Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Winter running gear: 4 essential items and 3 nice-to-haves

There are a few affiliate links here, but otherwise, see the Pinterest board linked here for examples of the kind of gear I wear.

I live in Ohio, and I run outdoors in the winter. Only the worst winter days (like some of the ones we had last year) will keep me inside running on the treadmill.  Otherwise, I gear up and go.  The best strategy is to dress in thin, lightweight, moisture-wicking layers.  You should dress so that you are just a little chilly standing outside, since you want to be comfortable when you're moving.

Here are a few must-have items if you want to try winter running. These would be great gifts for your running friends this holiday season:

1. Gore-Tex (or similar technical fabric) jacket
A breathable, windproof, waterproof jacket is a must if you're going to run outdoors.  A jacket like this is expensive, but if you care for it, it can last you a long time. My in-laws got me a Gore-Tex suit (jacket and pants) years ago and it is still in good condition.

Some things to look for: A flap to cover the zipper, either inside or outside of the zipper. If the zipper is bare, you are going to have the winter wind blowing right into your chest.  A hood that tucks away when it's not wanted but can be pulled out quickly if it starts to drizzle.  Pockets (an inside media pocket is an especially nice touch).  A hem that dips down in back is nice to cover your butt when the wind is at your back.

Think lightweight shell, not parka.  You don't want to overheat and get sweaty, or you will get chilled. Buy a size that will be big enough to accommodate movement and layers underneath, but not so big that it lets wind whip through it.

2: Moisture-wicking layers
You do not want to wear your cotton running t-shirts outdoors in the winter.  They will get soaked with sweat and chill you.  You want to wear layers of fabric that are moisture-wicking to keep the dampness off your skin. Think dri-fit, UnderArmour, and similar.  I wear the same clothes I wear for other workouts -- moisture-wicking tights, long- or short-sleeved t-shirts.  Silk long underwear are a great base layer but they aren't essential.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on these clothes -- Target and other bargain retailers now carry technical workout clothes.  I have gotten a lot of my go-to items off their clearance racks.

3. Non-cotton socks
Again, cotton gets wet and causes blisters. I like Wright Socks, which are double-layered and are made of a lightweight fabric that keeps my feet comfortable in most weather.  My husband sometimes wears wool socks, but I don't like the way they feel.

4. Hat and gloves
I don't spend a lot of money on my running hats. I get the cheap stretch kind at Target. I bought special "texting gloves" years ago when they were hard to find, and they are still going strong. It's easier to find texting gloves now at discount stores, but the Glider Gloves are warmer.

I often take my gloves and hat off midway through the run, which is one reason I think pockets on a jacket are essential.

Some nice-to-have items once you have covered the essentials:

1. Gore-Tex (or similar technical fabric) pants
On most days, I wear my jacket with two or three layers of tights, but I have a pair of Gore-Tex pants for really cold days. It's best if they have zippers at the bottom so that you can take them off without taking off your shoes.

2. Moisture-wicking underwear
Until last year, I just wore my regular undies when I was running, and they were fine. They got sweaty, but it wasn't that much fabric so it wasn't a big deal.  Then I found a few three-packs of Champion activewear underwear on clearance at Target, and found that they were much more comfortable for working out. A nice benefit is that they are seamless, so there is no chafing.

3. Neck gaiter or scarf
Some people prefer a , but I feel suffocated when I wear one (and I also feel like I should be robbing a convenience store) I'd rather wear a hat and neck gaiter and pull the neck gaiter up to wear I want it. Most days I don't need it, and in the in-between days, I just wear a cheap regular scarf.

By the way, you still need a in the winter. Almost all of them are made from wicking fabric, so just wear the same one you wear the rest of the year. I, of course, wear Enell.

Please be safe this winter! Know the signs of frostbite, and don't be a hero if you feel like you are just too cold to complete your run. You can always add another layer for the next one.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Enell Ambassador Race Report: Race for the Cure, Toledo

I was looking forward to doing my first race as an Enell Ambassador, so I registered for Toledo's Race for the Cure.  This is always a huge event, and this year was no exception: The Toledo Blade reported that there were almost 17,000 registered participants.

We are supposed to be getting some special pink-themed gear sometime in October, but I just wore my Enell Ambassador tee with my HOPE Pink Enell bra underneath instead of the Scuba Blue. I pinned my number to the belt that holds my iPhone. I wore my jacket and an extra pair of longer pants over my running capris and brought a duffel with some extra gear.  The bag of gear turned out to be an issue.

