Saturday, July 31, 2010

The most important running equipment a woman can own!

Yep, this is a post about sports bras. Gentlemen, there's really nothing for you here, so you can skip this entry. But you like to read about breasts? You might think so, but we're venturing into territory today that most men fear. Be warned.

To paraphrase my friend M, you can run barefoot on the beach, but not without a sports bra! This was in my response to my acertation that a good sports bra was as important as a good pair of running shoes. And I hear women make the following statements all of the time, that make me cringe:

"I have to wear two sports bras at once."

"I have to wear a regular bra under my sports bra."

"They don't make sports bras in my size."

Au contraire, ladies. There is a sports bra out there that will work for you, no matter how big you may be. Don't give up! But do give up looking in your local retail stores. There's nothing for you there. This is a job for the internet! Yes, I know, you can't try things on when you buy them online, and you might have to pay shipping. But for something as important as a sports bra, it's worth it. My good friend J, a big-busted lady, and I have spent some hours discussing the merits of different types of sports bras, web sites that sell them, etc. Here are some of the ideas that our combined genius has generated.

There are a lot of styles of sports bras out there, intended for a lot of differently sized breasts and different sports activities. A "minimum impact" sports bra might be great for yoga, but don't take it on your next run unless your cups are very close to the beginning of the alphabet. And buying a bra too large in the band and small in the cups (as many women do) will result in a whole lot of discomfort. So where to begin?

First, find out what your bra size is. The best way to do this is go to a specialty lingerie shop and have a proper fitting. You might be shocked that while you thought you were a 38C, you're actually a 34DD. The difference is huge. Make sure you buy a sports bra that will fit your correct bra size! The wrong size sports bra will not do for you what it should!

There are some fantastic websites for buying sports bras. My favorite is Title Nine Sports. (If you can't figure out the reference in their name, Google is your friend.) The wonderful people at Title Nine have a fantastic selection of sports bras, all of which they have reviewed and rated in a 1 through 5 barbell system. They have bras for the biggest- and smallest-breasted of athletes in a variety of styles. They aren't cheap, but aren't your boobs worth it?

Another great place to look is at specialty lingerie stores, like Bare Necessities. They carry bras in a variety of sizes for all activities. Again, you're going to pay, but if you're looking for a good quality sports bra in a tough to find size, this is another great place.

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to sports bras. The first group is concerned they their sports bras enhance their busts, and don't give them a mashed-down, or "uniboob" look. The other group doesn't care how flat-chested they look, they just want to eliminate bounce. I fall into the second group. Most of my sports bras flatten me out to almost nothing. And I'm ok with that. I'm running, not competing in the Miss America pagent. I tend to purchase "compression" type sports bras, not the underwire or "encapsulating" styles of bra.

Another thing to condier is underwear as outerwear. When it's hot out, it's nice to run in just shorts and a sports bra - but I won't do that with those that look like underwear. Please, do yourself a favor and only wear your sports bra as outerwear if you have a cute sports bra. The bra tops that you see everywhere are great - if you have tiny boobs. If you're a C or better, move on for high impact activities like running.

Where do you buy sports bras? Any recommendations for your favorites? Please post them below!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My first running affliction (and product review!)

I decided to brave the great outdoors again for my run today. The temperature was below 80 when I got up, so I thought I'd give it a shot. It turned out to be not such a great idea. The humidity was really up, making it hard to breathe and generally sticky and miserable. I only made it to 22 minutes of my 28 minute run. I think it will be back to the gym on Friday.

There was another issue with running on such a humid day, especially in a pair of really cheap running shorts - my first bout of chafing. I know this is a common affliction among runners in a variety of areas of the body, particularly the thighs and (ouch on this one) the nipples. Fortunately my case isn't too bad, but still unpleasant as I sat at my desk at work, particularly since I unwisely chose to wear a skirt today.

I mentioned this situation to my dear friend J (she'll appear again, no worries) and she said that, ironically, she had just seen an ad on TV the night before for a product to treat and prevent chafing. All she could remember was that it began with an L. A quick Yahoo search turned up Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel.

The website proclaimed that this product "soothes and prevents chafing." It also proclaimed to be non-greasy, non-staining, and moisture proof. Sold. So over my lunch break, I stopped by CVS and picked up a tube. The price was $7.49, but with my Extra Care Card I saved $1.50, thus only paid $5.99. I was a little concerned when this only bought me a 1 oz. tube, but the box proclaimed "Economical. A small amount goes a long way and lasts a long time."

It must have said three or four times on the box and tube to only use a small amount, so I did. The gel is clear, and has a super smooth, silky texture. I rubbed a little on and was immediately impressed with how much better I felt. And indeed, a tiny dab did go a long way. I will certainly be using this for my run on Friday. Time will tell if helps me to heal up faster than usual.

My husband, B, also suffers from the occasional running or biking induced chafe, so I'll be sure to have him test this out as well. So far, I have to say that this product is a winner. My only complaint would be that there is a bit of excess packaging, but the cardboard can be recycled.

Let me know if you have any tips for preventing the chafe (other than this awesome product).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Well this is not what I expected...

I've never been much of a scale person. I don't own one, and I usually only have a general idea of how much I weigh. When I got my Wii Fit for my last birthday (thanks, B!) I found out how much I weighed all the time, because you have to do a daily test. Then when I started running, I didn't get out Wii Fit for quite a while.

