My Yoga Must-Haves

First of all, happy early Fourth of July, everyone! We’re celebrating both the holiday and our three-year anniversary, and we’re doing so with our usual method of celebration: eating. Mmmm. I’m looking forward to trying out Shucks in Brookhaven. They have a happy hour special in which you can get a dozen oysters for $6. Sign. Me. Up.

I can’t believe it’s been three years since our wedding, and six years since I moved to Atlanta. My time in Georgia has been full of wonderful things, but I must admit, after a long period of drastic change, I find myself wanting to get back to my roots. You know, the things that have made me historically happy. Playing my guitar is one of those things. Yoga is another.

Brad and I have tried a couple generic yoga classes at the various gyms we’ve belonged to since moving to Atlanta, but ashtanga is my true love. Brad likes it, too. So, when we saw that an ashtanga-focused studio called onlYoga was offering a fantastic Groupon deal, we jumped at the chance to sign up. It’s only been a couple weeks, but we’re loving it so far, and I have optimistic dreams of making it my home studio.

Since I’ve got yoga on the brain, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite things. Of course, yoga and materialism aren’t really supposed to go together, but this is me we’re talking about, so clearly, I’ve gotta have the best gear. I have issues.

Glitter and Goat Cheese Yoga Must-Haves List

  1. Manduka PROlite Mat in Quest: When I started yoga in 2006-ish, I had no idea what I was doing, so I bought a super-thin Nike pilates mat. It worked out OK for a while, but now, my bones are getting older, I guess, and the cushioning just isn’t cutting it for me anymore. So, I recently upgraded to a big girl mat by Manduka. I did a lot of research, and I narrowed my choices down to the Manduka Pro (too heavy for walking to class from work), the Jade Harmony (not durable enough), Lululemon’s The Mat (Lulu has enough of my money), and the aforementioned PROlite (the winner!). I read a lot of reviews that said the PROlite could be quite slippery, but I prefer to use a non-slip towel on top of my mat anyway, so stickiness wasn’t a big factor for me. So far, I love it! It wasn’t cheap, but it has a lifetime guarantee, so hopefully, I’ll never have to buy another yoga mat again.
  2. BKR 500mL bottle in Cupcake: I totally fell prey to the marketing of this little guy. It’s all over the internet, and I’ll be honest: I wanted one because of the pretty factor. I got one for my birthday, and thankfully, it totally lives up to the hype! It’s pretty amazing how much better water tastes in a glass bottle, and the BKR has the perfect size and shape. Mine goes with me everywhere – it’s become like a security blanket. If you’re considering getting one, DO IT. You will love it forever and ever.
  3. Lululemon Swiftly Racerback in Heathered Black: As I mentioned before, I don’t love supporting Lululemon. But I have to admit: the products in their Swiftly line are great. You can sweat for hours, and they really do stay dry. And they don’t get smelly! It’s like magic. This particular top is a little too see-through for me to wear by itself, but I love it as my first layer. It’s nice and long, too.
  4. Yogitoes Mat Towel in Lapis: Mat towels are an absolute must for me. There are allegedly mats that keep you from slipping when you sweat, but I feel that I sweat an inordinate amount. We’re talking puddles underneath me (sorry, TMI?). Even if a mat could keep me from slipping in those conditions, I’d still have puddles on my mat, and that’s gross. I have to have a towel to soak up the sweat, and this one is the very best. It has little nubbins on the underside that keep it from moving around. Sadly, I actually don’t have this beautiful tie-dye one – my plain blue and orange towel is on its eighth year and still going strong. But if I ever replace it, you can bet I’ll be going for something with a little more pizazz.
  5. Athleta Relay Capri in Bora Bora Blue: These are technically running capris, which means they have a little zippered pocket on the back that might bother you during yoga. It can’t even feel it, though, and I prefer thicker bottoms – yoga pants tend to be on the thinner side – so these are perfection. They’re super slimming, and so comfortable!
  6. Manduka GO Roam bag in Pewter: When I upgraded my mat, I discovered that it no longer fit in my old Gaiam bag. Oops. Since I’ve been walking to class from the office, I figured another upgrade was in order. I just ordered this, so I can’t really review it quite yet, but I’ll check back in when it’s gotten some use. It has a large compartment in back for the mat, and two separate organized pockets in front for cell phones, keys, wallets, sunglasses, towels, etc. I think my water bottle will fit nicely in the mat compartment, too. I’m so excited! PS: All of Manduka’s yoga mat bags are on sale right now with free shipping, and you can get 15% off with the promo code INDULGE15. Shhh. You didn’t hear it from me.
  7. Lululemon Bang Buster Headband: As much as I want to, I just can’t seem to quit Lulu. This headband is amazing because nobody wants to wear bobby pins or hair clips during yoga. They stab you in the head! Not good. The extra-wide band on top keeps my bangs completely off my face, but the slimmer part underneath means I can still wear a low braid. I can’t find the one I have – “Wamo Camo” in pink and slate – on the site anymore, but I think they still have it in stores. It’s so damn cute, too. Ugh.
  8. Athleta Chi Tank Extra Long in Grey Heather: These are SO GOOD. They’re not too thick and not too thin. They’re not skin-tight (important for those of us who aren’t skinny minnies), but they’re fitted enough that they don’t fall down when you’re doing inversions. They’re the perfect length (make sure you get the Extra Long!). They come in beautiful colors (though they all appear to be sold out in my size), plus a few other patterns on the site. I only have one now, but as soon as my size in back in stock, I plan to stock up. Love ‘em.

