5 Ways to Step Outside of Your Exercise Comfort Zone

There are so many new fitness trends out there that it’s hard to keep track of them all. But a new workout, or even trying an activity with friends, can be a great way to reset your mindset on what constitutes working out, and can help you step outside of what might be a monotonous routine. I love trying new workouts, and as a fitness instructor, fitness conventions and demos can make them easily accessible. But as a consumer of fitness, you have a ton of options too!

So, first things first, channel your inner Cirque du Soleil artist and try out…

1. Aerial Silks

Aerial silks can be a fun girl’s night out, especially as a lot of companies tend to offer them as a special event with chocolate and wine after you test gravity. But don’t let this class fool you; it’s a HARD workout! I did this with a bunch of girlfriends and we were shocked at the upper body and core strength needed. We also gave our core an extra workout from laughing so hard that we almost fell out of the silk ropes. But that’s a different story. If you enjoy your night out, this is a legit workout with regular classes. Facilities are popping up all over, and offer weekly classes to build your skills or pop-in class opportunities.

FitNewtonBlog-Aerial

2. Pound Fitness

You may have heard of Pound Fitness, or seen the video clips in your newsfeed as you scroll through Facebook. It’s essentially a workout class that uses music, drumsticks, and rhythm to bring a whole new level fun into your work out. A lot of fitness studios are starting to offer this regularly. I know in Raleigh, you can find it at Ladies Fitness and Wellness. A quick Google search will tell you if it’s being offered near you. Get ready to rock!

3. Standup Paddle Boarding

This is one of my favorite activities to do when the weather warms up in the Triangle area, but you don’t have to be by a lake or the ocean to take part in SUP Fitness. Many pools will also offer SUP yoga classes where you flow through moves while balancing on a standup paddle board. It can be surprisingly hard and a ton of fun. Don’t be afraid to fall in, everyone does it!
If you happen to be by large bodies of water, check to see if they offer classes, or if your local REI or Parks and Rec catalog might have introductory lessons. There is also a huge difference between paddling on the lake versus the ocean so if you’ve tried one, make sure you try the other. It’s a fantastic full-body workout and you get the bonus of getting outside and enjoying the calm of the water!

FitNewtonBlogSUP

4. Trampolining

Ok, I’ll admit that I haven’t tried this yet, but I do see it constantly offered on Groupon and my girlfriends always say that we’re going to try it. Essentially, the same trampoline facilities where you would take your kids for an afternoon of fun often offer adult fitness classes. It sounds like it would be an awesome workout and one of those activities that looks easy… and then you try it and five minutes in really ‘this is gonna be tough.’ Even more reason to give it a go!

5. Rock Climbing

An oldie, but goodie. Indoor rock climbing gyms seem to follow me wherever I go and it’s another fun workout to do with a friend or a group. Climbing gyms always offer introductory classes and even if you’re scared of heights, challenging yourself each time to get a little higher can be an exhilarating experience. And your arms will be like jello by the end of the session. The thing I love about rock climbing, is it makes me challenge myself and my fear of heights, and the next day my whole body aches… reminding me what an incredible full body workout it is. While your arms may hurt in the moment, you have to use so much leg and core strength to get yourself to the top of each wall.

FitNewtonBlog-Climbing

So there you have five fun ideas of how to mix up your workout routine! Now, you don’t have to do something totally crazy to step outside of your comfort zone, but these are just some different ways to approach your regular fitness day-to-day. Many gyms may also offer ‘sampler’ days where you can try out various classes that you may never have considered. Be sure to ask your gym management, or if you are looking into new gyms, see what variety of classes they might offer.

When shopping for your activity, don’t forget to check sites like Groupon.com who often have promotions for a lot of completely random (ok, saying it like it is, because some of these activities really are random) classes. It’s a great place to start if you’re even looking for ideas of what is local to you. And if you’re using Groupon, you better have your eBates on because you get cash back from your online (or even cell phone) purchases, and Groupon is usually one of their big cash back partners. It’s legit, I promise. Ebates gets a commission from clicks to shopping sites through them. They share that commission with members of their program. I’ve been using eBates for years and I love getting my quarterly bonus check from them.

What are some unique workouts that you’ve tried or that you want to try?

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.

 

Advertisements

Lessons in Teaching Group Fitness

It has been about a year and a half now since I first obtained my Group Fitness instruction certification and I’m so happy with my decision to pursue it. There have definitely been some moments where I’ve had to figure out how to juggle it all: working full-time, family life with time for my young kids, training for various races, and teaching! But overall, I’ve been happy with my recent balance.