I finally decided this week that I should be doing some strength training as well as running, so I popped the Wii Fit disc into the Wii and got ready to work out. And what did that annoying little anthropomorphic Wii Fit board* tell me? Well, after berating me for not using Wii Fit for 60 days, it told me that I have gained 5 pounds in the past two months.
Gained. GAINED?!? Are you kidding me?

Yes, I know, it's probably because I have put on more muscle mass, and muscle weighs more than fat. Yes, I know that I started this whole journey at the low end of a normal body weight anyway, and I had no intention to lose weight. And I know that this is probably a healthier weight for me, anyway. But really, who starts running three times a week and gains weight?

* This guy. He's annoyingly cute.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sad News

In very, very sad news, my friend Kelly Freitas passed away last week after a year-long battle with breast cancer. She was only 31 years old. In a way, she's the reason I started running. I walked Race for the Cure for her, and that's where I decided to become a runner. I am making it my goal to run in Race for the Cure every year in her memory. You can read her story through her and her own words on her blog, Manny and Kelly in Sickness and in Health. She was a remarkably positive person, even when dealing with the most unfair of situations.

These pictures were taken at her wedding, just a few weeks before her diagnosis of Stage 3 Triple Negative breast cancer.

Donations can be made in Kelly's name to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.

Week 6 Day 3 (Third Time's the Charm!)

Week 6 day 3 was not my friend. I tried to run it on Monday - fail. I tried again on Wednesday - epic fail. I was simply running out of energy about 3/4 of the way through the run, but not able to make it to 25 minutes. Wednesday's attempt even ended with what I'll call an asthma "incident" (I won't go as far as to say attack) in which breathing was a little on the challenging side.

I'll argue that the weather has something to do with this. It's a brutal summer here in Northern VA. Today's high was 102 degrees. That's without the humidity, which was sky-high, giving us a heat index of more than 110 degrees. When I woke up it was already close to 90. So I did what any rational person would do. I attempted W6 D3 again. But this time, indoors. The gym has a whole row of fancy treadmills that have everything from a place to put my water bottle to a charging station for my iPod. And did I mention, AIR CONDITIONING. Wow, what a difference that made. It wasn't easy, but with the help of the AC I was able to complete that 25 minute run, with 5 minutes of walking on either end. I'm FINALLY done with week 6.

From here on out the interval training is over. Week 7 is three days of 28 minute runs. That three minutes may not sound like a lot, but I was DONE at 25 minutes today. 28 will be a challenge. But I'm really feeling good about finishing this thing, even if it takes me a few extra weeks.

I decided that from here on out I'm ditching the c25k Podcasts. They were fantastic while I was doing intervals, but not really necessary now that I'm just doing long runs. Instead I'm making my own playlists that last the correct length, with obvious cues for the warmup and cooldown walks.

I've also decided that as long as this brutal heat continues, I'm running inside. It's not as interesting as outside, but the AC is really helpful. And it's not too boring - the treadmills face a mirror, so I can watch people use all of the crazy other aerobic machines and weight machines.

It's at least a little bit entertaining. Plus I can watch myself in the mirror. It's fun to see my face go from peachy to tomato red over the course of the run. And I can also admire how hard core I look running. That's good for at least five minutes!

Stay tuned for my attempts at week 7, plus my reviews of the assorted running stuff I have picked up in this journey!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Runner's High

Today was week 5, day 3. The big, scary, unimaginable day, where I had to run for 20 minutes straight. And you know what? I DID IT. I actually ran for 20 minutes without stopping. B's GPS said that was about 1 3/4 miles (the longest I've ever run before is a mile). I am so excited - I can't believe that I actually managed.

The weather was great this morning, which always helps. And B picked a fairly flat running route - only 1 hill to speak of. I had no trouble getting up the hill on the way out. We turned around at the halfway point and I had to do the hill again. By the time I hit the top I was really ready to quit. Then as I started the downhill, I started to feel better. My legs stopped hurting. It was easier to breathe. I'm told this is due to the release of endorphins, leading to "runner's high." I was ready to stop at the 20 minute mark, but I really felt that I could have kept going if I needed to do so.

I'm doubly excited to hear from a running co-worker that once your body achieves runner's high, you get there faster and faster. It's like your brain learns how to do it and it gets easier and easier. Hopefully this is true, because week from here on out it won't be easy. Week 6 is similar to week 5, with a different program each day, but from week 7 there is no more walking. The amazing part? I really think I can do it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I am awesome.

Week 5 day 2, I own you! What a great run this morning. Finally a bit of a break in the record-breaking heat (and in Northern VA, that's HOT!)! This morning actually felt a little bit cool, and while the humidity is still incredibly high, it felt a lot better out there.

Week 5 had me really nervous. Day 1 was 5 min walk, 5 min run, 3 min walk, 5 min run, 3 min walk, 5 min run, 5 min walk. Believe it or not, I found that to be much harder than today, which was a 5 min walk, 8 min run, 5 min walk, 8 min run, 5 min walk. What really has me scared is day 3, which I will tackle on Monday. Day 3 is a 5 min walk and then a 20 min run, followed by the standard 5 min cooldown. Ummm... how do I go from 8 min to 20 minutes? Shouldn't there be some sort of intermediate step, like a 12 min run, or even 15 min? Because let me tell you, I was excited for the ends of both of those 8 min runs today.

I'm going to keep hoping that the weather stays a bit cooler in the mornings so that my runs are a bit easier, especially since I'm beginning to get into the really hard stuff!