It occurred to me the other morning whilst running through a lonely, peaceful and quite country lane with nothing but the sound of sheep and the quiet twitter of birds about running kit.
Like with any sport or hobby you can spend a little or a lot of your hard earned cash on equipment. One thing to keep in mind though is that spending a large quantities of money on expense kit doesn’t make you and expert or the job necessary any easier! It might make you feel better, retail therapy is a well known quick pick me up and you may feel geared up for those miles and miles of tarmac, but it won’t suddenly make you an Olympic athlete.
Lets face it, at the end of the day to go out for a run, especially when you’re starting, you need:
1. Lite sports type clothes (shorts, T-Shirt/Track suite).
AND THAT’S IT! Let me just check that list again to make sure, yep! that’s all you need! I bet most people already own the items listed above. Come on be honest! And that’s the beauty of running to keep fit, its basically FREE! No member ship fees and no expensive equipment.
I’ve heard many excuses over the years of why someone can’t run and one of them is that they haven’t got the kit/correct kit/new kit/up to date kit/fashionable kit/etc. This excuse amused me because I think I used it myself once when I first started out, but its an excuse none the less.
-’But my trainers are too old!’
-’But there is a small hole in my T-Shirt’
humm it seems there is no excuse there then to get out for a run!
So what kit do I use to run in now I’ve been doing it for a few years. Your running kit may change over time due to increased distance & wear and tear but also because you find things that you feel more comfortable with. Not just comfortable to wear, but comfortable to work with.
So what running kit do I have? OK, just to be clear when I started out I had the simple three items listed above and these served me well for quite some time and still form the base running kit for me. But I soon found as I got fitter and my distances increased that my needs changed slightly.
This is very important as performance drops off significantly as you get more dehydrated. When I first started out I was only doing a few miles so I never felt I needed to take a drink with me. As my miles slowly increased my needs changed and I found I was becoming dehydrated and my performance was affected.
The thing is, I hate carrying anything while I’m running so a bottle or a running bottle (where the bottle is shaped into a handle – pretty cool idea) was out of the question (for me). I also needed something that i can carry things in for time to time
After a bit of research I found the ideal piece of kit that ticked all the boxes – the North Face running belt named the ‘Photon’. If you Google ‘Northface Photon’ you’ll soon find it.
The Photon suits be perfectly because I’m able to carry my iPhone (see ‘RunKeeper’ section below) and a few small items (i.e. a key, etc) in the zipped meshed pocket and it has the water bottle neatly tuck around the back in the holster complete with stabilizer to stop it jumping about.
I generally only use the Photon on a longer run – i.e. more than six miles – as I generally don’t get dehydrated enough as I always make sure I have a drink of water 30 minute to an hour before a sub six mile run.
The only other time I will wear the Photon on a shorter run is if its raining, then I can carry my iPhone and keep it out of the wet. This isn’t because the Photon pocket is water proof, far from it as its mesh! Its because I found a really cool way to keep my iPhone dry, in even in the biggest down poors! And believe me I’ve been out running in some serious floods and down poors. This surely must be an expensive water proof iPhone bag of some kind? Well, no actually it isn’t! I looked around on the market and found plenty of waterproof bags/cases for the iPhone, but they made the footprint of the iPhone far too large to fit in my Photon’s pocket, or many other runners belts/armbands for that matter. So after a bit of head scratching I came across a forum entry where someone used a zip lock bag. Yes a cheap plastic zip lock bag that you might keep food in!
And better still you can buy about 100 of them for the price of a bottle of water! I normally get mine from ebay.com, but there are plenty of other places online like Amazon.com, etc.
For extra safety I do put my phone in two zip lock bags, just in case! Also, I generally don’t have my head phones plugged in, in case water runs down the cable and into the bag. However, I think this would be OK if you were careful and made sure the cable entered the bag on the underside on the zip lock bag.
So there you have it. A way to carry your water bottle, phone/mp 3 player in any weather and still have your hands free!
