Stuff We Love: Coach Nicole's Fit Picks for Spring

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Can you believe that spring is finally here? (Officially, anyway.) Here in Cincinnati we've received a few little tastes of spring-like sunshine and temperatures over the past couple of weeks, but it's been enough to get all of us excited about the changing seasons. I can't wait to break out the grill, get my hands dirty with a new vegetable garden, and go for a run without wearing an extra 20 pounds of insulating gear. How about you?
To celebrate spring, I thought I'd share some of my favorite things right now, from new running shoes to my favorite protein powder to new apparel that supports your active, healthy lifestyle.
Solgar Whey To Go Protein Powder
SparkPeople and I believe that when it comes to getting protein, your best bet is real, unadulterated food. We also believe that most people don't "need" a protein supplement. That said, I won't lie: Sometimes I just like to enjoy a good protein shake! It's something I can make quickly for breakfast or a snack and even does wonders as a fix for your sweet tooth. The way I figure, it's a lot better than a milkshake! I'm not a dietitian or a food expert, but I chose Solgar's Whey To Go line for two main reasons: First, it's whey (milk derived), which is a high-quality protein source. Second, and probably most important for me: This brand was ranked one of the lowest in heavy metal contaminants in a recent Consumer Reports study of the major brands of protein powders. I like the chocolate flavor, and I love a cool breakfast on warmer spring mornings. My basic recipe is: 2 scoops protein powder, 1 frozen banana, 8-12 oz. water, 3-4 ice cubes, 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter. It's cool, refreshing, delicious—and super filling, too!
Lightweight & Springy Running Shoes
In their 2013 spring shoe guide, Runner's World recently said that these Adidas Energy Boost Running Shoes "performed better than any of the almost 800 other shoes we tested." I was lucky to receive a promotional pair from Adidas to try, too.  While I tend to loyally run in the same brand and style of shoes, I do like to mix that up and experiement with new shoes and styles when I'm not doing long training runs. Style-wise, I loved that these shoes were black instead of the mostly-white color combos that dominate running shoe design. The shoes were surprisingly lightweight and comfortable. The "foam" sole is designed to be light and springy—and it sure felt that way on my runs. I always size up 1 1/2 sizes for running shoes, so wearing my usual running shoe size (a 10 for those who care) fit great even though I've seen many reviewers caution people to size up at least half a size because these run tight. These kicks have so much going for them in terms of comfort, style and fit; the only downside for me is the price tag. But when you're a dedicated runner who loves to try the next "big thing," it may well be worth it for you. Has anyone else tried them? Would love to know what you guys think as well! (Photo courtesy of
Reusable Glass Water Bottle
I try to avoid plastic when I can, and these days there are many plastic-alternatives when it comes to reusable water bottles. I'm tried aluminum and stainless steel in the past but now my material of choice is glass. Glass is safe and eco-friendly, 100% recyclable, easy to clean and leaves no aftertaste in your drinks. These bottles by Lifefactory also feature a "flip top," making it perfect for your spring workouts (no need to stop and unscrew a cap) as well as a colorful, grippy and protective silicone sleeve. The whole thing is dishwasher safe, too. I'm always toting my water bottle with me wherever I go, so I like it to be cute and stylish like this one is!
Double-Duty Workout Clothes
I love any item of clothing that I can wear whether I'm working out or hanging out. This new Willow Tank by Icebreaker fits the bill, plus it meets my other criteria for the ideal piece of clothing: high-quality materials, eco-friendly, and stylish. I love working out in wool; this ultra-lightweight piece will be perfect for wearing to the office or taking my pup on a hike. And because wool is resistant to odor and keeps you dry, it's great for camping and backpacking trips or transitioning seamlessly from your lunchtime workout back to the office. It runs loose and long, not snug, making it a great fit for more body types.  Sizes XS-XL.  (Photo courtesy of
To say that "I love eggs from my head down to my legs" is an understatement. But I do care where my eggs come from and what the hens that laid them were treated like and fed. Actually, I love spring so much because I buy eggs from my friend who keeps chickens in her backyard. All winter long I yearn for these "homegrown" eggs with their bright orange yolks and delicious flavor. Come spring when her hens begin laying enough that she has a surplus, she sells them.  I eat up these eggs faster than I can buy them!  Even if you don't keep hens (or have a good friend willing to sell her hen's eggs to you), spring is a great time to head back to your local farmers market in search of these spring fresh eggs.
