Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What to Wear for Plantar Fasciitis

Guest blogger: Maya. Full article at

Plantar Fasciitis is a nasty pain in your foot, mostly in the heel area. According to WebMD, you can get PF from putting too much strain on your feet, like if you are an athlete. It can also be caused by sudden weight gain, for example from pregnancy. 

Plantar Fasciitis is when your fascia at the bottom of your foot gets tiny tears. It very seldom rips completely. Once you have PF, it is best to start treatment immediately. If it is ignored and you carry on with your normal activities, it will get worse and therefore take much longer to heal. Some cases even go on for years!

If you lead an active and sporty lifestyle, you are highly susceptible to Plantar Fasciitis. Many runners push themselves and overstrain, which causes little tears in the fascia. As running is very much an ingrained part of our lifestyle and daily habit, we will want to keep running as usual, even though each step feels like you are pushing a nail into your heel.

This is where your dress code comes in. Even though you might suffer from PF, you may still be able to continue running (UNLESS your podiatrist tells you not to. Listen to your doctor!). The key is to wear a pair of running shoes that promote:
  • Cushioning
  • Arch support 
  • Shock absorption
You can combine good quality running shoes with insoles to maximize all three of these aspects. The most suitable running shoes are Asics Gel Kayano and New Balance 1540. These shoes also offer motion control to a degree, making them suitable for over pronators as well. Keep in mind that each individual's feet differ from the next person. What works for one Plantar Fasciitis sufferer might not work for the next. For example, I have met a runner who swears by barefoot running to get rid of PF. I cannot even start to imagine running with barely any cushioning whilst I have stabbing heel pain. Not for me!

Let us know if Maya's tips help your Plantar Fasciitis. For more from today's guest blogger, visit happyrunningfeet for tips on the best shoes to wear for flat feet.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Does Under Armour Make Running Shoes?

I need to address this question because I'm surprised at how often people say to me, "I didn't know Under Armour made shoes."

Does Under Armour make running shoes? Yes. They actually make a couple of different weights and styles. In the coming weeks, a friend who is an Under Armour athlete will run down all the styles she has tried and what she likes. For now, I can tell you that I've tried two.

Under Armour let me test these running shoes for women:

  • UA Charge RC-2
  • Under Armour Charge RC-2
    • Summary: not for me. See reasons below.
    • Like: 
      • Silver and neon color scheme. 
      • Heel fits in the stirrups of the rowing machine and doesn't slip out. 
      • Easy on due to toebox being separate from heel.
    • Dislike: 
      • High back - digs into my Achilles, causing some issues when running. 
      • Not as light as I prefer but good for someone who wants moderately light with structure. 
      • Runs big - based on reviews, I ordered the same size that I usually wear in a street shoe (instead of half a size up like most show experts reco) and it's still very roomy around my middle toes.
      • Rubs against a bone on the inner part of my foot. I've learned that, on most people, this bone doesn't stick out, so this shoe should work for others better than for me. 
UA mesh short and tank plus Micro G shoe
  • UA Micro G Toxic Six
    • Summary: not my go-to, but a great running shoe when I'm traveling because they pack small. 
    • Also like: 
      • Soft heel - very gentle on the damaged Achilles. 
      • Light - not as light as the Kinvara but definitely breezy. 
      • Good fit - I ordered half a size up from my street shoes and they fit perfectly. 
      • I get compliments on these odd-looking babies.
    • Dislike: 
      • Zany color choices - sort of a leopard print on a green background. 
      • Unstructured toe box can cause feet to slip.
    • Unsure: the laces are on the outer part of the foot, instead of running up the top. It's supposed to reduce pressure on top of the foot. This isn't a problem for me usually and I haven't noticed a difference except that it's a little odd looking.
    • Note: because of the very cushioned ankle, remember to wear thin or low-anklet socks.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Convert a T-shirt into a tank

For various reasons, a lot of athletes don't like short sleeves. Long sleeves - great if it's cold or your muscles haven't warmed up yet. Sleeveless tank - great for freedom of movement and showing off your biceps. But the T-shirt? The sleeve lives in no man's land. It's nondescript, not flattering, not functional. Just gives you a farmer's tan and, in the worst case, makes your shoulders look extra broad.

