Ready Player One - Running Gear

Ready Player One is a series of posts designed to introduce newbies to various aspects of the fitness lifestyle, from running to weight lifting to eating a healthy diet and everything in between. So drop in your quarter and get ready to level up. Ready Player One.

In my experience, there tend to be three kinds runners:

  1. The people who think all you need to run are legs and feet. To them, pretty much anything else is an unnecessary encumbrance. Running is a transcendental experience.
  2. The people who think that going for a run is like gearing up to raid a dragon’s lair. To them, priority number one is an inventory full of gear that will protect you from every conceivable pitfall and danger along the trail. Running is about winning/achievement points.
  3. The people who like to have some decent gear on hand, but don’t want to load themselves for dragon every time they walk out the door. To them, forgetting their GPS watch or having shoes with a few too many miles on them isn’t an automatic game over. Running is fun.

There are pros and cons to each and every one of these kinds of runners. But over the past few years, I’ve tried all three approaches and learned that I am most solidly Type 3. Running is fun for me, and I do love me some toys, but they’re not necessary to get out the door.  

Types 1 and 2

I won’t focus much on the minimalist/maximalist runners in this article. Mainly because that’s not who I am, and I don’t think such extremes are healthy for newbies.

If you want to know more about Type 1 runners, the minimalists, read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (Amazon affiliate link, btw). It’s a fantastic book that really captures the passion barefoot runners and ultramarathoners feel toward the sport.

And if you want to know about Type 2, the maximalist dragon-slaying runners, read The Oatmeal‘s comic “The DOs and DO NOTs of Running Your First Marathon.” It’s brilliant. For instance:

The Oatmeal Maximalist Runner Accessories
It can also be found in the fantastic book The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. (Again, Amazon affiliate link.)

So yeah, if you think you may be a Type 1 or Type 2 runner, check out those resources. Because I’m gonna cover the mid-packers, the realists, the Type 3s, the folks like me.

Type 3 Personality

A while back, I wrote a blog for Fitocracy that pretty much summed up my thoughts on what you need to start running. In it, I said all you really need to run is a good pair of running shoes.

Which in a lot of ways is true. If you want to start running, the only thing you truly need is a pair of running shoes that won’t hurt your feet. Everything else is frosting on the cake to that. You can’t run any distance at all if you feel like knives are stabbing into the soles of your feet.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think it takes a little more than that. Sure, that’s the most basic, fundamental piece of equipment you need (outside of legs and feet, obviously), but if you are going to start running and actually stick with it, here’s the checklist of stuff you’ll want to have in some capacity.

  • Running Shoes
  • Running Socks
  • Smartphone/Headphones
  • Tech shirts/shorts/sports bras

Now, I know that looks like a lot of stuff, but it really isn’t. You can pick up most of this stuff at Walmart or Target (Starter or Champion brands, respectively) for relatively cheap. Not including shoes and smartphone, you can easily snag enough stuff for a whole week of running for under $50.

Let me break down why I say all this stuff is what you need to start running.

Running Shoes

Pretty self-explanatory. You want something that will cushion your feet and legs from the impact with the ground. I personally run in Asics Gel-Nimbus shoes (check out my GIF review of the 13, 14, and 15s if you’re interested in it), but they’re a little pricey to start out with unless you get a good deal at Shoe Carnival or somewhere like I did initially.

Just find something that doesn’t hurt your feet. If they don’t hurt, you’re probably fine. The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that new runners don’t need to worry about any of the fancy supination/pronation/motion control stuff.

Just find a shoe that doesn’t hurt. That’s the requirement for you finding the right running shoes. (That, and being able to afford them, of course.)

Running Socks

Again, you may be thinking “I got socks. Don’t need to buy socks.” But unless your socks are made out of synthetic materials, don’t run in them. In other words, don’t wear cotton socks. You want something that is made to wick away sweat from your feet, not wrap them up so that when you’re done, all you can see is a wrinkly, stinky, soggy toe-burrito.

That’s a one-way trip to Blistertown, USA. Spend the ten bucks on some synthetic socks (I like seamless ones, but it’s not a necessity) and slide your footsies into them.

Just make sure you avoid cotton. For real. It took me too long to realize socks were almost as important as shoes.

Smartphone/Headphones

I’m going to lump the smartphone/headphones bullets together in this one because they’re pretty simple and go hand-in-hand. You want the smartphone to run GPS and music apps, and you want headphones that won’t fall out of your ears.

I use Nike+ Vapor headphones now because I was given a set for free and fell in love, but my backup is a $10 set I grabbed at Walgreens. The only criteria I really have for running headphones is that they don’t fall out of my ears, so I want them to have an over-the-ear hook. It’s pretty easy to find what kind of headphones/earbuds work for your workouts.