This was a huge event. There was no bag check. And even though we started right near Fifth Third Stadium (where the famous Toledo Mud Hens play) there was no way I could leave a duffel bag (even one clearly marked with my name and phone number) sitting around unattended without someone getting suspicious and possibly throwing it away in a  post-Boston-Marathon-bombing world.  I had no one with me that could hold my stuff, so that left me a lot of time to panic about this.

Finally, I talked to some of the Toledo Mud Hens stadium security people, explained my dilemma, showed them that my name and phone number were on the bag and explained that there were no valuables in it, just extra clothing and a pair of flip-flops. They were so nice about it and helped me find a place to leave it, as long as I knew that they couldn't be responsible if it got lost.

I would have been willing to make an extra donation for a safe bag check -- maybe that is something the race committee could consider for next year? Though the logistics of 17,000 participants leaving bags could be a big headache, bigger races do manage it.

From my vantage point, this survivors'  photo looked like just a lot of pink, but it was actually a ribbon.
The thing about this race is that it is a charity event and a big city festival all in one, and not just a race.  I love the way people really have fun with their clothes. I saw women in tutus, girls in tutus, boys in tutus, and men in tutus.  I saw a few dogs, but did not see any in tutus.  Almost everyone is there to honor a friend or family member who is living with breast cancer, or who died from it, but the event still has a celebratory feeling. 
This mother-son duo in fantastic rainbow tutus allowed me to take their photo!
There were sponsor booths, so I asked the representative from  if they carried Enell. They don't, so I gave him one of my special slap bracelets that I had gotten in the mail a week before with the Enell website.  I don't know if they will carry them (they are a small store and don't carry a lot of clothing inventory, especially in larger sizes) but I thought it was worth a shot. I didn't have a chance to have a lot of conversations about the brand -- I was there by myself and everyone's mind was really on the people they were there to honor, and I didn't want to distract from that.

The start line is so mobbed that it's not the kind of race where you can get a personal record (PR), but oddly enough, I did have my PR 5K at a Race for the Cure, in 2003, a 27:33.  

That was a long time ago.  I didn't come close to that time, but had a pretty good race. I crossed the start line about a minute after the start and was able to get enough room to run comfortably fairly soon after the start. I hit the first mile and heard them calling out times -- 11:04. I had to go under 11 minutes for that mile. The rest of the race was fairly uneventful, except that in the last mile I ran into a friend of mine who is a breast cancer survivor, and I accidentally pulled my number halfway off and had to fix it. 

After the race, red-faced and feeling happy.
I thought I saw 34-something on the clock when I finished, and was feeling good thinking I had managed to do about an 11-minute-mile pace for the 5K, which is great considering all the hamstring issues I have been dealing with since early spring.  The results are posted and I see that my time was recorded at 35:04, so maybe I didn't see the clock right. I didn't wear a watch, but I stopped and started the timer on my UP band and it also said that I ran 34-something (it gives only minutes), so I'm not sure what happened -- the race was chip timed so the results should be accurate. I guess it doesn't matter that much if I ran 11 minutes a mile or 11:19 per mile, especially at such a crowded race. 

I was really happy that I felt good all race long and that I didn't have to walk at all, except when I was fixing my number. I didn't even slow down to get water.  The actual time aside, I had fun and enjoyed being part of such a big event. I appreciated being supported, literally and figuratively, by a great brand like Enell. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

3 things I learned at this week's Weight Watchers meeting

1. I'm holding steady since last week, though not where I'd like to be. I want to get back down to that low summer weight. I want that 10-pound star!

2. Weight Watchers is not only emphasizing its Power Foods, it is also steering members away from higher-carb foods. Hints at things to come?

3. I miss my regular leader.  I haven't been able to get to her meetings. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How I am doing

It is five weeks into the fall semester and I feel completely overloaded and overwhelmed. My father is ill, my husband and I don't see each other much at all, and I have been away from home at least 3-4 evenings per week at dinnertime.  I just got back from a weekend trip out of town that was fun but draining.  I feel like my hair is crackling with anxiety.  

My food has not been as on point as I would wish but it hasn't been terrible. I haven't been tracking regularly but I started again yesterday.  I have decided to wait until later in the week for a weigh-in so as not to have "plane weight" show up on the scale at Weight Watchers. 

I have been doing what I can to care for myself. I have been packing myself a "lunch" for dinnertime in class. I have been doing more yoga, more walks, and less running. It has felt too chilly here for biking.  I have been doing my best to get sleep.  

