Nikki's Favorite Things (Oct 2021)

Mon, Jul 18th, 2022 12:00:00 am

I get around. Don’t take that wrong. What I mean by this statement is that I’ve run over 50 half marathons, run 7 marathons, 6 50k trail races, over a dozen relays, and many many other races. I’ve also taken and/or and taught bootcamps, barre classes, strength classes, HIIT workouts, TRX training, and even aerial yoga classes. I also write for an amazing running blog called Run Oregon so I get to test out products a lot. So, don’t assume I’m bragging here .. I’m just giving you some background so you know where this list below comes from. As a fitness professional and fitness “student,” (“I’m not only the president, I’m also a customer!!”) I’ve been asked a lot about what I recommend. I’ve built y’all a list of some of my favorite things.

Now, before I dig in, some disclaimers.

This list is long. I might continue to add to it over time, so it might get even longer. That’s why there are bullet points and bold fonts for each category. Feel free to skip ahead.
Let’s get THIS elephant out in the open room .. I am a Zyia Representative. Yes, it’s an MLM. No, it’s not a cult. Yes, the clothes are fantastic and no, I’ll never pressure you to buy the clothes. I sell them because I love them and I believe in them, so you’ll see them in this list below because I have tried a lot of brands and believe they are the best. However, you’ll be surprised that not everything on the list is from Zyia. In case you're keeping score, I also love Oiselle, Lululemon, and Athleta, but I rarely buy from them anymore not because they aren't good but because I love Zyia so much. 
With the above being said, no one is paying me to endorse their products. I do get a small commission from Zyia and from Four Sigmatic when people order from me, but I am not affliated with any of the other companies. I am just a consumer. 
This is a list of what works FOR ME. We are all built different. We are all different shapes and sizes and run hot and cold and have different bodies and activity levels and preferences. Please don’t hold me to this list if it doesn’t work for you. I created it only because I get asked on a weekly and sometimes daily basis for recommendations and I wanted to put them all in one place.
I started this list for my Healthy Girl Fitness blog in the Fall of 2021, so if this post stays up until the end of time, not all of these things will likely be available or relevant forever. Things change. Sorry. Give me a break, because it takes a long time to build a list this long. Ha. I can still probably give you advice if you reach out 10 years from now if I’m still alive and in the know, which I plan to be.
This list includes a lot of links for women. Sorry guys, I’m a woman. I wear mostly women’s clothes. I might still have recommendations for you if you ask. Maybe. Especially if it’s Zyia. Ha.
Most of this list talks about running clothes because I run. Like, a lot. I think all of these items will work for workout out too. Especially high impact stuff where you jump around a lot.
When all else fails, ask me about something! I’d love to help. Really. It's my "why."
Okay, here we go!!

