(Beginner) runner: gear check
“Running boom” is a cycle, as you might have noticed, and it’s not going anywhere. Every now and then it gets a fresh bout of wind in its sails and repeats itself but along the way adds a wave of newer gadgets, newer shoes, newer technology, basically any imaginable running related products. Whether any of those ‘newer’ products are really new is another story, but since they are available we might as well discuss what should be purchased because it’s necessary and what can be left alone unless of course you just want to have it. We all know there is a world of difference between “I need” and “I want”.
Before we begin let’s point out that this list is suitable for all runners not just the beginners. The beauty of the situation is that compared to many other sports, we don’t really need anything or much in running. How great is that? Running is among the natural human activities. Let’s take full advantage of that.
Good equipment does help, but not to the extent commonly assigned to it. Equipment does not have the power to make you a better athlete it does however has the potential to assist you, when used in the right manner and with the correct intent.
For example, in swimming, getting the best wetsuit won’t help you to swim faster and better if your swimming is mediocre to begin with. The same in running and anything else – you have to first work on your technique and worry about everything else later. If your running technique is bad – the most expensive and highly engineered running shoes will not make a difference. As a matter of fact the combination of poor technique and specific technology might create unique problems of it’s own. Always remember that after everything is said and done it’s not the equipment it’s the skill of the operator that saves the day.
When considering which way to channel your hard earned money, remember 2 basic rules:
- Invest in yourself – I.e. educate yourself, work on your skill development, get professional coaching, attend clinics or classes, practice on your own, etc. Those knee braces or plantar fasciitis sleeves promptly get on the obsolete list when your running technique improves. Done.)
- Less is more – that applies to most everything. When you know better, you do better – you’re not just a consumer, you’re an educated consumer with skills. You don’t need any product to do anything for you – you only obtain it to enhance or support what you’re already skillfully doing.
If you’re just starting with running, the first thing on your list should be learning how to do it. Period.
- Running Shoes. The obvious. Even the barefoot runners need shoes once in a while. The best running shoe is the one that you can hardly feel when it’s on, the one that does not interfere with your perception of your foot on the ground. Those usually don’t cost and arm and a leg. (If you’re in US, you can get great shoes on this site for a fraction of the regular price). Forget all the fancy bells and whistles, for that’s all they are – bells and whistles that distract you. Inside of those shoes is you and if you don’t know how to run, your shoes won’t do it for you. It’s important to point out that abruptly switching to different shoes must be done with a healthy consideration of what you’re accustomed to, your habits and your body. Don’t be too concerned but don’t just blindly and thoughtlessly go for it. Plan. Go barefoot or in socks as often as possible to get accustomed to perception of your bodyweight on forefoot. Take your time.
- StretchCordz. You will need these for some of the running drills and strength exercises. Running is a strenuous activity that requires adequate strength to participate and to avoid injury. Side note: these are also used in pose swimming.
- Jump Rope. Jumping rope is one of the best exercises ever. It combines several major benefits that are commonly overlooked strictly because nobody gives it a second thought, because we’re so used to see kids doing, so it’s viewed as more of a child’s game rather than an extremely beneficial cardiovascular, strength conditioning and biomechanical exercise. Jumping rope barefoot will help you get to better running form faster. You can find a great variety of inexpensive and awesome jump ropes here.
- Metronome. Any version of it – an app (tons of apps on your smart phone and some are free) or a gadget (like this one one for example) will do. As long as you can set it up to help you build up and maintain cadence of at least 180 and preferably higher – you’re in good shape. Skip the tunes though, they are distracting.
Then there is also a heart monitor. At the beginner stage, this one is optional. It could be a helpful gadget , if you know how to use it. If it’s not your thing – don’t worry about it. You don’t need it, if you just want to enjoy your runs. However if you’re planning on training and actually have a goal of running a race or two – get the heart monitor and learn how to use it. If properly used, it could become your trusty training buddy that will always tell you about your well-being.
That is it. Everything else is so optional and more of a specialty and preference thing or to do with safety, climate and location. We don’t recommend getting a lot of things that are commonly associated with running, because they interfere with the natural work of your body and they distract you from listening to it, which is essential during any physical activity and especially running, since it is among sports associated with an extremely high number of injuries.