Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Shoes to Wear Running; What Shoes to Wear Walking

I'm a runner and my mom's a walker. We live 800 miles apart so we were surprised to see that our shoes look like they could be neighbors. I'm running 5-7 miles a week in the Brooks Cadence and she walks 4-5 miles a day in Mizunos.

Mother/Daughter Running Shoes

I like the  Brooks Cadence for the "posts" under the arch. They support my outer foot and ankles when they roll outward as part of my stride. The toe box is roomy and the arch support is good. They are light but firm - they really hold your foot, unlike the Puma Faas 300 and the original Saucony Kirvanas. Unfortuantely, the left foot is a little too tight across the top of my arch so I get a cramp or tightness on most runs. Another runner acquaintance says the construction gave her blisters at the front of her arch initially. I've tried loosening the laces over the arch and it has helped a bit.

For walking in rain, sleet, snow or dry desert conditions, my mom only wears Mizunos. She walks 3-5 miles every day, so she really knows what works for her. She's mostly walking on pavement but sometimes hits the foothills of Boise, so she likes the serious tread on Mizuno. The support, quality and structure all work for her. Because she has wide feet (like me), she wishes the toe box on the Mizunos was roomier - it comes to a point, instead of being round like the Brooks

What running shoe works for you? Finding out can be expensive so, when buying, ask about the store's return policy. Places like are pretty good about letting you test and return.

Happy trails!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Running Socks: Nike running socks

Nike has won my heart all over again with the best running sock. Yes, it is that easy to win my heart but, before judging, keep in mind how hard it seems to be to make a great running sock!

Also, let's be clear: socks are the most wonderful item in any athlete's arsenal. Bad socks = blisters, lost toe nails, distraction, ugly tan lines and, sometimes, foot cramps. Good socks = effortless, thoughtless foot action. The sign of a good running sock: you forget it's there.

And, Nike has done it with the Nike Dri-Fit Cushion No-Show. Here's what I love and the one thing I wish was different:
- Starting at the ankle, the tab in the back is meaty. This sock is NOT going to end up slipping down into your shoe. And yet the cut is low, so you really are showing very little sock and keeping your tan lines to shoe cuff level.
- Two places on a sock are really make or break: the arch and the toe box. The arch on the Nike Dri-Fit Cushion is perfect. It hugs without cinching, supports without stifling. The sock's name comes from a very cushioned heel but the mid-foot fabric around the arch is thin, wicking, breathing Dri-Fit.
- The toe box fits real toes, thanks to left/right specific cuts. Even more important, there's no seam, so there's no reason to get a blister or chafing.

Unfortunately, as with all of Nike's high-quality gear, these babies aren't cheap. While less expensive than most SmartWool socks, they are $10 for ONE pair. Overall, they're well worth the 10 spot if you plan on running or race walking regularly. And, as the holidays approach, they'll make great stocking stuffers for your athletic friends and family.

Happy running!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Best Running Trail in Copenhagen

Travel and running go hand in hand. What better way to get a sense for a place than to run with the locals? Unless, of course, the locals don't run, in which case you'll get a sense for the local fitness.

Copenhagen is full of runners and bikers and has lots of dedicated "sidewalks" for cycling, but not a ton of running paths. There is a nice, gravelly long one, however, along the Sankt Jorgens So (St. George's Lake), in the middle of town. It was very much a local spot - running from the edgy Vestrobro neighborhood, through the ethnic, hipster Norrebro and up into the posh Osterbro area.

The lake is a skinny rectangle divided into sections by bridges. Along both sides are nice paths for biking and running. Trees provide shade and the local runners provide company.

I almost wish I had a Run Ranking system so that the 4 stars I'm giving Sankt Jorgens So would have real meaning. Let's just say, it inspired, it was flat and it was pretty. So go! Run Copenhagen!

By the way, what to wear running in Copenhagen? In early September, it was a cool 50 degrees. I definitely was too cold at the start and, as the photo shows, barely worked up a little sweat. I think a t-shirt with my shorts would have been ideal.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Running Gear Blog: What to Wear Running

What to Wear Running in 70 degrees: shorts, wicking t or tank, and low-rise socks that don't curl up into your shoes when you run.

Why? 70 is pretty warm - anything over 65 is going to increase your heart rate and slow you down. The best way to stay cool: expose your skin. The body's largest organ, skin is an amazing cooling system involving evaporation and ventilation. So, expose as much as you feel comfortable for maximum cooling. Just remember, wear sun block.

