6 Things I Wish I Would’ve Known Before Buying Dumbbells


6 Things to Consider Before Buying Dumbbells

I used dumbbells for most of my strength workouts. I squat with them, I lunge with them, I lift with them. But I hate doing pushups with them.

I have adjustable dumbbells (these ones right here), and the plates are round and held on with a screw washer thingie (technical term). I was thinking…I wish I’d known more about types of dumbbells and the pros and cons of each one before I got mine, so I am sharing my thoughts.

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1. Round Plates & Planking Problems

Round dumbbell plates make it difficult to do pushups, squat thrusts, planks, pushup-rows, burpees, or anything you need to be in a plank position for. They want to roll away, which okay, is good for stabilizer muscles, but it causes the screws to come loose and it drives me crazy. Sometimes I go down to my 12-pound non-adjustable cast iron dumbbells simply because they are hexagonal shaped on the ends.

2. Adjusting Dumbbells Mid-Workout

Adjustable-plate dumbbells make it difficult to change weights during a workout. You have to unscrew both sides on each bar—four screws—and take the plates on or off, or add plates. It’s not fast enough for me. I do a lot of HIIT-style workouts with my dumbbells and there’ s no time for this. It would be okay for traditional lifting with long rest breaks in between sets, but that’s not my style.

3. Bar Material Consideration

The bars on my adjustable dumbbells have an engraved criss-cross pattern that kills the palms of my hands. It’s not too bad for regular presses or pulls, but if I’m trying to do pushups or something…ouch. I have to wear gloves.

What I Wish I'd Known About Dumbbells

The other thing about my adjustable pair is that the bar is smaller and so it presses into my hand more when planking or doing pushups. Imagine someone digging into your side with their elbow versus their palm. The non-adjustable pair has a wider bar that seems to distribute my weight more evenly and hurts my hands less.

4. The Storage Solution Situation

There’s no way to get around it, dumbbells take up a lot of space—but not more than a barbell (which is why I’m a dumbbell girl since I don’t have a dedicated workout room). I try to fit all mine in a corner of my master bedroom. The hubs bought me this dumbbell rack for Christmas:

What I Wish I'd Known About Dumbbells

I thought that the adjustable plated dumbbells would take up less space, there are still the plates to consider. So, I don’t know that using adjustable plates takes up less space than just regular ‘bells like my 12-pounders, which you can see on the bottom row in the picture above.

5. Weight Problems

I am in between weights right now. In most cases, 15 pounds is getting to be not quite heavy enough, but 20 is too heavy. I need 17-pounders, but even with adjustable dumbbells, I can’t get that since you need to distribute the weight evenly all over. Finding half-pound plates is kind of difficult. Besides, I can’t change plates mid-workout (see point number 2).

6. Just Say No to Neoprene

As you can see from my picture, I have a couple of pairs of these. I find them difficult to hold—the bar is too thick for my delicate lady hands, which is ironic since these “colorful” ‘bells are usually marketed toward women. I also don’t like them becuase they look to girly. I’m a badass. I want badass dumbbells. Ha!

What I Do Like & What I’d Do Different

I like my 12-pound cast iron dumbbells with hexagonal ends that I bought at Play It Again Sports—a consignment store for sporting goods. They still aren’t that cheap, though, so maybe just buy as needed. I admit they are a little clunky, though. They also make rubber-ended dumbbells in a hexagonal shape, but the bar always has that criss-cross engraving! I think if I could do it all over again (or if I suddenly get rich and get to build and outfit my own workout room), I would suck up the engraved bar bit and buy a whole set of hexagonal dumbbells like these (plus find a pair of 17s) and a rack like this.

Okay, there’s my two cents. Hope it helps!

Pros and Cons of the Hoka Stinson 3 So Far (Review)

Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review

Can a shoe solve all your problems?

Spoiler alert: No.

But it is possimpible that it can solve some of them.

Last Friday, I purchased the Hoka Stinson 3 from my local running store. Here is what the Hoka One One site says about the Stinson 3:

The all-new Stinson 3 features the signature category-defining HOKA ONE ONE cushioning and support, and is redesigned from the ground up for maximum cushioning on the road. New for 2015 is a more balanced Meta-Rocker for improved forefoot support, and tuned underfoot geometry for improved ride and stability. The upper features ComfortFrame in the heel and midfoot for improved fit, and light padding on the tongue for increased comfort.

At the store, I had my feet measured and discovered that I have a full size difference between my left and right feet now. It used to be a half size. So that was fantastic news. Ugh.

Based on my needs, I tried two different models: the Hoka Stinson 3 and the Bondi 4. (I originally wanted to try the Mafate, which is pronounced Mah-fah-tay, not Mah-fate, FYI. More on the Mafate in a sec.)

I liked the feel of the Hoka Stinson’s right away. The Bondis came up too high under my ankle joints and rubbed.

As for the size: The size 10 Stinson’s fit my left foot perfectly, but my right foot was slipping out of the back of the shoe. The 9.5’s would have to work. (I normally wear 10’s in Brooks and most other running shoes.)