Here's an easy tip (mostly for women) on how to turn a t-shirt into a tank without cutting off the sleeves and looking like a power lifter:

I saw this at the Under Armour store in Baltimore. It looked so cute (better than I've done here), that I actually asked where they were selling the little ties. Turns out (and here comes the tip for how to make your t-shirt a tank), they had cut up their own head bands and made them into ties. Because of the grippy rubber on one side, they stay tied, so your sleeves stay up. One headband makes about three ties.

Why do it: You might have a drawer full of athletic t-shirts that you don't wear because they just aren't good looking. Instead of shelling out another $20-40 for a new tank, go to the hair products section of your local drug store and buy one of those multipacks of fun-colored (or black, if that's more your style), skinny headbands. Go home, get crafty and get happy with your new gear!

Stay healthy.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review of Biking Skirts

This is a semi-cyclist's review of two biking skirts (or biking skorts, if you like word mash ups).

Why wear a bike skirt: Bike skirts are not promoted as serious training gear. They are for women who like to use their bike as transportation when going to far away places. The padded short protects your bum during the ride. The skirt hides your padded diaper butt when you get to your destination.

Note: You can also buy bike shorts that are hidden within an ordinary short. I opted for the skirt because the padding made the seat of the ordinary shorts look a little full. I also could have gone for the baggy style shorts, which would have hidden the padding better. However, my personal look is a bit more fitted/classic, rather than baggy surfer/biker chick. Choose what works for you!

How does the bike skirt work? Easy. The bike skirt has two layers. The inner layer is bike shorts made of spandex with a padded seat and a griping band around the thighs. The outer layer is a skirt. Preferably, the skirt is made of something stretchy and quick drying, so it will be comfortable for riding and won't hold sweat.

Bike skorts reviewed: I reviewed the Flare bike skirt by Terry,
which says they design for women, and the Cruiser Bike Girl skort by Skirt Sports.

The skirt: Both skirts are made of quick-drying, stretchy fabric. Both have side slits. Both are sewn to the short at the wide waistband, rather than being attached at the hips by tethers, like some combo gear I saw. When riding, both skirts blew up, revealing the short. I tucked the hem into the short to keep the skirts in place. Differences:
  • Terry's Flare has outside pockets on the hips of the skirt. 
    • Upside: two pockets that are easy to reach. You might be able to stuff a tennis ball in this pocket so, if your goal is to ride and then hit some balls, this is perfect. 
    • Downside: the pockets aren't reliable when you're cycling because they are loose and don't have closures. Visually, the loose hip pockets also make the wearer look wide.
  • Skirt Sports' Cruiser Bike Girl had higher slits. 
    • Upside: more freedom of movement. 
    • Downside: It was a little harder to make sure I was riding on the skirt, instead of trailing it behind. Also, if you're walking in a windy place, you're more likely to give a show.
The short: Both shorts had just two panels per leg. Better bike shorts have more panels. Both had
Terry's thin shorts materials
padding that the designer claimed was woman-friendly. Both were made of stretchy material. Both had grips around the thigh. However, the differences in the short are why I ended up choosing the skort by Skirt Sports.
  • Terry's material was thin. Aside from ventilation, this is all downside. The shorts are see-thru and don't compress as well as bike shorts should. The thin material allows the shorts to sag so that, when I got off my bike after a 4-mile ride, the padding hung between my legs and required serious adjusting, in public. Charming.
  • Terry's padding was not as sturdy as I like
  • Skirt Sports used traditional bike short spandex for their short. Upside: compressing, stability,
    Skirt Sports' thick shorts material
    not see-thru.
  • Skirt Sports padding has contours that reflect a woman's anatomy. Also, the material feels sturdy and appropriately thick. I have yet to find padding that makes cycling feel like riding on air, but this will do.
  • Skirt Sports short includes a pocket on each thigh that is big enough to hold an iPhone. The pocket is tight - made of the same material as the short - so nothing is falling out of it and it has a low profile when you're walking around. A hole in the skirt allows your phone's headphone cable to reach your ears.
Cost:  I bought both skorts on sale. The Terry was about $45 at REI and Skirt Sports was about $60 from Competitive Cyclist (now on sale even more from Skirt Sports). The upsides of the Skirt Sports bike short made it worth the extra $15. If you don't ride much, the Terry bike skirt's price is tempting, but I think you'll be getting what you pay for - a cheap skort that you won't want to wear.

Summary: I recommend Skirt Sports' Cruiser Bike Girl. It works well and looks good.

