Running is essentially a minimalist sport. As long as you have properly fitted shoes, you’re good. But if you’re running several times a week, long distances, or in extreme weather conditions, then you might benefit from perusing the list I’ve assembled here. I’ve saved the blush-worthy stuff for last.
When I began running last spring, I was wearing tennis shoes I’d had for at least a decade. Not only were the soles worn down before I logged my first mile, but the foot bed was actually separating from the sole. The condition of my shoes was embarrassing, but more than that, it made me prone to some typical beginner injuries. Because the shoes were not providing any cushion to my feet, my joints (ankles, knees, hips) along with all the bones in between were absorbing the shock of pounding my feet against pavement. In just a week I had developed shin splints, partially from starting out doing too much, but mostly from the piss poor condition of my shoes and what I was putting myself through running in them.
As smart as I am, it took me much too long to wise up and be fitted for new shoes, and I can’t believe all the difference it’s made. I’m running in Brooks Ghost 5’s, and I think that’s a good fit for me as a beginner. Though I’m learning that it’s not preferable to run with your mid-foot or heel striking the ground, it’s common for beginners, so having a shoe with a strong and cushioned mid-foot/heel makes it much easier. Also, I really like the mesh tops; they may not be ideal for running in the rain, but the mesh is fabulous for giving your feet some air to breathe.
When I was doing my online research in preparation for spending $100-150 on running shoes, I really thought I’d go for Mizunos, but when I was actually fitted, Brooks were better for me. So, don’t rely solely on an online review (like this one) to make your choice. Go to a local running store (not just Foot Locker or an athletics store, go to an actual running store), and have them properly fit you. They’ll likely make you walk around in your socks or barefeet, and they may even have you run a bit for them. When you try on the shoes, they should let you run around in them (and not just in the store), so you can get a good feel for them. You don’t need to run a mile or anything, but a quick jog around the parking lot will let you know if they’re the right fit or not.
This sounds like a no brainer, but you need water to run, and you need it stored up over time. I haven’t figured out my running hydration schedule just yet, but I have increased my overall water intake. To do this, I set an alarm on my phone. It goes off every single day at 10:00, 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, and 8:00, and I drink a red SOLO cup full of water each time it goes off. I try to pace myself so I’m not downing 16 oz of water, but sometimes that happens. This is all in addition to any water I drink while I’m working out (which is usually between the 4pm-8pm water alarms, or it’s at 5AM).
In drinking this much water, I’ve noticed that my muscles are not as sore both immediately after exercising and hours/days afterward. I’ve also noticed that I don’t get tired as soon into my workouts as I was before. I’m not certain about the myths of eating less because of drinking more, but I will say that I’m less likely to put food in my mouth when I’m drinking this much water. However, I think that has more to do with a psychological oral fixation than it does with calories or a physiological sense of “feeling full.”
The one side effect of this much water is that I pee all the time. I am now the cliché chick who has to pee almost every hour. It’s a pain when I’m working and have to be outside as well as when the urge strikes me in the middle of a long run. I know for a fact I won’t be able to pull off driving from Johnson City, TN to Lansing, Michigan with only stopping once in Cincinnati, Ohio ever again as long as I’m drinking water like I am now, but that’s why astronauts wear diapers when they’re driving long distances to stalk their unrequited loved ones, isn’t it?
As with the water intake, building up a good storage of nutritious food helps me make it to and through my runs. I’ve noticed that when I eat crappy food and then run, I feel absolutely horrible. My stomach cramps; I don’t have the energy to run the intervals I’m supposed to run; and when I’ve eaten poorly, it usually means I also haven’t had enough water because somehow those things tend to go hand-in-hand. On the flip side, if I eat meals that sustain me and release energy over a long period of time (fish and avocados are just a couple items!), then I have the energy I need to make it through my day AND through my workouts. Variety in a diet is nice, but as it happens with most people, I have developed a bit of a diet rut, and I like it that way. After experiencing so many digestive issues, I don’t mind having a limited diet if it means everything I eat agrees with me and sustains me. Some of the things I eat on a regular basis are:
Oatmeal—I LOVE the Banana Bread flavored oatmeal, and I want to learn to make it on my own, cheaper than the pre-packaged kind that I can only get when my husband decides to go to the hell that is Wal-Mart, which is rare.)
Nutri-grain fruit cereal bars & Nature Valley Chewy Protein Granola Bars
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (with 1 tbsp of peanut butter)—this with a banana is my PERFECT post-workout recovery meal.
