Gifts for Runners – On Any Budget

Is there a special runner in your life? Looking for a gift for a runner? I love my gear and I love running, so I’ve prepared a list of great gifts for the special runner in your life.

Under $25

Thorolo Experia Socks – Available in men’s and women’s sizing and cuffs ranging from no-show to mid-calf, these socks have an option for every runner. Coolmax fiber and padding on heels and toes ensures a comfortable fit. $14.99 and up

Road ID – Road ID keeps the runner in your life connected to loved ones in an emergency. Interactive options direct emergency personnel to a website; the original option allows owners to print several lines of text. We all hope we’re safe on the run. A Road ID is there for you in an emergency. Gift certificates are available if you aren’t quite sure what to write. The classic slim is $17.99 and a nice shoe tag option is $19.99. For furry runners, consider the Scout ID $17.99.

KT Tape – KT Tape offers targeted pain relief for a variety of conditions. It’s stretchy, reflective, and stays put for days, even in water. KT Tape can give muscles, ligaments, and tendons the support they need for healing and recovery of soft tissue injury. $19.99 for a roll of pre-cut strips.

KT Tape for fibula

Training Journal – The Believe I Am Training Journal is my favorite, feminine training journal.  This beautiful journal has original artwork and inspiring quotations on each page. Designed by professional runners, the journal tracks workouts, races, and has blank pages for sketches, clippings, and other details. For a unisex option, consider the Runner’s World Training Journal. Both are $19.99.

Believe I Am Journal

Bib Coasters – Reproduce a runner’s favorite bib on a set of tile coasters. Thoughtful, easy, and a way to commemorate an important race. $19.99

Lock Laces – A great option for keeping shoes secure. Check out my review here. $8.99 each or three pair for $19.99

SPI Belt – Need to carry gear with you on the run? The SPI Belt is perfect. It doesn’t bounce, comes in a great selection of colors, and fits everyone. I love mine so much I reviewed it. The original version is $19.99

SPI belt

Under $50

Saucony Ulti-Mitt – I describe these mittens/gloves as the best mittens in the history of mittens. I love them so much I have them in multiple colors and have recommended them to everyone. I even wrote a review and added them to my favorites. With a wicking glove base and a wind-resistent shell, the Ulti-Mitts are simply the best for cold weather running. Unisex sizing, so ladies, order smaller. $45

Ulti-Mitt

Run with Me Toque for her – This amazing hat is made of cozy, soft, cottony Rulu, one of Lululemon’s signature fabrics. It’s perfect for cold runs and running around town. The brim can be folded up for a close fit, or down for a floppy look. A ponytail hole at the back lets  hair fly free. $32 For men, consider the Sprint Beanie ($32) or Brisk Run Toque ($28). Same great hat, but a more masculine look.

The Stick – The Stick is a fabulous invention! With little bezels on a long rod, the Stick is ideal for self massage. Options range from a smaller travel version to the Stiff Stick. $34.99 and up.

Add a Day Roller – The Stick on steroids, this amazing self-massage roller is more intense. It features an extra-stiff rod and oddly shaped knobs that simulate the pressure of an elbow. I love mine! Retail prices vary, around $40

Add a Day Roller

Under $100

Base Runner Half Zip – Made of ultra-soft Rulu (a Lululemon fabric), this wicking pullover is crazy warm. With thumb holes and a high neckline, it keeps me warm on the run. An offset zipper adds interest and keeps my neck chafe-free. $98

Run: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve – This Lululemon classic is great for every run. It can be used as a layer or worn alone. With an amazing array of colors, it’s perfect for every runner. $68. The men’s classic long sleeve, the Metal Vent Tech Long Sleeve is a great option for the lucky man in your life. $74

Swiftly at Cape Cod

Endorphin Warrior Bracelet – Endorphin Warrior cuff bracelets feature inspirational statements stamped in sterling silver. For women ($98) and men ($108) the bracelets are not only beautiful but inspiring. A leather-and-steel version is $20.

Allied Metal Display – The original stainless steel metal display company makes an assortment of metal medal racks. Custom racks are also available in any finish, pattern, and style. Prices vary and there’s an option for every runner to display his/her race medals.

