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Posts tagged ‘Plus Size Running Clothes’

Managing Race Day Stress

This past Sunday, I had the great opportunity to run off a few of the Kit Kats which had been calling me home this Halloween season.  The Chicago Monster Dash (complete with a lovely stained glass medal) beckoned, and I obliged.

With registration in hand (there’s a good story behind that), I hit Grant Park on a gorgeous fall day, just as the Half Marathon crew was taking off around 8:00 a.m.   If you saw me wandering over to the start line Sunday morning, you might have thought that I was just another lame-o without a costume, getting ready to knock out three miles.  And I was.  But I was also a woman who ran dozens of races over the past ten years – but not a single running event - without being injured - in the past 18 months.

I don’t know about you, but for me, 18 months is a lifetime.  I mean, literally, children learn to walk and babble and do all sorts of things in 18 months.  People meet and get married in that amount of time.  Sometimes, they even wedge in a divorce.  In my intervening 18 months, I’d moved once, been through a stint of unemployment (and a return to work), welcomed multiple small children into my extended friends and family, and  – and – not to be underestimated – completed more than 30 PT visits and been introduced to the joys of cortisone.  In short, I’d been through some stuff. 

So toeing the line (or, more accurately, jumping in behind some girls dressed as Red and Green M&M and the Super Mario Brothers), had me feeling a bit stressed.  Was I really ready to try this distance?  Was I asking for trouble? 

I’ve been returning to running slowly, following the program given to me by my doc –  but I haven’t been following it to the tee.  I mean, really, that would make sense.  I’ve also been helping to pace the Chicago Endurance Sports 5k group this fall, and had been running without incident the past two weeks.  So part of my nervousness was wondering if 3 miles was too much, too soon.  (And trust me, when I say this, I cringe, becuase 3 miles used to be something I did when I was bored. )  But I knew that if I kept to my training, and kept an easy pace, all should be good.  And it was.  I focused on my “effort level” – how hard I was working throughout – and not on the pace per se – and felt pretty good at the finish.  No pain, and no worries.  Well, almost no worries. 

Because here’s something I didn’t count on:  all the race-day stuff that I thought just came with BIG races (you know, the ones where, if you quit, you’re 5-10 miles from home), well all of that was present too.  The things I thought would go away because I wasn’t running long – well, they were still there on Sunday, just for a shorter amount of time.  But make no mistake, they impacted the way I ran the race, and how I felt when I finished.  So here, a few pieces of advice about dealing with the race day stresses I encountered Sunday – and that you’re likely to encounter if you’re just the slightest bit like me!

Remember you race with others. The whole point of doing a 5k or a 10k is to put yourself in an event where you can push a bit with support – and an incentive to do well – AND  where you can feel like part of a community as you engage in a solo activity.  But running with others means you’re probably going to be impacted by them too.  Think about how you’ll handle it when the woman with the double-wide stroller cuts you off on the path – while talking on her cellphone.  Or how you might deal with a group who decides to walk right in front of you – four or five wide – while you’re trying to keep a pace.  These things happen, and they’re part of every race.  The best thing to do is either: decide you’re going to expend your energy to run AROUND them the whole race; or simply try to squeak through when you see a chance, smile, and keep breathing. 

On Sunday, I was so surprised by how much I wanted to keep at my effort level – without slowing down – that when Stroller Mom whipped around in front of me (but didn’t keep moving fast enough so that I wasn’t clipping her heels) I took two steps off the path and ran for about 20 yards – faster than I normally would – just to get ahead of her.  It wasn’t a great tactic, but it made me feel better.  

In other races, I’ve tapped people on the shoulder who did that to me, apologized, and said “can I squeak through?” and they oblige.  But it always goes down easy with a smile.  Remember, most people are just out there to have fun, and they don’t want to be in your way.  Be kind.  Or run ahead.  Either one works – one is just slightly more repeatable than the other.

Remember nothing’s perfect.  Saturday night before this race, the organizers found out they had to re-route the entire half marathon course.  People who had planned their mental game around a specific course were crushed by the idea that they were going North instead of South on our lakefront path. 

With so little notice, the course organizers did the best they could to create a route that would work for our police force, the Presidential security detail (he was in town and flying out near the course) and the runners.  And they did a great job – with one tiny flaw.  The re-routed course setup was just a hair long (for the half marathon, by about .4 mile.)  Some people who were using it to qualify – or who just wanted to claim a sub-something race, were disappointed.  Others were just glad they could run 13 miles AND tack on an extra .4 . 