I am certified in general group fitness which technically means I can teach ‘anything’, however, I personally have preferred to focus on certain areas. I have taught Piyo Live, Barre Above, Cycle Beat, and water aerobics. Piyo Live still remains my favorite by far… partially because I teach it so often! But I love the music, the flow of the classes and perfect balance of movement, and of course, the participants! I have a dedicated group of regulars who are a pleasure to teach, and I love encouraging new participants who come to class.

I think the biggest thing that I deal with is the guilt of balancing home-life with my teaching schedule. Thankfully, the class times that I now take on make for a comfortable balance, and I also consider that much of what I teach makes for excellent cross training with all of the running that I do.

But ultimately, I have to admit, that teaching and the journey to become a fitness instructor gave me so much confidence and has impacted my attitude and outlook in both my professional and personal life. I used to be terrified about public speaking, or just being in front of a room of people. When I decided that I wanted to teach, I realized that I needed to get past that fear. It has definitely taken practice to get comfortable with it, but I have been able to take it into my professional life as well. Now, when I have presentations for work where I start to feel my nerves getting the best of me, I remind myself that I’m able to stand in front of a room of 40 people and teach a class and demonstrate movements… if I can do that, then surely a one hour presentation is doable. It’s also taught me that preparation is key; the more prepared I am and the better I know my content (again, personal and professional), the less nervous I feel about delivering it.

If you’ve been contemplating teaching group fitness and you’re on the fence about getting certified in fitness instruction, I cannot recommend it enough. I think there certainly needs to be more hands on training with new instructors, but you also will only learn by doing. Regularly going to classes, trying different workouts, and learning what I have liked and would change has been so important to keeping up with how I also teach my classes. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for tips from instructors and get their opinion on the type of class you want to teach and their recommendations about pursuing it, or even how to get more practice time in.

What is your favorite group fitness workout? What is a new one that you want to try?

If you are in the Raleigh area and want to try one of my PiYo Live classes, here’s where you can find me (as of January 2018, make sure you check the facility schedule for the most up to date information!):

Tuesdays at 6:30pm at Ladies Fitness and Wellness
Every other Wednesday at 5:30pm at AE Finley YMCA
Saturdays at 9am at AE Finley YMCA

I also teach Barre occasionally based on scheduling availability at the Y. Both of the above mentioned facilities have a great assortment of classes to choose from, so make sure you check them out!

Running to Save Sight

Choroideremia. That’s a mouthful. I had to practice saying it… heck, I avoided saying it for the longest time because I butchered it every time I tried. But like the name, it’s a hefty disease. Choroideremia is a rare disease carried by women, but only affects men, causing a loss of that starts to occur in their teens, and can ultimately lead to blindness. My dear friend Liz is a carrier of this disease and recently found out that her son unfortunately has this recessive gene.

California Love. Time with Liz on a recent trip back

When I decided to run Rock N Roll New Orleans, Liz was the first person that came to mind. No, not because of choroideremia, but because Liz loves New Orleans. She’s obsessed with it. When I lived in California, we would have Ghoul’s Nights where we watched horror movies and talked about amazing locations with haunted histories. New Orleans is always part of that list, but also because we both just love the culture and atmosphere of it. If you haven’t been, it’s a pretty incredible place. I ran the half marathon in NOLA a couple of years ago with a group of friends, but a few of us enjoyed it so much that we promised to visit again. Well, when my friend Stephanie said she wanted to run her first full marathon, we decided it could only be done in this incredible city. Once again, Liz came to mind.

One of our many training runs

This time, I realized that while I rarely fundraise for races (the last time was probably the Avon Walks that I did in my 20s), this was a worthy cause. Liz had just found out that her son had choroideremia and I wanted to help in any way I could. Running for Team CHM is a chance to both raise awareness for this disease, and to raise money towards the development of a cure or treatments, both of which have made considerable progress in recent years.

So this March, when I lace up for that long 26.2 mile trek, I’ll be doing so on behalf of Team CHM, with Liz and her family on my mind.

Ian and Dylan playing trains

If you would like to contribute to my fundraising page, any amount is appreciated! You can find the link to my page here: Running 26.2 for the Smith Family

Planning Out the Year

It’s a new year, which means it’s a time to set your sights on the future and plan out your goals for 2018!

