New (to me) Gear – Running Earbuds

I don’t want to talk about how incredibly socially isolating it can be when you’re working on losing weight. I don’t want to talk about it because today it really hurts. Maybe I’ll post about it later when it’s not so raw.

I plotted a five mile run today, and then I ran it. There’s a steep hill in the middle of this route, and I’ll admit that I dropped out of a run and power-walked up it. There was a time when I didn’t have to do that, and I intend to get back to that.

New gear is great though. Getting new gear makes a run feel interesting and new. I’ve been experimenting with music delivery lately. For the last 13 years I’ve been running with big clunky over-ear headphones. Even once earbuds came out and you got a pair of them with every electronic item you bought, I couldn’t run with them because they’d fall out or feel like they were about to fall out the whole time. So I stuck with the big over-ear ones from the ’80s. With my Walkman.

Ha! Just kidding. I don’t use a Walkman. I use a 10 year old iPod. Really. I’m the last person who still uses an iPod and not my cell phone! Because I’m a Luddite. But this Luddite finally had it with over-ear headphones. The problem is that, for me, more than about 3 miles and they started rubbing raw spots on my ears where they made contact if I was using regular ones like you get at the gym for free at fancier places (that’s where I got my last pair). That hurts. So I ordered some over-ear headphones with more padding that were described as being good for running in the keywords. HA! They looked ridiculous. Entirely too big and bulky for running, and with summer coming, too hot and heavy.earbud

So I finally got with the most recent decade and bought some new-style running ear buds that looked like they’d stay in place securely. Got them yesterday and took them out this morning on my 5-miler. That works. They came with three different size earpieces. The large and the medium didn’t work because while they were great for noise cancellation due to filling the whole ear canal, the last thing I want when I’m out running on a lonely trail or sidewalk is to not be able to hear what’s going on around me. The smallest ones were perfect, I could hear my music clearly and also the noises around me. They didn’t hurt at all, even at my new longer distance.

Here’s a pic of them sitting securely in my ears after five miles. Oh and a little bug stuck to my face. It happens. And my freckles. They get darker when I exert myself. Basically I’m a giant sweaty mess when I finish a run.

And I definitely met my exercise goal this week – exceeded it even!

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Running Gear Rundown, and MetCon 5

Yesterday I went for a run in my new 2XU compression pants. These are the only pants I ever run in. The new version has been redesigned a bit – they’ve removed the drawstring and reinforced the waistband, and maybe some other changes (?), but the comfort is vastly improved! I use compression because of my particular situation, wherein I have a large scar that runs around my body at hip level, leaving the weight of my saddlebags to pull right on that scar. The compression pants keep everything in place and keeps the scar from getting pulled too much.

I only run in Asics, and I swear by my CW-X Stabilyx running bra. According to their measuring methods I’m a DD, which is new to me. But according to Victoria’s Secret I’m also a DD. The only conclusion I’m left with is that when I turned 40 my breasts started growing a bit. Now, I’m a large-framed person (6 feet tall) so they certainly don’t read as a large rack. But it’s a bit surprising, having been someone who relied on her wit and sarcasm all her life, to suddenly have vast tracts of land. I don’t think I like it, but I’m sure I didn’t get a choice.

Oh and socks! I love my running socks. They’re Balega Enduro 2 and I get them at my local running store.

So that’s the gear I’m currently using. I still run in a baggy old t-shirt and with an old-fashioned iPod from 2006, so I’m not all fancy gear and cutting-edge technology!

This morning I picked a strength workout on the ol’ YouTube from Jessica Smith and ended up doing something called MetCon 5. I wasn’t sure what the title meant so I googled it, and well, if The Terminator says it’s good stuff, who am I to argue? I am certainly going to be sore tomorrow – I feel like a limp noodle right now. I never expect the kinds of results that Arnie’s blog is promising, I just like to be the strongest person I can be!

AI for Calorie Counting is Coming!

A friend in Sweden just directed me at this story about Google’s research engineers working on an app that can count the calories and nutritional values in your food based on a  photo of your plate.