$100 and Up

Fluff Off Pullover – With down filling, cuffing, and a water repellent shell, this pullover is perfect for whatever winter weather has to offer. Stretchy side panels ensure the pullover moves with you on the run. $158

PNW Jacket – (Men’s) Softshell fabric exterior and brushed interior make this jacket perfect for winter’s worst weather. Thumbholes and a hood keep hands and head cozy warm. $198

Happy holidays!

 

Gear Review: Janji Capris

Recently, I was contacted by the lovely people at Janji and offered the opportunity to review some of the new fall line. Being a loyal Janji customer (and having reviewed some shorts in the past), I was delighted. There are lots of reasons to love Janji, and I was hopeful the new fall line would be another.

My Janji gear arrived and I was struck by how colorful and fun the prints were.

Janji box

It’s been chilly in Connecticut, so I decided to try my new Women’s Tanzania Capris first. The capris are grey, with a inset print of the Tanzanian flag at a strategically placed, body-con angle. Like all Janji apparel, a portion of the profits are donated to charity to provide valuable services to people in need. The Janji Women’s Capris give 1 year of drinking water to a person in Tanzania. I think it’s a wonderful thing to know that my purchases are benefitting others.

The capris  are 88% polyester/12% spandex sueded heavy weight jersey. The fabric is thick, but breathes nicely. It has a smooth, cottony look and feel and a good stretch. The capris are designed to be high-calf length, but on me were a bit closer to low knee length.

Janji capris

They feature contrast mesh fabric at bottom leg panel, ergonomic flat seams, reflective detailing, and cute contrast stitching at the hem. There is a small, zipper pocket at the low back.

Janji capris full view

I wore the capris for a long day of workouts. First, they went with me on an easy five mile run, then I taught Pilates in them, and, finally, I wore the capris to a weightlifting class.

The first thing I noticed about the capris was the fit. I perpetually have a problem with tights fitting in the hips and thighs, but being several inches too large in the waist. With the small waist and larger thighs typical of most female runners, I usually have fit issues and end up pulling up my tights often during runs. The Janji capris have a thick, elastic waistband that’s stitched flat. The waist actually fits! I put the capris on, and didn’t have to adjust the waist or cinch up a drawstring. They just fit. The wide, thick waistband kept the capris in place through all my fitness activities. It was especially impressive in Pilates class, when the fit of tights around my core is put to the test with lots of stretching and moving.

During my run, the capris performed beautifully. They stayed fitted and didn’t stretch or shift during the run. They wicked away sweat and felt comfortable throughout the run. The best thing I can say about the Janji capris is that I forgot that I was wear testing them. They were so comfortable, they were completely un-noticeable. Which, I suppose, is what we all want from our running clothes. The zipper pocked kept my key secure and was just the right size and shape for a key and a few dollars of a credit card.

During my weight lifting class, I subjected the capris to more sweat and lots of shifting in the form of squats and lunges. Through it all, the capris maintained their fit and continued to wick away sweat. I got several compliments about their unusual pattern and lovely, cottony fabric. By the end of my three-workout day, the capris looked fresh. The fit was great, they dried easily, and they kept me comfortable.

Janji capris on a runAll in all, I would highly recommend the Janji Women’s Capris. Not only do they fit and perform well, they benefit a critical cause. With Janji, not only do you get great gear, you help others. Perfect.

 

Gear Review: Lock Laces

Recently, I was approached by the nice people at Lock Laces about doing a review of their unique laces. In truth, I had been thinking of trying Lock Laces for some time, ever since a fellow triathlete recommended them as a way to save time in transition. I was delighted to have been offered the opportunity to try the laces.

Lock Laces are tie-free stretchy, elastic laces. The laces are one size fits all, 48 inches in length and are cut to size for each shoe. The laces are made of a polyester-covered bungee cord and the lock itself nylon with a little tiny spring inside. Lock Laces come in a variety of colors and are shipping in a little plastic baggie with the instructions printed right on the bag.

Lock Laces

I got my Lock Laces and was eager to try them. I followed the simple instructions (lace, cut, lock) and was laced up and ready to run within five minutes.

Lock Laces in use

Lock Laces close up

The laces seemed stretchy, but as soon as I got my feet in my shoes, I noticed that they felt secure. I did a few awkward, 80’s-calisthenic style stretches to see if my feet would slip in my shoes. Nothing. My feet were totally secure with the Lock Laces on my shoes.

