Product Review: Brooks Notch Thermal Hoodie

When the Brooks Guru (sales & promotional rep for Brooks Running…and HI BRIDGET!!!!! I LURVE YOUUUU!!!) whose territory includes the running store where I have a part-time job gifted me with a Notch Thermal Hoodie, I knew I had to give it a shot. I knew, too, that I would have to write about it on my blog (that no one reads! ha!). You see, Brooks is the only running shoe brand I have worn since I began running in 2011, and the shoes, sports bras, and running apparel they make and sell are simply the best. So duh–this gift was essentially the best gift ever. To be really honest, when I saw that she had gifted with me, I spent about five minutes hugging the hoodie and jumping up and down because somehow some person who I really don’t know too well thought of me. And because sometimes I really am too giddy and dorky for my own good. But then, after the expressions of glee subsided, I thought “I have to run in this!” and “I can blog about this!”

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The Notch Thermal Hoodie from Brooks, in navy. This top feels thin and lightweight, but it’s just the thing to help you create some toasty-warm goodness on your upper body during a cold weather run. And–well–Ain’t she pretty?!?

So I set a plan. On Christmas morning, I would run in my new hoodie. I decided to treat this like any other Christmas gift (translation: I used every ounce of restraint I had and waited about 10 days between seeing this gift at work and gearing up in it for a run…it seems I can sometimes be pretty good at restraint…). I would also run in the fresh pair of Launch 5s that I bought myself on major sale and a new running hat that I treated myself to. And I got super excited when I realized that the weather on Christmas morning would be just cold enough where something called a “thermal hoodie” would fit the bill. (I also wore other brand new things just because I had some brand new running tights and a new pair of lightweight-but-lightly-fleece-lined running gloves that I wanted to check out…and because why not?) And let me tell you–this thermal hoodie felt amazing.

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Christmas Day run–she is done! My hoodie kept me warm and after wiping the sweat off my face, I was just all smiles…

This top constitutes a very thin layer to wear in your running outfit. Depending on where you live and how you define “cold,” this top is thin enough to be one layer of many for your mid-winter runs OR thin enough to be your main layer and main source of heat-capturing in your mid-winter runs. It has a half zip and the fabric is soft and the right blend of drapey and clingy. The hoodie’s so thin that at first you might wonder how on earth it could possibly help you stay warm, but this hoodie gets its name mostly from the thin strips of thermal fleecing on the inside of a top that has the kind of happy meshy dry-wicking goodness you would want for any sports top. The space between the strips of fleeced fabric gives moisture a chance to escape stage left while the body heat stays. The heat you generate from a run partners with the heat that gets captured in the hoodie, and before you know it, without a lot of bulk on your upper body, you’re nice and warm. It’s a glorious thing.

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Washed, air-dried, sitting on an unmade bed, and ready to be added to my pile of clean running clothes. Not yet folded KonMari-style…

The amazingly kind person who gifted me with this hoodie gave me a size bigger than I usually wear, and I am actually happy about it. While the fabric is stretchy and the fit of this top is semi-fitted (ie just loose enough to not show every little detail of how your torso, back, and arms carry your weight…), as you run and get sweaty and the top gets wet, it clings a little bit to your body. The looseness of one-size-up made the cling not at all annoying after all of my Greek Woman Runner Girl Sweat (it’s a thing…trust me on this…) started to cool on my drive home from my run spot of the day.

One warning, though: the fabric for the zipper on this top is a bit scratchy. Because this hoodie is a half-zip top–meaning the zipper reaches below the bra strap/heart rate monitor line–if you’re not wearing a tank top or base layer beneath, the zipper’s fabric can seem a bit scratchy. If this hoodie was a quarter-zip instead, the zipper fabric might rest right against your sports bra and you would likely not have to worry as much about feeling a zillion little scratches against your flesh as your body moves its way forward run after run. Since my Dash Half-Zip (admittedly from last year’s colors) has zipper fabric piped so the hard scratchy edges don’t hit the skin in an unfriendly sort of way, I wondered why Brooks didn’t take the same technique with this top?

Aside from that one small concern, this was the perfect top to run in! I hope that my Sunday morning run is in cold enough temperatures for me to need this as a layer in my ensemble!

