Couch potato needs running/workout gear recs! (ETA Kid pics!)

I am embarrassed to admit that I am a total couch potato. I haven't exercised at all in at least two or three years--didn't exercise at all during pregnancy or this past year because I have been too exhausted with the three kids including the baby. In fact I still have two pregnancy workout DVDs that are still in the cellophane packaging! I am finally slowly starting to emerge from the post-newborn haze 14 months later (though DS2 STILL wakes up at least twice a night!) and really want to start focusing on my own health and getting fit. DH has been motivated to exercise because he has been going on a diving trip alone each of the past three summers (I let him because I want him to be motivated to stay fit)--this year he is learning dry suit diving and going diving in Alaska. I don't have anything like that to motivate me, so I'm thinking of doing the Couch to 5K program and finding a 5K race to enter in this summer. Has anyone done this before? And has anyone tried running/jogging with kids? (Mine are 6, 4 and 1).

This morning I ran one mile on a trail near our house and it took me 18 minutes at a slow pace. It felt good to have some time all to myself and to do something good for myself. But I do realize I need some new gear. I was wearing sneakers that are over 15 years old, so I'm not sure they are the best for my feet. I do have some Zella pants and a jacket but not much for warm weather. Does anyone have any recommendations for running shoes (I'd mostly be running on the dirt trail and sometimes roads), jogging bra/underwear, and tops and shorts/pants? Any brands and/or specific items that hold up well? Also, what do you do to hold your keys/phone/water? It was a little awkward running with my hands full. Also, any recs for workout DVDs? Preferably short ones, 20-30 min max (I've used 30 Min Shred in the past).

I'm doing this to get fit, not to lose weight. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've gone back to my pre-baby weight without any exercise at all, just by nursing and being so busy at work that sometimes I don't even have time to eat breakfast or lunch (I know, I know, not healthy!). Also I have to avoid dairy, eggs, soy and shellfish because DS2 is allergic and I'm still nursing, so that cuts out a lot of sweets and food options automatically. I'm trying to cut down on sugar (which is not easy because I love candy!) and white carbs, but I have to avoid dairy, soy, eggs and shellfish because of DS2's allergies, so I can't go
on super restrictive diets like paleo or gluten free because there would be nothing left to eat! ;)

I'm a total newbie to regular exercise so I figured I'd post here to keep myself accountable to stick with it. Any advice and/or encouragement appreciated! Thanks! :)

PS I wasn't sure whether I should post this in Off Topic, but since I mainly want help with buying gear I picked Shopping!

PPS I couldn't resist adding some kid pics! More pics of the trail near our house. This is from a recent hike we took with the kids. Piggy and Llama D. Llama (DS1 came up with that name!) came along for the ride.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Thistle replied 6 years ago

    I love Zella for gear. Absolutely amazing!

    Athleta has a lot of excellent choices as well.

    I admit I started with Old Navy for some pieces to see what I liked and what I actually wore, then upgraded those to Zella or Athleta pieces.

    I don't run as I shattered my left food in an accident as a kid, so I can't give you any tips on running specific gear. I do use the elliptical in my basement, mostly because I watch tv while doing it.  :)

  • Mo replied 6 years ago

    Honestly, I have gear from a whole range of brands - New Balance, Nike, Reebok, Champion, Lululemon, Adidas.  I find what fits, what's on sale, and for running especially I check the seams under the arms.  Moving Comfort's Fiona bra is a good recent discovery that some other fabbers also wear.  But it's sized small IMO.  I wear Asics shoes to run in, but feet are so different, you are better off trying on a bunch of shoes on your own to compare fit.

  • Thistle replied 6 years ago

    Okay, so total honesty. I stopped working out when we got pregnant. I barely had enough energy to stay awake most evenings. It is getting better, but I have yet to pick it back up. And I didn't start working out for real after DD was born until around the time DD started sleeping through the night (at 18 months!!!). 

    I also work full time, and there just isn't enough time or energy left at the end of the day. And DD is a morning person *grumble* so mornings don't much work either.

