Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hi-Tech Running Part 1: The Basics

While running along the beach, I was thinking about how hi-tech running has become. It’s become so hi-tech, in fact, that I’m dividing it into two parts: the basics and accessories. When I started running 30 years ago (ooh, makes me sound old!), I threw on a t-shirt, shorts & tennis shoes and left the house. Not so any longer. Even the basic clothing has gone hi-tech, for the better.

Shoes are the most important thing you wear. Never pay for bad quality running shoes because you already own bad running shoes. Most new runners quit within two months due to injury, often caused by running in bad shoes. It’s worth investing in good quality shoes, fitted by a professional, designed for the type of running you are doing and your running gait. Use them for running and nothing else.

Bras are the second most important thing you wear. 2 words: no bounce! Again, get yourself fitted at a female fitness store, such as See Jane Run or Title Nine, for high-impact running. The cute little “sports bras” are better looking than supportive. They’re great for yoga but not designed for running. Running is among the highest impact you’ll sustain over time. I used to not worry about running bras because I was small-chested. But small, saggy boobies look sad, too, so give your girls support while running. When you try on a running bra, jump up and down in the fitting room and look for no bounce.

Shirts: High-tech fabrics are designed to wick moisture away from your skin to the outer layers where it will evaporate. Result: you stay cooler and dryer. Some say high-tech fabrics are hotter to wear, but if you are going to work up a sweat anyway, the high-tech shirt will keep you more comfortable. Some say they quickly become stinky, but the new ones have antimicrobial features to prevent odor. At the gym where I work there are fans to help cool people off; however, some say the fans make them too chilled. Those people are always wearing cotton: you work out and sweat, your cotton shirt gets wet with sweat, the fan (or any post-workout breeze) cools the wetness (without drying it), and you get chilled. That’s why they say “cotton kills.” With high-tech fabrics, your clothes stay drier, so you stay comfortable. Save the cotton t-shirts for yard work or housework, not for work outs.

Shorts/pants: Also invest in high-tech fabrics. Shorts styles haven’t changed a lot, though some have built in panties & key pockets nowadays. Same story as t-shirts, except visibly sweaty cotton bottoms are even less attractive than visibly sweaty tops.

Socks: This great running store called Berkeley Sports would always give me a pair of running socks when I bought shoes there, so I decided to replace my socks whenever I buy shoes. It’s always about time that I need them anyway.

Conclusion: The first time I really “invested” in high-tech clothes was for outdoor, early morning workouts in winter (in CA). I gulped hard at spending $350 for 5 items of clothing, but one day my class was rained on unexpectedly. While everyone in their layers of cotton sweats was very wet and cold, I felt dry, warm and comfortable in my single layer of high-tech pants and shirt! That’s when I realized the $350 was the best clothing investment I’d ever made! It’s hard to shell out big bucks for clothes you’re just going to sweat in. However, why would I fork over that much for a nice dress I’d wear to once, but hesitate over paying that much for a few clothes I’ll wear every time they are clean?!

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