In the 5k race, the mile markers were off.  I try to judge how well I’m doing by the pace I keep on each mile – but my “splits” – the pace per mile – were way off when I checked them against the mile markers.  As I kept looking at my watch after the last marker, I kept thinking “you suck, you’re never going to make it in”.  (Drama queen moment).  I did fine, and I came in in just over 50 minutes.  So the splits weren’t perfect.  It didn’t mean I was going to run TEN miles instead of 3 on Saturday.  I was just not going to be FULLY AWARE of every component on the course.  So what?  I still finished and had a great medal.  And that’s something to remember when you’re on the course.  Porta potties will be locked sometimes.  Pacers will not keep their pace.  Drawbridges may go up (as happened on Sunday).  It’s about keeping your cool – and your perspective on this.  It’s just. a. run.  Yes, you’re going to be thrown by it, but if you practice the mantra that “Sh*t happens” or “There is nothing I can do about THAT in THIS moment” you will have a much easier race. 

Find the joy.  When your’e in the zone – even if you’re a big, slow runner like me – sometimes you get so wrapped up in what you’re trying to accomplish that it’s like a tidal wave of coaching thoughts.  I’m a golfer, and I analogize it to standing over a balll, with a billion swing tips going through your head.  “Stand straight shoulders back  tuck that chest in  arms loose  pull back count and DOWNSWING and through and don’t dip and belt buckle to the pin and finish high!”   Jeeminy Christmas, it’s no wonder I chunk the ball half the time.

But when you’re running, it can be the same thing, and on race day, my running mantra goes a little like this: “Head up chin off the chest breathe in three out two and can you talk? and heel strike under your hips and god could that chest stop bouncing and ..”  You get the picture.  Add in the splits and a heart rate monitor and it’s DEFCON 4 out there and nobody knows it but me. 

So how do you keep from agitating yourself to death?  Simple.  Find the joy.  Focus on other people.  Watch that couple in front of you as they talk about the movie they saw last night.  Or keep your chin up – but take a look at the gorgeous scene around you (for me, this was Lake Michigan, sparkling on Sunday.)  Or find yourself a good looking runner to ogle!  There are options, people – all of them designed to distract you through 3.1 or 13.1 or 26.2 miles faster than you can say “shoe box”.  Take in what your’e seeing, though, and just grab the joy out of it. 

It’s that joy that brings me back to the path, every single time.  And as I left the race on Sunday, it was that joy that I carried with me.  I finished, pain free, and I had a blast.  I can’t wait for what’s next.

See you on the path.

Back in the game

When pitchers tear rotator cuffs, you can hear baseball analysts groan in sympathy.  When soccer players tear an ACL, thousands of former players wince.  And when runners come down with plantar fasciitis, joggers the world round start limping in sympathy.

So it is that I’ve returned to running, wincing a little bit every time I go out.   It’s not that I’m hurt anymore.  (Really, I’m not.  Most of the time.)  It’s more the idea of running again, of doing battle with that evil possibility of injury, just waiting to pounce.  It’s psyching me out.  And I don’t get psyched out easily.

After 8 weeks of not nearly enough activity, (erm, but enough to do what I’m about to do…), I’ve given in.  I need help.  And so it is that I’ve decided to return to the path with a little bit of support, structure, and fun.   After the Chicago Triathlon in late August, I benched myself in favor of working too much, and exercising too little.  (Anyone else been there, done that?)  I could feel the muscles in my legs (which I’d worked so hard to strengthen over 5 months of physical therapy) working just a bit harder every time I hit the stairs.

So last Saturday, when I went out for a nordic walk along the Chicago Lakefront, I thought to myself, “self, get thee back in the game”.  For me, that game means signing up with my walking/running group, Chicago Endurance Sports.  Lucky for me, they’ve designed a program like they knew I was coming.

This fall, for the first time ever, CES will be offering a combined 5k/10k and Half Marathon training program as part of its Winter Warriors series.  When I sauntered into the packet pickup last Saturday, intending to sign up for the half marathon, but only train for a 5k, I was thrilled when Jayme Tipre (long time CESer and administrative guru) informed me that the 5k/10k group would be an option.

After some discussion, we also discovered that they had a need for folks to act as Pace Group Leaders for the 5k/10k group.  And if you’re a reader, you know I always love the idea of helping people become runners for life, so I signed on – and then checked to make sure I could actually do the current distance.  (I can.) 

That means that tomorrow morning, I’ll be lining up at 7:15 with a ton of new-to-running or returning-to-running or I-just-want-to-run-regularly runners who aren’t in it for a half marathon, but who think that a 5k or a 10k is a perfectly acceptable (and healthy) distance to run.

