Choose the Right Tools for Success (A Nexercise User Story)

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Would you use a baseball bat to play tennis? No, of course you wouldn’t. It wouldn’t make for a very good tennis match since you’d probably miss the ball or hit the ball too hard and spend more time chasing after it than actually playing tennis. When I started running, I realized I had been using the wrong tools (not that there are that many “running tools”): The wrong sneakers, the wrong clothing and the wrong app for getting started, and that by doing so, I was setting myself up for failure. I never realized how important these three components were until I found my perfect fit for all of them.

First, I used to just put on whatever pair of sneakers I had in the closet—which had been purchased at a discount store sometime over the last 10 years, and which were not suited to the task they were being used for. I mean, yes, they were brand name shoes. Yes, they were “running” shoes. Yes, they stayed on my feet and fit. And yes, they worked fine in boot camp class, but, no, they didn’t make me a runner after taking a 20 year break.

What DID make me a runner was going to my local athletic shoe store and asking for a recommendation, pointing out a few key pieces of information: I am a big girl, which means my shoes have to work harder and will wear out faster (every 3-6 months); I haven’t run in 20 years; I had weak ankles when I ran track in high school; and, I wanted the best running shoe which addressed all these issues. For once, I didn’t worry about price.

The Sales Associate gave me three recommendations, all of which I tried on. I chose the first pair and ended up buying a second pair of the same shoe and will soon be buying a third pair of them—the fact that they are hot pink doesn’t hurt either since it’s one of my favorite colors! Why reinvent the wheel? Buy two pairs when you find the right pair, so you have a back up when your current pair wears out.

If you’re in the shape I was in when I started, the right pair of shoes makes a HUGE difference. Where I once felt uncomfortable, unstable, achy, had pain, etc. I now feel strong, confident and ready to hit the trail. I no longer get shin splints. My feet don’t get hot or hurt so bad I have to stop.

But, be prepared to spend $120 just for the shoe. It’s a lot of money if you’re on a budget, but it’s absolutely worth the money. The $35 shoes in my closet are still in my closet, unused after the first attempt at running because frankly, they darn near killed me. The $120 shoes were worn so much I had to get a new pair. The difference between the two is like the difference between a Pinto and a Lamborghini. For the thrifty people, they will not look worn out, but you’ll feel them when they are worn out—use them for a fashion statement and not a workout. Trust me, as good as they make you feel, you’ll want to keep that feeling going and it’s worth shelling out the extra money for a new pair.

The Sales Associate also recommended the addition of an after-market, sports shoe insole. WOW! An already perfect shoe became even more perfect. For $25, it makes running do-able! Finally, he recommended cushioned socks. I bought two different brands, both of which rubbed blisters on my feet. I have realized that the cheap cushioned socks I bought at Wal-Mart ended up being the best for my feet. There are all kinds of socks specific to the sport you’re into, and if one doesn’t work, I suggest you keep trying until you find the right one. The combo of the right shoe, the right insole and the right sock hits a sweet spot and keeps you moving forward!

Second, I used to exercise in pull on cotton shorts and a tank top or a t-shirt. Sounds fairly standard, right? When I started running again in 2012, it was during the last week of June, on the East Coast. Probably not the best time to run, given the high heat and humidity. My first day out, I was ready to quit. My shorts were riding up and sticking to me at the same time. My shirt was heavy and made the sweat and heat unbearable and after only 20 minutes, I felt ready to pass out.

Then I found moisture wicking clothing and I am forever changed! I mentioned before that I’m a big girl, so finding decent clothing for any purpose can sometimes be a challenge, much less trying to find cute, stylish, sport appropriate workout gear. I’ve found that JC Penney, Old Navy, Target and Kmart all have affordable lines of exercise wear, most of which is moisture wicking and all but Target carry plus sizes in their exercise gear. Target carries up to a XXL. Nike and Reebok also make plus size lines, which are sold at various retailers, including JC Penney and Lane Bryant. They have great design, do their job and let me focus on running and not on how my clothes fit.

What does moisture wicking clothing do? It moves (wicks) the sweat from the inside (against your skin) to the outside of the garment, where it evaporates. It not only keeps you cooler, but it keeps you comfortable—it also makes you stink like crazy, but to me, stink equals ”I worked hard” so I wear it proudly.

Most of the items I have purchased are also lightweight, which makes them that much more comfortable, even in 105 degree temps with 60% humidity. JC Penney’s Xersion line is my go-to fitness wear because of their great sales, current colors and cut and fit.

Finally, I tried several apps and podcasts using the couch to 5K premise of starting slow and working up to running a 5k. None of them stuck. I stumbled upon the one that finally worked for me by reading Fitness magazine. I figured it was worth a try and it was! Coincidentally, I also found my food diary app and the Nexercise app in other issues of the same magazine. My point being that if you want to build up your stamina by running or you want to learn yoga or you want to learn tennis, rugby or some other activity, keep trying different options until you find one that you like, that keeps you motivated. The persistence will pay off when you find that combo of tools meant for you.

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