Chocolate Milk—I’ve decided to write Weigel’s a letter asking them why they put crack cocaine in their chocolate milk because that has to be what they’re doing. There is absolutely NO comparison to Weigel’s milk. Mayfield’s chocolate milk is too thick, and Kroger brand chocolate milk is very clearly regular milk with knock-off Hershey’s syrup added. Weigel’s Chocolate Milk is where it’s at. And if you’re not from Knoxville, I’d consider moving to the area. I’m telling you it has to have crack in it.
Bananas—not only is this a catchy Gwen Stefani song, but it’s a great fruit to eat right after a run. I’m considering putting the chocolate milk, bananas, and peanut butter together and just ingesting it in shake-form for my post-workout recovery because those are three of my top favorite things to eat right now.
Any type of berry—Berries in season are best because they’re cheapest and taste the best, so I only eat these as I can get them. Blackberries might be my favorite, but I think that’s only childhood nostalgia from picking them and eating them wild. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries come in as a close second to blackberries.
Pomegranates—Yes, they’re messy, but they’re so tasty it’s worth it. I don’t eat these too frequently, but they are a nice treat.
Lean Protein—I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for almost a decade. After a whole host of digestive problems, from which I’ll spare you the gory details, I have abandoned my reliance on soy and beans as my sole sources of protein. I started eating fish first, and this year I’ve added chicken and (occasionally some turkey) back into my diet. I had to start with slow and small increments, and I still don’t eat meat every week; but I’m at the point that I do crave it now. That progress aside, I’m fairly certain I’ll never eat beef or pork (yuck!), and I still love veggie burgers when they’re made right and they’re gluten/soy free!
Avocadoes—I’m not sure I buy into the marketing of “superfoods,” but if there is such a thing in reality, avocadoes would be at the top of my list. Aside from just being yummy (on their own in salads, topping sandwiches/wraps, as a mayo substitute, in tacos, or in guacamole, etc.), I think they are awesome at sustaining me. I’ve always like them, but I fell in love with them last year when I was doing Yogic Lent, and only eating once a day, in the evenings. I would routinely eat sushi with avocado, and the combination of the fish/rice/avocado seriously kept me going through that whole process. Now that I’m running, I rely on avocados in my regular diet either at breakfast or lunch to sustain me through my busy day and into my workouts.
Greek Yogurt—I tried regular yogurt and just couldn’t get past the sliminess of it. The taste wasn’t really bad, but the texture killed me. So, I tried the Greek version instead. It’s thicker because it’s strained, and that removes the slimy factor. I’ve tried Oikos and Yoplait brands, and I like them both just fine. I prefer the ones that come with granola because I like the texture even more, but they’re good on their own, too.
Soups—I eat a variety of soups for lunch several times a week. They are a great, easy meal that can be prepped well in advance, and soups have as many nutritious benefits as they do variety in taste. I prefer chicken broth based soups, and will not eat soups with beef broth or a cream base. I like lentil soup, too, but I tend to stay away from frequent fiber intake, so I eat it sparingly. The soups I eat tend to serve as a nutritious, yet light meal, as I prefer not eating too much in one sitting.
Steamed Veggies & Rice—I love pairing a lean protein with these sides! I generally don’t need a sauce or much seasoning to flavor because I actually enjoy the taste of steamed vegetables as they are, but every now and then I’ll buy a bag of pre-seasoned vegetables for steaming, or I’ll season up some olive oil and bake the veggies instead of steaming them.
On a normal day, I’ll eat oatmeal for breakfast with a banana. I’ll have either a nutri-grain bar or a Greek yogurt at mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, and sometimes I’ll have both snacks if I’m hungry enough. For lunch, I’ll have either a soup or a salad (The Chopped Chicken Cobb with Avocadoes and no Bacon is my favorite thing from Panera!). The one meal I typically skimp on is dinner for several reasons. Dinner is usually my post-workout meal, and I’m more likely to eat a bagel with peanut butter and chocolate milk than anything else, though sometimes I’ll eat steamed rice, veggies, and a lean protein. I never turn down dinner on taco night, though. I love having breakfast foods for dinner, and if I don’t limit myself to my post-workout meal, then I might have cereal or even waffles for dinner. I also like to keep dinner light because I generally eat it very close to my bedtime, and I just don’t need a lot of food on my stomach at that time of my day.
Of course, I have weaknesses just like any other person. My particular weakness is pretty much anything candy related. I like sour, gummy candy as well as rich, chocolate/caramel candy. It’s all bad for me, but I’ve found a few ways to make healthier substitutes. First, Unreal candy is amazing. It’s made with all-natural ingredients and without preservatives. It’s not healthy for you, but it’s nowhere near as bad for you as regular candy. I highly recommend it for die hard sugar fiends as a healthier alternative. Also, substituting other foods for the type of flavor I’m craving tends to work for me. When I crave something sour and gummy, I’ll eat blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries. When I crave something sweet, I’ll eat trail mix with dried fruit in it instead of chocolate. And sometimes I go for the gusto and eat the chocolate because that’s just how life goes. Nutella is a household staple for these occasions.
