One of the things that I love about running is that you don’t need much to do it, unlike some other sports and forms of exercise. When I first started running I had nothing except some old cotton shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers. I didn’t even have a watch and I didn’t really care to know how long or far I ran. If I ran outside, I would glance at the clock when I left and when I came back, estimate how long I ran based on my natural pace that I had determined from the treadmill (which was about 10:00 – 10:30 per mile) and call it a day. But as I learned more about running through books, magazines, and the internet, I started discovering all the awesome gear, clothing, and extra items that runners used. I started caring more about my training and signed up for races. Suddenly I just HAD TO HAVE some of these running supplies, starting with some good exercise clothes, then a Garmin watch, and from there my collection grew and grew. I knew that investing in some quality items would help me stay healthy and motivated, and improve my running.
Along the way I have tried many things and learned what I like and don’t like through trial and error. Here are the things that I can’t live without now!
Gear & Clothing
Garmin Forerunner watch. I put this first because it’s my favorite thing! Mine is on the left and Kevin’s is on the right. Mine is older and less attractive but I love it. I actually trained for and ran my first marathon in November 2008 with a regular stopwatch and my dad got me this for Christmas that year. Ever since then my Garmin watch has made a huge difference in the quality of my running. It has a GPS that tracks your speed, distance, and time, and it has tons of other features as well. It is very motivating and great for people who want to take their running to the next level. I got Kevin his for Christmas before we started training for his first marathon and he loves it too.
Good running shoes! I cannot stress how important it is to go to a running store and have them analyze your running style and feet in order to get shoes that are right for you (it’s free too!). I have done this a few times and it has made a huge difference in my running and injury prevention. I have high arches and I overpronate (my feet roll inward when I run), so I need shoes with a lot of stability that support me and correct that. An employee at my local running store videotaped me running on the treadmill and observed me running outside, and then put the video in slow motion so I could see exactly what my feet were doing when I ran. He explained how choosing the right shoes could help fix the problem, and then gave me a lot of options (in different price ranges) that I could choose from. I tried these types of shoes on and he videotaped me again. It was amazing how it corrected my running and my overpronation. These shoes help keep my body in alignment when I run, and if I had continued to wear neutral shoes without the support I needed it could have caused a lot of problems in my body. The shoes I wear now are Saucony Hurricanes. I alternate between two pairs and I keep track of the mileage on each pair. I get new ones after 300 – 500 miles, depending on how they feel. I can tell I need new shoes when my feet start hurting and I feel lots of aches and pains when I run.
Quality running shorts. Having good shorts is so important to me! I finally found a pair that I love by Nike so I bought a couple pairs of them. I bought another style last week and tried them out on a run and I hated them. They were so uncomfortable, kept riding up on me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It ruined the whole run and made me mad. So yes, shorts are important to me!
Quality running shirts (and sports bras). Along the same lines as shorts, the tops (and sports bras) that I wear have to be lightweight, sweat-wicking, and comfortable without any annoying seams that will cause chafing. I have a whole drawer full of tank tops, t-shirts and long sleeved shirts and I love them all!
Spi-belt. I got this belt at a race-expo and it has been the best thing ever for long runs and races. The little pocket expands to hold everything you would need- gu, phone, chapstick, etc. The best part is that it doesn’t ride up your body like most running belts do.
Recovery Socks. I always wear my recovery socks after long runs or intense speed work. They are compression socks, so they help with the blood flow and circulation which helps the legs recover faster. Plus they feel good! Kevin has some black and green ones. (Please excuse my banged up knees! They’re still healing from the Warrior Dash).
Nutrition / Hydration
Coffee! All of my long run mornings start with coffee. It’s just necessary for many reasons, including caffeine and digestive purposes 🙂
Energy bars. After coffee comes pre-run fuel. Before my long runs I always used to eat Clif Bars, but after three years of eating them before every long run they make me feel sick to my stomach now. Lately I have been eating these Honey Stinger bars and I love them so much!
Energy gels and chews. Whenever I am running for more than an hour and a half I need to bring some fuel to eat during the run. I have always used Gu (Vanilla is my favorite flavor) but I recently tried the Honey Stinger energy chews and they are my new favorites. They are chewy without being too sweet, and each one is 16 calories (each Gu packet is 100 calories). I like that because I can eat a few here and there without having to eat a whole packet of Gu that sometimes makes my stomach hurt. Also, they are one of the few energy chews that are gelatin free, which is good for this vegetarian! 🙂 On my last 20 mile run I ate the chews 5 at a time every 40 – 45 minutes (at 55 minutes, 1 hr. 35 min., 2 hr. 5 min., and 2 hr. 45 min.) I try to eat them before I feel like I really NEED them, because by then it’s usually too late and things go downhill. This was the perfect amount and great timing. I never ran out of energy and never got any stomach cramps.
