Favorite Running Items Part 4: Stuff to Make You Strong & Cool

What are your favorite running items?
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If you want to be a better runner, chances are pretty good you're always on the hunt for:

  • Running shoes
  • Gear & training support
  • Performance wear, and...
  • Expert advice to help you go the distance

WeeViews Ambassador and ultrarunner Brynn Cunningham has a long list of running items she uses that can help you too.
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In Part 4 of her Favorite Running Items, Brynn offers her wear-tester intel on 5 running items that can help you get strong, be cool, and breathe easy.

Brynn Cunningham has wear-tested a long list of running items.

In case you missed it:

This is Part 4 of my favorite running items of 2023.

For assistance in determining your own size for these running items, here are the female wear tester’s measurements:

  • Height: 5’ 3 ¾”
  • Weight: 120-125 pounds
  • Waist: 27.75 inches
  • Chest/bust: 34 inches
  • Hips: 34 inches
  • Typical shirt size: XS
  • Typical pant size: 2, small and extra small 
  • Shoes: 
    • Chacos (7)
    • Birkenstocks (39)
    • Most daily shoes (7.5)
    • All running shoes (7.5) except the Altra Escalante (8)
Top: Front view of the Janji Women’s 3’ AFO-Vent Multi Short, size S. Bottom: Back view of the Janji Women’s 3’ AFO-Vent Multi Short (Photos/Eric Harder)

With so much love for the Janji AFO Middle Short, I was eager to try the Janji Women’s 3” AFO-Vent Multi Short
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The biggest difference between the two shorts is that the Multi has a full circumference of pockets around the waist. 

Pros:

  • Made with “AFO-Vent,” a durable, 4-way stretch nylon fabric that:
    • Is abrasion resistant
    • Retains its shape
    • Resists odors
    • Wicks moisture and dries quickly
  • Laser-cut, moisture-wicking inner briefs
  • Five no-bounce easy-access pockets around the waist
  • Fits keys, gels and gummies, pepper spray, a pocket knife, beanies, gloves, buffs and even a light long sleeve, not all at the time, half of the items can fit in there just fine
  • Drawcord for adjustable fit
  • Great for runs when I’m not wearing my pack
  • Fun, new colors every season

Cons: 

  • The wasit-band where the full-circumference of pockets live is not super stretchy and can feel a bit stiff; it’s good for security of stashed items, but over time, the stiffness gets to me, unlike the Middle shorts
  • Expensive: $78 at full price
The author first used a weight vest during high school track season about 20 years ago. And it's still part of her training strategy to build strength, speed and endurance.

If you’ve read my previous favorite running gear of 2023 stories, you may have noticed that I have a home gym. 
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The items are spread throughout my house plus my vehicle, allowing me to fit in mini workouts throughout the day and/or before and after runs.
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The weight vest is one piece of equipment I added in 2021, and I’ve been putting it to use more this year than ever. 

  • My dad first introduced me to weight vest training in the late 1990s/ early 2000s when I was training for the 100 and 200 meter dashes and eventually to break the 400-meter dash record at my high school. 
  • The old-school weight vest. I wore his old, stiff canvas vest filled with sand bags and ran hills. 
  • His training methodology worked. I ended up holding that 400-meter record for 15 years and was undefeated my senior year. 

If you’re really into weight vest training, you can invest in a ruck backpack and ruck weights for the sport of rucking, which offers races across the world.  

💪Uses:

  • Excellent for keeping in the vehicle and doing quick post-run strength 
  • Calf raises
  • Planks
  • Push-ups
  • Additional weight during Farmer’s carries
  • Hiking hill repeats (with ankle weights for bonus weight!)
  • Walking lunges 
  • Weighted plyometrics 
  • And more…

Pros:

  • An easy way to increase weight or add weight to any exercise
  • Weight options vary depending on brand
  • Affordable - my 12-pound vest was $29 
  • Adjustable chest strap
Ankle weights can be used while running or hiking. They're also an effective training tool for inner thigh-focused workouts.

When I was growing up, my mom had ankle weights in our living room amongst a variety of exercise equipment.
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I began wearing them in high school while:

  • Running stairs 
  • Riding our stationary biking 
  • Doing workouts from her Denise Austin book 
  • In my 20s, I even ran early-morning miles in ankle weights.

