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.

Follow PerfectImperfect's board Winter Running Gear on Pinterest.

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:

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 balaclava, 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 sports bra 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

Follow PerfectImperfect's board Enell Ambassador Races on Pinterest.

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 Dave's Running Shop 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 my own fashion file 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 Muku Shuttr remote and a mini tripod 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)

"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