If you’ve been following our beginner-level Getting Started series you’ll be well on your way to making positive lifestyle changes by now. But before you hop on the bike, dive into the pool, or hit the ground running you’ve to make sure you have the right gear.
For many endurance sports, such as biking, swimming, and running, the right gear not only helps improve your performance but plays a crucial role in preventing injuries.
If you are looking to pick up a new sport here is a brief guide that will give you a general overview of the basic gear necessary for each sport. Don’t worry about getting only what you need to get going. You can always upgrade or get more gear later.
With running wearing improper shoes is the leading causes of injuries.
Each step while walking our foot absorbs the pressure of 1.5x our body weight. Running puts the pressure of 3x our body weight on our feet. Multiply this by the thousands of steps we take during a run and you can see why shoes are so important for keeping us injury free.
Running shoes come in three main categories:
- Road Running – The typical running shoe designed with a cushioned sole meant to support the foot on pavement and packed surfaces
- Trail Running – Built with a wider sole, greater stability, and more tread to protect feet from rocks, mud, or other un-event obstacles that might be on the trail
- Cross Trainers – Created for a balance of activity in mind, such as gym workouts and moderate running; extended running should be avoided
Each category gets broken down further to accommodate the many styles of foot strike. Your local running store can analyze your biomechanics and running form in what is called a “gait analysis”. This will help determine what shoe you need.
If you don’t have access to gait analysis you can simply look at an old pair of running shoes and inspect the wear on the tread. You’ll notice a pattern. This pattern shows you whether you pronate, over-pronate, or supinate.
What these terms describe is how your foot rolls when you strike the ground:
- Pronation – Wear is centralized to the ball of the foot and a small portion of the heel. This is the basic wear patter and characteristic of efficient runners.
- Over-pronation – Wear occurs along the inside of the shoe. This occurs when the natural inward roll of the foot is exaggerated. It is common among the majority of runners.
- Supination – Wear is along the shoe’s outer edge. Supination is the outward roll of the foot that creates.
Once you know how you run you can choose a shoe style. Once again, there are three categories:
- Neutral – Best for people who are neutral or supination style runners. They can work for mild pronators and they provide some shock absorption.
- Stability – Great for any runner who has mild to moderate over-pronation. Most runners over-pronate mildly with each stride and require some stability from their shoe.
- Motion Control – For severe over-pronatation. They have firm midsoles and the material around the foot is designed to prevent over-pronation.
The number one thing you are looking for with your new running shoes is comfortability. Flash is nice but function is more important than form. Shoes should feels super, extra comfy when you slide them on the first time. You shouldn’t have to wait to “break them in” before they feel comfortable.
Shoes are important but don’t forget about the rest of your body. Hats, sunglasses, running singlets and shorts, socks, water bottles, chafing protection are also very important for a great running experience. But we’ll cover those items another time!
It goes without saying that the #1 piece of gear you need for swimming is a swimsuit. At least if you plan on swimming anywhere public.
For guys, avoid the baggy swim trunks that you wear to the beach. These create drag in the water and restrict leg movement. However, as you advance your training drag suits can play a role in your regimen. If you are brave enough there is always the classic speedo. But if you want something a little more conservative you can check out jammers, which give you the same speed boost but more coverage.
For women, leave the bikini at home. They might be cute on the beach but swimming laps in a loose fitting swimsuit might leave you wearing nothing at all. Stick to the old fashion one piece suit. There are many different brands and styles out there but a basic one-piece will do the trick.
You are also going to need goggles. Stay away from dollar store goggles unless you like chlorine in your eyes. Spending a few bucks on quality ensures they fit and have a good seal on your face. You can also find some quality swim goggles with anti-fog lenses.
Finally if you have long hair or want more speed you need a swim cap. Guys you can wear one too these days!
Cycling, like running, has a mind-boggling array of gear. Obviously you’re going to need a bike but you need to sort out which type of bike you need.
As a beginner the main question you want to ask yourself is “Where will I be cycling?”
If it’s going to be somewhere off-road then you will want to a “mountain bike” that has a heavier frame and thicker, knobby tires.
If you’re sticking to the road then a “road bike” is what you want. These have lighter, sleeker frames with narrower, smoother tires and are designed for speed.
You may already have a bike and that’s great! But if it has been in your garage a long time take it to a local bike shop for an inspection. The bike tech will make sure everything is in working order so you don’t have to worry about mechanical failures while out on a ride. They can also fit you for your old or new bike to make sure your ride is comfortable.
The last and most important thing you need is a helmet. Even if you already have one you might need a new one. You need to replace helmets every couple of years as the materials can disintegrate and weaken. It may look good but actually be a hazard. Helmets protect heads and save lives!
Like running there are many other items you can get to enhance your ride, including cycling shorts and jerseys, sun glasses, hydration systems, toe clips, clipless pedals, nutrition belts, and more. But you can hold off on getting these until you’re ready for them.
This is just a basic list of beginner level training gear. As you advance in your new sport you can upgrade your equipment to improve your performance. When you’re ready to start moving up we have an intermediate level guide for training great. But for expert advice you can always go to a local store and they’ll be happy to direct you to the best training gear for your needs.
You’ve now reached the end of our beginner’s Getting Started series. Good luck on your new adventure!