Good luck and enjoy the ride!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Running gear: what to look for when trying on

Buying running gear should be easy but it varies in quality, cut and function so much that it's easy to be overwhelmed. Here's a couple of things to look for when shopping for running clothes.

On the rack/online:
  • Function is key
    • Shorts - Men: buy shorts with a liner so your junk doesn't jump around. Women: buy shorts with a liner so you don't have to wear your cute underthings and don't give a show while stretching
    • Top - Everyone should have a quality wicking top. This is the one area where it's worth spending a little more. A lot of companies claim their shirts wick away sweat but many don't. I recommend Nike, Asics, Brooks, Under Armour and sometimes Road Runner Sports.
    • Champion sausage bra
    • Sports bra - ladies, consider these two things: poke through and jiggle. A lightly padded sports bra will handle poke through. If you don't have much to poke, focus on compression. A tight fit will hold you in place and flatten your pokey parts. HOWEVER, too much compression and you'll be squishing out like a sausage. Check the flesh around your armpits to make sure you aren't oozing out (yep, that's as sexy as it sounds).
  • Think big picture
    • This is for the ladies. There are a lot of cute tops out there. Many of them have
      Cute but bad for layering
      interesting tank styles. This is great looking, until you put your sports bra underneath and most of it shows.If it doesn't have a built in bra, go for a slightly more traditional cut.
In the dressing room
  • Comfort is king
    • When trying on your gear, hold still for 30 seconds. Can you feel the clothes? Good gear should sit on your body, almost weightlessly. If it feels tight under the arms, it won't get better and may lead to chafing. If it's pinching off the circulation in your thighs, you'll have a hard time running. Don't look in the mirror, just FEEL.
    • Now, swing your arms, try to touch your toes and squat. Again, feel the gear. Do the shorts ride up? Does the shirt twist or ride up? Are you already getting overheated as if you were wearing a polyester blanket? If it's not comfortable, you're not going to want to wear it.
  • Take look
    • Once you know how it feels, see if you like how it looks. Does seeing yourself all geared up make you wanna run? Do you feel faster already? Jump up and down - are you putting on a bouncy show? Hopefully the answers are yes, yes and no.
If the price is right and your gear meets the criteria above, buy! And then get out there and RUN!

Happy trails.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What to Wear for Tennis: Women's Tennis Skirt

"Dress for the job you want" applies to tennis as well as the office.

In other words, don't show up for tennis in running shorts, pocketless sweatpants, yoga tights or jeggings. Wear whatever you want on top, as far as I'm concerned, but what you wear on the bottom is important for three reasons:
Ralph Lauren tennis skirt with undershort. Note pocket!

  1. Tennis requires on-going access to balls. Don't waste time and energy constantly picking them up. Wear bottoms that have ball-sized pockets.
  2. Tennis demands footwork. Tripping on your yoga pants is a good way to end your tennis "career."
  3. Tennis takes itself a little seriously. Even if you play well, someone will give you the stank eye if you treat the sport like laundry day.
So, what to wear for tennis? Shorts with deep pockets that open wide enough to hold a tennis ball. A skirt with undershorts. Either the skirt or the undershort must have pockets. If you're a woman, wear a sports bra; you will be running. If you're playing outdoors, I recommend a hat to shade your eyes from the sun so you can watch the ball. I'm not a tennis shoe expert but strongly recommend a stable, strong-holding shoe. Tennis involves too much lateral movement for today's light-weight running shoes.

Most of all, tennis requires an ability to laugh at yourself. Mad dashes across the court, crazy lunges, wild swings and bad shots that send the ball a mile high are just the beginning of the folly and fun of tennis. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

These are not my shoes: Under Armour Spine Men's shoes

Men's Under Armour Spine shoe

These are not my shoes.

These are the shoes of a professional basketball player who wears a men's size 13.5.
I wear a women's 7.5 (approximately a men's 5). My toes barely reach the end of the laces and I couldn't get my heel to touch in the back. They are well designed for a big-a$$ foot.

These shoes belong to my friend's friend and when I saw them I could not resist putting them on (they are new, so no foot fungus among us). I imagined what it would be like to have feet this big. I bet I would never tip over; my base would be too big and my center of gravity too low.

These are not my shoes. But if they were, I would rock them!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blasted Abs

I'm only being a little ironic when I say, today, I totally blasted my abs.

First, I did one set each of three different TRX Body Saws (10 with crunches, 10 with pikes and 5 each leg of one-legged triple crunch, which sounds like a Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor for pirates).