So, if I’m not wearing my Photon on short runs and its not raining how do I carry my iPhone? Come to that, why are you carrying your iPhone on a run in the first place? We’ll come onto the ‘why am i carrying my iPhone’ question in the next section.
If I’m doing a shorter run I use a Belkin sports armband to carry my iPhone 4. The Belkin Sports armband model I bought for my iPhone 3 is a few years old now and I’ve since upgraded to an iPhone 4, which still fits in the armband perfectly.
The armband has a little pocket for a key and is comfortable to wear. Its not totally water proof and I wouldn’t trust it in a heavy down poor, why is why I switch to the Photon. However, if you get caught out, as I have, I’ve found that as long as the top of the arm band is inside your T-Shit sleeve (assuming you wear a T-Shirt and not a log sleeve shirt) then the exposed top of the iPhone will be protected from direct rain drops. However, I wouldn’t stay out in the rain in this situation for too long.
Last, but by no means least is Runkeeper and this is why I carry my iPhone! See I told you all would be explained But what is Runkeeper? And why is it so important to me that I have to take it, and my iPhone out on my runs? Well, to be totally honest I don’t think I’d still be running, or be doing as many miles as I can now, if I hadn’t started to use Runkeeper when I first start out.
Quite simply Runkeeper helps to give you motivation by tracking your runs (or ‘activities’) and storing a copy of them on the Runkeeper website in your own personal area, which you can then access. Why is this cool? Well by having your run data stored on the Runkeeper website you can then easily see you overall stats, how your doing, what your trends are, how many miles you’ve done this week/month, calories burnt, average times, best times, etc. As you improve you can see the improvement, if you’re not improving you know you might need to push that bit harder. It takes the guess work out of monitoring your performance and to top it all off its FREE! (well as long as you own a supported smart phone like the iPhone, Android, etc).
I have been using Runkeeper since the first version was released and I absolutely love it as perhaps you can tell! Not only will it track your runs it will also support walking, hikes, mountain biking and even gym activities, swimming, etc. And no, I wouldn’t advise taking your iPhone swimming in a zip locked bag. Runkeeper allows you to enter activities manually (i.e. gym sessions, or when you didn’t have your smart phone available).
You can see some examples of Runkeeer in action in my Hiking Routes and Mountain Biking Routes sections. I also used Runkeeper on last years Keswick to Barrow 42 mile walk (which I ran). This was particularly useful as the App allow you to broadcast your activity live via the Runkeeper website, so during the Keswick to Barrow my support team knew exactly where I was and where able to make sure they were available.
One feature I’ve recently started using on the Runkeeper web site is ‘street teams’. Here you can add friends (with their permission), who are members of Runkeeper to your own ‘Street team’. This allows you to view each others stats, see when your street team members have completed activities and see how many activities they’ve completed this month. At first I was a bit skeptical on what useful feature the Street teams feature provided, but I soon released it was a great way for extra motivation, to see what your friends are doing and encourage each other. From a competitive standpoint, it may help you to get out and do some exercise when you see your friend/s has done more than you this month. At the end of the day it leads to the same result – motivating you!
The only negative comment about Runkeeper I did have was with GPS signal dropouts. This did affect some older versions of the App which were quickly corrected. But, to be fair, I also think there was a limitation of the iPhone GPS hardware. I had a few signal dropouts with the iPhone 3 (the first version 3, not the 3g), but I’ve never had one with the iPhone 4 and I think this is simply down to improved hardware in the later iPhone model.
If you have a supported smart phone give it a try, its free after all so you’ve nothing to loose and lots to gain.
Finally, I said above that you should wear your current pair of comfortable trainers (if you own any) and not to bother buying new ones – yet. One important point here is that after a few runs, if you feel that you are going to continue running and start increasing your miles I would recommend getting down to your local running shop and getting advice on your current pair and whether you should ‘upgrade’. Many good running shops will put you on a tread mill and analyse your run and advise you on a suitable trainer type and support. Getting the correct fitting trainers may help prevent injury once your mileage increases.
So get yourself kitted up, you don’t have to what for the shops to open, just get some trainers on and get out there! Be positive! Start slowly and build up! Good luck! Go for it!