While New Year’s resolutions get a lot of grief, I try to look at the start of the year as a time to plan out activities I want to participate in, travel for the family, and other positive goals for myself. I’ve tried to stop making resolutions that are solely ‘I want to lose x amount of weight’ but more along the lines of ‘I want to do this many races this year’ or ‘I want to try this new thing.’

Weekly Planning

Last year saw a considerable drop in the number of races that I participated in. Primarily from a cost perspective… all of those races add up! I also did some pretty hefty mileage that left me burnt out from running at the beginning of the year. I didn’t like that feeling so I decided to concentrate on trying some new races that I hadn’t done before, and a couple of destination events. It was so much more enjoyable planning for these activities and it wasn’t as hard to be dragged out of bed for an early morning race start time.

This year, my race schedule is a bit more uncertain. I am definitely doing Rock N Roll New Orleans in March. The full marathon. But I want to space out my next race because the last time I did a full, I raced just a few weeks after and my legs didn’t forgive me for it. Summer races can be a bit harder to find in muggy North Carolina (for good reason – no one wants to eat the air while they’re running through it) so I’d either have to travel to a destination or wait until the Fall. I’m pretty certain and I am going to do the Big Sur Half Marathon in California come Fall. Big Sur has a special place in my heart… my husband and I have so many memories camping there or staying in yurts along the coast. I would brave a few hills for that race. The only thing that is holding me back is the rest of my running schedule. I’d love to check out the Oiselle Volee Bird Camp this summer, but I also want to try for the Lululemon Sea Wheeze Half Marathon weekend in Vancouver. It’s a lottery system and would be quite a trek, so I have to decide if this is the year I try for it or if I focus on some running training for 2018. I do still want to attempt a sub 2 half marathon, but that will be dependent on my training time (which I won’t think about speed until I’m done with this full marathon) and location of the race. I know better than to attempt that in hilly Raleigh.

Making running a family affair

So there you have it: my race goals for 2018! I haven’t forgone the focus on other goals in the meantime. I definitely used January as a time to reset certain unhealthy habits. I’ve given up alcohol for the month… and coffee. I know, I know, people think that’s crazy. But with the holidays, I found myself making drinking more of a habit than I’d like. A dry January has been a nice reset to focus on healthier eating and just drinking some more water. And coffee? I’m actually not very dependent on coffee for the caffeine, but I do like the habit of it. So I’ve switched over to either more water or a cozy cup of tea like chamomile with a dash of honey. The coffee won’t be reintroduced after the month just because I would prefer to keep it as an occasional treat rather than an expensive habit.

What are some of your New Year goals? Have you signed up for any races this year?

In a blink of an eye…

How is it already August? More than halfway through the year and I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been pretty neglectful of this space.

A lot has happened in that time. Shortly after my last post, I was offered a new job. I left my company of 8 years and moved. My new position has been a huge change, and a great opportunity, but it’s taken some getting used to. Mainly, because I go into the office almost every day. Gone are the days of working from home most of the week. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though… it has made a lot of sense in their business model for me to be in the office. A huge majority of the people that I interact with on a day to day basis are there, and especially being new, it has been helpful for me to be there to understand organization dynamics and structure. I’m not complaining of course, but, it has taken some flexibility out of my day-to-day life. I’ve adjusted to the new routine and made changes to my schedule so that I can still follow some practices from before. Mainly:

  • Runs happen early in the morning, especially in the hot Summer months. Like, 5am early. That’s rough, but it’s not every day. When the weather cools down again in the fall, I can go back to afternoon runs right when I get home from work.
  • I try to get in early and leave early. This doesn’t always happen (see: not a morning person), but when it does, I can get home before traffic gets crazy and get stuff done around the house. Prepare a healthy dinner, get a quick workout in, etc.
  • Meal planning has been crucial. The first couple of months were good, because I braced myself for the change and was determined not to fall back into old habits. But as things got busy, it was easy to drop this. I still meal plan weekly, and about 2-3 times a month I’ll order from a local meal delivery service, Tastefully Served. They prepare healthy, well-balanced meals that are ready made for a couple of nights a week. I usually order a couple of meals to help mix things up and supplement our regular meal rotation. It keeps us from getting bored, and helps us all venture out of our normal comfort zone.

I think because of this now extra hectic work week schedule, I’ve also had to focus on different things. I try to schedule more activities at home, especially on weekends. Less nights out and even girl’s nights. Which, I miss, but I was finding myself overwhelmed with trying to keep up with it all. So I’m trying to be conscious of what I can do, and what might be stretching myself too thin. In talking to friends about it though, it seems to be a common thread, especially as our kids approach school age.

