Shopping Struggles, But Running Saves the Day!

There was a time when I loved to shop for clothes.  LOVED it.  It was fun and exciting and was a way to express my creativity.  These days, however, I loathe the task most of the time.  I don’t know how many of you reading are thirty-something women, but let me tell you, the options out there for us are pretty sad.

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There is a vast wasteland of clothing for women my age who want to look mature AND sexy.  Fun AND professional.  Casual AND put together.  There are shops for professional women that veer toward dull and stuffy.  There are shops for young women who clearly are spending their nights in clubs and their days taking in (what’s left of) the summer sun.  And there are outdoor stores that would be great if I was planning on hiking everyday during my office hours.  But, a store for an almost 33 year old who still feels youthful in many ways, but whose club days are far behind her?  It seems impossible.

This has been a real struggle for me as I strive to fine tune my image at this stage in my life and it’s a struggle that is not showing any signs of easing up anytime soon.  When I work up the energy to go on a shopping trip these days, I usually end up tired, discouraged, and more than a little confused about my personal style and how to find anything that expresses it appropriately.

So, where is the bright light in this sad little rant?

Running.  Running is the bright light (isn’t it usually?).

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More specifically today, running apparel is the bright light.  I love shopping for running apparel.  Give me a rack stuffed with Oiselle and a shelf full of Adidas and I am in my shopping heaven.  Singlets and shorts and capris and jackets and base layers and, of course, shoes.

One of the wonderful things about running is that it gives you a built in, non-arguable reason to buy a new pair of shoes every few months.  And such it was this weekend that it was time for me to pick up a new pair of Mizunos.   So I headed down to one of my local running stores (Foot Traffic) with a mission.  I’ve grown loyal to my Wave Riders and I was thrilled to bring home a new pair.  New color, slightly lighter than my last pair (even better for racing), and just waiting to see me through my next round of training that will start in the coming weeks for the Holiday Half Marathon.

Aren’t they beautiful?

If only all of my shopping trips could be so fruitful.

Gear Basics: 6 Essentials To Get You Running

Spring is here.  Dare I say that?  I hope I didn’t just jinx it back into hiding.

Warmer weather and longer days lend themselves to encouraging people outdoors – to the trails, the track, the pavement.  For those who are returning to the outdoors for the sake of running or for those considering a running routine for the first time, I offer you some tips on what you need to get started successfully.

It’s been said time and time again that one of the wonderful things about running is that you don’t need much to do it.  Put on some shoes and go!  And, while this is technically true, a few additional items can help to increase overall performance and enjoyment – both essential to sticking with it.

Me at start - sharpened a bit

Please note that I’m not going to discuss shoes in this post, because of course you know you need shoes to run in (unless you’re going all-out barefoot and, in that case, there are lots of resources for how to do that safely).  Plus, there are so many different types and styles specific to each individual runner.  So, on the issue of shoes, I will just say this: seek out a running store, not a big box retail chain, if you can to buy shoes.  You’ll get expert advice tailored to your needs by real runners and your money will be better spent.  You can also check out one of many running shoe guides like this one here from Runner’s World.

The Basics: Enough to Get Out & Go

  1. Clothes that wick

Ahhhhh.  Wicking technology.  It’s a glorious thing.  To get out and run comfortably you’re going to need some proper running clothes and proper running clothes wick.  You’re going to sweat, even in mild temperatures, and the last thing you will want is to feel that sweat trapped on your body as you’re striding along.  So while cotton is great for everyday, it is a runner’s enemy (chafing and perspiration-soaked clothes are nobody’s friend).  Look for items that have wicking technology, or at least include cotton as only a minor part of the overall material blend.

Fit is also highly important.  You don’t want anything so tight it will be restrictive during your run, but you also don’t want to wear something so oversized that it’ll flap around you (that’s just distracting and, frankly, not aero-dynamic whatsoever).  Depending on the climate that you’re running in you may need:

  • A comfortable pair of running shorts or capri pants.  Look for pairs with small pockets in them.  You’re going to need a place to store a house key or other small items and a good pocket means you don’t have to worry about buying and wearing an additional item to do so.
  • Long, heat trapping running pants
  • A sleeveless or short sleeve breathable top
  • A long-sleeve breathable top (or a lightweight jacket)

My All-Around Favorites:

  • Oiselle brand for women is absolutely amazing.  Materials, fit, and style are unsurpassed.  I shared my love for them once before here.

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    Best Running Shorts Ever

  • For women and men, I also like Brooks.  Excellent quality and a brand that really focuses on knowing runners’ needs.

