Monday, March 21, 2016

Stuff...Stuff I Need: Essential and Non-Essential Fitness Gear

Go into any running shop or sporting goods store, and you'll see all manner of fitness gear. Water bottles, water belts, hydration packs, fitness trackers, GPS watches, armbands for your phone, extra pockets for your keys... Not to mention all sorts of shirts, shorts, pants and shoes. It's enough to make your head spin.

As I've said before, sometimes when I'm running, I feel like a prop clown with all the stuff I'm carrying. But compared to some other runners I've seen, I'm actually pretty low-maintenance. So I thought maybe it'd be helpful to give you an idea of the gear I use and what I leave behind.

The bottom line is that I want to be comfortable, not distracted from what I'm trying to do.

Stuff I Need

  • Running Shoes: You can't run consistently without a good, supportive, properly fitted pair of shoes. They're not a guarantee against injury, but running without them is a guarantee you will get hurt.
  • Armband: I put my phone in an armband. Some people use a belt clip, but that's personal preference. The key is not to have to carry it in your hand.
  • Moisture-Wicking Clothes: I sweat. A lot. You want to get that moisture away from your body. Your innermost layer should always be something that wicks away water. But it doesn't have to be expensive. I buy much of my workout gear at Old Navy.
  • Hand Towel: No matter how cold it is outside, I sweat. I need to wipe it from my brow. I use freebie golf towels I get at pep rallies and the such.
  • Fuel: For cardio workouts (generally runs) more than an hour, I carry GU energy gels. You're going to burn through your glycogen stores. Getting some fast carbs in you is essential.
  • Pockets: Not really gear, per se, but be sure you have places to put the crap you're carrying. You don't want to have to hold things.

Stuff I Don't Need

  • GPS Watch: Lots of people I know rely on them, but I simply map out my run and try to pay attention to my effort. It takes a little getting used to, but I am much better at pacing as a result. I just set the stopwatch on my phone and go.
  • Fancy Water Carriers: I've recently started using a hydration backpack on long runs, but I definitely don't need it. Nor do I need a belt with water bottles. I can easily plan a route that takes me past my house or, if I go to a nearby park or trail, past my car. Again, the key is not to carry it in your hand. Less of a big deal at the gym, obviously.
  • Expensive Cold-Weather Gear: When it's cold, I wear a regular wool cap. I dress in layers, and my outermost layer is an old sweatshirt that has been through the wars with me. I do have a pair of running gloves, but they were less than $15. I buy long running pants at Old Navy -- I wait for sales and get them for $15. I have a balaclava for when it's really cold -- that was $10 at Costco.
  • Headphones: This is a matter of personal preference, but I can tell you that you don't need music to exercise. And if you're running outside, I really recommend against it -- both experience's and safety's sake.
  • Orthotics: My orthopedist told me flat-out that there's actually no science backing the use of orthotics in your shoes. If it feels better to you, go for it, but it's just preference.
  • Sports Bra: I'm a guy. But I'm told by Regular Gals that a proper sports bra is essential.

Stuff I Sometimes Need

  • Poop Bags: If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know I often run with my dog. If you do the same, be a good neighbor and clean up when she poops.
  • Recovery Drink: If my workout isn't in my own neighborhood, I bring a recovery drink with me. For cardio, it's a carb-protein mix (such as chocolate milk). For resistance training, I use when protein.
  • ID: If you're working out solo -- especially if you're on a run or a bike ride -- have an easy way for people to identify you in case of emergency. I carry an expired driver's license.

What Stuff Do You Need?

What workout gear have you found to be absolutely essential? What have you found you can do without? What do you wish you had, or with they would invent? Comment below, on Facebook or on Twitter!

A Quick Note

I linked to some retailer and product pages in this post. I have gotten no payment, product or any other consideration for those links -- it's stuff I use and recommend. (Of course, I do plan to tag those companies on Twitter!)


  1. Though I love all the running gear you can get nowadays, I try to limit what I buy to stuff that I really need because it can get really expensive! My needs are: shoes, moisture-wicking clothes, sports bra, armband for my phone, and gu for long runs. Oh, and I have a Road ID that I got for cheap with a coupon, so I wear that when I remember! As my longest run so far has only been 13 miles, I've only ever carried one gu which can fit in my armband with my phone. If I am not running back past home or my car to grab water, I drive ahead an stash water somewhere along the route. As my mileage increases, I'll stash my extra gu with my water.

    1. Michelle, sounds like we're of the same mind!