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Tracksmith Running Apparel

This brand is fairly well known within the running community. It’s classic style is tailored to the amateur competitive athlete. Made in the U.S.A. their apparel is top quality, and great customer service is obviously high on their priority list.

Scanning through the catalog, the prices may shock you but I promise – WORTH! Every single piece I’ve bought from them I love. That includes a few pairs of shorts, briefs, long sleeves, a bra – with a pocket, crop top, gloves, and mittens.

If you have to choose, I would opt for the cold gear line (if you do outdoor winter training). Quality gear in the harsh winter really makes a difference and helps keep you consistent. The spring/summer clothes are great too, but most of us runners wear as little as possible in the heat. I will say the race briefs are the most comfortable I’ve found.

They also have some nice accessories. I like their waxed canvass bag. Your order ships pretty quickly with updates along the way. Coast to coast, you should have your order within a week.

Again, I highly recommend trying out a few of their items. You won’t regret spending the money. Their size charts are accurate (free returns if something doesn’t fit), but you do have to look at the chart and measurements for each individual product. Don’t just see that you’re a medium in the singlet and assume you’re a medium for every other top. They offer gift cards, so if you don’t see yourself going on a shopping spree then keep them in mind when birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas roll around.

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Garmin Forerunner 645 Music

This was a pretty big upgrade for me from the 225 model. It still has the wrist-based HR feature, but now I can load my music on it, too! There’s lost of other stats on this watch that the 225 didn’t have like vO2 max and performance alerts, but I’m not comfortable trusting my watch (or any watch) that much. You can set up payments and text alerts on this watch, but I doubt I’ll use those features. I mainly got this watch for the GPS upgrade and the music feature.

Having a GPS running watch for miles and data is high on the runner’s gear checklist. I have always trusted and preferred Garmin over any other competing brands for accuracy, reliability, and durability. Plus, if you make a Garmin connect account, you can easily sync the data from your watch to your computer to track progress. It also gives you graphs of your heart rate, cadence, pace, elevation, and gives you a monthly view of what you did when. There’s so many tools on the site that I haven’t even tapped in to, but it’s one of the reasons why having a Garmin is so useful.

Don’t get overwhelmed with data, or become obsessed with it. It’s there to help you gauge your progress and help you improve, not make running miserable or steal your fun. For a few years, I only used my Garmin (different model) for miles and time. I didn’t pay attention to anything else. Only use what’s relevant for you at the time – it’ll keep your running real.

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AfterShokz Trekz Titanium

There may be some controversy about listening to music while you run, but when I’m alone, I almost always train with music. These headphones are Bluetooth and sync up with my Garmin 645 Music watch. They have a mini version, which I got because my head is small, and it’s not too bulky in the back.

Now for those of you who don’t run with music, I understand safety is a big concern. It’s a valid point, that you are less aware of your surroundings with music in your ears, especially for road runners. But these are different! They are bone conduction headphones which means they sit outside your ear so you can still be aware of what’s going on around you. They work and sound just as well as regular headphones, in my opinion, and it’s not like people passing by can hear what you’re listening to either.

Music can be considered a training hindrance for a few different reasons. For starters, it’s easier to tune out your performance and slack off on pace and form. Then sometimes you might find yourself actually running to the beat of whatever song is playing at the time, which may not coincide with your goal for your workout. But on those long, slow runs, sometimes the music helps the miles fly by.

I certainly don’t encourage listening to tunes while you’re racing, but as long as you’re smart about it, I think training with music is fine, and sometimes beneficial for the mental side of running. Just make sure it’s a help, and not a hindrance.

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The Bookshelf

I almost always have some book that I’m reading, however slow it may be. It’s good practice, and theories and concepts are always changing – especially in the health and fitness world. Below are a few books I have read and found helpful (some more than others). A few of them are actually textbooks from college, so if you’re interested in purchasing beware of the $$$, but most of them you can find on Amazon at a relatively low cost. 

