Driving home the other day I saw a girl jogging steadily along the pavement, clearly putting in plenty of effort, which was great to see – although something told me she was somewhat new to this running lark. Do you know why I thought this? Because it is August and she was wearing thick tracksuit bottoms and a large hooded sweatshirt. Yes, it may have felt like a cool evening when you stepped out of the house but within five minutes you’ll be sweating like a Christmas turkey in all those clothes. Even in the depths of winter such bulky garments are questionable running attire.
In fairness to her though, when you are starting out, how on Earth do you know what you should or shouldn’t be wearing or what gadgets you need or can get by without? I gave it some thought. You can add your own ideas to this as I’m sure everyone will think differently. These are my must haves:
1. A proper bra – Nothing makes me wince more than the sight of an ample-chested woman legging it up the road with an inadequately supported bosom. Ladies, you know what I mean. Not only is it hugely uncomfortable to have your pride and joy swinging in all directions as you run, you are doing untold damage to the supporting ligaments, leading to a future of saggy boobs that nobody wants. They can also actually hamper your running stride as they throw you off balance. Get yourself a properly fitted sports bra and you will be truly amazed at the difference it makes. Swathes of Lycra scaffolding may look hugely unattractive but it will revolutionise your running comfort, and preserve your fabulous structures for many years to come.
2. Trainers – This is almost too obvious. You can’t run seriously in plimsolls or fashionable but otherwise largely useless ‘trainers’ that aren’t designed specifically for pounding out the miles in. It’s worth putting the effort into trainer shopping – don’t just go to Sports Direct and buy the cheapest pair. Only you will know when a pair of trainers feels right for you and you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince Charming. Once you get that perfect pair though you’ll wear the soles through before you’ll consider replacing them.
3. Socks – Should be double-layered running socks if you are going any further than down the end of the road, unless you want them to be soaked in your own blood by the time you finish. Look after your feet – treat them with respect and they will repay you by running for as long as you want without complaint.
4. Clothing – Don’t follow the example of the novice jogger and bulk up, even if it is freezing outside. Multiple thinner layers are a much better choice. Modern, lightweight running garments won’t slow you down, get in the way or look ridiculous. They’ll keep you cool(ish) in the summer and wick sweat away from your body, and layered up in winter will keep you surprisingly toasty when you’ve got icicles hanging off your nose. Most importantly – be comfortable. Then you can concentrate on actually running.
5. A watch – If you’re at all interested in how fast you’re going and intend to better it, you need a watch. And I don’t mean a NASA-developed Sat-Nav on your wrist which takes a computer science degree to operate. I use a simple digital watch with a stopwatch function that a boy at school might have had in 1996, which cost me £12 from Argos. If you want to spend £400 on a Garmin that charts your progress from space, whilst plotting graphs of your run route topography as you go and remotely sets your Sky+, then fine. But for me, I just want to know how long it took me to go as far as I did. Job done.
And that’s it. In my opinion, that is all you actually need to get out running and to do it safely and productively. Men may want to do without the sports bra, although this is where as a woman I forgot a vital piece of kit for the running gent – Vaseline. Until your own nipples have bled through your T-shirt, you can’t truly appreciate why this is necessary but I beg you not to wait and see. Slather on a lovely thick layer to protect yourself before you start and thank me later.
Optional extras include music (with proper sports headphones that don’t slide out of your ears at the slightest hint of sweat), water (you don’t need a litre bottle of Powerade to get you through a training run), sweatbands, glucose sweets or those weird gel pick-me-up things for when you’re starting to flag on a long one, and a hat or sunglasses so you can see where you’re going with the sun in your face – always a bonus.
One more thing which is actually the most important of all – don’t forget your motivation when you leave the house or you won’t be going very far anyway.