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An inside-out closeup of my top. See the zipper fabric and how it’s left un-tipped, or piped, or whatever the right sewing term is? Be mindful enough to wear a tank top or thin long-sleeved top under this so your skin doesn’t itch! ALSO, this close up lets you see the ‘strips’ of fleeced fabric on the inside of the top and the ‘notches’ or thinner ‘strips’ of un-lined fabric that allow moisture to wick away.

 

Thanks big time to my friend who’s a Brooks Guru for the amazing gift–and for adding so much joy to my Christmas morning run!

Have you worn tops from Brooks? Do you have a favorite one?

How do you keep warm on a long run?

Did you get any running-related Christmas gifts this year?

 

 

Note: I am not sponsored, endorsed, or otherwise paid by Brooks. I just really love the brand and have loved it since I put on my first pair of running shoes in 2011. All opinions offered in this post are entirely my own. 

You spin my legs right round right round…

Long before I began running and long before I heard of a Flywheel, a Cyclebar, or a SoulCycle, I joined a gym in the mid-Missouri town where I lived so I could “get fit.” I decided to be brave and try a group fitness class that was on a spincycle–Les Mills RPM–because of everyone was riding a spin bike facing in the instructor’s direction, then no one would look at my wibble-wobbling on the bike and huffing and puffing while I only hoped and prayed I had a small chance of keeping up.

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And what happened is the only true thing there is to tell you right now: I fell in love. Somehow, I felt free on that spin bike. I felt the rush of adrenaline and wave after wave of endorphins, and I would drive home smiling as the sweat on my body would cool against my skin. Somehow, I felt confident. I knew that the way my body looked didn’t matter–what did matter is the two legs I had that could make those bike pedals go round and round. It was a glorious thing.

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Les Mills RPM: the 45 minute cycling workout that helps you get stronger and faster…

After a handful of months of diligently making sure I got to the gym in time for class (and that I got to ride on “my bike”…), I knew that someday I would want to share this program with the world. I wanted everyone to feel as free as I would feel every time I was on the bike. I wanted everyone to know how strong their legs were to push pedals on a bike with a resistance knob cranked all the way up, and I wanted everyone to know that feeling of just having finished a class–no matter how the day went (or would go…), completing those 45 minutes on the bike and completing speed intervals and strength intervals and sweating their little hearts out was something to be proud of.

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So last year, after a long time of loving the program to bits and pieces, I finally became an instructor. I don’t want to talk about the certification process, but I want to share with you how I prepare for class.

…the pre-game: information you need to know…

Les Mills RPM is a pre-choreographed spin format. The instructor’s emphasis is first and foremost connecting with the class participants and coaching them to be inspired to work hard and maximize their workout while executing the choreography to perfection. Les Mills classes are generally coached in a “teach by doing” model, and I face my class participants. We all do the workout together. Every class I teach needs to have the same sequence of tracks, but I can bring in individual tracks from different quarterly releases of new music and choreography, so long as I have them.

…review choreography…

I spend time reviewing choreography I already know just to make sure that I have coaching cues down and going back through quarterly releases of RPM choreography that I have on my computer for great tracks to bring into my playlist. There are days where I bring masterclass videos on my iPad to the spin room at the gym and I practice (I’m a very kinesthetic learner), but when I am at home and nowhere near a spin bike, I “get ready to teach” by reviewing my coaching notes and the choreography as it’s shared on masterclass videos, and I spend a lot of time preparing my playlist to ave tracks that I can feel great about sharing with my classes–the ones at 5:30 AM AND the ones at 5:30 PM.

…get myself to the gym…

No matter what time I teach–5:30 AM or 5:30 PM–I need a good game plan. It usually begins the night before with making sure that my clothes are already laid out or packed in my gym bag, my bottle of preworkout is in the fridge and ready to go, I have a tube of Nuun electrolyte tabs to mix with water in that same water bottle as soon as class ends, and that my iPad is charging. On my drive to the gym, I listen through my playlist. (…and I may or may not say coaching cues out loud to myself on my drive to the gym. I’ll leave that for you to decide…)

…pre-gaming in the spin room…

As soon as I get to the gym, I plug in my iPad and my headset and make sure that the volume is good enough for my RPMers to get driven by the music and still be able to hear my coaching cues. People come into the room and I help them get their bikes set up.