Fundamentals of Anatomy & Physiology by Martini, Nath, and Bartholomew

Trail Guide to the Body by Andrew Biel

Thrive by Brendan Brazier

Sports Supplements by Anita Bean

Nutritional Timing by John Ivy and Robert Portman

Unmasking Superfoods by Jennifer Sygo

The Plant-Based Power Diet by Leslie Beck

Inheritance by Sharon Moalem

Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes by Monique Ryan

Cycle of Lies by Juliet Macur

Run Less Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss

Marathon by Hal Higdon

Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald

The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald

Meb for Mortals by Meb Keflezighi and Scott Douglas

Born to Run by Chrisopher McDougall

Running Strong by Jordan Metzl

Hansons Marathon Method by Luke Humphrey

Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

Let Your Mind Run – Deena Kastor

Running for Women – Jason R. Karp and Carolyn S. Smith

Eat & Run – Scott Jurek

Several of these books aren’t running or even sport specific, but I think it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture sometimes. I don’t whole-heartedly agree or follow ALL of the “facts” or principles in these books, but they were definitely worth reading. I’ll keep adding to this list as I find more gems. 

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Cheeky

“Does she know her butt is hanging out?” I thought to myself as I began the first mile of my first race. The girl in front of me was wearing spandex shorts that didn’t quite cover her cheeks when she began running. I didn’t grow up in any part of the running world so I wore a racing outfit similar to what I trained in, except I made sure the tank top and shorts matched. I didn’t really care what that girl or anyone else was wearing (or not wearing) but it did strike me as a bit strange. There were several people that didn’t mind the “bun bounce.”

For the next 25 miles my mind moved on to other things that day, but marathon after marathon I started experimenting with different kinds of bottoms and tops. Eventually I left the shirt at home (or in the starting corral). The shirt was only convenient for pinning on a bib, but as long as your number shows and you don’t bend the timing tag I learned you could get away with just wearing the average sports bra. Even at 50 degrees I realized it was much more comfortable without and I was only cold for the first few minutes. Shirts also get heavy when you dump water on them, or sweat so much.

Back to the bottoms, I decided to try those tight “booty” shorts after all. I was racing much more often with shorter races and I wanted to find out if they were that much better. I liked not having a swish or getting chafed by lining. It also made me feel faster and smoother on the course. Now I understood. But I couldn’t find the right size to keep them from riding up past my belly button. It gave me a double wedgie (front and back). It seemed like my waist was one size smaller than my butt and legs. I thought about the racing briefs, but I figured they were only for elites and that I wasn’t fast enough to pull them off. It sounds silly, I know, but a lot of people think that way. Maybe it was also the fact that you couldn’t really find them anywhere to purchase.

Then I found a brand online that offered the racing briefs or “runderwear” and bought a pair. I decided for my next marathon I would try them out. I went for a training run with them under a pair of unlined baggy shorts and they seemed to end up with the same coverage as the booty shorts that always rode up anyway, so I was ready to try racing in them.

Within the first few miles I thought to myself, “Oh sweet lordy, THIS is why people wear these and don’t care about their cheeks.” Because my thighs were completely free of fabric I could get the correct size for my waist. They didn’t ride up. They were the most comfortable bottoms I’d ever raced in – there was no going back.

Except for shorter, smaller races, I generally stick to the running briefs. I try to gauge how other runners and spectators might feel if it’s a super tiny race. I know my race outfit doesn’t cover much more than a typical swim suit. But at the same time, if it’s socially acceptable to wear at the beach why can’t it be socially acceptable to wear at a race?! It’s certainly not about trying to be sexy – I have accumulated many unflattering race photos. Besides, no matter what you’re wearing, running is not a sexy sport.

The point is that you should wear what’s most comfortable (and legal…I’d race naked if I could) to YOU. Choose your comfort level and go for it, whether that’s pants or briefs. And if you are/were like me who sees us ladies with our cheeks out and wonders if we realize it….

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Adidas

ADI DAS! I don’t exclusively wear Adidas, but almost. Concerning shoes and athletic apparel, I love the brand, and I always have – for reasons starting with their shoes and then spreading into their quality and fit of clothing. But as running and racing became a bigger part of my life, I researched the company and became fascinated with the story.

The founder, Adolf Dassler, was an honest hard-working man, passionate about crafting the best shoe he could for the athlete. Between family drama, politics, and rising competitors, the Adidas brand has gone through a lot more than (I think) Mr. Dassler could ever have imagined. Initially, he wasn’t even on board with a clothing line. When he was convinced, he wanted to be clear that only sport “practical” clothes were to be manufactured and sold. He scoffed at the thought of starting a swimwear line because you don’t wear shoes in the water (his son, Horst started Arena anyway, but the company was sold in 1990). It was clear his priorities were in the shoe business.