I’m still signed up for some races, but my training schedule was a bit lax. I was burned out by constantly training for back to back races last year, however I also found I appreciate the discipline of a training schedule. I took a break from race training for a while, but that became evident at the Destination Race Napa to Sonoma half marathon a few weeks ago. While it was an amazing race… probably one of my favorites… I was not nearly as prepared as I should be. My time was still decent: approx 2:16, but I didn’t set any PRs and I just didn’t feel good for a lot of the run. I’m changing that up for my next half. I signed up for the City of Oaks half marathon in hilly Raleigh in November. My goal is to run it sub 2, so I’m ramping up my training and focusing on speed work and getting more comfortable with hills.

I still teach at the Y, but I limit it to mostly PiYo, Barre, and Water Aerobics, and alternate my schedule with a few other instructors. I especially miss teaching the Monday morning PiYo class, but getting it in at least a few Saturdays a month makes me happy, and I love incorporating it as part of my cross training.

You can probably see why I haven’t been around much. This past week gave me some forced rest as I underwent PRK surgery for my vision. It’s similar to LASIK but has a longer recovery time. I’ve been out completely since Wednesday, and my vision was completely shot on Friday and Saturday while I was at the most intense part of the healing process. Basically all light rendered me useless, so I was in a dark room feeling sorry for myself for a couple of days. I’m feeling much better today, though a little overwhelmed at the thought of being able to go to work and stare at a computer screen tomorrow, but my doctor assured me that my eyesight would continue to improve every day. The fact that I’m able to write this now should attest to something.

My plan going forward is to return here on  more regular basis. Get back into a routine as diligent as my training schedule. Provide some more updates, keep you connected with new recipes, goals, training plans, progress, etc. Thank you for bearing with me thus far, and I’ll be checking back again soon.

 

 

 

Goofy Goals

My legs have finally recovered from race weekend at Disney World, so it seemed like a good time to capture some of my thoughts on the event. I had signed up for the Goofy Challenge – a half marathon on Saturday, and a full on Sunday – months ago, before I had even run my first full marathon. For some reason I thought this sounded like a good idea, but the sweet call of jingling medals has that pull on me. So I planned an epic weeklong family trip to Disney World for their marathon weekend.

We arrived in Disney World on Tuesday, January 3rd. For anyone who has planned a family trip to Disney, you probably know about the tons of prep work that goes into it. I’m a planner. And we’ve done Disneyland dozens of time… but nothing at this level, and with two toddlers. So let’s just say that there was a lot of planning that went in to this ahead of time. From hotel selection that best worked with our park plans as well as race logistics (you had to be on the monorail between 3-4am to make it to the race on time), to Fast Pass and dining selections. This day was a long time coming.

Our Tuesday arrival was pretty smooth, and once we got settled into our room, we took the time to check out the pool and then head out to Disney Springs for a casual dinner and some shopping. Disney Springs was a really cool outdoor shopping area with some very tempting and gluttonous food choices, but it was also crazy busy. We kept it to a healthy dinner (soup and salad) to off-set some of the food we’d be indulging in throughout the rest of the weekend. After that, we headed back to our hotel room to get away from the crowds and get some rest after our day of travel.

Wednesday morning we were up bright and early for breakfast with Mickey Mouse and friends. The boys were so excited when the first characters started strolling through. They were pretty star struck. And afterwards, we hopped on the monorail and headed over to the Magic Kingdom.

fitnewton-poohbear

Being from California, we are very familiar with Disneyland, and before we had kids, we were regular season pass holders and knew every strategy to hit up the rides in the most efficient, line-free way possible. After kids, and being in the complex park of system of Disney World, was a whole ‘nother story. I read guide books, web pages, and Facebook groups with tips to prepare for our park. Waiting in line for 2 hours with 2 toddlers is not my idea of a good time. So we went in to the park with 3 fast passes booked at the start of each day, and a loose plan of attack in between those fast passes. I knew once we had a least one day in the park, I’d have a better idea of how things would play out and it was totally true. First things first, I could see which rides my kids could actually go on from a height requirement perspective. Second, I could see which they would actually try to ride. Thankfully, my oldest was so brave and excited to try out the roller coasters that he ‘qualified’ for. He loved the Barnstormer and the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. Our youngest loved Dumbo, the dark rides and It’s a Small World. And of course, they both loved the train. It was probably their favorite ride in the whole park.

