Fave Fix: My Latest Compression Obsession

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about pregnancy and running, it’s to expect the unexpected. Especially at this stage in the game (about 23 weeks) where some days I barely feel like I know my own body anymore…let alone know how to maneuver it through mileage that used to be a breeze but now has pausing every now and then to catch my breath, constantly re-adjusting my ever-shrinking workout wardrobe and stopping for (inevitable…and consistent) pee breaks.

With my mid-run annoyance meter set to super-sensitive, it’s more important now than ever before to limit additional distractions while working out. After all, the point is to get out, stretch my legs and clear my head — and that’s a lot easier said than done unless I make sure to get a few variables under control, such as fueling, hydration and gear.

Since food and water are priority numeros uno and dos these days, those are pretty much a given. But gear, that’s something I’m always tinkering with, trying to find the right combination to make my body happy so my brain can turn off for a while during a run.

And, as you know, I’ve been extolling the virtues of compression for years so it was high time that I put it to the test during pregnancy. While the actual claims are always up for debate (more power and endurance, less exertion and vibration), the placebo effect has won me over time and time again…so when Legend Compression Wear sent me a pair of their compression performance socks to check out, I could.not.wait to get out on the roads with ’em.

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“My Vision for LEGEND™ began with the notion of …Be a LEGEND™ which really formed our thinking around our Performance Wear products,” said the company’s president and founder, John Thomas. “We want to provide the necessary support for athletes to reach their goals.”

Geared specifically towards improving performance, Legend’s muscle stabilization and overall graduated compression technology (15-20 mmHg) claims to help improve endurance, decrease injuries and speed recovery times thanks to increased oxygen levels and blood circulation. Now, I’m not sure if that’s true, clinically, but I’ve worn my fair share of compression gear, so I’m always interested to see how the different brands stack up against each other.

Immediately out of the package, I liked how soft and stretchy the fabric was, along with the seamless toe and foot that is cushioned yet made to expand slightly to the shape of your tootsies. These may seem like minor points, but trust me — when you’re a few miles into a run and get blindsided with a blister, you’ll start thinking twice about what you put on your feet!

Legend’s Compression Performance Socks also get bonus points for arch support to keep the socks from slipping and extra support at the heel and Achilles, along with special yarn and stitching that not only wicks moisture, but also allows legs and feet to breathe.

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Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re thinking. That all sounds great. But what’s the verdict post-run?

First off, let’s talk fit and form: I particularly loved how easy these socks were to get on; I’ve never liked breaking a sweat trying to wrestle myself into my compression gear before, but now ain’t nobody got time for that with a growing belly getting in the way. And an added perk is that Legend’s socks are nice and long; one of my pet peeves are knee-high socks that don’t come up to the knee..and these will accommodate even the leggiest of runners.

As for function, I tested them out on several runs ranging from three to six miles, and they passed my tests with flying colors. Not only were they comfortable and supportive without being overly restrictive, but they also were thick enough to feel substantial while remaining breathable. Honestly, I was having so much fun plodding along each time (gotta love fall running!) that I forgot I had ’em on, which is always the mark of great gear.

The only downsides? Well, besides the fact that they’re only available in a few colors (you can tell from the pics that subtlety is not my strong point when it comes to workout wear...but I’ll give the brand a break because they’re new and growing), they’re a bit of an investment ($49.99), yet pretty comparable to what else is out there.

But before you balk at the piece, remember that these socks are for more than just running; I always wear a pair when flying and love to lounge around in them on off days, plus I know they’ll also come in handy when combating pregnancy “cankles.” So when you factor cost-per-use, they’re not as outrageous as you’d think!

For more info on Legend’s compression wear, visit the company’s website here.

To compress or not to compress, that is the question… Do you think it’s a trend or do you use it as a training staple?

My New Breast Friend

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Although each pregnancy is different, there is at least one constant that every woman can count on: Managing the moving target of rapidly-growing boobs.

With a new set of knockers comes a whole host of fun side effects, such as tenderness, veins, pigment changes, bumps and leaks. While I’ve yet to deal with the latter items on that list, I have outgrown all of my bras and am in desperate need of solid support for any kind of high-impact activity.