From its humble beginnings as a family business that started in 1949, Adidas has grown into a multi-company corporation. In all of its 60 plus years of existence, I can’t say I’m ethically or morally on board with EVERY business decision Adidas has made, but as a whole, I trust the brand. Even though it’s not family owned anymore, it still seems to have Adolf Dassler’s “spirit” in it – the hard work and passion to deliver only the best. As a competitive athlete, I’m on board with that mindset.

Adidas shoes fit my feet and I like their sportswear, but I suppose you could argue that I can find another brand that suits my wants and needs. But I am a loyal consumer. When I find a brand that I like, fits my needs, and has meaning behind the name, I’ll stick with it. Adidas has deep roots – simple roots, honest roots. I like that. And it’s why I will choose Adidas over any other.

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RockTape

Kinesio tape has gotten a fair amount of attention since the 2008 Olympics, though it’s been around for over 35 years. I first learned about it back in massage school, and it seemed pretty neat, but I didn’t really understand the “science” and reasoning my professors gave me as to why it was so beneficial. The one thing I understood was that kinesio tape is different from traditional athletic tape because it still allows and even encourages movement, while athletic tape is used to decrease range of motion. Regardless of my confusion, I tried it (the Kinesio Tex Gold brand) and actually noticed some benefits, so I kept a roll around from then on. I used it periodically when I felt like tendonitis was threatening.

A few years later I decided to go to a taping seminar, but this particular class was by the brand RockTape, and they were/are calling it “Fascial Movement Taping (FMT).” I enjoyed the class and felt like I learned more of the research behind kinesio taping, but the instructor informed us all in the class that the old theories of how to tape were obsolete – whether from the origin of the muscle to the insertion or vice versa, how much stretch to put on the tape when applying, and trying to tape for inhibit or facilitate a particular muscle.

RockTape gave me three main positive outcomes from kinesio tape: swelling reduction, rehabilitation aid, and improvement in performance and recovery. Here’s why:

  1. It decompresses the skin for improved circulation and pressure relief. Because of this, it can immediately reduce the perception of pain.
  2. Sensory nerve stimulation and the brain response. In simpler terms, think about your first reaction when you stand up into a cupboard and hit your head hard. Your first reaction is to rub it. That’s because by doing that, you’re stimulating more sensory receptors which bombards the brain with signals to down grade the amount of pain you feel. It’s called the “pain-gate effect.”
  3. Posture/form taping. This is a pretty easy concept. The back and shoulders are a common spot. When you tape your back while sitting pretty, whenever you slouch back into poor posture you will feel the stretch on the tape and instinctively correct yourself.

Are you ready to try it? It’s relatively cheap, quick, and easy to use. You don’t have much to lose, especially if you’re willing to try ANYTHING to overcome an injury. You can buy most brands of kinesio tape on amazon, or at a pharmacy. Some sporting goods stores may sell them as well. The most popular are KT Tape, Kinesio Tex Gold, and RockTape. I’m partial to RockTape because not only am I certified through them, but their tape stays on longer, they have the largest selection of styles, sizes, and colors (oh yes…it matters), and I liked that the company takes the approach of “here’s what we know, we’re still learning, let’s do this together” approach.

After you’ve gotten the tape, and have an area to try it on, YouTube some videos of taping patterns, just to get you started. You can make up your own patterns based on your personal need, but if you’re new to kinesio taping, YouTube has a lot of ideas. Make sure you skin is clean and dry. If you’re hairy, I highly recommend shaving. After I’ve cut a piece from the roll, I round the edges to help keep the tape from fraying as easily. Before you remove the paper backing, rip both ends of the tape.

     You can either apply from the middle out, or have one end as an anchor and peel off the paper as you go. Be in the position of desired movement or stance when you’re being taped or taping yourself. How much stretch? I would say definitely no more than 50%, but usually I do anywhere from 15-25%. Rub the tape after it’s on the skin for a minute to help in bond faster. They say it takes about an hour for it to bond completely. Viola! You can shower with it, just pat dry when you’re done. Typically you can keep one application on for 3-5 days. If need be, trim any edges that start to peel.

When it comes time to remove it, take it slow, but the older the application, the easier it is to take off. The RockTape H20 is obviously a little harder because it’s meant for water sports, but baby oil does the trick.