Today's featured brand: Puma. After a year, I still love these running shoes. The Faas 500 are a little more supportive than I need but they're holding up really well (one of the myths I'd heard about Pumas is that they fall apart quickly), look great and are comfortable. The only negative: the tongue sometimes slides down into the shoe when I'm running, which can create pressure on the top of my arch.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Serene Lewis meets Carl Lewis, Track & Field Olympian

I like my job now - I get to write, problem solve and play in the social media sandbox. But I never meet world-famous athletes. Ages ago, I did PR. It was sometimes stressful but my coworkers were awesome and, because one of my clients was Nike, I learned about great gear and got to meet a few gold medal-winning Olympians.

Sadly, I don't have a photo from when I met Michael Johnson (the world's fastest man at the time wasn't very chatty), but I did manage to capture when I met two other heroes. As I continue to go through Olympics withdrawal, a short walk down memory lane:

Mark, Dave, Me, Carl Lewis!, Courtne, Matt

Me (back row), women's soccer players from '99 team including Brandi Chastain (front row)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What Music is Good for Running: Songs from Olympic Commercials

I love the Olympics. Even the commercials get me hyped. Here are two of the best songs from this year's commercials:

IE9 commercials - Alex Clare's "Too Close." Throbbing break up song that is soulful, big and makes you wanna roll.
Unkown advertiser - Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive." Alternative, strong, a little disenfranchised but with power. Makes me grind the gears up to the next level.

One more song, for the ladies. Adele's "Rumour Has It" is angry, upbeat, rich and, similar to "Single Ladies" for some people a few years ago, empowering.

Enjoy your workouts and couch surfing this Olympics!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What to Wear Rowing: Gear for Rowing Machine

Activity: Rowing on the stationary rower
Temp: Gym temp - 70ish and moderate humidity
Time: 30 minutes

What I Wore: Lululemon, top and bottom. Loose tank with built in sports bra and low scooping for ventilation (and cuteness). Capri tights. Puma Faas 300 running shoes.

Did It Work: Yes. Here's the thing, on the rower, running shorts are super annoying. Because of how short women's running shorts are, you basically are putting your bare cheeks/upper thighs on a seat that hundreds have sweat on before you. So, long shorts or capris are key. 
Also, rowing is a lot of shoulder and arm movement, so a sleeveless top or tank is ideal - free, cool and, at 30 minutes, no chafing.
Together, this outfit is comfortable. When I'm out of tanks and have to wear sleeves, I wear my favorite Under Armour shorts, which are a little longer. The skin exposure that you get with shorts balances the coverage of a sleeve - rowing is hot work when done right and naked is best for cooling.

Note: The Lulu tights are a little "cottony" for me. They show sweat and attract cat hair. If I was buying the capris again, I wouldn't get black.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What to Wear Running: San Francisco Summer

Temp: 60 degrees (yes, that's summer in SF)
Wind: Mild
Humidity/Precip.: Moderate (~70%)/None
Terrain: Flat

What I Wore Running: Nike Dri-Fit t-shirt, Under Armour heavy-weight shorts, hat.

Did It Work: Yes. 60 is right on the edge of t-shirt weather for me. Today's run was slow and short, so it would have been easy to never warm up. The deciding factor was the sun - on a sunny day, it's easier to warm up and having exposed skin that allows sweat to evaporate is good.

Good luck to everyone running the SF Half and Full Marathon tomorrow!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What to Wear Work

I bike to work at least once a week because it: doesn't pollute, doesn't give me road rage, gives me a workout, is fun, is way more scenic than highway.

