Since I have been running every single day for over 3 years, mostly outside, and since I’ve run a marathon, three 25k’s, 14 half marathons, and numerous 5k and 10k races, I feel like I know a thing or two about running. I am not a professional or elite runner. I’ve never run a race. I’m not a running coach or expert.
But I do get lots of questions about the gear and fuel and items I use for my daily runs and races, so I thought I’d put it all my advice and suggestions in one place. Here is my full list of running resources and recommendations.
Gear/Products I Use
I’m not a huge gear fanatic. For the most part, I really try to keep my running hobby as inexpensive as possible. I don’t use the fanciest or latest gear. I can’t afford to buy the most expensive workout clothes. And I haven’t tried everything. But I do have a number of items that I rely on to help me with my running, training, and recovery.
If you follow my running account on Instagram I can promise you’ve seen plenty of pictures of the headbands I use on my runs. I cannot handle going for a run without a headband because I always have little hairs that fly all over and drive me crazy. The headbands hold it all down and, bonus, they mop up some of my forehead sweat and keep it out of my eyes. I would say about 95% of the headbands I use are from Hippie Runner (I probably have 30 or more headbands, what can I say I love variety!)
I currently use Jaybird X3 earbuds. They are a wireless in-ear style and for the most part, they work pretty well. I’ve had mine for almost a year and put them through lots of sweat, rain, snow, and shine. I keep my phone in my running belt and I have noticed that if I bend over (to tie my shoe or pick up dog poo) on my runs then the sound will often cut out a bit. Apparently, my bent over body must block the Bluetooth signal just enough. It’s not that big of a deal because usually I’m running and not bending over, but it is a bit annoying. These are my first wireless/Bluetooth earbuds so this may not be a problem specific to these earbuds but to wireless in general.
I do have my eye on some AfterShokz headphones for the future. I don’t really think I need to buy a new set of earbuds when the ones I have are working perfectly fine, but when I do need a replacement I think I’ll be trying out the AfterShokz style. I like that they sit outside the ear so that you can still hear your music/podcast/audiobook, but also allow you to hear your surroundings. Before I switched to wireless I would run with only one earbud in to allow me to hear my surroundings better. I miss that.
Running without my running belt would be miserable. My husband seems to prefer to just use his pockets, but women’s clothing doesn’t tend to have functional pockets, so I have to use a running belt. Some might consider it close to looking like a fanny pack, especially with as much as I often cram into it, but it’s useful so I don’t care.
I have a FlipBelt and I love it. I’ve been using mine for years and it has held up really well. Mine has a clip that I can clip my car key to when I’m running away from home and the latest model has a zippered pouch. It has plenty of room for my phone, food, money/credit card, water, gloves, doggy mess bags, etc. They also have water bottles that are specifically designed to fit in the belt and these are amazing!
I can’t tell you what brand of shoes or type of shoe you should wear. Everyone is different. Before having kids I swore by Asics shoes, but now they feel lumpy and uncomfortable. I’ve been wearing exclusively New Balance shoes for years and they work great for me.
Because I buy new running shoes every 3-4 months cost is a big factor. I can’t afford to spend $150 four times a year on shoes I only wear for an average of 30 minutes a day. I always buy my running shoes through Joe’s New Balance Outlet or on Amazon and spend time hunting for a deal. I rarely spend more than $50 on a pair.
If you’re just starting out with running I’d encourage you to go to a running store to get properly fitted for the right type of running shoe the first time. But once you’ve gone once you should have enough information to find shoes on your own. You can hunt for bargains online and save yourself a ton of money.
Fitness Watch/Wearable Tracker
Currently, I am using a Garmin Vivosmart HR+ watch and I cannot recommend it enough. I love it so very much. Not only does it track my steps, stairs, sleep, heart rate, and intensity minutes all throughout the day, but I can track my runs (and other workouts) with the press of a button. I love the amount of data I can view through the app after my runs to track my pace, speed, heart rate, cadence, stride length, elevation, calories burned, and more. The watch also shows me the weather, allows me to read texts and messages from my phone, and I can control my audio playback on my phone from the watch (play, skip, etc). Not to mention I have the purple one so it matches just about everything I own since I’m always wearing my beloved purple.
Compression Socks and Sleeves
I used to wear compression socks on every long run. These days I don’t wear them as much on my runs but I do wear them after a long race to help with recovery. If you struggle with calf soreness, shin splints, or any other pain or weakness in the lower part of your leg you might want to consider wearing compression socks or sleeves during or after your runs. The compression helps to bring more blood flow to the area to aid in healing and support. My favorites are either ProCompression or Zensah brands. Bonus, because compression socks are so tall they are fantastic to wear when running on really snowy days to keep your legs warm and snow free.
In Indiana, where I live, we have the chance of getting snow for basically 7 months out of the year. And you can pretty much guarantee that there will be snow on the ground for the majority of January through early March. This can make things a little tricky for someone who runs outside every day. Fortunately, I have a pair of Yaktrax Run cleats that likely have literally saved my life (or at least saved me from many broken bones). I can run all over town on icy roads and sidewalks and not fall down, which is saying something since I’m a major klutz most of the time.
Also, bonus tip, when running in snow, slush, or puddles of icy water you can cover the vented toe area of your shoes with duct tape (fun printed duct tape optional). This helps keep the wet and cold out of your shoes so your feet can stay toasty and dry.
The general advice is that if you are injured you should probably avoid running and allow your injury to heal. But when you are a run streaker this advice doesn’t necessarily apply. Also, sometimes an injury isn’t bad enough to stop running completely but it might warrant a little extra care. Enter, KT Tape.