My first run in Lock Laces was totally uneventful. I actually forgot I was wearing a test lace in my shoe. I suppose that’s what you want from shoelaces – they were so good they were unnoticeable. My feet were totally comfortable throughout the run. The next step was to try Lock Laces in a triathlon. I had seen many other triathletes using Lock Laces and imagined that they might cut down on transition time. I was right. I used Lock Laces in a sprint triathlon and shaved a few seconds off my transition time. It might not seem like much, but those few seconds can make a big difference. What’s more, as my feet started to swell from the transition between bike and run, the laces expanded, leaving my feet comfortable and secure. I was impressed.

I liked my Lock Laces so much that I sent a pair to my mom. My mom logs more than 30 miles a week most weeks and works out in Florida. She often has to stop during walks and runs to retie her shoelaces after her feet swell. I thought Lock Laces would be the perfect solution. My mom had this to say:

I replaced my standard laces with Lock Laces following the simple instructions on the package.  I wanted to give them a true test, walking and all day.  I did my walk and was pleasantly surprised, I did not need to retie my shoes.  Usually I need to adjust the laces after about 5 minutes on my left foot (arthritis), but not today.  Hmmm I thought.  I continued to wear the shoes all day and did not adjust the laces at all. Not even at the end of the day when my feet are a bit swollen and need additional room.  I am usually continually making small adjustments, but not this day.  I am not going back to the standard laces, I’m sold on the ease and convenience of the Lock Laces.

Yay! Two satisfied customers. I have been wearing my Lock Laces for about a month now and love them for humid days and conditions where I know my feet could use a little “breathing room”. They are durable and have stayed locked in place. I love not having to tie and retied my shoes.

Overall, I highly recommend Lock Laces. Whether you are a triathlete who wants to save valuable seconds, or someone who wants to stop worrying about shoelaces, Lock Laces are perfect!

Gear Review: Newton Energy

I’ve tried Newtons several times, but I couldn’t get used the to lugs. I could feel them while I was running. While I liked the extra cushioning, I just couldn’t get used to the feeling of something underfoot. It felt like something stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Enter the Newton Energy.

No cooler

Newton shoes use the underfoot lugs to provide proprioceptive feedback. This improves form by subtly reminding you to land in a more mechanically correct form – on the ball of your foot. Unfortunately, the technology that made the lugs fabulous also made the Newtons the most expensive on the market. The Newton Energy is a great change, making it more accessible to runners thanks to its $120 price point. The Energy makes the action-rection technology accessible.

I was skeptical, but I decided to give the Energy a try. I loved it!

The shoe features five smaller lugs that are filled with a semi-hollow rubber. The lugs help to evenly distribute weight along the shoe and foot and promote neutral running. I love the feel of the lugs underfoot. I can’t feel the individual lugs, but I can feel the increased cushioning in my forefoot. As a forefoot striker and neutral runner, the Energy offers me more support just where I need it. The cushioning feels supportive and wonderfully cushy. It is a great feeling. The Newton Energy is a great fit  for me. So far, the durability has been great. I don’t have many miles on them, but Newtons emphasize their stellar durability thanks to their actual rubber construction. The mesh upper has great breathability. I’ve worn my Energy shoes on long, hot runs, and found them to be comfortable. They keep my feet cool and the mesh expands and stays comfortable on my foot. I’m prone to blisters and I stay blister-free in the Newton Energy. All in all, I love the Newton Energy! I encourage all runners to give it a try. I imagine that forefoot strikers will find it particularly comfortable with a smooth, cushy ride.

A side note – I wanted to take a picture of myself in the Newton Energy shoes for this post. My friend took this picture after a long run. It’s terrifying. But, I’m posting it. This is what a real runner looks like. I have on one calf sleeve, I’m sweaty, my hair is disheveled, and I have a blob of energy gel spilled on my shirt. I am a runner.

A real (scary) runner

Details for my outfit, above: Lulelemon Run Swiftly Short Sleeve top, Lululemon Turbo Run Shorts (no longer made, but the closest fit today is the Groovy Run Short), Zensah compression calf sleeve, Newton Energy shoes.

