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Four steps to finding the perfect running gear

Trail Run

I’ve logged many an asphalt mile since the long-ago day I first stumbled through my first 10K race in rural Illinois.

And by race, I mean “run-walk” for 6.2 miles with a determined grimace on my face. By the time the finish line came into view, I was limping from one telephone pole to the next, hobbled by blisters and longing for the shade of a nearby cornfield.

Back then, my go-to running gear was a primitive pair of polyester shorts topped by a cotton tee. Socks were 100% cotton, and shoes were all-purpose “tennis shoes.” For warm-ups, I’d pull on a bulky blue sweatshirt.

Ta-dah!

No wonder the only runners I outpaced that race day were two pre-pubescent kids—the sole competition in my under-represented age group.

Running clothes and shoes have also come a long way. Wondering where to start? If you’re new to the sport, learn from my mistakes. Or, if you’re a seasoned veteran, take note and see if you agree (feel free to add your own tips in the comments below).

Without further ado, here are four tips to find the best running shoes and clothing:

  1. Cotton = misery. Cotton socks, with their tendency to soak up sweat and turn soggy, are almost guaranteed to breed blisters. Give yourself a break and choose socks with a high synthetic or wool content. I’m a fan of  Wigwam brand—and not just because it’s made in Wisconsin (though I do love Wisconsin). A good friend won’t wear anything but Icebreaker. It really doesn’t matter what sock you wear so long as it isn’t cotton..
  2. Plant your feet in reality. Minimalist running shoes aren’t for everyone. Look past the labels and get to know your feet before you make a purchase. Over-pronator? Supinator? Get educated about your gait with help from a running shop. Or, use this fun online tool from Mizuno.
  3. Consider a compromise. Found the supportive, workaday shoe you need, but still pining for a sleeker, sportier model? Try this tip: Train in a shoe with medium-to-high cushion, such as the venerable Asics GT-2000 or its cousin, the Brooks Adrenaline. On race day, switch to a lighter shoe for an extra burst of speed.
  4. Layers, layers, layers. Leave the hoodie at home and choose synthetic running clothing that wicks away sweat. Underwear is optional. (Really.) And don’t over-dress: you’ll heat up faster than you think, even in winter. Then, when those layers start stinking, reach for Nikwax BaseWash® or BaseFresh®.

Trust me—these tips will put you on the road to happier runs and better performance. (And fewer blisters.) Now take this advice and run with it!  —Kelly Huffman


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Tales of Olfactory Madness -or- Fear and Loathing of your Baselayer.

Hemingway

There comes a moment in each of our lives when our sweat-stained, odor-absorbed workout gear enters the room before we do. In polite society, most of us swallow a small gag and deflect the conversation away from the assault on our noses.

Great authors* in history had no such compunction. After all, they are the astute observers of the world and compelling describers of how the senses take it all in.

Being told off by someone with a cleverness and flair is just as embarrassing as being told you stink by a dimwit. Prevent the humiliation. Use Nikwax BaseWash® or BaseFresh®.

And, just in case the literary allusions might go over your head, we’ve prepared a great author cheat sheet. We may never know if F. Scott Fitzgerald suffered from stinky workout gear. But we can imagine how he would have dealt with the offensive stench of his companions.

Now you can too.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve been drunk for week, I daresay you smell of the nasty effluents of a rum factory yourself, old chap.

Mark Twain: When people tell me to exercise because it’s good for the body, why then, I tell them it’s right on par with whiskey and smoking to be good for the soul. I don’t right care for exercise when the result is the likes of a shirt such as yours, which has thoroughly and – without the trappings of polite society – offended my olfactory sensibilities.

Jane Austen: My idea of good company is the company of those who announce their arrival with quick wit, cleverness and a well-informed opinion of current events – not by the unappealing scent of their travel clothes.

Toni Morrison: The shirt takes on a life of its own much like the skunk who sets his own path with no regard for the story of his ancestors.

Hunter S. Thompson: You stink too much man, too much, too much.

Shakespeare: Do not draw mine attention, knave, for thine yeasty unwash’d apparel habit doth leave me whey-faced. 