…class begins and for 45 minutes we become gods amongst the humans…

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If you look like this during spin class, are you even doing it right?!?!?

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It will get hard. It will challenge you. It will change you. It will make you stronger, faster, fitter, and–best of all–freer! More confident! Happier! And more exhausted, sweaty, and closer to being hangry than you imagined possible…

…apres-class…

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What day is it? What time is it? How is it possible that this much sweat is coming off my body? Can I have some food already?!?!?!?

…and that’s it! I fill up my water bottle with water, plop in a nuun tablet, and rehydrate and get some good electrolyte replenishment going for my drive home–to my shower, my cats, my husband, my kitchen, and my bed (not necessarily in that order).

Do you take spin classes at your gym? 

What’s your plan for replenishing electrolytes after a hard workout?

What’s the earliest you’ve gotten up in the morning for a workout?

Getting to Know Me: 20 Random Tidbits…

Hi friends!

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Here I am sitting in front of my little Christmas tree. I am wearing a cute beanie from the best running gear brand ever and my Peachtree Road Race finisher’s t-shirt from this past summer’s race. You don’t know this, but my smile is fueled by the fact that I had turned in my students’ final grades a few hours earlier…

You may have been reading along over the last couple of months and may have been wondering who this person is. I know I haven’t introduced myself entirely too much. So, here are 20 little morsels of me, my life, my fitness, my sense of joy:

  1. I have two cats, Buddha and Dancer, who were littermates. I have had them since April, 2009. They drive me up a wall, but they are totally my “mini me” kitties and I can’t imagine life without them.
  2. I have only run one full marathon–the Maine Marathon, September 30, 2012.
  3. I have been running on and off since 2011. Sometimes life gets in the way, and sometimes injury gets in the way, but running is something I return to over and over again.
  4. My other big fitness love is Les Mills. The group fitness classes that exercise company creates just motivate me and offer so much to my life and my sense of well being.
  5. One of my biggest food weaknesses is the cookies by the pound bar at Whole Foods. I consider it a MAJOR “win” if I walk out of Whole Foods with nothing from the cookie bar. The biggest problems I have are the chocolate peanut butter cookie bars and the raspberry/oat crumble/shortbread bars. They’re way too good. When I do indulge in the cookie bar, I am a total goner for days on end. That stuff is yummy, and it triggers behaviors of me giving in to sweets cravings for way too long.
  6. My husband and I live in Atlanta. We have no way of knowing if we will be here for a long time or for a few months. (See #7 to know why)
  7. My main profession is college professor. I’m not in a tenure-track position in my field yet, but when the right job comes along, there’s no way of knowing where in the country it will be.
  8. My favorite colors are blue and black.
  9. My first fitness love is on a spin bike. I fell in love with Les Mills RPM–a 45 minute cardio peak training cycle class rooted in intervals-based work and emphasizing both strength work (think hill climbs and jumps on the bike) and speed training (think 30 second races…). I fell in love with RPM in 2010, and now–at the cusp of 2019–I am so much more in love with RPM than I ever thought.
  10. In the summer of 2012 I became certified to teach Les Mills Body Flow, a sort of mind-body class that combines elements of yoga, pilates, and tai chi and sets the moves to fun music. I reluctantly began taking Body Flow classes in early 2011 because my quads and glutes were getting way too tight. I thought I would hate it–I wanted to move fast!!!–but I fell in love with Body Flow. I think without Flow in my life, I never would have fallen in love with yoga.
  11. And I have come to really, really, really love yoga. When I find a good teacher in whatever city I live in, I do whatever I can to afford a live class–even if it’s just one class a week or one class every other week. Give me a gentle flow vinyasa class or a restorative class and I am one happy woman!
  12. I could have either Greek food or tex-mex (nachos or tacos please) pretty much every day. I could also have grilled chicken every day. Or salmon every day.
  13. The last time I had a diet coke was February 6, 2013. Every now and then I actually crave the taste of it, but it’s a very fleeting craving. It takes almost nothing for that desire to pass. February 6 2013 is when I began my first whole30 month, on a whim after reading someone’s blog post of her results from her first time playing around with whole30, and I began my whole30 on the fly. I had literally come home from my day on campus, read this woman’s latest blog post, and thought “hey, what if I give that a try? It will be hard, but what’s the worst that can happen?” I made sure I had enough food in my fridge to make dinner that night, and I sort of figured it out as I went along.
  14. My favorite spin shoes are by Shimano. They’re these ones.
  15. I am 4’11” tall. I have been this height since approximately the 8th grade.
  16. The only shoe brand I have ever run in is Brooks. Their shoes are the best–they wear well over time, they fit my feet really well and feel comfortable over time, and though I think that running with insoles really provides the best support for a person’s feet (regardless of how high or low your arches are…), the sock liners that come in Brooks shoes the best in the business. They don’t entirely flatten out after a few weeks of wearing them regularly the way that I think other shoe brands’ sock liners do.
  17. I also love Brooks because of its company ethics and its general approach to everything–RUN HAPPY–and what this has to do BEYOND being a snappy motto. Brooks sponsors elite athletes like Des Linden and really develop a lot of runners, but they also cosponsor initiatives like the Rock & Roll race series that are super community-friendly. Brooks is in it for everyone! All runners–sprinters, distance runners, casual runners, run/walkers, and everyone in between–is welcomed in! What a great approach!
  18. Right now I am rotating between a pair of Ghost 10s and Launch 4s. I just got a pair of Ghost 11s and a pair of Launch 5s to add to the rotation.
  19. My yoga mat is from lululemon. I got one for free about 5 and a half years ago and somehow just haven’t looked back.
  20. Right now I am watching the movie WONDER on Amazon Prime movies and I am enjoying it…and, I will admit, tearing up a little bit.