For me, it’s about two things: seeing the amazing friends I’ve made over the years every weekend as we do something active – and holding myself accountable for these bi-weekly workouts.   If you’re interested in joining us, I’ll be pacing at Piper’s Alley Fleet Feet, Saturday mornings.  They’re also offering training from the Lincoln Square location on Sundays, if you’re a true North Sider.

Next weekend also promises some fun, as I join a bunch of friends (including intrepid traveler Kim, joining us from D.C.) in the Monster Dash, where I’ll be walking a bit, running a bit, but mostly having a lot of fun in the 5k. 

Costume suggestions???  We’ll take them all!

See you on the path!

Fall Walk & Run Gear for the Plus Runner

Maybe you’re sitting on your couch tonight, trying to get motivated.  Maybe you have a friend who’s considering running.  Maybe you’re tired of that post-child (where did that come from??) stomach, those ba-donka-donk thighs, and the fact that you can’t click on a website without realizing you now have to shop for clothes by the shape of fruit. (I’m a Pear. Don’t you wish you were a Carrot?)

Whatever the situation, perhaps you’ve decided you’re turning over a new leaf. You’re going  to start walking for 30 minutes a day.  Or maybe (gasp!) you’re going to take The Plus Runner’s Gobble This challenge and you’re going to run or walk the Turkey Trot in your town on Thanksgiving day.  Whatever the case, you can start getting on the road whenever you feel like it. 

Or, you can treat yourself to some new clothes, to make you feel all Supah Motivated. 

So, because it’s fall, and because many of us ARE going to start taking advantage of the great weather outside, I’ve done some searching for tights, pants, long-sleeved shirts, and jackets. These are the foundation garments for any walker or runner who wants to hit the streets any day of the week, and not let the weather keep her inside.  Because I’m also vain, the clothes are kinda cute.   But maybe you’re also new to this, and don’t know what to wear, at what temp.  So to help, I’ve included some basic guidance on temperatures and clothing along with each piece, to help get us started.

How many layers should you wear for 50 degrees? 40? 30?

The general rule I use for running is to dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer outside than the actual temperature.  This means when you leave your house, you might be a bit chilled, but if you’re running or run/walking, you’ll warm up in the first 5 minutes or so.

Keeping this in mind, when it’s 50, that means you dress as if it’s 70 – a big swing. When it’s 45, dress like it’s 65. 

For walking, I think the temperature swings are somewhat less.  Because it takes just a bit longer to get your body warm when you’re walking, I dress only as if it’s about 10 degrees warmer. And I make sure once it gets cooler that I have a jacket that will cut the wind – something that can really get to you if you’re out there walking.

So, tomorrow morning, when it’s going to be about 45, and I’m going for a walk, I will likely head out in a pair of wicking Capris, along with a long-sleeved shirt.  Lucky for you, there are some great sales going on now if you need some new stuff.  Below is a sample of some key pieces I’d recommend for this fall and winter, along with their prices, sizing, and when to wear them.

Nike Perfect Fit Capris: Up to size XXL. (Comfortably fits a 53 inch hip).  $24.99 at (click here for a direct link.)

I’ve worn the predecessor to these pants for about 3 years now, and if you’re remotely pear-shaped, these are the ones for you.  I have the capri and pant version, and they’re great – with one caveat. They will NOT hold you in – stomach or anywhere else. If you like a loose, non-body-hugging fit, these are great (keeping in mind that they have to be a little close to you in order to prevent chafing.)  They wick; they have a great, wide waistband that stays put, and they look great on.  Wear them down to about 35 degrees if you’re working up a sweat.

 Be Strong Capris










New Balance Tempo Long Sleeved Shirt: Up to Size 2X.  (Comfortably fits up to a 48″ chest).  $26.99 at (click here for a direct link.)

New Balance has come out with some great clothing in the last year, up to a Size 2X.  I know, you’re thinking “but I can’t fit in a 2X!”  Wait – maybe you can.  Or, maybe you’re not sure about your sizing.  Don’t sweat it.  If you’re ordering online, just check the size charts, and give it a shot.  Trust me when I tell you that once you figure out your sizing, the online ordering will be the easiest thing you do to prep for a run or walk. 

This shirt is the same fabric and cut of the summer shirt that I recommended earlier this year. It’s long enough to cover your stomach and it is flared slightly over the hips, so it gives some extra room, and is flattering. Plus, NB gets that we like cute colors.  Pick your favorite, and go to town.  For $26, you might buy two – I promise you’ll wear these all winter long.

NB Tempo LS











What about rain or wind? And should I have tights? 

