Cold Weather Running Gear

I ran in the cold yesterday morning, and since I know there isn’t a LOT of info out there about cold weather gear, I thought I’d post about what I wore.  The Weather Network showed -22 degrees Celsius (that’s minus 7.6 degrees Fahrenheit for any American readers out there), so I wanted to be sure to stay warm.  It wasn’t a long run; I was only out there running for 25 minutes, and then about 5 more walking/stretching.  I’ve actually never been out longer than 40 minutes when it’s lower than -20; I’m afraid the dogs’ paws won’t handle the cold, so I don’t let them stay out for any longer than that.

I started with a base layer of Merino wool long underwear (both top and bottom) from Coast Mountain Sports.  I’ve had these pieces for quite a while, and couldn’t find a picture of them online.  On top of the long underwear, I layered a Lululemon Run Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve t-shirt.  I have two of these tops – one in a dark pink, and one in purple; I adore them both!  In hindsight, I think I probably could have gotten away with only one of the base layer tops, instead of wearing both the long underwear and the Lulu top, as I was VERY warm.

To round off the layers on top, I wore a third piece:  my Run: Back on Track Jacket, also from Lululemon.  Dear God – I just realized that I might have an addiction to this store.  Oh well, what can you do?  Their stuff is great!  This jacket is roomy enough to wear layers underneath, yet it doesn’t look bulky.  When I bought it, I intended to get it in pink, but they were all out in my size.  I’m glad, actually, since that forced me to try on this one in the grey with pink flecks, and I like it even better.  Plus, since it’s grey, it hides grime a little better than the pale pink would, I’m sure.

On the bottom, over top of my long underwear, I wore my Lululemon Run: Outward Bound pants.  I have also had these pants for a long time, but I do love them.  They are water repellent on the front, and have warm, soft, brushed fabric on the back of the legs to keep me toasty.  They have a draw string at the ankles, which is great!  I’ve been able to wear them long over skates, cinched at the ankles for running/walking, and I even turned them into crops once by cincing them way up by my knees.  My legs were perfectly warm on my run, and these pants are a big part of the reason why.

There are three more pieces that were very important for my run:  toque, gloves and a neck warmer.  The toque is called the Radiance Knit Toque; it is pink with reflective detailing to help keep me safe in low light conditions.  I purchased it from the Running Room a couple of years ago, and I wear it regularly.  Great purchase – it’s a pretty pink, it keeps me safe and warm, and obviously, because it is part of the pink ribbon campaign, purchasing it supports breast cancer research.  Feel good points too!

I wore gloves from the Running Room, but I’m not exactly sure what kind they are, and I can’t seem to find them online.  I can tell you that they were rated for cold (though I do believe there was an option to go a level colder when I bought them last year).  They keep me quite warm in cold weather when I am running, but I think I would want something with a bit more insulation if I was walking or doing an activity that didn’t keep me moving quite as fast.

My neck warmer is from the Running Room also: the Dryline Neckwarmer.  It is very light weight and not bulky at all, plus it covers my neck to keep me warm, and I can pull it up over the bridge of my nose in cold conditions to keep the air moist before I breath it in.  While the elastic band over the nose can be a bit snug, it isn’t uncomfortable, and the mesh panel allows me to breath comfortably while preventing the intake of dry, cold air directly into my lungs.

I didn’t wear anything on my feet besides my regular Asics running shoes and running socks.  Sometimes the tops of my feet feel cool through the upper mesh on my shoes, but once I get moving and my body warms up, it doesn’t bother me any more.  I have considered different socks, and will probably look for a warmer pair the next time I have the opportunity to stop by Coast Mountain Sports or the Running Room.  I have worn Due North Spikes, for added traction, but I find them more of a hindrance than a help.  They have been know to pop off of my shoes, and I’m always a little scared that I will step on one of the dogs’ paws with the spikes.  Where I live, most people are good about clearing their sidewalks, and I just watch where I’m running and tread carefully, so shoes without any added traction seem to be just fine.  Thus far (I feel like I should find some wood to knock on!), I haven’t had any ice-related spills.  All in all, I don’t mind running in the cold – especially when I get out on a weekend a little later in the morning so that the sun is shining bright in the sky.  While I know that cold weather running isn’t the way to improve my times or anything like that, I do enjoy the briskness – it’s a great wake up, and a lovely way to start my day!

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BOSU: A Fabulous Piece of Exercise Equipment

In my new career as a fitness instructor, I focus on using small, portable equipment in my classes.  I thought I’d review one of my favourite pieces of equipment – the BOSU (short form of “Both Sides Up”).  It really is a fabulous piece of exercise equipment, and there are so many different moves you can do using a BOSU.  Let me share a few of my favourites…

1. Kneeling on the BOSU

This move forces you to engage your core because you are unstable.  Any exercise you do while balancing on the BOSU has the added bonus of providing an ab workout – score!  I always add in hand weights for the addition of upper body strength moves:  bicep curls, front shoulder raises, side shoulder raises, or an overhead press.

