OK..I have been thinking about this post for a while now. You hear a lot about running being an inexpensive sport…and it certainly CAN be less expensive that some. I believe however, that there are some essentials that you simply MUST have to make your life easier and keep your parts in place ( more on that later). I have been running now for almost 3 years and I have figured out what works well for me. I thought I might pass along my gear philosophy. Having said that, we are all individuals, and running is an individual sport more than most, so you must find what works for you and go with it. Here are a few things I have figured out along the way…
1. Running outfit: Unless you want to make a SERIOUS impression upon your community and become acquainted with your local police force, you must wear running clothes. While you do not need to spend a mint from an outdoor outfitter, you DO need a good running shirt and a pair of shorts or capris, or a running skirt. Please please please stay away from anything cotton. You need fabric that wicks and breathes. Your pores will thank you.
- Running top: My preference is for a tank top here in Florida…you can find short sleeve tops, tank tops, etc in any sports store. The important thing here I think, is something that makes you feel good when you put it on. Looks aren’t everything, but lets face it, when you are a beginning runner you feel self conscious enough just getting out there. You need a top that makes you want to wear it so you can go running! Once you run a 5K race or two you will start filling your closets with plenty of shirts to run in, but for now, pick something fun.
- Bottoms: Many women like to run in shorts. I wanted to be one of these women, I really did. My thighs however, got in the way. You see shorts are fine, but if you happen to have womanly thighs like I do, then there is friction, and with friction comes the dreaded CHAFFING. Chaffing is NOT FUN. Chafing makes you curse like a sailor and walk like a duck. I decided I could either stand at the starting line of a race, lubing up my thighs with Glide ( oh such a pretty sight)…or simply find a cute pair of running capris. I opted for the capris. Capris, or a running skirt with long compression shorts underneath solve the friction issue nicely. Capris may be a bit warm to run in, however I have found an awesome pair that has ventilation at the knees. I love these pants…you have my permission to bury me in them. Love. Them.
- Sports Bra: for the love of the tatas, find yourself at least two really really good sports bras! This is an area you really can’t skimp on. I went through several cheaper brands til I found my perfect sports bra. I wish I had saved my money and went right for the better made versions. I personally love the Moving Comfort series..there are tons of really good brands out there, but that has worked for me. My favorite version is a racerback with a back clasp, because who wants to fighting bra straps on a run?!
- Undies: Yes there are special undies for running…who knew? Some women prefer to wear undies, some wear shorts with a liner, some even go commando. Ahem..bottom line here..snicker…is that you need to find what works for you. The only thing I would warn, is stay away from cotton. Again, your parts need to breathe and move. Cotton is just not the fabric for that. Most sports stores sell athletic panties and you could try those…they are usually seamless and light. They are NOT however inexpensive. I went into sticker shock at the idea of spending 20.00 on a pair of functional panties that didn’t have lace or leopard spots on them…BUT they do their job. I didn’t really think much about undies until I ran my first 10 miler. Lets just say that while my THIGHS didn’t chafe, other things did. After that incident, $20.00 seemed a very wise investment.
- Socks: Again, cotton is your enemy. You need a good pair of synthetic running socks. Your blister less feet will thank you.
- Shoes: Here is a topic that I know very little about. I happen to be a barefoot runner: I run in those funny monkey toe Vibram Five finger shoes. I run til they wear a hole somewhere, and then I replace them, simple as that. Now for most people, you WILL need a good pair of shoes. This is probably the most expensive but important piece of running gear you will buy. You really should have a pair of RUNNING shoes, not sneakers or such from a department store, but an actual pair of running shoes from a running store. Do yourself a favor and go to an actually running store where they will look at your foot, your arch, your gait, and help fit you for a shoe.
2. Important accessories: Here are some of what I consider to be “essential accessories”. There’s a ton of gear out there that you can live with or without, but these are, in my opinion the most useful.
- Fuel: if you are running long distances, you need to fuel up. For me, the line is at 6 miles. Anything over 6 miles, and I eat a shot block every 3 miles. This is really really individual. You must figure this one out for yourself, but please don’t deny your body fuel on a long run. Some runners eat jelly beans, sports beans, GU, pretzels with peanut butter, gummy bears, or shot blocks. The list is endless. Your stomach will dictate to you what works. Try out several options on your training runs, so that on race day you have a fueling strategy down. Do NOT try anything new on race day, or risk the wrath of your colon and risk spending the race in a porta potty…NOT FUN.
- Water holder/belt: You need to hydrate. Period. Even if you are out for a 2-3 mile run, you really should have water. Anything longer than that and you MUST have water. Some people can carry a water bottle and run and that is great. I wish I were one of them, but I am just not that coordinated. There are also water bottle carriers that strap to your hand. What worked best for me was to break down and buy a water belt. They are clunky looking and not so pretty, but they WORK. My belt is by Nathan, but there are lots of them out there. I have space for 2-4 wear holders, a key stash, and a pocket to put my shot blocks in for the long haul. I thought it would bouncy, heavy, etc…but it does its job beautifully.
