If I were Queen?

Last year, at the Royal Wedding. I was plotting even then.

We’ve had an amazing few weeks here in England, what with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the kickoff to the Olympics, and just yesterday, the Queen’s “Birthday parade” and the “Trouping of the Colour” – something akin to the Queen’s troop inspection, down there on the Mall.  As I was catching some of the procession yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of a song by the boys Great Big Sea, called “If I Were King”.  It got me wondering: what would I do, given the opportunity, to set the world afire as Queen?

Oh sure, I’d have to start with ditching the metric system.  I mean, I’m sure it’s great and all, but I’m just about done with screwed up cakes and cookies.  What? That’s too self-indulgent?  Hm.

Okay, well, then let me speak for my people.  My gorgeous, smart, sexy, stunning, dedicated, overworked, exhausted, want-to-exercise, sometimes-hate-our-selves, kick ass people.  What could I do for MY people, to make the world better, for the Plus athletes in all of us?

1. Everyone works 8 hours a day.  But only 8 hours.  This includes moms and managers, bus boys and grandmas.  We “work” in some form – but only for 8 hours a day and when it’s done, we gots time for healthy dinners and walks in the park and maybe even flirting with some hot dude in the Quickmart.  I believe that this place exists, and it’s called France, or Italy, depending on your assessment.  It’s a good place.

2. There are bike lanes in every city.  And none of this “painted” stuff – real bike lanes which prevent my people from getting hit by lorries or buses or doors from Trixies texting in one hand and checking lipstick with another.  They make it safe for all of us to ride where we want. My people, the people of occasional knee problems and a preference for non-weight-bearing exercise, they love the bike lanes.  They thrive.

3. We spend as much to develop effective Sports Bras as the lady did who designed Spanx.  The result is a wicking, separating, flattering, no-bounce dream of a sports bra which is far more comfortable and has an equal impact on the waistline as Spanx.  My people become more toned – because they are running now without threat of pain/bounce/chafe-o-rama- and get there without the aid of 10% lycra and at a cost that could (and should) be spent on LBDs and killer heels.

4. Every person who wants to become a runner gets a “runner starter kit” desgined specifically for plus-size athletes, and comes complete with a support group and coach to run their first 5k.  The starter kit has the right shoes (and of course comes with a free fitting!), shorts or capris which prevent chafing; a sports bra which neither dislocates your shoulder to put on nor leaves angry red welts to remove; and a shirt which neither clings to the boobage, the belly, or the butt, but rather skims appropriately in all locations while covering chicken wings aplenty.  It also includes a watch with run/walk intervals that you can actually USE and a water bottle pack which fits your waist – not the waist of Mary Kate Olsen (sorry, MK).

5. Running stores, retailers, apparel makers, etc. all offer at least one item from every collection up to a size 3X.  It is priced the same as the regular collection, in the same colors, and sold IN THE SAME STORES as the other parts of the collection – not online, but in a physical store. My people would get to try things on without the looming threat of yet another post office return.

6. Any store which claims to want to improve the health and wellbeing of the community around them, and which holds a license to sell sporting apparel shall hold, once per week, a workout course of some sort which caters to new athletes and only new athletes.  It is free, and it does not require the participants to drive somewhere else to do it.  It is also be realistic – no lunges, no scary shit.  Simple, effective, easy stuff.  Maybe (shock!) a walking group.  Maybe an “introduction to running” group, where you run for one minute, and walk for five.  EASY. NOT SCARY.  FREE.  Minimize barriers to entry and people will come.  HOW HARD IS THIS?

7.  All of my people learn how to swim as part of the elementary school education.  Yep. All of them.  Maybe I’d make it a requirement that you couldn’t get a license to drive if you didn’t pass a cycling test as well – because as many of us know, most of our journeys are under a mile – and why do them by car if you know how – and can physically do them – by bike?

8.  Overweight athletes are on the cover of major running, cycling, and triathlon magazines as frequent as their percentage of the sample of athletes they represent would require.  For example, runners, who comprise at least 40% of the running population (best guess, on a country-wide basis in the US) are on the cover of Runner’s World 40% of the year, reflecting the REAL look and feel of the running community.  Same for Triathlete magazine, and Bicycling (on a % basis).  Apparel stories for all magazines would include – for EVERY issue – recommendations on purchasing for Plus athletes to encourage more Plus athletes to be active.  Again, part of the social contract.   If Runner’s World, Triathlete, and Bicycling, just to name a few, can’t spare the column inches, we’d have a few suggestions for the stories they could trim down.  Just a few.

9.  Core strength for everyone! I’d enlist my former PT to run the nation’s course on “how to build a better core”.

10.  Every workplace has showers and a place to change before or after a workout.  This is good because in the Kingdom, at least once per week we commute on our own steam. We walk or run, or cycle.  But we need a place to shower or change before or after, and so we have it.  And no skanky showers, either.

Yep.  I think those are good starters for the Kingdom of Plus Athletes.  Wouldn’t it be grand?

Sigh.

For now, we’ll just have to take on all of those challenges on our own.  And yes, we can do it.  And yes, we can keep driving the bus.  But gosh, sometimes, don’t you wish it was just a little easier?  I know I do.

Selecting plus-size triathlon apparel for racing and training – the Spring 2012 guide for Athenas

Most triathletes admit that great gear and clothing makes training and racing more comfortable and efficient.  For plus-size triathletes (who manufacturers typically define as anyone over a US Size 16), the desire to look good – and feel good – while racing and training is no different than that of the average triathlete.   But until recently, the simple act of finding apparel in Athena sizing was nearly impossible.

Not anymore.  In the past few years, manufacturers have slowly begun to offer running, cycling, and triathlon apparel ranging from sizes from 16-24.  Danskin, Moving Comfort, Nike, C9 for Target, Pearl Izumi, Zoot, Terry Bicycles, New Balance, Sugoi, REI, Junonia, and Aerotech Designs each offer apparel in a variety of sizes, technical sophistication, and styles to suit everyone from the first-time Sprinters to the returning Ironman.  For many women, though, selecting training or racing apparel online (the only location most are sold) remains a challenge.