Second, I got on the ab board and did three sets each of:
  • 10 Leg lift
  • 10 Crunches
  • 10 Sit ups (sitting all the way up and engaging the lower back)
Third, I got on the core workout machine. I really should look at what it calls itself. Anyway, I did one set of 15 standard crunches and one set of obliques - 10 reps each side.

AND THEN, I did plank, side plank, plank, other side plank.

I came home, ready to photograph and post my newly blasted abs but, well, let's just say the photos didn't do the workout justice.

Looking forward to being sore tomorrow.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Nike top best for yoga?

A gift from a friend means I have more new top in the gear test kitchen this month: Nike two-tone T with cutouts. Today I wore it rowing. It's a bit snug under the arms, so more testing is needed to see if it is irritating for sports involving repetitive arm movement (running, rowing...boxing?). 

I'm thinking it might be perfect for yoga. I did a long headstand and, because it is fitted, the top stayed up while I was down.

It is cute, with the keyhole cutouts over the shoulders and down the back. But, in gear as in people: cute isn't everything.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What to Wear Running: 80 Degree Run in Under Armour for Women

Temp: 80 degrees F/25 degrees C
Humidity: Moderate (55%)
Wind: 10-15 mph
Terrain: Rolling hills
Distance: 3 miles

What I Wore: Under Armour's Fly By mesh tank and knit short. Champion compression sports bra.

Did It Work: As much as possible, yes. I don't handle heat very well. When the mercury hits 75, I'm a hot mess. HOWEVER, this UA gear worked well. The tank didn't bunch or chafe. The mesh wasn't cheesy and see-through. Instead it was breathable and a good weight. The design creates a gather in between the upper shoulder blades so it's less restrictive and more modern. The one thing I would change: make it two inches shorter. But that's just because I have a short torso.

I REALLY like the shorts, with two considerations for anyone going shopping. Here's what's good: modern fit with no excess fabric; wide, comfy waistband; pocket built into liner; close-fitting liner or some nice soft material; VERY good looking, classic design.
Considerations: tiny inseam (~2 inches); lack of inseam can make it feel like it is riding up between the thighs (I don't think it actually was). When buying, be sure to try them on. The shorts are so fitted, you can get VPL (visible panty line) from the built-in liner on the hips or lower bum area.

And the shoes? I'm still testing Under Armour's Micro G shoes. They did well today. I modified my stride a bit and didn't have any ankle pain. Note to self: tighten those laces! These shoes will slip from side to side if not laced tightly.

Thank you to Under Armour for letting me try out this gear.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Under Armour Running Shoes: Charge RC 2

Under Armour's Charge RC 2 shoe just arrived in my little test kitchen. Love the color. Silver should be the new black when it comes to training footwear.

Aside from how they look, the one thing I can comment on is the sizing. The reviews on Under Armour's site said they run big. I normally wear a 7.5 street shoe and a size 8 running shoe. Based on the reviews, I got the 7.5 and there is plenty of room at the end of the toe. I have moderately wide feet and a high arch. So far, the smaller size isn't pinching. We'll see how they feel after tonight's workout.

Thanks for the opportunity to try these out, UA!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Under Armour Running Shoes: Micro G Toxic Six

What I'm Test Running: Under Armour's Micro G Toxic Six running shoe

  1. It deserves to be called Micro. Lightweight and low profile at 5.5 oz. 
  2. The laces are offset to reduce pressure on top of the foot (I have such high arches, I usually can't wear Nike). 
  3. A friend who is sponsored by Under Armour offered (full disclosure!).

So far I've worn them for a 3 miler on pavement and 1.5 miles on the treadmill. The fit is good and I like the sock liner more than I thought would. Sadly, my achilles is acting up. Not sure if it's the shoe - there is almost no padding under the ball of the foot - or me, so I'm giving myself a little break. More after I've logged a few more runs.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Running in Nashville: Where to Run in Nashville

Nashville is a great city for runners. Sure, the summers are hot and humid and the winters are moderately cold and wet, but the city has invested in being foot friendly. It’s paid off in some beautiful runs.

Trails: The Cumberland River Greenway trail from North Nashville, past Germantown and into downtown is nice. I like it because you can make it long – about 10 miles out and back – and it gently rolls. As the name hints, it’s along the river, so the view can be pretty. The only downsides are: lack of shade and a few slightly dodgy parts. I wouldn’t recommend it to women for a night run.

