Running Products You Could Probably Do Without
The prevalence and enormous variety of running gear is a pretty surprising modern development. After all, humans have been running for a very, very long time – often with absolutely no gear (or even clothing). Still, the fact remains that as a runner in the accessory-obsessed 21st century, you are constantly bombarded with running gear and products. Some of these things can genuinely be useful. Others… not so much. The question for the informed and savvy runner, then, is this: Which running products could you actually do without?
It is true that a well-chosen wardrobe can make a huge difference in your running performance. If you aren’t comfortable, everything about your pace and stride is going to be thrown off. Similarly a quality piece of athletic clothing can help you maintain a healthy body temperature and even manage your hydration levels properly. So your wardrobe is pretty important.
But what about the claims that things like compression garments could even improve your performance or recovery? Through the use of specially designed, tightly woven fibers, compression clothing claims to improve circulation and provide support during exercise. As a result of that boosted circulation – the theory goes – your muscles will receive more oxygen and fuel allowing them to function more efficiently. Similarly, proponents of compression garments claim that the enhanced circulation will allow your muscles to recovery faster and more thoroughly. The tight fit of these pieces of clothing is also supposed to reduce inflammation and cut down on soreness following intense workouts. So, do any of these claims actually hold up to scientific scrutiny? Well.. sort of.
Studies regarding the supposed performance-enhancing benefits of compression gear have been mixed and it seems like the results you can expect depend largely on your sport. For runners, compression clothing doesn’t appear to do much. The tight weave only seems to improve explosive movements like jumping or throwing and doesn’t have any noticeable impact on endurance sports. Still, sprinters would likely notice some improvements by training with compression gear.
What about recovery, though? According to the research, this seems to be the area where compression clothing really shines. Whether compression garments are worn during or after a particularly intense workout, the severity of DOMS can be reduced.
The fact remains, however, that compression garments are not cheap. Since these products only appear to be useful in very specific situations, then, don’t stress too much about making room in your budget for them.
Heart Rate Monitors
The ability to track your heart rate is undeniably useful to just about all athletes. As your heart becomes stronger and more efficient, your working pulse will drop and this insight can be used to tailor the intensity of your workouts to your current fitness level and goal. In reality, though, athletes, coaches and health professional have been monitoring heart rate for a very long time. Way before the advent of wearable tech. Traditionally, this was done by simply feeling for your pulse with your fingers and counting.
Granted, this old-school technique has its limits. Most noticeably, this approach requires you to stop running briefly to find your pulse. There’s also a pretty significant chance of human error here. Often, untrained individuals will mistake other sensations, like movement in the joint, as a heart beat, leading to incorrect readings.
Wearable heart rate monitors, though, offer reliable real-time reports on your performance. That’s what the marketers claim, at least. According to the research, the actual accuracy of these monitors can vary wildly from one model to the next with even the most accurate wrist-worn monitors ranging anywhere from 29 beats per minute (BPM) under the EKG to 27 BPM over it. That’s not a great record. Chest strap heart rate monitors do tend to be more accurate, fortunately. These models, though, also tend to be more costly and wearing them on your runs can take some getting used to.
While the feedback provided by heart rate monitors, then, can definitely be useful it also isn’t the most trust-worthy thing. Plus, these devices can be pretty expensive depending on the other features and functions that they offer.
Hydration and proper fueling are absolutely vital aspects of a successful training routine. That much has been thoroughly proving by countless years of both scientific and anecdotal evidence. What has been long debated, however, is the role that sports drinks play in athletic performance and recovery.
If the marketing campaigns are to the believed, you need to start chugging these beverages as soon as you start to sweat. Thanks to their electrolyte-rich formula, sports drinks are designed to keep you hydrated and performing your best. Most sports drinks also include some form of simple carbohydrate intended to maintain your fuel reserves during your activity.
Are these products really necessary, though? The simple answer: Sometimes.
To make this answer not-so-simple, you really need to consider your individual training style and how your body responds to your workout. As mentioned, these products are largely about replenishing your electrolyte and carbohydrate stores. Logically, then, they’re really only needed when you start running low on electrolytes and carbohydrates. So… when does that happen?
This is where stuff gets slightly more complex. Electrolytes, which are minerals that are needed to conduct nerve impulses and keep your muscles contracting properly, get lost as you sweat. The more you sweat, therefore, the more you need to be concerned about your electrolyte levels. But the amount of sweat that you excrete will depend entirely on the environment and personal factors like age, gender, genetics and fitness level.
And what about those carbs? Since carbohydrates are your body’s favorite source of energy, your muscles zealously pack them away. The exact amount of carbs that you can save up will depend on your fitness level and training style but most people can carry enough fuel for about 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. Which is pretty good.
Now, with this information, we can return to the real question. Are sports drinks necessary? Only if you’re working out for more than an hour and tend to sweat excessively. Otherwise, you can save calories and cash by sticking with good old water.