My Favorites for Those on a Limited Budget:

Building a running wardrobe can be expensive at first, so if you’re on a tight budget check out Target for tops.  Their lines may not be as durable as some of the other brands, but they’ll get you started.  Also, I’ve had some success scouring racks at discount shops, like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.  They carry a surprising amount of Adidas, Nike, and other big name brands at deeply discounted prices.

  1. A hat

This one’s simple, really, but will make your life a lot easier.  Not only does it allow you to head out for a run first thing in the morning without sharing your crazy bedhead with the rest of the world’s early risers, but it’s a great help in keeping both rain off your face and sun out of your eyes.  I have both a warm skull cap and a breathable cap with bill.  I switch them up depending on the weather and have even worn them together on really cold days.  A lightweight, vented baseball-style cap is a good place to start.  It will help rain roll off of your face on wet days and shield your eyes a bit from spring’s earliest rays of sunshine (without having to yet invest in pricey sunglasses).

A Good Buy:

I often represent one of my local running stores (LYS) during my runs and wear a Brooks-made hat from Portland Running Company.  Check out your LYS, too.

  1. Good Socks

I know that you can get three- or six-packs of standard, white sports socks just about anywhere.  I highly encourage you to get the best quality socks you can get.  This is probably one of the most important parts of building your running gear inventory.  You will be pounding your feet into the ground repeatedly, in a variety of weather elements, and you want to take good care of them.  Making the switch from average, general athletic type socks to socks specifically designed for running was one of the best things I ever did.  I didn’t even know what I was missing until I experienced something different.  Running socks that breathe and provide cushion and support, without bulk, are something special.

My All-Around Favorites:

Oh, Balega, how do I love thee?  Balega socks are the ones I trust the most to keep my feet happy.  They provide a substantial amount of balegaprotection against the harshness of the pavement, while still remaining thin enough to wear comfortably with my Mizunos.  They are my go-tos for all my long runs and my races.

If I was to give a runner-up award in this category it would go to Experia with Thorlo.  These are a bit bulkier than Balegas, but for street runners like myself, offer excellent cushioning.

  1. A durable, strong, comfortable sports bra (guys, feel free to skip this one if you like)

For so many years of my life, one of the reasons I thought I could never be a runner was because of my chest.  Running is high-impact, no doubt about it, and depending on your body type, it can be downright painful to do without the right sports bra.  No pull-over stretchy sports bra I ever tried from any department store or big-box sporting goods stores were ever effective for me.  Most of them come in three sizes only – small, medium, and large.  And, what if your cup size is large, but your band is small?!  There are way more than three sizes of women out there!  It’s downright infuriating.

This is an area to really focus on.  One good quality sports bra can turn you from aspiring runner to inspirational runner.  It’s that important.

My Favorite Hands-Down:

Moving Comfort is incredible.  When I discovered their bras, it was like a moment in a cheesy television show where harps are strummed, a choir sings, and the room is flooded with beautiful light.    These bras fit all shapes and sizes of women’s bodies.  They stay put.  They last through multiple washings.  And, they’re not even that expensive, really.  They rock.  Buy one.  Quickly.

  1. A book

Yes, I’m serious.  Running seams so simple, I know.  But, there’s a lot to it if you want to do it effectively and safely.  There are hundreds of books out there about running.  They cover running form, marathon running, increasing speed, maximizing your diet, preventing injury, and on and on and on.  I’d also be willing to bet that once you start running, you’ll discover how much there is to learn about it.  You’ll start to ask questions and wonder about ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’.  Pick up a beginner’s guide to running and read through it.  Then, keep it on your bookshelf for reference as you advance in your skills.

I Recommend:

I wrote a post about this a while back.  Check out my resources for new runners to learn, be inspired and connect.

Bob Glover’s book was a great beginning book for me.  It covers a lot of topics and was a quick, easy read.

  1. A Training Journal

Some people feel that a training journal is only necessary once you are, you know, training – for a race or a specific goal.  I beg to differ.  Training Log 2Training journals are fantastic tools from the get-go.  They give you a dedicated space to track your runs (and other workouts), times, aches and pains, overall performance, feelings, moods, and sometimes nutrition.  Keeping an eye on this information from the beginning will help you learn how your body is reacting to your new routine.  By periodically looking at this data, you can discover patterns that you have (it helped me learn that Mondays need to be rest days or light workout days for me – I am no good on a Monday run) and respond accordingly.  You can track aches and pains which will help you notice and treat them early on – before they turn in to a sidelining injury.  You can pay attention to how what you eat sits with you during a run and whether you run fresher in the morning, midday or evening.  Essentially, a training journal is one of the most effective tools to helping you coach yourself.  As a bonus, they’re fun to look back on to see what you’ve learned and how you’ve progressed along the way.

