How to Choose the Best GPS Watch for Running

Running seems easy enough. Pick a pair of shoes, throw on shorts and a tank top, and head out the door, right? Well, technically, yes (as long as you find the right pair of shoes). But the more you get into running, the more you realize there are tons of gadgets that can make it easier to get faster, get better, or even just easier to plan your runs. At some point, almost every runner will look into upgrading their basic watch for something a little more technical with a few more features. But then that opens a whole other can of worms – how do you pick one? You can ask your running buddy or running group, but we’ve narrowed it down to four of the best here (and even a couple that won’t break the bank).

Budget

Photo Credit: TomTom
Photo Credit: TomTom

The TomTom Runner is your best option if you are on a budget, coming in right around $100 (we found them anywhere from $89.99-$129.99). It’s one of the more basic watches, with an easy to read screen and reliable GPS. It’s waterproof, and can track indoor miles on a treadmill as well.

Mountain Running

Photo Credit: Suunto
Photo Credit: Suunto

While many other GPS watches track elevation, the Suunto Ambit3 Peak is designed for mountain running. It tracks elevation, weather, multiple sports (swimming, running, biking), heart rate, recovery time, and more. The face is easy to read, the buttons are easy to push, and it can sync with your phone. There are a few color options with the straps, too. But this one is gonna cost you a bit more – $400-500.

Just the Basics

Photo Credit: Soleus
Photo Credit: Soleus

It’s really easy to get into all the different features that these watches offer, so if you are looking for something more simple, the Soleus GPS Pulse + HRM ($199) is a good choice. That’s not to say it doesn’t have features, but the main ones include the typical distance, speed, and pace, as well as calories burned, interval timers, and a backlight.

The One Everyone Has

Photo Credit: Garmin
Photo Credit: Garmin

Garmin is a company that has made a name for itself in the running community. With a variety of options ranging from the Forerunner 15 ($119) that is similar to the basic Soleus, to the multi-sport capable Forerunner 735XT ($449.99) that measures everything from the regular distance to VO2 max and lactate threshold estimates. For a mid-price range watch that will have more than enough features for the average runner, the Forerunner 235 ($329.99) is an excellent option.

Feature Photo Credit: Forward Runner

What to Do When You Get Running Cramps

The dreaded running cramp. It’s probably already happened to you, and if not, consider yourself lucky. Cramps, or side stitches, are maybe not the worst thing that can happen to you as a runner, but they can be pretty bad.

The best thing you can do is try to prevent them from happening in the first place:

  • Don’t eat or drink too soon before running. For most people, this means no more than 1-2 hours before heading out, but see what works for you.
  • If you take hydration with you on the run, bring one bottle of plain water and one with electrolytes. Sometimes cramping can occur because of an electrolyte imbalance in your body.
  • Take small sips vs. big gulps when you are out running.
  • Try to keep your breathing even. Beginners often get nervous or run too fast and breathe irregularly.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day, instead of chugging water before you run.
  • Warm-up properly. Get your whole body ready to run!

But even the most careful (or experienced runner) can still get a side stitch. If that does happen, the first thing you should do is check your breathing. Most of the time, focusing on and regulating your breathing can ease the cramp.

Walk for a minute and put your hands on your stomach. If your stomach isn’t moving in and out with your breath, your breathing is too shallow. Focus on deep breaths (also called lower lung breathing). It can also help to press on the side that hurts when you breathe in and release when you breathe out.

Another strategy that can help is to breathe in for two steps and out for one, always on the same side. For example, breathing in for two steps as you land on your right foot, exhaling as you step with your left foot.

If you get a side stitch, walk as long as you need to regulate your breathing and ease the pain. Then continue your workout while being mindful of your breathing.

If all else fails, keep a running log. After documenting for awhile, look for patterns. Do you cramp after eating certain foods for lunch? In certain weather? Certain distances/workouts?

