When it comes to running apparel, sometimes it’s best to invest in high-quality, season-specific gear. You can probably get away with an old t-shirt and shorts for an easy run on a perfect day, but when temperature is a factor, choose pieces that are going to keep you comfortable. Yanking your bargain-basement tights up around your waist for 20 miles is exactly no one’s idea of a good time. Here are some tips for dressing right and feeling fantastic all year long.
Summer: Think light and breezy; go for moisture-wicking and UPF-rated material if possible. You might get overheated in the tight compression shorts and tops that feel so great in cooler weather. Featherweight, looser-fitting fabric will offer the coverage you want without making you feel like a boiled sausage.
Fall: Even runners who aren’t obsessed with pumpkin spice love the fall. Crisp, cool temperatures – without that bitter winter edge – and low humidity make the miles feel downright magical. You’ll be comfortable running in almost anything, but a lightweight jacket is a great investment for fall training. It should fit well without being too constricting, since you’ll want to wear something beneath it. Shorts, capris and tights are all perfect bottom choices, but if you go with shorts, you get the added bonus of being able to rock compression sleeves on your calves. These feel awesome and make you look intimidating. Win-win!
Winter: No shame if your winter “running gear” is a snuggie and the sofa, or if you choose to stick to the treadmill – sometimes that really is the safest option. But if you’re determined to head outside, make sure you have the proper apparel. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so check the conditions ahead of time. Layering is a must, and compression clothing is your best friend; you’ll want to start with a base that fits tightly against your skin. Keep your core and your head warm, and don’t forget about a good pair of gloves. Go for a water- and windproof outer shell to protect you from the elements.
Spring: Finally! No more running around like Randy from A Christmas Story. Much like fall, the milder temperatures allow you to get away with a variety of training apparel. Since you might not be able to avoid running through a pop-up shower (a bummer in theory but kind of fun in real life), add a few waterproof pieces to your wardrobe, as well as a hat or visor.
Drinking water is one of the easiest things you can do to feel fantastic before, during and after your workouts. Stay off the pain train and keep your system running smoothly with a few easy tips:
Pre-game: Starting a race or a run dehydrated is like shooting yourself in the foot and then lacing up your shoes; it’s going to feel pretty terrible from the first step. Dehydration lowers your body’s ability to cool down and causes your heart rate to rise, making it seem like you’re working much harder than you really are. Additionally, lean muscle tissue is more than 75% water, meaning that dehydration causes muscles to fatigue more quickly. So top off your system with eight to sixteen ounces of water or sports drink an hour or so before you plan to run.
Sip steadily: Depending on the length of your run and the heat of the day, you may need more or less fluid. Water should be just fine for runs that are an hour or less, unless it’s brutally hot outside; aim for three to six ounces every fifteen to twenty minutes. As your training times increase, you’ll want to replenish lost sodium with a sports drink or coconut water. This will keep your electrolytes balanced while ensuring you stay hydrated. But remember that you’re running, not trying to medal in the frat party Olympics, so there’s no need to chug. Drink too much at once and fluid will just slosh uncomfortably in your stomach; plus, it’s easier for the body to absorb smaller amounts at a time.
Plan ahead: If you’ve got a long run on the agenda, figure out when and how you’re going to be able to take in water along the way. Some runners swear by CamelBaks or Nathan handheld water bottles; others prefer to run with as little as possible. Stash water bottles on the route before you start, or plan to run a loop that’s equipped with water fountains. At the very least, carry a few dollars with you in case of a hydration emergency. Running by a Starbucks? They’ll fill your water bottle – or just give you a cup – for free.
Recover smart: Even when the run is over, you’re not finished! Continue to drink throughout the day: try to take in fluid and electrolytes immediately after your workout, and keep water handy all the time. If you have it with you, you’re more likely to drink it, setting yourself up for a great next run.
Take a pee(k): Sorry, but you’re a runner, and runners wear their gross habits like badges of honor. So just embrace it, and take a look at your urine to make sure the color falls on the “hydrated” end of the spectrum. If it’s on the dark side, grab a bottle and get to work!