The only problem? Well, when you go from being able to wear pretty much any sports bra to suddenly needing to be picky about certain features, you don’t have a clue about where to start.

Luckily, Zensah came to my rescue. Not only is the company considered a pioneer of graduated compression apparel, but they’ve also created a new line of seamless sportswear designed with a second-skin fit for greater performance, comfort and mobility.

Having landed in foreign territory, I saw the “high-impact support for larger cup sizes” description of the Gazelle Sports Bra ($53.99) and figured it would do the trick. It’s designed with both encapsulation and compression to provide comfortable support — not to mention it’s seamless, which is a lifesaver, because when you’re eating and peeing around the clock, all you want to do is cut down on any added potential annoyances.

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As you can see, the engineered fabric creates a separator with shaped cups that contour to the body (i.e. encapsulate the ladies) for a natural, smooth fit. Zensah’s high-density Zupport Yarn™ also helps support its claim that this is the first truly seamless sports bra to support mid-to-high-impact activities (i.e. compression at its finest).

Factor in wide, soft straps to prevent dig-in and zoned ribbing for extra support and, according to the company, it’s also 250% more supportive than their other seamless styles. Plus it’s pretty cute, right?

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From the back, you can see how it’s got a body-mapped design for breathability, plus a keyhole to encourage freedom of movement. The proprietary fabric is moisture-wicking and anti-odor to help keep you fresh and dry, too.

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Best of all? I flipped it inside out, and it’s truly seamless! I’m usually skeptical about that claim since any kind of rogue raw edge can rub and chafe, but this one’s soft and smooth.

Ok, ok, I know — enough about what it’s made of and what it looks like. Does it actually work?

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Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. I tested the Gazelle on several runs and it did not disappoint.

In fact, on my very first run with it, I had the best four-miler I’ve had in months. I’m not sure if it was that there was no painful jostling — or maybe because my rib cage could finally expand properly — but I could barely feel it on, it was so comfy.

And that, my friends, is the mark of a good bra.

So good, in fact, that I’ve also resorted to wearing it under street clothes while I’m on my next mission: Upgrading my real bra. Sigh.

Any other tips for wrangling ‘the ladies’ while working out? 

Football-Inspired Agility Workout

Source: Competitor.com

Source: Competitor.com

It’s fall racing season, and we’ve got one thing on our minds at Team LUNA Chix Portland Run (well, besides pumpkin spiced lattes and cozy sweaters): Getting faster.

Training to increase your foot turnover and develop explosive power can help increase running speed. Which is why we’ve taken a page from the football coach’s handbook and have been focusing on plyometrics and agility drills in practice lately.

Plus, let’s face it, sometimes it’s fun to add a few “toys” into training. But if you don’t want to invest in an agility ladder or speed hurdles, you can just as easily draw squares on asphalt with chalk and blow up a few balloons to use as hurdles that’ll pop if you happen to land on them the wrong way.

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If you’re not familiar with the drills above (or a shuttle run), King Sports Training is a great resource for both agility ladder (here) and speed hurdle (here) drills. I use it as a reference when planning workouts — not only becasue they demonstrate the moves with videos, but they also explain the benefits of each.

Do you pull tidbits from other sports into your training? 

Out With the Old: What to Do With Used Fitness Gear

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Yes, there are a bunch of perks to living in an apartment in the city (i.e. being walking distance to Portland’s delicacies). But there’s one major drawback that makes me dread the change of seasons: the closet turnover.

We have all of three (no, that’s not a typo) small closets in our apartment, so now that the weather’s turning I know I’ll be making the trek down to our storage unit to swap sundresses and shorts for sweaters and boots. It’s also a time when I re-evaluate the massive amounts of fitness gear I’ve accumulated over the previous months.

I make it a rule to try to get rid of any items that are worn out, ill-fitting or simply not bringing me joy. But rather than just toss ’em in the trash, there are some great alternatives that allow me to do some good while lightening my load.

Here are some of my favorite ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and put some of that neglected stuff to good use once and for all.

Running Shoes

Reduce: There are a number of organizations that will take used running shoes and distribute them to deserving groups throughout the world. Runner’s World has compiled a fantastic list here, so you can choose who you’d like to support when you donate your shoes to the less fortunate.