Whatever your reason, here's a random assortment of possibly helpful tips for biking to and/or from the office.
  1. Map your ride - riding to work isn't just about getting to the office. Turn the everyday into something better by taking a different route. Take a side street or cut through a park or both!
  2. Plan your gear - depending on how long your ride and how much your sweat, you may have some flexibility with gear. I take my bike on the train in the morning, so I only have a 1-mile ride, allowing me to arrive in my work clothes. Going home, I bike the entire distance, so I wear cycling gear. This saves time on arrival (no changing) and fewer people have to see me in bike shorts. If you have a long ride or sweat at the mere thought of cycling, wear gear and change in the handicap stall (more room so you won't drop a pant leg into the toilet while getting dressed). Important: no matter what your plan, figure it out the night before and pack accordingly. There's nothing worse than planning on changing at work and realizing you forgot shoes.
  3. Do a practice ride - especially important if you're planning on riding in your work clothes. Do you have any idea how sweaty you get when riding in pants and a button down shirt? Can you even peddle in your skinny jeans? Is there a hill that seems like a gentle slope in the car but is actually a mile climb?
  4. Be safe - in the summer, more daylight makes us feel more visible but being seen is always an issue when cycling. There is no shame in being a human torch if it saves your life. Bright yellow vests and jackets are best in summer daylight but at night, get lit! And don't just think about what's ahead, remember the car approaching from behind. Reflective gear is good when traffic is going under 25mph. Bright, flashing lights are needed for anything faster.
  5. Remember your bike lock - you never know when you might want to stop and smell the flowers. Be prepared to pause with a lock. Also, some offices don't let bikes in. If that's your situation, politely raise a ruckus - if FedEx trolleys are allowed in, so should bikes - and lock up outside until your ruckus gets results.  
It probably would also be smart to learn how to change a flat and carry a flat-tire kit. I don't so do as I say and not as I do. Or don't. Most importantly, enjoy the ride!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Addicted to Running

Here's how I know I'm a running addict:
  1. I had to "quit cold turkey" because I was getting injured too much and too often.
  2. Not running, if I don't find a stop gap, makes me itchy antsy crazy!
  3. Even though I quit running in December,  I am using a specific part of my life about which I'm not pleased as an excuse that I "deserve" one run a week until it gets resolved. Let's just say, it's been going on long enough, I'm back up to two miles.
  4. I haven't told my mom or best friend that I'm running again because they'll give me a hard time. Shh, it's a secret!
  5. When I used to run a lot, I would down play how much I ran, "Oh, I'm really more of a social runner."
My only glimmer of sanity is that, when I'm injured, I usually take a break.

Are you a running addict? How do you know?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What to Wear for Yoga...on the Golden Gate Bridge

If you happen to be planning on doing some yoga on the Golden Gate Bridge, this post is tailor made for you! If you just like to see awesome feats of strength and flexibility, you'll enjoy it also.

The event: My friend Shauna is doing Under Armour's "What's Beautiful" competition. One of her challenges led to her doing yoga on San Francisco's most famous landmark. I volunteered to  document the event with photos.

What she wore: the temperature changes fast out there, so Shauna came prepared with some LMFAO-style UA tights (bright blue with a zebra waistband - hot!), a fitted tank and a long-sleeve top that had a hood and thumb holes.

Temperature: starting off, it was about 75F, sunny and breezy. By the end, the fog was rolling in and it was closer to 60-65F.

Shauna stayed warm, wowed the crowds and put her gear through its paces with a series of asanas in four locations. Here are some of the highlights:

Dancer goes perfectly with the drama of the bridge and sky.

Classic down dog. Love the blue and bridge red.

I saw the fencing and it sparked this idea. Not yoga. More like urban escape.

Mountain meets GGBridge

Tripod head stand with split legs.

Reverse warrior. Notice grounded feet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Where to Buy Cheap Workout Clothes

I love workout gear that looks good and is functional. I also love a deal, so here's a tip for everyone who has small shoulders and a short torso: go to the kids department. Not only is it cheaper, it also sometimes is the best selection.

This past weekend, thanks to my friend Farrell Evans, a golf writer for ESPN, I was able to attend the US Open. My optimism got the best of me though and I was under dressed. The merchandise tent had been picked clean except for a few very expensive golf sweaters, so I headed to the kids department and got these two awesome items. I wore the sweatshirt that day and got lots of compliments - one in the form of a free ice cream bar. See captions for details.
Boys long sleeve T. Size: Large (age 8-10). Cost less than $30. Not sure who these 8-10 year olds are, but their biceps must be huge! Only downside: sleeves are about an inch shorter than I like.

Girls long sleeve, button up hoodie. Size: XL (age 11-12). Cost less than $40. Fits perfectly, which means I have the upper body of a modern prepubescent girl. Sad.
By the way, the Open was great. I went alone but everyone around me was very nice and I made temporary new friends. Based on talking to people who walked the course and those who sat, I recommend finding an interesting spot and staying there. I picked the bleachers at the 17th green because of the slope and the bunkers & sand pits all around it. This lets you compare skills with the course being the control factor.

Let me know if you have any other cheap gear tips!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What to Wear Running: Socks

I collect running socks and won't throw them away until they beg for mercy/get a hole. Most of them are made by Nike and are designated Left foot and Right. A few are SmartWool and are pretty good. One pair is made by Asics and they are the best of all.

