Holiday gifts for the runners in your life

With the holiday season here, I was inspired to make a mini holiday gift guide for the runner in your life!

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Running Shoes

Pretty easy right? wrong. Make sure you know the exact size, brand and type of runner they wear! There isn’t one single shoe out there that will fit all. If there is no way to figure out the size, brand or type of runner, a gift card will always be appreciated!

Technical Clothing

Running gear can make a runner more or less comfortable. With various climates and body temperatures, sometimes cotton will be the enemy. Cotton also can create grounds for chafing. No bueno. No need to spend crazy amounts of money on the big brand names. I find places like Wal-mart, Target, Winners, TJ Max and other discount stores have really great technical gear that is affordable and fashionable. Make sure the clothing can breathe and doesn’t have any crazy looking seams (no one likes chafing! ouch!).

Compression gear! it gets mighty pricey at times but can have some benefits. I am a huge fan of CEP compression calf sleeves and socks. Also, there are some really great compression tights and crops out there too.

hey-girl-lets-throw-on-some-compression-socks-and-just-cuddle

Running Accessories

For my winter runners, gloves that have the ability to still use touch screen electronics are seriously the best invention ever. Most of us run with either an ipod or smart phone these days! Does it snow where you are? find a good pair of gators or spikes that can be strapped on over runners to avoid getting snow in the shoes and avoid slipping! also finding toques (or for my American readers, beanies) or ear warmers/head bands are great. If you are shopping for a female runner that has long hair, you can buy many of these hats that have a hole to accommodate the ponytail! Dandy and looks like you have a squirrel on your head (what? totally does! think about it).

The COOLEST stocking stuffer ever? socks! what? everyone wants socks! okay maybe not everyone, but socks are a huge deal to runners and there are so many types out there! ankle socks, compression socks, double layered socks, thin layer socks, socks with support around the arch, etc! It is always good to have extra running socks around!

Above all else? BODY GLIDE or any other anti-chafe stick/cream. Once you get to a certain distance or time out on the road, many runners experience horrible chafing! Chafing from anything! Believe me! I have spots on my lower back STILL from my ipod creating friction on my waist band. These anti-chafe sticks are a blessing!

Reflective Gear

I can’t stress the importance of being as visible as possible. There are so many times I have had close calls with drivers who aren’t paying much attention, and it is hard to see into the card to get eye contact when it is on the darker side. Make sure you and your loved ones are properly lit! There are so many options: lights, reflective strips, knuckle lights, head lamps, reflective vests and much more. Every runner needs some kind of reflective equipment!

Fueling and/or hydration systems/packs/belts etc

If you have a half, full or ultra marathoner on your hands, a fuel belt, a box of gels, new bottles or flasks may be a good option as well. Just be sure it is something they truly want. Like most of us, we have our preferences. It can be as technical as shopping for a purse (am I right ladies?) I personally am a fan of the 2 10 ounce bottled holding fuel belts, but some may prefer the 4 7 ounce bottled belts. Or there are hydropacks as well that are more like a back pack with a long straw! Make sure to get their input!

Race registration

My, now husband, did this for a Birthday gift one year and I was very thankful. Registrations can get expensive! If you have a race bling addict on your hands (hey! we like our medals okay?!) then this will be a big help! Just be sure they have yet to register otherwise you may be running  along side with them!

itunes cards, music players, ear buds etc

I spend a good chunk of money on music. When you are out on the road for a while and do not have a training partner, sometimes music and a podcast are what get you through those days where mother nature is throwing every headwind possible at you. Not all runners listen to music, but I know many that do. I personally love my ipod since it has FM radio on it and it clips onto my belt (older generation) and nothing beats finding ear buds or headphones that do not budge!

Road ID

I am a huge believer in safety. I have been on the road with runners where something does go wrong and medical attention is needed. We don’t always run with a partner or group, so what happens if something bad were to happen? It is good to have ID on you regardless of how far of a run you are going for. There are many options from bracelets, to shoe tags, to writing labels for your clothing.

Motivational pieces

Have you heard: the hardest part is getting out the door? It is really true sometimes with us runners. Motivation and keeping your eye on the prize can be tough when its snowing out. So motivational pieces are key for people like myself. Before EVERY marathon I run I watch Spirit of the Marathon (the first one). Okay, maybe I am a tad superstitious and that is why I watch it before each race..I have a whole set routine! But it is the most inspiring running documentary. For the people with running readers on there hands, there are also some great books (and audiobooks for ON THE RUN 😉 ) out there for runners to learn and improve their running, or even just to read about other runners stories and get inspired.

Subscription to their favorite running magazine

I was gifted this one year and honestly it was a great gift. Running magazines are one of the few fitness type magazines I will actually read, and learn a bit from. Plus they are affordable for the most part!