Runners are always making sacrifices for their training: getting up early, heading out after a long day of work, skipping out on that third margarita in preparation for the next morning’s long run, and so on. But no workout is ever more important than your safety, and female runners need to be acutely aware of the risks that go hand-in-hand with running alone at odd, dark hours, especially in unfamiliar places. Being assaulted on the run is a real danger, no matter how safe you might feel. Always take precautions, so that the sport you love doesn’t become something devastating.
Carry your cell phone: In the event of a potential attack, just having it on you might be enough to deter an assailant, and it will ensure that you get help as soon as possible.
Wear a whistle: And blow the crap out of it the second you feel threatened. Don’t worry about feeling silly if you’re actually not in harm’s way. There are many worse ways to feel than silly.
Stay close to home on familiar roads: Trails are not the place to run in the pre-dawn or after-dark hours. Besides the very real chance of twisting an ankle on a root you didn’t see, they’re often isolated with plenty of places for an attacker to hide. Stick to well-traveled roads with streetlights if you’re heading out early in the morning or late at night.
Run in a group: Or with at least one other person. Or even with your dog. Having any company at all is safer than running by yourself.
Get a Road ID: In case something does happen, these tags list your name, address, and emergency contact information. They can be worn either on your wrist or laced through your shoe.
Learn self-defense: You don’t have to be Ronda Rousey; you don’t even need to be able to knock anyone out. Just knowing a few basic moves may give you the confidence to keep your cool in a threatening situation, buying you enough time to get away.
Bring pepper spray: But make sure you know how to use it. You probably won’t need to carry it for every run, but if you find yourself alone in an unfamiliar place, having it can make you feel less like a target.
Mix it up: It’s easy to get used to running the same route day after day, but that also makes you a prime target for anyone seeking out a victim. Alter your course, change up when you run, or at least switch the direction of your loop, so you’re not always in the same place at the same time.
Don’t take unnecessary risks: If running alone on a dark, isolated trail in the middle of the night is literally the only time you can squeeze in your workout… that workout is okay to skip. Remember, you want to be able to run tomorrow and the next day and for years to come; don’t jeopardize your safety for the sake of a single run.
Whether you’re dealing with an injury or you just need a “day off” that isn’t actually a day off, cross-training has a place in every runner’s regimen. It’s true that to get better at running, you have to run. But there are other forms of cardiovascular exercise that will complement your training plan by working your muscles in a different way, enhancing your aerobic fitness, and giving your body a break from pounding the pavement. So think of these options as sneaky, effective ways to improve your running, rather than thirty minutes you have to slog through because “Active Recovery” is listed on your schedule.
Elliptical: The motion of this machine mimics a running stride, just without the impact. Using the arm levers engages your upper body and helps to develop a stronger swing.
Stairmill: Want to get better at running up hills? Well, first, run up some hills. But also hit the stairs – this machine strengthens the quads and hips, turning your lower body into a powerhouse engine for tackling any incline.
Cycling: Taking an indoor cycling class is a fun, high-energy way to enjoy an awesome cardiovascular workout without all the pounding; riding your bike outside lets you work hard and go exploring while giving your body a low-impact break. Cycling works many of the same muscles as running, so take that into consideration when training. If you’re experiencing muscular fatigue, opt for something else (or total rest).
Swimming: Lap swimming is an incredible full-body workout with virtually no impact. It utilizes every muscle and enhances all-around aerobic fitness, especially lung capacity. If you’re new to swimming, check out a few videos to learn proper form before hitting the pool.
Water Running: Pop on that aqua belt and hop into the deep end; the motion of this exercise is identical to running (only, you know, in a pool). It’s an excellent option for recovering from an injury – Pete Pfitzinger likes it so much, he came up with a nine-week training plan – but it falls on the excruciating side of the boring spectrum, so blackmail a friend into joining you, or at least pick up a waterproof case for your iPod. Intervals and tempo efforts will give you a more effective workout than a steady-state jog.