This is just a hard time. I will get through it. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Last chance: Gwynnie Bee is ending its 30-day free trial offer

This post contains Gwynnie Bee and Amazon affiliate links. If you try Gwynnie Bee through one of my links, I get an extra item for a month. 

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Gwynnie Bee. I have written a lot of posts about my experiences with the service, and I even did one of their "Not A Model" features.  I do not work for GB or get any compensation from them, other than the option to refer people and get a free item upgrade that all subscribers have. I write about the service because I genuinely enjoy it and want to spread the word.

But listen up: The free trial option ends September 30. So if you have wanted to try Gwynnie Bee, now is your chance.  If you don't want to use my referral link, go to Authentically Emmie and check out her Gwynnie Bee Fashion File, and use her link. She was the one who originally got me started on the service.

I have but haven't been doing a great job of photographing my Gwynnie Bee looks lately. I have had a lot going on in my life (still do). Also, my husband has never been an enthusiastic photographer, because I'm a bit of a perfectionist and want a lot of photos snapped so I can get a good one. And selfies just don't do a great job of showing clothes. I have had a lot of great looks lately that I haven't photographed, so I'm ordering a  and  so I can take my own photos. 

Here are a few of the ones I did manage to capture: 

Eight Sixty Maxi

Tart Collections

Kiyonna dress with my own denim jacket
I won't lie, sometimes I ask myself if I should be spending so much money on a clothing service that doesn't leave me with any clothes (unless I spend a little extra to take the option to buy the things I like). But $79 monthly gets me three items at a time, and if I'm smart about wearing and sending back things strategically, I can end up getting a lot more items per month than three -- usually it works out to about 2 items per week.  And when I get something that doesn't fit, I just send it back and get something else. There were some issues with slow shipping in the past, but since Gwynnie Bee opened a new shipping center, things are turning around a lot faster.  

I also don't have to pay for dry cleaning or deal with the hassle of going to the cleaners.  I like taking the clothes with me for travel, too, and sending them back from my destination to make more room in my suitcase. 

I find myself shopping a lot less and when I do buy something, it's more often something that Gwynnie Bee just doesn't offer, like pants (there are a few pairs of jeans on offer, but I have never gotten one) or accessories. 

I also feel like I have better clothes than the ones I would buy for myself. The dresses I buy for myself top out around $60 and are usually basics that I feel like can get away with wearing often because they aren't that memorable. Gwynnie Bee clothes are memorable, and each dress would cost more to buy than I pay for my rental fee per month. So I might be spending less on clothes but having a better wardrobe.  

The biggest benefit for me is confidence. I get compliments on my clothes, which rarely happened before. I take pictures of myself and like them.  

So if you want to try Gwynnie Bee for yourself, you have until September 30 to sign up to try it free for one month

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why "I'm All About that Bass," no apologies

It's not surprising that Meghan Trainor's anthem, written on a whim and performed by the songwriter herself because other pop stars didn't want to touch it, has become a big hit.  It's fun, it has a totally different sound than anything else on the radio right now, and the bubble-gum-retro video is hilarious.

It's also not surprising that it is taking some criticism for being anti-feminist because it talks about attractiveness in terms of men's preferences, or for not celebrating all body types equally because it uses the phrase "skinny bitches" (even if she says she's "just playing" and wants all women to think they're perfect).

I agree that it would be nice if someone wrote a pop song saying that all women are beautiful, that beauty isn't the only thing that matters anyway, and that women have more important things to do than be decorative. Go ahead, write it. I will buy the single on iTunes.

In the meantime, go ahead and Google "promoting obesity." Then Google "Meghan Trainor promoting obesity." In a world where perfectly lovely (and quite thin, by human standards if not by Hollywood standards) women like Jennifer Lawrence (or Meghan Trainor herself) are expected to defend themselves for appearing in public without apologizing for not losing 20 more pounds, I think an anthem celebrating a curvy body type is okay. It's interesting that Trainor recorded it herself because other artists wouldn't want it. Just recently it made #1 on the Billboard list.

It didn't strike a nerve and serve a need, it wouldn't be such a breakaway hit. I think that songs like this take flack because they are swimming upstream in a world where it really is not okay to admit you like your body if it doesn't fit a narrow "ideal."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why I weighed in yesterday

I knew I would be up yesterday. I went not because I was expecting a great weigh-in, but because I needed to hit the reset button. Despite my great intentions, I let tracking slip again. I have been stressing out about my dad and was having a bit of an, "F--- it, I don't care" attitude, which was not helping. I also haven't been able to get to a meeting with the leader I like because of my schedule, which made it harder to feel jazzed about the program.