…I hope you enjoyed this! I had fun letting you know a little bit about me!

A novice blogger’s gift guide…

It’s the holidays and everyone is doing gift guides. I don’t exactly love buying gifts for the sake of buying things (or because television tells me I should get gifts), but I do love treating the people I love to things that might make them light up. I love when I see just the right thing–something that reminds me of our memories together, or that just inspires me with that immediate gut instinct that my friend/family member/loved one/etc will really go over the moon about THAT THING, or whatever. You know–gifts with meaning. Gifts that speak to the ways we live our lives, the conversations we have with each other, the ways we share our lives and our personalities with each other. The most perfect gift ever does not need to be expensive (in fact–one year for Christmas I got my one best friend’s second daughter, who was about 8 months old, a $3 stuffed animal from Target and she spent the next 5 months holding it and sucking on it and needing to have it with her everywhere she went. It was inexpensive, but she loved it so much.)

So–in this spirit–my own gift guide! Broken down the only way I know how. Some of these things may be splurge-worthy and some may be budget-friendly, but many of these are gifts I want, I have given, I have gotten, etc.

(Note: I am not sponsored by anyone. All opinions are entirely my own and will not earn me any money.)

(Another note: As a brand new blogger, I don’t know too much about creating lovely picture collages, and I am still learning to use WordPress well. This post will focus on links rather than images)

For the dedicated runner…

Lululemon Essential Tank ($58): This handles sweat very well and will dry nicely and relatively quickly after you wash it. I love that it’s very lightweight, and it has become my go-to tank top for warm-weather running and for cross-training sessions in my gym. It’s one of my favorite running tops! For the Running Mister in your life, a women’s tank top may not be the best idea, but this mesh short-sleeved top from lululemon is about the same price and seems like it will handle sweat just as well and dry on a rack just as quickly!

Balega ‘Silver’ running socks ($15): Balega is one of my favorite brands of running socks, and while I own many pairs across many of their product lines, I have been gravitating lately towards my pairs of the ‘silver’ socks. They have a lot of the cushioned feel of the popular ‘Hidden Comfort’ socks by the same brand along with silver ions woven into the sock’s fibers to add extra antimicrobial, anti-stink superpowers. In my experience, these socks have not lost their shape or become problematic after multiple washings. While it might seem like socks are not a fun gift to get, technical socks for runners that keep your feet safe from blisters and that are moisture-wicking are expensive and are the kind of gift that any runner would love to get.

