Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Must-Have Running Gear

Past Running Series Posts:
Apps, Watches, & Training Plans

When I started running, I literally had some tennis shoes and an armband to hold my phone. Once I got more serious about running, I found out there is so much more that goes in to making your runs successful. Now that I've been running for a few years, and running longer distances, I've found some things that work and don't work for me. So today I'm sharing some of my favorite running gear.

Shoes - When I first started running, my longest runs were only three miles, so I was able to run in my Nike shoes that I had been wearing for years. However, when I got in to training harder and longer runs, I bit the bullet and invested in better shoes. We have stores in Grand Rapids (Gazelle and Striders) that will actually fit you with a running shoe. My first "real" running shoe was the Saucony Ride 9. I learned that running shoes wear out after a certain number of miles (usually around 300-400 miles), so I just recently got the Saucony Ride 10. Once you start getting serious about running and getting in more than a few miles a week, I definitely recommend investing in a good running shoe. 

Socks - I never realized that socks can make a difference in running. A few months ago, I started getting blisters on the ball of foot, near by big toe. They were painful when running and I'd have to pop some of them after a long run. It was pretty miserable. I'll spare you and won't post any photos. I invested in a few pairs of good socks, all different brands. Those socks, along with putting on lotion on my feet before each run, helped a ton. I no longer have any blisters, which is making my runs much more enjoyable. I have Swiftwick, Smartwool, and Thorlo socks and I'd recommend all of them. The Thorlo socks actually have padding in the exact spot I needed, so I used those a lot until my blisters were healing.

Clothes - I'm not picky when it comes to running clothes. Something comfortable and moisture wicking is all I need. Most of my running clothes are from Target and Old Navy and I've been really happy with them. I've also picked up a few things from the Adidas Outlet store near me and I really love their shorts. I wear pants, capris, shorts, tanks, and long sleeves, depending on the weather. Gloves and a headband in the winter when it's cold...but I don't want to think about that yet. 

Running Belt - Now that I'm running longer distances, I use a running belt to old water and fuel. I use a Nathan Running Belt and I love it. There are a ton of them out there, so just find what is comfortable for you.

Reflective Gear - When I'm running early in the morning and it's not quite light out yet, I make sure to wear a reflective arm band, along with bright clothing. There are tons of options for these, just make sure you wear something so drivers can see you!

Head Bands - In the winter I wear a headband to keep my ears warm and my hair out of my face, but the rest of the time I just wear athletic headbands. I hate when hair touches my neck when I'm running, because then I sweat and it sticks to me. So annoying. I've found the adidas headbands are great (picked them up at the local outlet store). But anything similar seems to work for me.

What are some of your favorite work out items? Special shoes? Clothing brand? Random thing you can't live without now that you have it?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Five

ONE. Tomorrow is National Dog Day, so I'm sharing a few recent pics of Admiral. Because who doesn't love dog pics on a Friday?

always getting in to something in the yard
sleepy boy
loves to cuddle

TWO. This week I shared some of my favorite running apps, technology, and training plans. I've included things I've used in the past and what I'm using now, as I train for my first marathon. Make sure you check it out if you're a runner, or thinking about getting in to running.

THREE. I'm majorly over due for a hair cut. I'm ready for a change, but nothing too crazy. I'm loving these medium length cuts, which would mean about 6+ inches off my hair. What do you think?

FOUR. Next week we are hosting a Fantasy Football draft at our house and I have been browsing Pinterest for some fun ideas...can't wait to get to work on them!



FIVE. I'm playing in a softball tournament that starts tonight and goes through tomorrow, and then have to do a long run on Sunday. I think it's safe to say I'll be worthless on Sunday night and probably Monday too. What are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Favorite Apps, Watches, and Training Plans for Running

I wasn't sure what topic I wanted to cover first in these running posts, but I figured training plans were a good place to start. I want to remind you that I am not an expert on running. I'm just sharing what I've learned over the past several years, things that I liked/didn't like, and things that worked/didn't work for me. I was constantly searching Google and Pinterest for all sorts of running information when I first started, so I'm hoping some of this may be helpful to others during their research.

When I decided to sign up for a race, I wanted to find a training plan to get me ready. I downloaded the free C25k app (couch to 5k) and used it to get me started. It worked really well for me because it started out small, which is what I needed. Just a few days a week, and more walking than running to start. When I first started, I could barely run for 30 seconds at a time, but by the end, I ran my first 5k and felt pretty good about it!
Photos from the Fifth Third Riverbank Run. I ran the 25k (15.5) miles, which is my furthest run so far.

While using the C25k app, it told me when to run and when to walk, but I wanted something that would track my distance and pace (C25k may be different now, but at the time, it didn't have those features). I didn't have any type of running watch or step tracker, so I used a free app on my phone called Map My Run. The app uses the GPS on your phone to track your distance, pace, duration, speed, and it creates a map of your route. I used it a lot when I first started running and really liked it. 

