As I was rolling out my hamstring the other day with a lacrosse ball (that I’ve had since 9th grade), I realized that was a simple, cheap piece of gear that is ESSENTIAL to my running arsenal. I feel like it’s my secret weapon to staying healthy and keeping “niggles” from becoming full-blown injuries. (Note: I know my body well enough to feel little pains before they become full-blown injuries. If you have an injury, there is no injury cure-all besides what a good PT/doctor tells you!).
I realized that I love searching Instagram and the interwebs for what other runners are using that helps them in their running, recovery, or simply to make their lives easier. So I wanted to put together a list that I’ve come up with and that I use to help me run happy and healthy, every single day. Below are my top gear picks for runners!
For Recovery: Lacrosse Ball
You can use any mobility tool or foam roller, but I feel like a lacrosse ball can really get to deep spots that you can’t get any other way. If I have any type of tightness pop up after a run, I take a lacrosse ball to the area and explore around it to find where the most pain is. Then I dig in to that spot until the knot loosens. There are tons of YouTube videos of how to use a lacrosse ball to help relieve tight spots or increase mobility. Especially for hips, shoulders, and calves. Go search those out if you have issues in those areas!
Just one more disclaimer — this is what I do FIRST, if I feel like my body can handle it. If I have pain that does not feel relieved by a lacrosse ball, I immediately stop and see my massage therapist. I recommend that, a PT, or a doctor for you if you are a beginner or have not dealt with niggles/injuries before. You do NOT want to make it any worse by adding pressure to that area.
For a Long Run: Flipbelt
I use it for every run to hold my phone and I love how it sits on my waist. I find it the easiest way to keep items on me on the run without having to worry about them! Some also have zippers or reflective details if you need more features. Just make sure you get the right size so it doesn’t bounce around!
For Safety: NoxGear Tracer360 Vest
Okay I actually haven’t used this yet, but I ordered it today. I bought a knock-off on Amazon two years ago and the lights became too dim (even when I changed the battery) so I decided to invest in this product. I’ve used other armbands and clip on lights and reflective gear, but these are the absolute best that I’ve seen.
On most days I run at 4:30AM, so it is always dark when I go out for a run, so this gear is absolutely necessary. And if you’re going out in the dark, PLEASE wear something reflective, and/or something that lights up. This isn’t always so that you can see, but so others can see you! There have been plenty of times that sleepy morning drivers don’t have their headlights on in my neighborhood and I KNOW that they didn’t see me. With light up/reflective gear, that increases the likelihood that you will be seen.
While I recommend this gear to EVERYONE, always be vigilant and run safely!
For the Every Day Run: Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones
Aftershokz have been my favorite headphones I’ve ever tried for running! You can hear the world around you and hear what you’re listening to, which make them the safest headphones on the market. Plus, they are so lightweight that I’ve forgotten I’m wearing them.
The only time I don’t love these headphones is in a loud area, like an airplane. I can’t wear them on a flight because the plane is typically too loud for me to hear through the headphones. Otherwise, they’re perfect for any run or other workout to listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks.
For Energy and Hydration: Ucan Products and Nuun Tablets
My favorite edible products for running are Generation Ucan Coffee Snack bars, Ucan superstarch powders (any flavor) for long run fuel, and Nuun Tablets for electrolytes.
I love Ucan’s products — the ingredients are all things that I can pronounce and I find their low-sugar, steady carb approach to be the best for my body. I’ve never enjoyed the flavored gels, and always experienced digestive issues if I took to many. Ucan is gentle on your stomach and a reliable, long-term energy source. I highly recommend these products for distance athletes!
In my opinion, Nuun has the best flavors and most options for electrolytes and hydration for endurance athletes. I love the ones with caffeine for a boost during a long run or marathon. I also take their Immunity tablets year round to stay healthy! They have great ingredients and taste delicious. I was chosen as a Nuun ambassador this year and am so happy to share my love for the product!
Bonus Pick: Your Own Body
You can read all the articles, hire the best coach, and buy all the right products, but listening to your body is the best thing you can do to improve your running.
It’s a learned behavior, but paying attention to how you’re feeling constantly will help you understand your body better over time.
As I mentioned when talking about recovery, I am tuned in to when a muscle gets tight immediately, and can usually nip an injury in the bud by rolling it out, massaging it, resting it, or tuning in to my form.
Additionally, I try to do a lot of bodyweight exercises, dynamic stretching, mobility work, and form drills to stay a healthy runner. Seriously — my warm-up routine is at least 15 minutes, and I recommend that yours is, too! You do not need any gear or equipment to do these things. Pull up a YouTube video or ask a coach what might be best for your personal running form and injury history, and it will be worth the extra few minutes.
Tuning in to your body also includes knowing when to rest. If you’re doing a lot of tough workouts, or not getting enough sleep at night, or seeing other signs that you’re not at your optimal health, it’s okay to slow down! Most of us run to be healthier — make sure you’re not overdoing it and jeopardizing that goal.
You can become a better runner instantly by simply tuning in to your body’s needs, pre-habbing any issues, and resting or slowing down when necessary.