Clothes don’t really “make the man,” but sometimes they really help the running experience. Last year I wasn’t running at all, so the only experience I have with running clothing has been what I’ve acquired since last fall. Because I hate going shopping and because I started running in the spring/summer, I just wore my yoga pants and a cotton t-shirt or tank top just starting out. It really didn’t make much difference to me, and I don’t have much to report on summer running attire.
Because I loathe running on the treadmill, I knew I’d need some kind of winter running clothing to get me through even our mild winters here in TN. I purchased a Nike brand Dri-Fit top very similar to this one, though without the hoodie. It has thumb holes, which I like, and it has retro-reflective striping on the wrists and along the sides in case the fluorescent yellowish green isn’t visible enough. I like that it keeps me dry because sweating in cold weather is about the most uncomfortable thing I have experienced while running this winter. It’s rather thin, and I tend to be hot, so I’ll wear this when it’s between 30-50°F outside. If it’s warmer than 50°F, then I’ll just wear my t-shirt/tank and yoga pant combo. If it’s colder than 30°F, I wear my Champion brand fleece-lined hoodie. It’s bright orange, so again very visible, and it’s thicker than my Nike shirt. I wore it this morning when it was right around 30°F and snowing outside, and I was just fine.
Additional apparel I wear as needed are my earmuff band and gloves. I would like to get some leggings just for running, but I’ve yet to find any that come in my size that aren’t also about a foot too long for me. I would also like to get a water-resistant shell/outer layer so I’m not immediately forced to use the treadmill on the cold/rainy days. I’m not sure I’d be bothered with rain running in July or August because the heat and humidity here in TN is the reason Southern Debutantes take afternoon siestas, but I’ll let you know how I actually feel about that after doing it a few times.
Other things that I haven’t purchased yet are new sports bras and socks. Quality sports bras are incredibly expensive, and they’re worth it, especially for large breasted women. I’ve yet to be satisfied with any of the types I’ve tried, and they’re just too expensive (for me) to justify buying more without having lost more weight/size. Sports bras are way important, and I do need some good ones, but I’m kind of at the end of my rope and budget right now when it comes to this undergarment; so I’ll make do with what I currently have. Also underrated are socks. If your socks are too thick or too thin, you’ll have issues with blisters and discomfort while running. It’s important to try out different types, but again, that can be a costly trial and error, especially if you get socks specifically designed for running.
As I’ve increased my mileage according to the training plan, my running coach has asked me to start working on my nutrient replenishment while running. Other than drinking water whenever I’m thirsty, I don’t have a set hydration plan. My nutrient replenishment plan is to use a Gu-Gel at 3 miles and then every 30 minutes thereafter. I’ve only tried Gu-Gel once so far, though I have a long run tomorrow which will likely use up the rest of my Gu wares. The one I tried was the Vanilla Bean flavored gel, and it wasn’t bad. I definitely needed to swish with water afterward because it’s essentially gel based sugar, so it’s very sticky. For tomorrow’s long run, I’ll be using blueberry flavored Gu Chomps and the Just Plain Gu-Gel pack, and I’ll let you know how those taste.
The purpose of replenishing nutrients in the middle of an endurance workout is to replace the glycogen that’s been burned off so you can keep going. Though I don’t do it (yet), some athletes carbo-load to build up their supply of stored carbohydrates. I think most people are probably doing this wrong because I typically see them eating a huge portion of carbs (usually pasta) the night before a big event. It seems that they’d probably be better served by slowly increasing their carbs throughout the entire week or 10 days prior to the event, but I’m not a nutritionist or kinesiology specialist, and I have no experience on which to base that opinion. It’s just a hunch, and an unverified one at that because I need to keep my carbs low and restricted to very specific carbs for digestive purposes.
As a self-proclaimed technophile, I love most gadgets. But as a person on a budget, I can’t afford them. Before I won my Garmin 210 (which was awesome, thank you Autumnfest 8K!), I just used the GPS on my phone with the Runtastic app. I already had a smartphone, so there was no extra expense there, and the Runtastic app is free. Map My Run is also a good app to use with your smartphone. But, I love my Garmin. It’s not clunky like a lot of the GPS fitness watches are, and it doesn’t have a lot of buttons or settings to confuse the novice runner/gadgeteer.
I would like to get the foot-pod that goes with the Garmin so I can measure my cadence and also use it when I run on the treadmill, but that’s about $60 that I think could be better invested elsewhere currently. Garmin also makes a heart rate monitor strap thing, but I think that’s just too many bells and whistles even for me.