  • Aziraphale replied 6 years ago

    I'm not partial to any particular brand, either. The only really important thing for me is an industrial-strength sport bra that holds my breasts solidly in place. Currently I wear a pair of Lululemon shorts or sweats, depending on the weather, and a bamboo tee shirt.

    Good for you for getting active! Best of luck.

  • Zibbets replied 6 years ago

    For the shoes, definitely go to a good running store. Fleet Feet has locations in many places and there are lots of other good options. They will be able to evaluate your feet and running style to get you in the right shoe. 

    What's the climate like where you live?

    When you run, your body will feel as if you have increased about 20 degrees from air temperature, whether indoors or out, so take that into consideration when you decide what to wear. (If the air temperature is 55 degrees, you'll feel as if it's 75 after you've run about a mile.) I see people bundled up way too much sometimes, and it's so uncomfortable to be overdressed when you run. I like to run in shorts and tops that have underwear and bras built in because it's comfortable and simple. 

    I would think you could easily do a 5k in a couple of months, if you run a few times a week. There's no shame in walking part of it, so sign up asap to help motivate yourself.  

    Have fun!

  • goldenpig replied 6 years ago

    Thanks Thistle, Mo, Aziraphale, and Zibbets!

    My excuse for not exercising all these years was that I was too busy working FT and with the kids/baby. It's hard to find time to exercise because they go to bed around 8:30 and then I'm so exhausted that half the time I fall asleep right after. And DS2 gets up twice a night still and he wakes up usually around 6:30. And in the mornings I'm rushing to get to work on time. And when we get home from work it's busy with fixing and eating dinner and then getting the kids ready for bed (not to mention all their activities). I'm worried about not having time to exercise, but I think I'm at a point now where I need to find time. I'm 40 now and I'm not getting any younger. I need to get more fit.

    We do have an elliptical in the garage, but I'm kind of hesitant to use it because I can't hear the baby crying when I'm in there. I'm going to have to enlist DH's help to let me go for a quick run in the mornings or watch the kids while I do the elliptical in the evenings (which is what I do so he can exercise). He said he would help me out, so I guess we need to take turns. Or else figure out a way that the whole family can exercise. I could take the kids with the baby in a jogging stroller, but DH said he doesn't want take up running and hurt himself before his big Alaska dive trip this summer. We could bike, but DD doesn't know how to bike yet (we are working on her learning the 2-wheeler), so we'd have to put training wheels back on and put the baby in the bike trailer and DH is worried that the other bikes are too fast on the bike trails and would run the kids over. Kind of frustrating trying to figure out how to keep the whole family including babies and young kids active together!

  • Nebraskim replied 6 years ago

    I have done a couple of Couch to 5K trainings and they are good. Do not worry about your times right now. An 18 minute mile and an 8 minute mile are still a MILE! I average 12 minute miles (sorta pokey) but I love to get out and walk/run/whatever! I completed my fourth half-marathon this year (It's the only "race" I do and I am in it for the experience and the motivation, not to win it.) The MOST important items you can have are properly fitted shoes and a good sports bra. Bite the bullet and go to a real running store and get properly fitted for your feet, legs. Do NOT cheap out on running shoes or you will regret it later. Do not buy them based on colors. Buy them based on the technical specs that work with your feet and your gait. I run in Brooks and love them. Prepare to use them ONLY for running/walking and NOT for "going to the mall, etc." A good running bra is also essential and needs to be fitted for your particular needs. Also, invest in some "technical" t-shirts and not cotton shirts (also, no cotton socks....get athletic socks made of technical fibers, like "dri-weave.")

    You are lucky to live in an area where there are lots of places where there will be knowledgeable folks to help you. I buy most of my gear like running pants, etc. at Target but my shoes and bras at a store that specializes in running gear. Congrats on choosing to get fit and healthy. You will not regret this and you are setting a great example for your kids!

  • chadya replied 6 years ago

    try TJMaxx/Marshalls they have nice selections and the prices are good you can get pants under $30 tops $15.  I was there today and found a pair of capris that are almost the excact same as the ones I love from Athleta @ $80

  • MsLuna replied 6 years ago

    Fellow couch potato here too! I haven't worked out since I started going to school part time in 2012! I'm going to read up on the suggestions here! Good luck on your road to fitness!

