As I’ve developed a stronger workout routine over the past few years, I’ve found some great products that have transformed my hour and a half a day at the gym and made my workouts a lot more effective than ever before. Since the holidays are right around the corner, I figured I’d post some of my favs and link to where you can buy them for yourself or for that athletic special someone on your list!
A Comfortable Baseball Cap
I use: Nike Women’s Featherlight Hat
As a girl, there’s nothing more frustrating than your hair falling in your face during a workout. Rule number one- invest in a good hair tie. Hair tie strength can make or break a workout. Rule number two is to make sure you always have a spare on hand- it never fails that one snaps just as you’re getting into the rhythm of your workout. What I’ve found as of recently, though, is the importance of a quality workout hat. Sure, headbands work too, but I’ve yet to find a headband that doesn’t either slip off or squeeze my brains out. There’s never a happy medium. Thankfully enough my Secret Santa this year got me a simple black Nike cap for Christmas, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. It not only keeps the sweat and hair out of my face during a run, but it keeps everything in place when the spin instructors turn the industrial strength fans on halfway through a class. Hats are great because they also cover and hide the sweaty mess that I end up leaving the gym with. I prefer black (because, well, all black errythang), but this particular hat also comes in grey and white!
A Set of Various Strength Resistance Bands
I use: Limm Exercise Resistance Loop Bands
Around NYE last year I invested in a set of resistance bands to tone what the machines couldn’t…… also because around this time it becomes impossible to get on a machine….. cough cough resolutioners cough (okay, I kid, if you’re using the New Year to get in shape and turn over a new leaf, you’re killin’ it, go you.) What was an impulse buy at the time has turned out to be a great investment because I can pack the bands and bring them anywhere I go, and train almost any part of my body depending on what size and strength I use! There’s 5 bands to a set, perfect for any workout or ability level. I brought the X-Heavy home with me this break, and I use it to do some simple workouts while I watch Netflix (and to feel a little bit less like a potato). Plus, I love these bands because they’re super cheap!
I use: SCOTT Road Comp BOA Lady Shoe
If you’re going to be doing any decent amount of spinning, I really recommend investing in a pair of cycling shoes. While these can be upwards of $100 or more, they’ll change the way you bike. Most stationary bikes I know of offer the option to tighten a strap over the top of a sneaker, but I never felt like my foot was fully secure cycling this way, and I could still feel a lot of movement up and down my leg. Sometimes, I even had knee pain, and when I asked my instructor about it one day, she told me the only way to make sure you are perfectly aligned is to by the clip in cycling shoes. At the time I was spinning almost every day, so that was all I had to hear- I went out and got a pair the next day. Of course, if you’re just getting into the sport, I’d say give it some time to test out whether cycling is really for you before making a larger-scale investment. When you do decide, definitely go in to your local cycle shop and get properly fitted- sizing is not like most women’s sneakers that we’re used to!
A Method to Track Your Workout
I use: Apple Watch Series 3
Now there are plenty of ways to track your workouts, but if you’re looking for something that will monitor your heart rate and calories burned in real-time, you’re going to have to invest in a band. I think most common still is the FitBit, but Apple Watch is definitely starting to have a major presence. There are other options- including the Motiv Ring Fitness Tracker, Samsung Gear Fit Pro and Misfit Ray- but my preference is still the Apple Watch, 100%. I used a FitBit Charge for one month before deciding to do away with it completely. The thing was not accurate at all, telling me that I had walked 5 miles in a day when I had run 5 at the gym alone, and walked all around campus to my classes. I knew whatever I got next, I wanted an accurate heart rate monitor as well, because this was something our spin instructors encouraged us to really keep track of during a class. I’ve had my watch for about five months now and absolutely love it. It’s user friendly, has clear visuals, and makes tracking different types of workouts (runs, swims, cycles, even stairmaster workouts) easy, without wasting a lot of time. Plus, you can play music from it and send/receive text messages, it’s really the best bang for your buck.
Disclaimer: I recommend getting to know the different color/size/software options before purchasing one. I have the 42mm space grey Series 3, but if I had known the newer version, with texting capabilities even out of bluetooth range, would have been launched so soon after, I would have waited. If you’re using your watch to send messages along with track your workouts, I say spend the extra money to get the latest edition, it will save you quite a bit of frustration.
