In mid-July, Ashley, Ralph, and I combined forces again to lead the second Learn to Run clinic on running gear. More of a show and tell-style format, we hope everyone in attendance came away with ideas on how to best outfit their own training and racing.
First up was Ralph, an avid skier, which was apparent as he pulled item after item from his large ski bag! Ralph’s first gear suggestion is to own two pairs of running shoes. He happens to have a pair of trail shoes and a pair of road shoes. The idea is to rotate the wear and tear on the footwear, and not get your feet (and muscles) too used to one pair of shoes. For a comfortable, moisture-wicking fit in the footwear, he suggests a synthetic-blend sock (i.e. no cotton). Keeping on with the wicking theme, Ralph suggests shorts and/or compression shorts, and a t-shirt (e.g. a ‘tech tee’ from a race you’ve participated in) or singlet (i.e. tank top)–all moisture-wicking. Not only does Ralph protect his skin with the moisture-wicking apparel, he protects his eyes with a high-end pair of sport-specific (i.e. designed to stay on your face even while you sweat) sunglasses. On the even ‘techier’ side, Ralph wears a Garmin GPS watch with heart rate monitor functionality. He opts for this type of watch to better tailor his workouts to his body (i.e. keep the easy workouts easy and the hard workouts hard). For longer runs, Ralph brings along a music player and sometimes his phone (you never know when you might need a ride home). Also for longer runs (typically at least an hour or more), he brings along some type of pre-packaged nutritional item such as a Gu gel, Shot Blocks, or Sport Beans (watch out for the caffeine content across brands and flavors, especially if you’re sensitive to this ingredient). A few other ‘nice to haves’ that Ralph pulled out of his bag were compression calf sleeves, an EnduraCool Towel, a head band to catch sweat, and a visor.
Although it is currently hot and summery, your training may carry you into the cooler months. Ralph had that covered too—layer with a [moisture-wicking of course] long sleeve shirt, running-specific tights, gloves, hat, light jacket (or heavier wind-resistant jacket), a buff (covers the neck and lower face), and for wintry conditions—Yaktrax (a rubber contraption with metal spirals that you place over your running shoes for better traction on snow and ice), or IceBug shoes. Keep in mind that you should dress as though it is 10-20 degrees warmer outside that it really is because you can almost be guaranteed that you’ll warm up as you progress through your run.
Lastly, Ralph keeps safe by wearing a headlamp and reflective pieces when running in the dark (plan ahead, don’t get caught without lights or reflective gear half way through your run or walk). Another consideration is recovery, in which Ralph likes to use a simple device called The Stick to roll out sore muscles and a little spiky ball foot massager, sip on chocolate milk, and throw on a pair of cushy sandals.
Next up was Ashley, perhaps best described as the opposite end of the gear spectrum as Ralph. Ashley has used the same brand and model of running shoe for years (after wearing out her current pair, she restocks on new pairs of the same shoe using Amazon). For these summer months, she also has a favorite pair of running shorts and typically either grabs a favorite cotton (Ralph and I gasp at this point… our shared motto is ‘no thank you cotton’) t-shirt or a running-specific tank top. Ashley did share she’s found the importance of a good running sock (read: polyester-blend, slight compression, higher thread count than a typical sock, no cotton), and likes to keep a towel on hand when completing her workouts on the treadmill. If she’s outside, Ashley just grabs her everyday sunglasses, but does suggest investing in a container of Body Glide to avoid that pesky running thing known as chafing (tip: you can use Body Glide on your feet to avoid blisters).
On longer runs, Ashley throws on a hydration belt to bring along water. She’s also a believer in the heart rate monitor, to keep herself accountable to a specific pace. Ashley also touched on winter running, and again utilizes clothes she already has on hand (sweatshirts, fleece mittens, hat, scarf, etc.) to layer and stay warm. Nutrition-wise, she likes to re-hydrate with coconut water (electrolytes!) and might take along a Powerbar for a run lasting over an hour.
I was last up on the informal panel. My bag was stocked with moisture-wicking essentials such as shorts and a loser fitting tank top (a properly fitting sports bra is as critical as footwear selection when it comes to this high impact sport) or a moisture-wicking running t-shirt. Just as the other two proclaimed, once you pick up your first pair of running socks you’ll FEEL the difference (my personal favorites are Feetures! Running Socks, FITS Socks that are made with merino wool, and Balega). Speaking of feet, I brought along one pair of running shoes with elastic laces (e.g. Lock Laces) in them (provides a quick way to tighten up your shoe laces and are popular among triathletes), but I have a stack of running shoes at home (disclaimer: I spend my weekends working at a local running store). Another way I occasionally treat my feet are with a pair of Super Feet (or similar shoe insert). Moving on up, I have a pair of running-specific sunglasses and usually throw on a running hat as well. For the cooler months, I reiterated what Ralph and Ashley shared: layers are key.
On the tech side, I used to run with a simple sports watch and have since upgraded to an entry level Garmin GPS watch that tells me pace and distance, which is all the info I really want on the run. I typically don’t bother with listening to music when I’m running, but when I do, I really like YurBuds because they have great sound quality for an earbud and actually stay in my ears. To hold my keys, ID, cash, etc., I will either use the pockets in my running shorts (many will have a small key pocket, or a zippered back pocket) or I clip on a running belt (HUGE variation in sizes, colors, storage options on these).
As far as nutrition goes, I think I’ve said in every clinic that I could spend a whole session talking about that single topic. For the 5K distance, I just have some water before I head out in the morning before work or maybe a scoop of almond butter if I head out for a run after work. What you eat everyday will affect your training, so be sure to be mindful of your everyday diet.
After a run, or on rest days (yes, those are important!), I break out a foam roller to work on breaking up scar tissue that can build up over time.
What are your favorite pieces of running gear? Let us know in the comments section of this post!