Walking for Weight Loss, Wellness & Energy DVD
I hired Jessica Smith as a freelance blogger for DailySpark because I love her work and what she represents. I was already a fan of hers before she wrote for us, and I still am today. I don't have to review or recommend her newest DVD, but I'm doing so because I think you'll love it. I was psyched when she sent me a couple of her newest releases to try; I was even more thrilled to discover that one of them was an indoor walking DVD! Jessica's workout doesn't disappoint. Her DVD features two 30-minute walks (one that's easier, one that's harder), and each movement has someone showing a modification as well as some more advanced options. Walking DVDs are great for beginners, people who want an easy recovery day, anyone who walks outdoors but needs an indoor alternative for those rainy spring days, and even for people who simply need basic choreography that's easy to follow. Jessica is great at explaining, at reminding you of your form and listening to your body, and at providing very simple movements that somehow never seem boring—they are fun! I highly recommend this title for the groups mentioned above and I think you'll love Jessica's inspirational energy and attitude. It's at just the right level without being annoying.  Check out the preview below to see what it's like.
Camping Thermos
My first and only camping trip to date was when I hiked the Grand Canyon a few years ago. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. Since you need lots of gear to backpack, hike and camp for five days, I borrowed what I could from friends, and bought just a few items. This thermos was one of them. When you're camping, you're probably relying on those packaged meals that are dehydrated. All you have to do is heat up some water with your Jet Boil (or campfire), pour it into the bag of dried food, stir, seal it up and wait. The food will rehydrate in minutes and you'll have a piping hot meal in a bag! Well, my friends and I didn't want to eat the very limited selection of low-quality camping foods we could buy at the store. So we made our own from scratch. We cooked meals, dehydrated them in our ovens and dehydrators, and portioned them out into tiny bags, one serving at a time. Then we rehydrated the food inside this thermos. It's cold to the touch thanks to its insulation. It comes with its own spoon. It seals tightly and doesn’t leak. And it can keep food hot for up to 8 hours!
Although I haven't been camping since, I have used this Thermos regularly. Instead of cooking my steel cut oats on the stove top, I put all the dry ingredients inside and just add boiling water. With a little shake, I tote it to work and my breakfast is cooked and ready when I am—even if that is a couple hours later. It saves a lot of time. I highly recommend it whether you're camping or toting your hot foods around in modern day life.
Kitschy Bicycle Bell
It's just about time to dust off my bike that's been stored in the garage all winter. I'm excited to get a little more gear for it to make my commutes to work safer and more comfortable. One such item on my list is a bicycle bell—not just for fun, but so you can alert others to your presence. I love this line of bells by Kikkerland. They have several really funny bells for your bike with everything from dogs to turtles to rotary telephones painted on the bell's surface. Who says a bike bell can't be fun?
Climbing Rope Dog Leash
We went through a lot of leashes in our first year of caring for Ginger. They may have been cute and stylish, but they were cheap and didn't last. They'd end up so soiled that they couldn't even be cleaned, and the fabric would tear and get holes in it. It was a mess. That was until we purchased a climbing rope-style leash, which has lasted us for many years and still looks and performs just as great as it did on the day we bought it. (You'll see it in all its pink glory in just about every photo I snap of my little girl.) What's also great about these is that they are easy to grip and hold—they won't slip out of your hands if your dog decides to pull or take off. We've also been able to wash ours multiple times in the washing machine with no problems. These leashes are comparable in cost to standard leashes (or sometimes slightly more), but if you walk or run your dog as much as we do, then it'll be money well spent!
Winter Apparel Sales
NOW is the time to look for deals on all the winter workout apparel you need. I love shopping at end-of-season sales for some great buys. Think back on what might have been missing from your workout wardrobe this past winter. A thicker pair of gloves? Lined running tights? Some Yaktrax to prevent slipping on the icy roads? Maybe a neck gaiter (one of my favorites)? Look for deals in stores and online, especially on the normally high-priced items like snow gear.

SparkPeople Picnic Blanket
Springtime is the perfect time for a healthy outdoor picnic! SparkPeople's fleece picnic blanket is a great buy at just $20. It has a nylon backing so you won't get wet (even if the ground is) and rolls up into a handy tote complete with a shoulder strap.

What activities, apparel or foods are you most excited about now that spring is FINALLY here?