Running gear is not just a term used to express items we use for exercise. The running gear we select today has a huge affect on the runner we become tomorrow. It aids in the increase of performance and comfort, ultimately leading us to become a better runner in a shorter period of time.
We use running gear as new runners, experienced runners, and veteran runners alike; however, I cannot express enough the importance of running gear for beginners.
There are various types of running gear used for various types of terrain, for various types of runners, attempting various types of distances. Luckily, however, it all boils down to a few key items. When starting off, these 8 items, or some variation, will be precisely what a beginner needs to start training immediately.
When selecting running gear as a beginner, the most important aspect is running shoes. Choosing a running shoe that meshes well with your stance, step, and stride is critical.
Most aches, pains, and injuries as a beginner will stem back to your running shoe. It takes time to perfect your technique, so, in the meantime, a well fitted running shoe will compensate any deficiencies. For example, if your natural stride is to over-pronate and you jump into a neutral shoe, then, I can almost guarantee you will experience knee pain. Luckily, switching to a running shoe that supports over-pronation will eliminate the knee pain. Sometimes, the solution you’ve been searching for has been right there in front of you all along and you don’t even know it.
When shopping for a new running shoe, be sure to stop by your local running store. Here you can get fitted, try on different shoes, and usually test them out before purchase. Although shopping in store will most likely cost more than shopping online, a small investment in yourself today will pay dividends later in your running journey. This will have a huge impact on how you follow through with your training program.
I know it’s tempting to choose a shoe off the sale rack because we may not have the extra money, however, if we make our running goals a MUST then we will find a way to come up with the difference. When we make things a MUST don’t we always find a way? Eating is a MUST and we find a way, working is a MUST and we find a way, paying bills is a MUST and we find a way. If we make running a MUST, then, we will find a way to come up with the extra money.
Often, when we start a new goal we begin with one foot in and one foot out. By only partially committing to a goal, if we fail to reach it, then, it’s not so disappointing. This typically stems from our fear of failure; however, if you step up and decide to go all in, then, be sure to stop by your local running store and get fitted for a pair of good quality running shoes.
When choosing the proper running shirt, there are many factors to take into consideration. What season is it? What type of weather will you face? And how sensitive is your skin?
Here’s the rule of thumb – wear a shirt made of technical fabrics.
Different materials perform differently in different weather. For example, wearing a charged cotton shirt may feel great on a cool spring day, however, wear it on a hot day and your opinion on running will change quickly. In the heat, a cotton shirt will become full of sweat and feel heavy, whereas, a technical fabric type running shirt will remain dry and feel light. This is because cotton is made to absorb sweat while technical fabrics are designed to pull moisture away from the body. Technical fabrics are designed for various weather conditions and will be the best choice for a running shirt out the gate.
Also, consider how technical fabrics regulate body temperature. During a marathon, I’ve run in a cotton tank with 100-degree weather and felt exhausted. Whereas, in the same type weather, during a 100-mile ultra marathon I wore a technical fabric shirt designed to block the sunrays and it made all the difference in the world.
With the many adverse weather conditions we face as runners, a technical fabric will be comfortable, light, and even regulate body temperature depending on the quality. If it feels cool and light on the body, then, consider adding it to your running wardrobe.
3. Leg Attire
As a beginner you may wonder what type of leg attire is best. Fortunately, leg attire will be the most basic of the bunch in running gear. Shorts or tights will be your choice for the most part.
Running shorts come in different cut lengths, from thigh high to just above the knee and sometimes even longer. The key is to find a fit that’s most comfortable for a long run.
From experience, I’ve performed best in short light technical fabrics. Many people choose a pair with an underwear lining, but, for myself, especially when running marathon and ultra marathon distances, I cut the lining out and wear a pair of compression shorts underneath to help prevent chaffing.
In general, consider trying a few different brands. It will be well worth the effort when you find a pair that’s both comfortable and reliable.
4. Compression Wear
Compression wear will be the hidden gem of your running gear and it comes in many different forms.
First, compression shirts, sports bras, and compression shorts are great for sweat absorption. Also, they come in handy during cold winter mornings or hot summer days. They will help regulate body temperature, ultimately keeping you warmer in the cold and cooler in the heat.
In addition, compression material helps prevent chafing which can be heaven sent for long runs. I tell you this from experience.
Other compression gear consists of compression socks, calf sleeves, and arm sleeves. This type of compression gear is known to help improve performance and even promote a quicker recovery.
Personally, I prefer compression socks. They are reliable when I compete in ultra marathons. Typically, I run one hundred mile races without ever changing them once. On race day I run through trails, in the rain, through puddles, and into rivers and never develop any severe blistering. I credit this to my compression socks. Do be aware as they take some effort to remove from your feet. When I’m done running 100 miles, my feet are so swollen that I typically cut my compression socks off with a pair of scissors!
To sum it up, compression gear isn’t a requirement but certainly a game changer to say the least.
5. Sports Watch
Adding a high quality sports watch allows us to use analytical data to improve as runners, especially for beginners. It will allow you to track distance, pace, lap time, elevation, and sometimes even your heart rate. With this vital information available at your fingertips, you can instantly monitor your performance and find areas for improvement.
Furthermore, it helps with achieving your running goals. For example, if you monitor your pace while running, then, you know when to speed up and when to slow down. On that note, it’s excellent effort to run fast in an attempt to hit your goals, but it’s smart to pace yourself and conserve your energy for later in your run, especially on race day.