KT Tape, also known as Kinesiology Therapeutic Sports Tape helps reduce tissue pressure and provide muscle support to injured or sore areas to help you recover faster. There are specific ways to apply the tape to the injured area so always do some YouTube searching to make sure you are applying it correctly. The few times I’ve struggled with a nagging sore spot or injury KT Tape has been a godsend to help me keep moving toward my running goals.
Literally a big tube of hard styrofoam, a foam roller can be a wonderful addition to your exercise and recovery supplies. I put getting one of these off for a long time because it seemed silly, but then I broke down and bought one and it’s awesome.
With a foam roller, you can “roll out” any area of your body to help with healing and recover. It’s kind of like giving your own self a massage. You can roll out your legs after a long run to help work out the kinks and soreness. But one of my favorite things to do is roll out my back. If my back and shoulders are feeling sore (thanks to hunching over a computer all day), I pull out my foam roller and roll around on it for a while to work out all the knots. It’s so great. Since these suckers are only about a fifth of the cost of a single professional massage, it’s definitely well worth the money to have one tucked away in your closet for when you need it.
I haven’t used an official training plan in quite some time. My goal for the past two years has been to stay in half marathon shape all year round by running at least one half marathon race or longer every quarter. Each week I run for about 3 miles 2-3 times a week and then try to get a longer run in on the weekend with a distance that varies depending on how close I am to my next scheduled half marathon. (The remaining days of the week I run at least one mile to keep up my streak.)
In the past, the most common training plan I have used is Jeff Galloway’s Half Marathon Training Plan. I do have a pattern of run/walking that I use, but it is not necessarily built around the Jeff Galloway ratio method. (After my first mile I take a short walk break after every half mile.) But I’ve found that the distances on his training plan are really helpful to make sure I’m well prepared on race day. I usually use his “Time goal for runners” plan which goes up to a 17-mile training run for a half marathon. Yes, this might be considered overkill, but I’ve found that being overprepared for a race makes the race feel like a piece of cake and really helps me to have a strong race.
Other Exercise/Cross Training
Some weeks I’m better than others at working out in more ways than running. I try to incorporate some type of strength training at least 2-3 times a week (even if only for 5-15 minutes). And I’m always working on my flexibility and trying to fit in some stretching and yoga as often as possible. I don’t have a gym membership and I don’t generally like to go to classes at a studio. Instead, I prefer working out alone in the convenience of my own house.
I have two websites/apps that I like to use to guide me through my non-running workouts. One is Aaptiv, they call this the “Netflix of workouts”. It is all audio workouts so you don’t have to watch videos, just stick in your earbuds and go. They have a huge selection of really great workouts from a variety of trainers. I love how much variety there is in their selections so I can choose whatever I’m in the mood for and whatever I have time for each day.
Yoga-Teket is a membership site with tons of great yoga video workouts. My favorites are the Yoga Strength workouts, yoga for strength is by far my favorite way to get strong. I’m not into Crossfit style workouts and lifting weights tends to bore me. But using a variety of yoga flows and postures to build strength is right up my alley. I feel like this is the perfect workout style to balance all of the high impact running that I do every day.
In recent months I have been working on shifting my fuel sources from products and supplements to simple, real, clean, whole foods. I’m not all the way there yet and still testing and experimenting to find out what works best.
The main thing I’ve found that works great is replacing all the gels and goo’s and beans that we runners tend to love with squeeze pouches. Yes, those things your kids beg for. I’m now officially fighting with my kids for GoGo Squeez Applesauces all the time because they work great to give me extra carbs and energy on my runs. And they taste one million times better than the uber sweet, thick gels that tend to make my stomach turn. The best part, of course, is that the only ingredients in them are fruits (and sometimes veggies).
I do still use some supplements to support my running and daily life including my beloved Spark. I’ve been drinking a Spark a day for about 18 years. Spark is an energy drink powder that you mix with water. It has some caffeine but also lots of B vitamins and amino acids to help give you mental focus and sustained energy.
Obviously, I prefer to just drink water for hydration, but when you are running and sweating a lot, electrolytes become really important. I certainly drink the Gatorade provided at water stops during races, but when I’m out on my own and need electrolytes I use Rehydrate.
I try to use meal replacement shakes and protein powders sparingly and instead just eat real food. But sometimes I’m in a hurry after a long run and just need to get something in my belly before I rush off to take the kids somewhere. For these times I prefer these meal replacement shakes that give me a good balance of protein and carbs to replenish my stores.
I’ve been using MapMyFitness for several years to log all my runs. While my Garmin tracks everything wonderfully, I have it set up to feed over to my MapMyFitness account. I’m connected with lots of running friends on MapMyFitness so it’s fun to be able to share our workouts all in one place. The MapMyFitness app has a Friends feed that allows you to view, like, and comment on your friends’ workouts. It has a similar look and feel to Facebook, so it’s a great way to build community and support around your workouts (or feed your competitive side if you like to compare your pace to your friends).
Where to Find Races to Run
I have a couple of races that I absolutely love and try to run each year, but I really like trying out new races and new locations to run. There are many races that set up booths or hand out cards in race packets to advertise at other races, but some of the smaller (and best) races can’t or don’t do this, so you sometimes have to do some searching to find the best races to run.
Fortunately, the internet is a handy little place where you can find everything. These are the sites I use most often to find new races to try:
RunningintheUSA.com – this site allows you to search by race length, type, month, and location/state so it’s really valuable, but they don’t have every race listed.
My Blog Posts on Running and Exercise