Bargain Shopping For Runners

“Running is cheap. All you need is a good pair of shoes.”

Lies. All lies.

As a distance runner, I certainly require quite a bit more than just my kicks to get through those long runs. Body Glide, Shot Bloks, Vitamin Water, and my iPod are key on virtually every long run I do, indoors or out. But my clothes matter even more.

As a lululemon Ambassador, I have the good fortune to try out a lot of their fancy gear and sweat all over town in it. But I am still a girl on a budget who loves a good bargain. I go through almost four sets of running shoes a year and since lululemon doesn’t make shoes just yet, I’m stuck searching for the best deal in town.

Here are some of my favorite places for bargain shopping and some tips to get the deals on the gear you need.

#1. Shoes. Shoes are sooooo expensive. I get it, a lot of technology goes into making them and I can appreciate that. I wish I could buy 10 pair and compare them and write reviews for them, but no one has offered me that opportunity…yet (I’m looking at you, Brooks) and so I go through 1-2 pair at a time like everyone else. My favorite way to save a dime is to buy the older version of my favorite shoe online.

For example, my favorite running shoe to date: Brooks Defyance.

Last year's version = $45 today!

This year's version = $110.00 today!

No major changes were done to the Defyance 5, so why would I pay $110 for them when I can have my trusty ‘ol Defyance 4s for $45? This is the most important way that I save money on shoes until that Brooks sponsorship comes through.

#2. The entire Old Navy Activewear line is great for the bargain runner. $15-$25 for all your running attire. Though I will say that their men’s line is certainly in need of improvement.

Their $15 sports bras are some of my favorites.

#3. The “We Made Too Much” section of lululemon.com is undoubtedly one of the most-visited web pages on my computer. What can I say? I love a steal deal! If you know your size and what you want, you can pick up serious discounts. And my favorite deal of all: Free Shipping on everything. Always.

My all-time favorite workout top is only $34 on sale!

You save $15 online for this awesome men's running shirt.

#4. Running Warehouse has deep discounts on just about every brand of running apparel. It’s my go-to for all of JB’s running bottom needs. His favorite shorts, the Sugoi Jack shorts, are $10 cheaper here. They also have every piece of gear available. I found my favorite winter gloves here, too.

A man's shorts have to fit just as perfectly as a woman's--and not cost and arm and a leg.

#5. Subscribing to websites like: IdeeliHautelookGilt, & RueLaLa. I have more than once purchased running shoes from Saucony and New Balance at more than 50% off via these websites. They also regularly have activewear as a part of their daily flash sales. On a side note, they also have deals on gyms, bootcamps, pilates, yoga and more in various cities around the country. If you want an invitation, email me and I will send you and invite to join any of them.

#6. C9 by Champion at Target has some seriously cute and comfortable gear. They have both men and women’s lines and have been road-tested by my friend, Jess over at Fit Chick In the City.. She’s a fan. Also, I stole her picture.

Totally swiped from Jess. Plus, it has my favorite (Flywheel) studio's logo in it 🙂

Where you do you bargain shop for your sweaty gear? Share your tips with me!

Now go out and run!

 

Change Your Shoes, Change Your Life

This is what my awesome cousin Chi-Chi says to me. I love her. And I think this applies to ALL the shoes in your life, especially your running shoes.

I spent the vast majority of my youth wearing the wrong size running shoes. They kept telling me I needed to leave room because my feet were going to grow some more. Little did they know that at age 14, I was fully grown at 5’9″ with size 8 1/2 feet. Well, my left foot is an 8 1/2 and my right is an 8 but, hey, nobody’s perfect.

Oh, little right foot you are small but I love you still

Your running shoes can make or *literally* break you. I found that out the hard way freshman year of high school when I tried to substitute cooler looking cross trainers for my usual hideous running shoes. I got shin splints. Lesson learned.

Thankfully, running has become a lot cooler since then (who knew my sport of choice would ever be cool?) and there are some awesome stores that share my geekyness and specialize in outfitting runners with the best shoe for them. JackRabbit Sports is my shop of choice.

I love you, JackRabbit

The staff is knowledgable, experienced and just as nerdy as me as knowing the latest specs of the newest editions of popular running shoes. I’ve never been disappointed with their service and decided that since I haven’t had my feet checked in a while that I should probably make sure I’m still in the right shoe for my gait. Did you know that your stride and foot strike can change? True story.