As an Athena with her eye on the Virgin London Triathlon in September, I’m searching for a multi-purpose top for run and bike training, and a pair of cycling capris and shorts for my daily ride to work and weekend long rides to the country.  I’m also in need of a new racing kit (top and shorts).  Here’s a quick view to how I’ve selected my kits, and a few rules to keep in mind as you shop this season.

1.    Prioritize your needs.   Purchasing Athena triathlon clothing requires compromise.  It’s unlikely that you’ll find a piece which is as flattering as your favorite little black dress, in the color you were born to wear, with the technical fabric worthy of an Ironman, at a bargain price.  Before you begin, consider what’s most important to you – and assess your options accordingly.

This season, I want comfortable training apparel that looks great.  On the bike, that means flat seams, great fabrics, and a women’s specific chamois; for both cycling and running, I want a multi-purpose top that fits but isn’t too baggy, and won’t catch the wind.

For my racing kit, I want a supportive and fast-drying, cool top which will fit under my wetsuit; and a pair of racing shorts with a stash pocket.  Both should be quick-drying but supportive fabric, with no risk of chafing.  Great colors are a bonus.

2.    Your measurements rule.  Write down these three measurements:  the widest part of your bust; your natural waist; and the widest part of your hips.  Understanding your sizing makes reviewing apparel options simple and eliminates unnecessary purchases and returns.  Generally speaking, once you know your sizing, you’ll also understand which manufacturers you can rely on for purchases.

From smallest to largest (Size 16 or XXL to Size 26), search for your apparel from retailers in this order: Zoot, Sugoi and Pearl Izumi; Danskin, Moving Comfort, and New Balance; and Terry Bicycles, Nike, Aerotech Designs and Junonia.

At 44-38-49 (measurements I’m certain my grandmother and mother will be appalled that I’m admitting, but which I offer in service to you, dear reader),  I limit my search to those with generous XXL sizing and dedicated plus sizes.   

3.    Select clothes that are well made and fit you well – and which may not be specifically made for triathlon.  Triathlon apparel tends to run very close to the body, which can be a challenge for many Athenas.  But racing in baggy, cotton clothing can lead to painful chafing and make you look bigger than you are.  Why bother when there are plenty of clothes out there which can fit you properly?  For my search, I select clothing no more than 1.5” larger (or smaller) than my measurements.  I also considered running, yoga, or other cross-functional tops in addition to triathlon-specific tops.  Not sure what’s a technically superior short?  Look for flat seams, quick drying fabric, a non-bulky chamois, and comfortable leg openings.

The final selections

For training – comfortable gear that gets the job done.

The Shirt. Nike’s Extended Miler is great for everyday running and cycling.  (MSRP $42, 1X-3X)

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The cycling capris. Terry Bicycles’ Knicker Plus capris (MSRP $100, 1X-4X) are  comfortable and ultra-flattering, and make early morning or evening rides a breeze. 

Terry's Knicker Plus tight handles the morning commute and then some.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mac daddy training short. Pearl Izumi’s PRO In R Cool short (MSRP $150, XXL fits to 47.5” hip, with just enough stretch to suit our 49” tester) is a technical dream with non-binding waist and leg openings and a UPF 50+ that can cool the body’s surface temperature up to 5%, a significant benefit for plus-size athletes who can be challenged with temperature control.  

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These shorts. The fit of an amazing piece of technical gear, great chamois. Check PI's sizing charts for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For racing: a kit to take you to the finish.

The swim/bike/run short.  Danskin’s 7” Tri Short (MSRP $52, to XXL/ 20 ) is long, lean, and worry free with flat seams, a light racing chamois; multi-panel, wicking construction; silicone leg grippers and a small back zip pocket.  A tried and true tri short practically fitting most up to size 22. (available at Danskin.com or REI.com).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nike’s Women’s Shape Sport Top (MSRP $55, 1X-3X) isn’t made for Triathlon – but it serves a purpose for Athenas, works great under your wetsuit and promises to dry quickly.  Sturdy shelf-bra included; but feel free to supplement with your own.

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Luck

There is something that happens when you become a regular runner.  You believe less in luck, and more in training.  Run any half marathon or marathon, and train seriously for it, and you begin to believe that with the right nutrition plan, training plan, pace buddies, shoes, gear, clothing, and attention, you can control how and when you finish that race.

For about 10 years, that’s how it went for me.  If I ran a bad race, it was usually on me – I either hadn’t trained enough, or hadn’t thought through the course.  If I got hurt it was on me.  I didn’t stretch enough, or I didn’t stop when the pain told me to.  In 2009, when plantar fasciitis reared its head while I was intermittently running (and still training), I didn’t listen up and slow down, and I paid in the end, with a two year condition that only recently healed after two bouts of PT and finally, a quick surgery.

Those of you who read regularly know that I moved to London from Chicago in 2011.  It was 10 weeks after surgery, and those first few weeks, months in London were tough.  I was in trainers every day, and the pain was still pretty regular.  By summer, it was getting better.  By September, it was gone.  I felt strong, and I had lost some weight, and I started to run again.  It was awesome.

I ran on the common by my house, and on the road when I traveled.  I ran so much when I was home in Cincinnat and Chicago at Christmas that I felt like I would never stop running again.  I felt the kind of joy that I remembered from those first days of running.  And so when, in mid-February, it snowed here, I felt like a kid who’d won the lottery – lucky, lucky, lucky to get to run on one of my favorite vistas – a park in snow.

I laced up my trainers and went out for a run.  It was a bit squishy – a bit slid-y. A bit wet.  I caught up with my brother and nephew building a snow fort, and we had a great time.  I ran home, and all was well.  And three hours later, I left my house to go to a Superbowl party, slipped on a patch of ice in front of my apartment, and felt my knee slam into itself in a way that wasn’t good.  I held up, and held on, for a minute.  Then I kept walking to the train.  By midnight, mid-way through the game, I couldn’t go down the stairs without it locking up.  The next day, I compounded the mistake in a pair of heels at work.