Pre turtle sighting
HOWEVER, my new favorite trail is the Shelby Bottoms Greenway in East Nashville’s Inglewood.
“SB,” as the signposts call it, is mostly a flat, two-way path with short loops at each end. The loops plus the two-way bit add up to an absolutely luscious 8-mile run.

Shelby Bottoms Greenway isn’t just a trail without street crossings. Its path is set back in a long, wide greenbelt, so you don’t even hear car traffic. The quiet path is perfect for runners, cyclists, deer, rabbits and even turtles. Similar to the Greenway trail, much of SB has a view of the river.

Nose & Notes: You won’t have to stop and smell the flowers on this run. Thanks to honeysuckle and berry bushes in bloom right now, the air smells like sweet jasmine tea. Forgot your music? Cardinals rule these roosts, providing flashes of crimson and a steady accompaniment of song. Just watch where you step. The turtles don't even try to get out of the way.

This handy map shows Nashville's trails, parking and entrances. As the map shows, both of the runs I've mentioned here have off-shoots. Shelby Bottoms, for example, also connects to a local park and  golf course trail that can add miles to your run/ride, if you’re really committed.

Races: I can only speak on Nashville’s Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon and the Boulevard Bolt (a Thanksgiving tradition). Both fun. They each have their own character. 

Two of the 10 sumo suit shimmiers
Nashville's marathon in April is seriously rockin’. After all, this is Music City! Every block,
practically, comes with its own soundtrack. Sometimes it's as basic as a bunch women in sumo suits playing a boom box and dancing. In other spots, you get a live band. Both are guaranteed to help keep your feet moving, in a good way!

The Thanksgiving Boulevard Bolt is an entirely different affair. It’s a 5-mile roundtrip walk/run festooned with turkey costumes, pilgrim hats and a few of Santa's elves. While the owners of the fancy homes lining Belle Meade Blvd sit outside, drinking hot cider, mimosas and spiked nog, the real pep comes from the participants. Cheering, chatter and cow bells are common. 

After the race, one or two of the homes host brunches on their lawns. It’s hard to tell if these are open to all, but they sure look inviting when you’ve gotten up early and haven’t had your turkey yet.

Happy running in Nashville!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Should I Wear My Race Shirt on Race Day?

When it comes to running, one size does not fit all. This is especially true about the free shirt you might get when you run a race. Here's some things to consider when debating if you should wear the race's shirt on race day:
  • Quality - is the shirt a brand you trust? If not, don't wear it. The shirt might be great but you don't want to test it on "the big day."
  • Temperature - some race swag is bought because it's cheap, not practical. Given a t-shirt for a winter run in Chicago? Handed long sleeves in Death Valley? Wear the right sleeve length for the race temps, not the race director.
  • Distance - I might wear new shoes, socks or a shirt for a short run but will fall back on proven favorites for longer races. Think about how long you would be ok being uncomfortable and then decide if you want to try something new or broken in.
  • Team spirit - are you running with or for a team? You might need to suck it up and wear the shirt. Or have a reliable friend give you the team shirt at the finish. That way, your finisher photos rep the team and you stay comfy.
Non-wicking, too-big race shirt
You may be asking, what could possibly go wrong if I wear the race shirt for a little 5 or 10k?
Probably nothing major BUT, if the fabric doesn't breath, like this shirt I got in 2010, you may overheat and be slower than you like. If the seams under your arms are too tight, the fabric too bunchy or the shirt poorly crafted, you may take home some chafing along with your medal.

No matter what you wear, enjoy the race and pray for good swag!

Happy running!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Running Music: Running without Music

Like most everyone I know, I usually workout to music. It seems inspiring and motivating but I wonder if it might also be a bad distraction that gets in the way of really absorbing the work I'm doing on my body. So, this month (May), I'm working out without music.

The 1st three workouts were unremarkable. Just a couple of quiet runs and a quick weight-lifting session. I thought a lot about running shoes and form. At the end of one of the runs, I had one of my usual running songs playing in my head. I guess an empty brain will fill itself with the familiar.

Today, I had planned to row and lift at the gym. I expected to zone out to TV instead of music but these three older gentlemen befriended me and one of them chatted all 20 minutes that I was on the rower. At first, I resisted. I'm so used to zoning out, I didn't want to engage. But then I thought, what's the point of taking away the music if I don't accept whatever fills its place? So me and Carl, the awesome octogenarian, had a great talk about racism, guys in the Navy getting "the clap," sports and whether or not I should get my tubes tied. Yes, really, He also shared that he had a vasectomy when he was in his 30s and that it didn't even hurt.

