I’m in the midst of marathon training, and there are products that have certainly helped me remain consistent and motivated. I would like to say that I have purchased all the products I will mention. It would have been nice to have received these from the companies that make them, but I’m only an average runner, so I have to pay for it all out-of-pocket.
Shoes were of little importance to me when I first started running. My first official pair of running shoes were a white pair of New Balance issued to me by the Marine Corps on the second sleep deprived-day of boot camp (or maybe it was the third day – I don’t recall). We were commanded to form a line and give our shoe size to a Marine who would be handing us a pair of shoes. Those shoes were so kind to my feet, and I ran all over Parris Island with them. I regret not knowing their final resting place.
Prior to 2006, my method to purchasing running shoes was based on whether the shoes were on sale or not. I quickly discovered though that a cheap shoe didn’t necessarily translate to a comfortable shoe. Adidas, Reebok and Nike are all on my junk list.
In 2006, when I committed to running a half-marathon, I went to one of those running stores where they observe you run and recommend a specific shoe depending on how good (or jacked up) your running is. Brooks became my go to shoe. Then, I erroneously ventured into the world of shoe temptation and had flings with Asics, Saucony, New Balance, and Mizuno. Whether it was the shoe, or the pregnancy, or the 47 pounds I gained during pregnancy, the plantar fascia on my left foot began to impact my running. I didn’t want to get injured, but I also dreaded the thought of giving up running. And so, like the guy you’d never consider dating because you don’t feel like you have anything in common, I decided to give the unattractive Hoka One One shoes a try.
First of all, these shoes were pricey! We are talking $170 bucks pricey (ouch). But I figured $170 was cheaper than a doctor’s visit and much more tolerable than sitting on the sidelines caused by an injury for weeks. Despite its bulky and homely appearance, the Hoka One One have been tremendously helpful in my training. I’ve been able to log almost double the amount of miles this past month with little to zero pain. The Hoka shoes have saved my running. In the future, I’d like to do a thorough review of the shoes.
Fuel and Recovery
If you’ve ever run a marathon or half-marathon, then you’ve been given Nuun as a drinking option. I usually drink water the first half of the race, but towards the end, I need a pick-me-up, and Nuun is my go-to choice not only during races, but also during my training. I usually drink Nuun during my long runs or prior to runs where I need a little boost of energy. The flavors are delicious and the company is conscientious about their ingredients. I like Nuun so much, I applied to become an Ambassador, and much to my surprise, got accepted! I don’t get the products for free, but I do get the opportunity to represent the company, which I think is a privilege because I think their products do what they claim to do – they energize me and hydrate me.
Vega Sport Performance Protein
Protein Recovery drinks are very popular in the Crossfit world, so when I started doing Crossfit, I started looking into protein recovery drinks to help with my sore muscles. The only problem was, the majority of the drinks contained dairy, and dairy does quite a number on my stomach. I went to AMAZON to research dairy-free protein drinks and discovered this one. Now, I will admit that the powder does not mix easily, so it can feel a little chalky when swallowing, but for me, the chocolate flavor tastes good and don’t find the chalky flavor to be repulsive. Plus, it’s gentle on my stomach and it helps with my recovery. I’ve only tried the chocolate flavor, and based upon the reviews, the chocolate seems to be better. I usually mix the powder with 12 ounces of water immediately after a heavy lifting session, or a long run (longer than 6 miles). I’ve tried the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator in the past, and while it did help the recovery of my muscles, I discovered after multiple uses that the ingredients seemed to irritate my stomach, so I had to stop using it.
I’ve only been using these gels for three weeks, but I like how they taste, the assortment of flavors to choose from, and the different levels of caffeine potency. I do feel like they are pricey, but I’m only using them for my long runs. I have used Sports Beans in the past, and while I do like them, I like these just as much. These gels are not overly sweet, are easy to carry, and I’ve liked most of the flavors I’ve tasted. I consume one of these 30-45 minutes prior to a long run and consume a second one during a run that is longer than eight miles an hour into the run.
This is actually a product I did not purchase. In fact, I was lucky enough to have won this baby from Raina, blogger at smalltownrunner.com. I don’t have any luck when it comes to raffles, but I got good mojo with this raffle.
I love the Orange Mud Hydrapak. It’s strong, but lightweight and comfortable as well. The bottles are easy to reach when running, and easy to clean when not. It has multiple pouches to hold my keys, gels, and phone. It does not slide around like the ones you wear around your waist line and it has a little bungee cord on the back to hold apparel. Because it’s rather on the pricey ($109.95), it is one I’m very fortunate to have won and definitely putting to good use.
I had a running journal once, and while I enjoyed it, I thought it was best to go the digital way and never bothered to think about purchasing another journal again. When Kristen Yax, blogger of AllthatGlitters raved about it, I figured I would invest in it and use it to chronicle my marathon training. Now that I have been using it consistently for the last 9 weeks, I’ve grown to love my journal. There is something so calming about being able to layout your running schedule and physically see it before your eyes. No need to log into anything, download anything, upgrade anything, or fear losing anything. It’s almost as if the path of decision-making sits right before your eyes and you can pompously meander through your day without a care in the world because you have the answer. Alright, that was a little too dramatic, but my Believe Journal has not only kept a record of my distance, but my personal thoughts as well. I’ve seen my personal growth as runner in the mere 8 weeks I’ve been using it.
I love Oiselle. In fact, I like the apparel and the brand so much, I didn’t think twice when the opportunity presented itself to be a part of “The Flock” for a $100 membership fee. What does it mean to be a part of the “The Flock?” It means I get to represent the Oiselle brand, which is paving its way to represent women on and off the track and to challenge the big brand name apparels that have become an imposing presence in the athletic industry. It means I get to connect with a national running community. No, I do not get free apparel in exchange for raving reviews. Again, I’ve purchased all of the items I’ve mentioned in this post (with exception of Orange Mudpack), so I’m not getting any freebies. Some might find it absurd to pay a company a fee to promote their brand and still pay for the apparel, but hey, Costco seems to be doing okay. Yes, I do think some of the items are a little on the high-end, but their clothes are well made, stylish, and they are extremely functional when it comes to running.
I am a heel striker, which means I really pound my feet. When I first saw runners wearing compression socks, I thought they were the latest fashion trend for running. Personally, I did not care for the look, so I did not think much about them. I later learned that the socks were more than just a fashion statement. Supposedly, they helped muscle efficiency by preventing oscillation of the muscles and helps with muscle recovery following long run. While that theory varies for runners, I have found compression socks to really help my feet, calves, and shins when running. I feel like the compression helps keeps all of my muscles tight. I don’t use them for recovery like others do, so I cannot comment on the recovery.
There is a saying that goes, “Running is cheaper than therapy,” but if I were to calculate how much money I’ve spent on race fees, apparel, products, and the latest trend that come with running, I would say I have spent as much as therapy. Since I don’t invest in myself with manicures, pedicures, hair cuts (I cut my hair about once a year), or coffee, I don’t feel guilty about investing in my love for running.
Do you have any running musts? Are there any products you would recommend that have helped you with your training or recovery? Do you also invest in manicures, pedicures, haircuts and coffee?