29 July 2013

My Running Essentials

I posted this to Instagram and Facebook already, but on Saturday I completed the couch to five K program I've been gushing about. It was a nine week program which took me a little over 12 weeks to complete due to a couple trips out of town. It feels so good to have accomplished it! I remember coming home from my run on the very first day of the program and fantasizing about the day I would complete it, somehow being able to run for 30 minutes without stopping. That day has arrived and now I can't wait to see what else I can push myself to do! Tomorrow I'm going to begin the follow-up program, 5k to 10k, and hopefully in another 9-12 weeks I'll be running 6.2 miles! I've already rambled on about this in my previous running post (linked above), but if you have any inkling at all that you might want to try running, I can't recommend it (and the c25k program) enough! I've yet to find any activity that is so noticeably beneficial to your body and mind.
I had Colton snap this picture of me after I'd gotten back from my last run to commemorate the event :)
Luckily when I started running I had already been on a fitness kick for a few months so I had a lot of the things I would need- all you really need to run is a pair of good running shoes and clothes that let you move. As I progressed in the program, however, I found that there were a few things that made the running experience not only more enjoyable but often a bit easier. Here is my list of running essentials for the amateur runner:

  1. Running shoes: a good pair of running shoes is a must, and you need to be properly fitted for them to make sure you get the right kind for your foot. Good shoes will keep you comfortable and decrease your chances of injury or strain while bad shoes will guarantee discomfort and eventual injury. Running shoes can be expensive (although you can sometimes find them on sale), but they are well worth it and will last a long time (most shoes will be good for 300-400 miles). There are many brands of running shoes and deciding which kind to get often comes down to price and style, as most brands create shoes for all different types of feet. I currently have a pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 13s which I love and have found to be reliable and comfortable. 
  2. Running shorts:
    The fitblr community is obsessed with Nike Pros, and for good reason. They are made with Nike's dri-FIT material which makes them stay comfy, breathable, and dry throughout your run. They also come in a gazillion awesome colors and prints and look really cute, so that's why I love them. Really, any pair of pants or shorts that are comfy and allow you to move will do the trick, but I like compression shorts and I like the look and feel of Nike Pros... and for 25$ a pop you could do a lot worse.
  3. Sports Bras: Everyone will need a different style/fit, so find what works for you! Personally, I love the colors, variety, support, and price of Forever 21's sports bras so I get all mine from there. Different people may need bras of a higher quality, though. 
  4. Running socks: We are now getting into the things that I didn't realize I needed until I learned about them... and then once I tried them I couldn't imagine going without! Running socks are more cushioned and breathable than normal cotton socks, and they conform to your foot really well. Before I used them my feet would often get uncomfortably hot while I was running (especially in the Tucson heat) which would distract me from having a good workout. Now that I use them, I rarely if ever have any discomfort in my feet. My brand of choice is Balega- they make socks designed for both men and women with different running needs.
  5. Armband: I use my phone not only to listen to music but to run my running app which tells me when to run and records my pace/distance. When I first started, I just held my phone in my hand and it was a huge pain. Literally- it made the shoulder of whichever arm was carrying the phone ache throughout the run and for a while afterwards. Using an armband allows me to have my phone with me while maintaining good form and keeping my hands free. It also gives me a way to keep my house key with me while I'm running instead of hiding it outside my house. There are lots of fancy, high-tech armbands out there, but I've found that a simple one is all I need. I got mine off of amazon for only 6$ (2$ before shipping!) and it's cute, sturdy, and easy to use. The plastic front allows me to use my phone while it's inside the arm band, which is nice. The only downside is that the armband is not totally waterproof, so if I were to run in the rain or sweat an inordinate amount during a workout water might get to my phone. I haven't had any problems with that thus far, though.
  6.  Earbuds: It's so annoying to be running and to have to constantly be adjusting your headphones to try and keep them inside your ears or putting them back in every time they fall out. It totally gets you out of your running groove! They make special running headphones which either hook behind the ear or twist and lock inside your ear, but they can be expensive- just make sure that whatever headphones you use are well fitted to your ear and don't cause you any problems. I found a nice pair at Ross for about 10$ that do the trick.
  7. Running apps: A huge part of the fun of running is competing against your previous paces and distances. Running apps like c25k, 5k to 10k, and Nike+ Running all use GPS to show you how far and how fast you run. It's a great way to keep track of your fitness progress. If you are a beginning runner or are training for a 5k or 10k race, the first two apps also help you get to a certain level of running ability within 9 weeks. I have found I am much more motivated to go running when it feels as though I am accomplishing something by logging days in a set program. It also lets me see how far I've come! 
  8.  Running music: It goes without saying that having something to listen to while you're running (especially something that keeps your motivation and energy up) greatly improves the running experience. I have a few songs that I know will always give me an extra boost, so I make sure they are on my playlist. Pandora also has several stations designed with fitness in mind. So far I've enjoyed the Pop and Hip Hop Power Workout, Dance Cardio, Pop Fitness, and Alternative endurance training. Lastly, this is a great website which lets you put in your average running pace (if you use the apps mentioned above this will be easy to figure out) and gives you a big list of songs that will match your stride as you run. Isn't that awesome?
  9. Yoga mat: After you run, you HAVE to stretch! It helps prevent injury and lactic acid build up, which will make you stiff and sore the next day otherwise. I use a simple yoga mat that I bought for about 15$ at Ross. I use it not only for stretching but for strength training workouts, so it gets a lot of use. Having something you can quickly lay out and then roll back up again ensures that you do your stretches after every run, so a yoga mat is definitely necessary running equipment!
There you have it! My running essentials for the amateur runner. As I begin running longer distances (I'm hoping to be able to do a half or even full marathon within the next couple years!) I'm sure I'll discover more things that are necessary for longer, more difficult runs. For now, these things should be more than enough to help any short-distance runner have a comfortable, safe, and enjoyable running experience!

<3 Em

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