  • Favorite Shoes (Road): For years, I couldn’t get on the Brooks bandwagon. The shoes felt heavy on my feet and I need a wide toebed. Then I got to review the Brooks Glycerin and everything changed. They are my go-to now. I’m also a big fan of HOKA ONE ONE®, but in my experience, you either love them or hate them. I personally love the Clifton 8 for women. Go to Portland Running Company to try on shoes and to support a wonderful local business.. They are fabulous and have a great return policy. Mention “Healthy Girl Fitness” for a small discount.
  • Favorite Shoes (Trail): Again, I am a fan of the HOKA ONE ONE®  but see my disclaimer above. I really like HOKA ONE ONE's Speedgoat. I’ve also had great luck with Saucony and Merrell trail running shoes.
  • Favorite Leggings: Now that the workout world has finally discovered that women like to have pockets, I’m making it my mission to make sure all my leggings have them. The Zyia Light n Tight line of leggings are what sold me on becoming a rep. They are compressive, which some people don’t like. I, however, love this, because due to a double seam in the waistline, you can put stuff in the side pockets and they don’t get dragged down. I put my phone, my keys, my hydration, (my whole car basically,) in those pockets and my pants do not fall and my bootie does not see the light of day and everyone is happy. There are a million patterns, lengths, and colors of Light n Tights, so here are a couple of faves. The Zyia Black Reflective Pocket Light n Tight Hi-Rise 7/8 are a 24" length, which is great for this 5’-4” short-legged gal. They are reflective in the dark, they have pockets, and I’ve fallen in them and not torn them a million times until.. I finally did. One the one millionth-and-one time. But I still wear them. If you want a simpler solid color, the Plum Pocket Light n Tight Hi-Rise Capri length (20”) leggings   are fabulous. No piling, no pulling, no hassle.
  • Favorite Shorts: You probably guess I’d say Zyia here, but you’d be wrong. Zyia does make shorts and I’ve heard great things abut them, but I don’t personally have any that I run in, so I can’t personally speak to them. I honestly rarely wear shorts and I like capris or leggings better. I am a thick-thighed girl and chafing is a real thing. When it is in the double-digit degree days and I do wear shorts, I have two kinds in my drawer right now, and they are both biker-style shorts made by Oiselle. First, I have the Oiselle Long Pocket Joggers. Because, again pockets. And again, thick thighs. They can range in consistent sizing every season, so choose wisely. If you want something like biker shorts for the thunderous thighs but want a bit more coverage like I do, Oiselle aso makes these cute shorts called Long Track Star Shorts. I will warn you that the pockets, located on the underside inner shorts, don’t do well for holding much. I tried putting my phone in them and they don’t stay up. They are pretty flattering overall though. These come in shorter styles too, but I can only speak to the longer styles because that’s what I’m comfiest in.
  • Favorite Tank Top: Another Zyia winner for me is the Horizon Muscle Tank. It’s got a peek-a-boo vent in the back the material is super soft. I like the length and the feel of this one. I tend to mostly wear tank tops when it’s hot, long-sleeved shirts when the weather drops in the Fall and rarely anything in between.
  • Favorite Long-Sleeved Top: Yep, Zyia again. They always get the material just right. The Subtle Stripe Long Sleeve T is the best long-sleeved running top I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, it only comes in two colors as I type this (yellow and black) but it’s extremely lightweight and therefor easy to layer. It’s also got thumbholes and looks cute on.
  • Favorite Hat: Hands down, Oiselle makes the best Runner Trucker Hat ever. As I’ve gotten older, Ive cared more and more about sub protection and this hat is the most comfortable style ever. It has a lightweight bungee and toggle adjustment on the back rather than a typical snap back cap has, and you can literally fold it in half to make it more portable. They have a reflective one and the designs are constantly changing.
  • Favorite Bra: Brooks used to make my favorite bra and I’m sure they still have good options, but the one I really liked, the Fiona, is no longer available. Now I have two bras from .. what else .. Zyia that I wear for all my double digit miles. These don’t chafe and they don’t move. They are actually comfortable. The first is the Ribbed Premium Adjustable Bra. It has hooks in the back but I never feel them, which is a good thing because I hate any sort of hardware on bras. I don’t even mess with the hooks, I just put it on over my head because it’s very stretchy. The only drawback is that it only comes in two colors, black and orange. I own both and one is always in the laundry because I wear them A LOT. The second option is the All Star Bra. This comes in loads of colors and patterns. It has a zipper in the back, but like with the Premium Adjustable, I don’t ever mess with it and don’t feel it when it’s on. This bra is high cut in the front, so if you don’t like that, it’s not the bra for you. Both are high impact and keep my D cup ladies contained.
  • Favorite Underwear: Zyia makes a great thong that’s seamless if that’s your thing, but I like full coverage for long runs. Some ladies go commando, but not this one. My favorite are the Balanced Tech Seamless Panties. They do have a website, but I don’t see the panties listed, so you can buy them on Amazon like I did. They are great for wicking the sweat away.