Camelbak. Getting a Camelbak was one of the smartest things I ever did. When I first started running long distances I wouldn’t carry enough water, which led to all kinds of bad things like dehydration (obviously), nausea, and dizziness/seeing stars once I got back home. I was worried that carrying something on my back would be heavy and annoying but it’s not at all. I am so thankful for it and I never have any hydration problems anymore. I wear it on runs that are over 12 miles. Mine is on the left (it’s a women’s fit) and Kevin’s is on the right.
Water Bottle. For shorter runs, this bottle is the best because it holds enough water and it also has a little pouch for my keys, chapstick and an energy gel if I need one. It has a strap on the other side that you just slide your hand into so you don’t have to grip it the whole time.
Coconut Water. I used to guzzle Gatorade like crazy after long runs but I never liked how it was super sweet and full of sugar. I heard about Coconut Water and how it does a great job replacing electrolytes like Gatorade does and it’s all natural, so I gave it a try. I am hooked! I love drinking it immediately when I get home from a long or super sweaty run.
Nuun. This is another form of hydration/electrolyte replacement but it’s in a tablet form. I usually drink a big glass of water with one of these tablets dissolved in it the afternoon after a long run. It helps continue the hydration process and keeps afternoon headaches away. It tastes good too!
Protection / Personal Items
Body Glide. OH BODY GLIDE! How I love you. I put this on before long runs and it helps keep me from chafing in certain areas. The worst place I used to chafe was right under the bottom of my sports bra. It was super painful and left nasty red marks. It’s also good for feet, thighs, and anywhere else you may rub together. Kevin uses it on his nipples to avoid bloody nipple syndrome that so many male runners experience! It has worked so far!
Chapstick. Probably my second most necessary item after my Garmin watch. I can’t stand the feeling of having dry lips, it bothers me so much. I’m definitely addicted to my Burts Bees. I actually dropped it during the Nashville marathon and almost started crying when I realized it was gone. I need it!!!
Sunscreen. So important to me!!! I always wear Neutrogena Sport on my face and other exposed body parts, especially on long runs. Running in the sunshine for an hour or more can do some serious damage. I like this brand the best because it stays on and doesn’t run into my eyes or make me break out. I actually wear this on the beach too and it protects my skin very well. I haven’t gotten sunburn in a couple years.
Pepper Spray. Kevin got me this mini pepper spray to carry with me when he doesn’t run with me. Although I don’t need to carry it often, it makes me feel much safer when I have it and I’m running alone. It’s small and really easy to carry in my hand.
Ped Egg. A runner girl has to keep her feet pretty! Ped Eggs are a must! Haha.
Runners World! I learn so much from this magazine every single month. It never gets old. Love it!
Mapmyrun.com. This is a great website that I use to plan out my longer runs before I go. It’s also great for figuring out where to run in a new area or if you are traveling. It pulls up maps (even satellite) and you can create your own routes and see the elevation profile for it. Below is an example of a map I made before a 20 mile run. You can also log your runs on the website. I used to do that, but now I use Daily Mile which I will talk about next.
Dailymile.com. This is my favorite social networking site all about running. You can keep track of your training, talk to other people who care about the same things you do, send motivation, share photos, and more. You can see my full page here!
Sometimes I think back to when I first started running and I can’t believe that I didn’t use any of these things! Also, as I look at this list I remember certain things that I used to love and need when I ran, but as I evolved as a runner I changed my mind about them. The biggest example of this is music. I know that many runners love to run with music and there is nothing wrong with that! I used to rely on it so heavily, though, that I couldn’t run without it. I remember one time on a long run, my iPod died halfway through and I couldn’t fathom finishing the run without it, so I stopped. The fact that I needed music that badly in order to run worried me. I wanted to be able to run without it, so I slowly weaned myself off of it. Now I have only run with music a few times over the last 3 years, and only if I am forced to run on the treadmill (UGH, the worst!). Instead I like to spend my time running thinking about anything and everything, talking to Kevin, and taking in my surroundings.
I’m sure that later on I will look back at this list and laugh at some of the stuff that is on here, but for right now, it’s all perfect for me. I don’t use it all at the same time obviously, but I pick and choose based on the weather, the length of the run, and how I’m feeling. Sometimes I like to carry a lot of stuff and sometimes I don’t. I actually went on some runs without my watch last year and it felt very freeing. I might have to try that again soon! 🙂
What are a few of your favorite running or fitness items?