Let me start this by making two important points:
I am a newbie. I’ve only been working on my running skills – make that skillz – for about 6 months, and I know that there are a dozen things I haven’t learned yet. Maybe even 13.
I am serious about adding cool accessories to my hobbies. I can’t always spend tons of dough, but I get a serious thrill over finding a great deal on something that I’ve researched and I know will add either fun or ease to my running.
Wait, there’s a third thing!
No add-on in the world beats the simple act of putting on a pair of shoes and taking the time to get out there. And incidentally, no add-on is going to do a damn bit of good if it just sits by your shoes in the entryway while you watch American Idol. Basically, the best thing to do is to get out there and move it! But since shopping is fun too, and I like to share ideas of things that have worked for me, I thought this list might be handy.
That being said, there are some things that I’m really glad I bought and have done me some good as an outdoor runner:
1. Proper Shoes
For most of us, this is a no-brainer. A couple of years ago, I had decided that I wanted to start walking for more than the two minutes it took me to get from my front door to my car. I went to a Twin Cities running store, a pretty well-known one, and from the moment I walked in the door I knew things were going to be challenging. It was a not-so-great vibe, you know? A sort of Sigh, another pudgy woman who thinks she’s going to be a runner type vibe coming from the tall, zero body fat 20 year old working the counter. Needless to say, this did not inspire tons of happiness in making a major purchase. They were perplexed when my foot was too wide for one of the trendiest women’s shoe, so they fit me in a men’s Saucony shoe. I found out later that this was not a great solution, and consequently I went through a crap-ton of shin and leg pain before I finally put those shoes aside and went out to get a proper pair.
My cousin is also a runner, and she recommended a running store near her. After the first 5 minutes, I knew that this place was a better fit for me than the first, in more ways than one. Shoe after shoe came out for me to try on and run in on the store treadmill (I found out that I have a neutral foot after the store clerk watched me run and looked at my old shoes) until one was found that we were both convinced would get me through the next few months of putting in 22+ miles a week.
I swear, the fact that it was bright pink had nothing to do with me buying it.
I’m not that girl who had to be adorned in pink dresses as a child and I spent a lot of time in my teens trying to blend. But these shoes fit me so well! I’m learning to embrace the whole Hey! Here I am! thing they have going on.
They are the Karhu (try it, it’s fun to say! Car-huuuuu!) Flow Fulcrum Ride in Russian Pink. There is this great feel to it, the raised heel kind of leans you forward and the mesh upper makes it super cool and comfortable. I had to go up a half size (like the shoes aren’t noticeable enough, I had to get them bigger??), but now the fit is perfect and my shoes are one less thing I have to worry about when I’m getting ready for my long run of the week.
Take the time to go to a Running Retailer, I swear to you it will be worth it. Shoes are one of the few things that we have to spend money on, so just suck it up, save up, and do it.
2. Hydration Belt
Okay, I know that a lot of runner hate to carry extra things on them when they run. One guy said to me “I only bring water if I’m running more than 12 miles. Even then, sometimes I just have my friends meet me with water.”. Well, that is fantastic that he has friends that are standing by, waiting to help him reach his running goals – and that he is apparently a camel with no need for water. I need a drink break every once in a while. I run when other people are working or asleep. I carry my phone and I hate armbands. I needed a hydration belt.
I only wear it for runs longer than 6 miles, and I bought one with only 1 water container. I know that someday I will need to add another container or buy another belt, but there was a helluva sale at TJ Maxx and this is what came home with me. (By the way, in case you didn’t know this, TJ Maxx and Marshalls have some great deals on running gear!)
Based on what my friends had told me they liked and after looking at all the online reviews, I knew I wanted to get a Nathan belt. Luckily, that was what I found! Any yes, mine is purple. Apparently I’m the girl who runs with rainbows.
So far, I have really loved it. It holds my phone and a gel or energy chews in the zipper pocket, and so far the 10 oz container has been enough for me. The little tabs on the front have bib holders for race day, and I haven’t had any problems with it moving around or riding up when I run. You get used to the extra motion by your booty after a few paces (I mean it’s not bouncing all over the place, but you can feel that it’s there), and having things with you that you need makes it all worth it. Love it.