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    Good for you, Natalie. Another vote for Zella. My clients LOVE Zella.

    I like Lulu Lemon for yoga wear. 

  • replied 6 years ago

    Running with kids is a challenge. My oldest was fine in the jogging stroller, not my youngest. For the most part I run after the kids are in bed or early mornings on the weekends. I do occasionally take my oldest, 5 1/2, to a paved trail (Bay trail or Sawyer Camp) and she rides her bike. She is good for about 5 miles. Her training wheels came off this spring and I can barely keep up with her now. Maybe a double running stroller for the younger two and a bike for the oldest? Or the whole family sometimes goes to a park that has trails and a large playground on the weekend. DH and I swap parenting while the other goes for a run. I do this with other moms too. I am not sure where in the Bay Area you are but Ocean Beach or Half Moon Bay are also good places for this. Kids play at the beach with Dad (or Mom Friend) and you can go for 20-30 minute jog on the beach trail. 

    Make sure you get the right shoes. A lot of the shoes on the market these days are made for specific foot dynamics. Road Runner Sports is really good for shoes, helpful staff. Sports Basement is a great place for gear.

    I have a couple of different systems for holding all the extra stuff. For short runs, say under 40 min, I like shorts/tights that have a small zippered pocket at the small of the back for keys. I sometimes stick my keys in my sports bra but my bra doesn't need to do much work. I don't usually run with a phone or water on shorter runs. For longer runs I wear a water belt that has room for my keys and phone, which I do carry for safety and tunes. You can get arm bands to hold your phone. They go around the upper part of your arm and are good if you like listening to music or books on tapes. I have yet to find one that will also hold my keys too. There are also small hand held water bottles with a little harness on them. They are nice for short runs and the harness does the work so you hand won't get tired.

    Have fun! 

  • Classically Casual replied 6 years ago

    Oh, you've made such a good decision, GP! I could, and sometimes do, go on and on about all the wonderful benefits of exercise. I'll try to contain myself, and give you some bullet points instead...
    - for at least your first pair of running shoes, go to a store that specializes in them, and get fitted by someone who knows their stuff. Different brands work for different types of feet, terrain, etc. My brand won't be your brand.

    - gear is so great now. My favs are Zella & Athleta as others have mentioned too. Find some stuff that you'll be excited to wear.

    - Be proud of your beginning attempts. And remember that you'll be a great role model for your kids who will grow up comfortable with an active mom.

    Confession time---these days I love spin class at the gym. Towards the end of today's session I felt joy in my sweaty, tired body. I hope running will give you joy too...

  • journey replied 6 years ago

    just a thought, but have you considered moving the elliptical out of the garage and into the house somewhere you could hear the baby if he cried?  even if it was only a temporary measure until you could figure out something else, it would be a place to start.   

  • Diana replied 6 years ago

    I'm not a runner (just elliptical mostly, as running is too hard on my knees and feet), but in terms of general workout gear... I think that a good sports bra and good shoes are all you really need.  (Granted I work out at home so I JUST wear the sports bra and various random little shorts I have around.  I rarely wear tops to work out...) 

    I wanted to second Mo's rec for the Moving Comfort Fiona bra.  Super supportive and (extremely important) has back hooks.  I have strained my neck trying to get a non-back closure sports bra off over my head, so even if you don't go for the Fiona I would definitely look for one that opens in back. 

    For shoes, go and replace your 15 year old ones RIGHT NOW.  You do not want to get plantar fasciitis, shin splints, whatever.  The foam in running shoes degrades with time even if it hasn't been used.  If I were you I'd probably go to a running or sports store and get fitted. 

  • unfrumped replied 6 years ago

    No real brand advice but, you go! I've been slacking off big time and using work as an excuse when instead I need a wake-up call.

    I do believe in the idea of 10 minutes of something 3 times a day can be a start if you don't have 30 or 60 minutes all to yourself; and I know that more exercise gives more energy, instead of more tired, so I have no real excuse.

