Last week, I listed out my three goals for running that helped put me in a position to get into better shape and to start getting to be a better runner. This week, I am listing out the equipment I've started using that has, in turn, helped me towards those goals. Some of it I have used before, some of it is pretty much brand new to me, but when I used them as part of my targeted training regimen, it changed the results I was getting from them.
Part of the reason I wasted so much time and training in the past is I had unclear goals. When I gave myself clear goals, it allowed me to seek out a better way to train. My brother recommended this site to me a while back, but I wasn't able to get full use out of it until I knew what I wanted to do and could commit to getting out and running 4-5 days a week. I used the intermediate 5k training plan and modified it a bit as I went along, but it gave me a great starting point to get an idea for how to schedule my training and what activities I needed to do as well. There are all kinds of training schedules available online now, I liked the Hal Higdon site because it has plans ranging from beginner 5k races to advanced marathon training so I figure it will take me as far as I can keep up with it!
I love data and statistics. I've often dreamt of being able to access a stat page of my life comparable to ones from Grand Theft Auto and Elder Scrolls games. Unfortunately, that may not ever happen, but thanks to this run tracking app, I do have a wealth of data about my running. The only downside to this is that you have to carry your phone with you, but I usually did that anyways in case of emergency, for music, and things of that nature.
Runkeeper has, what seems to be, a really accurate GPS tracker so combining that with a timer and customizable audio cues, the functionality of the app is great. I have mine set to tell me my total time, my distance, and my average mile pace every half mile, but you can set the cues up however works best. It's a lot easier for me to gauge how I'm doing with my training when I have accurate distance and time data to look at and it's especially nice to have a log of all my tracked activities so I can evaluate my growth and progress based on weeks and months. Here again, I've seen several different activity trackers, but I know Runkeeper works well and does what I need it to so it definitely gets my recommendation.
Running with music sounds great; it keeps you entertained and can motivate you. I've never been able to run well with music though because it throws my pace off too much and I don't have the patience to track out a playlist based on different tempos for different paced runs. This led me into the beautiful world of podcasts. If you aren't familiar with podcasts, they're basically radio programs on demand. They're great for me because they entertain me and keep me focused while not doing anything to throw my pace off. There are so many different podcasts, it really is almost unfathomable, but the one that I've found to be great so far is a series by Dan Carlin called Hardcore History. I started out with the 5 part episode on the Mongols and I've been hooked ever since. History has always been a favorite subject of mine so when I run and listen to these podcasts, I feel like I'm being doubly productive! It gives me an extra incentive to run too, because I only listen to these while running. The shows are very well researched and informative, but I never get bored listening to them.
If you don't like history, I guarantee you can find some kind of podcast that interests you, either through iTunes or a service like Podomatic, which I just recently discovered. As a shameless plug, the podcast I'm doing called What Else Sucks is up on Podomatic too.
4. Protein Powder
Recovery after working out is super important, but that reason to use products like protein powder is overshadowed for me by the fact that I LOVE my protein shakes. Sometimes, that's my motivation to get out the door because I can just imagine how delicious it will be after a good hard run. I've been using Optimum Nutrition's Cookies and Cream - if you use this link, I'll get a little kickback to use towards my own protein! - for years and I recently made the jump to the 5 pound can when I started using it several times a week. I like this one because the flavor is great, the price is about as good as I've found, and the blend is focused more on protein isolates which I like because it has more protein per serving and is absorbed faster - but there is still some concentrate in the blend so it rounds out nicely. I maintain, strong coffee and protein shakes are two of the only good reasons to get out of bed sometimes.
5. A Towel
I hate running in shirts, even sleeveless shirts. Something about it just feels wrong so until the temperature starts dipping into low 40s, I avoid it. The lack of cloth on my torso leaves me with a lot of sweat though and no where to put it unless I have a towel with me. Having towels on this list may seem like an oversimplification, but whenever I forget to take it with me, I remember how important it is. Keeping sweat out of my eyes and generally off my face as much as possible is something I took for granted until I couldn't do it. I've had three mile runs that felt like eternities because I had sweat running into my eyes and I had no real recourse.
6. Compression Shorts
Until I started upping my mileage I never experienced chafing, but once I felt it I knew I needed to account for that immediately. I don't know about the actual compression aspect as much, but having something besides cotton boxers on makes an enormous difference any time I'm going out for more than two miles. Any brand seems to work too; I've got Under Armor, Champion, and something from Target, but all of them do what I need them to and save me from days of discomfort in addition to messing up the later part of a long run.
If you've been running for some time, you may already know all of this, but hopefully I can help address at least some of these issues for somebody who is getting into running and they won't have to hit the trial and error as much as I did! Thanks for reading and be sure to check back in this week for more updates on my training.