There’s no word yet on when it might be available (*sigh*), but this Popular Science article gives a little more info about the science behind it and the process that goes into developing the program logic. There will definitely be a ramp-up period while the algorithm gathers data and starts learning and building intelligence, so we may need to allow a burn-in grace period once it’s released before it’s really ready for showtime.

I’m excited about the potential for this new tool, how ’bout you? It seems we’re really living in the future now – bending technology to our real-world needs!

You don’t need a thing to do your thing

There are so many high-tech gadgets out there for somebody who is into fitness and exercise and eating right! How do you decide which ones to spend your money on?

Well, before you even start deciding, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to. At all. You don’t need any of the fitness wristbands, apps, trackers, pulse monitors or other wearables to exercise and get healthy. People have been working out and eating better JUST FINE for decades (centuries? millennia?) before any of those things were available.

You don’t need them. You may want them, you may like them and what they do for you, and that’s totally cool, I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from using something you find valuable and fun! However, if you don’t have any of those things yet and maybe don’t have the extra funds to get them, don’t for a second let that delay you from doing the healthy things you were considering doing.

Here’s a list of the high-tech gadgets I use:

-…none

I don’t use a wristband, I don’t carry my mobile phone along on runs to track my distance or speed, I don’t log my food in an online app. Probably because I started losing weight and keeping it off before any of those things were invented. Yeah, sometimes before or after a run I’ll check my distance on gmaps and note my time on a clock, but that’s about it.

None of the new devices are necessary for eating right and staying fit. There are always workarounds that are free or vastly cheaper than a gadget, for whatever it is you’re trying to do. Don’t let the companies selling them convince you otherwise. Get out there and have fun! It won’t cost you a dime.

Better late than never

As I mentioned earlier, I recently had a black toenail issue. Well, Saturday after my run, which wasn’t a particularly long one according to my current standards (5.5 miles), I noticed that the same toe on my OTHER foot was starting to be a little sore and the toenail was a bit pinker than the others.

Oh no no no!

So I tried to keep it elevated as much as I could over the weekend, didn’t run yesterday (which was fine, hadn’t planned to), and this morning when I got up at 6am to run I got out the door, about a block up the road and realized – whoa, this is really hurting. So I turned back, changed back into my PJs and slept for another hour. Because while it’s possible it will just run the same course as the other toe and not be a problem, it’s also possible it will require intervention, draining, antibiotics, etc. I can’t risk a medical problem right now, just before I head out of the country on a much-anticipated 3-week vacation!

So today I plan to go and get some new running shoes at lunchtime, because I’m beginning to think the shoes may be the culprit. Either they’re worn out and need to be replaced, or the size/style just isn’t right for the kinds of distances I’m starting to run. If it was just the one toe I wouldn’t think anything of it, but the SAME toe on the other foot? I think it’s a fit issue.

I’ll go for a run tonight with my new running shoes after work, to make up for the missed run this morning. As long as I get it in today I’ll still make my goal of 18 miles this week (my weight mgmt weeks runs Tuesday through Monday so I never have to get on the scale on a Monday – those are hard enough already!)

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The Importance of Good Gear

Today I went for the first bike ride of the year – 11.5 miles. I don’t ride much in the winter as I’m very sensitive to cold – if my ears get too cold as I whoosh along it can trigger a monster headache for me. Today my husband and I started out for a walk and I said – hey, it’s warm enough to bike today, let’s do it! So we went and got our bikes.

The bikes resting up for our next expedition

I rely on several pieces of gear to enhance my experience when I bike. I wear a helmet, obviously, and I like to have a pair of biking gloves to provide wrist support. I also need to wear padded biking shorts because otherwise my undercarriage starts to hurt too quickly. I don’t like to go without all of my gear, and the most important piece is my bike.

I used to have this clunky old bicycle that I got when I was about 23. Some people I knew, who had been here in the States studying at a local University, gave me the bike for free when they went back to Germany. It was an odd brand, Tunturi, and I never saw another one of that brand the whole time I had it. But, it was serviceable enough for somebody like me who didn’t ride very often.