The Hokas do not have as big of a toe box as I hoped. Originally, I’d gone to the shop looking to try the Mafate’s, which looked online like the toe box is a little more straight and the toe a little more widely rounded. The shop I went to had sent all the trail shoes (the Mafate is a trail model) to the White River 50 race, so there weren’t any in my size for me to try on. But, holding one up (in another size) to the Stinson, there really isn’t that much difference in the toe box. See below:

Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review
Mafate from below
Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka One One Stinson 3 Review
Stinson from below
Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review
Mafate from above
Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review
Stinson from above

The teenage cross country runner helping me assured me that Stinson is one of the better Hoka models for both trail and road running, so that’s what I got. He also lives near me and runs the same trail, so he knew exactly what I was talking about when I whined about sharp gravel that’s killing my feet.

I have run in the Hoka Stinson 3’s three times so far: 4.5 miles on the treadmill (with sprints), 13 slower miles on mostly trail and some road, 3 miles on the treadmill (with sprints).

Below, is my opinion on the shoes, which by the way, I’m calling my Barneys (not because they’re unfortunately purple like a certain dinosaur, but because they share a name with Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother).

Hoka Stinson 3 Cons:

I don’t like the color combo. It’s not Hoka’s fault. But the shoes are University of Washington colors and I’m a Washington State University girl, so the purple and yellow combo are usually on my “don’t buy” list. But I’m also an impatient girl, and it was the only color my local shop had in stock. Besides, the other color combo—blue with white soles—seemed like it would get dirtier faster, especially considering I run on a dusty trail.

The toe box is curved inward like most other running shoes. That annoyed the shit out of me, and is a definite con. Who’s feet are shaped like this? I guess what I want is a Hoka with an Altra toe box. Is that too much to ask? I am not sure if I should blame the blister I got on my left toe on the shoe shape or just chalk it up to new shoes.

Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson Review
Obligatory blister photo

My toes on my right foot cramp after about 40 minutes of running in these shoes. Not all of them cramp, just two middle ones (the two next to my big toe). And it happens almost exactly at 40 minutes. I cannot figure this one out. This has never happened to me in other shoes. It’s possible it is because the shoe is a little big on my right foot, and with the rocker sole and only a 6mm heel to toe differential…? It happened both on the treadmill and out on the trail. It hurt enough to make me walk during my long run last weekend. But then it went it away. Then it came back. Then it went away. Came back. Went away, etc. Could have something to do with the fact that I’m going from a 12mm drop to about a 6mm drop, I suppose, but it doesn’t happen in my left toes, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything because I have basically no arch in my left foot and a high arch in my right (why my right foot is shorter than my left). Not sure what to make of this strange phenomenon.

My feet get very hot. I guess this means the uppers in the Hokas do not breathe well. I need to find some dry-max socks stat. (Perhaps this is what contributed to the blister.)

Price is an issue for me. I feel like $160 is a lot of money. I do consider it an investment. Hopefully, these will last me a long time and I will get my money’s worth.

Hoka Stinson 3 PROS:

The Stinsons are very light. They look like clod-hoppers, but they are super light. They feel lighter than my Brooks Adrenalines. (Actual weights: Adrenalines are 9.9 ounces and the Hoka Stinson 3’s are 9.8.)

Very stable. I know it looks like you will be running on platforms, but your foot actually sits down in these and you feel very stable as you run. I don’t believe there’s any more of a danger of rolling an ankle in these than there would be with any other shoe. Maybe even less of a danger because the angle of the soles—they sort of flare out very slightly at the base.

So comfortable. Like running on fluffy clouds. I can feel the ground enough on the trail, but not enough that the rocks kill my feet. I feel like I could run forever.

Protects my big toe. My hallux limitus issue in my left big toe is a non-issue in these shoes and that had been a major problem. So these shoes–probably because the rocker-shaped sole–essentially protect that toe joint. It was not inflamed or sore after 13 miles last weekend. That’s huge!

My left ankle didn’t hurt after my long run. Because I can “toe off” better with my left foot, I think, I’m not rolling out and flipping my foot in to land, and causing repetitive strain on my ankle.

I can run just as fast as before. I’ve heard some people complain that these make them run slower. Because I wasn’t in pain at 10 miles, I was able to do some faster running at the end of my long run!

Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review
DailyMile stats


I like the Hoka Stinson 3’s enough to deal with some of the cons—most namely the hot feet and the cramping right toes. Maybe I need some different inserts.

The reality is that I can’t make it past 10 miles in my Brooks Adrenalines between my hallux limitus and the bottoms of my feet killing me. And my Cascadias don’t have enough support to let me go past an hour of running—my arches hurt bad afterward, as does my hallux limitus toe.

I need a shoe that has lots of cushion to protect the bottoms of my feet, but that is stiff enough to keep my left big toe from bending too much, and the Hoka Stinson 3’s do that.

So, there you have it. Now, “Suit up!” and get out and run.

Have you tried Hokas? What model do you run in? Thoughts?

