When you start any new hobby it's important to have the right tools for the job. Last year I filmed a little video which showed you what I wear when I go running (you can watch it at the end of this blog post) and whilst the basic tools and rules are the same, I'm a little bit more serious about the whole running thing now, having upped my distance and having set a few long term goals.
I have winter and summer variations but the basics are the same, so here are my top tips for clothing and accessories for when you are running or jogging.
1. High Visibility Outerwear
There is a reason that a lot of running clothes are available in garish neon colours - it's so you can be easily seen day and night by other road and footpath users. I really recommend wearing something with reflective strips too if running in the dark (or early morning/late night). My jacket is bright yellow and is from Ron Hill (via SportsShoes.com).
2. A Hat
I favour a lightweight peaked baseball cap because the visor keeps the rain off my face in the winter and the sun out of my eyes in the summer. My favourite is one I bought in Tunisia a few years back but I also have one adorned with lights (making myself more visible again) which was available from Aldi in the Autumn of 2015.
3. Sports Tops
Depending on the
changeable British weather, the amount of layers I wear will vary but I generally wear a thin, long sleeved breathable running top with a polyester t-shirt over the top (I love my #runlikeyoustolesomething GroupRun Blackburn t-shirt). In the warmer months I will scale this down to a short sleeved running top or sleeveless vest. I have bought mine from a variety of places but I always return to the Primark sports section or Ron Hill. I love my long sleeved tops that have thumb holes in the sleeves too - I got these from Up and Running in Clitheroe.
4. Sports Bottoms
I favour running trousers that are form-fitting. I find the ones that have lycra in them are best and prefer cuffed bottoms or zipped at the ankle. Again, my favourite purchases have been from Primark, Aldi and SportsShoes.com but I've recently discovered Wild Bangarang who sell the most amazing running tights which take me right back to my roller disco days. My recommendation is to find a pair that fit snugly and that stay up when running. You may snigger at this but the waist elastic in some leggings or joggers doesn't do the job it was intended for and can make for an uncomfortable and embarrassing run.
There are two types of socks: proper running/trainer socks and compression socks and I alternate between the two. Running socks are double layered which means that the layers rub against each other rather than the material rubbing against your skin inside your trainers which almost eliminates the risk of blisters (as long as you have correctly fitted trainers - more on that in a minute). Compression socks fit tightly up the lower half of the leg and 'massage' the calf muscle which help prevent cramp. Some friends of mine recommend wearing compression socks when you return from your run, i.e. when the muscles are starting to relax.
The most important part of your kit so get professionally fitted for your running footwear. Find out where you can have gait analysed and go and have it done. Gait analysis is usually free (locally, we have three places that offer it); you need to wear comfy clothing and take your normal running shoes with you. You will be filmed jogging for a short distance on a treadmill and you will be shown the video which displays how your place your feet when running. Advice will then be given about the type of trainers you need to wear to make your run comfortable and injury-free. What you do with the advice is up to you and please don't feel pressured into purchasing an expensive pair of trainers. I had my gait analysis done, listened to the advice, came home, researched trainers online and went back to the shop with a clear head.
The first time I joined the local community Couch To 5K programme I threw on my old Reeboks and thought that would be OK. It didn't work out quite like that. My comfy old trainers didn't support my feet properly and weren't built for pounding round the local Country Park so I invested in my first pair of proper trainers in almost thirty years and these Nikes carried me for around nine months. My next pair were Asics (with gel cushioning) and they have since become my favourite brand.
Underwear is important (especially for 'the girls' *wink*) and there are two items that I'd hugely recommend. First, get fitted for a good sports bra which supports and comfortably straps you in. There's no room in the running world for unnecessary jiggling. I'd recommend M&S or (again) Primark for sports bras. Secondly, comfy knickers are a godsend. I was wearing huge cotton ones until I found Chaffree - I use the knickerbocker style (aside: these also great under dresses for getting rid of VPL) which feel great under running leggings and they don't ride up.
A fleece and a waterproof jacket is a good addition to your wardrobe for specific weather conditions. I have purchased a fleece direct from my running group and wear this to all events as it acts as part of the 'uniform' but it's great to have available during a cold winter run or to wear after a race when you're cooling down. Also, most hi-viz jackets (mentioned earlier) are less than waterproof so this may affect your choice when looking at jackets because we all know how heavy the good old British rain can be! It's also worth considering thin gloves for winter day runs.
Think about how you are going to carry your house/car keys, your mobile phone and even water for longer runs. Karrimor at Sports Direct produce some very inexpensive and lightweight bags that you can wear round your waist or as a rucksack. I actually prefer using The Fit Belt (available from Amazon) which perfectly holds my mobile phone, my keys and has loops for gels (for distance running).
If you want to monitor your progress then you might want to invest in a runner's watch. There are many out there on the market (take a look at the Garmin or TomTom range) but my preference is the Fitbit Surge. I've worked my way up through the ranks of Fitbit activity trackers and the Surge does everything I need it to including monitoring my steps and activity throughout the day, it tracks my sleep patterns and includes silent alarms (totally the way forward - it's like a little electric shock on your wrist each morning), multi-sports tracking with mapping for runs and call/text notifications. I'm a bit obsessed with it.
And to finish, a return to being visible at all times. When I'm out with my running group, I wear my GroupRun 'TEAM' hi-viz bib over however many layers I am wearing. I have also invested in flashing wrist/ankle bracelets and a head torch for occasional runs through unlit areas (although these are always pre-planned and well organised in a 'social run' situation).
I would love for you to share your top tips and best buys for run-wear. What advice do you have for new runners?
* PLEASE NOTE*
I am not an expert and this is not professional advice.
This is just my take-away from what I have tried
and tested over the past couple of years.
Please stay safe, stay visible and have fun!