3. Keep-the-girls-in-line Sports Bra
One day I was running down the street and I kept noticing that when I ran by men, there was a lot more checking out going on than I was used to. Hey! I thought, I must really be getting in shape! Yeah, it could have been that…or the fact that the girls were getting a little too rambunctious in a sports bra that wasn’t up to par. That is when I figured out that you can’t just go into a store and buy whatever sports bra looks cute and is on sale. I mean, you CAN, but then you get the creepy ogling of the men, and the stretching of the boobs, and all kinds of bad things that you don’t want. You are going to need a high impact sports bra, don’t kid yourself.
This one is the best and most comfy one I’ve found (that isn’t ridiculously expensive):
It’s the Moving Comfort Fiona bra, and it rules the school. It has adjustable straps, comes in more colors than just black or white, has a back closure (no more sweaty contortions to get it off after a run!) and holds the girls down without making a horrible uni-boob. I got 2, and as I said with making a good shoe purchase, it’s just one less thing to worry about.
4. Energy gels and chews for when the miles are starting to suck
Actually, for the mile before the miles start to suck, as it takes about 12 minutes to feel better after you use one. This section is still a work in progress for me, I’m trying out different flavors and types that I like. Anyone have any recommendations?
I didn’t start using them until I was running more than 7 miles, and I know that lots of people don’t bother with them until they get past 10 miles. For me, I felt like I was going to punk-out and collapse on the street after mile 6 one day, and it seemed like a good time to give them a try. Maybe once I get more used to running longer distances, I won’t use them as soon.
Anyway, I’ve tried the Honey Stinger Energy Chews in Limeade and a couple of the Power Bar gels so far, and I have a stash of others that I’m going to try out in the next few weeks. They both did what they were supposed to, and for a 7.5 miler and a 9 miler, I can say that my last mile was the fastest one after using either kind. Bonus! On the negative side, the Power Bar gels had a serious Holy crap, that is a weird taste! thing going on, but the aftertaste was a little more tolerable (I tried chocolate and berry. Not at the same time :)). I’ve heard of some people mixing the gels with water, perhaps that’s why the taste was so…intense. The energy chews were way more pleasing to eat, but there was kind of a storage issue with using them – once the bag is opened you either need to down all 10 of them at once or have a place to carry them where things won’t get sticky. I used the pocket of the belt and just kept reaching back for a couple here and there after mile 6.
5. ___________ or maybe ____________
Okay, I don’t really have a solid fifth thing. It’s just that a list of five is so much more satisfying than a list of four, and there were a couple of things I was debating over, but they weren’t so easy to define. Would it help if I gave you some of the contenders?
Like music. For me, I really rely on music when I need to go farther than 3 miles. On Sunday mornings when the sun isn’t quite up, I get a kick out of running while listening to American Roots on our local station 89.3. Kind of a rootsy/bluesy/Americana twang thing. And I’m always tweaking the playlist on my MP3 player – I’ve discovered that music I normally would make fun of can make great running music! Right now my favs are Katy Perry, Lady Sovereign, La Roux, the faster P!nk stuff, anything by Foo Fighters, Flo Rida, and this great Gigamesh song made about that guy who was blissing out over rainbows. Have you heard it? It’s amazing. If you are ever in my town and you see a woman running in pink shoes with a shit-eating grin on her face, it’s me and this song is playing.
The other thing I was mulling over was safety items: an ID bracelet with your name and contact info, a phone (I actually have needed it a couple of times), and unless you run to the same spot and back each time, some sort of GPS unit. These things are super important to me, but it’s not such a fun list item. Maybe fun is relative…like is it fun to have great shoes but no way to get help when you screw up your ankle by looking up at birds and missing the big stupid hole?
I bought one of those Road ID bracelets the other day, and I know it makes my husband feel better – especially when I go out when it’s dark and when he knows that sometimes I run on the road. I picked the slim version, and bought a few different colored bands so I wouldn’t get bored with the same old thing. This is why I don’t get a tattoo.
I chose to put my name, a couple of contact phone numbers, my blood type, and an allergy I have. There was this option where you could add an extra line and include an inspirational saying that motivated you, but all I could think of was the EMT who was going to be reading my bracelet as I lay all messed up and gory on the road, and thinking about the irony of me wearing an inspirational slogan like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or “I am a survivor”. Couldn’t do it.
So I hope this list helped you a little if you are looking for things to spend money on and were wondering what other people have been buying. If not, then hopefully it was a tiny bit entertaining and made you smile a little. If not, then I don’t know what else to tell you. Maybe just go for a run?