By now you should have a few miles in. Congratulations on taking those first steps. Keep going and you’ll be coming away with a medal and even better the knowledge that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
The physical is just one part of training and successfully completing an endurance event. Now that you are on your way physically it’s time to look at what you are wearing. What you wear from head to toe can have an impact on your comfort during the miles you put in through the next several months, especially with the hot summer weather, and during the race.
1. For actual clothing what not to wear is equally important. NO COTTON! NO COTTON! NO COTTON! NO COTTON! NO COTTON! NO COTTON! NO COTTON! While cotton is a “cool” fabric once it gets wet it stays that way. Wet clothing can cause blisters and chaffing in many very uncomfortable places.
2. All fabrics you use should have a wicking quality. This draws the moisture from your skin and quickly evaporates. Most wicking fabrics are a special polyester however there are a few wicking cottons (they don’t dry quite as fast).
3. Bras – Ladies, find a good, supportive sports bra. If you are small chested you can get away with a compression style bra. For those of us who are better endowed one with actual cups is much more comfortable. Again wicking fabrics are important to avoid chaffing.
4. Underwear – Ladies your options include but are not limited to UnderArmor and other sports related panties, polyester or nylon with a cotton crotch (only item it’s ok on), or a thong (fewer seams to rub in tender places). Guys – UnderArmor or just very well fitting underwear; you too can try a thong, just don’t broadcast it
5. Shorts/Capri/Pants – Go for a wicking fabric only. Personally both my husband who is also a multi endurance event participant and I prefer compression fit in our bottoms. They don’t climb up legs and into the crotch area and keep things from jiggling. Ladies, if you are uncomfortable showing that much shape you can always wear a sport skirt or a fuller running short over the compression shorts. Just remember your aren’t out there to win a fashion contest but to compete in a race most people would never try. And NO ONE cares what you look like while training.
6. Tops – Wicking fabric only. Whatever is the most comfortable – sleeveless, short sleeved or even long sleeves if you must. Loose fitting or compression is a personal preference.
7. Socks – Wicking fabric only, NO COTTON! There are a lot of brands of sport socks out there that work well. A personal preference especially if you are blister prone is the Wright Sock which is a duel layer sock that helps prevent blisters. Another one if you get blisters between toes is Injinji. You should be able to find these at running or sports stores and online.
8. Shoes – This is the BIGGY! Are the shoes you’re wearing several years old? Have you worn them constantly since getting them? Are there compression lines in the mid-sole? Is the sole worn down? If you have answered YES to any of these it’s time to go get new shoes. Our feet change over time and many times shoes are worn out in places we don’t see. Most athletic shoes are good for only between 300 & 500 miles. Not sure what shoe to buy? Go to a local running store and have your gait analyzed (usually free). They will be able to tell you whether you need a neutral shoe or a motion control shoe (you pronate or supinate). Running shoes for many are preferable over walking shoes even if you are a walker. Running shoes are generally more flexible. I won’t suggest one brand over another because everyone’s feet are different. Size and comfort are also important factors when getting shoes. Size – choose a pair that is 1 to 1.5 sizes larger than you normal shoe. This will allow for your feet to swell a bit and keep your toes from the end of the shoe which will prevent lovely and many times painful black toe or runner’s toe. Comfort – try on as many shoes as it takes to find a pair that feels good from the start. While all shoes need to have break in time don’t figure they will “feel better” if they don’t start out comfortable.
9. Sunscreen, Hat, Sunglasses – Protect yourself. Always wear sunscreen; look for brands that are specific to sports and sweating. Choose a hat or visor that has wicking properties. Protect your eyes from sun damage and wear UV sunglasses with/without polarization.
Now all these things don’t have to add up to an arm and a leg. For shoes, once you find out what type of shoe (neutral or control) you can always hit stores like DSW or Off Broadway or even Big 5 to get past season shoes for less. For clothes try Target or an outlet store like Nike and watch for sales at Kohls, Sports Authority or Dick’s. And of course there is always online – JustMySize.com (bras & some clothes), Target.com (sometimes has more to choose from) or just Google what you are wanting. If you are going to go through the effort to train for a ½ marathon be sure to wear the right clothing – you don’t just want to finish, you want to feel comfortable doing it.