Reuse: Just because you’ve retired your kicks from running doesn’t mean they’re destined for the landfill. I cycle old sneakers from running to walking, which doesn’t require as much support, and when they’ve hit their limit on the roads I’ll keep them on hand for yard work.

Recycle: Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program grinds your old running shoes into material that makes athletics and playground surfaces (existing surfaces made with Nike Grind cover about 632,000,000 square feet!). Check the site for store locations that accept donations.

Workout Clothing

Reduce: Meet up with friends and do a clothing swap instead of buying a new fitness wardrobe every season. Any remaining new or gently used items can be donated to your local Goodwill or Clothes 4 Souls to provide functional clothing to people in need and create jobs in disadvantaged communities.

Reuse: A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of ways to upcycle old workout clothing. All you need is a little time, creativity and direction (check Pinterest or articles like this for inspiration), and you’ll be able to breathe new life into pieces that aren’t worthy of the donation bin.

Recycle: Some major retailers, such as Patagonia (Nike and H&M, as well), offer recycling programs for their entire product line when items finally reach the end of their useful lives and can no longer be repaired. There are also helpful websites that will help point you to your nearest recycling center.

Fitness Equipment

Reduce: Do some good through Sports Gift, a nonprofit that redistributes gear to more than 40,000 underprivileged children worldwide each year. Or go local by donating equipment to a recreation center or community program, such as the YMCA or Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Wanna score some cash instead? Try selling your gear to a secondhand fitness equipment company, such as Play it Again Sports or via Craigslist.

Reuse: If you have a long-forgotten treadmill or elliptical taking up space in your home, contact Fitness 4 Charity, which will connect you with groups who will make good use of it but can’t afford to buy it. You may also want to check in with friends and neighbors to if anyone’s building a home gym and is on the lookout for a particular piece.

Recycle: Past the point of no return? A professional salvager will be take apart your machine, retrieve all the useful metals and sell it to a metal recycler. Google “metal salvage” for a local spot or call 1-800-Got-Junk, a national junk hauling chain which does charge a fee for pickup but also promises to recycle as much as possible

What do you do with your old workout gear? 

Brace Yourself: Title Nine Fit Fest (+ giveaway!)

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If you read my recent piece on the nine things you just shouldn’t wear when working out, you know that one of my pet peeves is unsupportive sports bras. Because the last thing us ladies want to worry about during a workout is painful, sag-inducing bouncing, right?

Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

But who actually enjoys shopping for sports bras?! Most of us are unsure about our size (all the measurements!) and are even more clueless when it comes to how it should fit (strap ’em down or hike ’em up?). And don’t even get me started on the process of trying them on; it takes a Cirque-du-Soleil level of contortionism to wrestle into some of the styles out there.

If you’re anything like me, you emerge a hot, sweaty mess from the dressing room with nothing more than a deflated ego to show for all that effort. So you make an educated guess, hope for the best, shell out some cash and then get the hell out of there with something — anything.

Sound familiar? 

Well, it turns out that bra experts at Title Nine feel our pain — literally — and are making it easier (and more fun) to find the correct sports bra by hosting local “FitFest” events to help every athlete find her perfect fit and get on the road to a more comfortable workout.

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As we all know (or should know), the most important foundation for any workout is a bra designed specifically for each of our unique body types, sizes and activities. Title Nine’s FitFest aims to help ladies address all those pain points — and more — by featuring:

  • Personalized bra fitting advice from a “bravangelist” expert
  • An expanded assortment of bras for every size and shape
  • Bras for different activities: sports, work-to-workout, everyday and date night
  • A “Bounce-ath-a-lon” for people to put bras to the test, with stations like hula hooping, jump roping, running and burpees
  • Snacks and drinks (because, duh, pretty much anything is more fun with a glass of vino in hand)

So when the invitation for Portland’s FitFest landed in my inbox, I knew we were in store for an interesting evening of bonding over…boobs! I’ve never been professionally fit before, and with all the different workouts I do, I figured my Bravengelist would have her work cut out for her.

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Jamie, Tasha, Liz and I met up for happy hour, and then we made our way over to the event to check things out. After mingling with some of Portland’s fittest ladies (bloggers and industry folks), the Bravangelists met with us one-by-one to get down to business.

