Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm stimulating the economy, okay?

I love shopping. And not just shopping for pretty things to adorn my body with, but also for delicious things to fill up my body. As unbelievable as it sounds, I like perusing the grocery store isles reading labels and discovering new foods. “Organic, natural, imported!” Like a magpie, I’m drawn to brightly colored labels declaring exotic flavors and healthful origins. The best part of “isle-shopping” is that unlike a trip to Bloomingdales, if I find something I must have, I can afford it.

Along with my weekly trips to the grocery store, I also take a weekly trip to the running store. But a trip to a running store isn’t like shopping on Fifth Avenue. The sales people could care less about commissions, but they definitely care about their shoppers. They want to know which race I am running and how many I have already finished. More often than not, their shopping advice is an excuse to boast about Boston Marathon qualifying times (right after buying shoes, of course).

Just last week, I got a lecture from a little pudgy sales guy (who has run five marathons, he told me in a voice reserved for bossy seven year olds) about how I need to carry a fuel belt on my marathon. I told him that the Gatorade and water provided by the marathon was just fine. That man gave a look like I was crazy, and said “You’re not supposed to have anything new on race day.” I just rolled my eyes and told the man I would consider it.

On the sports bra shopping adventure, which took me to several different stores, I got loads of advice – none of it solicited, all of it helpful. One woman, an obvious marathon veteran, recommended Champion seamless sports bras when running anything over ten miles. Another woman, after looking my body up and down, suggested that I go for the “Ta Ta Tamer” from Lululemon. At least this time, the men didn’t have anything to say on this topic.

When I bought sneakers, the sales woman suggested that my next pair be ultra-light racers from Brooks. Then she proceeded to give me a shoe rotation schedule so I could practice in them and also not wear them out too quickly. The woman at the check-out counter told me to watch out for the hill around mile eight at the Philly Marathon and she recommended sports beans from Jelly Belly (so good, I recommend them too…as candy.)

Though I’ve always had some form of an exercise routine, the usual supplies lying around my house just don’t work for marathon running. Almost everything that I run with, head to toe, has been accumulated especially for running super long distances. The only exception to this rule: my iPod.

I’ve assembled a list of the things I have acquired over time. Some of it is necessary and some it depends on the individual. Training environment matters. Since I run in NYC public parks there are drinking fountains, bodegas, and hot-dog carts along much of my routes, so I need to worry less about carrying water and Gatorade with me. But since I’m running a marathon in late November in Philadelphia, I worry a lot about what I should wear for the weather conditions.

Here’s the list so far…I’m sure I’ll add to it by November.

1. Running shoes: I go to the running store and have the sales people watch me run on a treadmill. Then they recommend a pair of shoes based upon how I run. This is the only way to buy running shoes.
2. Running shorts, shirts, sweatshirts, and pants with little pockets to hold stuff. Because I need to carry keys and an iPod on every run, and on longer ones I need money, gels, and chapstick.
3. A massage ball to roll on my feet when they are tired and sore.
4. Energy gels, like GU. I’ve experimented with most of the products out there and the good old fashioned gels work the best for me. The rest just don’t seem to get digested and make me feel ill. But the sports beans are delicious and taste like candy.
5. A belt with a pocket for carrying around extra gels, money, keys, perhaps a camera. Whatever, I think I may need that can’t fit in the pockets.
6. A fuel belt, which is a little belt with two holsters holding eight ounce bottles of water and one larger pocket. I use this for long training runs on new routes where I’m unsure of the water locations.
7. Running socks to prevent blisters and provide mild arch support.
8. Sweat-proof mini sunblock stick to carry with me on long runs. It can double as chap-stick and a lubricant for if I start to feel a piece of clothing is chafing.
9. Vaseline (alright I already have some of this) to rub on sports where chafing might occur, like around sport bra straps.
10. Sport sun-glasses to protect my eyes and prevent headaches caused by squinting.

Running is one of the most inexpensive sports around. I’ve probably only spent a few hundred dollars on it over the course of 2 years, and that includes about 4-5 pairs of shoes. It requires almost no supplies except a good pair of shoes. For once, quality and price are not directly correlated. The good running shoes are usually under $100. My weekly trips to the running store are for stocking up on gels and protein bars. And the best part about running is that you can do it anywhere and everywhere.

So if joining the gym is too expensive or if getting to the gym is just “too out of the way”, try taking a jog. It’s the most convenient and economic exercise available, and as I can personally attest, it’s quite fun too.

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