Feature Photo Credit: Greatist.com

7 Tips for Choosing the Best Running Shoes

Finding a good pair of shoes is arguably the most important component of your running. It’s not a decision that you should make lightly, and be prepared for an investment (anywhere from $50 on clearance to $120+). Whether you are a new runner or have been running awhile, these tips will help you find the perfect match for your feet!

1. Go to a running store.

We always suggest to support local stores, but if for some reason you can’t find one, at least go to a running-specific store, like Road Runner Sports or Fleet Feet Sports. Never go to a discount or department store for your running shoes (unless they happen to have your brand and style on sale or something). Any running-specific store will ask you some questions, check out your form and then have you try on a few different pairs of shoes. You should be able to run around in them and see how they feel. Take as much time as you need – don’t rush this decision.

2. Go to the store prepared.

This means go at the end of the day, when your feet are a little swollen (like they would be during a run), and bring your own socks. Bring any orthotics with you, or put in the insoles that you plan to use, if at all.

3. How much padding do you want?

Some people love cushioning, while others prefer a more minimalist design. While most brands have options that are in between both – some cushioned options, some lower drop options – there are brands known for each. Hoka is a brand known for cushioning, and Vibrams are super minimalist.

You may be asking, “what the heck does “drop” even mean?” It’s basically the difference in height between the ball of your foot and your heel. The difference in running shoes used to be between 12-15mm, but now most shoes are somewhere between 4-10mm, with some even advertising no drop (0-4mm). If you decide to do a lower drop than you might be used to, go for less mileage and take it easy while your achilles and calf get adjusted to the difference.

4. Do you have any “special needs”? 

Some of us (many of us) pronate while we run, which means our foot rolls inward when it hits the ground. Over time, this can lead to injury, so if this is something that your foot does, you will want a shoe with support. While a running shoe expert will watch you run in a neutral shoe and check your foot strike, if you look at the bottom of a pair of shoes you wear often, and the inside is more worn than the outside, you likely pronate. If the outside is more worn than the inside, you may supinate (roll your foot outward).

Other “special needs” include a high arch or a flat foot.

5. The fit. 

Personally, I go anywhere from a half size to a full size bigger because I like to have room in the toe box (about a thumb’s width). Even if you don’t want that much space, your toes should not touch the front of the shoe. The shoe should be snug, but comfortable around your foot. Your foot should not slide around or feel constricted.

6. Ignore the colors/design.

The way the shoe looks should not be more important than the way the shoe feels. Think function, not fashion. That being said, you can usually get both. Shoe companies usually make a particular shoe in multiple colors, so if the store doesn’t have any colors you like, try checking another store or online.

7. Don’t (always) listen to your friends.

While your friend may have found the perfect pair for her, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect pair for you. By all means, ask friends for brand recommendations, but keep in mind that you may have entirely different needs and that brand may not work for you.

Now that I’ve picked the perfect pair, how often do I need to replace them?

Generally speaking, every 300-500 miles, depending on how quickly you wear them down. If you run a few miles a few times a week, it’s about every 4-6 months.

Feature Photo Credit: LifeFitness

6 Mistakes to Avoid as a New Runner

We’ve all been a newbie runner, and trust us – even the most experienced runner makes a mistake every once in awhile. If you don’t have anyone to ask for advice (or might be too intimidated to ask), we’ve got you covered. We have a project in the works that will be much more comprehensive than this (coming soon!), but here are a few of the most common mistakes new runners make and how you can skip the learning curve.

1. Choosing a shoe based on color or price.

While most shoes have better color options these days than just boring white with a few accent colors, this should not be the biggest reason why you choose a shoe. Oftentimes, a particular model will have several colors to choose from, but the most important thing to consider is the fit. With that, we aren’t saying you have to buy the most expensive shoe, but plan on an investment of $70-120, unless you get lucky and find your shoe on clearance. Personally, the most expensive shoes I own are my running shoes because I need them to have the right fit, the right support, etc. If you find a model you love, check online for the previous version of the shoe, which is usually cheaper, and usually not all that different as far as features go.