2. V-Sit on the BOSU

The v-sit is an even more targeted ab move that will strengthen your core in no time.  To do this move, sit on the centre of the BOSU on your sitting bones (NOT your tailbone) and contract your ab muscles in.  My mantra is “belly button to spine,” and I say it so often that I sometimes worry my fitness participants might get sick of hearing it.  It is a very important message, though, so I will keep on saying it!  You basically want to create a V shape with your legs and upper body, then draw those two parts toward each other.  Repeat for 5-20 reps (do as many as you can within that range), rest, then repeat twice.  I find that placing my hands beside my butt on the BOSU gives a bit of extra balance and still provides an intense workout, but if you want more of a challenge, raise your arms up to chest height (like in the photo).

3. BOSU Push Ups

Push ups on the BOSU have all the typical chest/arm/shoulder strengthening benefits of a regular push up, with the added benefit of targeting your core more specifically than a regular push up can.  I’ve mentioned core muscles multiple times in this post for good reason:  the BOSU is an unstable surface, so you are forced to employ your core muscles more effectively in order to maintain your balance.  Doing BOSU push ups off the dome side, with the flat side down is very effective, but for an even more challenging exercise, try flipping the BOSU over.  Because the BOSU dome is rounded, placing it with the dome side down will provide even less stability – an excellent thing when you want to force your core muscles to work harder.  Push ups are fantastic all on their own; you use your own body as weighted resistance.  Using the BOSU (in either direction) only adds to the equation!

4. BOSU Squats  

Squats strengthen the glutes, quads and hamstrings, and are a great all around “functional fitness” move because they work muscles that we rely on in our day-to-day lives.  Just like all of the other moves I’ve described, doing squats on the BOSU adds the benefit of instability.  To do this move, begin with both feet on the BOSU and lower down into a squat.  Remember to keep your butt pushing back toward the wall behind you, and keep your knees above (never forward of!) your ankles.  Get as low as you can, with the end goal of having your thighs parallel to the floor.  Rise up to standing straight, then step off the BOSU with your right foot to the right side, and again lower down into a squat (following all the same guidelines as above).  Come back to centre, squat, rise, and then step off to the left into a squat.  That is one rep.  Repeat for 5-20 reps.  This move is an easy one to add in the cardio factor as well – simply speed up your moves with a “jumping” motion in between squats on the centre and off to each side.  As with any jumping move, though, please be careful to maintain proper alignment – keep your knees safe!

These four moves are really only the tip of the iceberg; there are MANY more moves that you can do with a BOSU.  One additional thing that is great about the BOSU is that it can be used for strength training using your own body weight AND it can also be used for a variety of cardio workouts – it is really a very versatile piece of equipment.  Good luck in finding new workouts and happy sweating!

Who doesn’t love shopping?

I had an appointment in Edmonton today, so I stopped at the West Edmonton Lululemon store to spend the gift certificate that Rob (the darling husband, if you didn’t already know) gave me for my birthday last month.  Let me start by saying that many people believe giving gift certificates is a cop out.  Those people are nuts!  Gift certificates are delightful; especially gift certificates for Lululemon or Chapters – you can send those my way any old time you feel like it.  I will love your gift, and I will love the experience of shopping for it myself.  It will be one of those gifts that keeps on giving!

But back to my shopping trip:  I spent the gift certificate (well, maybe a wee bit more than the gift certificate, but that’s not the point), and I’m so excited about my purchases that I feel like sharing one of them with you.  Not literally, though – my stuff will be staying in my own closet.  I purchased the Run: Stay on Course Pullover in the pretty  “pigment blue” and it is FABULOUS.  In fact, I already took it on a little run when I got home!  It was warm – I wore it with just a tank underneath and I wasn’t cold at all.  Granted, it was ridiculously warm out for January (my vehicle showed 12 degrees celsius this afternoon when I left Edmonton, and it was 2 degrees when I got back from my run in Vermilion), but I think it would keep me warm in somewhat colder weather too.  The sleeves have those little built in mittens to keep you fingers warm until you are warmed up enough to bare your hands.  This feature was perfect for tonight, since it was too warm for gloves.  The top is super soft against your skin, but blocks the wind really well at the same time.  The hood has the pony tail slit in the back, too.  I didn’t use this particular feature on my run, but I did try it in the store, and I’m confident it will keep the hood perfectly in place.  One of the neatest features is the iPod pocket inside the front pocket; it keeps your iPod from bouncing around so you can listen to “Eye of the Tiger” or whatever inspirational jam you happen to rock out to.  All of the stuff I just mentioned is great, but my very favourite feature is the length of this top.  In one of my previous posts I think I mentioned the extra 15 lbs that has magically appeared on my ass…doesn’t matter – the extra long length of the top covers it all up!

Run:Stay On Course Pullover  Thanks Lulu for the photo!

As I already said, this top is fabulous.  I’m not sure if the top had anything to do with it or not, but I thought you might also like to know that I got up to 14 minutes today before I had to stop and walk – go me!