    Shoes are key, so agree with advice, and also just try on several different brands. Sometimes one will be advised but just not feel right. I like them to feel secure and not have my foot slide around, heel slip or anything. I have liked Asics because they seem to have a narrow heel but still roomy toe. And feet may kind of squish forward so need to not be too short.
    I have liked TJMaxx for some tops that have good seaming, dri-weave fabric.
    Would be fun to explore some cool brands, though.

    I think it's hard to do "real" exercise with very young kids, meaning continuous, goal-oriented; but, you and DH might be able to include "family fun" just at the park, running around, kicking a ball; or in bad weather, indoors, kids sometimes love to "dance" to music, jump up and down and be silly. This may   not be your "serious" exercise, but fits into active-family and every little bit helps idea.

  • Niki Lea replied 6 years ago

    Way to go!

    My best advice is just move  - don't worry about how fast or slow you're going. And find someone to move with, so you're accountable. Is there a running clinic or walking group where you live? Working out with a group can be a fun social outing, which is really nice when you have a busy life with kids.

    My husband and I started exercising regularly about a year ago, after our second child turned one. What's worked for me is exercising after the kids go to bed. In the spring/summer, I get outside for a run. In the darker, colder months I work out in the basement with videos.

    I've just wrapped up my first go through P90x and have tried a couple of the other video programs, like Insanity and T25. Having a pre-set schedule has helped keep me on track.

    As someone else mentioned, Old Navy has half decent, nice looking, and inexpensive workout clothes. 

  • Mellllls replied 6 years ago

    I don't have children to juggle so I don't know much about exercise plus kids.I am a somewhat serious runner and recommend getting fitted for a running shoe if you are serious about running.  I learned this the hard way.  For gear, I like Old Navy and the c9 brand at Target. 

  • Niki Lea replied 6 years ago

    Was just coming back to say that Target also has great athletic wear. I agree with Mellllls!

  • kellygirl replied 6 years ago

    Get thee to Fleet Feet or Roadrunner ASAP and get new shoes. I hadn't replaced mine in a year and ended up with a black toenail which I am in the process of losing. Super ugly. I like Roadrunner's house brand for basic performance tanks and tees. I occasionally buy at TJ Maxx but I'm always leery of weird brands with seams because I have jiggly bits that tend to chafe so I try to stick with the stuff that works well. (My workout wear is not pretty but functional.)They have nice running bottoms--compression or shorts too. I carry a key and my phone when I go out. I won't buy any bottoms without a key pocket. I hold my phone which I use for music and to keep track of my time/mileage. (There are lots of free running apps out--I just happen to use Map my Walk/Run and it works great.) I'm all for running early or late--when you can get DH to watch the kids. I did that when my kids were young. That way you don't have to deal with a stroller and all of the related stuff (3Xs in your case.) i don't know anything about C5K but there are apps for that as well. It sounds like a great way to build a base. Good
    Socks are important too. I like Under Armour but there are lots of good options out there.

    Another great workout you can do at home is kettlebells. I'm on my phone but can link a workout video for that when I get home. Good for you for starting an exercise program! I'm excited for you.

  • Isis replied 6 years ago

    I didn't start getting back into exercise until my youngest was 2 so you are ahead of my game!  It's was hard enough trying to get enough sleep and work full time when they were young!

    Everybody's different, but for me:
    - I love Zella for hot weather tops and shorts.  Wicks super well, and holds it's shape.  I wash and line dry.
    -Go to a running store and get fitted.  Shoes are important, so don't skimp there.  Replace at least every year, or even 6 months.
    - a great sports bra is important. 
    -  I never liked running with kids, either pushing them in a stroller or trying to run while they were biking, etc.  My workouts are "me time", and my husband watched the kids while I ran or I ran at lunch time.
    -I also really prefer running outside, but an eliptical could do in a pinch.  Could you use a baby monitor while you are in the garage?
    -Have fun!  There is nothing that relieves stress for me like a good run!

  • gardenchick replied 6 years ago

    Beautiful family! And I want to say that I know that trail but it probably just has the look of Northern California vegetation...