These days, I don’t run steps, ride bikes or run miles with ankle weights (perhaps just some warm-ups and warm downs).
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Instead, I mostly reserve them for:

  • Inner thigh-focused workouts, and workouts in general
  • Walking around the house
  • Hiking up hills at trailheads post-run 
  • And more - I’m always getting creative with how to incorporate them

Dr. Belisa Vranich and Brian Sabin
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Recently Runners World featured an article, Diaphragmatic Exercises: How to Strengthen Breathing Muscles, interviewing Dr. Belisa Vranich.

While the article does an excellent job touching on the importance of breath in running, I recommend diving deeper and reading the entire book. It’s a quick read—I finished it in a few days.
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As the yogis say...

  • Innate wisdom lies in the breath, which means that the breath reveals the inner workings of the mind and body.
  • And if we spend time with intentional breathing on a regular basis, we can gain infinite insight into our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves. 

In fact, the breath is EVERYTHING...when it comes to cultivating mindfulness and creating next-level focus and then applying those to your sport. Intentional breathing is also useful for:

  • Injury prevention and recovery
  • Managing the mental challenges of racing and training
  • Bringing one-pointed awareness to a run or race
  • Calming and deregulating the nervous system, paramount for recovery and minimizing inflammation and stress 

👍One of my favorite sections of the book is a description of how to breathe for different activities or exercises, including:

  • Kettlebell swings
  • Lifts
  • Burpees, and...
  • Activities lots of runners incorporate into their strength-training routines

The book covers running, too, plus a multitude of disciplines. 
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It’s one I could read over and over and, as a yoga instructor, I use the information gained from its pages to inform my yoga classes and to guide students with breath-led movement. 

A weighted blanket can help calm the nervous system and soothe restless legs after a long run.

From a weight vest to ankle weights to a non-exercise related weighted item...
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The Luna Weighted Cooling Blanket, a game changer for my sleep!
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😴It’s no secret getting quality sleep is one of the best things, if not the absolute most important thing, a runner (and non-runners for that matter) can do to stay healthy.
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It’s also no secret that many of us struggle with quality sleep. Maybe it’s:

  • The inability to quiet the mind and fall asleep
  • Restlessness and frequent waking throughout the night
  • Waking up at 2 a.m. and not being able to fall asleep
  • Or just not getting enough (studies say more than six hours is essential, and more than seven hours and up to eight is ideal)

When my family and I visited my in-laws a few years ago in Wisconsin, my mother-in-law showed me a weighted blanket that her friend had just made for her.
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Let’s just say that for the entire trip, I claimed that blanket...and could be found either

  • Running the flat roads from their house
  • In their hot tub
  • Or with that homemade weighted blanket draped over my legs on the couch while my then-very-young sons were entertained by their grandparents. 
  • Thank you to my mother-in-law for introducing me to the world of weighted blankets! 

The following Christmas, my husband gifted me the Luna Weighted Cooling Blanket.

Specs:

  • 300-thread-count fabric
  • Filled with high-quality glass beads
  • Two weight choices: 15 or 20 pounds (I do not know which one I have, but according to the size chart, probably the 15)
  • It’s approximately four and a half feet by six feet

Pros: 

  • Settles the nervous system with a “Deep Pressure Touch” 
  • Induces calm
  • Makes it easier to fall asleep
  • Soothes restless legs after long runs
  • 5-stars out of nearly 2,000 reviews 
  • Even my kids love it and ask for their own!
  • As of this writing, there are seven styles of blankets from which to choose, including kids-specific and cozy Sherpa fleece designs
  • I use it every single night and am contemplating bringing it along on an upcoming tent-camping road trip (hey, quality sleep is important, especially while traveling!)

Cons: 

  • If you have an injury that requires 100 percent immobilization, like I recently did with a torn ankle ligament, the weight of the blanket can put too much pressure on the body part and cause mild to extreme discomfort, so take heed if that’s you. Luna even has a warning on the website that says “not suitable for those with joint or back pain.” 
  • If it slips off the bed it’s a strain to tug it up and back to you in the middle of the night (thankfully my husband helps me out when this happens, which is only about once a month!) 

🏃‍♀️What are your favorite running items?

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...

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