You can spend a ton of money on running gear if you are not careful. Over the many years, and many miles, of running, I have gotten a handle on what I think are the essentials for running – and what things are just a waste of money.
5 Things Not to Waste Your Money On:
1. A scale. Many runners become obsessed with their weight, convinced that losing a few extra pounds is going to really make the difference in how they perform. While there is some obvious truth in “running lighter” for better performance, your scale isn’t the best indicator. We all know that muscle weighs more than fat, so as you get fitter, you will have more muscle mass. This can mean a slight weight increase even as your times are dropping.
But the bigger reason to get rid of the scale and focus more on how fit you are, is that running actually makes your skeleton denser. (See Article). Your bones actually become thicker, especially in your lower body, and thus, you will weigh more on a scale – but you are significantly fitter than a non-runner who weighs less. The key is to focus on your fitness level and how you look and feel, not the numbers on the scale.
2. Expensive shoes. While I am not a proponent of barefoot running, I am all for letting your feet and legs do the work – not the shoe. While a very “tricked out” shoe might give you temporary relief from common newbie runner problems, long-term you are merely prolonging the issue. Your feet, just like the rest of your body, needs to learn to adapt to long-distance running, and they can’t if they are inside huge boats of foam, plastic, and rubber. Buy enough shoe so that your feet are protected, but then let them do the work.
3. Tech gadgets. An important part of good running is learning to run by feel: knowing your pace without a watch, knowing your heart rate, having a feel for direction and distance. Like wearing too much shoe, relying on tech gadgets for every run never allows your body to learn to run by feel. By constantly running to an external clock or music, you never learn how to pace yourself internally – an important part of running longer distances.
4. Artificial energy sources. I know I’ve said this before, but I think it is usually unnecessary to spend a bunch of money on gels, beans, shots, etc. Real food does exactly the same thing (usually better), and costs a lot less.
5. Headlamp. Remember when I told you that your running group hates it when you wear a headlamp because you alternately blind them and then cause “night blindness” for the people around you? It’s true – headlamps are really a problem for your fellow runner, so unless you are running trails, leave the headlamp at home.
5 Things To Spend Your Money On:
1. Running Clothes. Now, I realize I said don’t spend a lot of money on shoes above. And even here, I don’t mean you have to spend A LOT of money on your running clothes. But trust me, cheap nylon shirts and shorts will do you in eventually. Running long miles (like in a marathon) leads to a lot of chafing. You want to minimize that in whatever ways possible – Glide, Vaseline – and soft, comfortable clothes.
2. Socks. The same thing goes for socks. Your feet will take a beating in a long race. For some runners, blisters can even mean the END of a race. Go ahead and spend the few extra dollars on socks made for runners, like Drymax
or Wright Socks
– they are worth the money.
3. Sunglasses. As the daughter of a woman who is now nearly blind because of macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness – I am a huge advocate for sunglasses. As runners, we are out in the sun all the time. It is very important to protect our eyes from sun damage, so make sure you buy glasses with UVA/UVB protection.
4. Treadmill. For some reason, many runners hate running on a treadmill. This is unfortunate because it is a great way to get miles in when it is inconvenient to leave the house because of bad weather, darkness, or scheduling conflicts. Treadmills keep you from making excuses to skip a run – and it teaches mental toughness, an added bonus.
5. Hand weights. Runners do need some upper body strength, but often overlook it. An easy and effective way to work on your upper body without having to join a gym is to buy a few sets of hand weights (8 – 15 pounds) and do a little mini-workout with them several days a week. You will be amazed at how quickly you will build some nice, lean muscle without bulking up – perfect for a runner.