What I’ve learned in the past year about running (and not running)

Been a long time! And it’s been a long year. Lots has happened in the life of Christy, and unfortunately, most of it has had nothing to do with running. Maybe I can share some of those things in a future post.

But as of May 7 I’m back in the saddle, and I’m mulling my previous inactivity so I can better understand how to stay consistent moving forward. I’ve let my lack of movement discourage me and even depress me at times, but I can’t afford that anymore. I’m done.

So, in no particular order, here’s what stands out as I look over my shoulder.

1. I need external motivation.
As much as I’d love to lace up and pop out of bed before the sun on nothing but sole gumption and discipline, I’m not that person. I need a cattle prod (“Omg, I’ve gained 10 pounds and can’t afford to gain any more”) or a shiny, sparkly object dangling in front of me (“Cool! I get a tan even on a 6:30 p.m. run!”). I love running for the sake of running, yes. But it simply isn’t enough to crack me out of my calcified state and put me back on the road or trail, at least not at first. I know this about myself, and I don’t beat myself up for it anymore. I simply seek out sources of external motivation now, harness them, and use them to my advantage.

2. Gear and technology matter to me.
I’d love to be an unencumbered runner who doesn’t care about carrying music or GPS or other “things” with me. But yep, I’m that runner. If I’m going to put in the effort and the miles, I want to know exactly how many miles I ran, what the elevation was that tortured me, how many calories I burned in the process. And I don’t want to have to manually map out my route before or after to find that out, either. I want to know I’m not going to crash and burn early because I relied too heavily on infrequent water fountains in the searing Texas heat, so you’re going to see a water bottle in my hand, and likely you’ll see a G2 packet sticking out of the little zippered pocket on the bottle’s hand-wrap as well. And yes, if I need that extra push, I want to know Gaga or Bun B are just a “play” button away from giving it to me.

In fact, I credit two pieces of gear that I discovered recently with getting my butt of the couch again. They were the external motivators that got me going, and I’m grateful to them. More on those in a near-future post.

3. Clothes matter to me.
Not necessarily the cuteness of the clothes, really. But having comfortable, functional and non-homely ensembles that I can quickly throw in a bag or throw on as soon as I come in from work is key. If I need a new sports bra or if my usual running shorts are too tight right now, those are barriers. Where I spend money is on good, hearty sports bras and quality shoes: Even though I didn’t pay for them, I can now vouch for the greatness of Nike Frees for both support and lightness. Under Armour makes great pullover bras that keep me still (as much as possible). The Nike running capris in this review were too big for me when I first got them, but now they fit perfectly. Sigh. But I can at least now vouch 100 percent that they’re comfortable, airy and supportive. I also found some gray and bright fluorescent yellow running shorts from Target: cheap, really comfortable, the cut is great, and they’re darn cute. I also bought a package of colored men’s Fruit of the Loom A-line undershirts (tank tops), trimmed the hem at the bottom since they’re super-long, and wear those over my sports bras. They’re cotton but they’re so airy and comfy that it doesn’t matter.

4. Route variety matters.
I started off in May walking and running around my neighborhood here in Deep Ellum (northeast of downtown Dallas). It was great, it was exciting, it was easy to just walk out of my door …. then it wasn’t. It got old real quick and I realized that I needed to branch out. I’m ADD when it comes to routes, and I know that now. And it’s ok. I simply make sure I don’t wear out the same old paths. If I think I’m going to see or experience something a little different from before, that gets me out the door more quickly.

5. Marriage can really wreck a routine. At least mine.
I married in my early 30s. That meant I had my solo routines down pat before I aligned myself with another (albeit wonderful) human being who had different solo routines. It became a clash of the solo routines. Part of my adjustment period was re-learning some solo routines and carving out a separate, solo mindset even though I was no longer solo. It was difficult. But now I’m no longer a newlywed, and I’m learning to compartmentalize better: No, the person I’ve aligned myself with doesn’t run. No, that doesn’t mean I have to stop running, or only run with the same frequency that he does (read: hardly ever). Yes, the two shall become one, but remember: There are still two people in the equation. Christy the individual didn’t go anywhere. She can still do the solo things she used to do (sans other men! Rimshot), even though it doesn’t feel that way. For some reason, that break from an enmeshed mentality has been difficult for me.

6. I must have grace with myself or not even do this.
Without getting into a bunch of navel-gazing on how harsh and critical I am with certain aspects of myself, I can be pretty unrealistic. I haven’t run or worked out much in a year, I’ve gained 10 pounds and it’s 100+ degrees outside; I can’t expect a 10-minute mile out of myself. I can’t expect myself to finish a run without stopping and walking some for now. My big goal has always been to be able to run around the 10-mile White Rock Lake loop. A few weeks ago I completed the loop, albeit with many walking breaks and one large sit-down break where I paused my GPS/timer altogether to rest for 10 minutes. I have to be happy that I completed it and slowly work toward straight-up running the loop. Slowly. As slow and as long as my body needs. My other goal is running __ miles per week — the __ needs to be realistic, not idealistic. That fill-in-the-blank is set at 10 miles a week for now. If I run three days a week, I make that goal. It makes me feel good, and I pat myself on the back. If I don’t make that goal? I’ll smile and tell myself “next week.” The Nazi Running Marm act I’ve given myself in the past hasn’t worked as well for me as I’d like to think. It’s ultimately sidelined me in the form of discouragement, and I see that now.

