love changing into these after spinning).
As I’ve said before, I have body issues. I’m not really a huge fan of running in tank tops. But after getting horrible t-shirt tans all last summer, I’ve decided to take a leap into the deep end and purchased a tank top last week. Actually, I got two kind – one by UA, one by Nike. The Nike one’s nice, but I love love love the Under Armour Fly-By Stretch Mesh Tank. Okay, so the idea of wearing mesh kinda made me queasy at first – people might be able to see my squishy pale stomach! But it’s not too bad, actually. It’s just the right fit in the bust and just a bit baggy in the waist, which makes me much more comfortable than other tanks have, and the mesh isn’t like the pinnies we used to use in high school gym class – this one actually leaves a bit to the imagination. These kept me quite comfortable throughout the most miserable days of the summer (even when I’m not running).
Normally I wear pants year-round. Growing up, I was that person wearing jeans in swampy August weather. I have had some body image issues and have not always comfortable showing off my legs. However, that all changed a couple summers ago. The night before the Baltimore Women’s Classic I was laying out my stuff for the next morning, and I had put out a pair of Nike running capris. When I woke up the next morning, I checked weatherbug and saw that it was going to be a hot one – and humid. I quickly put on my Nike Tempo shorts, but as I walked across the house I remembered how much they ride up. Now, I don’t mind wearing them when I’m running errands, but I don’t want to run a race looking like Quasimodo trying to keep the shorts from riding up a la Homer Simpson. So on a whim (which I completely blame on the 5:00am wakeup call), I put on an old pair of Under Armour compression shorts I wore back when I was figure skating. Much to my surprise, they didn’t look half bad! In fact, they made my legs and body look better than the capris had. Ever since then, I’m a convert to compression shorts for warm-weather running, and compression tights for cool- and cold-weather running.
My favorite compression shorts are the UA Ultra 4″ Compression Shorts, because the fabric is smooth and not-too-thick-but-not-too-see-through, but the lack of pocket drives me nuts. When training I need a place to keep my key, and on long long runs I need a place to stash a gu or two. So when I need a pair with a pocket I’ve been trying out the Brooks Infiniti Shorts. The gel lining on the inside of the legs keeps them from riding up and they have a bit of reflectivity, which makes it a bit easier to be seen. The zip pocket in the back could be a bit bigger, but it’s big enough for a key and/or a gu. The UA shorts still are my favorite, but the Brooks are much more practical if you don’t have an entourage.
Luckily, my favorite Under Armour compression pants come in both HeatGear and ColdGear – what are the odds?? The Under Armour Authentic Legging is so versatile and honestly, you don’t even notice you have them on (unless you lose a lot of weight, like I did, and have them fall down during a run!). Unlike certain other brands, you never have to worry about them becoming see-through, no matter how much you sweat, and except for one ridiculously cold and windy run, I’ve never had the ColdGear tights leave me chilly. That said, there’s nothing better than slipping a pair of cozy warm Under Armour Fleece Pants on overtop of my compression pants after a particularly cold workout (bonus – they now come in lengths).
Perhaps the most important item for women, I’ve been through gobs of running bras (all the more impressive because I’m not exactly well-endowed). Most of the bras rated for high-impact sports are comfortable enough, but the problem comes in getting them off. I sweat. A lot. Like, so much that I actually have medication to make me sweat less. There’s nothing worse than coming back in from a run or trying to change at the gym and not be able to get out of your sports bra. I have contorted myself in every imaginable position to try and get out of sopping wet sports bras, only to pull muscles and feel like a complete idiot (and probably look like one too). So I was beyond excited when I saw an advertisement a couple of years ago for the UA Armour Bra. This one is fitted by band and cup size (novel idea, right?), but the cool part is the clasp in the back! It’s adjustable to three positions and makes getting it on and off way easier. Plus it’s incredibly comfortable and keeps you as dry as you can hope to be when sweating buckets. The only down side is the price. At $57.99 it’s definitely the most expensive sports bra I’ve ever bought, but well worth every penny (and if you shop at Sports Authority, they allow you to use their coupons on UA, unlike Dicks).