Brooks reflective sherpa hat ($30): Whether your favorite running friend lives in sunny warmer climates or deals with ‘a whole lotta weather,’ these moisture-wicking hats are the bee’s knees and Brooks is one of the best, most socially responsible, more in-tune-with-runners-needs brands out there. This hat in particular has a reflective zig-zag design that will add an extra wink of visibility when your friend runs in the dark. I’m obsessed with everything that Brooks makes available for runners, but that’s for another blog post at another time.

Goodr OG sunglasses ($25): Inexpensive, polarized lenses, and frames made with a rubber-coated substance that’s “no slip”? I’m in! For days when I rock the Allie Kiefer Power Bun (this is an official name!) instead of one of my favorite Brooks sherpa hats, I need to do something to increase visibility and protect my eyes from the sun. The runner in your life will even get a kick out of whimsical color names like ‘Flamingos on a Booze Cruise’ and ‘Donkey Goggles.’ And if the runner in your life is all about that #RunMatchy life, these are inexpensive enough to help them have multiple pairs so no matter what colors they’re rocking, they’ve got their eyewear taken care of!

For your friend who loves spin classes…

Bombas Pique Quarter Socks ($12): Cycling shoes tend to be made of thick fabric that can scratch the front of your ankles and the top of your feet if you wear no-show socks. For the spin classes I take and teach, I am obsessed with these Bombas socks–they keep my skin scratch-free and are as comfortable in my favorite sneakers as they are in my spin shoes. I’ve owned mine for a few years now, and they wash and dry well. No holes! Bombas also has great customer service and a business model I can believe in–for every pair of Bombas socks that gets sold, a pair of socks gets donated to a homeless shelter. \

Classpass membership (monthly memberships begin at $45): Anyone who spends a lot of time on a spin bike winds up getting tight hip flexors and sore glutes. Cross-training is important, but if the spin enthusiast in your life spends a lot of money for a Cyclebar/Fly Wheel/Soul Cycle membership OR has chiseled their workout schedule around when spin classes are offered, they might be reluctant to come out of their shell and crosstrain. But strength classes to develop the core strength that will help them be more explosive on the bike, yoga classes to help elongate and gently strengthen the tendons and muscles that get all crunched up–these are necessary to stay injury-free. Classpass will allow your loved ones to try many different classes without feeling extra obligations to one specific yoga/strength and conditioning/etc. studio.

Padded bike seat cover ($9.99): What do you do when you love spin but your booty is always sore? Padded seat covers help! They might not seem like the most glamorous gift to give or get, but after a few uses, I bet that the spin enthusiast in your life will be so grateful to have one!
For the goal crusher in your life…

Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor ($18): Though this is Deena Kastors memoir on developing a mental game to help her in her running career, it’s an amazing and inspiring book that your favorite goal-crusher will love and will be able to apply to whatever part of life they’re trying to totally crush.

Alex & Ani Compass Charm Bangle ($28): The compass charm on this bracelet will serve as a reminder for your favorite goal-crusher to stay their course and to stay focused no matter what challenges, doubts, self-questioning, and obstacles come their way in a subtle, elegant way. And if you’re a man, Alex & Ani–one of my favorite companies in the for-profit universe–has a men’s necklace with this compass charm. Everyone should have a wonderful, subtle reminder to stay their course!

LVP Tea ($26 for 8 oz of loose tea): Even the most ambitious go-getter needs time to themselves to find some calm and just breathe. This tea–a rooibos (red tea) that has no caffeine and is infused with lavender, peppermint, and vanilla–tastes like a warm hug. Encourage your loved one who is always so busy killing it in their loves to make this tea and drink it, hot, on its own or even over ice cubes and mixed with unsweetened almond milk for a refreshing and soothing afternoon or evening drink for a few minutes of “me time.” Added bonus: invite even more calm to refresh, refocus, and revive to open their favorite meditation app for just five minutes of calm.