John Steinbeck: Our people are good people. For in the stench of their clothing and the gnawing in their guts they are but kind men and women out to survive and quell the wrath that builds when the scent overpowers the senses.

Charles Bukowski: I don’t hate the stink of your shirt. I just feel better when it’s not around. (Pours a drink.)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: What matters is not that you’ve arrived from a painstaking journey with a blouse that smells of a burro’s behind. What matters is that you understand how the father, and the father of the father, and the father of the father of the father, and the father of the father of the father of the father arrived. In this way, you will search more than the stench; you will search the heart.

Rumi: The sweat is the body’s way of making room for us to drink our lives full of love.

James Joyce: And the scent that overpowered my senses as you breezed in the pub was an inhuman concoction of synthetic fabrics and human sweat and then I turned and I saw the horrific odor was associated with such a beautiful creature yes I was drawn and repulsed at the same time for how could I not immediately love you and how could I submit to living in the same small flat as your shirt and I have not more than a single room for us both to live and with that shirt yes with that shirt I shall not see my dream of our lives together transpire. Yes.

Ernest Hemingway: You stink.

Shel Silverstein: The shirt loved the boy. And the boy loved the shirt. When the boy would run, the shirt would shield him from the sun. When the boy would kayak, the shirt would provide comfort under his dry top. When the boy would ski, the shirt would add a layer of warmth. The shirt would give anything to the boy, and it did. The shirt gave its last and finest effort at fending off the sweat and the tears the boy offered… until the shirt could give no more.

* Yes, Shel Silverstein ranks among these scribes. Thank you for asking.


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Golf and the Outdoors: a Cinderella Story?

ball

In our ongoing quest to support outdoor play, plus a nod to our roots in Britain, we at Nikwax are encouraging everyone to take a new look at sports we hardcore types may have eschewed in the past. Today, we golf.

In the realm of outdoor sports like skiing, climbing and mountain biking, the noble game of golf gets no respect. Some may rank it as low as, say, curling and bowling.

Let’s break it down and crack this unfair bias once and for all. Even the venerable Old Gray Lady is celebrating the strength and fitness components of today’s golf culture. The New York Times’ article details the changing fitness regimes of top PGA pros and the traveling workout trailers that accompany the tour.

The fact of the matter is that golf is a heck of a good time. Will it flood your system with endorphins? Possible—when you make that sweet, elusive connection that sends the ball soaring straight and far.

Will it make you sweat? Heck yeah, it will!

Professional golfers are undertaking rigorous fitness regimens, and those workouts require high-tech, active clothing.

As all athletes know, that clothing requires proper treatment to get rid of odors and to increase longevity. That’s where Nikwax comes in with our Base Wash.

But we do more than keep synthetic clothing clean. We are here (at least today) to champion the sport that delivers fresh air, challenge, nature (kind of), agility, fitness, and relaxation.

Consider:

  • The origins of golf can be traced back nearly 800 years. (By comparison, the origins of biking can be traced back about 200 years.)
  • On an average 18-hole course, you will walk approximately five miles.
  • If a 150-lb person carries their clubs for the duration of the 18-hole game, that person will burn approximately 1,000 calories.
  • Caddyshack is indisputably one of the best sports movies of all time.
  • Golf hones eye tracking and visual acuity. According to the American Optometric Association, visual acuity is critical to performing well in most sports. Eye tracking determines how well your eyes follow objects without turning your head and is critical to develop stronger balance and reaction times.
  • You no longer need to dress like this, but somehow even the coolest golfers can pull off this.
  • Golf strengthens core muscles and encourages spine flexibility and strength, both of which are critical to good health and other activities.
  • Whereas most sport performances are challenged in hot weather, golf balls travel further on hot days.

If you remain unconvinced that you should hit the links for fun – if not for a new sport – we have two last words for you: Cocktail Cart.


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Personal Ads for Runners from the Nikwax Gazette

personal-ads_blog

SWF ISO TRP: Single white female in search of a trail running partner for early morning ascensions of the nearest 15-degree pitch climb. Prefer someone without much baggage, save for perhaps a Nathan hydration pack for runs longer than 1.5-hours. Likes: agility, scree fields and any season other than allergy season. Deal-breakers: barefoot shoes, matchy-matchy outfits and when killer trails have paved access.

