Beginner’s Guide to Gear for Running
You’ve decided it’s time. The couch is no longer comfortable. Something inside you has finally snapped and you’ve decided it’s time to get out there and do something about all that extra fat that you’ve been carrying around. You’re ready to get out there and get fit. You’re ready to rumble. You’re ready to get started. You’re going to take the plunge, either literally or figuratively. All you need to do is grab the gear you need to swim, bike or run.
And then it hits you.
This fitness thing is expensive! Shoes, bikes, swim caps, goggles…
It doesn’t have to be that way. When you’re first excited and motivated to start getting fit, you want to go out and buy those tools that will help drive you to success. But then you realize there are a lot of choices… But which one is right for me?
You don’t want to get the wrong stuff. You want the right stuff. You’re going to be the Right Stuff. But what do you need for that?
Let’s take a look at three different sports (or all three if you might want to do a triathlonsomeday) and see just what gear is absolutely essential, what is nice, and what is money-doesn’t-matter awesome for running, biking and swimming.
So let’s start with the essentials with the beginning fitness routine: walking or running.
Back in my day, there were only two types of shoes. Dress shoes which you only wore to church on Sunday, and “Sneakers”. Sneakers were your go-to-shoe for everything as a kid. They were the ones you wore until your toes poked out of the end, the laces were gone, and your heel had worn a hole all the way through. They were cheap, versatile, and they got you everywhere you needed to go.
Today, there are no more sneakers. There are trail shoes, running shoes, walking shoes, hikingshoes, dress shoes (still), backpacking shoes, minimalist shoes, flipflops, etc, etc, etc. Oh, and there are neutral, stability, stability plus, and a whole bunch of other names related to shoes. These have to do with pronation, over-pronation, under-pronation and… Did I lose you yet? Who cares, right?
Well, as it turns out… it matters a lot. Don’t make the mistake I made and try to fit your own shoes.
When I first decided to get fit, I figured that shoes were shoes. Grabbing a pair of “running” shoes – any pair – would work just fine. Because back in my day, sneakers were sneakers and I ran in them all the time. I went with this philosophy all the way through my first marathon, where I found myself afterward unable to move on the ground, my back killing me in ways I can’t even describe. Oh, and I was slow. Really, Really, really slow.
Then, one day, I began reading about how important a Gait Analysis was to a runner. Finding out that several local stores, and even the chain Road Runner Sports, would give a free analysis, I decided to go in and have them watch me run barefoot on a treadmill. Then, and only then, did I discover one of the most important lessons.
I was doing everything wrong. Everything.
I had the wrong width shoes. I had the wrong type of shoe (I over-pronate, and I didn’t have shoes for that). I have very, very high arches, which means that I was straining my back and my knees (they hurt a lot). My feet are two different lengths, and I had fit myself to the shorter foot rather than the longer foot. I was wearing normal width shoes and my feet were swimming in them because in fact I have very narrow-width feet (that’s right, I have women’s width feet. Thanks, Mom). It was all wrong, wrong, wrong.
After my gait analysis, the kind folks at the store got me the right pair of shoes and inserts. I went home paying no more for my shoes than I did on my own.
But boy what a difference did it make. Within 3 days (after my body adapted to the proper shoes), my pace time decreased by an entire minute. When I used to take over 11 minutes to run just one mile, within 3 days it decreased to less than 10 minutes at the same level of effort.
Moral of the story?
Don’t try to fit your own shoes. Get a fitting. It’s free – use it!
You’ll save yourself a lot of agony in the long “run” (pun intended), and you won’t pay much more for your shoes than you would elsewhere. The small investment in time for a fitting at a running store will save you tons of agony later.
Trust me on that one.
You’ve been wearing cotton socks your entire life. What other types of socks are there? They work for everything, right? They’re comfortable, and how could generations upon generations be wrong in wearing that?
Well, if you haven’t guessed by now – they are way, way wrong. If you want to avoid blisters, if you want to avoid stinky feet, if you want to avoid athlete’s foot, rashes and other kinds of icky foot-stuff, then you have to avoid cotton socks. Cotton socks are so… Nineteenth century.
Pay the extra and get running socks. Your significant other will thank me later. Or anyone else near you after your run and the laundry hamper.
Just like those good old-fashioned cotton socks, good old-fashioned T-Shirts made of cotton are great, too, right? It’s what we used to sweat in as kids, so it’s perfectly good for us now.
Ya, but no. You see, those cotton t-shirts soak up sweat, and not only will they make your laundry room smell like a locker room, but they will cling to your skin and give you the chills after you finish your workout. These things are not a good idea for a workout. Wearing something known as a Performance T-Shirt, or Running Shirt… Basically, anything but an “under-shirt” – will save you many chills and possibly making yourself sick.
Make sure to wear something comfortable but not too loose or too tight. There are running shorts and running pants, and the best advice I can give is this: Don’t wear something that, if you start to sweat, will show that sweat. So light colors may sound like a good idea, but if you’re planning on sweating a lot on a run… Don’t wear something light colored. Trust me on that one, too.
Those are the essentials. A good shirt, shorts, and shoes will get you started running!
About The Authro
“Captain Chas” Melichar
Fitness & Nutrition Tester and Guinea Pig
In 2009, after decades of being a couch potato, a friend called him “Super-Fluffy”. Pilots, particularly major airline pilots, do not like being called “Fluffy”. Decidedly annoyed, he decided to stop whining and do something about eradicating fluffiness in his life.
In searching for that goal, he has tried a lot of gear and nutrition and chosen both wisely, and poorly. In the hope that others can learn from his mistakes and successes, he shares the journey on his blog.
The journey has included P90X, Yoga, numerous marathons, ultra-marathons, and triathlons. His longest races include several Iron-length triathlons (2.4 mi swim/112mi Bike/26.2mi run) and twice the Comrades (Ultra) Marathon – the Ultimate Human Race, the hardest and largest road-race (56mi) in the world. He says he is truly a purely average to below average guy just trying to do extraordinary things.
For more information on Chas, visit CaptainChas.com