Running isn't just about grabbing a pair of sneakers out of the closet. This "Running Checklist" serves as an overview of things that should be taken into consideration when running (from choosing the right shoe to safety and beyond).
Running Apparel & Shoes
- Running shoes. Many beginner runners make the mistake of thinking that running shoes don't matter and simply grab any old pair of running shoes. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. Running with the right shoe can help prevent injuries and make you a more efficient runner. The best way to make sure that you choose a running shoe that is right for you is to go your local running store and get fitted. The staff at a good running store will evaluate the way that you run and work with your preferences to make sure that it is the best shoe for you. You should also consider that you may need different running shoes depending on the type of running that you do. For example, I have several pairs of shoes: (1) trainers - these are the shoes that you will do most of your training in. It is recommended that you have at least two pair of trainers that you can rotate throughout your training; (2) racing shoes - I have both racing flats for shorter races (up to 10K) as well as racing shoes that have a little more cushioning for longer distances; and (3) trail shoes - unless you are simply running on gravel roads, I would recommend that you have trail shoes if you plan on training or racing on trails.
- Shirts, shorts and more. The main thing to remember is that "cotton is rotten." Make sure that you shirts, shorts, tights, running pants, etc. are all made of moisture wicking material. This will ensure that perspiration and moisture are drawn away from your body, which will help to minimize chafing.
- Socks. Just like with shirts and shorts, make sure that your socks are moisture wicking. You will also want to experiment with different thickness of socks to see what works best for you. For me personally, when I race, I typically wear Injinji toe socks. I have found that these socks help prevent blistering on longer runs.
- Winter gear. As the weather gets colder, many runners have a tendency to overdress. The general rule to follow is that you should dress as if it is 15-20 degrees warmer than it actually is. This takes into account how much your body will warm up as you run. Using this guideline, you should add moisture-wicking running tights/pants, thermal base layers, pullovers/jackets, hats and gloves. When choosing a top layer, you should also consider adding in a windbreaker.
- Hydration. Hydration during a run remains largely a personal choice. Everyone has their own preferences in terms of how long a run should be in order to carry water. In addition to the length of your run, there are other factors that you should consider, such as temperature, humidity, your route (Will you run mostly in the sun? Is there water available along the course?, etc.), the nature of your course (for me, I tend to drink more water when I run trails). You should also consider whether or not you plan to carry water when you race. If you do, then you should definitely train carrying water so that you know what works best for you and are accustomed to carrying it. In terms of hydration options, the primary options are: (1) handle bottle; (2) hydration belt; or (3) hydration pack/vest.
- Reflective gear. If you are planning on running early in the morning, in the evening or at night, it is imperative that drivers can see you. There are many options. At a bare minimum, you should wear a reflective vest. You also may want to consider a "blinky" light or a vest that has blinky lights built into it.
- Headlamp. Another vital piece of equipment for running in the dark is a high quality headlamp. The headlamp serves a couple purposes: (1) you can be seen better by oncoming traffic; and (2) you can see the road better.
- Suntan lotion. It may seem obvious, but make sure that you use suntan lotion for any time that you will be exposed to the sun for a long time. This does not apply to only summer running. You can also get sunburns when running in the winter, although it may be less likely.
- Lubrication. When your runs start to get longer, it is likely that you will start to encounter chafing. Applying lubrication to vulnerable areas before a long run typically will suffice to prevent this.
- Running/course direction. Always run in the opposite direction of traffic. This will both let you see oncoming traffic as well as better allow drivers to see you. However, never assume that drivers see you even if you are running towards them.
- Gels & Chews. When going on long runs (anything over an hour and a half to two hours), it's always a good idea to have nutrition with you. For most people, a gel or chews/blocks will serve this purpose. These are a simple choice, because it is easy to carry them and it is easy to consume them on the run. The question of how much you need and when you need to take them is largely tied to learning what your body needs and when it needs it. This may sound vague, but everyone's body is different. The general rule of thumb is that your body can store approximately 90 minutes worth of glycogen (which is a primary source of your body's fuel). If you plan on being on a run longer than that, then you will need to start to supplement your body with a sugar source or you will head the dreaded "wall."
- Electrolytes. Electrolytes are often not taken into consideration by runners new to running longer distances. As we exercise and perspire, our body is not losing only water but also electrolytes (such as salt). Electrolytes are necessary, however, for proper body function. One of the initial side effects of electrolyte deficiencies can be cramping. There are quite a few options for electrolyte replacement, such as salt tablets, drinks such as Nuun, etc. Once again, this is an issue of personal preference and figuring out what works for you.
- Real Food. If you're a person who can eat food on the run, it is always a better option to eat real, unprocessed food whenever possible. Dates and cooked sweet potatoes are just a couple options that are great energy foods on the run.
- GPS watch. Do you really need one? No. Can your training benefit by having one? Absolutely. GPS watches range from very basic (distance and pace) to very advanced (distance, pace, cadence, mapping, elevation, etc.). Choose one that meets your level of interest in the data as well as fits into your budget. You definitely don't need the most expensive model to start out.
- Heart monitor. Like a GPS watch, this isn't a necessity. A heart monitor, however, can be very useful to ensure that you're workout levels are being done at the right level of intensity.
- Apps. There is an abundance of apps that range from ways to log your training (such as Strava) to complete training programs.
- Dynamic stretching. Take a few minutes and warm up to get the blood flowing in your muscles. This is not the traditional static stretching that you had been taught to do growing up. Dynamic stretching is more flowing and is not intended to stretch and loosen muscles, but simply get the blood flowing as mentioned above. Check out the videos section of our site for some suggested dynamic stretches.
- Static stretching. After your run, take a few minutes for static stretching to loosen up your muscles. Check out the videos section of our site for some suggested static stretches.
- Foam rolling. If you don't already own a foam roller, go get one now. Using a foam roller allows you to target specific areas that are tight or troublesome. You should try to add in a daily foam rolling routine as a preventive measure.
- Recovery drink. After an a long run or an intense workout (such as a track workout), you should consider having a recovery drink right after your run. This will jumpstart your body on the path to recovery. There are many options out there, and this is once again a personal choice in terms of flavors and what works for you. However, you should try to avoid drinks that are high in sugar. My recovery drink of choice is usually the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator.
- Hydration. Remember that you lose water when you perspire. It is important to keep your body hydrated, especially since hydration is a key component of recovery.