The worst socks in my collection are these:

It may be hard to read but I've written on this photo "Dimple = blister spot." What I'm pointing out is this: if a sock's toebox stitching is so tight, it creates a dimple that can be seen from the outside, then that stitching is probably going to be coarse and rub against your toes. This is the case with these Brooks socks that I bought at the Nashville Country Music Marathon Expo. I love the color and cut, but that dimple, which you can see how extreme it is by looking at the inside-out sock on the bottom, is horrid.

Unless you like blisters and random callouses. Then, they are perfect.

Back to the Brooks. Happy trails!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What to Wear Running...Purse and pumps?

Since giving up running, which I used to do outside, I've been at the gym a lot lately. While there, I've seen some silly workout clothes. Here's my new favorite, as see on a 55+ year-old Asian woman:
  • Dyed black hair, piled on her head in a well-fixed beehive
  • Black slacks and jacket (think Hilary Clinton when she was campaigning) with a shirt of some kind underneath
  • Black pumps (aka dress shoes with a low heel)
  • Tiny purse. Yes, really, she had an itty bitty handbag hung over one arm
She minced around the gym, going from machine to machine, lifting weights. At each station, she'd gently set her purse on the floor, place her heels in the stirrups and pump some iron. It would have been even more awesome if she was freakishly strong, but she was definitely keeping the pin in the top two rungs. Still, for a woman dressed for an evening on the Love Boat, she was on it.

If you would wear anything to workout, what would you wear?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What to Wear Running: Vibrams

Gentlemen, I'm about to say something you might not like.

If you have small feet, please do not wear Vibram Five Fingers to the gym for anything other than running. Looking at each of your tiny toes as you do calf presses, leg lifts and abductors is almost as bad as the guy wearing torn jean shorts who is trying and failing to do tricep dips. I feel embarrassed and revolted at the same time, which makes maintaining my optimal heart rate and breathing difficult.

Please save your new grey Vibrams for a running day. Or, if you aren't a runner, get the kind that don't have articulated toes. Unless you're also an avid tree climber, there's no point in being able to grip with the little piggy who stayed home.

And to the man in jean shorts, this blog post isn't for you because you, sir, are no gentleman!

Until next time, stay healthy and keep your promises to yourself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What to Wear Running: Running in 75 degrees in Austin

What to wear running for humid 75 degree day?
Temp: 75 degrees (~22 c)
Humidity/Precip.: High (~90%)/none
Wind: Mild (~5 mph)
Terrain: Rolling hills
Distance: Varied

What I Wore: I've been in Austin for a week and didn't think I'd have time to work out so I only brought one running outfit: my purple Puma singlet and shorts set. Of course, this guaranteed that I've had 5 chances to workout.

Did It Work: Thankfully yes. The singlet is great in humidity because it barely shows when it is wet (aka sweaty) and it floats away from my body, so I don't feel sticky. The built-in bra is good if you're small - better endowed women might want another layer underneath. The shorts with the built-in liner are good, although a little too loose, I think. These are a US small.

Note: Austin is humid. It isn't always 90% humidity but I have only experienced one day here in 4 years of visiting at least twice a year where it wasn't sticky. Even when it's cold, it's humid. So prepare to feel more chilled than you really are when you start and brace yourself for a little trouble breathing and a lot of sweat.

p.s. I guess I should acknowledge, for anyone who knows I've quit running, that I've been cheating while in Austin. It all started with the only free machine in the gym being a treadmill and continued with a really beautiful, sunny, dry-ish day. Now I'm on a roll, so I'm wrapping up my trip with one more quickie. But then it's back to rowing, not running, for me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What to Wear Running: Running with a Dog

Temp: 25 degrees F
Wind: 5 mph
Humidity/Precip: Moderate/Snowing
Terrain: Flat
Distance: .9 miles

What I Wore: A dog! Who cares what I wore, I got to run with a dog. And not just any dog: a Siberian Husky on a snowy day in Idaho. It was like the Iditarod only much shorter, way fewer animals and on pavement.

Seriously, in all my years of running, I've never gotten to run with a dog that just wanted to run. I've always wanted to but, growing up, we had a West Highland terrier. This is the white version of a Scotty - short legs and very bossy, so when you run, they either try to stop or herd you.

Later, my mom got a Corgi. He was also a bossy herding dog and his legs were so short he made the Westie look tall. My mother is short and a long-distance walker, so these sturdy little dogs make sense for her. But I'm tallish and (was) a runner.