2. Going too far or too fast too soon.

We know you’re excited, especially if you are trying to keep up with a friend who has been running awhile, but you have to take it slow. Don’t add more than 10% of your weekly mileage t your next week (i.e. if you run 10 miles total one week, don’t add more than one mile next week). It’s okay if you walk and run, and try to find a running buddy who is also a newbie so you can challenge each other appropriately.

3. Not hydrating.

Staying hydrated can make or break a run, and not just while you are actively running. Drink water before and after your workout, and then take a bottle or pack with you on the run if it’s hot, or if you are going out for more than 30 minutes. This varies for everyone, but it’s better to take the water and not need it, than realize that you are super dehydrated midway.

4. Not wearing the right clothes.

When it comes down to it, definitely wear whatever makes you feel comfortable, but investing in some technical sports clothing is probably going to make you feel more comfortable. The fabric is designed to wick the sweat and keep you cool, whereas a fabric like cotton just gets wet and clings to your body.

5. Pushing through the pain.

There is a difference between pushing through feeling crappy because running is hard, and continuing to run when you are in pain. Pain is not a good thing, and generally only gets worse. If you feel something painful, walk for a couple minutes, then try to run again. If it continues to be painful, or you did something that could cause an injury (i.e. tripped and fell), then consider walking the rest of the way back, or even calling someone to pick you up. Even if it is a false alarm, you can always run tomorrow.

6. Trying anything new before a race.

This should probably be number one, because it is the Golden Rule of running – never (ever!) try something new before a race. This means no new shoes, no new clothes (especially not socks), no new gels, no new foods… you get the picture. Race day is the culmination of weeks or months of hard work, and you don’t want to ruin it with an unexpected blister, stomach distress, or anything else.

Feature image credit: RunnersWorldtr.com

9 Ways to learn to love running

While some of us are already hooked on running, I know there are people out there who genuinely want to try, but are intimidated. Or have just started running, but don’t really get the “runner’s high” that everyone talks about. Don’t worry – we have put together a great list of ways you can learn to love running and make it part of your lifestyle!

1. Start slow.

It might seem really hard right now, but I promise you that it gets easier (and then you step it up and it gets hard again, but that’s another story). Start slower than you think you need to go, and gradually work your way up to a faster pace or longer distance. Also? It’s okay to walk. You could try the run/walk method, or just walk when you feel like you need to.

2. Set a goal.

For some people, that might be to finish one mile without stopping, for others that might be to run a 5K, or even a half marathon. Whatever it is, a goal can get you in a rhythm and give you a sense of accomplishment.

3. Get some external motivation.

For some people, setting a goal is a great motivator, but for others it might be something like finding a friend or club to run with, picking a new trail to explore, or signing up for something like Fun Run Box to try out fun new things on your run.

4. Find some good music.

Music can turn even the most boring run into a fun work out, if you pick the right tunes. Create a running playlist of your favorite songs for your phone/iPod, or check out Spotify Running – it picks songs that match your running tempo.

5. Keep it simple.

Don’t try to get crazy with all kind of work outs, just keep it simple and take it easy. This really basic training plan from Runner’s World requires just 30 minutes, three days a week.

6. Schedule it in.

If you stick with it and make running a habit, it will become easier. In fact, it will become one of the best parts of your day!

7. Do a little research.

Check out a book, search online, and pay attention to what you eat before your run, how long you need to wait before heading out, whether you need to take hydration, what kind of hydration to take, etc. You want to feel good while you are running, and that’s part of it.

8. Get the right shoes.

Again, you want to feel good on your run, so visit a local running store and get fitted for the right shoes. This will decrease your potential for injury and keep you out there (which is the goal, after all).