Download an app like RunKeeper for GPS tracking, sign up, and start using it to track your runs (it’s free, btw). It gives approximate calorie burn, pacing, splits, and all the wonderful number-crunchy goodness that you can use to keep up with yourself.

Then I suggest downloading Spotify or Pandora–or you could just use iTunes Radio or Google Play Music–for whatever sounds you want distracting you while you get used to putting one foot in front of the other. Over the summer, I really started getting into podcasts and audiobooks while I ran, so there’s that, too. Just find something you like listening to and do it.

Some people say you shouldn’t listen to music (or podcasts, etc. ) because you should be listening to your body. And that’s fine for experienced runners. For new runners, though, who are just getting started, our bodies are screaming STOP STOP OH GOD STOP every step of the way, and we need something to distract us.

Once you quiet your inner-voice, feel free to ditch the headphones. Until then, I really do think music is the best way to go.

Tech Shirts

Now, this is the least important gear to newbies. Honestly, you can run in whatever T-shirts and shorts/pants you have already. Don’t think you need wicking tech fabrics just to get out the door and start to run.

But as you up the mileage, you’re going to want to invest in something that is, once again, not cotton.

Why, you ask? What’s so important about having tech fabric in my shirt and shorts?

I have four words for you: chafing and bloody nipples.

If those don’t tell you all you need to know, then I suggest you just go run a few miles in cotton boxer briefs and a tight T-shirt. Seriously. Running is a dirty habit, and you have to get used to a lot of discomfort to really make a go of it, but you can save yourself from the worst of it just by putting on the right kind of clothes.

For shirts, I suggest anything that’s smooth and wicking. The most important thing is that there isn’t a rough texture or seam near the chest because you will come back in after a few miles with sore and bloody nipples from the friction.

I’ve found that pretty much any tech shirt is better than a normal cotton tee, but if you can feel the grain of a shirt with your fingertips, you’ll feel it with your nipples, too. Err on the side of smooth and silky.

In terms of fit, I like to run with shirts slightly loose and hangy instead of fitted. You may not. Just see what works for you.

Sports Bras

Women, though, don’t have to worry about friction destroying their chests. Your sports bras will protect you from the bloody chafing that men suffer through. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t protect you from the crushing reality that is gravity.

As you run, your chest is going to move. The bigger your bust, the more it’s going to move and the more it’s going to hurt. To start with, don’t worry about finding the perfect sports bra (unless you’re particularly large-chested). Your primary concern is stability.

Go into the stores, find your cup size (your real cup size–do a fitting if you have to), and jump up and down. If you find that uncomfortable or you move around a lot, then you’ll want a tighter, more compressing and stabilizing bra. My wife swears by the Moving Comfort Jubilee or the Grace 2, but those are on the costlier sides.

If you’re just hitting Walmart or Target for a quickie sports bra, get one that keeps you stable. Yoga bras work well enough to begin with, too, by the way. But not your normal bra. That may be fine for a run or two, but take my (wife’s) advice on this one–buy a good sports bra as soon as it is humanly possible for you to do so.

Tech shorts/pants

For shorts/pants, I like them with built-in underwear to prevent my nether regions from chafing. I tried running for a long time in normal boxer briefs, but I have some thunder-thighs, and I got rubbed raw more than my fair share. I tried some running shorts with trunks in them, and again, I visited Chafetown. So I found some with briefs, and I’ve never looked back. My wife found the same thing with hers, too.

Built-in briefs are the way to go, IMO.

There are also three lengths for running short seams–5, 7, and 9-inches. I run in 7-inch seams because 5s make me feel like I’m in booty shorts, and I ran in 9s until I realized I could move my legs way better in the 7s. It’s a personal preference, really. Just be aware there are different options out there.

Whew! That Was A Lot!

It really was. I know. I know. But it’s all the kind of stuff that I feel new runners need to know.

Because honestly, running is hard (and awesome and exhilarating and spiritual and so many other things), but to start out as a new runner…it’s hard. Sure, all you really need are shoes that don’t hurt your feet, but if you go out and get bored from lack of music or shave your nipples off or find a blister burrito inside your socks, there’s a good chance you won’t keep up with running.

So that’s why I’m a Type 3 runner. I’m a realist. I understand that you don’t absolutely need a bunch of crap to go running, but having some makes your quality of life exponentially better.

Keep in mind, too, that you don’t even need to get all of this stuff all at once. Piece together your running kit as you go. Grab some shoes, head out the door, and see what you need to make your runs better and better each time you lace up.

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