    I work out in the mornings, occasionally at lunch. Not so easy to get up but then it's done for the day..,

    In terms of videos, I did buy some weights and started doing the workouts on Workouts are free, they do
    sell an 8 week daily program for busy people!

    Good luck and keep us posted on can also join the healthy habits thread under Off Topic.

  • Aubergine replied 6 years ago

    Good for you! I'm the most sedentary, unathletic person ever and have started running a few times a week within the last few years, so there's definitely hope for you!

    I didn't do Couch to 5K or anything; basically, we started going for long walks in the morning, then adding a few short running segments, then making them longer and longer until we were going on a run with a few walking breaks. And I have to admit that starting this was my husband's idea. Earlier attempts to start exercising on my own never stuck, but somehow the two of us together have just enough willpower to keep up a semi-regular routine.

    In terms of gear, the shoes are definitely the most important things. I went to one of those running stores where they videotape you on a treadmill to figure out what your gait looks like. Which is kind of an awkward process, but you only have to do it once, then you can just order replacements of the same style online from there on out. Mine are the Brooks Ravenna 3, which I sadly think they might be discontinuing, because there's less selection and higher discounts every time I order a new pair. So there may be another videotaped treadmill in my future!

    For clothes, I mostly buy from Old Navy/Target. I'd definitely suggest getting inexpensive pieces like that to start, then upgrading selectively once you get a better sense of where something more specific or better-quality would be most useful. For example, one of the few things I've upgraded to is this skort thingy for the summer because I got so sick of having looser shorts ride up and I didn't want to subject anyone to seeing me in more fitted bicycle-type shorts without a little more coverage.

    And love the pictures! I have a special soft spot for the stuffed piggy!

  • Alassë replied 6 years ago

    Just popping in to say adorable pictures & great fitness resolution! I need to start workouts again, too. (I quit partway through pregnancy, excuses, excuses.)

  • UmmLila replied 6 years ago

    That looks like a great trail for running. Being outside in a beautiful place can really make a difference in your motivation level.

    Clothes-wise, I recommend Athleta or Sweaty Betty. Make sure you get pants/ shorts that are for running. I find that yoga tights tends to slide down if you run in them. Get underwear that is wicking. Shoes totally depend on your feet and gait (narrow/ wide; flat/ high arch; supinate/ pronate) but I have a fondness for New Balance.

  • columbine(erin) replied 6 years ago

    I like lands end for workout pants, moving comfort for running bra, and a good running store for shoes. Also I like Lindsay Brin's moms into fitness app. Her plans have a lot of flexibility. I run with two kids in a bob stroller. If I had another baby I'd do more lindsay brin workouts at home. It's hard to get a decent workout with littles around.

  • Zibbets replied 6 years ago

    Forgot to say, replace those shoes ASAP!!! Even if you haven't been using them, the supportive material in them has been breaking down over the last 15 years. :)

  • Mo replied 6 years ago

    I should add that my first 6 months of running were in my work shoes (DMX walkers by Reebok) and regular cotton clothing.  This includes my first 5K in 80 degree FL weather.  So, appropriate gear is great, but it can be done in less than ideal stuff, too.  

  • elpgal replied 6 years ago

    I buy bottoms from all brands and usually on sale but like Lucy because they offer various rises and fits. I find most exercise tops too fitted so I stick with the REI house brand.

  • MrsK replied 6 years ago

    My rule is splurge on good running shoes, save on running clothes. Shoes I will spend on, and always at a specialty running store. For inexpensive clothes I've had good luck with gap bottoms, and old navy tops (sports bras* and running tees/tanks). 
    *I am small-chested so I don't need much support. If I were bigger, a good supportive sports bra is another area I expect I'd splurge on.

  • rachylou replied 6 years ago

    I'm not a runner either (it's the jarring impact), but I've jogged a 5K... and totally second what Diana says, go get new shoes right now this very minute. I have a personal preference for New Balance because of the shape of the toe-box, seam placement, and a solid sole (no cutout under the arch). The solid sole is important to me for stability.

    Also: I love dd's embroidered top!

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