So, those are my current favorite items! I already owned a few pieces, but many of them were birthday purchases. Happy birthday to me!

What’s on your favorite workout gear list? Link me – I want to see!

Atlanta Half Marathon: Three Days Later

I DID IT!

I didn’t mention what my time goal for the half marathon was in my last post, because I didn’t want to look like a lame-o if I didn’t make it … but I did! WOOHOO! The goal set by my coach was to finish in 2:25:39, and I ended up finishing in 2:24:40 – almost a minute ahead of schedule! I still can’t believe I pulled it off. That’s 33 minutes faster than my finishing time in April!

Our day started at 4:30 a.m., when we rolled out of bed and dragged ourselves down the stairs. Brad’s dad drove us to the race, and stuck around for four and half hours in the cold to take pictures and watch us finish. Thanks, Bill!

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Brad and Steph before the Atlanta Half Marathon

… I now know that my cheapo Target sports bra, while fine in the comfort and support department, is not doing me any favors visually. NOTED.

The Atlanta Half Marathon is nowhere near as big as the Nashville Country Music half we ran in the spring, but there was still a pretty huge turn-out.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Atlanta Half Marathon 2012 - Starting line

My husband, Fasty McFasterson, was two starting corrals ahead of me, so I checked out my surroundings and let the familiar feeling of mild annoyance wash over me. I’ve found recently that I really tend to fuel my running with anger … probably because I’m so cranky in the morning, which is when I usually run. I’m kind of a jerk, I guess. But how annoying is it to hear someone yelling, “You can do it! You’re halfway done!” when you’re only at mile 5 out of 13.1?! I HATE that.

Anyway, because it was Thanksgiving, there was a lot of this going on:

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon - Costumes

I do not understand how people can run in costumes. I can barely run in running clothes. But somehow, I made it to the finish line. I was really close to hitting my goal time, so I dug up some energy and sped up. That’s why I look so horrific in pictures like this one.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Steph at the finish line

Am I doing lamaze breathing?!

After I finished, I caught up with my father-in-law right away, and we finally found Brad back at the car. He was bummed out about some major IT band issues he experienced during the race, but I think he still ended up kicking butt with 2:16! We both need to remind ourselves that we’ve only been running for 11 months – just the fact that we’ve survived two half marathons each is something to be proud of.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Atlanta Half Marathon - Finisher Medal

All that effort so early in the morning made for a pretty laid-back Thanksgiving. We relaxed with Brad’s parents and a pot of soup, and saved all our cooking and baking for Friday. Pictures and recipes are coming in another post!

Oh, by the way – my runner’s knee was nowhere to be found on Thursday. I really, really slacked on my strength-training, so I’m very lucky. I SWEAR I’m going to do better with that next time around! However, I hope this will serve as a pick-me-up to those of you struggling with runner’s knee. Despite how horrible and hopeless it seems when you’re dealing with it, you CAN get past it and get to pain-free running. Stay positive! And there’s my cheesy enthusiasm for the day. And now I hate myself.

So, how was your Thanksgiving?!

     

Countdown to the Half: ONE DAY

Holy crap, the half marathon is TOMORROW!

I’m a little nervous, but I feel SO much more prepared than I was for my last one. I actually made it through 12 full weeks of training (as opposed to my solid THREE back in April). I wish my longest run had been longer than 10 miles, but at least I know that I have covered 13.1 before, and I survived.

For the past few days, I’ve been running without podcasts to see if it helped me focus on my breathing. It did, but it also gave me a lot of time to think. Our running coach has been amazing and has very high hopes for us, and I really want to live up to his expectations. He set a time goal for me that is going to be VERY tough, and he keeps assuring me that I can do it, but all I’ve been thinking about during my past few runs is how difficult it’s going to be. But I guess all I can do is trust my training and try.