We spent a full day in the Magic Kingdom for days 1, 3, and 4. We broke it up with a trip to Animal Kingdom for day 2. The boys loved the shows and the animal characters (from Jungle Book, the Lion King, etc) in AK. Overall it was a perfect plan, and perfect family trip.

fitnewton-ak

On Friday night, I had been closely monitoring the weather for the half marathon the next day. The forecast was showing lightning storms in the early AM… exactly when we’d be lining up to race. I had picked up my race packet and expo goodies declaring my participation in the Goofy challenge on Thursday night, but by Friday evening, I knew that Goofy challenge was looking questionable. Sadly, the weather wasn’t letting up, so Disney made the call to cancel the race the next morning. I was thankful that they made the decision before an early night to get ready for the 2am alarm, though I was disappointed knowing that I wouldn’t get to complete the official challenge. The lightning storm started as we were going to bed, and I knew I wouldn’t be running in that weather. I can do the treadmill for a couple of miles, maybe 4 max, but I get antsy and knew I couldn’t run 13.1 on it. We had fast passes booked starting at 10am (when I knew I would be done with the race and back with my family), and paid reservations for the Hoop Dee Doo review for 4pm on Saturday night, so I couldn’t do a run during the day or afternoon without skipping out on my family – which just didn’t seem like the right thing to do when I wouldn’t even get to say it was the official run. The original race worked out perfectly because it happened while they were sleeping or just getting up in the morning and still allowed for a whole day at the park with them. My only option to run was going to be the evening and there was no way I was going to do that and then wake up 4 hours later for a marathon. I decided to save my muscles and energy for the full marathon on Sunday. I knew that no matter what, that’s an accomplishment in itself. I’ll just have to come back to double race another day!

Our decision to spend the full Saturday at the park was a good one. We arrived just as the lightning show was ending and the park was just opening. The weather was a little drizzly, but that only made the experience better as the park was quiet and we could practically walk on to every ride for the whole day. By the time we called it quits after dinner on Saturday night, we were all ready for an early bed time. The 2:45am alarm wake-up call was just a few hours away!

I woke up to my alarm – the fear of sleeping through it wasn’t necessary… I was ready to run! I had everything laid out for the race, so I got ready and snuck out while my family slept. I was on the first monorail out to the race meeting spot where the weather was in the chilly 30’s. This was not the 60 degree race I had packed for, so I only had shorts and a long-sleeve marathon shirt that Disney provided. Thank goodness for that shirt! I laughed when I picked it up because the weather had still been warm at that point, but now it was the warmed piece of clothing I had for the trip. Doubled up with my running sleeves kept me warm enough that I knew I’d be fine once I started moving.

fitnewton-wreckit

I took my pictures with various characters in the meeting area: Daisy, Chip, and Dale were on display with the marathon signs, and Goofy for his challenge. I met up with my friend Mariah and her husband, Pat, who were also both running the race. We headed to the start line together – a long way from that meeting place! She had mentioned that she walked about 10k steps the last time she did this, before the race even started, and I realized she wasn’t exaggerating. Sadly, we parted ways at the corrals as we were in two different sections, but the atmosphere was filled with excitement as we joined our groups. We were just in time for the first corral to go, and I was so excited to see that every corral had a display of fireworks lit off as they left the starting line.

The race was pretty amazing. You really do run through the four parks, and there are characters and music spots at about every mile point. You could stop and take pictures with the characters (there was a line for pretty much every single one, but it was pretty fast-moving), and it was so much fun to run through the various park side entrances and trails. Around mile 16, just when I was getting really antsy, my girlfriends came to the rescue and hit me up with texts and phone calls. Yes, I was that person on the race chatting on the phone, but with my wireless headphones that seemed to conveniently have a speaker (I’d never tested this feature before). I felt like I was hanging out with them during our long runs at Umstead and before I knew it, they had entertained me to mile 22. From that point, I knew it was time to go it alone and finish out this run!

fitnewton_disneyjoy

We entered Hollywood Studios and I had a sudden, huge desire to ride on Tower of Terror. Mariah had told me how she took a break at the 13.1 point to ride on Expedition Everest during her last Goofy experience, but sadly, it wasn’t open yet when I ran by. Tower of Terror was and I had a moment of excitement when I didn’t see a long line… only to see the stand-by wait time listed as a whopping 180 minutes. Ok, well, so much for that idea! It was for the best, I just need to get this race over with! So I plugged on through Hollywood Studios which was filled with people at that point. They cheered the whole time we ran through the streets and were almost instantly dropped off at the Swan and Dolphin hotel area. We ran through there, still surrounded by people cheering the runners on and handing out candy and sweets to keep us going.

