Thursday, June 6, 2013

RUNNING 101: GET READY! Essential Equipment

What equipment do I need to run?

The short answer?  Sneakers. Simple as that.  That is the beauty of running.  You don’t need a gym membership or any special equipment.  Like they say at Nike, “just do it.” 

But if you’re entering these waters with any reluctance, or you just want to give yourself the best chance at success, and you have the luxury of spending a little money, there are a few purchases you can make that will help.  (Click on the more links for details.)

First and foremost, a a foam roller.  For about $25 you can avoid injury and make the whole experience fun and pain free, with the added benefits of increased flexibility and upper body strength!

Next, the obvious: sneakers.

Can you just run in the shoes you have?  Sure, maybe.  If buying new shoes is gonna be a deal breaker, then lace up the ones you have and go for it.  But if your current kicks were not properly fitted for running, at some point, either now, or after you’ve gotten a few miles behind you, you’re going to want to (or need to) look into getting a new pair.  And my most important piece of advice: choose a reputable running store with a liberal return policy!

I run in "minimal" shoes. The first pair I chose myself, because they were bright orange. I loved those shoes, and they were perfect for me.  But I was lucky.  When I was ready for my second pair (after about 4 months), I went to Capital Run Walk, had a proper fitting and chose these Brooks Pure Flow2s – another pair of minimal shoes with much more cushion in the sole. I love them!  

The day after I bought them, I ran 10 miles.  My longest distance ever at that point, and they felt awesome!  The right shoes won’t need a “break in” period—you should be able to lace them up and go run with zero pain!  If they bother you at all, go back to the store. (because you followed my advice and chose a store with a liberal return policy, right??) 

The best piece of advice they gave me was to get shoes a half size bigger than my regular size. (Your feet swell as you hit longer distances, and apparently that’s how runners lose toe nails.  yuck!)  It's worth your time to talk to a professional who can look at your stride and give you suggestions. The shoes don't cost any more (in fact, my new ones were cheaper than the pair I chose for myself at Dick's!) but having the proper shoe is priceless!

I recently took my kids in to Fleet Feet Sports to be fitted for new running shoes.  They do an excellent job.  Regardless of where you go, here’s what to look for:

1.  Assessment of your current running shoes or whatever sneakers or street shoes you’re wearing.  They can tell a lot from the wear pattern so take them with you. 

2.  Assessment of your stride in bare feet.  They’ll take a look as see what your feet and legs tend to do naturally when you walk, and determine whether you need any sort of support and if so, what type. 

3.  At Fleet Feet, once they figured out what type of shoe seemed best, they chose one brand as a representative of that type and let the kids run in that one to see if their assessment was correct.  If so, they then pulled out a few different brands of the same type of shoe.  One of my kids wears a neutral, like me, and easily chose the one that was most comfortable.  My son needed a light stability shoe, and had to try different shoes on each foot and narrow down his choices thru process of elimination.  Take your time, because finding the correct shoe is totally worth it!

Also, keep in mind that your best friend’s favorite shoe might not work at all for you.  In fact, you’ll probably hate it.  That’s how these things seem to work.  Find the shoe that feels perfect on YOUR feet!  You’ll be glad you did!

OK, so foam roller, check.  Shoes, check.  You might also want a tracking device.  This is not a necessity, but it sure is nice to have.  There are a number of running GPS/watches on the market.  I have one and I’m not at all happy with it.  Instead, I use my iPhone and the FREE Nike+Running app.  (The Nike+iPod app that comes pre-loaded on the iPhone requires use of the shoe sensor, which also costs money, and I found to be less reliable.)   The Nike+Running app uses the GPS and gives you audible notifications while you’re running—elapsed time, distance and pace (and it’s FREE!).  You can set up an account with Nike+ and it will sync each run to your online account, tracking your best times, farthest runs, longest workouts, etc.  It’s a fun way to stay motivated! 

I would recommend running with your phone anyway, just in case of an emergency.  (Yes, I have had to use mine to call my kids and tell them to meet me at the ER.)  I also use my phone for music while I run, so I get all three—tracking, music and emergency communications all in one device!  That’s efficiency!
One more piece of equipment to consider—something to hold your phone.  I love my SPIBelt and have gotten them for my kids.  It will hold just about any phone, it’s easy to use, you don’t even really notice it when you’re running (that was a biggie for me) and you don’t have to have huge biceps (if you’ve looked into armbands, you know what I’m talking about.) 

And that’s it!  Foam roller, sneakers, you probably already have a phone, something to carry your phone.  You’re ready to go!
Wait!!  What do I WEAR??  Shorts and a t-shirt will work just fine, but if you’ve been out of the fitness game for a while or nothing fits or you just don’t like anything you have, then shop wisely.  Buy one outfit for starters and see if you like it.  I started with regular running shorts and I like them OK, but quickly learned that I prefer running skirts or capris—something tighter on my legs.  And definitely choose “wicking” fabrics, especially for tops.  T-shirts are fun and easy, but if you’re buying anything, avoid cotton.  It gets wet and heavy if you’re sweaty or caught in the rain.  My go-to store for running gear is Target!  The prices are great and I’ve been happy with everything I’ve gotten there.  Once you figure out what you like best, reward yourself with new pieces as you stick with your training plan! 

OK, that's really IT!!  You are fully equipped and ready to run!  

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