I rode that bike for more than a decade, but not terribly often. Once I started losing weight I rode it off and on a little more frequently – it was my ride for the only Triathlon I ever did. But, it was heavy and clunky and not very sleek at all – it was old when I got it (sometime around 1998 I think). I moved many times over the years, and in 2010 when I got it out to start riding it was beyond help. Even though some very nice people had made a big effort to fix it up for me – tune-up, new brake lines, bottle holder, seat, handlebars…it wouldn’t stay in gear, it was hard to pedal, it kept getting flats. The last times I rode it I had three equipment failures in three rides. I threw it down on the last ride after getting another flat tire and told my husband in a fit of pique that I was DONE with this bike, and possibly with bike riding for ever. He told me we could fix it, but I was done.

He left me by the side of the road with my stupid old bike and rode home to pick up the car. On the way home he took me to the nearest bike shop. He admitted later that his intention was to bring me to my senses with sticker shock on just how much a whole new bike would cost and cause me to reconsider and let him try to work on my old bike some more. He was sure we wouldn’t see anything under $2000, it being a specialty mountain biking shop. But they had a few variants of non-mountain bikes and the perfect bike for me – a Specialized Sirrus – for significantly less than we both expected! So I bought a bike right then and there on the way home from my last failed bike ride, and now every single time I get it out for a ride I’m happy again with that decision.

The thing about gear is that if it’s hindering you, it’s bad gear. If thinking about your bike makes you want to stay on the couch, it’s not a good bike for you. If your running shoes make you want to call a podiatrist, it’s time for new shoes. I’m very fussy about my gear because I know that bad gear can do worse than make for a single bad exercise experience – it can discourage future exercise attempts and leave a bad feeling about forms of exercise that might otherwise be perfectly enjoyable, or, worst case, it can cause injury and pain. It’s a worthwhile investment, over the course of years of enjoyment and fitness, to make sure the gear you get is just right for you. The gear should inspire you to use it – it’s hard enough to motivate ourselves to get moving, gear shouldn’t be a hindrance.

Exercise Gear

This evening I spoke for the Kaiser Medical Weight Management program in Fremont, CA. I had a very nice time, all the questions I got were really thoughtful and interesting, some I’d never had before, which is exciting for me because it makes good topics for posts I can write in the future.

One question I had after my talk was about what I wore for exercising. As you may or may not know, people who’ve lost a lot of weight often have more skin than they need, and so we require some supportive clothing for exercise. In general, when people ask about what they should wear for exercise I say whatever you’re comfortable in. If the thought of going to the gym in flashy gear freaks you out, you probably won’t go, so pick something that doesn’t make you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable – physically or emotionally!

But, if you have an excess of skin you probably want something with some holding power. Here are some of the things I like:

2XU Compression tights. I love, love, love these and won’t run without them. They keep my hip, leg and butt skin firmly in place and reduce muscular strain from having that skin swinging around.

CW-X Ultra Support Bra. I’ve tried many different styles of sports bra, but I stick with CW-X now, and this style in particular. It’s pricey but worth the expense. It has a hook closure in the back, which is vastly superior to any pullover-style sports bra out there – having to contort yourself to get out of a bra when you’re soaking with sweat is just no fun! Plus, each cup is individual engineered to provide maximum support and minimize jiggles while avoiding the uni-boob effect – this thing is solid!

Both of these are pretty pricey, so whenever I need to replace them I go to Google, put in my search terms (usually the name of the product) and then hit the “Shopping” option in the menu on the left of the Google search page, then select a “Sort by” order (in the drop-down menu on the upper right) of “Price: low to high” and buy whichever link comes up cheapest. I’ve gotten the 2XU tights for $55 once that way, so it’s definitely worth shopping around a bit online before buying!

Shoes – I’ve tried several different brands, but I always come back to Asics. I highly recommend finding a good running gear shop near you. You can tell if they’re a good shop by whether they evaluate you while you walk and run before making a recommendation. Better shops often have a treadmill where they will watch you running (or walking, if that’s your thing!) so they can get an idea of what shoe brand and style would be most supportive for your stride.

Good gear isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it in the long run – once I made the investment for some good stuff it really made a difference in how much I enjoyed my workouts – and how hard I could work!

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