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Running The Distance: How To Pick The Right Gear

The right running gear can improve your training exponentially. The wrong running gear? Well, it just makes things harder when you're looking to get RunFit. The key is to only carry what you need on your runs so you don't feel weighted down. Below I share some shortcuts I've discovered along the way that can help you get started.  

Your Running Gear And Accessories Should Do Three Things:

  1. Protect you from the elements and injury 
  2. Keep you comfortable and therefore running your best
  3. Make it easy to reach fuel, water, etc.

Training + Unpredictable Weather 

The perfect running weather can change on a dime. So how do you prepare yourself so that your plan to train doesn’t change on a dime, too? My suggestion is to have a backup plan.  

What is great about Milwaukee is our access to a professional indoor track at the Pettit Center and a plethora of gyms with treadmills. While we may need to modify mileage based on weather, we should never use it as an excuse to skip a run altogether.

Now that you have a backup location for your training, you'll need to experiment with how to dress for the weather, too. When it starts to cool off even slightly in the fall, you may be inclined to pull out the long sleeves and pants, but don’t go overboard. Everyone tolerates extreme weather differently. 

A good, basic rule I follow is to dress as though it is 10 degrees warmer than it actually is. Your body temperature rises very quickly on a run and it's hard to keep your heart rate in check if you are overheating.

Runner’s World has a great “what to wear” calculator here if you don't want to have to think too hard in the morning. It allows you to enter your weather conditions and temperature preferences for running and then suggests to you what layers to reach for.

Let's Talk Accessories And Fuel

Water/Water Bottle

For any run that is less than an hour, I will simply carry a small, 10-ounce water bottle. If it is very hot or humid, I'll upgrade to my 20-ounce handheld. My favorite brand of running handheld is the Amphipod Hydraform Jett-Lite Thermal bottle. It also has a big pocket that stores my Skratch Labs Gummies that fuels any runs over one hour in length.

Phone/Music

I almost always carry my phone in an armband - even on days when I don’t plan to listen to music. I feel safer knowing that I can “phone a friend” if I am on a long run and feel threatened by weather, other pedestrians, or the occasional lion.

Secret Pockets

One thing I never leave home without is a $20 bill - stored in a very small pocket that velcros to my running shoe. You just never know when you might need to stop and grab a quick plate of barbecued ribs from Smoke Shack.

Give Yourself Time To Experiment 

A new pair of running shorts from the local running store might work like a dream for one person. They also may cause chafing for another (or worse - ride up the entire run!). Regardless of your preference for compression gear or looser fitting clothes, always opt for breathable clothing and stay away from cotton (that goes for socks, too). Breathable clothing will work to wick sweat away from the skin, keeping you dry and light. 

Another item to consider having on hand is a lightweight shell, or jacket, with ventilation. That way, when it starts sprinkling, you can stay dry without getting too warm.

Superstores like Dick’s Sporting goods are good for big name brands that can offer big name discounts. However, I think it’s better to get the personalized attention from local pros like Performance Running Outfitters, InStep and Fleet Feet. They will have you outfitted, looking like a running rock star, and running in no time. Plus they offer incentives if you are a member of Milwaukee’s largest running group, The Badgerland Striders

Eventually, you'll know exactly which items you need to have a successful run. Notice which things you struggle with regularly on your runs and start there. The most important tip to get RunFit, however, is to just get out there!