Consider yourself an active social media user? Great! Before purchasing a GPS watch, check out the brand’s community and how runners are posting their activity. The key is to find a watch where the analytical data is easily transferred. Most of the time, the watch will link via bluetooth to your smartphone. From there you can post your results on a social media page by a click of the button.
Other aspects to check are battery life and charging time. How long does a good charge last and will the overall battery life affect your running? Be sure to check reviews by different users and check if battery life holds or fades with age.
With that being said, be sure to read reviews in general and choose a watch by a trusted brand. Good brands tend to offer a good warranties where the product life tends to exceed the warranty. From my experience, the most trusted brand is Garmin hands down. I can say, it’s well worth the extra-money, as the GPS watch tends to become a runner’s best friend.
Who doesn’t like some good music? Most runners enjoy listening to their favorite songs while training but the right pair of headphones can certainly dictate our experience.
Ever go for a run or workout at the gym with a pair of headphones that constantly fall out of your ears? Personally, it makes me want to scream!!! And sometimes I do…Aaaah! Running with headphones that repetitively fall out of your ears can throw off your focus quickly and in a big way!
So when purchasing a pair of headphones, be sure to consider the type of earbuds. Do they loop around the ear? Or, are they pressed directly inside the ear? Personally, I prefer the style with a loop around the ear. I’ve always had a positive experience with them.
Remember, although headphones play music, different headphones are made for different purposes. Be sure to look for a pair targeted towards fitness. The headphones targeted towards the fitness industry will typically show someone running or working out on the packaging.
In addition, I’m sure you’ve noticed the new trend of wireless headphones that hit the market. Sure, it’s great to eliminate the wire by using a wireless pair of headphones, but if you’re running for a long period of time, then, consider the battery life as well. I can run a marathon in a pair of wireless headphones, however, that is not the case for ultra marathons where the battery dies during the run. Also, remember this, where there is no charge there is no music. Personally, I tend to carry a backup pair of headphones in my pocket just for this reason.
Lastly, consider the price range. Typically, the cheaper the headphone, the lower the quality and the more expensive the headphone, the better the quality. In addition, the high quality headphone will usually have a better warranty. For example, I’ve had great experience with Beats By Dre headphones. Sure, they costed more up front, but when they stopped working after a brutal 50 mile run in the rain, I was able to receive a new pair for free with no hassle. Furthermore, since Apple recently acquired Beats, I just drove over to the Apple Store and had them warrantied, no questions asked. My guess is the warranty process would be similar for competitive brands. Not to mention, the sound is incredible compared to the cheap headphones I was previously using.
In general, choose a pair of headphones that you prefer, but just make sure they stay in your ears. Aaaah!
When adverse weather hits, your jacket quickly becomes the most important part of your running gear by far.
My last race was a 100-mile ultra marathon throughout New York City. I literally ran in a downpour for 5 hours straight. The constant rain was wearing down my body and would have worn down my spirit if it weren’t for a good quality rain jacket.
With that, the proper insulation can make a huge difference. I remember the time a dog jumped up and bit my elbow on a run putting a hole right through my brand new rain jacket. Because of the tear in the liner, I went from completely dry to completely soaked. By the time I arrived home, I was wet, shivering, and freezing from the cold winter rain.
You’ll find out quickly, when it rains during a long run a high quality insulated jacket makes a huge difference in your comfort level. This also goes with winter jackets when the freezing temperatures hit. A high quality winter jacket can keep you outside running in the cold longer.
Remember, you can also layer up underneath your jacket! I’ve run in the most frigid of temperatures literally wearing 6 layers upon my torso. Yes, my eyelids froze shut but at least the rest of my body was warm! Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear!
8. Hydration Gear
When you first start running hydration gear will not be needed as frequently but is still something worth having. If you’re not running for long, then, you will most likely not need to rehydrate during a run. Although, some runners will bring along fluids for comfort or if they think it might be time to go the distance. As you push your distance further and further, hydration gear will become more and more important.
In like manner, when preparing for a race, you will want to practice with the specific hydration gear you plan to use on race day. So what hydration gear should you use? There are various types to choose from. On the road, you will see more hydration belts than anything. On the trails, you see more vests, packs, and handhelds. To start, a belt or a handheld is sufficient. From there you can decide on what’s best for you.
There you have it, my complete beginners guide to running gear. NOW…
Let’s Add It All Up!
So what should I expect to pay for each item? Here’s a quick overview.
1. Running Shoes – $80-$200
2. Shirt -$15-$50
3. Leg Attire – $15-$65
4. Compression Wear – $20-$90
5. Sports Watch -$20-$350
6. Headphones – $5-$200
7. Jacket – $40-$300
8. Hydration Gear- $20-$200
Lets Sum It All Up
Choosing the right running gear is essential for comfort and performance. The running gear we choose tends to be different for each individual runner. Your running gear will build over time until you have your favorite combination of items ready for any weather, at any speed, to cover any distance. Whether it’s a run around the block or suiting up for a PR attempt on race day, running gear is what we rely on.
Overall, this guide is useful for getting started and getting out there running. I truly hope this has answered the many questions you may have in regards to running gear. As a beginner, it can seem overwhelming at first, but once you gain experience you will soon realize it’s all about what works best for you. Instead of choosing what you think you should have, you start choosing what you need, period. Some gear will work and some gear will not, but eventually you will develop a set of gear that will have you ready to go the distance any time and every time.
REMEMBER…there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.
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