Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Compression Sports Bra

I've gotten spoiled. I've been wearing sports bras that rely as much on structure as they do on compression for at least three years. They are reasonably comfortable, provide great support and look good.

Recently, a 24-hour trip became a 3-day one.  Luckily, I had running shoes and shorts. Unluckily, I didn't have a top. I dashed to the local Lady Foot Locker and picked up a Champion sports bra and Reebok top.

The Champion sports bras that I have at home are great -- molded cups and soft, wicking fabric. So, when I saw that LFL carried Champion-brand, but not my style, I did something I almost never do with running gear: I assumed it would be fine.

This is me, in the sports bra. A pooch of skin and fat is being squeezed out because the compression on this thing is so intense. The upside, the "girls" aren't going anywhere. The downside, well, just look at that charming flap of flesh and remember, there's one on the other side, too.

Aside from the almost-painful compression, the bra has some nice details:
  • Key hole in the back for a little air
  • Offset seams for reduced chafing
  • Mesh back panel for ventilation and quick dry
From someone who should have known better, this is a reminder: try before you buy!

Happy running!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yoga & Running

I've been a runner for more than 10 years. During that time, I've sporadically done yoga and Pilates. Last year, I started consistently practicing yoga once a week. I'm still incredibly inflexible (physically) but my upper body is very toned and I've shaved almost a minute off my time.

Yoga gear for runners:
Some gear is best for just yoga, but if you're a runner, you probably already have pieces that can go both ways.

Top: Sleeveless tank or singlet
I prefer a tank with built-in sports bra. One of my favorites is Power Y Tank by Lululemon. It has removable padding that hides "headlights," and the Y shape of the straps makes them comfortable in every position. The guys in my practice usually wear Under Armour or Nike singlets.
If it is cold in the studio, I might start with warm-up jacket, but good yoga is not just stretching; it's fairly active and I warm up quickly.
I don't like sleeves when I do yoga because of the wide range of arm movements being practiced. I want to feel free to do my best. I also wouldn't go shirtless, if I was a man or wear just a sports bra - the feeling of the mat against bare, sweaty skin is not nice.

In the summer, I wear fitted, stretchy shorts. My current favorites are the Chaturanga Yoga Short by Athleta. They have a 3-inch inseam, are very stretchy and usually don't get wet marks from sweat.
In the winter, I usually wear a boot-cut yoga pant or Nike's Dharma Yoga Capris. It's tempting to bundle up with a thick material, but I don't recommend it - when you sweat, it will get saggy and soggy. Stick with a wicking material that moves with your body and covers your bottom, even if you have your feet behind your head.

Happy running, yogis!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Speedy Sasquatch is My Favorite Sadist

Last night, I met up with Team Sasquatch's Tuesday night speed group, led by Josh, aka on Twitter @SpeedySasquatch. The hill workout plus push-ups and core work was punishing, but taught me some new things about my body and, thanks to a great group, was fun.

Temp: 75, dusk
Precip./Humidity: Low
Wind: Calm
Terrain: Rolling to HILLS!
Distance: 5.5 miles

What I Wore: Sleeveless top; lined running shorts; hat.

Did It Work: Yes. I liked having my arms free to swing as we climbed the hill, over and over. It also worked for eating 'shroom burgers and fries on a bench with @nycbklyngirl afterward.

Double Duty: The run outfit was not only worn for my run, but it also was all I wore for the subway ride to & from Central Park.  For non-New Yorkers, the subway is not the grim, scary place shown on the movies. Instead, in the summer, it is usually an ice box with cold, hard (but clean!) plastic seats. During rush hour, it was crowded with people in work clothes. I didn't mind looking like a runner, but I didn't want to look like I was taking the subway to my first Olympic trials.
Keeping all that in mind, I chose full-coverage shorts and the Nike sleeveless top, which is made of a thick dri-fit material, over the Puma running tank, which is made of a thin, wicking fabric and is more revealing.