Six weeks later, I have the diagnosis.  I’ve been benched for that time, icing, resting, ibuprofening away here, and it’s not gotten any better.  Well, technically, that’s not true. I can now go down the stairs without flinching (but not without a rail).

I’ve managed to tear the meniscus in my knee in two places.  One on the inside left, one on the center of my left knee.  One would likely heal.  The other, not so much.  The doctor tells me that there’s an easy procedure to clean it up, a keyhole surgery where they trim down the cartilege or something and that makes it better.  I’m working out the logistics of a second opinion, a schedule, and a plan.

In the meantime, I’m pondering luck.  Maybe I’ve been lucky all these years to have so few injuries.  Maybe I’ve been stronger, and maybe now I’m just old and out of shape. I don’t really know.  I do know that this makes me want to throw things at a wall, and that’s not so good.  So I’m going back to the original plan – to have one.  Get a doc. Get an opinion. Get the surgery.  Get back out there.

Lucky as I may have been, I never saw that patch of ice, and I had no chance to adjust.  I was unlucky.  It happens.  So now it’s time to get to the pool, and walk while I can, and bottle the frustration of living in this lovely city which makes cycling a bit too dangerous and swimming a bit too inconvenient.  The excuses will have to go for awhile, while I try to get the groove back.

Luck’s a bitch.  But she’s got nothing on me, and my plan.

See you on the path….

Fifty minutes to the sea

Fifty minutes from London, there’s this place you might have heard of.  It’s called the English Channel.  This thin strip of sea which separates England from continental Europe (France, to be clear) is so thin that swimmers regularly cross it, and the Top Gear guys once built a car boat and successfully went coast-to-coast.

What amazed me this Saturday wasn’t that the Channel exists; it’s that it took me 9 months to realize it’s a fifty minute train ride to get there.  How did I not know this?  How had I wasted so many weekends in my apartment, watching re-runs of True Blood or reading the latest novel, while this gorgeous countryside awaited me?

I wasn’t disappointed in the trip.  My friend from work and I (Carolina, she of the blue top in the pics below) met up with a Meetup group who offered a guided hike (great when someone else does the navigating!).  All we had to do was show up at Liverpool Street Station at 9 a.m. I, of course, was late.  But I wasn’t so late that I didn’t make the train – and I met some really cool people along the way.  Below, a few pics from the trip (because y’all occasionally ask)!  Yes, you’ll note that I’m hiking in jeans (a first for me). I  wouldn’t normally, but it was an okay way to go, even if the mud was up to my ankles by the time we got back on the train.

And also, a word about the views – this place was really spectacular (it’s called Leigh on Sea) and it’s going to be host to the mountain biking course for the Olympics for 2012.  And the best part about it, yes, was the small sea town at the end of our journey.  Ironically, we never got to the wide open beach-type view you expect; but for a little while at the end, we stood by the sea wall, and watched a great sunset, enjoying the freshest fish and some excellent company.  I’d write more, but there’s nothing pithy or wise to say about it – I went, it was fun, and I’ll do something again. All in all, an excellent adventure for  a fifty minute train ride just East of London.

Carolina leading up to Hadleigh Castle

 

Walking into the castle grounds- it was on a fault line and shortly after built in the 13th century, began falling off a cliff. Literally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't I look like the picture of fun? Yeah. It was pretty cool. That's the sea behind me in the distance.

Advice for the parents of little girl athletes everywhere. (Not nearly as funny as Tina Fey.)

I am not a mother.  Let me state that up front.  I don’t change diapers or wipe snot from noses which can’t create enough force to blow themselves.  I don’t have the pleasure of sleepless nights thanks to anything other than an overly hot duvet, nor do I get the reward of little arms wrapped around my neck each morning which shout a quiet “i love you” before the owner is too awake to know that she’ll despise me in a few years.   I am, however, an Aunt to two spectacular little girls.  One, I’m getting to know quite well these days, and she knocks my socks off pretty much every time I see her.  One’s just a mini-munchkin who I’ve only seen twice, but judging by her moms, she promises to have enough spirit and German engineering to set the world on fire some day.

Why am I talking about these girls?  Simply put, I think I can make a better list.  See, lately, I’ve read some pretty interesting “lists” of advice for mothers, and daughters.  There’s Tina Fey’s hysterical prayer for her daughter.   There’s the “50 Rules for Dads and Daughters” , and then there’s Sheryl Sundberg (CFO of Facebook)’s commencement speech at Barnard College last year, where she dishes out bits of advice for young women graduates (if you haven’t read it, do.)  They’re all occasionally inspiring, touching, and left me hoping that my accomodation of these lists would involve a bell curve.

But seeing as how I’m neither a highly paid comedienne, nor running the Finance function of the most successful internet company (ever), I figured I’d have little to share which might add to this ListMania.  But then I remembered (especially according to an excellent Saturday Night Live skit this weekend), in today’s day and age, I can say ANYTHING!  And it will be AWESOME  (I kid).

No, seriously.  I honestly just felt that there must be some general guidance out there for the parents of little girls who might, one day, become athletes.  There’s lots of them out there, and as a former Little Girl Who Played Sports, and adult Coach of Little Girls Who Loved Playing Sports, and as a current Advocate for Adult Big Girls Who Love Playing Sports, I thought I’d have something to add.

So here, in the spirit of the Plus Runner, is my best advice for your daughters, distilled into a few pithy comments that hopefully make you smile.  Happy Monday.

1.  Get your daughter to try every sport you can, even the ones that will make her dirty, sweaty, and scare you to death.  Every time she does, she’ll find out a bit more about who she is, and what she loves – even if it scares the heck out of you.   Also, learn early that there’s no faster cleanup than covering her in a Hefty bag while entering your car and hosing her down with the garden hose on exit.

2. Encourage her to play solo sports, and as part of a team.   Solo sports teach her that she can, in fact, be terrible and still find something rewarding in it.  They also teach her the power of her own steam and the strength of her own body.  Team sports teach her the joy of helping her friends win, crushing the opposition, and the feeling of letting a team down.  Don’t underestimate any of these things, and their role it will have in helping her join the workforce in 20 years.

