Running gear has come a long over the last decade. When I started running, I carried the same gear (which was an iPod mini) on every single run. These days, I’ve found that the right gear can go a long way to helping runs feel more enjoyable, efficient, and keep everything you need within reach. For these reasons, I’ve started adjusting the gear I take based on the type of workout I’m running. Here’s the gear I’ve found to be most helpful based for every type of run.
Running Gear for All Workouts
First, there are a few items that come along with me on every run. Even the most minimalist of runners have a few staples that they never leave home without. First, having a GPS watch can make tracking workouts, mileage, and all sorts of data much easier. It’s certainly not required, but a Garmin is something I almost have strapped to my wrist.
I also carry my cell phone on every single run, because I am a true millennial and have separation anxiety without it. I don’t always listen to music or a podcast, but I like knowing that I can call someone if I need to, I have ApplePay set up in case I need to buy water or fuel, and I can access maps if I get turned around. The last staple for every single run is sunscreen. Because there aren’t many things worse than finishing a tough workout, and then having to deal with a sunburn all day afterwards.
If you’ve got a fast workout planned, you’re going to want to keep your gear as minimal as you can get away with. Because the more you take, the more you carry, the less efficient you are. Plus, the faster you run, the less time you’re on your feet, which means you don’t need to take too much anyways!
What I love about true track workouts is the fact that you can bring a few things to the track, and you don’t have to worry about carrying them around. Something like a large, insulated water bottle that you don’t plan on carrying with you, like this stainless steel option . You may also want to bring a small serving of fuel, like a HoneyStinger gel. You use a lot of energy to run fast, so depending on the distance, you may need to replenish some of that energy before the workout is over.
Finally, if you’re running during the daylight hours, you need to carry a pair of sunglasses. You’re straining your muscles enough, you don’t need to strain your eyeballs as well. A lot of runners prefer to focus on their form, stride, and turnover, and forgo listening to music or podcasts to stay as in tune with their body as possible, which is why I don’t personally recommend taking a pair of earbuds. It helps you learn to run in the moment, and if you’re musically inclined, you might accidentally find yourself running to the beat more than your pace.
For easy runs, the focus is on increasing comfort. You likely don’t need to carry a ton of gear, but you want to take things that will keep you moving at a steady pace. A small handheld water bottle definitely comes in handy when you’re running in areas that don’t have an abundance of water fountains. Even easy runs require hydration! Fortunately, you don’t have to carry too much water, so a small bottle should be more than enough.
Unlike track workouts, easy runs are a great time to listen to music or podcasts. I recommend carrying a set of bone conducting headphones that allow you to listen to something entertaining, while still being able to hear what’s going on around you. And since easy runs can mean a slower pace, and a little more time in the sun, taking a lightweight hat can help keep you comfortable. And any day that you don’t worry about having to fix your hair is a good day!
Tempo and hill runs tend to be a bit longer than track workouts, but at more challenging paces than easy runs. Which means you’ll want to keep the running gear light, but still be prepared for a tougher workout. A caffeinated fuel like tailwind or cherry-cola HoneyStinger chews (my favorite) can give you some much needed calories, along with a little boost of caffeine to keep you moving.
Since you’ll need to carry some fuel, you’ll want to have something to carry it in. Sure you can safety pin a gel to your shirt, but these Oiselle shorts have enough pockets for your phone, fuel, and keys. And you won’t end up with more little holes in your clothes! Two other great options are the FlipBelt, which has a good amount of storage without being too cumbersome, and the Nathan SpeedDraw. The benefit of the SpeedDraw is that it serves as both a source of hydration and a fuel carrier that can easily fit an iPhone and gel.
If you opt for the belt or shorts, I’d still recommend having a source of hydration if you plan on running more than 4-6 miles. The Nathan ExoDraw is a handheld softflask, which is slightly different than traditional handhelds in that as you drink, the bottle becomes smaller and lighter. Perfect for runs that are challenging!
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When it comes to long runs, you have to be a little more cautious and prepared. Going light is probably not the best option, especially if you aren’t completely sure the amount of time you might be on the roads or trails. A good rule of thumb for long runs is to take your estimated amount of time, add 30-60 minutes, and then carry everything you *might* need for that duration.
To accomplish all of this, you might want to consider stepping up from a belt or handheld to a hydration vest that allows you to carry more water and has additional storage options for your fuel. My personal rule of thumb is that I use a vest for any run over 9 miles, since I can’t stretch 20oz of water much further.
You’ll obviously want to carry enough liquid calories, gels, or chews to keep you going, plus 1-2 additional servings just in case. For long runs, it’s always better to have more fuel than not enough. You’re supposed to come home tired but happy, not hangry and stabby. If you’re running during a hot time of year, you might also consider taking additional electrolyte supplements like Nuun or Liquid IV.
Most runners prefer to listen to something entertaining on long runs (rather than just listening to their own labored breathing for several hours). Once again, the AfterShokz line of bone conducting headphones can be a perfect choice to keep you safe and entertained.
Since you’ll be outside for a longer period of time, you’ll also want to make sure to have a pair of sunglasses that you can pull on and off as needed. These Tifosi Sunglasses have been great in my experience. They’re lightweight, non-slip, and don’t cause any glare that would compromise my vision. If you’re starting off before dawn, or wrapping up after sunset, make sure to carry a small headlamp or light. I like this one from Nathan because I can clip it to just about anything.
Finally, take a couple of items that can help keep you comfortable. Squirrels Nut Butter can help prevent chaffing, which can be a real issue on long runs. Toe socks can help protect your toes from blistering. And because long runs can be extra hard on the stomach, I always recommend carrying a pepto-tab, just in case.
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to carrying gear. For me, less is better, because I’m not particularly enthusiastic about feeling like a pack mule. But you also need to carry enough to be self-sufficient and safe, especially if you are running in remote areas. If you have any pieces of gear that you consider a must-have, let me know. I’m always looking for to try out new gadgets.