Essential equipment for runners
In this article we look at: Heart rate monitors, multi-function sports watches, sunglasses, water bottles, energy drinks, bars and gels, blister kits, petroleum jelly, nasal strips, safety pins, bin bags and toilet paper.

Essential equipment for runners

Polar HRMHeart rate monitors (HRMs)

Heart rate monitors provide instant feedback about the cardiovascular system and the stresses experienced during exercise, so they are interesting to use. They can also be useful for motivation and preventing over-training. HRMs are now reasonably priced and can come with many functions including upper and lower heart rate limits, an alarm if you go out of your 'training zone', calorie counting, computer links and software to interpret your runs. Polar, Cardiosport and Garmin make popular HRM watches. These days you can also download heart rate monitor apps on smart phones.


If you don't want to invest in a heart rate monitor there are a variety of sports watches offering a range of useful basic functions. As well as the basic stop-watch function, runner's watches sometimes provide lap counters, which is great for splits, and repeat countdown timers, useful for intervals. Some even come with segment counters in which different target times can be set for varied pace runs. Check out Nike, Timex and Adidas's watches.


Oakley Racing Jacket Sunglasses
Oakley Racing JacketOn bright days it's advisable to wear sunglasses specifically designed for running. These will sit snugly over the nose without bouncing and protect your eyes from ultra-violet light as well as from flying insects! It has also been documented that wearing sunnies in bright light can help technique, as if you squint your eyes while you run, the muscles in your face and neck become tense. This can translate through to your whole upper body, make running uncomfortable and causing headaches. Some brands to check out for runner's sunglasses: Oakley, Adidas and Nike.

Water bottles

It's important to stay hydrated at all times. Even a small percentage drop in fluid levels can have dramatic effects upon your running performance, leaving you feel tired and lifeless. Water bottles are very cheap and can usually hold 500ml or 1 litre of liquid. Some are shaped to be particulary convenient to carry during a run.

Sports drinks

There are many products available in many different flavours with varyingHigh 5 Energy Gell contents of carbohydrate and/or electrolytes for energy replacement and re-hydration purposes. The best advice I can offer is to experiment with these drinks until you find one that not only tastes really good but has the right combination of sodium levels for fluid replacement. More information on these products will appear in our Health pages.

Energy bars and gels

It's a good idea to keep a high carbohydrate snack food such as an energy bar in your kit bag. After training or racing it is essential that you replace some of the energy you have expended and this is best done within the first hour after exercise when your muscles will be able to absorb the nutrients they need.  Most of these produce energy gels which consist of both complex and simple carbohydrates for optimum absorption over a period of time. Try Science in Sport, Gatorade, High5 and Power Bar.

Spenco 2nd skin

Even if you take every precaution to avoid blisters, sometimes they still occur. Having suffered the pain blisters can inflict, I find the best product on the market to protect against further irritation and dirt and bacteria is Spenco 2nd Skin. Compeed is another popular make. Once you've placed a patch over a blister it acts like a second skin relieving the pain and pressure of the affected area. Leave it on until it falls off - you should find the blister has completely healed but not stopped you from training.

VaselinePetroleum jelly

Used by thousands of runners religiously to prevent rubbing and chaffing in key areas. Placed under the arm pits, around the nipples and groin area as well as the foot it can prevent any soreness, especially when running over longer distances. Asics do a handy sized pot to always have in your kit bag.

Nasal strips

Some athletes wear nasal strips when racing. Originally designed to open the air ways of snoring sleepers, runners have used them to increase the amount of oxygen they can get into their lungs while exercising. Placed across the bridge of the nose and nostrils these adhesive strips hold open the nostrils to allow more air to be breathed in. Available from most chemists these nasal strips are best used when racing or performing high intensity training sessions.

Safety pins

A small but very vital piece of equipment for racing! Most competition organisers will provide safety pins to pin your number to your vest, but the one time you don't pack your own could be the time that none are left. Some runners even have their own special racing pins that they have run well in before and will continue to wear as a good luck charm!

Bin bags

If it's raining when you're on a training session at a running track, and you want to take off a layer when warmed up, a bin bag will keep all your kit together and dry. They can also be used as a lining for your running rucksack, to keep your kit dry if it's raining. After use the bag folds up and fits into the pocket ready to be used again. You can also use a bin bag for keeping warm at the start of bigger races when you could be waiting around - just be careful not to rip it too much when you are putting holes in for your arms and head!

Toilet paper

Almost all races provide toilets for competitors near the start of a race, but as toilet paper runs out very quickly it's wise to take your own supply. It's also useful to carry toilet paper for emergencies out in the hills and for blowing your nose.


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