Ah, yes, weather.  Living in Chicago, I can almost gaurantee that at least one day a week, I’ll be running in something unsavory.  I recommend a jacket that you can layer at least one, if not two pieces underneath – not extravagant, big fleece pieces – just a couple of t-shirts (polyester, of course) for when the temps drop.  For the first time, I’m excited to share that New Balance has some jackets out there for women up to a 2X.  For those who need a bigger jacket, I’m going to refer you to the Moving Comfort Jacket on the Weekly Gear Deal page – it’s the best deal going right now for a jacket in sizes 3X and 4X. 

If you are able to fit into a 2X (check the size recommendations here) there are three jackets to choose from for the fall.  Depending on your budget, climate, and routine, one of these three jackets will work for you.

Sequence Jacket: $50.99 .  Click here for more information.

I’d recommend this jacket with a long-sleeved shirt until about 30 degrees for running; with a long-sleeved and a thermal shirt until about 20 degrees.  It’s very lightweight, so it may feel like you’re not getting a lot – but I ran in a jacket just like this for about 5 years, and you’d be amazed at what a light windbreaker can do.  Plus: it’s relatively inexpensive for a windbreaker, and you won’t need to buy another one for about 5 years. Cons: It’s not waterproof, or even water resistant, so you’re looking at primarily a windbreaker.   And if you’re a walker, this may not help you much when it gets below 30 degrees.

Sequence Jacket











Lightweight Convertible Jacket  $89.99.  Click here for more information.

If you want to invest in a jacket that has a bit more functionality, this is the one for you.  I often wished I had something like this when I was traveling for work – in a different city each week, I often found myself guessing about which clothes to pack for running on the road.  If you’re trying to get into a new fitness routine, this is a good investment.  The sleeves zip off, so if you’re dealing with a bit warmer conditions, you can lose them. If you’re in a cool climate, add them back.  Plus the coloring on this is darned cute – and flattering.  There are some nice perks, too – a pocket for your iPod, and keys, etc.  Wind and water resistant – which means if you’re not out there for more than an hour, you should be fine.  And there are thumbholes in the jacket sleeves, which means you won’t have to pack your gloves for those cool but not cold mornings. 

Location help: If you live in the South or Southwest, this is the most jacket you’ll ever need. For those in the North, this jacket, coupled with some good layers, might get you through the winter. 

Lightweight Convertible Jacket











X-Treme Jacket: $107.99 Click here for more information.

What’s the point in spending over $100 on a jacket?  It’s a fair question.  The answer depends on who you are.

Some people I know don’t run outside after October.  They hate the wind, and they’d prefer to be in a gym, inspired by their fellow half-naked runners, than on the path, looking at mummies all winter.  Me, I live in a city with a wonderful lakefront, and spend a lot of time surrounded by others. So when I get the chance to be outside, darnit, I’m outside.  That means I run or walk all year.  And I determined awhile ago that I’m more likely to keep working out if the clothes are up to the demands.

This jacket is truly an “investment piece.”  I don’t mean that in the Shopaholic sense.  I mean that in the “if you buy this, you won’t buy another jacket for at least 5 years – unless you see something cuter”  sense. It is waterproof in the front, breathable in the back (which is what you need).  It has vents in all the right places, thumbholes, and all the bells and whistles of an all-weather jacket.  It will block the wind, and preven the rain from doing you in on a run or walk.  It’s also the best jacket I can find for women up to a Size 2x who want to be outside and active all fall, winter and spring.  I’d wear this with a long-sleeved shirt down to 30 degrees; with two layers down to 20 degrees.

If you need a jacket to rely on this winter, this is probably your newest purchase.  For those of us in the North, upper MidWest, and NorthWest, this is the best we can do. NBxTreme Jacket











New Balance Control Tight  $51.99.  Click here to order.

Finally, we get to talk about tights.  As I mentioned above, I’ve been running in Nike’s Perfect Fit Capris and pants for awhile now, but when I first started running, I was in tights. Yes, tights.  Those curve-baring, spandex-clad things that only “real” runners wear. 

As time went on, I transitioned to the pants because they were cuter.  But I’ve also found that runners wear tights for a reason: they support your muscles, constrict the movement of bodily parts (i.e. that stomach I’m trying to slim down) and make sure that I don’t zig when I should zag.  So…I’m about to purchase a pair of tights for this fall’s running, to also help support my return from this injury.  And these are the tights I’ll probably buy.   Why these?  Well, to start, they have 10% spandex, which means they’ll hold when I need them to hold.  Second, they have leg zippers at the bottom.  Trust me, this helps when you’re having trouble touching your toes!  Tights without them can be your worst enemy.  Finally, these are really well constructed, with flatlock seams, good pockets, and a look I like.  Sold.

