I've been a runner for more than a decade now, and while it's easy to find running tops that work (the technical t-shirts I get from races are great for all but the coldest or hottest weather, and Target has plenty of cheap stuff to fill in the gaps), I've had a harder time with bottoms.
1) One pair of shorts, one pair of capris, one pair of tights. Yeah, one pair of each is enough. I do laundry every day, and unlike a sweaty tank, I'll often wear a pair of shorts for a couple of days before I wash them. And no skirts-- minimalism is the name of the game here, and I don't need an extra layer of fabric or a pair of annoying sewn-in underpants that give me a wedgie when I'm trying to get my fast on.
2) Pockets! Despite what I said about minimalism above, it baffles me that so many running bottoms don't come with pockets. At a bare minimum, there needs to be one pocket big enough to fit my phone (I frequently run alone in the dark, and even if I weren't addicted to my Audible app, I'd still run with a phone for safety reasons), and another to hold a couple of gels and a car key. If I plan to race in the bottoms (which I do, because see #1 above), then I'd like enough pockets to carry five gels, chapstick, an emergency drug stash and my inhaler on race day.
3) A waist that doesn't emphasize my muffin top. While I am not at all self-conscious about my non-existent butt or my skinny legs, let's be realistic-- I am a 39-year-old mother of six, and no one, not even me, wants to see my love handles. While a pair of tights or shorts that hits at the waist is the runner's equivalent to Mom jeans, I'm usually out running in the dark when no one can see me anyway.
4) All that for a price that won't make me rethink the necessity of buying a new pair of tights even when the old ones are full of holes and have been worn so transparent that you might be able to see my stretch marks through them.
That's only four things, and there are hundreds of pairs of shorts and tights out there, it shouldn't be too much of a challenge, right? Wrong. The really hard one is #2-- most pairs of shorts and tights come with a single pocket, either inside the waistband to hold the key or a zipper pocket at the small of the back that barely fits my iPhone 4.
Race Ready brand. As you can see in the photo to the left, the tights met all of my criteria. And $60 for a pair of running tights is a downright steal, especially since I wear my favorite pair of tights from October to May, basically every morning. I call the Race Ready tights my rickshaw tights, because I always feel like it looks like I'm carrying an enormous load on my back when I wear them. And cute, well, they are not cute at all. I see people staring at my behind when I wear them, and not in a checking-her-out kind of way, but more in a what-the-heck-is-on-her-butt kind of way. But still, these have been my go-to staple for years. This winter, I bought a second pair of winter tights since the first were losing their stretch after three or four winters. But the stitching on the new pair came apart almost immediately, and shortly thereafter, my phone went crashing out of the back pocket of the other pair and onto the ground one morning when a gigantic hole wore its way through the mesh pocket.
I have a bunch of their shorts too, and felt similarly ambivalent about them. Yeah, they're high-waisted enough to prevent a muffin top, but there is such a thing as too high waisted, and these are it. Besides, everyone else who wears them seems to be quite a bit older than I am. And while you might think that I've been pretty restrained by sticking with this one, fairly inexpensive brand, let me disabuse you of this notion-- I have bought PLENTY of other pairs of tights and shorts over the years, and I have decided that I hated most of them after wearing them two or three times. Either they were too tight at the waist, or the legs were too long/short/loose/tight or I spent the whole run pulling them up and driving myself nuts in the process.
While we're talking about shopping, I need to make a confession-- if I can't buy it online, I probably won't buy it at all. Ever since I've birthed and adopted a permanent entourage, there's not much that is more stressful and less rewarding than trying on clothes in a store, with my kids in tow (except maybe trying to write this blog post with both of my two-year-olds on my lap or going to the post office). So I'd buy online, hate whatever I bought, then not return it (because of how much I hate going to the post office). And I'd only buy from places that were for "real runners" because that's how I see myself.
This weekend, Annie and I went to Las Vegas. Long story, but she was stressed out by the idea of a birthday party, so I told her to scrap the party and we'd go stay in a hotel and eat dinner somewhere fancy one night. Mostly, she wanted to spend the money she'd gotten for her birthday at the mall. I wanted to do something spa-y, but didn't want to pay to go to the spa, so we decided to take a yoga class at the Lululemon at the mall.
Until this weekend, I'd never stepped foot in a Lululemon. I was a real runner, after all, and based on making totally judgey assumptions about the women I saw wearing Lululemon, I decided the brand was the ski bunny version of workout clothes (when you want to look cute but don't want to work out that hard). Besides, I knew they were blisteringly expensive.
I don't know if it was the fact that Annie and I had a wonderful, free class at Lululemon, or it was the happy endorphins that were coursing through my system after doing yoga, but I decided to look at their running tights on the way out of the store (shopping with one kid is actually kind of fun!). And lo and behold, I found a pair that had a mid-rise, and FIVE pockets! Better still, when I tried them on, they didn't make me look like a camel! Yes, I balked at the price tag, but again, remember that a good pair of tights will last me three or four years of daily use for six months at a time. And they're soft, and they feel so amazing on that I bought a pair of shorts (three pockets!) too. Didn't spring for capris though-- a minimalist can live without capris.
So what's the point of this blog post, other than that I'm bragging on my new bottoms? Not much, other than, I guess, not to judge your workout wear until you've run twenty miles in it. And to retire the bottoms that make me look like I have an extra butt ASAP.