Monday, January 18, 2016

Running Gadgets and Gizmos

How many gadgets and gizmos do you need, actually need, to be a good runner?

I've been a runner since I was 13, and I've been a sucker for running gear and accessories since I was 13. I remember going into the running store and getting that first pair of Nike Air Pegasus (everyone on the team wore those, except for one girl with really small feet who wore a different brand that I can't remember. If you know who I'm talking about and what shoes she wore, leave a comment!) When I was in that store, I also wanted all the gadgets and gizmos that were sold alongside those shoes. I wanted tops, shorts, tights, jackets, ear warmers, gloves, etc.

Of course, since I was only 13, I didn't have the cash to lay out for all those gadgets and I didn't get them.

Now that I'm older, I have cash to spend. And in a terrible twist of fate, I now find myself avoiding all these gadgets and gizmos. Ok, not all of them. I do love a few specific items. But lots of running sites, magazines, and friends use and recommend tons of gadgets and gizmos. They don't just use them, they swear by them. And many of them are great runners. I want to be a good runner, too. So I jotted down a list lately of what I do and don't do that people say is necessary to be a good runner.

1. I don't switch shoes. I have owned racing shoes, and loved them. I'd buy them again for my spring and summer races. But for training I wear the same pair of shoes every day. Every day. They are comfy, they have my footpod on the laces, I can slip them on and head out the door.

2. I don't use hydration systems or run with water bottles. I used to use Nuun, and sometimes I still use a tablet after drinking a little too much. But I just drink water now. Also, while I drink water during races, but I don't carry bottles of water or set them out on my races courses. I drink water before and after, but not during training runs. Maybe if I was doing 10+ miles a run I would do things differently, but as of now, I don't.

3. I don't do race nutrition like gels or beans. Over a year ago, my coach and I started talking about eating healthy and fueling my body without relying on gobs of glucose-based calories. Don't get me wrong, I loved those Honey Stinger Waffles and eating Vanilla Gu was just one step away from eating icing out of the can. YUM. But I don't do it anymore, and I don't feel like I'm suffering. To be honest, my weight hasn't plummeted, and I'm not running super fast (yet) but I'm feeling strong. I'm not injured and I'm doing good without them. I'm not spending lots of money on them, so that's a plus.

4. I do use UCAN in the summer and before longer races.  I've used UCAN before half-marathons and for practices that last over 90 minutes. But I've also completely forgotten to use UCAN before races and practices these same distances. So I know I don't need it to do my best. But I've also found it doesn't hurt. Meb uses it. I'm not Meb.

5. I don't wear compression. I don't wear it for running or recovery or anytime really. After the EQT Ten Miler, I did wear compression sleeves on my calves to try and reduce swelling. I'm not sure it helped and I'm guessing it didn't hurt. But I don't wear them during races.

6. I don't wear toe socks. My coach suggested them to stop my pinky toe blisters, but I think getting new shoes (see number 1) actually helped eliminate these blisters. I haven't actually put these socks on yet. I should give them a try, but they take a lot of time to wiggle my toes into each little slot.

7. I don't wear sunscreen (But I should). I keep forgetting. But I'm getting better. I put the sunscreen container right by the front door this past summer.

8. I do use a Garmin and a HR monitor. Although sometimes I wonder what it's like to run without it, 99% of the time I love my HR monitor.

9. I do use a foam roller. It hurts so good. I do think it helps. I'm not great at using it every day, but I use it.

10. I do strength work. And I think it works. No, wait. I know it works. My left leg pain is almost completely gone.

11. I don't stretch very often. I do a set of stretches that I learned from UPMC Functional Movement. And I do a few stretches here and there, but nowhere near what I used to do. I like this simple set of stretches that focuses on my ever-troubling IT band and my weak glutes. But I don't do nearly the same amount of stretches I did in high school or college.

12. I do and don't track how much water I drink. Sometimes I go nuts and drink 70 oz (half my bodyweight) in a day. Most of the time I forget and just drink when I'm thirsty.

13. I do cross train. Biking, swimming, kayaking, soccer in the backyard, neighborhood walks.

14. I don't do Shakeology or try to do cleanses to lose weight. Look forward to a BIG post on this coming soon.

So what running do's and don't, gizmos and gadgets, do you use and adore? Which ones do you disdain and ignore?

And feel free to tell me what you think I'm missing and doing horribly wrong. I love thoughtful critique.