First, they took personalized measurements and asked a few questions about our preferences, lifestyle and favorite activities. Next, they combed the racks for styles that would be a good match.

My Bravangelist, Jamie, pulled several bras that would be good for high-impact workouts, as well as a wide range of cross-training activities. Basically, I told her I needed the girls to be able to take whatever I throw at ’em, so she went straight for the heavy artillery styles with all kinds of snaps, straps and adjustable pieces.

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As I tried on each style, Jamie came in to check the fit and how well it performed with a variety of bounce tests. Mostly this consisted of me jumping up and down to test the support of each bra.

Normally I grab a cute one, guesstimate my size and try it on to make sure it fits ok, but after going through the FitFest, I see now why it’s so important to try a range of styles at once. Not only does it give you more variety from which to choose, but when you try them on in succession, you also have a much better idea how they perform in comparison to one another.

Also — I’m not a fan of mirror selfies…but in the interest of #keepingitreal,  I’m including one shot of the bra I ended up choosing.

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I picked Moving Comfort’s She Be Fierce Bra in Celery Stripe ($44), which delivers all the features us less-endowed ladies demand without feeling overbuilt, overpadded and overdone. It’s easy on/off, there’s separate encapsulation inside to avoid the dreaded “uniboob,” plus the material’s supposed to dry crazy-fast after the sweatiest of workouts.

And I just love the name, which happens to be based on Shakespeare’s line, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” Whether he was talking about this bra or the wearers, I’d like to think he was right.

But the best part of the evening? 

Well, if boobs are funny, then boob balloons are funnier. And apparently we’re all 30-something-going-on-13 because we really got a kick out of these things.

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Interested in attending a FitFest in a city near you? Visit TitleNine.com for a full list of participating locations and details.

Or, better yet, CLICK HERE TO ENTER my giveaway for a FREE PERSONALIZED FITTING (either in-store or by-phone, depending on location) and ONE SPORTS BRA! 

Note: Winners within driving distance of a Title Nine store will be asked to redeem their prize at the closest/preferred retail location.

Good luck, and remember to give your girls some support!

5 Surprising Myths About Running Socks

Source: Runner's World

Source: Runner’s World

Too often we’re seduced by the lower price of a product that invariably costs more over the long haul. – Bill Howard

What is the single most important piece of equipment for runners? If you said shoes, you’re close – and like many of your fellow pavement pounders, you’ve probably invested a good deal of time and money in finding the perfect pair.

But as the only source of protection between your feet and a potentially run-crippling blister, socks can mean the difference between a triumphant or a terrible outing, even in the highest-quality footwear.

I wrote a while back about some of the best socks for runners, but with a mind-boggling number of options available, how do you pick the pair that’s best for you?

Gus Blythe, founder of Drymax Sport Socks, was kind enough to weigh in on a few of the common myths about sport socks; he’s made it a mission to keep athletes’ feet happy and give them one less thing to worry about when training and racing.

So…let’s talk socks, people!

Myth #1: What you see is what you get

Contrary to what most of us probably think, socks are not to be used exclusively as decorative ornaments or as a way of helping to compensate for the imperfections inside of shoes; rather, they are standalone pieces of equipment and should be evaluated as such.

Simply put, pretty socks may be easy on the eyes but could very well be hard on the feet. It’s important to remember that feet are blind when shopping, says Blythe. After all, how much will you care about the color or logo on your socks mid-race?

Myth #2: Soft in your hands means good to your feet

When I’m sock shopping “soft” is one of the top criteria on my list – but what feels heavenly at first touch doesn’t necessarily indicate high quality, so dive deeper and look at what the sock is made of to be sure you’re not being sold smoke and mirrors.

“Many manufacturers use a fabric softener so their socks feel soft on the shelf to your hands,” says Blythe. These socks will work better after they are washed once, but may feel different afterwards, as opposed to brands such as Drymax, which Blythe says are softener-free and race-ready out of the package.

Myth #3: One style fits all

Unfortunately, just as there is no hard and fast formula for choosing the ideal running shoe (I’ve shifted loyalty among several different brands since taking up the sport nearly two decades ago), choosing a type of sock tends to be part art, part science — so prepare to experiment a bit in order to find a good fit.