The Case of the Missing Cooler

Last week, I couldn’t make my usual long run, so I arranged with a friend to run mid-week. We agreed to meet at her house, then run down to a popular trail. The trail we selected is a state-run, mulit-county trail that is hugely popular with cyclists, runners, and walkers. In anticipation of our long run, I put a cooler with water, my inhaler, a few gels, and a towel at the trail head. I routinely leave a cooler as a water drop on runs longer than 10 miles. I hate to carry a ton of water and I generally have to drink so much that I can’t carry enough reasonably. I’ve left a water drop hundreds of times. I’ve left my trusty cheap cooler on the side of roads across the state. It’s been buried in bushes, left on rocks, and stuck in trees. My cooler has been a trusty companion for me and my running buddies for a long time.

We ran past my cooler on the way into the trail. Eight miles later, we passed the water drop spot. My trusty blue cooler was GONE.

No cooler

No cooler = no water. I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe the not only would someone steal my cheap, old cooler, but that someone would take a cooler that had my inhaler, water, and running supplies in it. Every time I pass a cooler on a trail, a bottle of water in the woods, or a shirt tossed in a tree, I know immediately what it is. It’s someone’s drop. Some bicyclist, runner, or walker has left those supplies. I told everyone I knew about the theft. I was shocked. My phone number was  on the cooler (along with some purple hearts and a little sketch – my theft deterrent) and when a day passed without contact, I assumed that someone had actually stolen my $8 cooler.

Imagine my shock when late the next day, someone called me. He had my cooler. This “helpful” guy told me that he “found” it and knew I would be missing it, given that it had my inhaler and cold water in it. Well, not missing it too much since it took him more than 24 hours to contact me. Sigh. As happy as I was to have my cooler returned, I was dismayed that someone would move a cooler full of supplies.

That’s when I realized – runners are weird. It was entirely possible that he had taken my cooler trying to be helpful. Maybe everyone doesn’t know what a cooler on the trail means.  Huh. I guess we are a strange bunch after all.

Gear Review: Pace Crops

Spring is here! I experienced one of my favorite springtime traditions recently – the switching of the running clothes. I keep out of season gear in big boxes in my basement, and, twice each year, that means that I get to switch seasons of my athletic gear. The switch almost always leads to the purchase of a few new items to add to my collection.

Given my deep an abiding love of all things Lululemon (and, full disclosure, my Ambassador status), Lululemon was the logical destination for new gear. I am in love with the Pace Tights and decided to try their sister crops, the Run: Pace Crops. I bought the black/frond pair and have now tested them on a number of runs (and one race!).

Pace Crops

I like these crops. Honestly, I was a bit confused by the crops the first time I wore them. I expected them to fit and feel like their Pace Tights sister, but they’re more like distant cousins. The Pace Crops fit differently and look distinct from the tights. But, the fit and feel are great. They are primarily Power Luxtreme, with a very lightweight feel. The back of the knees has Circle Mesh venting. I like the added touch of the Circle Mesh. It keeps the material from bunching behind the knees for a comfortable stride. The crops have two gel pockets in the front waistband and a zipper pocket in the back waistband. The inseam is 17 inches, or just below knee length.

I have worn these crops on several runs. In the cool and humid conditions that are typical in the spring in my area, the crops were just the right weight for running comfort.  The lightweight feel of the material was perfect for the soggy weather. The Power Luxtreme material was quick to dry and stayed comfortable, holding its shape even when wet. The waistband felt secure and the circle drawstring enabled me to get a good fit around my waist. The flat seams ensured that my skin was chafe-free. I appreciated the small, reflective strip on the side of the leg. It was just right for lower light running. Overall, I love my Run: Pace Crops. They fit well, they’re lightweight, and they perform in a variety of conditions.

Grade: A

Suggested Retail Price: $86 on the Lululemon website (Direct link here) – and they now come in adorable, bright colors!

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon pullover in frond (they don’t make this one anymore – sorry), black Lululemon Speed Demon Run Hat (I LOVE this hat and its sister, the Shady Lady Run Visor), Brooks Pure Flow shoes. And, don’t worry. I’m not going to die in the picture, I’m just squinting at the finish line clock.

