The MAD Lifestyle
Useful Equipment for Runners by Dan Chabert from RunnerClick
It’s kind of funny, really. Running is one of the most accessible and affordable sports out there. It doesn’t require a fancy gym membership, years of personalized and technical instruction, or even all that much equipment, per se. Provided you have a safe place to run -- indoors or outdoors, it doesn’t really matter -- and a pair of shoes to wear, along with an unbridled enthusiasm to get out there and go after your goals -- you’re all set. You can run, you can call yourself a runner, and life is good.
However, many runners love their running “stuff.” I’ve been running and training for marathons for 10 years now, and during this time, I have met so many runners who just love their running “stuff.” These folks want the latest and greatest when it comes to sports nutrition and supplementation, wicking gear, technology and GPS devices, coaching, you name it. If there’s any sort of perception that a particular product or service can help (legally) promote an athlete’s ability, tons of runners will flock to it in droves.
For all the hubbub that can swarm the running community though, I personally gravitate to the KISS method -- Keep It Simple, Stupid. While it’d be nice to have the latest and greatest everything, and especially if it’d help me run farther and get faster, more often than not I revert to the ol’ reliables I’ve had in my home for many years now. So many runners get injured every year, with many of these running-related maladies being overuse injuries, that I’ve found that a little prehab can go a long way in preventing rehab. In other words, taking the time to do some proactive things with my running that don’t involve piling on the miles -- things like strength training, core work, or flexibility -- I think have collectively helped me stay relatively injury-free over the past decade of running nearly 2,000+ miles each year.
Below, I’ll briefly list and describe what I think are the most useful tools and equipment out there for runners. All these devices can serve both prehab and rehab purposes, and fortunately, if you outfit your home with these accoutrements, you could even negate the need for a gym membership. Some of my most useful equipment for runners include:
Massage sticks. It would be amazing to have a live-in massage therapist to go to town on my aching muscles each week, but alas, that isn’t my reality. Fortunately, I can have a live-in (albeit manual) therapist in the form of a massage stick, and while it’s not the same as zoning out and having someone rub and stretch my fatigue away, using a massage stick at home near-daily can be a great way to prehab (or rehab) tight or fatigued muscles. Most massage sticks are pretty portable, too, so if you’re traveling a long way to a race or training, definitely throw one into your bag to use before and/or after your run.
Foam rollers. Ah, the much beloved and much hated foam roller. Many runners can remember the first time they ever used a foam roller on their tight muscles, and for many runners, they remember the terrorizing discomfort and pain (and maybe the tears falling from their face!) which ensued. Like massage sticks, foam rollers can be a runner’s best friend, and because you control the intensity of the massage, you can get as comfortable -- or rather, uncomfortable -- as you want. There are tons of different foam rollers on the market now, and some even feature varying degrees of gradient and pressure to help target your large and small muscle groups in different ways. If you’re prone to iliotibial band syndrome (ITB), definitely invest in a foam roller. Realistically though, every runner should have a foam roller in his or her home because it’s a device you can use basically anywhere on your body -- much like a massage stick -- and can cover a large territory of your body in one fell swoop. There are different sizes of foam rollers available now, too, with some being more portable and affordable than others. If you’re traveling to an out-of-town training or race event, definitely consider throwing a roller into your bag, too. Your muscles will thank you for it.
Dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands. Though each of these on its own has its own set of merits, together, these old-school and somewhat basic devices can do a number for a runner’s strength and power. A lot of runners fall into the trap of thinking they will become a better runner by “just running,” and it often isn’t until they fall victim to an overuse injury (or worse), they begin strength training for the first time in their lives. Don’t be that runner! Instead, regularly strength train during your running training, even if only twice a week for 20 minutes at a time. A little can go a long way. Obviously, resistance bands are more portable than kettlebells or dumbbells, so consider this too as you outfit your home gym. If you’re unfortunately on the rehab and not prehab side of the equation, with some guidance from a coach or a physical therapist/physiotherapist, you could use these devices in your at-home PT sessions as you work to build or regain strength. Finally, perhaps it goes without saying, but ladies, please do NOT think lifting weights will unduly bulk you up or slow you down.
The aforementioned smattering of useful equipment for runners shows you a little can go a long way and runners don’t necessarily need to pay exorbitant costs each month for a fancy gym membership to prehab or rehab. Collectively, I believe these categories of devices can do a lot of good for runners in terms of prehab, rehab, strength and conditioning, and injury prevention and mitigation. Working alongside a knowledgeable coach and/or PT professional would also be a wise decision if you are new to these devices and want to ensure you’re using them appropriately and safely for your needs, too.
An entrepreneur and a husband, Dan hails from Copenhagen, Denmark. He loves to join ultramarathon races and travel to popular running destinations together with his wife. During regular days, he manages his websites, Runnerclick, The Gear Hunt, Monica’s Health Magazine and GearWeAre. Dan has also been featured in several popular running blogs across the world.
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