New Nike running shoes and socks: pass up or play

The folks in Nike’s running department waxed slick and technical when describing its stable of new and upcoming products. As I sat in the dim room at Cloud Place in Boston with other media types last April, I was engrossed in the geeky details of superior shoe and apparel construction presented by designers. I heard about floating heel support, biomechanics, Cooper’s ligament and gender-specific cold zones. It was fascinating and informative, but Nike’s got stiff competition in the running shoe and apparel market. What I wanted to know was, at this price point, which of these Nike pieces are worth it for runners of the non-elite variety? After three months of testing a few items, I’ve got answers. I’ll give different answers in different posts.

Feet

Nike Free Run+

$85
Nike Free Run
What this is: This shoe appeals to consumers who like barefoot running in theory, not really in practice, although I’m sure there are real barefooters who would put this shoe in their training mix. For those of us who’ve tried barefoot running, like it, but prefer some cushioning and protection from the mean streets, this shoe meets those needs. In fact, this incarnation of the Free provides a little more framework than past versions but still preserves freedom.

The cushy sole is scored deep with fingers to help the foot “articulate,” i.e. let the foot flex and do its natural thing. It’s impossibly light, airy and comfortable, and the lack of uber-structure forces your leg muscles to work harder. Because men and women’s feet are different, construction is gender-specific.

I’ve worn these to run, walk, strength train, and as regular kicks, and performance has been great (plus I get compliments on their cuteness). It’s Nike+ ready, if you track your progress that way.

There are a lot of high-tech specifics, but the translation is: this shoe rocks in striking a balance between freedom and forgiveness.

Pass up or play: PLAY

More: The media preview also trotted out evolved versions of other Nike+ shoes: LunarEclipse, LunarElite, LunarFly, LunarGlide, and LunarSwift. The Nike folks do a mess load of consumer testing, trying to nail how to “get inside their heads but also inside their hearts.” One question that comes up often is one of my biggest gripes about shoes: Why do running shoes have to be so ugly? I paid $135 for my last pair of road shoes. Performs amazingly, but blander than homemade soap. Nike gets a big A+ on these lines for going bananas with color and breaking away from the standard-issue running-shoe look. Athletes have an emotional connection with their footwear, and Nike seems to get this.

Nike Dri-FIT Elite No-Show Running Socks

$12

Nike Dri-FIT Elite No-Show running sockWhat this is: Pretty straightforward, these are synthetic no-show running socks. The Elite no-show isn’t new, but it’s new to me. Apparently, these only come in men’s, so I’m not sure why they ended up in my testing bag along with all my other women’s Nike apparel.

It has a tad extra cushion for the big toe. It comes in a white or black color combo, and I love the deep orange (go Longhorns). Unfortunately, that’s all I love about these. My biggest gripe about no-show socks are their propensity to slip down my heel and into my shoe. I have to buy brands at this same price point to get no-shows that stay put, and they do. These socks seem constructed in the same way, so my trail-walk with them seemed promising. They didn’t hold up even for a simple hike. I typically wear no socks or higher ankle socks on trails, but I can’t think of a reason for these socks to have tanked the way they did. I stopped several times to adjust and stretch them. I finally gave up and just dealt with socks bunched up in the back of my shoe. Totally annoying.

I read the comments section for this sock on the Nike site, and there’s only one commenter who agrees with me. Still, the socks were the right size for my foot, but it could be the man’s sock/woman’s foot thing.

Pass up or play: PASS UP

New Nike running apparel: pass up or play

This is Part II from the Nike media preview this spring, complement to my footwear review here.

Apparel

Nike Tech Women’s Running Capris

Nike Tech Women’s Running Capris

Via nuoiyen.edu.vn

$55

What: Running tights are hard to get right, and this item is where the higher price point is worth it. I have another pair of lower-end running tights that force me to wear underwear with them lest I make my lady parts angry. These running capris don’t. They’re made of polyester and spandex, which wick away sweat like it’s not even happening, and the seams are nice and flat. The separate, flat crotch area is breathable. The pair I received is technically a size too big, but it still somehow fits like a dream. The zippered pocket at the back waist is big enough for a key, lip balm and small pepper spray, yet it’s flush and flat (without those things, I mean). Airy mesh covers the back of the knees. The elastic waist is comfortable; the specs say there’s an interior drawcord, but mine doesn’t, for some reason. I’ve put this through the wash several times already. The two reflective strips on the sides of the knees are showing a little wear, but the rest of the capri looks and functions like new.

Pass up or play: PLAY

Nike Pro Women’s Training Bra

Nike Pro Women's Training Bra$28

What: I was excited at the preview to see bras constructed to hold even the most ornery breasts in place. That was the Nike Swift U-Back Bra. What did I get in my test bag? This standard-issue pull-over in size gigantic. Not only does this pliant, ubiquitous style of sports bra not help a cup size over the perkiest of Bs, the size ensured that I wouldn’t even be able to test the thing without getting two black eyes.

I politely asked a Nike media rep if they had a bra with more support for me to test, and one in the size I requested. I got the same bra, but one size smaller (size mega instead). At least it was in the more attractive “carbon heather” gray. I’m at least able to wear this one. To lift weights. Very slowly.

Pass up or play: Tiny boobies = PLAY; all others = PASS UP