Running is a pretty darn simple activity to participate in.
Odds are you probably have everything you need to start, right now in your house.
Let’s break down the “necessary gear” into a few different levels.
Level 1: The Bare Minimum
- Athletic Shoes
- Athletic Shorts & Shirt
- Sports Watch
Yes, I’ve seen people run on a treadmill in jeans, but we’re going to start at least in athletic apparel. But note that we’re not even talking gear specific to running at this point.
Honestly, if you have pretty much any pair of athletic shoes and athletic shorts you can start running.
For those starting from zero, it’s likely that the amount of running being done is going to be quite minimal. This means you can pretty darn easily get away with general athletic gear. You probably have some pair of athletic shoes around and a pair of old basketball shorts. Throw on some socks and a cotton shirt and you’ll be fine to do the Couch to 5k training plan.
You’ll notice I mentioned a sports watch and not a GPS. The Couch to 5k program uses time or distance to prescribe the schedule, so you can easily get away without spending the $100 on an entry level GPS watch.
With a wrist-top stopwatch such as these from Soleus you should can do quite well. These are also much cheaper and smaller than a typical GPS, do not need charged, and you’ll never lose a satellite signal. If you have a smartphone you can even use that as a GPS by carrying it in a running belt.
Heck, even at this time it’s probably a good idea to not purchase any running related gear until you’re sure you actually enjoy running!
Level 2: Upgrades
Ok, you decided running is something you think you can get in to.
It’s time to purchase a few running specific pieces of gear since you’re going to start slowly increasing your weekly volume.
There are three very important considerations you must keep in mind in regards to athletic gear.
- There is no “best”, only “most optimal” for you. This is true for shoes, training plan, nutrition, gear, etc. And the only way to find the best choices for you is to try and experiment.
- The perfect / best gear will not make you faster, but the incorrect gear for you will make you slower, more uncomfortable, and less content with your running.
- Don’t worry what anyone else things about how you look. You’re the only one that cares, so don’t!
When you’re first looking to purchase some running specific items and starting to take training more seriously, there are a few primarily pieces you’ll want to consider:
- Running Shoes
- Running Socks
- A GPS watch / Heart Rate Monitor
Notice I’ve not included clothing quite yet. Even at 50+ miles per week I primarily run in cotton shirts I’ve acquired from races and I regularly run in a few pairs of yoga shorts with liners in them.
Yet your feet deserve the utmost attention, so I feel like socks and shoes should be the first to be addressed. The American College of Sports Medicine has a fantastic guide on what you should look for in a pair of running shoes and we touch on shoe selection for new runners here.
Socks are nearly as particular to the individual as shoes can be. The first advice you’re always going to hear about socks is to avoid cotton. After that, most options are going to be viable options. If you want to find a pair that has a left and right specific sock for the set, that may suggest they are going to fit a bit better than a more general pair.
While GPS watches are certainly not essential to improving as a runner (I rarely wear one) they are helpful for feedback. A GPS or HR monitor can help make sure you’re not running too hard during your easy runs or can make sure you’re running at the correct pace during your hard runs. Running my perceived effort is a skill that may take some time to develop.
Level 3: Unessential, but Nice to Have
If you made it this far you’re probably ready to invest in your running as a longterm hobby.
By now hopefully you have the shoes covered, socks should be good, and you’re running with a stopwatch, gps watch, or using your phone as a gps. Now we can start looking at items that are not essential to being a runner but nice to own if you have the income.
- Running Specific Shorts and Shirts
- Running Specific nutrition
- A Coach
Running Clothes – The big question most often asked for men is in regards to the built in liner or lack of, in shorts. “True” running shorts will have a liner to hold everything in place. You can also find shorts with built in compression shorts or purchase your own to wear under.
Other important considerations are that ladies will want to find some comfortable sports bras. Both sexes will want to get some lube to address any potential chafing during longer runs.
Nutrition – Typically it’s suggested that if you’re running for less than an hour in temps that are not terribly warm, you do not need to carry any hydration or caloric fuel with you during the run. If it is extra warm out and/or you’re going out for longer than an hour you may want to consider bring some hydration or calories with you.
A Coach – Anyone looking to take their training to the next level and who has the income to support hiring a coach will likely benefit from doing so. A coach tells you to rest when you need to rest, run hard when you should run hard, and can offer an outside point of view from their knowledge and experience.
Would you change any of our recommendations? Comment below!
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