MLDR ISO MLDR: Marathoner and long distance road runner seeking fellow marathoner for training, Paleo dieting and traveling companion to the world’s renowned races. If you’re on the quest for a sub-3 hour marathon, I may be the partner for you. Prefer a big drinker (electrolytes!) and someone willing to share their iTunes library. Long distance relationship is fine, as long as we connect with Strava every day to compare runs and times.

MR ISO Non-runner Meet me: I’m a mud runner/racer who was looking for a little motivation to get some exercise when I signed up for my first mud run. Two years of cross-fit, 3744 burpees and eight rounds of my gym’s Boot Camp Class later, I’m the proud finisher of eight mud runs. I’m looking for companionship and support, but more in the way of someone who is able to hose me down after my race and drive me home without destroying the car with mud. Will consider other mud runners/racers so long as we vow to never compete in the same event.

Dean Karnazes disciple seeks fellow ultra-runner to lose sleep with. Must be mildly insane—in a good way, of course—and eschew the term “pain tolerance.” Must appreciate the finer things in life, like downing a dozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at mid-race aid stations and traveling from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney in the middle of summer… on foot… in 120˚ + temps.

5Ker seeking ex-collegiate sprinter to work on intervals together. Who are these people who say that life is a marathon, not a sprint? I’m not settling into a pace for the long haul; I’m amping it up and grabbing life by the horns—3.1-miles at a time. If you like to have your race day wrapped up before most people finish their first cup of coffee, well, maybe we should pace set this world together? Must have racing flats and a yellow and green “Pre” zip up jacket.

To place a personal ad in the Nikwax Gazette, please comment below or on Facebook. All ads are free and Nikwax accepts no liability for the punishing runs that your new partner may encourage. 


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Biking: To Clip or Not to Clip?

clipless shoe and pedals

Blame it on calf envy.

Dazzled by the legions of clipless bike commuters (and their sinewy calves) swarming past as I pedaled my commuter bike in slo-mo, I impulsively made the leap:  From flat pedals with toe cages (aka “clipped”) to their clipless cousins.

Newly attached to my burly green steed via Sidi Duran bike shoes and Crank Brothers Smarty pedals, I cycled up to a quiet intersection and bam, it hit. Make that I hit—the ground.

Forgetting to rotate my ankle to disengage the bike cleat, I tipped sl-o-o-o-wly to the right, thumping onto a mossy parking strip.

At least it was a soft landing.

Lesson learned: Practice the ankle rotation move before venturing out in public.

With national bike month wrapping up, you too might be pondering the eternal question— To clip or not to clip?

It’s Nikwax to the rescue with a few insights from both sides of the clipless conundrum:

Con: The learning curve. As I learned, the newly clipless need to develop muscle memory for that ankle-rotating, disengaging motion. Try practicing in a grassy field somewhere quiet. Like Iowa.

Pro: You’ve got the power. And efficiency. And control. With cleats, you’ll automatically pull up on the pedal rather than just mashing it down. Watch with amazement as your pedal stroke smooths from a jerky, lop-sided egg shape to a nice round circle.

Con: You can’t just hop on your bike with regular shoes any more.

Pro: Oh yes you can. Check out Shimano’s double-agent pedals. One side has cleats for longer rides; flip it over for a plain old platform when you just want to cruise the neighborhood.

Plus, there are more bike footwear choices than ever. Want to go incognito? Try Keen’s cycling shoes that masquerade as regular-joe sandals.

Con: The intimidation factor. Many cyclists resist clipless pedals because of fears that they won’t disengage in a collision.

Pro: You can adjust your cleats to change the release angle. And, as illustrated in my (gentle) fall from grace, they really do release in the event of an accident.

Con: Bike shoes cost more money.

Pro: Not necessarily. Prolong the life of your bike shoe investment with Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather.

Wherever you land on the clipless vs. clipped debate, we know this much for sure: Biking is one of the very best things you can do for your community—and your calves.