Look Mom! I'm flying!

The best part about JackRabbit is they have treadmills with cameras on the back of them that record your foot strike as you run (fly) on the treadmills. This is key in analyzing your foot strike and making sure you get the right shoe. Me? My left foot has perfect strike and my right only pronates slightly, which is fixed easily with arch supporting inserts.

Let's hear it for my perfect left foot!

I don’t have seriously high arches, but most of us have a whole lot more than shoe companies allot for in their inserts.

Top: mine. Bottom: theirs. Ummm...who has arches this flat?

If you stand in your sneakers and cannot feel the shoe on every single part of the bottom of your feet, most importantly every part of your arch, then you need an insert. Try Spenko or Superfeet. Both are good. This is a very cheap way to avoid nagging injuries like Plantar Faciitis and Shin Splints and can help prevent knee problems. Take good care of your arches!

My arches aren't crazy, but they definitely need a little extra love.

Now you’re looking for fit. Try every single shoe that fits your foot strike style. I like a little less shoe than what Saucony makes and Asics’ toe box is too wide for my foot. Brooks Ghost is too wide in the mid-foot but the Defyance fits me like a glove. Be Goldilocks when choosing a running shoe. There are way too many out there to be in a shoe that doesn’t fit you perfectly. Be picky. Try them all on.

Once you’ve found your shoe and got the arch situation handled, you can slap them into your new kicks and take them for a ride on the treadmill one last time to ensure your foot strike is straight up and down. Then, my friends, you have found your new shoe. Ta-da!

Brooks Defyance 5, never leave me!

So here’s your check list:

  1. Bring your old shoes so they can take a look at how your tread wears
  2. Come ready to jog a little (like, not in a skirt)
  3. Get your foot strike analyzed
  4. Try on lots and lots of different brands, styles and sizes
  5. Check your arch support
  6. Run one more time with the arch support and your new kicks and re-check your foot strike

Voila! Change your shoes, change your life.

Now go out and run!

How To Love a Good Run In the Rain

Confession: I have not always loved running in the rain. In junior high and high school cross country, it meant slogging through seemingly endless miles of mud and yuck soaked to the bone in my cotton uniform to a finish line that looked like a brown Slip ‘n Slide only to ride home on a bus with a bunch of sweaty, dirty, smelly, filthy runners. Yuck.

Bless the Obi-wans for coming out to those cross country races and standing in the rain to watch me trudge past them. It could not have been fun for them, either.

Today is SO different. I love the rain. I ran one of my favorite 21 mile training runs in the rain all over Manhattan a couple of years ago. The park is quieter, the runners are nicer and there’s something more peaceful about a run in the rain than in any other weather. The other piece of the puzzle is my beloved gear. Thank heavens for lululemon!! I mean, good clothes really make running in inclimate weather not only possible, but enjoyable.

But it’s not always roses and puppies out there. You have to be in the right mind-set and prepare yourself for a few key situations when heading out for a run in the rain. Here is a sure-fire way to have a great run in the rain, in my experience.

#1. Leave your watch/Garmin/iPod at home. The rain (and likely, the wind) will probably slow you down a little. Plus, it’s better to keep your focus on the road/trail when it’s slick and only made more slippery by fallen leaves. Unplug and enjoy the scenery.

#2. Dress for success. Wear fitted, moisture-wicking clothing and a hat or a visor. Loose stuff will whack against your skin and get heavier with every mile, especially if it’s not a good tech fiber. Here’s what I wore today:

         

Turbo TankSpeedy Run Hat, Run: For Your Life Crops & the very fabulous (and now unavailable) Run: Essential Jacket. Rain usually means a sweaty, humid run for me so I don’t like to layer it up too much under my jacket. The hat is so key for me because nothing spoils a run like problems with my contact lenses.  Also, braids for the win!

#3. Plan on getting wet. Sounds silly, right? But, if you need to be back at your desk 5 minutes after your run and you have nowhere to shower and towel off, you probably want to save your run for a time when you can. This goes for your shoes, too. Probably not a day for a double-down in the gym after your soggy, beautiful run because they will look like this:

 

Sopping. Soggy. Wet. Dirty. Basically unwearable. Dry overnight.