  • Favorite Socks: This is a hard one because we all have different needs. I have recently gotten into Injinji Toe Socks, as the wool blend is wonderful and these are helpful if you tend to get hot spots or blisters. If you don’t like toe socks, Balega is a classic you can’t go wrong with. If you like compression socks, Pro Compression Socks come in lots of styles and colors and there are always sales going on for them.
  • Favorite Jacket for the rain: A lot of people are looking for a waterproof jacket, and I’ve heard wonderful things about the Say Anything Jacket from Oiselle. However, “waterproof,” in my opinion, means no breathability and that gets hot if I’m running. Here in Oregon, I don’t often find myself in the middle of monsoons, though it does rain quite a bit. My favorite is the Patagonia Women’s Houdini® Air Jacket because it is super lightweight and keeps me relatively dry despite NOT being waterproof. It packs well for hikes and into a hydration pack or a backpack also. It’s expensive but well worth the money, as is all the Patagonia gear I’ve worm over the years.
  • Favorite Lightweight Gloves: Again, this is not what I’d wear in the middle of a snowy day in the arctic, but if I’m just trying to keep the chill off, I love anything from Smartwool. When I get hot during Winter running, I generally remove gloves before anything else, so the Smartwood Merino 150 Gloves do for me just fine. They are NOT insulated or waterproof and I have torn a pair when I fell on some concrete (did I mention I fall sometimes?) so they are not super durable in that regard, but they do keep my hands warm for mild winter days. I don’t have any heavy-duty glove recommendations because I don’t wear those for anything but playing in the snow. Those I generally buy from the Columbia Outlet store and they are too thick to function in but do keep everything toasty.
  • Favorite Headphones: I have had great luck with Jabra earbuds, most recently the Jabra Elite 7 Active) but I don’t really care for noise inside my ear. I have small ear canals and I like to be very aware of my surroundings, so my absolute favorite option is the AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Endurance Headphones. These are bone-conductor headphones that fit over your ears rather than inside them, so you can hear everything around you as well as the music or audiobook or whatever you’re playing on them. AfterShokz makes a few different models, and the Aeropex model was more expensive than the base model, but they are well worth the cost. They are very comfortable and I don’t get headaches with them on like other headphones. They are trickier with hats/beanies that come over your ears, but I generally don’t have a problem with this. While I’m add it, I’ll say I love the library app so I can listen to audio books for free when I’m just in the mood to chill.
  • Favorite GPS Watch: You either like a lot of technology at your fingertips or you like to step away from it. I personally like to track my milage, my speed, and my time and that is good. For this reason, the Garmin Forerunner® 55 is just perfect. Garmin makes a lot of really wonderful sports watches now, and they range in price depending on features. The Forerunner 55 is pretty basic and very easy to use. It always finds my location easily and lasts a long time. I’ve wear-tested $500 smartwatches in the past that were too complicated and this one is not like that, which I love. I’ve also used a Suunto sports watch and loved that as well, though it's a little more complex than many others that I've tried. The Suunto battery life lasts a really long time, which is great for those of us who’ve been out on the trails for ultra races for a very long time.
  • Favorite Sunglasses: I lose and break sunglasses, so I don’t ever buy anything super expensive. Goodr sunglasses are great because they don’t break the bank and there are a million designs and styles. They stay put well and they have amazing customer service. If you ever scratch them (which happens a lot,) you can generally email their customer service and they will send you new lenses.
  • Favorite Hydration Option: I have tried everything from handheld water bottles to waist packs to multiple different kins of vests. Hydration options are a very personal preference, as some people hate carrying anything in their hands and some people detest wearing anything on their bodies. I hate all of it, but I’m a distance runner, so I need something to carry water, electrolytes, snacks, and things like my phone and keys. For runs longer than half marathons, I generally go for my Nathan QuickStart 4 Liter Race Pack. In my opinion, Nathan makes some of the best options for hydration. Vests, like everything, have many options and are all built differently. Pockets are placed in different spots and in different formations and there are options for bladders on your back or bottles in pockets on the front or back. I prefer bladders on my back because the bottles, when located on the front of a vest, tend to concentrate too much weight on my front and make my back ache. I also don’t like pulling the bottles out constantly, although some now have long straws so you don’t have to do so. I find most bottles flop around on me too much when they start to empty but they are nice for if you want to carry a variety of liquids, since you can really only put one thing in a bladder. As I type this, I’m suddenly overwhelmed by the thought of telling you about all the options because there really are a million. Another great new backpack option is one made by a company called Drankful. I was lucky enough to review this one for the running blog, and I love that the bladder fits horizontally on your low back rather than the standard vertical formation on the back of your shoulders. There is also a lot of room in these ones for gear, keys, etc.