Healthy Human 20 oz. Cruiser ($26.99): This independent Charleston-based company makes the most amazing and amazingly designed items for the busy person who’s always on the go and can’t seem to sit still long enough to drink their coffee or tea while it’s still hot. My Healthy Human 20 oz keeps my tea hot for many hours and it’s just so pretty to look at (I have the ‘stone gold’ design). I love it. Added bonus: every cruiser comes with a steel straw and a straw brush to encourage you to be kind to the world around you.
Splurge gifts for the active person…

Brooks Dash Hoodie for women and for men ($80): This fabric is silky-soft and this top is worth every penny. It’s loose enough to drape nicely on your body AND to allow room for a base layer beneath in cooler weather and soft enough to handle sweat well. Even as sweat cools and dries, the fabric stays silky-soft. Whether you wear this on a long, meandering walk with your dog or a hike along your favorite trail or to help you crush your 5K–or even for a casual “athleisure” look with leggings and your favorite pair of kicks–you really can’t go wrong with this. I own it in four colors and I am obsessed. It’s worth every penny.

Hyperice Vyper Vibrating Roller ($199): This is really the gift that keeps on giving. It’s expensive, and it might be an amazing gift for your favorite active couple or family. Foam rolling is important for injury prevention, myofascial release, and increasing flexibility, and this is like a dream. I don’t have one and I dream that some day I can afford to splurge on something like this. It’s really the best thing ever.

Hotels.com gift card (price depends on you): want to encourage your loved one to take that trip for that bucket-list 10K or half marathon…or to go to that weekend-long Les Mills Body Pump Instructor Training they’ve been wanting to go to…or to hike that trail or mountain they’ve been dreaming of? A gift card for a hotel-stay will help bridge the gap between what your adventure- and fitness-loving friend has been budgeting for and CAN budget for. The encouragement to see new places and finally take the plunge and make that super special adventure happen. Encourage the people you love to chase their dreams and find avenues for new growth, and you just might encourage stronger, closer, more connected relationships and a world that is extra-inspired by what these people can possibly accomplish!

 

…gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. The smallest and most seemingly pragmatic thing can make someone feel so loved. Just make sure that it’s something that taps, somehow, into this person’s passions or that reminds you of some of your best conversations. What you get in return, I promise, will be more amazing than anyone can put into words!

Five Minutes of Magic

At one of my jobs, I spend many hours standing on polished concrete. I get to wear running shoes–well, I have to wear running shoes (I work in a running shoe store)–but still, it’s many hours spent on unforgiving floors. More often than not, my legs feel like lead the next morning, even though I have made sure to take some Aleve the evening before. Since many mornings I get in an early workout–whether I run, take or teach a spin class, get in a Body Pump Class–I need to figure out what to do to not feel like lead.

Foam roller, foot massage ball, begging my lovely husband to give me a foot massage, and more–I have pretty much tried everything. Or, at least, I thought I had. Somehow, it had not occurred to me that one of my favorite yoga poses at the end of the weekly restorative yoga class I try to get myself to is actually perfect for the end of a long day at the store. But I was reminded, through the magic of the internet, to give it a try. It’s easy. There’s a technical name (that sounds not-so-technical), but I just want to call it FIVE MINUTES OF MAGIC.

But let’s get to the technical name.

Are you ready for it?

Really?

Let me introduce you to Legs Up The Wall.

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In the winter months, my pajama legs will always have thick Stance socks on my feet! (The pair I am linking is similar to mine since my socks are last year’s style!)

It’s a simple restorative yoga pose. You literally turn your body into a letter L by placing your legs up the wall. You want to get so close to the wall that the entire backside of your legs is flat against the wall, and you just lay there. Try it for five minutes.

Many websites that tout the awesomeness of this simple pose (mostly yoga-related websites) say that it can help with anxiety, headaches, cure insomnia, and so much more. Every website agrees that this simple pose–if held for a few minutes–can freshen up the legs after they are tired from work (think: running, long bike rides, many hours slinging shoes in Retail Land…huffing and puffing and chasing down your gate at the airport between flights to make a connection…rinse, wash, repeat…). This simple pose facilitates blood flow, so that when you’re upright and getting your legs under you again you’ve got some fresh blood flow circulating your legs and feet.

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A very happy Stephanie during Legs Up The Wall and with hair all asunder, head laying on the floor…

Give it a try next time you’ve had a long day or a hard workout!

A Tale of Two 5Ks…

My big goal for 2018 was to run one 5K a month. Though I came to know myself as “a runner” by training for half-marathons (and one full marathon…), right now setting this goal–and sticking with it every month and learning when to trust my cross-training and when to lace up my favorite Brooks running shoes and get to know my city on foot–seems ambitious enough to be accomplishable and to fit in with my life while still making me feel really, really excited.