3. She’s not going to be good at every sport.  Well, mostly.  Get over it.  And let her figure it out.  If she cares enough to want to be on the “A” team, she’ll practice more.  She may or may not get better, and make that team.  In either case, she’ll probably still be playing something, (a win) – and chances are she’ll probably enjoy it more than doing her homework.  And yes, she’ll learn that sometimes, other people are actually better at something than you are.  Again, a valuable lesson in today’s age.  (Oh, and when she gets cut from that team you think she should be on, DO NOT appeal the ruling.  This is not the Supreme Court of My Daughter is Awesomeland.)

4. Learn how to complement her play.  This is not to be confused with spewing BS at every available juncture.  Giving true, favorable praise will do more for her confidence than fabricated platitudes.  Learn the game she plays well enough to do this for her, and remember that for every one criticism she hears, she’ll need to hear four positive comments to counter the hit to her self esteem. Don’t let this prevent her coach from coaching her – but let the coach do the dirty work if you can.  If her coach seems unlikely to ever learn the balance, introduce them to Mr. Jackson’s program, above.  It’s pretty cool, and it works.

5. Play her favorite sport with her, even if you’re terrible.  Also, you are allowed to get dirty, and sweat.   Seeing her parents play helps reinforce the fact that you value it.  Growing up, I remember playing soccer with my father, and even golf (!) with my mother.  Neither one of them loved those sports, but they did it to spend time with me.  Your kids know you’re no Pele or Anika, and that’s okay – it’s the effort that counts.

6. CAN’T is a four letter word.  Never tell her she can’t play a sport – always, always let her try.  Even if you think she can’t hack the physical demands, or doesn’t have the coordination, let her learn the lesson on her own.  So she’s not good: put her on a lower-skilled team and let her learn.  Not fit enough?  Coaches expect this, particularly in recreational leagues today.  Let her play into shape – in the right league.  If you’re not sure how to handle it, talk to a coach, but do everything you can to encourage her to keep playing.  The longer she stays a part of organized sports, the higher her self esteem, less likely she is to engage in risky sexual behavior, and less likely to be brought down by depression and anxiety.  

7. Let her play with boys.  She’ll never forget the feeling the first time she scores a goal against a boy, fields his line drive down the third base line, or powers a forehand past him, and she’ll realize that her talent – and her drive to win and succeed – is absolutely comparable – a feeling you certainly want her to remember when life gets slightly more complicated a few years down the road.

8. Teach her that emotion has a place in sports, and sports has a place in emotion.  Let her cry when she loses and scream when she wins.  And when she throws on her shoes for a run, or turns to a hitting wall or a punching bag when she’s mad, let her go, so she learns that this healthy way of dealing with things (as opposed to The Alcohol, The Food, and The Drugs)  will always be there for her, whatever the win or loss.   Regardless of this, also make her shake hands with the opposing team, every time, no matter how angry, sad, or frustrated she is with a loss.  It is, after all, just a game.

9. Teach her that sport has no use-by date.  Find one sport you can play – whatever it may be – and play it for you.  Show her that lifelong athletics are rewarding – that sweat’s not for kids and professionals, but moms who work hard, and make dinner, and drive carpool, and still make time for tennis or soccer or running.  Show her that lifetime fitness is joyful and fun.

10.  Support girls and women in sports.  She may never have the option or the interest to go professional in Lacrosse, or Fencing, but there are college teams with Olympians and pop up pro leagues all over the world.  By supporting them, you show her that you value their athletic talent as much as men – and in today’s day and age, when we women all expect equal pay for equal work, it’s good to put our money where our expectations are.  For more information, check out the NCAA, the Women’s Sports Foundation, or the US Olympic Committee for a few ideas.

I guess in closing, the only question I have is this: how many of us can say we meet these expectations every day?  Do we all need to be graded on a bell curve? Probably.  But it sure is nice to have a target, isn’t it?

See you on the path!

Putting on your wetsuit: it’s not for sissies

I’ve been getting quite a few questions about wetsuits lately, and thought it would be helpful for those of you who don’t train in a group to see a demo of the best way to put on your wetsuit.

My best experience putting on a wetsuit is always at dawn on a beach somewhere, when no one else is around and the suit slides right on.  The worst are usually mid-morning, on a beach somewhere, when there’s an audience of non-athletes who are just trying to find ways to amuse themselves. 

Now, fair warning:  this model (provided to us by Xterra) seems to just slip right in to her suit.  I can honestly say that never, in my 12+ years of racing, have I “slipped in” to a wetsuit.  But she’s got the idea right.  It’s like pantyhose, only tighter. It’s like a hot, thick, pair of leather pants with a chubby liner.  Right.  It sounds appealing, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s not all bad.  Just remember the following tips before you try this at home:

1) Never, ever ever, ever ever do this when you’re hot and sweaty.  At least try to start from a position of cool, calm dryness.  If you can’t, well, just be prepared to be dripping when you’re done.

2) Consider using Body Glide around your ankles to help with the on/off of legs (I glide up the back of my calves).  You can also use something called “Suit Juice” which is a godsend if you can find it. 

3) Body Glide the underside of your arms (the part that lays flat against the rubber by your bra) if you’re wearing a sleeveless suit. 

4) Body Glide the back of your neck where the suit ties up – this is especially true if your suit is a bit big on top (as mine is because I had to size up). 

5) Don’t get into your suit more than 30 minutes before your start.  Otherwise, it’s like a sausage-fest-bakeoff in the morning heat and you’ll have worked yourself into a hot state before getting in the water.  Put it off and then put it on.

6) Take one last bathroom break before getting in the suit.  Yep, didn’t think of that, did you?

7) If the suit is a bit short for you in the legs, that’s okay – the most important part of hte fit is to not have a gap underneath your crotch.  Pull the legs up if you must, but if there’s space between the suit and your crotch (the low-rider syndrome), shimmy the suit up until it’s even, and then test by connecting the back closure.  If the suit is pulling on you in the front, try to adjust, swim in it once for testing, and decide if it’s the right size for you.

