Gear me up, baby

As I get more and more serious about this running thing, it occurred to me that yinz (intended) might be curious about the gear I use. I don’t get any kickbacks from any of these companies, although it would be a sweet life to get free shoes and gels and rocket packs. (I don’t know either. It’s late.)

1. CLOTHING:

Shirts: I wear mostly a mix of Nike, UnderArmour, and Target’s C9 by Champion line. To be honest, if it’s a race shirt it’s Nike or UnderArmour, and if it’s not (aka I bought it), it’s probably from Target. I cannot tell the difference between them. Don’t run in cotton shirts unless you like to be a sweat hoarder.

Bras: Well, that accelerated quickly. Again, I like Target’s C9 brand. If your milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard, make sure you get something intended for HIGH IMPACT or HIGH SUPPORT. Yoga bras and running bras are NOT the same thing. Yoga bras are cute and make you look like Strawberry Shortcake. Good, supportive running bras generally work by compressing tissue and make you look like a Power Ranger.

Shorts: Anything that has lycra or spandex. If you tend to chafe, make sure to pick something that is swishy. When I ran the marathon, I had these SWEET shorts from Nike that were swishy but had a spandex “second short” underneath them. They were lovely and I chafed not.

Socks: Toe-tally more important than most people think. (lame) Seriously, socks can make or break your run. (Note: I haven’t really explored compression socks. Some marathoners swear by them.) I tend to wear a mix of Asics or Nike socks. Nike has a dri-fit line that provides extra support in the arches. They do all the right things for me, baby.

2. SHOES:

I am a mad pronator, which means I roll my feet toward the center. Asics Gel-Kayanos undo that for me. So that is all I run in. Period. The end. Every time some well-meaning running shoe supplier has steered me toward brands other than Asics, I have regretted my purchase. However, I will note that this is a HIGHLY personal choice. I cannot overemphasize the importance of getting a proper gait analysis at a reputable running store. And after said gait analysis, if that consultant doesn’t make you try on at least 4 pairs, they aren’t doing their job right. Bonus points if they have a treadmill that you can test run the shoe on, or if they have an extremely lax return policy. True Runner, one of the best stores I’ve patronized, has both, and it has increased my confidence – and my business – tenfold.

I also buy Superfeet to help stabilize my pronation. They are expensive shoe inserts, but worth every penny. Specifically, I buy the berry ones. You feel these inserts and just how strong the insulating plastic is, and you cannot help but be impressed.

3. ACCESSORIES:

HEADPHONES: Won’t run without them. And I only run in one brand: Yurbuds. They even have a women’s line, because our ears are smaller. You twist them into your ears, and they “lock.” When I ran the freaking marathon, I adjusted them ONCE. ONCE in 26.2 miles. And that was because I dropped my phone and they fell out. I cannot sing their praises enough. But you probably cannot hear me singing, because you have a pair and you cannot hear me through them. Consider yourself lucky.

FOR THE JUNK IN YO TRUNK: A Spibelt. Think of it as a fanny pack, but for sexy runners. It does not bounce, it is discreet, and is easily accessible and water-resistant. I often throw my inhaler, my keys, and a snack or some cash in there. Because once I pass the grocery store on my way home, all bets are off and no Cheetos are safe.

A HAT: Because I sweat. Get a moisture-wicking one. I swear by an impressive array of baseball caps.

WATER BOTTLE: I won’t run without one. Get one that has a hand grip, like my favorite Amphipod, so you don’t have to ‘hold’ onto it. Bite valves are also nice so you don’t have to interrupt your flow. (intended.)

ROAD ID: Always wear one. Most dogs have more ID on them than runners. For me, it is a non-negotiable.

4. SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

For cold weather, I love fleece-lined leggings. C9 by Champion (Target line) has inexpensive ones that have impressive mobility and lots of fleece for the price. The North Face also makes nice gloves that are compatible with touch screens so you can put on that go song when the snowflakes start falling. Be careful with layering. I VERY RARELY run in a long sleeved tech shirt and fleece leggings, because I know I’ll get too hot and be pissy. It’s better to start off freezing and warm up from exertion. A cool website if you’re not sure what to wear can be found here.

For hot weather, make sure you up your hydration. I will run with a disposable water bottle and a pack of Gatorade powder. I drink the water first, find a place to fill up, and then make Gatorade on my run. Electrolytes are a necessity. I will also reiterate the importance of wicking clothing, because nothing is less sexy and uncomfortable than being a human sweat sponge. Be a human sweat…colander? I don’t know.

For humid weather, you must be extremely careful. Hot weather and humid weather are NOT the same thing, as anyone not from the East Coast can tell you. The difference? Moisture. (Duh.) But it becomes important because hot weather doesn’t interfere with the heat taken away from the body via sweat. Humidity creates a barrier on your skin in the form of moisture, and less heat is taken away as a result. AKA the very real risk of hyperthermia if you’re not careful. More tips can be found here.

For rainy weather, I put my phone in a Ziploc bag and punch holes for the headphones. It works decently well, even with the touchscreen. Make sure to air out your shoes when you complete your run, especially if you run with Superfeet, or you will simulate Spongebob noises wherever you foray.

For intense training and races, you need energy during your race. When I ran the marathon in 2014, I alternated Gu energy gels and Gu chomps every 5 miles. (IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE THAT NO ONE TELLS YOU: If you are taking gels or other race nutrition, DO NOT drink Gatorade with them. Someone warned me of this. I haven’t experienced it, but you get diarrhea from the rampant, quick electrolyte ingestion. GAME OVER.)

That being said, gels are an efficient and quick way to get nutrition. Decent Gu flavors include strawberry banana, lemon-lime, cherry lime, and mandarin orange. Some of those are Roctane gels, which have a little caffeine; some of those are regular energy gels. And Gu chomps are like energy fruit snacks – I liked the orange ones. Jelly Belly also makes electrolyte jellybeans that make you feel like you’re 7 again, except most 7 year olds aren’t sadists that run mega miles for fun.

Generally speaking, fruit flavors are safer than something ‘innovative’ like chocolate or vanilla. No gel will ever taste like good chocolate mousse, and any attempt at coffee makes me want to cry. I discovered these life tenets when I ate a mocha gel at mile 15 of a 19 mile run. Learn from my mistakes, people.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Running gear can be really tricky! I think it’s also important to note that I did NOT get all of this before I started. I’ve been running since 2008. Most of this was purchased piecemeal over the years. If I had to pick the most important things in which to invest FIRST…I’d choose shoes, socks, a bra, headphones, and a Road ID.

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