Running is a great activity for getting your body fit and healthy. However, it is essential to buy the right running gear before you even start a run training program. Here are the lists that you need to purchase so that you don’t feel uncomfortable when you’re out and about.
An earlier article in this series examined the question of ‘How to choose the right running shoes?’ One might think, with that question out of the way, there’s nothing which could possibly come between you and the road. Think again! Runners live in an age today where new-age, technical terms are thrown at them every time they stop to sip some water or wipe the sweat from their brow or re-tie their shoe laces. How does one make sense of all the mumbo-jumbo surrounding running accessories these days and how much of it is really needed for an enjoyable run? Read on to find out.
Running T-shirts and shorts:
While running bare-chested in hot and humid Chennai might sound appealing, the city’s conservative nature ensures that most runners wear a top layer even when the sun is beating down mercilessly on them. The debate in running circles, however, hasn’t been so much about whether to wear a T-shirt or not, but about the material of the garment.
Dri-Fit, ClimaCool, PlayDry etc are some baffling terms thrown around. Most of these are proprietary brand names devised by manufacturers for what is essentially a simple principle of physics called ‘Wicking’, also called ‘Capillary action’ observed first by Leondardo Da Vinci in the 15th century.
Wicking is the property of a fabric which allows for moisture (sweat) to be transferred from the skin to the fabric’s outer surface thus allowing for evaporation. The net result is that the athlete’s sweat is quickly and efficiently transferred to the outer surface of the garment from where it evaporates quickly thereby leaving the fabric dry. Wicking garments are usually made by blending polyester and cotton.
In the furnace-like conditions of our city, should one wear these special garments? Most definitely, if you’re looking to run for more than an hour or distances greater than 5K on a regular basis. Otherwise, be prepared for a soggy and smelly laundry session. With increasing demand and wider availability, this running apparel can be bought without causing a dent in your wallet.
The single, biggest function of a good pair of running socks is to ensure that your feet stay blister-free after a long training season. Friction between the sole of your foot and your running shoe can result in painful blisters. If you sweat heavily in your feet and they turn moist on every run, be prepared for blisters since moisture increases friction.
Choose running socks with wicking properties to wick away the sweat. Running socks these days also have double layers of specialised fabric to reduce friction. Again, for the sauna that Chennai is the major part of the year, your socks can’t be too thick or they’ll get very uncomfortable, very soon. At the same time, you can’t wear those nylon socks you wore while in school and expect to run your 30-km run. So, choose well and invest in a few good pairs of specialist running socks. And don’t forget to wash your socks after every single run, however short or long.
Consider knee-length compression socks only if you have diagnosed blood-circulation problems of the nature of varicose veins. While many runners claim to recover faster and perform better while wearing these socks, the jury is still out on that claim and you may as well hold on to your hard-earned money for the moment.
Of course, needless to say, if you happen to be one of those gifted barefoot runners, please ignore this section of the article.
Other assorted accessories:
The smorgasbord of running gear these days also includes specialised anti-chafing solutions. Quietly ignore and make do with good old Vaseline. But please do ensure you use Vaseline liberally in all areas where repetitive skin to skin contact happens (inner thighs, arm-pits, nipples etc) or be prepared to encounter some bloody clothes and chafed skin.
A cap and sports sun-glasses are also highly recommended and a smart choice while running in the heat. Finally, about the accompanying music and related gadgets. While this is entirely a personal choice, in the interest of road safety and also of connecting with yourself and the environment around during your run, this writer would insist that you stay away from the ear-phones. Happy running!
For more discussion on marathon safety, follow this Steven Rindner Twitter account.