Thursday, December 18, 2014

List of gift ideas for runners for real people (you know, those on a budget)

This is a gift-giving guide for the rest of us. Yeah, those of us who can't spend $450 for an awesome GPS watch that also makes coffee in the morning and folds laundry on Saturdays.

Lovely idea, but just not realistic for most of us. What's a chica or chico to do for the runner in her or his life? Here are some ideas:

1. One of the easiest is a gift certificate from the local running store, of course. But it doesn't have to be a significant investment if you can't afford it. Your runner will love any denomination and the excuse to browse the whole store and touch every new shoe, running jacket and sock in the place. Most stores have smaller items like the prerequisite 5K, 13.1 mile and 26.2 mile stickers for the car in addition to the high-tech gizmos of the season.

2. Did your runner have a recent race? Check the race's homepage for information on race photos, which can be bought online and shipped directly to your runner. Many race photographers tag your runner's photos by his or her bib number. If you don't know their number, try the race website again; most will list race results by name and bib number. Yes, us runners are a little self absorbed and would love a picture of ourselves crossing the finish line in a tutu or Superman costume. A nice frame would be frosting on the gift cake.

3. Show interest in your runner's sport. You don't have to run to show support. Join your runner on a long walk on a rest day or show up at a race to cheer him or her on. I know you're already spending an inordinate amount of time listening to him or her go on and on (and on and on) about their training. Go see them in their habitat and make them feel special in the process.

4. Build a song list for their next race. Doing so takes tons of time and he or she will appreciate getting a head start. You can buy the songs for them, give them a gift card toward music purchases or even create a Pandora station for him or her and hand over the log-in information. 

5. Contribute toward a race fee or lodging at the next away race. If your runner likes to race, many a race will allow you to pay for all or part of the race fee. Some have gift certificates. A gift card to a hotel at their next destination would also be appropriate and welcome. 

6. Runners also love gear and clean, non-stinky technical shirts, so those are always good ideas if you know your runner's size. Places like Marshall's, T.J. Maxx and Target have great deals on good gear. I got a tech T-shirt with my running group's logo for my birthday and I can't wait to wear it when we travel to Florida over Christmas (did I mention it's in the 20s in Michigan at night?).

7. Give a subscription to a running magazine. Your runner will think warm thoughts about you every time an issue shoes up. I'm partial to Runner's World, which I relish.

8. Create a goody bag. It could be multiple samples of hydration tablets so they can try different flavors, or different types of protein bars or fuel (like Gu or SportBeans). Or create a pedicure set for your runner. We have notoriously gnarly feet. 

9. Put together a recipe book with healthy, runner friendly snacks and meals. Most running magazine websites have tons of resources. Better yet, cook a runner friendly meal for your runner. We're always "rungry", so this will be a huge hit.

10. Love and understanding, of course.

Mostly, just don't fret. Runners are a great bunch who'll appreciate that you thought of us. Especially if you continue to pretend to listen to us when we're talking about what ails us.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

What's the best running-related gift you've ever gotten? Given?  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

10 easy-peasy tips worth repeating

You know those tips you heard or read about ages ago that you take for granted? Like how you should put your clothes and shoes next to the bed if you plan to run in the morning so you just have to get dressed and out the door.

Yeah, those. I suspect there are new runners who'd welcome a few new tips or more-experienced runners who haven't heard them all.

So, let's hear them.

I've shared some tips for newbies before. And about my favorite gear. Well, sort of.

Here are a few more tips:

1. You know that flap built into your sleeve you can use if you forgot your gloves? It's the perfect place to stash a tissue or two.
2. Can't keep your ear buds from tangling every time you store them? Try a business card or cut a small rectangle or square out of cardboard (cereal box, perhaps).

3. If you're a newbie, read Marc Parent's Newbie Chronicles on Runner's World magazine. All of his columns are available free at I highly recommend reading them chronologically from the beginning. You'll laugh, you'll cry. It was better than Cats. I'm going to see it again and again.

4. Better yet, get a subscription to the magazine. I did and am going on my third year. Worth. Every. Penny.

5. If you have any electronics, learn how to use them before you head out for a run. At night. With no light. And no glasses. I'm just sayin' that if you have a new, say, Garmin, and don't know how to use it, you may want to be able to see the thing when you're pushing buttons and making it do something. But it's just a suggestion.

6. Check your calendar just one more time before you book a race four months early. Because sometimes you have to take your oldest to college orientation, for example.

7. If you surround yourself with other runner chicos and chicas, one of them may want you to transfer the race to them if you were to double book yourself. Check the race rules; some don't allow transfers but may allow you to run the following year.

8. Don't skimp on gear, but don't think you have to have five (or more!) of each. Do spend money on things that will make you more likely to enjoy your run and/or to keep you safe and comfortable. But consider buying just one very good quality item, or two of each if you can afford to do so; one to wear and one to wash. For example, I have one pair of Nike Hyperwarm running tights and two very good quality running bras. But I buy the Champion C9 T-shirts at Target. Inexpensive, but they work well and last more than you'd think if you wash and hang-to-dry them.