Electronics

Now this is the more pricier gift on this guide, so it may be something you want to go halfsies on. Again, make sure you know what your runner wants.  Various GPS watches are a great tool to have but know that not every runner is into the techy side of things. Also, there are so many models out there and they all serve various functions. Make sure to ask many questions or at least get a gift receipt.

Pampering!

As we know, running can be physically and mentally demanding. Do you see where I am going with this? *ahem* SPA DAY *ahem* As gnarly as our runner feet can be, we like a good pedicure. Don’t even get me started on how awesome a relaxing massage can be! or if we are in the midst of training? SPORTS MASSAGE. We will love it!!!…err.. okay maybe AFTER the appointment after all the knots have been poked and kneaded out of us!

Or you could call these two devices “pampering” devices.. foam roller or “the stick” anyone? Okay they are love/hate devices but it helps massage our those muscles we work so hard! Every runner must have one or both of these! (LOVE the stick if you are a destination runner like myself. You can pack it so easily!)

Medal hangers

For the runner that has a large collection of racing bling, I suggest a medal wall hanger. There are so many out there of various sizes, colours and various motivational sayings! I absolutely love mine!

and if you just don’t know what their preferences are with any of these? GIFT CARD

I can always appreciate a lovely gift card to my favorite running stores and sports stores! I am a huge fan of gift cards! I rather have the person enjoy what I get them, rather than them saying “uhh thaaaaanks… you shouldn’t have…”

 

Happy Holidays everyone!

 

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The Importance of Cross Training for Runners

I have spoke to a few groups lately on this topic and as a runner and a gym addict, I want to show people how adding in one or more extra activities to their routine can benefit their overall fitness.

So lets get the captain obvious point out of the way. Running can be hard on our bodies. It is high impact and can often cause tenderness to our joints. Cross training can help us avoid injury by supplementing in low impact work that still increases out fitness. It can also help avoid over training, give us a little mental variety and help keep our fitness up if we are recovering from an injury. With so many benefits it stumps me when I hear runners saying cross training couldn’t benefit what they are setting out to accomplish. Their punchline is that if they want to improve their running they must run and I am not refuting that. But by adding another activity or two into your routine you can increase leg speed, finish runs with little to no tenderness in the hips or knees, create a more powerful push off and create greater range of motion in your joints.

What activities should I look at when cross training for running?

1.) SOMETHING YOU ENJOY
I find people will not keep up with an activity more often than not because they hate doing the activity. No one is forcing you to do that one activity! There are tons of options out there! Take up swimming, spin class, cycling, weight lifting, group fitness classes, yoga, cross training, you name it! Most facilities have a great policy when it comes to your first class or first time using the gym, try it out and see if that is something you want to keep up with!

Find something that could improve over all fitness
As runners we are bad for neglecting our upper bodies. The only time I recall using my upper body is when my legs are completely shot on the last few kilometers of the marathon distance. Here are a few examples:

Swimming is a great cross training activity as it works the muscle groups we often don’t use, its low impact and yet still aerobic like running.

Pilates is a great cross trainer as it can have a lot of focus on the core and many runners, again, tend to neglect doing core work. Sometimes lower back pain in runners can be caused by a weak core and/or taking strides that are far too long for them.

Yoga is an AMAZING cross trainer since flexibility has been linked to increase your speed as it opens up range of motion in your hips and allows for a stronger stride.

Cycling is great because it helps develop your quadriceps at a better rate than running. Runners hamstrings tend to develop much faster than the quadriceps. When there is a significant muscle imbalance, injuries become much more prevalent. Cycling is low impact, works many of the same energy systems as running, improves hill running and increases leg speed. Not too shabby! If cycling on busy streets just isn’t your cup of tea, take up a spin class!

Plyometric work! My favorite. Plyometric movements are explosive jumping type movements. Some of these movements are performed laterally which is very different from running (so I highly suggest not performing these in your running shoes since shoes designed for running are not built for this type of movement and you will ruin your runners!). Movements like jump squats, burpees, switch lunges and so on! (AKA SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME WORKOUTS!) They help increase power, lactic threshold, and push off!

3)Low impact vs high impact
This is just personal preference but on days that I am not scheduled to run, I look for low impact exercises to give my joints a little bit of a break. These are the days I work on strength, yoga, or cycling.

Feeling overwhelmed with how you will fit it all in?
– Plan ahead! Print off or buy a calendar where you write down your schedule at the start of each week. Bring in the post its and highlighter brigade!
– If you are weight lifting, write out what muscle groups you want to target and don’t work them out two days in a row (them muscles need time to repair so they can grow back stronger!)
Write out what day is your rest day! Rest is EQUALLY if not MORE important when it comes to working out!
Make sure you have flexibility in your routine somewhere even if it is just post workout. Stretching is VERY important!

For those who cross train with their running routine: What is YOUR favorite cross training activity?

For those who don’t cross train: What is holding you back from doing so?