The most important investment you should make when it comes to your running gear is a great pair of shoes. When you are shopping for shoes, be sure that you are looking at a shoe that is running specific rather than a shoe that works for general training. Running shoes are made to support the feet while pounding out the miles, and there are many colours and styles to suit your needs. Flat arches? Over pronation? There's a shoe for that! I definitely recommend visiting a specialty running store to find the perfect shoe. Sportchek and general sport stores are great, but in order to get that personal consultation for your running shoe needs, a running store is specially trained in that. Your biomechanics, body weight, and foot shape are all considered when trying out new shoes. Some running stores will also offer gait analysis or squat tests to study performance.
Note: Make sure there is at least a thumbnail's worth of room between your big toe and the front of the shoe. This will allow room for your foot to flex and the toes to move forward with every stride. Your foot also expands to their largest size during the afternoon, so take this into account when you go out to buy a new pair of shoes.
The biggest thing I stress is to find moisture-wicking clothes that are designed to move sweat away from your body. This will keep you cool when you are running, protect your skin from the elements and keep your clothing dry. There are tons of shirts that have mesh inserts and quick-dry technology to ensure you stay comfortable when you are on the run.
I find my running tops anywhere sports clothing are sold. While this is convenient, be sure to read the labels and make sure you are purchasing a top that won't make you feel too hot or too stuffy, and that it in fact is a technical shirt. You can find these almost anywhere and for great prices!
As for bottoms, look for a wide waistband. This will allow more comfort as you move, and you will not have the waistband digging into your skin. A wide waistband spreads the pressure over a wider surface area, and will allow more room for your hips to move.
My bottoms of choice are from Lululemon (pictured above) because they have a hidden drawstring inside the wide waistband, as well as lots of pockets to carry gels when I am on the go. Other great brands include Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Under Armour, etc.
For the ladies, invest in a good sports bra. Did you know that your chest moves in a figure eight motion while you run? Yeah, you don't want to be flopping around and putting unnecessary stress on your back. Save the girls! My sports bra of choice is the ta-ta tamer from Lululemon. It is around $67 including tax, but the cost per wear makes it a worthwhile investment. Plus, it has thick straps that you can cross in that back (or wear as a normal bra-style) for extra support, and it actually makes it look like you have two boobs rather than a uniboob like some sports bras! Hooray!
As for socks, I like to find sports socks that have arch support. This will help your foot feel snug while you are running and since they are a bit tighter feeling, your foot won't slip around and be prone to blisters. One thing I do suggest on race day is to Vaseline your feet, that way you can be sure you won't have blisters. There are tons of socks out there for running - anything from knee-high compression socks (I have three pairs myself) to shorter ankle socks. It helps to try a few different styles to see what you prefer.
In the marathon training guide I picked up, in the first chapter they talk about six steps to help you "run like the best." Here is what they list and a brief description of each:
1. Check your health: Basically, don't ignore your doctor. Have regular check ups to maintain your health and to ensure that everything with your heart and circulatory is still remaining healthy as you increase your mileage. Take this as an opportunity to have a general check up as well - it can never hurt!
2. Set goals: Setting goals gives you something to work towards, but make sure you are clear in advance and don't go out too fast. The worst part about being excited about a goal is burning out too fast. Set time goals, pace goals, distance goals, and take small steps to get you there without injury.
3. Increase endurance: Have a solid base of mileage before you throw in some speed and hill work outs. Working on your endurance will help you carry through any race you do, but it takes a lot of work to get there. Chipping away at it works! The core of your training is the long, slow run, which will help build your endurance safely. It also increases the capacity of which your body takes in oxygen. The more oxygen you have available for energy, the higher your endurance.
4. Include breaks: REST DAYS ARE IMPORTANT! You can't expect to drive your car every day, 24/7 without stopping for a gas break. You can only go so far and have so much in the tank before you should stop. The same thing applies to running. While it would be ideal to be able to run forever, every single day, your body needs a break to refuel and rebuild. Have at least one complete race day where you don't run.
5. Kick up the pace: To increase your speed, you have to practice running faster. If you are outside, try surging to the next telephone pole, then slowing it down once you hit the next one. Repeat this, and watch the time fly by. You can do a similar workout on the treadmill by playing with the speed, too. Eventually you will hit your desired race pace, and this will help you reach any time goals you may have set for an upcoming race.
6. Lift some weights: Some of the best exercises a runner can do to keep your muscles healthy are push ups, crunches, planks, and squats. While running itself is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise, you have to keep those running muscles strong somehow to avoid over-use injuries. Try throwing in two strength sessions a week.
I woke up this morning ready to run long. I had the best sleep ever last night, and I felt refreshed and ready to go (after a quick breakfast and a cup of coffee, of course). Last week's eight mile run was fueled by half of my usual oats, then I refueled with the other half when I got home. Like that day, I did the same today (with extra peanut butter, after). I ran a total of ten miles today, and took a fuel gel at mile seven. Originally, I stepped out the door with a fuel belt that I had received for Christmas. HOWEVER, I ran down the hill and all I could think about was how much the little water bottles were bouncing around, and the belt began to ride up until it was at mid-waist. I didn't want to keep pushing it down, and as much as I wanted to practice fueling with my own water/drink supply, I knew it would be a distraction. I ran up the hill home, tossed it on the table and then headed out again. Much better! The fuel gel I had today was Honey Stinger brand in the flavor fruit smoothie. HOLY YUM. I think I have found a new favourite!
My motto for my morning miles was, "The faster I run, the faster I'm done." I didn't want to go TOO fast and risk injuring myself on a long run (which is supposed to be about a minute slower than your goal race time), but I kept a pace of 8:47/mile. If I continue that for the half marathon in June, I will be happy! I also repeated the word "PUSH!" to motivate myself during the last mile of my run.
And what does one do after a double digit run? Stretc, foam roll, and take an ice bath! BRRR! I sat there in the cold water quite literally freezing my butt off, drinking a big mug of hot coffee and reading blogs/social media sites on my phone. It was the slowest fifteen minutes of my life, but I can honestly say that my legs don't feel half bad! Hmm, maybe there is some truth to that science.
After I warmed up, I went to the spa and got a pedicure. Something about a leg massage after a long run is so, so good! Thank you, Emily! I picked out a dark colour for my toes - black with sparkles, to be exact. I joked, "Well, if I get black toenails from running, no one will ever know!" Muahaha.
The colour is Storm by Zoya. Super pretty!
And now I am sitting here eating a giant salad beast with eggs and a big mug of earl grey tea. I'm thinking it's nap time!
Happy Wednesday, friends!