9. Spend the extra money on the Tide Sport laundry detergent or whatever detergent they sell at your running store. Just trust me on that one. Otherwise, you'll spend lots more on the gear I mentioned in #8.

10. Yes, we look kind of dorky dressed in highlighter yellow, but wearing high-visibility gear is imperative. Black clothes may be more slimming, but they make runners nearly invisible to cars. I recently saw my favorite 15-year-old out running after dark. Yes, I saw her because she lit up like a Christmas tree when I drove by. Good girl!

So, what are your favorite tips that are worth repeating? What's the worst advice you've ever gotten? What's the best high-visibility item you own?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shout-out to the humble hat

What do you see here?
Three hats.

You see them, too?

Yeah. I left all three at home before heading out on my run. It's 29 degrees out there tonight with a 19-degree (F) windchill. Not terribly cold by Michigan standards, but the wind was really blowing and I thought my ears were going to fall off. They may have. I still can't feel them.

Between the other runner in the house (my favorite 15-year-old) and I, we have five running hats. Most of them are conveniently located in a clear plastic shoe organizer hanging in the coat closet next to the front door.

The same organizer that also holds my ChapStick, headphones, gloves and reusable hand warmers. All of which I grabbed on the way out.

I could tell right away that I'd made a tactical mistake. And, yet, I ran away from the house instead of running back in to grab a hat.

It won't be so bad, I told myself. I'll warm up when I start running.

While my neighbors' Christmas-light-show-programmed-to-blaring-music-that-sounds-like-the-ice-cream-truck did distract me for a few moments, the rest of my 30-minute run/walk tonight was pretty miserable.

My core was warm and my hands were toasty (even without using the hand-warmers). But my head and ears were suffering.

There's a saying in Puerto Rico that comes to mind: "El vago trabaja doble." Loosely translated, it means the lazy man works twice as hard.

Whoever came up with that was probably a runner.

Mental note: Grab a hat! Or at least, turn around and grab a hat if you forgot it.

In the meantime, if you see my ears, can you please ship them to Lansing, Mich.?

Do you ever forget a key piece of gear? Do you ever go back for it? Seriously, have you seen my ears?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Today's run was brought to you by the letter T and the number 3

Well, hello, tired muscles. And hello, feeling of achievement. I've missed you both.

Thoroughly enjoyed getting out today, despite temperatures in the 20s F. Brrr...

In addition to the usual iPhone, YurBuds headphones and Nike Hyperwarm gear, today's run was brought to you by so many tools, it should be sponsored by both Home Depot and Lowe's. Let me be more specific:

1. This chica got to run/walk 3 miles today using the Galloway Method.I'm keeping the April 19 Gazelle Girl Half Marathon on my schedule for now.

2. And in order to switch from walking to running, I used my new toy, err, tool: my birthday gift from el husbando, the Garmin Forerunner 10.
The watch can be set up to beep at whatever intervals you choose. I did 30:30 run/walk. I do need to research whether the volume can be adjusted up because I turned down my Pandora three different times and I almost missed the prompts.

3. My new Brooks Ghost 6s. Men's size to accommodate my orthodics and to avoid pink shoes. If you haven't figured it out yet, la chica is a tomboy. (Ignore the pink stripe on my SmartWool socks.)
4. Cheap-o reusable hand warmers. Got some RuffHewn brand warmers the day after Thanksgiving for about $3. They're not at all what I expected, but I'm keeping them for now. They only last for less than 30 minutes each and you have to boil them for about 15 minutes afterward to reactivate. Ugh. I've been using one at a time and switching them from hand to hand, especially when I walk my favorite dog. Pulled them out for today's run because it was ccccold. Brrrr.

5. This article, which I found incredibly helpful as I learn how to adjust with a brand-new arthritis diagnosis. Coach Jenny Hadfield has some great tips which I'm trying to incorporate. The only one I'm struggling with is eating a low inflammatory diet. What, no donuts? Coach Jenny is helpful, but no fun.

6. Naproxen. Better living through chemistry and all that jazz.

7. An extra layer over my favorite Nike jacket. My also-brand-new-gift-from-someone-who-loves me: a Woolrich zip-up fleece jacket. I needed it today. Bad. And yesterday. Um. Actually, I've worn it every day since I received the gift.

Since I've talked about my other must-have gear before, I'm leaving it at that. The one thing I should have also taken advantage of was a nap. Maybe since I don't have a Walking Dead or Talking Dead episode to watch tonight, I might actually go to bed at a reasonable hour. Unlikely, but a chica can dream.

What are your favorite running tools? Did you get any running gear or tools for your birthday?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Boys and their toys. Oh, wait.

This chica got to play with a new toy today and got to go for a run.You'd think it was Christmas around here.
Source: Mashable

El husbando was very generous for my birthday/Christmas gift this year and even encouraged me to try out my new, shinny Garmin Forerunner 10 ahead of schedule. I got the larger model so that I can, ahem, read the numbers without my glasses. Did I mention I'm having a birthday next week? Be nice.