At that point I was running pretty often, so I decided I wanted a step counter/tracker. So Kevin and I both got the Fitbit Flex. I know that Fitbit has a ton of other versions available now, but I liked the Flex because it was small and I could still wear it with a watch and bracelets and it didn't stick out (see photo below). You could also easily change out the bands so they matched your outfit if you wanted. I was able to use my Fitbit to not only track my steps through out the day, but also to track my runs (pace, distance, etc.). The app allowed you to compete in different challenges with your friends, which was a great motivator. I used my Fitbit Flex for about two years before it stopped working. I didn't have good luck with their customer service, so I decided to switch to a different product at this point. (However, my sister has had great luck with their customer service and has upgraded to another Fitbit product, so sounds like the customer service isn't all bad.)

wearing my Fitbit Flex (next to my watch) in this pic...not very noticeable
After my Fitbit quit working, I decided to upgrade my step tracker. At this point, I was a little more serious about running, and had started training for my first half marathon. After talking to a few serious runners at work, I decided to switch to a Garmin watch. Specifically the Garmin Forerunner 230. Garmin has a lot of different options, but after some research, I decided this model was the one that would be best for me in terms of features and cost. I've had my watch for almost a year and I love it. It does pretty much everything. Tracks distance, pace, steps, etc. It also syncs to your watch so you can get texts, notifications, answer/decline phone calls, and more (or less if you don't want any of that coming through to your watch). 

The Garmin Connect app records all of your runs and allows you to connect with friends, similar to the way Fitbit does. It also syncs with My Fitness Pal (app that you can use to log what you eat and other workouts), if you use it. A feature of Garmin Connect that I just started using a few months ago is the Training Plan section. You can pick your race distance (5k, half marathon, etc), put in the race date, pick your running level, and it will create a training plan for you. Kevin and I have both been using it for just over two months to train for our marathon. We'll see how the marathon goes, but I know I'm getting faster, because I cut over 1:30 off of my best 5k record while on the plan. I've been pretty happy with it so far, and plan to use it to train for future races too.

I know that was a lot of information, so here's a quick breakdown that's a little easier to follow:

Training Plans
Used in the Past: C25k (Couch to 5k training app)
Currently Using: Garmin Connect (all different distance and levels of training plans)

Used in the past: Map My Run, Fitbit
Currently Using: Garmin Connect

Step Trackers/Running Watches
Used in the Past: Fitbit Flex
Currently Using: Garmin Forerunner 230

Overall, I've been happy with every training plan, app, and watch I've used, but I'm definitely loving my Garmin the most. The Garmin watches can be quite the investment, especially if you are just starting out, but for someone who is running pretty often, I'd definitely recommend it. 

If you're a runner, leave a comment telling me your favorite training plans, apps, or running watches!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Weekend Recap

I hope your weekend was filled with as much fun and sunshine as mine! It started off with a work golf outing on Friday that ended up being a blast. I was a little nervous, since I hadn't golfed in 2-3 years (and I was never good in the first place), but I had a great group and we had so much fun.

I ended up winning closest to the pin!

Saturday was spent at Moosefest, which is a free country concert put on by the local radio station, 107MUS the Moose (hence the name). This year's line up was:

Bari Lee
Michael Tyer
Walker McGuire
Russell Dickerson
Jordan Davis
Adam Craig
Emerson Drive

The weather was perfect and all of the artists were great. 


The next two pics are from the radio station's Facebook page...Kevin saw them and texted to me while I was at the concert. I thought there was some creeper taking pics of me and sending them to him! hahaha. He said he was scrolling Facebook and saw them and realized it was me, so she sent them to me. It was pretty funny. We were obviously have a good time :)

Another great Moosefest on the lakeshore of Muskegon. Quite the difference from last year when it rained and stormed all day. Thanks to 107MUS for putting on a great concert for us!

My Sunday was spent catching up laundry, cleaning the house, and getting ready for the week ahead. My week is going to be full of running and softball, so I enjoyed a lazy day at home on Sunday. Hope you have a great week!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Unique Gift Ideas

I don't know about you, but I love giving gifts. Finding that perfect gift for someone is such a great feeling. But sometimes you have those people who are just plain hard to buy for. Maybe they have everything (parents for example, I feel like they have everything). Or maybe you don't know them that well, so you're not exactly sure what they might like. Today I thought I'd share some fun, unique gifts for those hard-to-buy-for people in your life. (In case you haven't noticed, Christmas is only about four months away!)

Candles - Personally, I love candles and can never have too many. They make great hostess gifts and are perfect for any occasion. Finding candles that fit someone's personality or their interests is even better. These candles are perfect for anyone on your list. Yoga lover? Beer lover? Why not get a candle that reflects those things. A candle can be generic, but finding candles that relate to a person shows you put some thought in to it.