Wash and Dry

It’s an exciting day in the Dr. Rachel household. I get a new washer and dryer today. Yay! I’m waiting for the delivery truck right now.

My old washing machine died suddenly this weekend. It was very sad. I have had my washer for 10 years. It was the first major household purchase I made and it’s been a trusty machine for many years. About 7 months ago, I noticed that my washing machine was acting funny. It wasn’t draining properly and was starting to make clothes dirtier at the end of the wash cycle than they were when I put them in. I took out the agitator, I cleaned the barrel, I inspected the hoses, I googled every possible solution for a washer that predates google, but nothing helped. Undeterred, I kept using my poor washer long after the gentle cycle stopped working, and the “normal” cycle stopped spinning very well. Unfortunately, the inevitable occurred this weekend. While in the midst of washing my mountains of laundry, my washer’s last functioning wash cycle just stopped working. Why is this a running story, you might ask. Because my washing machine died right before I washed my workout clothes. I hadn’t washed running clothes in over a week. That’s three yoga classes, three trips to the gym, and five outdoor runs worth of clothes waiting to be washed. Oh, and several Lululemon technical fabric casual outfits, too.

Given my mountain of laundry, my overwhelming desire to avoid the laundromat, and my admission that both my washer and dryer were, in fact, 10 years old and not working properly, I headed to my local big box store to pick out a new pair. I selected a new set easily, bought them, and scheduled delivery.

New washing machine

The only problem – they won’t come in time for me to wash running tights for tonight’s run. So, tonight I’ll be wearing cropped tights with tall socks. It will be fabulous. The moral of the story: Wash your running clothes first.

Tips for New Runners

My sister in law recently started running and I couldn’t be happier. Dreams of family races are dancing in my head. Yay! Last week, she called me to get some running advice. Turns out she was struggling with running, and, most of the reasons were completely preventable. Inspired by her questions, I submit to you my best advice for new runners, including you Couch to 5k runners in training.

Q&A for New Runners

Why are my toenails bruised?

The short answer – your shoes are too tight. Most new runners start running in old trainers (probably the ones used for mowing the lawn, or going to the gym) and it’s an important rite of passage to buy proper running shoes. If your nails are bruising, your shoes are likely too small. Most runners like shoes at least a size larger than their shoe size (ladies – a size larger than flats, at least a half size larger than pumps). Another common culprit of bruised toenails is bad socks. Socks are largely an issue of personal preference and most runners are quite passionate about socks. Synthetic, wool, or blended socks are your best bet. I’ve written about a few different kinds of socks in my reviews. It’s a good idea to buy socks specific for running that are made from high quality materials. Wicking socks will also help prevent blisters. If new socks and the proper shoes don’t help, bruised toenails may be the fault of your running form or where you run. Downhill running can increase the likelihood of bruising. Consider consulting a running coach or staff at a running specialty store for more help.

How do you tell what pace you’re running and how do you run a consistent pace?

There are lots of great apps and devices for keeping track of pace, but that’s just numeric pace. I think the best way to manage pace when starting as a new runner is by feel. Runners and running coaches often talk about “conversation pace” runs, or the “talk test”. This means that you should run most of your runs at a pace at which you can have an intelligent conversation with a running partner. If you’re panting and can only sputter out phrases, slow down. You’ll be more comfortable, and build fitness faster, if you run most of your runs at a conversation pace. Once you have a good foundation of running, you can increase speed and challenge your fitness with different runs. If you want to keep track of numeric pace, consider downloading a free or low cost app for your phone (RunKeeper, Endomodo, MapMyRun), investing in the Nike+ system (its has an app, too), or making the larger investment in a Garmin Forerunner. The Forerunner line has a GPS-enabled running watch for everyone. Keep track of your runs and pace, using any method that works for you, in a running log. Then, you can review your log to learn more about what works for you as a runner. It also feels great to see evidence of your improvement.

What should I do about post-run soreness?

Rest, ice, and stretch. Self massage also helps. I love my foam roller and The Stick for self massage. Foam rollers are available everywhere and using them is easy. Basically, you lay on top of it and roll your body across it. It’s great for large muscle groups like quads and hamstrings. Google foam roller for instructional videos, helpful tips, and shopping. The Stick is an innovative self massage tool that has rolling washers attached to a longer post. Using it is simple – roll the Stick across sore muscles. Self massage is wonderful for post run soreness.