9. Remind yourself of why you started in the first place.

Maybe you want to be healthier for yourself or for your family, maybe you want to meet new people, or maybe you just want a new challenge – whatever your reason for starting is, remind yourself of it when the going gets tough. We believe in you!

Why did you start running? What helped you get “hooked”?

Feature Image: SimonWhitaker

Beginner’s Guide to Running Gear

They say that running is great because all you need to do is lace up a pair of running shoes and go, right? Technically, that’s true, but most runners add a few more pieces of gear to their regular running routine. While most of the things on our list aren’t absolutely necessary, many of them are nice to have and will make running much more enjoyable.

1. Technical Clothing

If you take one thing away from this article, let it be that you should not wear cotton to work out. Cotton absorbs water and then clings to your body instead of wicking the sweat away and drying quickly. For shirts, it can mean nipple chafing for men, or general discomfort for women. For socks, it can cause blisters. The technical clothing is going to cost more, but (in general) will last longer and make you more comfortable while you’re running. Sometimes technical clothing also comes with fun pockets or other neat features.

2. Shoes

I always recommend going to a local running store and getting fitted for proper shoes. You may have some pronation going on that could benefit from some extra support, or you may not need anything and a support shoe would cause some discomfort. A good pair of running shoes is going to be an investment, but is worth it.

3. Watch

Watches can range from a simple sports watch to a more advanced GPS tracking watch. Garmin and Polar both have some great GPS options, and some can even be programmed with intervals if you are doing specific training, or if you are on a run/walk plan. While I know some people use phone apps like RunKeeper to track their distance, it’s easy to have it on your wrist and then you don’t have to take your phone if you don’t want to. The GPS watches are also more accurate that your phone app.

4. Sunglasses

A good pair of sunglasses can make a huge difference. Look for a lightweight pair that stays in place and has polarized lenses. Polarized lenses are great for summer or winter running!

5. Hat or Visor

This one is far from a requirement, but many runners swear by them. Some even have a moisture-wicking band along the inside!

6. Headphones or Earbuds

Almost everyone I know listens to music when they run, and you have a couple options here. There are headphones that go over your head, earbuds that go in your ears, or wireless headphones/earbuds. There is even a company out there called Aftershokz using bone conduction technology with wireless headphones so you don’t have to put them on your ears. Headphones and earbuds range from pretty cheap ($10-20) all the way up to $150+. Make sure you try them out first, if possible. They might feel okay for a few minutes, but you want something that will feel comfortable for your entire run.

7. Hydration

For me personally, I bring something with me for a run that is an hour or more, but I know other people who bring hydration for a 30 minute run if it’s hot enough, and others who don’t take anything out unless they are running double digit miles. It’s completely up to you, but at some point in your running “career” you are going to get thirsty out there. There are backpack type options with a water bottle or a bladder, waist options with a couple bottles (like a Spibelt or FuelBelt), or a handheld bottle.

You can fill your hydration pack with water, or something with electrolytes like nuun.

8. Fuel

Again, this is a personal preference, and includes gels, blocks, shots, “waffles“, or even a bar like a ProBar or Simple Squares. It’s just a little something extra to keep you going on those longer adventures.

9. Compression Socks or Sleeves

Compression socks are designed to move the blood through your legs, increase oxygen delivery, decrease lactic acid, and reducing overall recovery time. Some people love ’em and others never use them, so experiment with them to see if they work for you. You can try them during a long run, or putting them on to help with recovery for after a long run.

10. Headlamp or light

This is more for safety than necessity. If you are running in the early morning, dusk, or even at night, you need to make yourself visible. Even if you don’t go all out and get a headlamp, at least consider a little safety light.

11. RoadID

Also for safety more than anything else. A RoadID is something that can either be a little tag on your shoe, or a bracelet that has your basic emergency info. – who to call and any medical conditions/allergies. They don’t cost that much, and are worth it should anything happen!