  • Favorite Reflective Gear: I run very early in the morning and often late at night when it’s dark. I own a lot of reflective clothes and Brooks and Nathan make some great choices. My favorite product is the Noxgear Tracer 2 Performance Safety Visibility Vest This is a reflective vest which also has lights on it and it's very lightweight and not obnoxious like some reflective vests are. I will say that when it stops flashing all of it's many colors, it’s probably getting close to needing new batteries. On my wishlist for this item is some sort of rechargeable option.
  • Favorite Headlamp/Lights: There are lots of great headlamps out there which are great for wearing in the dark to see and be seen with. Biolight makes a very lightweight option that a lot of runners swear by. I have a super bright one from COAST which is a local company that I like supporting. Black Diamond also makes great ones. Spend the extra money and get a rechargeable headlight!! You don’t want it to go out in the middle of a run without warning, and the rechargeable one will be worth it in the long run.. trust me on this one. If you don’t like wearing a headlamp, you can also buy Knuckle Lights for your hands at night, or gloves with lights in them by Mangata.
  • Favorite Pre & Post-Run Fuel: While we are on the subject of hydration, I should probably mention my fuel. For a long time I used Liquid IV, which I still employ often and it can be found at Costco or on their website. I like to drink some of this the day before, the morning before, and also following a long run, because it helps with dehydration and restores any salt you may need to replenish. But I’ve recently discovered LMNT Electrolyte mix (pronounced as “Element,” if that helps you remember it.) This electrolyte replacement comes in a variety of flavors and has 1000 mg of sodium, 200 mg of potassium, and 60 mg of magnesium. All good stuff when your body is stressed, especially on those hot or long days.
  • More Pre & Post-Run Goodies: I also drink Four Sigmatic Coffee every morning with breakfast, and it’s especially important on long run days. This “mushroom coffee” has adaptogens in it and no, it doesn’t taste like mushrooms. I often use their elixirs, protein powders, and other offering as well, but the coffee is still my favorite. Full disclosure, I’m an affiliate, but again it’s because I believe in their products. If you use code RUNSTRONG when you order, you’ll get a small discount. In addition to their protein powders, I use Orgain Sport Protein Sport when I want a good smoothie. Orgain is a plant-based, non-GMO, USDA Organic, and Vegan option. It also contains 30g of protein and only 1g of sugar.
  • Favorite Running Fuel: As for the actual workout itself, I use Tailwind Endurance Fuel in my water (there’s even a “naked” flavor) quite a bit. I used to be able to withstand most electrolytes, but my body is getting less tolerant of what I put in my body, especially stuff with lots of sugar. I also like SkratchLabs Energy Chews, MUIR Energy, and Picky Bars while I run sometimes too.
  • Favorite Recovery Tool: I have a lot of foam rollers and massage tools, but getting a decent massage gun changed life for me. The Therabody Theragun and Hypervice Hypervolt make the best models out there but they are a bit spendy. I personally own a TriggerPoint Massage Gun which is at a lower price point, but it’s still a fabulous choice. I make my husband roll out my back and it gives me goosebumps. It’s helped many issues with sore bodies and muscles in our house, so I always recommend it to my friends.
  • Favorite Lube: Sometimes a runner will get into the shower after a run and will scream out in pain. This is because chafing is a real problem for many runners, especially those who sweat a lot or run in the rain. Blisters are also common. Some just use good old fashioned Vasoline as a barrier between their clothes, gear, and skin or between their toes before they put socks on. Many use Body Glide or another similar product that comes in a tube that looks similar to deodorant. I personally love Squirrel's Nut Butter and a little can go a long way. I know some trail runners swear by Trail Toes. Luckily, this is not a huge investment, so experiment a little. Your body will be really happy with you when you consider the alternative.
  • Favorite Bib Attachment Option: I do A LOT of races. Like A LOT a lot. I got sick of safety pins poking holes in all my favorite shirts or rusting when they get wet. Bibboards makes a great option called bibSNAPS for attaching your race bibs without the holes or rust. Some people use magnetic options but I think these work the best. There is a front piece that goes on the outside of the bib that snaps to a piece that goes behind it. You do need to make sure your shirt isn’t too thick and they won’t work on heavy duty jackets, but they work great otherwise. I get compliments on them at the start line of every race because there are always people there who never knew they existed. I even had some made with my Healthy Girl Fitness logo on it and I hand them out to clients.

Okay, that's it for now! If you have any suggestions on things to add to this list, let me know!! My ears are always open!!

Need some accountability?

Hit me up and let me know what you are looking for!!