Are walk breaks ok?

Of course! There are a number of popular methods of running that include planned walk breaks, including the super popular Hal Higdon method. There is no shame in taking a break to walk, stretch, or lower your heart rate to maintain a comfortable pace. Running should be fun and if talking a walk break makes it more comfortable and fun, then do it! There’s also no shame in stopping at stop lights and standing still. Don’t feel compelled to run in place or dance around. Rest is good.

What can I do to control skin breakouts?

My best advice is to change out of sweaty running clothes as soon as possible, but I know that doesn’t always work. Running in sweat-wicking clothing helps. Running clothes that are primarily cotton trap sweat and dirt and that contribute to breakouts. I find it also helps to exfoliate frequently and to wash my face and skin with products that contain salycilic acid. I love the Neutrogena pink grapefruit line and the St. Ives skin clearing line (for a slightly less girly smell). Neutrogena makes skin and body wipes in the pink grapefruit line and they’re wonderful.

What stuff do I really need to make running more comfortable?

You don’t need much to run, but a few small things can make your running life much more comfortable. Invest in quality shoes. They are the most important part of your running life. Clothing that’s made specifically for exercise and has wicking material will make your runs significantly more comfortable. Target has a low cost line, RoadRunnerSports.com carries everything you could imagine, and specialty retailers like Lululemon, Lucy, Oiselle, and Athleta make great products for women. Don’t run in cotton if you can help it and select seamless or flat seam garments. Body Glide is  a wonderful invention that prevents chafing. I slather it on my feet in wet weather, on seams, and on any body parts that might touch and chafe. Buy some immediately. Purchase some nice socks, particularly if you’re prone to blisters. The blister-prone should also consider getting a box or two of Band Aid Brand Blister bandages. They’re specially made, cushioned bandages that last a long time, are impervious to sweat, and heal blisters. Finally, get a nice water bottle and keep it full. Be sure to hydrate enough, particularly if you live in a hot climate. Some people prefer a handheld bottle (I love mine and wrote about them on the blog), others prefer to stash a bottle mid-run. Either way, a nice bottle helps.

(And one from my brother) How do I stop my nipples from bleeding?

Two words. Nipple Guards. They’re nifty little yellow caps for the nipples. They really help (or so I’m told). Band aids are good (and much less expensive), and, in lower sweat conditions, Body Glide can help. Bloody nipples happen when the water and salt in sweat chafe the sensitive nipples, rubbing the skin off and making them bleed. Protect the nipples with a topical guard and wear proper fitting, wicking shirts.

Tips for New Runners

There you have it. My best advice for new runners, couch to 5kers, and everyone else who’s new to running and has questions. Have a question I didn’t address? No problem! Contact me using the handy link above, tweet me, or find me on Facebook. I’m happy to help.

Lite Brite

I love a good contest, particularly a costume contest. I like the challenge of coming up with something truly creative. I also love to see what other people come up with for costumes – and what people are willing to run in for the sake of a contest. Nothing is more fun that a group run that involves a costume contest. So, you can imagine my joy when Fleet Feet West Hartford announced a Light Up Your Run contest with Brooks Running. The premise was that winter running requires not only warm gear, but reflective clothing and safety equipment. The contest was designed to encourage runners to sport their brightest gear. I got to work on my costume idea right away. Once I had my idea I tried it on. It was blinding. Perfect.

I hate to give away all my secrets, but let’s just say my super fun outfit involved running with huge battery packs to power my lights. I ran past an older man on the fun run who told me my outfit scared his dog. A running friend called me Lite Brite (which was a wonderful toy!). But, it was all worth it when I won. That’s right. I won! I was delighted to have won even before I heard about the prize. This lucky girl won a whole Brooks outfit, including the new Pure Flow shoes.

I’ve been meaning to try the new Pure Project shoes now that Brooks changed the upper to a boot that didn’t have a seam right where my baby toe sits. I ran in my Pure Flows for the first time today. I love these shoes! The fit is comfortable, slightly snug through the midfoot, and cushy. I love that Flows are a lower profile shoe, with a moderate heel to toe drop, but they feel super cushioned. My feet were very happy.