The gain was a bummer since if I had stayed on program, I could have gotten a 10-pound star, but that gives me motivation to do better for next week.  I have reason to believe that most of that gain was water weight so it's not totally out of the question to at least be back to where I was last week.

Interestingly, yesterday's topic was all about "A Simple (re)Start" plan, riffing on the Simple Start motif. I happened to run into a friend from work at the meeting, too, which isn't that surprising because the meeting location is a few miles from where I work. It was helpful to go and weigh in.

I noticed this week that the 3-month trackers like the one I am using were a dollar off, and there was also a sale on the Active Link. I would warn any WW members reading this to think twice about buying too much program stuff, as it is likely that they will switch up the program in October like they tend to do, and the fact that they are putting very basic stuff (and not just cookbooks) on sale and giving away Starter Kits suggests that it might be bigger changes this time.  The computer systems were down at my meeting and that also suggests that they are doing some technical stuff behind the scenes.  I have not heard any speculation about what the changes would be -- it could be just changes to logos and branding or just some tweaks to tracking. The whole "Turn the page and start over" theme of the meeting makes me wonder if they are going back to a system that would make that possible -- the weekly points really interfere with that ability to make a fresh start every day, at least to my obsessive-compulsive brain.

Edit: Here are some hints about what they might be changing: 
Weight Watchers executives have been considering an array of strategies to stop the declines, including making it easier to sign up members, offering more personalized weight-loss programs and courting corporations and health-insurance providers to subsidize memberships. (emphasis is mine)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Everyday life

I'm afraid it has gotten very all bras, all the time, around here lately, so I wanted to assure you that I will continue to post on a range of topics! A post from Vickie's private blog reminded me of how much I love Shauna's Everyday Life posts. I don't have a bunch of photos to share, because lately I have been taking mostly pictures of people, and I don't want to post those without permission, but I thought I'd post some of the everyday things going on in my own life. 

Up until now, I have only hinted about it here, but my dad has been in and out of the hospital a lot this year with very severe complications of diabetes.  I didn't want to trigger a flood of negative and judgmental comments about his lifestyle choices when he is in such a terrible place.  He was diagnosed about 30 years ago, so even if he had managed things better, he could very well be having complications by now.  I think in his case there was a strong genetic component too, as both of his surviving sisters also have Type II diabetes and so did his father. There was also a medical technology component: In the days when my father was diagnosed, the only way they could confirm diabetes was with urine test strips. By the time that sugar is showing up in urine, it has been progressing for quite a long time.  So there were a lot of factors. Needless to say this has been heartbreaking for him, for me, and for my whole family.

Of course, the health issues that he has been having have made me more aware of my own health. That's why I had a stress test and all those other tests recently. My doctor thought it was wise given my family history. I was happy to get the all-clear.  Obviously I would like to get to a healthy weight, which is why I'm tweaking the way I do Weight Watchers to make it work better for me.

As much as I can, I have been trying to enjoy and appreciate my own life instead of only dwelling on this awful situation. I'm especially reminding myself to enjoy the last bits of summer as we have threats of another cold winter ahead.  Saturday we went to an arts festival with two friends and their cute six-month-old baby.  Yesterday my husband and I took a 20-mile bike ride in perfect 75-degree weather. I also spent some time hanging out on the front porch with my cats and took two naps.  We experimented with an Eggplant Pizza recipe from our CSA, and even though they didn't turn out quite right (the eggplant was still too hard), we have ideas on how to make them work next time.  We need to draw more of the moisture out of the eggplant "crust" and maybe even pre-cook them.  I had just the toppings off the two smallest ones and that part was delicious. 

How's your everyday life these days?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Why I wanted to be an Enell Ambassador

I wrote a little about being selected as an Enell Ambassador, but I didn't talk about why I wanted to represent them in the first place. I got my first Ambassador package yesterday, and there was a card that said, "This is for the Blessed and the Cursed." I have always felt a little of both -- blessed to have something to balance out my wide hips, but cursed when I went to go run or do other high-impact exercise. Over the years, I got a lot of disapproving looks in aerobics classes or out on a run.  I even had people say, supposedly helpfully, "Have you ever considered getting them reduced?" No, I hadn't -- I didn't have back problems, neck problems, or any other problems besides the bounce problem. I had lots of bras that promised to lock down my chest and keep it in line (including one that I called the "Battleship Bra" because it was so ugly and restrictive) but most of them never did quite do the trick. All I could do was cut down the bounce, not get rid of it completely.