That’s it from here.  Enjoy the video.  I’d put one up of me doing it, but I just can’t afford the hassle of becoming the wetsuit pinup model 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL7iJcOuBo0

Plus Size Triathlon Clothing: Summer 2011 Edition

I am always amazed this time of year how the stats start bumping up at PlusRunner.  I’ve been live here for a couple of years, and without fail, every summer, there’s a mad dash to the site for people looking for plus-size triathlon apparel.

It’s not easy finding these items in your local multisport store, where most small box retailers don’t see the kind of foot traffic in “our” sizes to “justify” expanding the line.  I understand the concept of buying for the market, but it still smarts a bit when you find that you’re not quite a member of the club you know you’ve earned entry into.

So, with that in mind, welcome to the Plus Runner’s Third Annual Triathlon Apparel preview.  This is, largely, a web-based exercise.  There are rules for those of you who want to buy cute stuff in the right size, and it pays to keep them in mind:

1) Try to buy with enough time to return something if it doesn’t fit.

2) Look for technical quality if you’re going to spend some cash.  For us, that means: flat seams to reduce chafing, technical fabrics which dry quickly, and for tri shorts, silicone or similar leg grippers and multi-panel construction (multi-panel means the short is more likely to move with you – and not tear or rip if it’s overstressed.) 

3) If this is your first season, and you have a budget, buy things you will use again if you stay interested in one of the sports – but maybe not all three. That means rent a wetsuit if you can, and focus on sportsbras, shoes, and shorts which will be re-used if you’re cycling or running. 

So, for this season, a few old favorites and a few new finds.  My favorite manufacturers are, in no particular order, Danskin, Nike, and Pearl Izumi (which I actually haven’t featured here today).   Secondary favorites include Junonia and Athleta.  And finally, Aerotech Designs makes a plus-size tri short and suit which you can use, but reader feedback has been mixed (sizes are very large, and the pad can feel diaper-esque). 

Tri Shorts

Danskin makes two different shorts which tend to sell out rather quickly each year.  Offered in a Size XL and XXL, their sizing starts where Zoot ends.  Both a 5″ and 7″ inseam short are offered, and this season’s have (as always) a contrasting panel on the sides of the legs which looks super cute and coordinates with all of their other apparel.

Danskin has long been an advocate in the triathlon market for women becoming more active, and their size offerings reflect their commitment to the idea that plus-size women can use triathlon to be more fit.  They also sell a variety of shorts at Wal-Mart (though that line tends to be more “light active” with cotton, etc.)

Danskin’s Triathlon Short Blocked 5″ Print Style – compression style, flat seams, drawstring waist, mesh pockets, and silicone grippers.  Retails for $48, but some sale items at $24.    They also offer a 7″ inseam solid black style, (which is what I wear, and love).  Finally, for those who need more room than Danskin can provide, check out Aerotech’s tri shorts – up to Size 5X.

Danskin's 5" short

If you’re doing a short race and don’t need a chamois (and by short, I mean most sprint triathlons, where you will be on the bike for less than an hour) I would recommend purchasing a standard compression short.  These shorts can be used for anything you want to do that’s active – particularly walking and running – and you will wear them for years.  Moving Comfort offers, I think, the best short in this market right now for our size (even Nike only offers a longer walking short – which can be far too warm on the hottest days of summer). 

Moving Comfort for Women Compression Short – available in size 1X and 2X.  $38, flat seams, wide no elastic waistband, and 9″ length.  For larger sizes, I recommend Junonia’s compression short.

    

Finally, if you’re not thrilled with wearing compression shorts for an entire race, check out some of the great butt-covers on the market this year.  Athleta offers a CYA skrit in a 1X and 2X in both print and black; ($39) Terry offers its Wrapper ($50), and Danskin also offers one.

 

Terry Wrapper – $50, Good prints, and this stuffs in your bike bag for quick toss-on after a ride or workout. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tops

The top question plagues us all every year.  Working backwards from the run, many of us plus-size women can’t possibly complete a 3-26 mile run without a bra.  I mean, I like minimizing equipment, but this is one I can’t live without.  I’ve talked plenty about bras elsewhere in this site, so I’m not going to do it here, except to remind you to SKIP THE COTTON.  Oh, and BodyGlide all around for a triathlon.

But, working backwards, if you need to wear a bra, you’re likely going to have to also swim in that bra – because there’s no point in losing 10 minutes trying to delicately put it on in Transition (wet. in a hurry. Yeah, right?).  So, assume you’re going to be in a bra.  Then, if you’re going to be in a wetsuit, you need to have on the lightest tank you can get your hands on.  Typically, these are second-skin, swimsuit-type tops for the skinny and regular size girls out there. 

If you want to wear a more body-hugging tank (either alone without a wetsuit or underneath one) you can buy the Danskin top featured below.  I have never worn this only becuase I’m a bit conscious of the winter survival pack which I wear around the midsection which somehow always seems to last through the summer (see tire, spare.)  But if you’re not body-conscious, or you just don’t care (something I advocate but in this case can’t do myself), try this:

Danskin’s Tri Top $52, mesh inserts, shelf bra, flat seams, back stash pocket for your Gu.

New Balance Lightweight Tank (up to 2X)

New Balance has offered quite a selection lately because of its affiliation with the Susan G Komen and Avon 3 Day programs, and we’re better for it.  Though the sizes only cover up to a 2XL, their lightweight tank is a good option if you’re looking for something to throw on after the swim – or even wear in the water.  It’s much lighter, for example, than the Nike counterpart.  There are several more to choose from if you don’t like this style – simply do your own apparel search at New Balance in your size.

Junonia’s Quick Wick Tank – less body-fitting, very cute, and would be great for yoga. Not sure of the fabric weight – looks heavy to me. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nike’s Border Tennis Tank  – $45

This is a tank that will have plenty of room, wick well, and look good.  I’ve now got three of the Nike tops and I love their weight and look.  They’ll be a bit bulky on the swim, so if you’re going for this one, assume you’re swimming in just your sportsbra.  For a closer fit, check out the Dedication Long Top, which you could wear in the water.