A Pre-Workout To Amp You Up
I use: MuscleTech NeuroCore Explosive Pre Workout
Okay now disclaimer on this one. I am not a nutritionist/personal trainer/ nor am I claiming to know everything there is about supplements. I’m not guaranteeing this will work for you in the same way it has worked for me, and I’m not going to say that there are no adverse effects to taking a preworkout supplement. I honestly don’t know. But this is a brand that I did extensive research on before purchasing, came highly recommended to me by multiple college athletes and their trainers, and has worked for me for over a year. Basically, on days that I wake up lagging or just need that added extra little boost, I mix one to two scoops of the powder (I definitely recommend starting with one, but read the directions!!!) into an 8 oz glass and fill with water. I usually drink the mixture a half hour before I go to begin my workout, so since I’m home for the holiday and have to drive almost a half hour to get to my gym, I usually drink it on the car ride there. Tingling is normal, but again, read the label for directions and warnings and if something feels off, by all means get it checked out! Always listen to your body.
A Quality Foam Roller
I use: PowerPro 2-in-1 Foam Roller
WHEN IN DOUBT FOAM ROLL IT OUT. I’m so serious. Foam rolling is key. I had THE WORST shin splints of my life a few months ago, to the point where I went in for an xray because I was convinced I had a fracture, and a roller was really the only thing that even came close to helping my pain. Of course, this doesn’t come without pain in and of its own. Trust me, if you’ve got knots or shin splints, foam rolling is not a pleasant experience, especially with this particular roller that has grooves along its outer shell to target trigger points. I’ve uttered my fair share of expletives while rolling on the ground in my own tears. But it helps SO so much in the long run. This particular roller was given to me as a gift, and has worked so well for me. It has a removable, soft foam core for just your day-to-day use, and the harder, bumpy outer core really targets those pain areas. I even roll my entire shin/calf over the hard outer layer just to break up any lactic acid and try AT ALL COSTS to avoid the pain I experienced this fall. A good roller is definitely worth the investment. Don’t skimp out on this one. (P.S.- it’s still not expensive).
A Sturdy Set of Earbuds/Headphones
I use: Beats by Dre Powerbeats 3 Wireless
Finding a pair of earbuds that worked well for me was a process. I was just getting into workout out again a couple of years ago, and dealing with my shitty earbuds constantly falling out of my ear on a run or the cords getting all tangled up was really messing with the quality of my workout. So I decided to splurge and buy a pair of wireless Beats Solos. I had seen plenty of people at the gym working out in these, so I went for it. About a week after I got mine, I was still frustrated. How people run with giant headphones bouncing around on their head is beyond me, and the padding would get so sweaty and gross by the end of the day that I’d gross myself out. If you were around during this tumultuous period of my life, I apologize- I think all I talked about for a month was headphones. After a kind old man on the treadmill next to me showed me his Powerbeats and suggested I get a pair, I finally decided, screw it, who cares if I’m a poor college student, I’ll give it a whirl. Thankfully enough for my bank account, these were a winner. With adjustable inserts to fit any ear size, a loop to go around your ear and the wireless factor (which I really say is necessary for any athlete of any level), I haven’t had a single problem with mine since I purchased them. The only bit of advice I can give is make sure you stay on top of keeping them charged! Nothing is more painful than getting amped up for a workout only for your earbuds to cut out 10 minutes in. I’m ashamed to say this has happened to me more than once.
A Pair of Supportive Sneakers
I use: Nike Women’s Free RN Running Shoes
Last but not least, sneaks. I have been in agony for a little under four months now because of a poor sneaker choice, and to be honest, I have yet to find a pair that I absolutely love (so yes, taking any and all suggestions). My Nike Free RN (yes, I’m a Nike advocate all the way) have worked for me forever, but when they got worn out early this fall, I switched to a training sneaker and haven’t been able to reverse the damage since. In the meantime, I’ve purchased the black pair pictured above and a pair of inserts, so with any luck I’ll be back up and running again, but I’ve talked to countless friends my age who have also been having the same problem of finding a decent shoe. Definitely what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone, so shop around, try things on, and see a specialist if needed. If you decide to go with the Free RN, the 2017 version run much smaller than past styles, so I recommend ordering a full size up, or going into the store in person to try some on. I usually wear between a 7-7.5 and I had to order an 8.