I celebrated the culmination of our training by treating myself to a couple Lululemon pieces. Lululemon is CRAZY-expensive, but their stuff really is great. With my two new shirts and headband, and my other tried-and-true gear, I should be good to go.

Eeeeeeek! Wish me luck!

Any last minute advice? What are your running must-haves?

     

Countdown to the Half: 6 Weeks

Guess what, everybody! I’ve been running long enough to kill a pair of shoes!

Glitter and Goat Cheese - New Balance WR1400
Them things are dead.

Technically, my New Balance 1400s are racing flats, which means they wear out faster than regular running shoes, but WHATEVER. SHUT UP. I’m awesome! I’m a runner! Plus, my new ones are really pretty.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - New Balance WR1400
(I swear my ankles aren’t actually crooked. I’m just standing/photographing at a weird angle.)

Want to know another reason why I’m officially calling myself a runner now? A few weeks ago, Brad and I ran a race in Gwinnett called Ella’s Run, and … we actually … WON AWARDS. We both placed second in our respective age groups. Yes, you read that right. I know what you’re thinking – there must have been like, two people in my age group. INCORRECT. THERE WERE 17. You can look here if you don’t believe me. If you do, you’ll also see that my time was not fast. I mean, it was a time that someone like Bianca or Alex could get while, like, wearing flip flops and singing showtunes. But for whatever reason, 15 other women my age were slower than me. It could be because the course was really hard – half rough trail, lots of steep hills – and everyone else was like, “Screw it. It’s 9 a.m. and I’m in Buford. No one’s around to see me blow this race.” Whatever! I’m awesome! I’m a runner!

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Ella's Run 5K
Photo via Right to Hike on Facebook. I’m the one in the yellow shorts, muttering “Get out of my way, fools!” under my breath.

Other than that, training for the half has been going fine. We did a trial run with our coach a couple weeks ago so he could plan our pacing charts, and I ran my fastest mile ever at 9:55. I fully realize that 9:55 is still pretty slow, but considering that I started off running 14:00-minute miles in January, it’s a decent improvement. It’s tough for me not to be hard on myself, though. I asked my coach recently why I’m not faster. I asked him, is it because I’m not trying hard enough? Am I not in good enough shape? He assured me that it’s mostly genes. Some people are built for speed, and some aren’t. I definitely fall in the latter camp, and I have to live with that. I guess I’m lucky to have two legs, or whatever.

Anyway, I can’t believe we’re halfway through our half marathon training already! I have a confession: I haven’t been doing my strength-training to protect my bum knees. This is extremely foolhardy, considering that my physical therapist straight-up told me I’d get injured again if I didn’t keep up with my exercises. It’s just so hard to find time to run as it is, you know? But I have to get back into it. I HAVE to. After all this hard work, if I screw myself over right before the big race … it’ll be bad. Real bad.

Anyone else training right now? How’s it going?

     

Countdown to the Half: 11 Weeks

I survived my first week of half marathon training, and my first race since our long summer break! I’m so glad I signed up for the Reynoldstown Wheelbarrow Festival 5K.

Reynoldstown Wheelbarrow Festival 5K

I was scheduled to run four miles this weekend, so when I hit the finish line, I just kept running. I think everyone thought I was insane, but hey – you gotta do what you gotta do.

Because I’m still rather out of shape, running four miles takes me a fairly long time. Luckily, I recently met my new favorite running buddy.

Apple - iPod Shuffle
Photo via Apple

I’ve never been a fan of listening to music while I run outdoors. I get anxious when I can’t hear everything in my area – cars, bicyclists, rapists, angry geese, etc. But I recently discovered that when you listen to podcasts, you can still hear the world around you. Maybe because of the space in between the words? I’m a newly-minted fan of Pete Holmes’ You Made It Weird podcast, so I had a great time on Saturday, cackling to myself and looking like a crazy person while I jogged along.

Pete Holmes - You Made It Weird - Podcast
Photo via Bumpershine

(Sidenote: I absolutely love Pete Holmes. I interviewed him during Just For Laughs Chicago, and he is the funniest person I’ve ever met, hands down. The first time I listened to his podcast with Jenny Slate, I laughed until I cried. You should check it out. You should also watch this video from our interview. I’m the harpy cackling in the background.)

Anyway, back to running. Brad was kind enough to let me borrow the iPod Shuffle I got him for his birthday, but I’ll have to get my own soon, to use on days when we run at the same time (but not together). I’m waiting until Wednesday, though, because I heard Apple might announce more color options! I’m holding out on the off-chance they decide to release a gold glitter version. It could happen, right?!

I think this little guy is going to be extremely helpful when my long runs start getting really long and lonely. We’ve only got a few more weeks of single digit distances. YIKES.

To my fellow runners out there: Do you ever run with headphones? If not, how do you fight boredom during your long runs?