So that has become my goal. One 5K a month. There are two exceptions: in April I ran a 4-miler. In July, I ran the famous Peachtree Road Race (the largest 10K in the country).

Yesterday, I ran the Thanksgiving Day 5K (which is put on by the Atlanta Track Club, one of the best things in this town…). This race means something to me. Last year, I ran this 5K and found my love of running again (that’s another blog post entirely…). On my drive home, I decided that if I could run a 5K in December–a jingle bell jog just 10 days later that I wound up having my amazing husband run with me–then I could set a goal of 5Ks in 2018. And yesterday I ran that same 5K again, and I drove home with that same sh*t-eating grin on my face again.

two medals

I am a runner. I may be slow, and I may have more than a few extra pounds on my body, and I may have incredibly imperfect training. But the way that running makes me feel so alive and connected to this world is indisputable. The feeling of confidence and accomplishment that fills me after a run–no matter its circumstances–is unmistakable. My runs have meaning to me, and they fill me with such joy and pride. This is something that I have come to feel so strongly and so innately in a way that I never felt before, when I was able to run so much more quickly and for greater distances and well before many “life circumstances” made me take a big ol’ break.

But now. I am a runner. And the last 13 months of 5Ks have taught me that. They have also taught me a few other things, which I will share with you in a series of pictures:

Flat-Stephanie

(Preparing “Flat Stephanie” the night before helps me get really excited for my run in the morning. Check the bottom of the post to see how I geared up!)

 

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(Prepping & chilling my pre-workout the night before makes it easy to “grab n go” at dark-early-o’thirty in the morning. Drinking it, interspersed with a Nalgene of cold water, about 1-1.5 hours before the race starts helps caffeinate me and make my run possible)

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(Balega makes some of my most favorite running socks. I bought these–in a shade of blue that I don’t have–as a little treat for myself the day before the race. It allowed me to not only get another pair of one of my favorite running socks but also go to one of my favorite local running stores to make my purchase)

Thanksgiving 2018

(When I start to feel tired in my run or when that thought of “I want to go back to my bed” creeps in, I just think about that finisher’s medal. The exciting moment when a race volunteer gives me my medal just never gets old…)

 

My gear for the race–
Top: Brooks dash hoodie (in last year’s color pattern of navy and fruit-punch-pink)
Running Tights: R-Gear Recharge Compression Crops (they’re full-length pants on me)
Shoes: Brooks Launch 4 (available from online retailers in other colors)
Socks: Balega Hidden Comfort (so soft! So cushiony! No blisters!)
Sports Bra: Brooks Rebound Racer (go up about 1-2 cup sizes. Trust me…)
Hat: Brooks Sherpa Hat (embroidered with the Running Warehouse logo)
MP3 player: iPod shuffle (no longer available for purchase)
Sports watch/activity tracker: Garmin 235

My eyes are set on the Jingle Bell Jog in about a week and a half, and my husband is running it with me! We made brunch reservations for afterwards at one of our favorite “date night” restaurants so we could celebrate my running accomplishment for 2018.


Do you have any running accomplishments from 2018 or any goals for the year ahead of us?

What’s your favorite brand of running socks?

Are you more interested in race medals or race t-shirts? 

 

YumButter cashew butter review

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Home Goods. I’ll be honest with you–it was a Wednesday, and I was procrastinating from getting to some work I had to do for my main job. I work from home on Wednesdays. It’s a glorious thing. Unless I go out in the world, I get to live the messy-hair-don’t-care life, complete with old yoga pants and a floppy, over-sized hoodie. Let’s move on. The point here is that I was at Home Goods on a week day when it’s easy to find parking. And I wore actual pants and put a brush in my hair. It was wonderful, and I do not have photographic evidence.

When’s the last time you went inside Home Goods? I can’t say I was surprised–it hasn’t been more than a hot minute since I decided to look at all the things that are available–but I sort of was surprised. You see, Home Goods seems to have tossed themselves into the list of places you can go to for “healthy options” when it comes to the shelf-stable groceries they sell. There’s coconut oil, avocado oil, chickpea pasta, flax seeds, alternative flours, and more. As someone who lives within a couple of miles of a Trader Joe’s, an Aldi, a Sprouts, a Fresh Market, a Whole Foods, and chain grocery store mainstays like Publix and Kroger, I am well-versed in many of the brands that make foods for sale, and I certainly have my favorites. The brands I see at Home Goods are not the tried-and-true favorites that tend to fill my pantry, but the prices are so good that I often feel really open to trying new things.