Carl made my workout go faster than any music ever has. Thanks, man!

Friday, May 3, 2013

What to Wear Running: Puma Faas & Puma Running Gear

About three years ago, Puma Running sent me some gear. I'd never run in Puma before, so I was interested to see how it compared to my old standbys. I was looking for a few things, including comfort and durability, which is why I'm doing another blog post now, years later.

Nike top from circa 1999
When it comes to gear, I've always loved Nike. Their stuff just lasts! I've had this red top since 1999. Seriously, kids running in my last 5k are younger than this shirt! But, it still looks good, wicks sweat and lets my skin breath. I knew Puma looked fresh and was interested to see if it stayed that way (I had heard rumors that it falls apart).

Three years later, I still LOVE this blue tank. It looks great on - I get compliments
Puma top 2010
when I wear it. The two layers of silky fabric are comfortable up to 80 degrees. The built-in sports bra has silver threads that haven't popped and (hopefully) help prevent stinkiness. The pleats around the neckline hide "poke through" when I'm chilly. And, the sports bra is strong enough for serious runs if you're an A or B cup. Most importantly, as I shift from being a runner to a multitasker, this top has successfully come along for rowing, yoga and cycling adventures.

Puma's running shorts are also holding up really well. The
Purple Puma shorts, another fave top
pockets still zip, the elastic is strong, the lining is hole-free and the style is classic. I have them in purple and black. Current color trends mean the purple ones look modern even though they're a few years old.

For shoes, I became a runner in Saucony back when they were touting stability. Brooks and Asics were my brands when I became a marathoner and wanted something a little fleeter. Now, Brooks Cadence and Saucony Kinvara time share my runs along with the Puma Faas 500.

The first shoes Puma sent weren't a good fit. The 8 was too big and the 7.5 too small so I donated them to charity and gave up on getting to test the brand. Lucky for me, Puma didn't give up and sent me a second pair a year later (about two years ago) - the Faas 500. They sent my friend the Faas 300 to test and photograph. The sizes were right, so we got down to running.

I still love the Faas 500 after two years, uncounted miles of  running, a few trail hikes and South by
Faas 500 Photo copyright: Dana Underwood
Southwest - I was wearing them when I met Jimmy Fallon (it was a Nike event but I still rocked them). What I like: The color is hot. The weight and minimal materials are cool. They hold on gently, so my natural mid-foot strike can flow.  Unlike my Kinvara's, the nylon hasn't split and, unlike the Cadence, they never made my feet cramp. Detractors: As a mid-foot striker, I wouldn't mind if the heel was less built up. That would be a great way to drop weight without losing structure. Also, when I corner, the loose hold of the shoe means it slips a bit around the toe box, so I have less control.

According to my friend, the Faas 300 are really only good for road running. They need to be laced tightly because otherwise they slip if you pronate. If you're looking for a racing slipper, and not something that you can also trail or city walk in, these might be good for you.
Puma Faas 300

Thanks again to Puma for the chance to test. Happy running!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What to Wear Running: Leg Sleeve

Issue: mild achilles burning up into calf on left side only
Attempted solutions:
  1. Not running - calf muscle/achilles still felt hot after 6 months so I returned to running
    CEP leg sleeve
  2. Changed stride - shifted from heel striker to landing on the outside mid-foot then rolling onto the ball. This helped all my other aches (knees, hips) and prevented achilles from getting really twingy but calf was still pesky
  3. New shoes - Saucony Kinvara helped me maintain my new stride. Calf still hot
  4. CEP leg sleeve - honestly, I can't tell if it's actually doing anything but I like it because it makes me think that everything is being held together and, therefore, won't fall apart. It also is a gentle reminder to keep my stride easy, paying casual attention to my delicate tendons.
Recommend? Not in general. If you've got an issue, why not, but if you're just on a gear buying spree, I'd skip the sleeve and buy better socks (Nike or Asics will love your feet like nothing else).

Friday, April 26, 2013

What to Wear Running: 60 degrees & Sunny

Temp: 60 degrees and sunny
Wind: 10 mph
Humidity: 70% (moderately high)
Terrain: Rolling to flat
Distance: 3 miles (plus 3 mile bike ride)

What I Wore: T-shirt (off-brand from a race) and shorts (Brooks), plus a visor and one leg sleeve.