I had never tried an Enell because I had never seen one in a store, and didn't want to special-order something that Title 9 Sports called its "Last Resort" bra. I didn't try one until Fitbloggin' last year, when I agreed to model it. I got to keep that one, and I also bought a Pink Hope one later so I could have a second one for my runs.  It makes me feel the way I imagine I'd feel if I had a breast reduction and lift -- everything is higher and nothing moves.  As Enell founder Renelle said to me, "It makes you feel like a boy." And then when I'm done with my run, I go back to my normal self. 

So this product is one that has genuinely made my life better, and I'm happy to represent the product. I'd like to arrange for every woman and girl who wears a C-cup or higher (with natural breasts, at least) to try one for herself, but since I'm not rich and famous, being an Enell Ambassador is a good alternative.  The basic range of shades that the Enell is generally available in was its only negative to me, as I like fun colors in all my workout clothes, so I was very excited to get the new color yesterday.
I wanted to wear it out on a run, but I took a new workout class yesterday and my hamstring was feeling a little achy. I went out for a leisurely ride on my cruiser bike instead so I could try my new gear and get some pictures.

The sun was very bright -- it was a beautiful late-summer-early-fall morning.  It was a little too warm to wear my jacket for long, but I wasn't going to stand out in the meadow in just my bra.  I got enough weird looks for taking selfies with my bike.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Old-School Weight Watchers

I just had my Week 19 weigh-in. I'm down 8.4 pounds total, and last week, I hit an all-summer low of 177.2 (I was up 0.4 this week). If I can lose 1.6 or more next week, I'll get my 10-pound star in Week 20.

That's roughly 1/2 a pound a week, which is not a bad rate, but I know that I could do better if I tracked every day.  With the online app, if I have missed logging two or three meals, it's easy to just let it go completely for the rest of the day, or worse, the rest of the week.

I decided to go Old-School: Paper and pencil using the twelve-week journal.  My goal is to be in the 160s by the end of the 12 weeks.

Instead of fooling around with the weekly points (which make me start to feel hopeless if I've used them up and I still have a few days left in the week), I'm going to track day-by-day like I did when I first started with Weight Watchers. That means that I count up from 0 instead of counting down from my target, and if I have a bad day, I just turn the page and start over.  That's how I got to goal the first time.

My first version of Weight Watchers was Winning Points, and there was a Points range for each day. You could bank points, but there were no weeklies. I remember that the high end of my range was 25 points (the old points, which were worth more food than the current ones) and I hit or exceeded it most days, plus whatever Activity Points I earned.

I'm going to do my best to stay under 33 (my target plus 1/7 of my weeklies) every day, plus whatever Activity Points I earn.  That should leave me with enough of a deficit to have a decent loss each week.  The important thing is continuing to track every day instead of giving up if I go over.

By the way, I noticed at my meeting that Weight Watchers is running a special for the rest of the month: A free Starter Kit (which includes the journal pictured above plus lots of other goodies) when you buy a monthly pass. I'm guessing that means they are getting ready to tweak the program again, but if you've been thinking about joining, it's a good time to get a lot of free, useful stuff for the current program.  Danica's Daily has a great review of the kit if you want to see what's in it.

Edited to add: This is what a day of tracking looks like.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

New Enell color: Don't wait to dive in to new Scuba Blue!

Enell Sport launched a new color today: Scuba Blue.  This makes five currently-available options: the core colors of Black, White, and Ecru, Pink Hope, and for a limited time, Scuba Blue.

scuba bluepink hope

You can find a list of online and brick-and-mortar retailers that have ordered stock of Scuba Blue at the Enell Blog.  Supplies of this new color will be extremely limited -- once they sell out, they sell out permanently.

I am still a little sad that I didn't get the last limited-edition color, Purple Orchid, before it sold out more than a year ago, especially since purple is my favorite color. That sadness is tempered by the fact that I have a Scuba Blue Enell on its way to me right now.

If you're ordering online, be sure to check out the special Enell Size Chart.  You will get the most accurate fit if you use your actual measurements and don't try to guess from your current bra size.  It's supposed to be very snug: I thought I was a 2, but I actually needed a 1 for my best support. Of course if you are already an Enell fan, you can just check the size tag of the one you have hanging on your drying rack.

I can't wait until my package arrives. Unfortunately, it will probably get here while I'm at work, so I might have to wait until tomorrow to try it on.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07