My Favorite Training Journal:

There is a variety out there and most any of them would likely serve you well.  Heck, you can even create your own with a basic notebook if you want.  But, for what it’s worth, I like this one by Matt Fitzgerald (running guru).  It has space for all the information that I deem to be important and extra room to write in random notes as needed.  It’s spiral bound for easy flipping and bending and has little tips each week to expand your knowledge and motivation.

There you go.  The basics.  As you progress, there are loads of other fun things to pick up (Sports Watches!  Fuel Belts!  Hydration Packs!  Energy Chews!  Headlamps!) and I’ll likely do a follow-up post about some of these items in the future.  For now, take advantage of spring sales, weather, and energy to get the essentials that will get you started.  I encourage you to look for local running stores in your area and get moving!

A Burgeoning Obsession: Fingerless Mitts

I used to think that fingerless mitts and gloves were, well to be honest, weird.  I just didn’t get them.  I mean, why make, buy or wear something that only did half a job??

Oh, naïve Me.

I knitted my first pair of fingerless mitts despite these ill-formed beliefs primarily because I didn’t feel quite ready/skilled enough to knit a full pair of gloves and wanted to practice a bit first.  Needless to say, once I knitted them, I realized how deluded I had been.  Fingerless mitts are fantastic!  I just finished making my third pair (my favorite so far) and I can’t get enough.

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Not only are they just plain fun as a fashion accessory, but they actually do a complete and wonderful job – it’s just a DIFFERENT job than the one full gloves or mittens do.  I’ve mentioned before that I have Raynaud’s Phenomenon.  It’s an awful thing and even when I’m indoors at work, my fingers, while not in full-on Raynaud’s dysfunctional immobility mode, are still quite cold.  I tried wearing gloves in my office, but typing became a bit problematic.  After fumbling with my keyboard and typing words with so many errors that they didn’t even resemble English, I knew gloves and work were not going to co-exist harmoniously.

Enter fingerless mitts.

Now, obviously, they don’t cover all parts of my fingers, so I still have some cold and discomfort, but the additional warmth on the majority of my hand really does make some difference.

Plus, they’re fun to knit.  Many knitters have favorite things to knit.  Some knitters always have a pair of socks on the needles, others live for hats.  At least for right now, these are my becoming my go-to project.

These newest ones are made from the Pine Court Mitts pattern by Shannon Squire.  It’s a fantastic pattern and, even better, written by the owner of my very own local yarn store, Twisted, which is an amazing LYS.  They’re not too chunky, which I like, and the cabled detailing is enough to make them interesting and fun, without being too busy on the eyes (hence not detracting from or clashing with whatever I might be wearing on any given day).  I used a beautiful random yarn that I picked up in a clearance bin.  The bit of cashmere in it makes it unbelievably soft and cozy on my hands and the variegated grey colorway is endlessly versatile.  Frankly, I couldn’t be happier with these.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m not eager to cast on the next pair!

Product Review: Oiselle Running Apparel

I have fallen in love.

The object of my affection is attractive, charming, reliable, functional, and goes by the name Oiselle.

Oiselle. Isn’t it a lovely name?  As I understand it, it is a french word for bird and phonetically it looks something like this: wa-zell.  But, to me, it means a line of running clothes for women that makes my heart sing.  Yes, I did just write that cheesy line.

I came across Oiselle first in a small sporting goods store while on a mini-break in Mt. Hood, Oregon.  I purchased this t-shirt, which has quickly become a favorite item in my wardrobe, though I don’t wear it for running.  It’s so cute and so sporty and so stylish that I throw it on with jeans to run errands, get coffee, go to brunch, you get the idea.

I have since picked up two items that I do use for running.   The Aero Tank and the Long Roga Short.  Both items are incredible.  Not only are the fabrics perfect for the sport – comfortable, effective at wicking away moisture, and lightweight, but they happen to be ultra-flattering, as well.  I ran my most recent race in this tank and pair of shorts and I could not have been more pleased with their performance.  As a bonus, the designs are clever.  There are subtle pockets in unobtrusive places and details such as contrast stitching that adds style while increasing a runner’s visibility on the roads or trails.

In this humble runner’s opinion, this is a line that you can tell is made by women runner’s, for women runners (Ahem . . . as opposed to being made by a team of men in suits for anyone suckered in by a celebrity athlete’s endorsement – just sayin’).

And, yes, this is a totally unsolicited review and recommendation.  Check out the full website here: www.oiselle.com and enjoy!