I’ve also added the Nike Compression Bra into rotation over the last year or two. It’s way more stylish than the Under Armour bra (and comes in so many super cute colors), but you do run the risk of getting stuck in it after a hot, sweaty workout.
During the winter months, you obviously need some sort of reflective/lighted gear to keep you from becoming roadkill if you plan on running along a road. Even during warmer weather you can still need something, depending on when you’re running. My favorite reflective vest, the Nathan LightStreak Vest, fits most people with its adjustable closures and won’t ride up like so many reflective vests can. And the best part about it? It has LEDs!! On the front and the back!! It’s super light, so you won’t feel it on you and it won’t create any bulk to trap heat against you.
Sometimes you need a bit more than a vest. My new absolute favorite? My Nike Flash jacket. Pure perfection. I can wear this jacket with a tank top on a cold, windy winter day and be more than warm enough, and the massive amount of super-reflective material makes me feel slightly better about running on or near a road at night. True, distracted drivers may not even see me and I still need to be vigilant, but with this I feel like I’m at an added advantage simply because of the high volume of reflective material (and I always wear blinky lights with it, just as an added protection). Unless they’re truly not paying attention, they can’t claim they didn’t see me.
Yes, this jacket is mad expensive. But I got last year’s model on sale through Dick’s this year for roughly the same price as my ER deductible. As long as it helps keep me out of the ER, I consider it a priceless purchase.
I love bananas. They’re the perfect size (although at a lot of stores they’re just plain huge), easily portable, and already come wrapped. The only problem? They ripen too fast! I’m always grateful that at the end of many races they have bananas available, becuase it’s a great post-run snack, but they’re always super ripe. For some reason, I just love a slightly-green banana that’s still a little crunchy. Unfortunately that means I can only buy like 2, maybe 3, at a time – and for some reason, grocery store checkout clerks look at your very oddly when you buy two or three bananas that aren’t from the same bunch.
I also adore Trader Joe’s Rustico Bread with some honey drizzled on top. It’s quick, simple, and easy to digest (which, considering that I can barely digest anything at 6:00am, is a miracle), and provides quality energy for my runs. Just don’t let the bread sit on your counter too long – it’ll mold over pretty quickly, especially in the summer.
The Stick and Foam Roller
Whoever invented this thing is a genius. It is so simple (really – it’s just a stick with beads!), but so amazing. Perfect for getting knots out of legs or just loosening them up a bit. Highly recommended.
I don’t know about you guys, but I have a hard time getting my hamstrings with The Stick, so another tool I use in partnership with it is the foam roller. The two really are an amazing team for keeping sore and fatigued muscles at bay.
When I started off training for the Baltimore Half in 2012, I started using the MapMyRun app on my iPhone, but it didn’t seem to be terribly accurate, at least in my area. A few weeks in I switched to the Nike+ app and absolutely loved it. It was really accurate and the bright bubbly colors and silly awards made running just a bit more fun (really, how can you argue with their little dancing monster? If he says you were awesome, you were awesome). However, the main limitation of the app is actually a limitation of the phone – battery life. For the Baltimore Half I had charged my phone to 100% just before the race becuase I knew battery life would be an issue. It ended up draining my battery down to 22%. Luckily I didn’t need to play phonetag after the race to find my ride home, seeing as he was running with me, but it did make me think twice about relying on a GPS app on my phone, especially if I ever decide to tackle the marathon. So for Christmas, my super awesome parents splurged and got me a Garmin Forerunner 610 and so far I absolutely love it. It’s super intuitive but also comes with tons of more advanced options. And bonus – unlike my previous 305, it doesn’t feel like I’m running with a laptop attached to my arm. I have the black one, but it also comes in a nifty white/teal/lime combo. Highly recommended.
I do love my CEP Compression Sleeves. After every long run or hard workout at the track I put them on as soon as I get home, especially if I know I’m not going to be moving around as much as I should. They really do help with recovery – my legs feel so much better so much quicker when I slip these bad boys on. Yeah, they look a little silly with shorts, but whatev.