For example, if you wear orthotics or insoles, you’ll probably need to look for a thinner sock with more protection in potential trouble spots, whereas a runner with narrow feet might want a bulkier sock to keep feet from shifting in shoes.

But regardless of your situation, remember that every foot is different, and what works for one person may not work for the next, so take into account these personal preferences when shopping.

Myth #4: Price is an indicator of quality

When buying socks, it’s better to think in terms of value instead of price. And even though we’ve been trained as shoppers to equate high price with high quality, it’s more important to consider the fabric and features versus getting caught up in the marketing magic.

Fewer bells and whistles might work for a quick workout or light cross-training, but do your homework if you’re looking for socks that will last for the long haul. Alas, there are no shortcuts, and what you skimp on at the register your feet could end up paying for in the end.

“If you think you can find the best sock by looking at price or by the best-known brand, you’re wrong,” says Blythe. “It’s foolish to pay too much for a sock, but it’s worse to pay too little.”

Myth #5: You’re not a real athlete if you don’t get blisters

In the past, we’d applaud runners who were able to forge on despite having horrible blisters. But thanks today’s new sock fabrics and technologies, athletes can continue to push their limits more comfortably — racing smarter, not just harder.

That means taking proper precautions to prevent blisters in the first place, which requires feet to be kept as dry as possible. And while many socks provide adequate protection for a few miles, the addition of sweat and repetitive movements over many miles, plus shifting up and down hills, makes blister prevention an increasingly difficult task for non-specialized socks, says Blythe.

“Choose your socks wisely,” he cautions. “Your feet depend on it.”

How do you keep your feet comfy for the long haul (and those long runs)?

The Case for Yoga Pants (+ prAna Discount Code!)

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Throughout my high school and college running days, “workout gear” meant — quite literally — anything hanging on by its last thread: extra-large cotton t-shirts, stretched-out tube socks and over-sized shorts with elastic waists, for example. You get picture.

But my attitude changed in 2002 when I bought my first “splurge” item — a Brooks long-sleeved tech shirt — at the Chicago Marathon expo. In a classic rookie move, I wore it for the first time to run 26.2 the next day…but miraculously it performed beautifully in all of its sweat-wicking, non-chafing glory.

That experience forever changed my view of workout gear: No longer were my tops and bottoms merely “something to sweat in;” they became part of my training arsenal — not only to keep me comfortable and to help me perform, but also (occasionally) to be a major motivating factor in getting my butt up and out the door for workouts.

Because, let’s face it, when we look good, we feel good. And when we feel good, we can take on the world. Or at least a 6 a.m. spin class.

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Case in point: When prAna and Fit Approach partnered up last month for the #TakeTheLeap challenge in which we were encouraged to #BringYogaBack for 30 days.

I knew it was going to take a lot more than old fashioned willpower to get myself on the mat throughout the month. Don’t get me wrong — I love yoga — it’s just a challenge being present and working quietly when your default is hard-charging, goal-oriented workouts.

But when prAna sweetened the deal by throwing in an outfit from their new Early Spring collection, I knew we were speaking the same language. If you build it, they will come; it you make it cute (and comfy), they will om.  

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First on my wish list was the Florence Capri in Neon Orange ($79). Because neon orange.

If the color’s not enough to get your heart pitter-pattering, the design will have you swooning. From the flattering wide waistband to the compression Chakara performance fabric to the smooth seams, these pants fit like a second skin — without being overly constrictive.

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And then there’s the Piper Top in Cool Green ($69). I stepped slightly out of my wheelhouse with this one; I’m not usually partial to blousy tops, but sometimes you just need a nice, relaxed drape to skim, rather than squeeze, your stomach.

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Another lovely detail is the drawcord hem; loosen it up for longer coverage, or cinch it up to shorten the length and for added security — aka if you’re not into baring that belly during inversions.

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But my favorite feature that made this pick a no-brainer? The straps!

They’re adjustable, and I’m not just talking about the bra-type sliders. Nope, these babies can be converted from traditional shoulder straps to an X-back for both support and style purposes.

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Mindfully designed. Built to last. And best of all? Available at a discount, just in time to brighten up your wardrobe for spring! Use KineticFix’s special code (psps15KF) at checkout for 15% off your entire order.

Happy shopping — and sweating, friends!