Feature image: PRweb.com

11 Tips for Running When You Really Don’t Want To

We get it – sometimes it’s just plain hard to get out the door to run, even though you know you will feel better afterwards. But don’t worry, we put together a list of tips that will help you get motivated to go the distance!

  1. Try new music.
    Whether you create a new playlist or just try a different set of tunes on Pandora or Spotify running, mix it up a little bit!
  2. Run a different route.
    It can get boring to run the same direction, the same loop, and the same neighborhood every day. Check out Strava or Map My Run for new ideas.
  3. Just walk.
    Get outside and start moving. Tell yourself you will just walk for 15 minutes. Whenever I do this, it’s guaranteed that I will pick up the pace and probably spend more time out there, too.
  4. Sleep in your running clothes.
    If you’re a morning runner, this eliminates one big step from your routine, and makes it so much easier to get out the door as planned.
  5. Call a friend.
    Assuming you aren’t running at the crack of dawn, call a friend to run with you.
  6. Find a running group.
    The accountability of knowing others are expecting you will get you to that workout (and you’ll make new friends!).
  7. Get inspired.
    Whether that’s watching a clip of Meb winning the Boston Marathon or checking out what other runners are up to on Instagram, get psyched and get out there!
  8. Try a new workout.
    If you usually head out for a few easy miles after work, try a track workout. If you always run on the roads, hit the trails. A change of pace is always a good thing!
  9. Sign up for a race.
    If my motivation starts to wane, I register for another race. If I’m registered for a race, I’m going to put in the work.
  10. Plan a reward.
    For some of us, that might be frozen yogurt, for others, that might be pizza, or a reality TV show. Whatever you want, make yourself wait until after you run to get it. And hey, it might even make you run a little faster.
  11. Think positively.
    Snap out of those negative thoughts! Instead of dwelling how terrible/long/hot/cold it is, focus on the positive feelings you will have afterwards. Think about the overall benefits of running. Think about how close you are to your race or weight goals, and get out there!

Feature Photo Credit: Green Yatra Blog

6 Ways to Find a Running Partner

Even those of us who love the solitude of running by yourself can benefit from running with a buddy or a group every once in awhile. Running with a friend can challenge you to get past a plateau, be a great way to knock out a workout and a catch-up chat at the same time, and most of all, give you some accountability on those days when lacing up might feel especially tough. But what if you aren’t one of those lucky people who have a significant other or good friend who is already into running as much as you are? Don’t worry, we put together a list of places where you can find a running partner in no time!

1. Running Store

The best place to start is at your local running store. Most, if not all, offer group runs at least once a week. Sometimes they offer discounts for the run club or have local races/companies sponsor the run and giveaway some good stuff!

2. Training Teams

Not just for professional athletes, getting a coach or joining a training team near you is a great way to meet new people who will challenge you and push your limits. There are usually a couple different kinds of workouts each week (usually including a long run and a track workout), and you can get form or pacing tips from a coach at the same time. Typically, there is a fee for this kind of running group, but you can always make friends and run on your own as well.

3. Facebook Groups

There is a Facebook group for just about everything, and running groups are no exception. Try searching your city or even state and running and see what comes up. This is more hit or miss, depending on the activity of the members of the groups, but is worth checking out.

4. Meetup.com

Much like Facebook, there is a Meetup group for just about anything you can think of, and you can look for trail runners, road runners, ultra runners, or anyone in between. Many groups try to have at least a mid-week and a weekend run, but it depends on the particular group.

5. Local Running Club

You can search by state on RRCA.org and find a list of all the RRCA-affiliated running clubs in your state, or search RunningintheUSA.com by state, too. You can also just do a quick Google search and see what comes up!

6. Register for a race

Some of the bigger national races and even some local races coordinate training groups tailored to that specific distance. Sometimes, local gyms will put together training groups for a specific race, too, so ask at your gym.

Feature Photo Credit: i heart running