Money Well Spent – Or Not

by Carilyn on March 30, 2012

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.


Happy Running!




{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

olga March 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

For “not spend” I have to disagree with most: I own a headlamp, but only because I do run trails (and once you have one, you’re set). Shoes – although this is my first year buying road shoes (trail shoes are still free for me), they got to feel right. Not “next generation advertised”, but once I found what feels good, I stick to it. Scale – yes, I got thick bones and lots of muscle, but trust me, if I don’t step on it, the jiggle of my mid-section and thighs become larger before my clothes style gets tight. I need the numbers. Also, I can only consume gels. It’s good if real food works for some, but to suck in and digest something on the run, it has to be liquid enough and easy to transport in a pocket (comes with territory running in wilderness vs smaller circles). I do agree on gadgets – never had, never will, forbid my hubby to dream about them:)

I am opposite on “do spend” for the most part as well. I don’t care for glasses, because when running in the woods, they play shadow tricks on me and I trip and fall, so I hate them (and have a simple pair for the car). I get my running clothes from the goodie bag at the races (and buy whatever bottoms I find on sale). I will not buy a TM because I have no space for it and won;t run at home, but rather battle the elements, go to the gym or skip a run (I can always use some rest). And dumbbells – as someone who needs accountability, I prefer gym setting (see Treadmill too) to do a workout. At home (and I do have a set) – you’ll never see me lift a thing, I got too many other responsibilities. I tend to separate my working out and my family/home life.

I am all for Drymax socks though!!! Those, in the long run, are the most important things along with rightly-fit shoes and digestible calories for each of us.

Carilyn March 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Thanks for the great response, Olga! I think that it is important for everyone to find out what “works” for them, so I’m glad you gave another side to some of these. I totally agree about the necessity of a headlamp on trails.

SteveQ March 31, 2012 at 8:15 am

Every runner I’ve ever seen running with hand weights has run with their arms fully extended, elbows locked, swinging from the shoulders like two pendulums. Not exactly good running form!

Char April 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I can’t do without my gadget (Garmin) at the moment. I’m under strict instructions to keep my HR low from my doctor and I’ve been finding that I can get it up to 170 plus without feeling too bad. I need the numbers on the watch for accountability or I will be running too hard.
I don’t need a TM either. The weather here is pretty mild so the only time I’d wimp out on a run is if it’s raining. And I quite enjoy running in the rain.

Carilyn April 2, 2012 at 7:18 am

Yikes! I hope no one is running with hand weights! That has got to be horrible for you! I use my hand weights for mini-lift sessions – builds just enough upper body strength without bulking me up.

Carilyn April 2, 2012 at 7:21 am

I can totally see how you would need a Garmin for your runs, Char. I am not against them, in general, just when runners use them for every run (for reasons other than medical). I’m so glad you are running again and have such a great attitude about it. I’m enjoying reading about your journey!

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