Yard/Garden Decor - I find myself getting my mom flowers a lot, because it's something I know she'll like and it won't be a gift that just ends up in a closet somewhere. Sometimes it's a fresh bouquet of flowers, a hanging basket, or a potted plant. Getting her something to go out in her yard with those flowers is such a great idea that I had never thought about. These wind chimes, decor, planters, and bird feeders are just a few of the garden items I know she'd love.

Desk Accessories - Pens, paperweights, and gadgets are great ideas for co-workers, husbands, boyfriends, dads, friends, etc. My husband would think a pen made from his favorite baseball team is awesome. Your co-worker would probably get a kick out of a fun desk accessory, like a Playable Art Cube or a Decision Making Top. You can find more fun desk accessories here. You might even want to snag a couple for yourself!

All of these items are from Uncommon Goods, a website that sells unique gifts for any occasion. Not only do they have really fun items on their site, they are also a company that I would want to give my business to. Uncommon Goods works to be more sustainable, not only by being "green," but also by treating their employees well. They feature products that contain recycled components and have never sold products that contain leather, feathers, or fur. And one of my favorite things about Uncommon Goods is that they give back. When you checkout on their site, you select a non-profit organization to receive a $1 donation from them. That's pretty awesome in my book.

Hopefully those ideas help when you're can't figure out to get that certain someone. What are your go-to gifts for the hard-to-buy-for people in your life?

(This post is sponsored by Uncommon Goods, but all opinions are my own.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Running Story

Last week I said I was going to start a running series on my blog. Today I'm starting by sharing how I got started with this whole running thing in the first place.

I've always considered myself athletic, but I was never a runner. I started playing sports what I was young, and continued through high school. I played softball, basketball, and was a cheerleader all four years of high school (and all the years leading up to high school). In middle school I played volleyball for a year and was on the track team, along with basketball, softball, and cheerleading. That still doesn't mean I was a runner. In track competed in two field events (long jump and high jump) and one track (running) event. And it was the shortest running distance in track, the 100 meter dash. So I was definitely never a runner.

After high school, I played on my church basketball league for a couple of years and played some slow pitch co-ed softball. I still play softball, but if you know much about co-ed, slow pitch softball, you know it doesn't involve a ton of running (at least in the leagues that I play in). 

After I had been in Grand Rapids for a few years, some of my friends convinced me to sign up for a 5k race (you can read about it HERE). The longest distance I had ever run before that was one mile, and I'm pretty sure that was back in 8th or 9th grade when we had to do it for gym class. But I downloaded the couch to 5k app and started training. My first race was a fun Halloween 5k with three of my friends. After running that first race, I was hooked. I wanted to get faster. So I kept signing up for races. Being signed up for races is what motivated me to run and train. 

before my first race
After running a few 5ks, I decided to make it my goal to run one in under 30 minutes. It took me about two years to reach that goal. Once I did it, I decided I'd try to run a 10k. I ran my first 10k in May 2016. After my first 10k, I realized it was that bad and I thought maybe I could do a little bit longer distance. So I decided to sign up for a 10 mile race, since it was only 4 more miles. After that race, I figured a half marathon was only 3 more miles, so what why not try it? So I signed up for my first half marathon, which I ran in October 2016. It was the hard, but I wanted to beat my time, so I signed up for another half marathon in April 2017 and then the Riverbank Run 25k in May 2017. That race is still the furthest distance I have ever run: 15.5 miles. I can't believe I came from barely making it 3 miles, to 15.5 miles and now training for a marathon. 

Running was so hard for me in the beginning but I have grown to love it. I never feel bad after going for a run, but I definitely regret the runs I skip. 

And that's pretty much it. My friends convinced me to do a race, and the rest is history. What's your story? Are you a runner? How did you get started? 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New Blog Series

About seven weeks ago, Kevin and I "officially" started training for a marathon. The race is in October and we have nine weeks of training left to go. We had been running before we started this training, but not as often and definitely not as far. Since it feels like my life currently revolves around running, I thought I'd start a little running series on my blog. 

I'm definitely not a pro, but I've been running for several years now, and wanted to share everything I've learned so far. I'll share my story of how I got started running, how it's been going, and where I'm at now (you'll learn that I was definitely NOT a runner when I started). I'll follow up with posts about technology & apps, shoes/apparel, fuel/hydration, races, and everything in between.

I know not everyone is a runner, and not all of this will be focused on just running. A lot of it could be applied to many different types of exercise. I'll share playlists and songs that motivate me, what workout clothes I like best, other types of exercise I do besides running, and more. So if you're not a runner, you might still find some of the information interesting and useful.

I'll plan to do these running posts on Wednesdays, so look for the first post coming your way next week. And if you have any questions, ideas, thoughts, comments, etc. that might be helpful for this series, send them my way!

After my furthest run to date (25k = 15.5 miles).