So, on my trip to Home Goods, I picked up this little goodie:

Cashew Butter

It was $3.99. I am sort of a nut-butter-holic and tend to have at least 2-3 different kinds of nut butters open at any given point in time. Cashew butter is one of my favorites. From a packaging standpoint, I was somehow intrigued by a design–one that requires me to knead the package before opening the cap and then squeeze out my desired amount of cashew butter. It seemed like a no-brainer to give it a shot.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have grown skeptical of cool packaging with nice-sounding promises. I have a hard time when I hear that something is said to have “superfoods” or is somehow touted to be the next best thing to make your life healthy, amazing, and wellness-i-fied. I sometimes think that it’s a super trendy thing to advertise these capacities and to include some combination of acai, goji, chia, and flax in pretty much everything. I can see every single person with perfect hair and perfect teeth and rosy cheeks and perfect smiles and looking like they need to be the next spokesmodel for yoga mats or oat milk or immunotherapy supplements telling the whole world that everyone’s life will be better if we all have some goji in all of our food already. But, I digress. My point is this: I think that regular foods just as they are–made honestly, not manipulated or modified by harmful chemicals or sketchy processing–can somehow fuel people’s bodies and nourish their spirits quite well. I have a belief that a lot of foods that are packaged to claim super extra health benefits or a little bit of extra protein or whatever only contribute to the ways that we can divide people into “have” and “have not,” and for many companies it seems like the products themselves almost guilt you into buying them. Because you’re somehow wrong, or insufficient, or not healthy if you don’t choose the energy bar with extra collagen protein or the food item that includes chia seeds in its alternative-flour, multigrain blend, right?

Cashew Butter Back

But here’s the thing: this cashew butter is pretty tasty. I’ve used it in my morning oatmeal or in the occasional substitution–a morning protein smoothie–and it’s tasted like any other cashew butter that I would tend to purchase (and for the record, I am a huge fan of the cashew butter that Trader Joe’s sells and the in-store Simple Truth brand at my local Kroger). I’m not a huge fan of using extra sweeteners (I think cashews can be sweet enough as it is…), but if you do need to use a sweetener, I am ok with coconut sugar instead of refined sugar. I don’t know if goji berry powder–the amount that is actually used in a container of nut butter–actually has any health benefit or if it sounds nice. But the whole “knead, unscrew the lid, and squeeze” approach to getting butter in my mouth is really easy to use. And the price at my local Home Goods was low enough to make the experiment worthwhile.

I like to do research on things I don’t really know, so here’s a little bit of research. The brand, YumButter, seems to be a brand that I can jive with. The owners of the company are said to run on nut butter”–and as someone who would love to stick a spoon into a jar of cashew, pecan, or almond butter fifteen times a day, I can get behind this point of origin. YumButter seems to be pretty committed to creating products that are certified organic and non-GMO, and having found this package of cashew butter at Home Goods–a place where many items seem more affordable than on the shelves of other stores–I as able to let my pocket book and my own food ethics collide. That’s a nice thing. And here’s the part about YumButter that gets my little heart going in a good way: the company also has a social mission that seems to me similar to that of Tom’s and Bombas–a buy one/feed one business model that donates food to malnourished children.

All in all, I think that my YumButter experiment has been a good one. The cashew butter–even if I am not entirely sold that what I purchased has the most amazing extra super powers that all the trendy, happy thoughts of “this is healthy for you” like chia, goji, and that all-encompassing word of “superpowers” seem to trigger–is tasty. My morning oatmeal (which I will tell you about another time…) is so much better when I get to include nut butter into the mix. And it let me walk out of Home Goods feeling really productive by buying something to try in the middle of my desire to procrastinate during my work-from-home day.


Do you have any favorite “healthy” foods?

When you want to procrastinate, what’s your “go to” diversion?

What’s your go-to smoothie recipe?