Running is one sport that does not really require any specialist gear. But, you need to be aware of some basics and may have to shake some myths that we all grew up with. And then, as always—enjoy the run.
You may shake your head in disbelief if I tell you that pure cotton is out. It’s definitely not the best fabric for running—or for any vigorous sport for that matter. I, too, found this difficult to believe but soon realized this was not a marketing con but actually makes a huge difference.
First, you need to review everything that is in contact with your skin —T- shirts, shorts, socks, briefs (and sports bras for women). T-shirts and briefs would be the first two to make a big difference on your run.
T-shirts: Check out all the branded sports apparel manufacturers for running T-shirts with fabric names of Play Dry (Reebok), Dri Fit and Sphere Dry (Nike) and Climacool (Adidas). These are all fabrics made from varying compositions of cotton, spandex, lycra and polyester. Each brand has its own proprietary mix—which ensures that when you sweat, the fabric absorbs it immediately, wicks it away from the skin to the outer surface of the fabric and then enables swift evaporation, keeping your body dry and cool. All this comes with an extra-light T-shirt which remains non-clingy, so that you can carry on running comfortably.
Microfibre briefs : Smooth, stretchable, extra-light and quick-drying, these are still few and far between in India. If you find them difficult to locate, check out Jockey, Underarmour, Maidenform, Triumph and Asics on your next trip overseas. Or you can shop online (search for microfibre briefs)—worth the effort.
Running shorts: Ensure that there is an adequate inner pocket for your car/house key. A loose fit is generally best for ventilation, to swiftly dry the sweat.
Running socks: Again, from one of the sports brands. Check out running socks styles that are ankle-high rather than shin-high (opt for blends rather than pure cotton—the principle remains the same as in the T-shirt, keeping your feet dry and cool. Women—please check out the additional sports bra. You can view a range at www.herroom.com and click on sports. This rounds off your list of essential apparel.
It’s best to break into your new gear gradually. If you are a long-distance runner, you need to use your new gear on a few shorter runs and have these washed a few times before your first run of 10-15 miles (about 16-24km) or more. I have seen marathoners at the starting line in new gear and new shoes, and later spotted some running barefoot, shoes in hand, over the last few miles.
Additional basic gear
Sunglasses—to keep out dust and insects apart from the glare.
Peaked cap— for the summer as an additional glare shield.
Synthetic headband—to prevent the sweat from streaming down your forehead into your eyes.
A light, plastic water bottle—preferably filled with iced water.
A digital watch —with a stop watch function.
A handkerchief—will be handy, as your nasal passages cleanse during your run.
Some gear for the committed runner
Heart rate monitor—to push yourself while reviewing your run scientifically. Check the options from the Polar brand.
A GPS tracker— to measure the distance run and related statistics.
A waist strap —with a water bottle holder so that you can focus on your run.
Carbohydrate gels—GU, Power and Cliff give you the spurt on a 15 mile (about 24km) run.
Audio gear—MP3 and onwards.
Running diary—record the basics of your run such as how long, how many kilometres, how you felt physically and mentally, was the terrain flat/ hilly, rough track, temperature and humidity levels. No two days are the same, and this works as a great review log.
A light track suit and gloves for running in cool/cold climes.
Compact digital camera for you to record the locations you run in and the photo-moments only you experience.
You may already have most, if not all, the additional basics and can upgrade as and when—there’s no tearing rush. The essential gear of your shoes and the fabrics in touch with your body have been taken care of. Now, go for a run for a few minutes in your new gear and feel the difference.
Most of all, the gear that you need for your run can’t be bought. It’s all about attitude—and luckily, that comes free. In the Indian summer, early mornings are great to avoid traffic, pollution, heat and noise. Most dogs, too, are quite friendly at this time of day.
Evenings tend to be really tough for exercise and especially a walk/ run, so try this out a few times even if you are not an early-morning person, and see if this works for you.
Check out a park near you or the road outside early in the morning. Run against the traffic or in a service lane or a side road.
Now that you are feeling much better in the gear that you have got, spread the word and get others to also enjoy their run or exercise a bit more. You may see a bird that you’ve never seen or heard before, a rare flower and the smile of an elderly man as he waves you on. It’s even better if you can get along a friend as a running partner so that you both get each other out of the house in the first week when inertia and excuses are at their peak. After some time you will find that running in the morning is a part of your life, just like brushing your teeth.
Next fortnight, we’ll focus on running programmes and where to run. See you in a mile.
(Rahul S. Verghese is director,Global Consumer Insights, Motorola)