How to Not Quit Training for Your Marathon


I didn’t desert this blog for no reason.

You know how when your mom says if you don’t have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all?

I was just following her advice.

Because after Sunday’s long run, I’d just about hung up my sports bra and hobbled away from running. For good this time! I mean it!

I took some days off, though, to…um…cool off. Here’s what happened:

Sunday was my fourth double-digit run of my marathon training and I only made it 11 miles. So, I’ve done 10, 10, 10 and 11. And after I finished, I didn’t know if I could possibly do more than that. I was supposed to 12.

I couldn’t even do one more mile. On a treadmill!

The plan had been to break up the run with 6 on my regular gravelly trail and 6 on the treadmill since I’d had such a hard time the weekend before. Well, thanks to an unexpected visit from a friend I hadn’t seen in a while—insomnia—I got a late start Sunday morning.

By the time I was at 5.5, it was approaching 90 degrees, and since heat makes me want to lie down and wait for crows to peck me to death, I went home instead. I grabbed my favorite BCAA drink (which I’d stored in the fridge), got in the car and drove to the gym.

By the way, the gym is a half of a mile from my house. And I drove.

Then, I started the painful process of restarting to run. But it wasn’t my legs that hurt, it was my GD feet! They felt like pieces of glass that shattered with every step. That’s the only way I can think to describe it.

Somehow, I willed myself to 5.5 more miles and called it quits. I drove home with my tail between my legs, and when I got there I declared this whole marathon training thing to be dumb, stupid and I never want to do it again.

Which is a complete 180-degree turn from where I was two months ago when I thought I would be the next great ultra-runner (over the age of 38). I’d planned to kill the marathon, then crush a 50K the following month and then a half marathon the next day after that.

Haha! What a moron. Who was I kidding?

And here’s the other thing: Running over an hour does not help my body look or feel great. My jiggly stomach is all the evidence I need that my body gets STRESSED the hell out on long runs. I can literally feel the flood of cortisol washing through me.

I see those elite ultrarunners with their light and muscular bodies, and feel inspired. They look like they’re flying over the trail. It looks so fun.

I hate them.


So, I’ve had a few days to think on it.

First, I am not quitting this marathon. I’ve already done that once. I will see this thing through to the fiery end.

Although, I admit, I’m nervous about “finishing or else!” because I felt so great and had such a wonderful first marathon with Zoe. I am worried that this one will be just 26.2 miles of me mumbling the “f” word. Will it ruin the joyful memory of the first one?

Second, I think I need different shoes.

Here’s the deal. I have two pairs of Brooks that I run in: the Cascadias and the Adrenalines. I like Brooks, but…I have foot issues.

I did one double-digit run in the Cascadias on my gravel trail and my arches hurt bad. So, I did the next two in my Adrenalines. My hallux limitus toe hurt pretty bad, as did the bottoms of my feet from all the gravel.

That’s the reason I decided to split up my run Sunday…to save the bottoms of my feet. Well…it didn’t work. As I mentioned, they were as painful as ever.

So, maybe instead of a hydration vest, I should look at trying the Hokas.

I’ve read the Mafate can be helpful for hallux limitus.

Everyone’s got their opinion on these Franken-shoes, but from what I’ve read, they can be really helpful to someone like me who a) can barely bend her left big toe and b) runs on gravel all the time.

Maybe if my feet didn’t feel like they’d be beaten with a meat mallet for two hours then I wouldn’t have been so grumpy after my run on Sunday.

I don’t know. We’ll see. Cross your fingers for me. I’m supposed to do 13 miles this weekend.

If you don’t hear for me from a while, you can guess how it went.

Gear Check: Ultimate Direction Women’s Ultra Vest

Like most women my age, I’ve been saving up for a designer bag. Except this one straps to your back, holds water and was designed by someone with more balls than Michael Kors.

Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest - First Impressions
Link to UD

No disrespect to MK. Love him, but a guy who wears boat shoes sans water vessel doesn’t portray the type of toughness I was thinking about.

Anyway, I stopped in at my local running store yesterday and I tried on the Ultimate Direction Women’s Ultra Vesta (AKA the Jenny vest as it was designed by ultramarathoner Jenny Jurek). And, you guys, I’m in love.

The vest costs about $125. I have had my eye on it for a little while, so I set aside some money. When I purchase it, it will be the most expensive “bag” I own.

And I’ll only use it once a week!

But it’s worth it. It’s so light, which is super important if I’m going to be loading it up with water and gels and my phone and my pepper spray and God knows whatever else it is I want to take on a long run.

It’s like the magic Mary Poppins bag of running.

I’ve looked at some other vests and they are heavy with nothing in them. Also, most of the hydration packs and vests I’ve looked at don’t have bottles or pockets on the front. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the bottles on the front of the Jenny vest, but I don’t think I’ll mind them–they’re small.

If the store yesterday would’ve had my size in stock, I’d have bought it on the spot. Luckily for my husband, they have to order it and won’t get it till next week.

What’s the most expensive (but totally worth it) piece of running gear you own? (Besides your shoes; that doesn’t count!)