NB Control Tight


The New Balance tight will keep you warm up to about 30 degrees.  For an alternative that will keep you warm until about 20 degrees, plus some serious wind or rain, check out their X Treme Tight, here ($67).  Or pair these tights with a regular pair of wicking or windpants.






And that’s all I have for the fall running report!  Happy purchasing!  Later this week:  The Plus Runner’s Gobble This Challenge. 

I’m off to bed (and an early walk…).

See you all on the path!

Newbie’s Guide to Big Girl Active Clothing

Running, walking, biking, swimming.

Each of these activities should be simple to dress for, right?  You would think.  And yet, when Big Girls start working out, we find that we don’t really have the “right” clothes for the job.  Those ten year old sweatpants from The Gap?  Probably not working.  Your husband’s college tee shirt?  Great for sleeping in, probably not so great for the gym.

And then there’s the cute factor.  Deep down inside, I think (and maybe this is just part of my pseudo-Southern upbringing) that if you’re making the effort to move, you’re taking care of yourself.  You’re starting to be proud of the way you look.  And you want to look just a little bit more like the Little Girl who runs down your street every morning.

Well, after years of watching What Not to Wear, and LIVING What Not To Exercise In, I’ve got a pretty good short list of the places to go if you want to find functional, cute clothing that does the job.


If you’re a runner or walker, check out this page on the website:  .  It has everything you need to know about your first set of running clothes.  For fall running and walking apparel, check out my go-to guide for fall apparel – and let me know what you think!  Or, read on for a basic intro to some unique issues faced by Our Folks when we run, walk, bike and such.


New bikers have one big issue to deal with getting started: finding bike shorts that fit, and don’t cut off all circulation to your nether regions.  The women at Terry Bicycles (a women-owned, and women-only bike company) have been making plus-sized apparel for women for years.  They do a very nice job of creating technical materials that fit you, wick moisture away, and make you feel all girly inside. 

If you’re just a “short term” rider – i.e. nothing over 20 miles, and you don’t need to stow gear in your shirt – you can wear any of your “other” tops while you’re riding.  My running and hiking tops tend to do just fine.  But if you’re training for a long distance ride, like the MS Ride, Terry has some great shirts for you.

terry-plus-t-short1For shorts, I recommend (and own) this short – the Terry T Short Plus.   It’s great for long rides (anything over 20 miles, and it will save you!), and I’ve owned mine for 7 years.  Expect to pay $90 for the shorts, but recognize they are an investment (and definitely last).   The shorts also are available up to a Size 4X, proving that Big Girls DO bike!

DETAILS:  Terry T-Short Plus  Price: $90.00   Click here to order. 

Click on the link at left to see more details.



Big Girls who start to swim also face a unique challenge:  we either haven’t shown our body in a bathing suit in awhile; OR the suits we have are made more for lounging than being active.  Trust me, I have enough “Beach Living Separates” to outfit an entire Weight Watchers meeting.  But if you’re serious about getting in the pool, you’re going to need a suit that stays up, no matter what you’re doing (laps, water aerobics, handstands…)

speedo-backAny suit you purchase should have at least ONE key feature: cross-strap support in the back, to keep the straps from sliding off your shoulders as you swim.  Now, you may be able to find a suit at Kohls, or Target, that fits this bill…but if you do some homework on the web, you can probably find something more suited to “regular” time in the pool.

I currently own a plus-sized suit that I bought from REI last year.  Made by TYR, in a Size 20, it is lined and came with a soft cup in the front for added…um…modesty?  I removed them when they arrived, (as I’m a heavy C cup and didn’t need the padding) but love the suit for lap swims.  

You can currently find lap suits for Big Girls at a couple of other places as well, but I just purchased this suit (on a nice discount) at Land’s End (overstock).  (10/29/09).

Landsend Butterfly Tank

The suit has a cross back and will stay in place through your laps – and heck, you can even wear it to the pool with your friends and look pretty cute.   Available up to a Size 20 – sizes are going fast..

INFO:  Land’s End Womens’ Plus Size Solid X-Back Butterfly Tank Suit.  Available at or here .  Price: $29.99. 

Alternatively, if you want something a little different, more modest, etc., you can try Speedo, which has simple suits made for hard work, up to a size 24.



DETAILS: (Left)  Ultraback Plus Size Moderate  Price: $66.00    Click here to order. 

(Right) Piped Ultraback Plus Size   Price:  $40.80           Click here to order. 

And that’s all I have to offer for the “getting started” apparel guide.  If there’s something I haven’t covered, please let me know!  Now get out there, and get moving!!!

The Plus Runner


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