Did It Work: It feels like cheating to say yes because this is pretty much perfect running weather but, yes, it did. My hands were cold during the ride, but were fine on the run.

Why: 60 to 65 degrees is not too hot - as long as you're well hydrated, your body's internal thermostat can keep up (data shows that temps above 65 degrees slow a runner down). It's not too cold - you don't have to wear heavy layers and your muscles warm up fairly easily. It's just right for a T and shorts.

Sun Alert: If you were slacking over the winter, it's time to pick back up on the sunscreen habit. Brace yourself; I'm about to get a little preachy/informative.

Real sunblock will block UVA and UVB rays. It will probably be white, not clear and smelling of coconut. It should be at least spf 30 and, to get the full sun protection factor, you need to use a lot. According to my dermatologist (also known as my freckle monitor), sunscreen manufacturers say that you need to use FOUR shot glasses worth of block if you want to get the full spf rating on your entire body. She also recommends against spray-on sunblock because it takes more than most people want to apply for it to work. I like Neutrogena with helioplex (no, I don't know what that is but I like how it sounds). For my 30 minute run, plus 15 minute bike ride, I wore spf 60. Better safe than prematurely aging with an increased chance of skin cancer! Backup for all this scary stuff from the NYTimes here.

On that peppy note, signing off. Enjoy that perfect weather. Happy running!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What to Wear Running: 45 degrees and comfortable

Temp: 45 degrees and sunny
Humidity: 50% (moderate)
Wind: Mild
Distance: 3 miles
Terrain: Flat to Rolling hills

What I Wore to Run: Shorts! T-shirt! Singlet tank underneath and a hat.

Did It Work: Yes. It's definitely shorts season again, if you are comfortable showing your legs. Want
Brooks shorts, Nike tank & T
to enjoy your run? Show a little skin! Pump those bare arms and legs and let the sunshine remind you that winter is over. By the end of my run, it was 50 degrees - spring, such a fickle creature! - so it was nice to have a layer to shed if I would have done a longer run.

Note: It's tempting to overdress in the spring (and maybe underdress in the fall?) because we're sick and tired of being cold after the freezing winter. Resist the temptation and only baby your "cold spots" - those places that refuse to warm up until after Memorial Day (mine are my ears).

Also, make sure that, if you're wearing layers, the bottom layer must wick. Having all your heat and moisture sit on your skin is bad aesthetically and functionally.

Personal note: I think this is one of the best times of year for running - not too hot, not too cold! Good for your muscles, good for the soul!

Happy running.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon Heartache

As I type, I'm a sweaty, tearful puddle. The sweat is from a run inspired by the Run for Boston hashtag of UMightBeaRunner. I ran in honor of the people who's hard-won moment was cut short today by two explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line. Which gets to why I'm tearful.
As Evan Gregory pointed out,  running a marathon is hard enough without hurricanes (Sandy) and explosions. Seriously, it's really f'ing hard.
If you've never run a marathon, here's the best analogy I can give you: imagine eating your favorite sorbet or ice cream. At first it's fun, a treat, you never want to stop because it's sooooo good. Now imagine eating that same flavor of ice cream for somewhere between 3 and 5 hours without stopping. What once was pleasurable is now detestable and downright painful. You think you might throw up. Or, worse, poo on yourself. Every muscle involved is tired. You can no longer feel key parts of your body. People keep shouting, "You're almost done!" But they are lying liars. You're not almost done. You have three more tubs to go which, by themselves might be manageable but you've already eaten 23 giant, Baskin-Robins commercial-size tubs of Rocky Road.
You get the point. It's an awesome accomplishment but hard. And finishing can be emotionally overwhelming. I cry at the end of my own races, while watching races on TV and when I ran the last two miles of a half marathon with my sister-in-law. I just want to shout at everyone around me, "You did it! I did it! We all did it!!!"
Today, those shouts would have been drowned out by the sound of an explosion that killed at least two people. That joyed would have been forever tarnished by terror. In the future, when today's racers tell people they've run the Boston Marathon, people will half jokingly ask, "You weren't at the one with the bombs, were you?" and they will have to buzz kill them with a somber, "Yes. And it wasn't just hard. It was a nightmare."
Tears of joy finishing Baltimore race w/ bro.