- ID Band: this is a band that carries your important medical and personal information. Generally you will have your name, any medical conditions or allergies, and the phone number of 1 or two people to contact in case of emergency. Think of it as a medical alert bracelet for runners. Your loved ones will feel much better when you go for a run knowing you have ID. I rarely carry ID with me on a run except for this bracelet. Its just the responsible thing to do. They are inexpensive and practically indestructible. I use a company called road ID ( roadID.com) but there are several companies who make them.
- GPS watch/app, etc: You will want to know how far and how fast you ran that work out. There are many options. There are tons of free apps for your phone. Many of these are fairly accurate and work well. I found for me, I needed a GPS watch. I like to be able to glance at my watch and adjust pace, or know that I only have to run 0.3 more miles. There are several brands and cost brackets out there. I will say my lowest end Garmin has lasted years and been a perfect match for me.
3. Other stuff: Here are some extra bells and whistles that I have added to my running arsenal. They are certainly not essential, but helpful and some are just plain fun.
- Glide: Ok, this should probably be on the essential list for me. As we have discussed, friction is not your friend as a runner. I’m a girl, and things jiggle and bounce. Friction happens, and it can be ugly, but we have weapons in our arsenal to combat the dreaded chafe monster. Glide is a stick of chapstick like stuff that you can apply to any friction spots. My frequent offenders are underarms, bra line, shirt collar, etc. This stuff works like magic. I generally apply before a race and take a small travel sized jar of aquaphor with me to spot treat on the run. I have heard of others using vaselline, and actual chapstick as quick fixes while on a run.
- Arm band and headphones: If you want to bring your phone and listen to tunes,you will need an armband. There are fifty thousand options out there and it takes trial and error to see what works for you. I had one brand that I adored that suddenly started chafing after 13 miles and I had to retire. This really is trial and error here. For headphones, I would suggest the kind that actually wrap around your ear. These seem to stay put so much better than the ear bud type- for me anyway. I would also suggest a sports type set of headphones…these are generally water and sweat resistant.
- Tracking app: I run with a road ID tracker app. This app allows me to signal my SuperHusband’s phone when I am running and gives him a GPS readout of where I am on the run. It will send an alert if I am stationary for more than the allotted time, and will send him an alert when I have completed my run. This app was free but is priceless in the peace of mind that it offers to both myself and my SuperHusband!
- Cold weather gear: Living in Florida, I don’t need much in the way of cold weather gear. It is important though to have a few essentials to run through the winter. I have one pair of cold weather tights, and one long sleeved shirt that is a nice, vented running shirt. I have a pair of gloves that convert from mittens to fingerless gloves, and a hat. I have used them all of twice this winter, but were very glad to have had them!
- A water bottle with Bling: When you run you must hydrate. You will find yourself drinking more water in general throughout your day. Find a really cute or blinged out water bottle that makes you feel like a runner…carry it with you throughout the day, and smile when you think of your kick butt morning run!
- Clip on light: I am not much of a pre dawn or dusk runner, but if you are, you really should invest in a clip on light to wear. Once again, safety first!
- Compression socks: These have changed my world. They are oh so ugly and I couldn’t care less! I had a tough time with shin splints leading up to my first and second half marathon. Compression calf sleeves/socks have completely eliminated the pain. In addition, I truly believe they have helped speed my long run recovery. I have 2 pair, one for the run and a clean pair to wear all through the day after my run.
- Bling Catcher: You need somewhere to hang those medals! You usually get a medal for just finishing any race that is 10K and higher…find a medal holder and hang that bling up! There are many web sites that sell race bib holders, medal hangers, as well as other cool race stuff. Invest in something to remind you of all the hard work you have done! I save all of my race bibs and write my finish time and date on the backs…its really fun to flip through them and see how far you’ve come.
- Money for race entry: You’ve put in the time, you really should put your toes to the starting line and see what you can do! Yes, races can be costly, but they are great motivators, and also just plain FUN! 5 K races are generally in the 20-30 dollar range, and 10 K’s, halfs, and marathons go up from there. Its a great idea to start a fun fund to put aside money for race entries.
A cheap sport? Not so much! However, many of these are things I have gathered a little at a time, over the years. I have found it to be worth the high cost of investing in one or two good items from a premium running store. For example, I have two pair of running capris from the Athleta store. They are the only running bottoms I have and I run in them 3 days a week. They have lasted almost 3 years and show no signs of wear and tear. They were an investment, but have lasted so well and are so very perfect for me to run in. I bought the first pair at full price and loved them so much that I stalked the website until they went on sale and snagged the second pair. Running gear is expensive, but if you are thrifty you can wait for sales and find great deals. Generally around the holidays or at the end of season is when I start lurking and looking for sales!
Once again, this is what works for me. Everyone is different, from clothing choice to fuel options. Just go to any race and look around. You won’t find two runners dressed alike or using the same gear combination, and yet they will all run the same race and pass the same finish line. This is just an outline of some things to consider when gearing up.
This has been my 2 cents on gear, Baconrunner style!