After another round of tests, my doc cleared me to run as long as I feel OK, so after spending my days off from running reading about the different half-marathon training plans online, I settled on Jeff Galloway's.

If you're not familiar, Galloway recommends run/walk intervals. He sells a $20 timer on his site that beeps at designated times to let you know when you can walk or run. For example, run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds. Rinse. Repeat.

Enter the new Garmin, which allows you to set up the intervals and keeps track of pace, time and distance. The watch is very easy to use (there are several well-made YouTube videos explaining different features) and felt comfortable as an everyday watch.

Like Galloway's timer, the Garmin beeps as the interval is coming, then beeps again when you're supposed to switch between running and walking. It was like running with this guy:

Source: Looney Tunes
I really liked getting the prompt to switch between running and walking. And despite adding a walking component, my 30-minute run went by ridiculously fast. I'll reserve judgement both on the training plan and the watch until I can spend some more time on both.

For now, I'm just happy to have the opportunity to talk about something other than my butt. Let's call that my gift to you.

Do you use a GPS running watch? What kind and what do you like about it? Have you used a run/walk training program?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

'bout that bass and five things I wish I would have done to address what ails me

And we're back to talking about my bass, I mean, butt. Or at least the pain in my butt.

Visited my regular doc today. She believes I do have piriformis syndrome and that I'm still in pain (since APRIL) because it's hard to get rid of. For now, Aleve and -- wait for it -- running.

Then again, all I really heard her say was "go ahead and run. Start slow and stop if you feel worse." That I can do.
Of course, I have work and life functions today and tomorrow, so the running may have to wait a little bit. Unless I can clone myself. Or fake illness to get out of tonight's big-deal-whoopie event. No? Darn.

I may have to get treated for whiplash with all the different medical professionals' opinions about what ails me. That said, this doc, I trust, so I had some X-rays done and she's calling me back with results and any additional instructions depending on what they find.

Since I'm apparently now in the chronic pain realm, here are five lessons I learned in the past seven months for dealing with it:

1. Don't ignore it. Get someone to take a look at it right away because if you wait until it's too bad, then it's going to take longer to recoup. Dum-dum over here waited until she could barely walk before making an appointment.

2. Do listen to your own body. You know what's normal for you and what isn't. If your medical  professional isn't listening, call them out on it. If they still don't listen, consider another one. Or ask them to explain why they disagree with you. Schedule another appointment to finish the conversation if you have to.

3. Use your general practitioner/internal medicine doc/primary care nurse. I should have started there. But, no, I just  knew better. So, I've been managing my own care. Yeah, don't do that.

4. It's OK to get a second opinion. If your doc is decent, he or she won't mind and may even have a suggestion of another good professional who could take a look and suggest a different approach.

5. Be a good patient. Do what the doc tells you to do, even if that includes -- gasp! -- not running for a while. Or taking meds (shudder). Or going through -- God forbid -- physical therapy. I hate it when they're right, but they have the fancy diploma for a reason.

I hope you're not injured, but if you are, that you get a fast resolution and get back on the road quickly.

What type of medical professional do you see when you're hurt? Do you follow doctor's orders? No, really, do you?

Monday, December 1, 2014

La chica dreams of being gazelle-like

Today, I took the first step toward becoming a Gazelle Girl: I signed up for the April 19 half-marathon in Grand Rapids, Mich.
So tonight, we set out at a comfortable walking pace, my favorite dog and I. Our pace picked up fairly quickly, given the 15-degree temps (with windchill).

I with my Nike running jacket and my down Lands' End parka. Plus a Champion running cap, Saucony running gloves, Nike Hyperwarm running tights topped with some sort of fleece-lined ski pants I found at Marshall's a couple of years ago. She with her, ahem, fur coat.

I settled on Hal Higdon's half-marathon training program for walkers. I used his half-marathon plan for novice runners last year and it worked great. I especially like his simple approach and his free online chart I can use to plan my walks and other exercise.

Tonight called for a 30-minute walk. I circled two of my neighborhood blocks, just to be sure we were both up to the task. At about 20 minutes, we passed our house and she pulled hard on her leash, wanting to come inside. Can't say I blame her.

I remembered to pause my Nike-plus app and dropped said dog home, then set out for another 10 minutes. In all, I covered 2 miles in my allotted time.

Leonbergers aren't known as very active dogs (we call ours a lazyberger), so this is what greeted me when I got home.
As much as I'm bemoaning having to walk instead of run, someone else will be getting a lot out of this loophole I found while still following my doctor's orders to walk and not run.

In other news, I've been remiss in sharing that Hoke One One just launched a new stability shoe, the Constant. I haven't tried it, but I can tell you that I really like my Cliftons. My only complaint is that I wish it had one more hole at the top so I can tighten the laces closer to my ankles.

A rep for Boulder Running Company reached out* to ask if I would let you know about the new offering. You can get more info -- or order the shoe -- on their site.

Here are some pictures of the men's and women's models for the curious:

Have you used a training plan for a goal race? How did that work out for you? What's your favorite running shoe?

* I was not compensated for sharing information about the Hoka One One Constant or about the Boulder Running Company. All views are my own