Tools of the trade: GPS, music and petroleum jelly

Tony Casey • Jul 10, 2014 at 11:51 AM

For the more minimalist distance runner, running is an activity that requires very little equipment, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t items out there that can make your run less painful or, dare I say, most enjoyable.

Because running technology is always changing, a lot of trends come and go. A shining example would be barefoot running. Not that minimalism, or wearing very little on your body when running, especially your feet, hasn’t been around for a long time and won’t continue to be around for a long time. But, through sneaky and misleading marketing tactics by one company especially, Vibram, makers of the FiveFingers toe shoes, not only did people not hit their stride in running, but many were injured so badly that it was recently ruled in a class action case that people who’d purchased toe shoes would be eligible to an amount of money in the range of $20-$50 per pair they’d bought.

Everyone knows how popular these glove-like shoes were and many, your humble narrator included, knew this running technology, like many other fads, would fade away. The amount of damage done, though, no one could predict. If you bought ’em, go get some money back.

FiveFingers aside, obviously, the most important piece of equipment is what’s on your feet. What’s right for your foot is dependent on the characteristics of your foot. Everything from how high your arch is (or isn’t) to how wide your toes are (or aren’t) all plays into the right running shoe for you. Many running stores will give you a free evaluation and let you know what shoe fits your foot’s needs. It’s free, so go get one and get your foot in the right shoe. You’ll most likely not end up in something so minimalist.

After shoes, everything else is more fun and less serious than that.

What I use might not work for you. You might judge and you might disagree.

GPS watch: There are many brands and many varieties of running watches. They can tell you everything from your heart rate to your calories used to the amount of steps completed, but my favorite features, the most important to me, come through a connection between what’s on your wrist and a satellite. Speed and distance are the most important things for me. I like to have a step-by-step update to check just how far I’ve traveled and how quickly I’ve done it.

Most of these watches give you the option of plugging your device into your computer so you can access a map that shows you where you went and how far you went at each section, not to mention, and this is a blast with the hills in the East Tennessee area, the amount of elevation change. All the information your watch can give you can be useful in keeping track of your training and finding out what works for your running plan.

Music: I’m going to take a lot of grief for this one and I welcome it. A lot of old school runners, road warriors of the past -— and there are an immense amount of them around here — would frown upon reading this, but: I love running with music. It makes the chase for that runner’s high so much easier and you can mentally separate yourself from the pain without losing the benefits of the pain. When I’m pushing myself, I hide in my ears and tune out the pain that’s occurring in my lungs and legs.

Load up your personal musical device with the tunes that suit you and get to cruising. My personal recommendations stem from old school hip hop obsession, so, if that’s also your cup of tea, find A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, the Wu-Tang Clan, Hieroglyphics, the Roots and other early 1990s-era jams to land you that high.

The rest: Depending on the length of my run, I find benefit in — warning: graphic content — applying petroleum jelly to reduce chafing in the chafe-prone places on my body. Laugh all you will, but do a friction-filled long run without help and your tears of laughter will turn into to tears of agony in your post-run shower. Energy gels are another item that I find helpful in both training and racing. Double-digit length runs, I find, go much better when I’m sucking down a sugary, electrolyte-replacing gel in the second half. The longer the run, the more gels I consume.

For marathon running, these are essential in beating the best performance imaginable out of yourself. I consumed six over the course of the last 26.2-mile race I completed.

It takes some getting used to, ingesting sticky goo while you’re exerting yourself, but a few practice runs and your stomach should be able to handle it as well as drinking on the move.

Running, being something you can pop out your front door and do, gives you a chance to try out new things. Figure out what works for you and hit the roads.

Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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