Confession: I rarely read reviews of running gear and I pretty much only try something new if it’s convenient. Did it arrive at my door unsolicited and has it been a while since I’ve done laundry? If yes, then sure, I’ll give it a whirl.
I have my areas of expertise in the running world, but shoes, apparel, and other things that runners geek out over like watches, hydration packs, or headphones aren’t included. I don’t listen to music or podcasts while running and up until recently I relied on the chrono setting of my old Timex Ironman (held together with a hair tie) because my ego is too fragile to measure pace and distance. I’m not on Strava anyway, which shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve read this far.
Alas, there comes a time in every runner’s life when everything is worn out and you need a total equipment refresh. I hit that point at the end of the summer of 2020. I was fortunate to spend nearly every day outside (hello, pandemic!) and as the impending COVID-19 winter loomed large, I realized I needed a few incentives to keep my activity level up. I knew that without a couple of key pieces of gear, I’d cave to my tendency to hibernate, especially as the quarantine dragged on (and on…and on).
While some lucky parts of the U.S. are edging into spring-like weather, it’s still snowing buckets here in the mountain west. We all know it’s a finicky time of year—for large swaths of the country, it’s probably not time to pack away the warm stuff, but we’re also not completely ready for tanks and shorts. Here, then, are a few pieces of running must-haves that I’d recommend to anybody right now:
This was a holiday splurge—I always treat myself to something nice at my local running shop and this was a Christmas gift to myself. I went from completely incognito with my basic Ironman to having every coordinate and stat known to an endurance athlete on my wrist. Why the giant upgrade? In lieu of a coach or somebody to shout at me to stand up and step away from my desk, I figured this piece of technology was a worthy substitute. It reminds me to move several times a day, it counts my steps, it tells me when my fitness is faltering, and it even alerts three of my friends if I’ve fallen in the forest somewhere (and to be clear, prior to purchasing this watch, I have indeed fallen in the woods and nobody knew until I needed a ride from urgent care back to my home).
It’s been eye-opening to see how little ground I cover in a day while working from home. I need encouragement but also tough love. When the “move” alert sounds, now my dogs are even trained to rouse from their naps. The moment I see the fitness arrow pointing downward, I am motivated to up my mileage (safely) and add an evening walk around the neighborhood. And while I could upload all of this to Strava, you still won’t find me there. These are private matters between me and my Garmin.
I love snow and winter sports like skiing. But I’m less motivated to run when it gets slick out there. I’ve tried all the traction tricks, but I’ve landed on the Kahtoola NanoSpikes to keep me upright when it’s slippery outside (bonus: Kahtoola is a local business here in Flagstaff, Arizona). The spikes slip onto my tiny shoes and stay there (I wear size 5.5 and it’s never easy to find footwear that fits). I barely notice I’m wearing them, which is why I like them. Other slip-on spikes are bulkier and interfere with my natural stride and gait. Not these—they give me just enough grip and don’t add weight. I’m way more likely to get out the door instead of my more natural state of sitting by the fire instead.
I’m terrible at temperature control. I hate the idea of being cold, so I tend to put on way too many clothes before I head out the door (it could be August and I might still start with a long-sleeved shirt, even though I know better). I decided to order RunMitts because I knew Susan Clayton, a fellow runner, founded the company. I love to support runner-owned businesses, and runners know what runners need. Her mittens keep your fingers and thumbs together to provide extra warmth. And then when my hands inevitably get too warm (because it’s probably 70 degrees outside), I can flip the tops and push them up my arm to get them out of the way. Simple, but brilliant. And really warm. I’ll never use anything else.
Full disclosure: my local running club, Team Run Flagstaff, is supported by Under Armour. But even if it wasn’t, I’d sing praises for this piece. I am not a big fan of any running jackets and the conditions have to be pretty terrible for me to consider wearing one—but we get some pretty terrible days in the mountains, so this has gotten a lot of use. The front has a thin layer of puffy insulation, but the sleeves and back are ventilated. It’s just the right weight and warmth to get through a run—especially the shorter, easier miles when you’re not working up a big sweat (which is most of my miles right now).
This waffle-patterned shirt is cottony soft, but not cotton, so it keeps you dry. What I love most about it, though, is that while it’s a nice option on a cool run, you can also hop on a work Zoom meeting right after you’re done and everybody thinks you’re wearing “real” clothes. Who doesn’t love a little bit of versatility in the running wardrobe? The snap buttons also allow some ventilation as you warm up out there.