Because I’m not a “real runner,” I rely on music to keep me going, but I also need to be safe and aware of my surroundings. So, I use Yurbuds because they really do stay in while I’m running and because I don’t have to turn the music up very loud at all to hear, which allows me to still hear ambient noises around me; and this is my current running playlist, but you’ll need Spotify to play it. I do pay for Spotify Premium so I can download my playlist to my phone and not have to rely on a data signal to stream the music. I love every song on my running playlist, but if I had to pick my top three songs right now, they’d be Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire (because I am), Mumford & Sons Hopeless Wanderer (because I’m that, too) and Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor (because everyone should listen to British neo-garage/punk, especially while running).
Maybe it’s my inner-Batman dying to get out, but I seriously need a utility belt for running, and I think this will be my next purchase. I need a place to store my water and Gu, keys, ID/debit card, and possible shank/pepper spray personal safety device. Running while holding a water bottle has gotten way old, way quick on my long runs, so a place to store my water bottle would be awesome. I’d also be interested in using a CamelBak because I do require a LOT of water. (You wouldn’t believe how much I sweat and thus need to replenish.)
So far, most of my list has been pretty tame and even predictable. But there are some things that people just don’t talk about, unless it’s a weird fetish chat room on the Internet. I’m breaking down that barrier right here and now. Hide yo’ kids, and hide yo’ wife, ‘cause it’s about to get real.
Gold Bond Powder—for me, this is a must. Not only am I a person with bags of flesh hanging off the front of my chest, but my bags of flesh are of the larger variety. And when sweat accumulates in these areas, things like heat rash, skin irritation, and breakouts happen, all of which are unbelievably uncomfortable; but to add a bit of fear factor, if these things are left untreated, it can lead to a staph bacterial infection, which is just horrendous (no personal experience, thank you gods). I’m sure if I wore a better sports bra, my lady bits wouldn’t be moving around as much, and there likely wouldn’t be as much skin-on-skin contact/irritation, but that’s not the case. So, I powder up. It’s messy, and it smells weird, but it protects my skin and lady parts, so I deem it very worth it.
Some people use liquid/gel products that roll on for chafing, and I think I might try that for the mild chafing I get from wearing my arm band. Right now, wearing yoga pants, I don’t have an issue with chafing on my inner-thighs, but I can totally see that as a possibility when it warms up and I have to switch to shorts. (FYI, the mere thought of running in shorts scares me. People really don’t need to be exposed to that, and I particularly don’t want to be the one inspiring all the cottage cheese-related catcalls. But, if I’m out there literally busting my ass in a TN summer, then fear be damned; I’ll wear the shorts.)
The Foam Roller—in the right crowd, this could be marketed as a marital aid. But for the running crowd, this is how you target the knots at the tops of the hips, the tightness in the quads and shins, and the tension in the upper mid-back. As anti-consumerist as I try to be, I was super skeptical about paying $30 for what’s essentially a hard pool noodle. But after using it, I swear by it. Every single time I’m finished running, I use the foam roller, and you wouldn’t believe the groans and grunts I make in the process. The first 5 seconds hurts, but then you settle in, and it somehow releases all this tension; clouds part and angels sing. 30 seconds of targeted pressure is really all you need. I’m not sure if you can “over do it” with a foam roller, but I wouldn’t want to spend a whole lot of time. And that’s why it’s so amazing; with very little effort and time, and after stretching, you can seriously help reduce your recovery time by using this glorified pool noodle. Well worth the $30. Also, immature spouses and children can get hours of merriment out of playing with it. My husband has been walking around the house using it as a light saber against my dog, Moose for the last three weeks. Little does he know, Moose is a Jedi Master. He better tread lightly with that foam roller.
Massage—There are benefits to having a touchy-feely partner, and this is one of them. Since I’ve started working out with Knoxville Endurance, (a.k.a. for the last four weeks), my husband has given me a leg and back massage once a week. He would do it on occasion before, but now it’s a weekly treat that I always look forward to. He’s not certified as a massage therapist, but he knows my body. I love this little indulgence, and it keeps me going more than you’d imagine. I have to give my beloved all the credit here, but I would recommend regular sports massages as often as you can afford it. I may break down and actually support one of the many local massage therapists I know at the yoga studio, but until then, my husband will have his hands full.
I think that covers all the typical and awkward things I’ve currently experienced, but as I live and breathe, I’m certain I’ll add to this particular part of the list with more logged miles, so I’ll keep it updated regularly. Are there any tips (or awkward stories) you’d like to share? Feel as free as lady bits flapping in the wind and comment below!