And for now, kids, that’s it for this preview.  Let me know what you think – do you want more options? More color? More sizes?  What are you wearing this summer?  Let me know – and get moving!

See you on the path…

Are we capable of change?

We’ve all heard the story about the friend who received some bad medical news.  He’s got (heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, joint pain, back pain, gall bladder problems) and knows, cognitively, that changing his behavior may be the only way to live a full life.  He wants to see his grandchildren grow old, or meet the love of his life, or go on that vacation he’s always dreamed of.  But he can’t, because he’s seriously overweight and he can’t even envision getting started on a new program, let alone what he might look like if he were to become that guy.

That guy is, fundamentally, where we all have to start as we picture who we want to be when we lace up our shoes each day.  That guy is us – minus 20, 50, 100, or 200 pounds.  So how do we start to see ourselves as that guy?

I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately, thanks to my job.  Interestingly enough, there’s a whole field of study out there about what it takes to change behavior for good.  Not surprisingly, it’s called “change management”.  If you work for a large company, chances are you’ve been through a process that uses the principles of change management at one time or another.   At its core, there are a few lessons about making change stick – personally, they’re slightly different, but this is what’s been hitting home for me lately.  To get someone to change their behavior, you have to do a couple of key things.  First, that person  has to:

1) Believe that the benefits of changing far outweigh the current situation; and

2) Be able to envision themselves living out that change when it’s complete.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a really high bar.  Most of us, even if we’re overweight, probably think that our life is okay.  But if I were to inventory what’s good – and what I think needs to be better in my life – I have to be DAMN honest about it to admit that the benefits of changing outweigh the current situation.   Curious about what it might look like for you?  Well, here’s my take on it (it being a combination of weight AND fitness, which for me, are intertwined. I don’t talk exclusively about weight, and I don’t talk exclusively about fitness.)

What are the current disadvantages of living in this body?

1) I’m active, but the impact of being overweight is starting to wear on me.  After years of running, I have an injury which is certainly related to my weight, and which isn’t going away.  It’s keeping me from doing what I love.

2) I’d love to date more! I know, I’m fabulous and all, but the fact remains, ours is a superficial society, and men generally have a probem dating overweight women.  There’s a blanket assessment that if you’re overweight, you’re inactive. I’m not finding the kind of guy who I want to, and part of it is related to this.

3) I’m a shopaholic, and until I start designing clothes, I have a hate/hate relationship with plus-sized fashion.  It’s fine -but I’d like to look better in my clothes.

4) Assorted disadvantages (none of which are nearly as important to me as the first three: increased risk for various things (cancer, hypertension, high blood pressure); feeling judged or uncomfortable in front of others (trains and planes); and the inability to wear not-even-killer 2″ high heels due to this running injury.) Ahem.

What are the advantages of changing?

1) Confidence and comfort in myself and my appearance, wherever I may go.

2) Ability to take on any physical challenge, with just the “regular” things holding me back!

3) Ability to walk into a store and buy anything. That looks good.  This too becomes more important as work may have me relocating soon to London, where there are fewer clothes and lines for people my size.

4) Better Hanger Appeal.  This is what Nina Garcia of Project Runway calls a look that knocks you out on the hanger – not just when on your body.  For me, this is the dating issue – I’m great once you’re sitting next to me, but improving my Hanger Appeal would surely help (for example, in that picture up above, I’d like to be slightly less chesty, and be baring some Michelle Obama arms!)

5)Decreased risk of injury.  I have no numbers to support this, but physics tells me that the bigger I am, the harder I fall.  It also means I land harder, and I believe that my increase in weight is partly to blame for my 2-year bout with Plantar Fasciitis.  I’d like that to go away. 

6)  Decreased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, blah blah blah. These are longer-term variables, and I’ll admit, they don’t make me swoon.  But they should be considered as positives.

So that’s my list.  Now, I’m going to ask you: what’s on yours?  What do you find is keeping you on the couch, and off the path?  What do you think motivates you to get moving, and start to change?

Once you’ve thought about that, I’d encourage you to think about the next big question (part 2 in our analysis above): can you actually see yourself getting to a point in your life where you moved more, weighed less, and felt better about yourself?  Can you picture yourself doing it, and what you might look like if you did it all the time?  Can you see yourself in a different, stronger body?

Personally, I think this is the hardest part.  I don’t care how long you’ve been battling your demons, the mental act of envisioning yourself as something different takes more than imagination- it takes a leap of faith.

Maybe the last picture you have of yourself at a reasonable weight was when you were a teenager. Maybe you’ve never had that photo.  If that’s the case, here’s what I want you to do:  find a 5k in your town.  Go to the local gym.  Stop in at the YMCA.  And look around.  Really, really, look.   There will be people there of every size.  Picture yourself standing between them.  Right now.   Watch them run, or walk, or lift weights, or swim.  Picture yourself joining them.  If you can picture that – just joining them for one day – you’ll have already done something you didn’t think possible – you will have started seeing yourself as an active person. 

It’s not easy to do if you’ve been hurt, or sedentary, or just plain broken.  It’s not easy when you have a history of failed attempts.  If you do, don’t ignore them – use them.  I like to think of starting a new fitness or exercise program as the best things that baking has taught me.  If I burn the cookies on a certain pan, next time up I either turn down the temperature or shorten the baking time.  It’s the same thing with working out.  I know without a doubt that I will never – ever – successfully maintain an early morning swim routine.  I hate getting up early, and I might make it one day, but I’ll never make it more than two weeks.  So if I’m going to swim, I have to join a gym that has hours after work, and I have to plan accordingly.  I know that works for me, so you won’t find me committing to pre-work swims any time soon.

I also know that when I make moving more easy and accessible, I’m likely to do it more often.  That’s why there’s a balance ball, weights, and a bike trainer in my house for the winter.  Also, because I’m likely to work late, eat dinner, and veg instead of pedaling in front of the TV for 30 minutes a day, I know that I have to plan each week what I’m going to try to do.  Even if I don’t get the exact schedule done as listed, I’ll be more likely to stick with it if it’s written down.