Finally, I entered Epcot. I couldn’t see the globe, but knew that was our final stop. About a mile into it, I realized that the globe had just been to my side when I entered, thus not seeing it. So I now had to run around the entire lake (which had never felt so large before) to get to that point. It was painful, but seeing all of the runners surrounding me ploughing on gave me the final push and burst I needed to make it to the end.

fitnewton-disneyfinishline

I didn’t cry at the finish line, but the relief I felt was incredible. I had been so scared to run this race alone. My first ever solo marathon. But I did it and I proved to myself that I could do it. I collected my medals and headed to the bus area to get back to the hotel and my family.

While waiting for the bus, I found out from a series of texts from friends and validation emails, that Southwest had cancelled our flight home. That definitely made the ride home a little more entertaining while I tried to coordinate our alternate plans (we ended up renting a car and driving home) with my husband who was back at the hotel. Everything worked out for the best, and we were able to make it safely home. Sitting in a car for 9 hours after a marathon probably wasn’t the best decision, so I definitely had some soreness the next couple of days, but a week out and I’m back to normal.

I’m ready to start running again. I’m looking forward to cutting back on the mileage, and now concentrating on speed and injury prevention. I want to improve as a runner but also have some fun with it again. Long runs with friends for the sake of the time with them and getting in the exercise, versus being forced to run 18 miles because of another marathon in the books. You know there will be more marathons. I can only resist the allure of the medals for so long. But I’ll stick with some shorter distances for the time being. The Disney experience was incredible and I might just need to make it a point to do one of their half marathons next year… and maybe plan on a Dopey challenge in 2019?

 

 

 

Running Gear for the New Year

The New Year is a great time to evaluate your running goals for the year. Whether it be just getting started with your first 5k, or figuring out how many half or full marathons you’re going to tackle, picking races is an exciting way to set short and longer term fitness goals for yourself.

I have a few favorite items that I use regularly on my runs depending on distance, time of day, etc. By no means is any of this ‘mandatory’ to run, but when I am asked about what I use, these are the items I tend to get asked about the most:

 

 

Clockwise from Top Left:
Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes
Ultimate Night Light from Title Nine
Flip Belt
Garmin Forerunner 235
Nathan Strobe Light
Nathan Hydration Vest
Plantonic Backbeat Fit

Long and short runs both require me being able to hold my goodies. For a short run, it’s just my phone, so I go to my Flip Belt. For a long run, especially anything over 6 miles, I like to keep hydrated. I always do my long runs with my Nathan hydration vest, similar to what’s pictured. I was worried about chafing and feeling like I was lugging a a heavy load on my back, but I honestly forget that it’s there. Regardless of the version you pick though, make sure the bladder is included. It may seem like a great price, but if there’s no bladder, that could be another $30-$50 to buy one separately. Some people don’t need water for their long runs, but if anything, having the bag to carry my fuel, keys, etc. has always been a better option than weighing down my running clothes. I also carry my phone for emergency purposes, but if I’m running alone in a populated area, I will listen to music or an audio book on low. I love my wireless headset for those instances, and it works great for taking phone calls, too.

When I became more serious about my running, I invested in a Garmin Forerunner 235. There are several great Garmin watch models, but I love how this one includes heart rate monitoring without a separate strap. The data uploads straight to my phone, and the Garmin app also syncs with other apps like My Fitness Pal to log my calories earned from working out.

Running in low light conditions definitely requires some safety gear, including lighting. I am guilty of running at night without a light, but I try to wear bright, reflective clothes in those cases. The better option are the two lights (or similar) listed above, in addition to reflective gear. I have a couple of strobe lights since I always seem to misplace them, but I just got the head lamp that I can’t wait to start using on my evening runs.

Finally, recovery! I received a copy of Hit Reset for Christmas and I can’t wait to put it into practice as part of my stretching and recovery routine. I’ve battled a few injuries this year from not taking enough time after my runs to stretch my tight muscles. I know this book is going to be a great resource in my library.

Note: None of the items above are affiliate links. These are all my personal favorites and my own opinion of what has worked for me.