#4. Treat it like a fun run. Don’t try and do a massive amount of speed work or some crazy mileage on a rainy day. Go out, do your best, get ‘er done and all that, but keep it light and don’t expect too much. Dodging umbrellas on 5th Avenue always slows me down, but if I plan for it, it’s not nearly as aggravating.

#5. Just do it, already! Commit. Don’t complain. Don’t procrastinate. Get out there and run. Running in the rain is akin to reliving childhood moments so enjoy it!

Now go out and run!

Why Gear Matters

Runners pride themselves in being able to do their sport anywhere. No need for a field, a bat, a team, pads, raquets, or other sports gear; just a pair of sneakers and a willingness to run anywhere. It’s certainly one of the most attractive aspects for the financially strapped athlete such as myself who moved to New York City with four suitcases and a dream at 22 years old. But, as I started to dive into the world of marathons, I found that I needed more than just any pair of sneakers. I needed the right gear.

First, I needed to have my feet assessed and my gait analyzed. The very knowledgeable folks over at Jackrabbit took their time checking my gait as I ran on their treadmill and played back the video of my foot strike for me to explain why the New Balance and Nike shoes I’d been wearing were so totally wrong for me (maybe not for you, but definitely for me). What I didn’t know was that I have a very normal gait, which they could see when they played the video of me running back in super-slow motion. The other stores kept telling me I supinated or pronated (I don’t think they actually knew what either meant, but I do: supinate-foot rolls outward, pronate-foot rolls inward). Jackrabbit put me in Asics, which I loved for about 4 years until the style changed dramatically. Then I married the Brooks Defyance. It’s been 5 years now and we’re still going strong! The new shoes changed my life and made running more comfortable. Shoes matter.

But you need more than the right shoes. You (mostly women, but everyone really) need the right undergarments. Undies matter. Trust me. Shop around. The wrong ones chafe like the devil and make your life miserable.

The right skivvies make shopping for shirts and shorts that much easier. Here’s the thing about shorts: they have to fit you right. Too big and they bunch up. Too small and your everything is hanging out and you spend your entire run pulling your shorts down, not running. But size isn’t the only thing to consider. Please, for the love of your own body, stay away from cotton. Moisture wicking materials will make your running life soooooo much easier. If it’s humid and your shorts are suddenly dripping with sweat and falling down, you are going to put less energy into running and more energy into wishing you had worn different shorts.

And while we’re on the issue of bottoms, can I just say that compression shorts have been my go-to marathon shorts for almost my entire career? I thought they were hideous at first, but their function far surpasses any doubts I have about their lack of style and I have been searching for my perfect pair ever since. Any recommendations? My friends over at lululemon Athletica run design team are working on it right now and I know those will be far more flattering than the ones I’ve been rocking. ‘Til then, I’ll be wearing my old ones…which are not perfect for me and the fabric kinda sucks. I love regular ‘ol running shorts for most of my runs and that took me about 7 years to find. For the record, if you can’t find any Turbo Run Shorts, it’s because I have bought them all. Sorry.

Shirts matter mostly in the winter. Thin, moisture-wicking base layer followed by a vented warm layer is the best way I know to layer for the rain, snow and crazy winter months here in the city. Again, though, it’s the fit that you’re looking for. A snug base layer won’t bunch up and will keep the heat in your body and draw the sweat off your skin. The second layer being vented is important because you gotta let the heat out. Vents under the arms or down the back are good places to allow heat to release without letting too much out. It’s a fine line, kind of Princess and the Pea stuff.

All of this stuff matters because when your gear is working for you, you don’t even know it’s there. You shouldn’t feel it moving around, bunching up, chafing all over. It should feel so natural that you might be running naked, well…without the whole nightmare of realizing you left your house without clothes and are now running naked. Yikes.

These are a few of my favorite things.

So, be picky with your stuff and don’t cheap out where your clothes are concerned. The best running clothes (not shoes, of course) will last a long time when you take care of it. That, and it will allow for you to do what you set out to do: RUN. If you’re noticing your gear instead of focusing on your pace, it’s time to find some stuff you can really run in.

Ok, so hit the shops and then GO OUT AND RUN!