But those are my lessons, and those are my adjustments.  Think about what your lessons are as you embark on your new programs this year.  Think about what will help you be most successful at whatever you choose to focus on.  Think about long term change.  And then see yourself completing it. 

Do me a favor, too.  If you happen to go to that gym, or that YMCA, or that class, have someone take a picture of yourself.  Then print it out, and put it on your fridge. You can be sweaty, and you can be awkward, and it won’t matter a bit.  Just get that picture up there, so you can see yourself – every day – as that more active person. 

And when you’re done thinking about all that, consider joining me for John Bingham’s 100 Days Challenge.  You can find the event page on Facebook here.  Simply put, John’s goal is to get people to commit to moving – just moving – for 30 minutes a day – for the next 100 days. Well, technically, the next 98 days.  If you missed the first two, that’s okay.  Just jump in when you’re ready – all you have to do is commit to some intentional movement for 30 minutes each day.  Doesn’t matter how, or where.  For more info, check out John’s video here, and if you want to track your workout, check in here.  

Not sure if you can do it?  Well, start small. Think about doing an easy yoga class at your park district.  Or just swimming slowly in your local pool.  Consider trying out FitTV’s great list of everyday at home workouts – or just commit to parking your car at the mall and walking for 30 minutes a day. 

Today, I parked as far as possible from my destination at the mall, and walked 3X10s as I broke up my day.  It was easy, it was effective, and it’s done.  It’s just one step to seeing that person I know I can be.

Please consider joining me.  Here’s to a great 2011! I look forward to seeing you all here!!

Sallie

Holiday Gifts for Your Favorite Plus Runner…Runner…Cyclist…Triathlete…

So it’s about that time.  Cookie consumption is up (at least in my house) and the desire to exercise is waaaaaay down.  My friend Jen calls it “nesting” but I think that’s only a fair term if you think you’re going to be feeding yourself off your own body fat for the next 40 days, and does not apply when there’s a Target within a 2 mile radius.  Then it’s just enjoying butter, sugar and eggs a bit toooo much. 

In any case, if you’re like me, (or perhaps, a more self-controlled version of me) there are people asking you what you want for Christmas.  Or winter harvest. Or Hanukkah.  Or who are making veiled comments that you’re just plain difficult to buy for because you don’t like applique’d sweaters or scented candles.  (I mean, not that that’s ever happened to me. And you know I love me a scented candle. )  Oof.

Anyway, if you happen to be in a position to give – or receive – this year, here, a few of the top gifts I’d recommend this season.   These are personal Plus Runner favorites for the runner, walker, cyclist, or would-be athlete in your life.  Questions? Drop me a line at plusrunner@gmail.com and I can help provide a more personalized recommendation based on who you’re buying for.

Timex Ironman Sleek Watch $64.95

 If you know someone who’s new to running, or is interested in becoming a runner, and wants a relatively simple watch to count down run/walk intervals, this watch is my best recommendation.

Timex makes a variety of these “sleek” women’s watches (and men’s) but what you’re looking for here is an interval timer – and this watch has it.  (An interval timer has the ability to count down different amounts – say, 3 minutes for running…then rotates to a 2 minute countdown for walking…then back to 3 minutes for running…and so on).  The benefit of this watch, once you’ve figured out how to easily set your own intervals, is that as you get better at running, you can change it up.  You can also use this for setting intervals in a pool, on a bike, etc.  It’s frankly the one piece of technology that I’ve always been able to use – and never regretted buying.

Feel free to shop around, (you can sometimes find an older model on Amazon or elsewhere) but REI has a very cute version here with flowers on it that you might enjoy.  Note that some of the reviews claim the band stretches and breaks.  I’ve run in mine for about 10 years in a variety of styles, and I’ve never had this problem.

Petzl Headlamp Tikka 2 $23.96

If you hike or camp, you probably already own a headlamp. But what about if you run or walk?  Do you get tired of the treadmill in the winter?  Or do you know a new runner or someone who’s about to kick start a fitness campaign and wants to be outside this winter? 

If you’re like me, in Chicago it’s dark at 4:30, and seeing the breaks in the pavement or the ice on the ground is sometimes hard to do when the ambient light is low.  Even in well-lit Chicago, I find myself using my Petzl many nights on the path.  You can usually find these in your local camping stores as well.  This is a perfect stocking stuffer – or just a thoughtful gift for someone you care about who’s training hard for their next event.   The double A batteries are easy to change, and the halogen is helpful for illuminating directly below your feet – or for a stretch in front of you.

Smith Toaster Sliders – $139

How often have you found yourself running or walking or biking, and your sunglasses are fogging up? Or not doing their job and protecting you from the sun?   Alternatively, do you run at night and wish you could see things just a bit better?  Run or walk or bike at dawn and wish you could take just one pair of sunglasses out for the duration?  Run at night and wish the da*n wind would stay out of your eyes, but clearly, you’re not about to wear SUNglasses at night, right?  Well, Smith can help you out – with one pair of glasses, which comes with THREE sets of lenses.

I know of what I speak on this one – and let me tell you, if you’re a person who has never spent any money on sunglasses because you lose them, break them, scratch them, whatever – I would recommend you think again.  The Smiths are worth the money and moreover, actually help you be aware of your surroundings, and make it less painful – and more interesting – to be out in any weather.

I’ve worn my Toaster Sliders in many half marathons (and down one particularly incredible 180 mile whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River) – and no matter what, they’ve never, ever fogged up.   They’ve stood up to tons (literally) of water coming at them, and more than a few bug/lens encounters.  They’ve kept me seeing on early morning rides, triathlons, and hikes. 