We don't need any new excuses to sit on the sofa. Don't let today ruin your runner's high. Breath in, breath out, tie your shoes and go for a run.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Exercising Outside: To Do or Not To Do

In general, exercising outside is great. It's free, easily accessible, and familiar (if you're at home) or a good way to explore (if you're traveling). However, there are times when even I, as reckless as I am, will choose the gym. Here's some things to consider when deciding to workout inside or out:
  • Unsafe neighborhood - whether you live there or are just visiting, be realistic about your 'hood and go to a gym or safer location if it might be unsafe.
  • Risky time of day - even the safest neighborhoods have dangerous times of day. If your area doesn't have sidewalks, forcing you to run in the road, your danger zones are dusk, dawn and nighttime. If your neighbors roll up their sidewalks when the sun goes down and your streets don't have lights, don't be the only one out in the dark within shouting distance.
  • High traffic and heavy pollution - exercising involves deep breathing but more cars on the road means more pollutants in the air. Bad combo. Putting all that nasty stuff in your lungs for an extended period of time can lead to serious health issues. Stay inside where the air is more likely to be filtered.
  • Rough road - cobblestone and broken or dirt roads shouldn't stop you from running the streets. Just wear a headlamp if you're going to brave uneven paving while exercising in the dark. No headlamp? Head to the treadmill.
Any other thoughts on when staying in is better? Please share!

In the meantime,  dress for the weather and get out there! It's spring or fall in almost every part of the world and both are wonderful seasons for outdoor exercise.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Granddad's Gym Style: Workout Gear Tips from Old Hipsters

You know that Macklemore song "Thrift Shop" where, at one point, he talks about wanting to steal your granddad's style? Seen at a gym outside of San Francisco: a workout gear example of an older person's style that needs to be stolen.

This is the hotness and this guy knew it. When he was doing side bends, he was making serious eye contact with all the ladies around him. You know you want it!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Yoga + Running = Perfect day

The older and achier I get, the more it takes for me to maintain a running practice. For example, I actually stretch (sometimes) now. There's also a mental component to staying in active; I find inspiring places and run them. This place in Pacifica, Calif., provided both inspiration and some cool places to do yoga. Thanks to my Brooks shoes for handling the terrain, Icebreaker top for keeping me warm in the sea breezes and Under Armour tights for being tough enough to handle to rough surfaces.

Small tip: when combining yoga and running, start with a bit of running or a hike. There's a risk of injury if you stretch before warming up.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why run outside?

I write about what to wear running and mostly focus on outdoor gear because, in many ways, running outside is better for you than doing all of your runs on a treadmill. Why run outside instead of on a treadmill?
1: Avoid RSI - a treadmills constant flat surface puts you at risk for a repetitive stress injury. Yes, part of what makes running outside hard is that you're constantly working to avoid uneven pavement. But that dodging and darting prevents overuse of muscles and builds up ones that don't get used on a treadmill.
2: More race-like - races are run outside (can you imagine a race where everyone ran on treadmills next to each other? Where would the cheering crowd stand? How lonely would it get as people finished there 10k and then just walked off, leaving empty treadmills behind?!). Get a feel for outdoor terrain by doing some of your training runs outdoors.
3: Be Mr. Rogers - if you're as old as I, you remember Mr. Rogers singing "These are the people in your neighborhood." It's easy to avoid the people in your hood if you spend all your time at work, the gym, or inside watching TV. A morning run on the weekend is a great way to get to know your neighbors. The key: Say hi to everyone you pass.
4: Pride - on a frigid Monday morning, coworkers' jaws will drop when you tell them you ran outside over the weekend. And even if you don't tell another person, when you're out there in the wind, rain, snow or sweltering heat, you'll feel invincible (Assuming you're dressed appropriately).
5: Reclaim your youth - when we were kids, we didn't play on treadmills. Running and biking outside are the two things I do regularly that make me feel like a kid again. It's the best!

Running tip: 3 things can make running outside suck.
1: Under or overdressed. Too hot or too cold can ruin a run. Check the temp, look out the window and, when in doubt, layer.
2: Getting hit. Running at night or dusk/dawn? Dress to be seen. A safety vest or flashing headlamp might not seem cool but you know what's really uncool? Being hit by a car or bike!
3: Bad terrain. Yes, avoiding potholes will help prevent RSI, but accidentally stepping in one at the wrong angle can cause a sprain or break. Enjoy the fresh air but keep one eye on the ground.

Happy running!