If you have sensitive skin, test an area first with a small piece of tape. RockTape is latex free, but sometimes the adhesive bothers a small amount of people. Other contraindications for taping would be open wounds, skin infections, active cancer, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Kidney Disease, or Congestive Heart Failure. The latter few are due to fluid movement in the body.

I recently used/am using RockTape to aid recovery for a foot injury and felt pain relief and had a quicker recovery.

To buy, click here: https://shop.rocktape.com?rfsn=1017568.8dec5

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Oakley Sunglasses

I didn’t think I’d like to wear sunglasses while running because I generally don’t like anything on my face. Sometimes I struggle to wear my regular glasses and would rather the world be fuzzy for the time being. But after reading some articles and testimonials on how (when it’s sunny) sunglasses can actually save precious energy I decided to invest in a pair. I LOVE them – Oakley in particular for their fit and lenses. For my sunshine races, they’re a must. Oakley’s youth size fits me perfectly and I don’t have to worry about adjusting or messing with them while I’m racing. Seeing the road clearly while not having to squint makes a big difference.

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Jadience

This stuff is amazing. I’ve tried many different lotions and potions for sports enthusiasts and this product line is by far the best. The Jadience brand has a variety of different product lines that fit specific needs, but they all have at least a little jadestone in them. The company focuses on using ancient Chinese medicine to bring about the healthiest “you.”

Stop it. It’s not voo-doo magic or hippie devil stuff. It’s called herb-ology, and Jadience offers a Muscle & Joint line that has a specific combination of herbs to help with circulation, tightness/soreness, and healing to damaged muscles. There is science behind it. Think of it in the same way you combine certain nutrients in foods to get optimal utilization – peanut butter and carrots – the fat in the peanut butter helps the vitamin A get absorbed into your system. It’s the same way with combining different herbs to work together.

There is a long list of herbs in the Muscle & Joint formula so I won’t list them all, but Clematidis, Achyranthis, and Puerariae are a couple that help relax and relieve muscle pain. There is a light “herbal” smell to their products, but I’ve found that most people like it. I use their Muscle & Joint cream the most because it soaks in better and has a moisturizing effect. The gel is nice for targeted areas and the soak is perfect for post long runs and after races. They also have an energizing foot spray that I use pre-race.

*your own cat with an attitude problem can be found at your local pet store

Originally, I found this brand through my job. We use it in a few of our services. I’ve since learned that they are local to San Diego, but do have retailers that sell their products across the U.S. You can find them on their website (www.jadience.com) or they give you a list of online retailers that sell their product. It’s pricier than bio-freeze, but it’s really not even in the same class. Buy a small bottle and see for yourself.

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Camelbak Hydration Pack

When I first learned I needed some sort of fuel and hydration pack to use while marathon training, I got the typical Nathan brand waist/hip belt. With a pocket for food and a water bottle attached on each side, it suited my needs. I used is for a few years, but when I started going longer than 22 miles in training, it wasn’t enough fluid. Rather than get one of those belts that look like they have a gazillion (but really only 4) water bottles flailing from every direction while you run, I decided to try a hydration backpack. I didn’t want to spend much money on the idea, because I didn’t know if I’d like it. An Amazon search found me one for twenty bucks.

Oh my word – what a difference it makes to carry fluid on your back rather than your hips. The mouthpiece was weird, and it was miserable to even try to clean. It didn’t have a chest strap which made it slide around, but it was still better than the belt.

It didn’t take me long to upgrade to the Camelbak brand. I’ve used the Hydrobak model, but now have the Circuit hydration pack and I love it. The 1.5 liter flask is perfect for the amount of fluids I need. There’s plenty of pockets for phone and key storage, as well as pouches for nutrition, so you don’t really need a belt. The Camelbak brand has a chest strap to make running with a backpack much more comfortable, and the mouthpiece is easier to drink from. I know all hydration backpacks are a pain to clean, but this one isn’t as bad as my first off-brand amazon purchase. The tube cleaning brush they sell is helpful and the backpack shell I just throw in the wash.

Some runners don’t like training with the extra fluid weight and prefer to map out water stops along their route. But I use the backpack as a training tool, and wear it when I’m doing runs of 15 or more miles. I just like feeling that much lighter on race day.