So why three lenses?  Are they worth it?  Yes.  I wear the dark lenses (which are polarized and protect your eyes while offering great clarity) during bright sun (most walks or rides in the summer or on a weekend); the pink lenses during dawn and dusk (they’re great for seeing a golf ball on a darkening fairway or riding on summer mornings) and the yellow lenses before dawn (winter bike rides) and any time I run or bike after dark (year round).  The yellow lenses are probably the best safety feature I know of  – they add a brightening layer to everything you see, and suddenly, running in the dark doesn’t seem so frightening.  Plus, here in Chicago, when I want to have something on to protect my eyes against the wind on lakefront runs at night, these are perfect for that nighttime run.   If you’re running in the desert or anywhere it’s still dusty and windy at the end of  a day, these are a nice option.

I’m rambling, but you get the point.  Interchangeable lenses are great – they might take a try or two to get down (your local REI rep can help our you can call me for tips!) but they really are awesome.  A great gift if you have some extra cash to spend. 

Next up: clothing for the Plus Runner…

See you on the path!

Fall Fashion for the Plus Runner

Sporthill's Symmetry Jacket ($95.00)

Every woman wants to look good in her clothes.   This is not an observation which should merit any shock or suprise.  And yet, as a bigger woman who is active, it’s always been hard to find clothing that fits, flatters, and is functional.

I started this site primarily to fill that gap.  I’ve been a plus sized athlete now for the better part of 10 years, and though my weight has moved up, and down, my desire to look as good as I can in my clothes – and heck, to look like an athlete, too – has not abated.

With that in mind, I went looking recently for the new fall offerings for the Plus size crowd.  I searched my favorite vendors, my “go-to” folks who have been brave and future-sighted engough to recognize the boom in this market, and have found a few nuggets for this season’s fall temps. 

I would love nothing more than to report that there is some extraordinarily good fashion out there for us for the fall.  Unfortunately, I’d be overstating the facts.  However, there are some winners, and because I’m all about the positive reinforcement, we’re going to call out some of those folks. 

First Prize for Functionality, Fit and Fashion:  Sporthill Symmetry Jacket ($95.00, available at Sporthill or Team Estrogen)

Sporthill is a company that’s been offering Plus Size running/walking/outdoor aerobic apparel for as long as I can remember.  This year, they’ve come up big with a nice updated color for their Symmetry Jacket ( a gorgeous plum purple).  Sporthill sells their products according to temperature “zones”, and this jacket is designed for Zone 3:  zero degrees to forty degrees. 

Why I love this item: First, it’s just plain good-looking.  The Blackberry color is one of those universally flattering colors – and Purple is all the rage this fall.  To se eit in a plus-size jacket is lovely.

Second, the fabric is technical – that means it wicks sweat away from your skin.  It’s got a brushed poly liner, which is helpful for drawing moisture away, and it’s treated with “DWR”.  DWR means “Durable Water Repellant” – which means it should hold up in a rain.  It’s not going to get you through a storm unscathed – for that, I’d put you in REI’s rain jacket.  It’s also wind repellant, which means it’ll keep you protected if you’re accustomed to the blustery conditions we get in Chicago.

Finally, it’s shaped to flatter.  The measurements are made for someone who carries a chest – and a waist or hips (check the Size Chart for the best size for you before ordering).  Yes, it is more expensive than the Moving Comfort Endurance Shell ($65.00)- however, that jacket is (in my experience) incredibly lightweight and will likely not be that helpful for you come fall. I tried it on at our local Fleet Feet, and, though the color is great, for a fall jacket, it’s overpriced and doesn’t offer enough functionality.  Plus, it frankly didn’t fit (tight in the arms and shoulders for me, though the size chart indicates it should fit.)  My recommendation: if you’re a runner, walker, hiker, or cyclist who needs a flattering jacket you can feel good in, the Symmetry Jacket is the one for you.

Second Prize for Functionality, Fit and Fashion: 

Circuit Long Sleeve Shirt from Athleta ($39.00)

The Circuit shirt from Athleta (shown in yellow at left) is like the house in Goldilocks – not too heavy, not too light, not too short, not too long.  It’s just right.  It’s designed with a wicking fabric, and the length is flattering for most sizes.   I’ve ordered from Athleta before (the TeeLicious tees) and am still wearing all three (five years later) for hiking, running, walking, and everyday wear. 

What I love about this item: First, it’s got a crew neck, which I think is helpful for fall and winter versatility.  Second, the colors are great.  Third, Athleta cuts their clothes for a woman’s body – that means that there’s usually enough room for a chest AND hips (who knew?).  The downside is that this is only offered up to a 2X – but check the size charts  – I would think you’d be safe up to a 51″ waist.

The other shirts on the market this fall (from Nike, Moving Comfort, REI, and Terry) are just not cute enough to make me want to spend $39.00 on a shirt.  The Nike half-zip is too boxy (I own it, and wear it, but oof.)  The REI shirt is too short in the sleeves, has terrible colors, and though it will fit anyone, it doesn’t have any pizzaz.  And the Moving Comfort Long-Sleeved shirts for plus-size women are very long and gather unflatteringly across the hips.  So…here we are at Athleta.  Give  it a shot – you might be surprised!

Third Prize for Functionality, Fit, and Fashion:

Ebony Running Tights by C9 for Target ($19.99)

I used to hate running in capris.  I thought they were ridiculous – a fake-out of a tight that made my legs look shorter.  Man, was I wrong.  As I’ve run in “wide leg” capris for a few years, I’ve come to miss the feeling of a TIGHT.  A tight that holds in my tummy a bit – and provides support for my legs.  With the rage in compression technology, you’d hope that compression tights were on the deck – and they are (more on those in another post) – but if you’re just looking for a cute tight to get you through fall, this is the one for you.

What I love about this item: First, it’s simple.  Basic black, with no piping on the wrong place.  It’s got reflective piping on the leg and on the graphic.  Second, it seems to have a nice flat waistband.  Third, it’s made of duo-dry, with no cotton, and flat seams, so you won’t chafe from sweat or seams.  It has a liner so if you like to run commando, you can.  And fourth, it’s got an inner, zippered pocket for your car keys or emergency cash, which NONE of the wide-leg, capri pants (which are mostly made for hacking around town and yoga, and NOT a run from your house) ever have.  In short, it’s functional and it’s flattering.