Thanks to the Tuesday night crew for a great run!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

1 Outfit Fits All

I've been on the road and have had to do two runs in one running outfit.
Run 1: 60 degrees, sunshine. Hills.
Run 2: 75, sunshine, windy! 50% hill

Outfit: Under Armour t-shirt, Brooks shorts, Nike hat.

Did it work? Yes, but only because I shaved 1.5 miles off the second run.

The first run was 3.5 miles and hilly. I was a little cool when I stepped out but the immediate 1-mile climb warmed me up and by the time I was windmilling my legs down the last hill home, I was nice and sweaty.

The second run was 2 miles - an out and back of the 1-mile hill. I was comfortable as soon as I stepped out the door - never a good sign because there's nowhere to go but to hot. I stayed on the shady side of the street, which really wasn't that shady. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I could feel the sweat running down the center of my back. The return was downhill, still in partial shade and with a bit of breeze, so I returned sweaty and thirsty, but not flushed or overheated. Much longer, though, and I would have been too hot.

What would I change? I think I packed well, but on that second run, I could have just worn the sports bra and shorts.

Happy summer running!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Running Posture

I'm afraid that, if I don't work on my posture, I'll end up being one of those old ladies on the path who you admire because they're running even though they're 82, but who can't see you coming because they are so hunched over.

I realized this was a possibility after seeing a photo of me running. My trap muscles are up by my ears. I look like I've been doing a lot of press ups, but really, it's because I'm hunching.

Check it out:

Here are photos of my normal run posture (left) and the posture I'm striving toward. I marked the differences. With the good posture:
  • There's a space between my shoulder and the shirt strap because my shoulder ball is rolled back, better aligning my arm.
  • You can no longer see the mole and the flat of my shoulder blade. For me to achieve good posture, I really have to use the muscles between my blades, at the center of my back, to pull down and back. It's hard work, but worth it. 
  • Pulling down my shoulder blades draws in my middle back. In the bad posture pic, you can see a bit of my shirt in the back. In the good posture picture, it has disappeared, even though my chest doesn't look thrust forward. All the effort is in my back muscles.
If you want to do a self-assessment, have a friend photograph you near the end of a race or speed work, when you're too tired to fake perfect posture. Take a good look at the image. Are we going to be colliding when we're old and hunched? Are you letting one arm drag like a broken wing? Do you lift your chin like Queen Elizabeth at a parade?

As I try to adjust, I've found I'm sore from using my muscles in a new way. Yoga is helping, and I get a massage when I have the time and money. Changing my posture feels like quitting a bad habit - I know I need to do it, but it's frustrating and painful. I just hope better posture and alignment will let me happily age as a runner.

See you on the trail!

Friday, June 4, 2010

What to wear running in 80 degrees

Temp: 80, sunny
Precip./Humidity: None/Moderate
Wind: Calm
Terrain: Mostly flat
Distance: 3.5 miles

What I Wore: Nike running hat; Champion sports bra; lined Puma running shorts; Nike wrist sweatband; Aveeno sunblock.

Did It Work: Yes, as much as anything can in the heat. I know, 78 isn't that hot, but it feels like it after about 10 minutes of running. I knew it would, hence the minimalist outfit (no pics, I'm feeling shy:-D).

Sweatband, Really?: By the time I got home, my entire body was covered in slick of sweat. It was more than one little wrist band could handle, so why was I wearing one?
If you're a woman running in just a sports bra or a guy running with no shirt, sometimes you need something to mop your brow, eyes and nose. Without a shirt, you're up a creek, unless you've got a wrist band! You might not get it all, but at least you can keep your face from looking like the Bonneville Salt Flats.
(Above: Nike, traditional sweatband made of terrycloth. Very absorbent but gets kind of itchy when it's soggy. Lululemon, pocket wrist band made of wicking Luon (TM). The "pocket" isn't that functional, but the band is cute, lightweight and fairly absorbent.)

Happy running and, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, wear sunblock!