Anyway, I was in Idaho and a friend had this sweet Siberian Husky, Spirit. I had some time after taking my grandma to lunch so I volunteered to take Spirit for a walk. I promise, to all who know I've given up running, I did not intend to run. After all, I was wearing Vans, Levi's, a down parka and this hat:
Me, Grandma Rae and The Monster Hat

When we got outside, the snow was falling, the dog harness was jingling and a big voice in my head said, "Let's run!" So we did. Spirit was all that I have dreamed of when I think of running with a full-sized dog. He stayed close, but didn't bump me. He kept pace, never pulling or lagging. He didn't stop to pee every 20 feet. He never pooped. We just trotted along. Me, grinning like a mad person, wearing The Monster Hat that my grandma gave me for Christmas. It was, in a word, brilliant.

Today, my calves are tight. I don't think Vans are made for running.  It was worth it. Thanks to Spirit, I have a new, wonderful running memory.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What to Wear Running in 20 Degrees

Temp: 20 degrees
Humidity: Low (about 20%)
Wind: Mild
Terrain: Flat
Distance: 2 miles

What I Wore: My mom's windproof running jacket (that is just like mine because we're sick gear heads); lined, wind-resistant tights; heavy ACG fleece vest; long-sleeve, light-weight wicking top; skull cap and my mom's fantastic Outdoor Research mittens.

Did It Work: Brace yourself: I was too hot. Seriously. Like sweat running between my shoulder blades. I really wished I had a light-weight vest - I could totally picture it. Dense fleece or tech fiber but whisper light. Of course, I don't own this item and I was on the road so, because the extra core layer was mandatory, I had to sport the heavy ACG vest.

The Gear Worth Stealing from Your Mother: I admit it. I almost stole mittens from my own mother. The only reason they are still at her house is that I live in California; I don't need mittens. But for someone with permanently cold hands, they were lovely for the following reasons:
  1. Soft, thin fleece lining
  2. Tight cuff kept out cold air
  3. Gore-tex (or some such fabric) shell kept in my minimal hand warmth
  4. Low profile so, when I made a fist, I didn't have a fistful of fabric
If you're still debating what to do with your REI holiday gift card, buy these mittens!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ending a Relationship; breaking up with running

(Note, this post may be best enjoyed by playing The Manhattans in the background.)
I have been in a relationship with running for more than 15 years. Despite recently breaking it off, I can't help give one last, furtive, look back.
With Darren. I'm 2nd from left.
I started dating running when I was finishing college. It was casual - we barely were making it to 1st base (take that how you will). Things got a hot and heavy the summer of '95, when I added more miles and developed a regular training plan.
In 1996, running and I took things to the next level. I ran my first marathon and basked in the glow of love requited. In 1998, we affirmed our commitment with a second marathon.
After Chicago marathon '98
I kept spending time with running after I tore my knee skiing, the winter of 99/00. It was wrong. I wasn't ready but it made me happy.
Running was there for me when I moved to England and would have gained 15 pounds from eating cookies (they were in every meeting!). And, it was there for me when I got divorced, initially serving as a shoulder to cry and then, temporarily, becoming a crutch I relied on (which led to my 3rd and final marathon in 2007).
Post NYC 2007
My love for running knows no limits. When I can't do it, I dream about it and sigh with longing when I see people running on the street. No matter how much it has hurt me, I keep going back to it because so much about it is wonderful and pure and makes me feel good about myself.
Running doesn't mind if I try other sports. "Go ahead, cycle!" running laughs. "It won't make your heart race like I do." About yoga, running snorts at the lack of commitment. "You're not going anywhere," running comments. "Standing on a mat is not what I would call 'taking the next step.'" It's right, of course.
Me & Nathan. Baltimore
Running is willing to share me with other loves. My boyfriend and I ran together in New Zealand. My brother and I ran/walked a half marathon together in Baltimore. And I happily share running with everyone - I invite others to get to know running and even blog about what to wear to ensure the relationship grows.
But it's over. A year ago I told myself I had to stop. At first I said I would quit stepping out with running by my birthday but quickly I pushed back our break-up date to the end of the year. I thought about going out big - maybe one last marathon or even an Ultra. But running reminded me of why it had to go by hurting me again and again. First Achilles tendonitis, then issues with my piriformis muscle and, always, the aching knees. So, I let it slip away. We didn't go out with a bang or acrimony. We spent some quality time together over the winter break and then, on new year's eve, I laced up my shoes one last time and, as I wrapped up that last mile, said to myself and running, "Let's just kiss and say goodbye."
I'm gonna miss you.