To do an effective beginner triathlon running plan, you’ve got to have the right equipment. When I started as a beginner, triathlon running equipment really confused and overwhelmed me. I
eventually figured out that it’s kind of like buying a car – there are things that you have to have (like an engine and transmission), and then there are things that you’d like to have (like leather seats and a navigation system). I’ll try to help separate some of those things out for you, and help you make decisions about both types of equipment.
First, the obvious: you need shoes. A good, comfortable pair of shoes (surprise, surprise) makes all the difference. And the first piece of advice I have is that the more money you spend won’t necessarily make them more comfortable or supportive. In fact, I guess I’m lucky in that my feet aren’t picky, and I’ve always been able to get by with buying relatively inexpensive ($75 – $100) triathlon running shoes from chain stores like Foot Locker and Dick’s. (Right now I’m on my second pair of Nike + shoes that I paid around $90 for.) And that’s where I’d start – with a relatively inexpensive pair of shoes that feels comfortable.
Now don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of my diehard triathlon running friends, people who aren’t beginner triathlon running any more, who swear by only buying higher-end shoes from boutique stores that specialize in triathlon running shoes and cater to runners. They typically sing the praises of these places by saying that it’s worth the price difference because the salespeople are knowledgeable and will take care to “fit” you with the right shoe.
And while I know all that’s true, my point is that my $90 Nikes from a chain store are supportive and comfortable, and I don’t have any aches or pains. So my advice is: start with a relatively inexpensive pair of shoes that are comfortable and supportive. If you just can’t find a pair that’s comfortable and supportive, then spend some extra money in a boutique store, where the sales staff will be knowledgeable enough to diagnose what kind of support you’re lacking, and steer you to a particular shoe that will have what you need.
Second, you need socks and enough clothes to keep you out of jail, depending on whether you’re male or female. When it comes to socks and t-shirts in particular, there is a very important triathlon running gear expression to remember: ”cotton kills.” I learned this the hard way – when I first started my beginner triathlon running program.
I bought a bunch of cheap 100% cotton ankle socks, t-shirts and shorts to run in. What I wound up with was red, irritated and sore feet and (at the risk of Too Much Information) nipples. 100% cotton is really comfortable in regular clothing, but if you rub it constantly against your skin for 30 minutes, you’re going to get chafing.
So for socks, look for those that aren’t 100% cotton – they’ll usually be some kind of lycra/polyester blend, or some other kind of synthetic fabric. And for shirts, guys (like me) have the option of going shirtless, weather permitting, but if weather (or your gym) doesn’t permit this option, look for Under Armor type t-shirts (although the name brand can be expensive, and I recommend buying non-name-brand shirts from Target or Wal-Mart) that aren’t 100% cotton.
For girls, this may not be as big of an issue, so long as you’re wearing a sports bra. Shorts, in my case at least, are a little more forgiving – I run in cotton shorts probably about half the time, but like my synthetic ones a lot, too.
One other point about steering clear of 100% cotton clothes in a beginner triathlon running program – if you’re like me, you’re going to sweat . . . a lot. 100% cotton shirts and shorts get wet, heavy and slightly disgusting if you sweat a lot. Synthetic fabric clothes are mainly designed to wick moisture away from your body and keep you drier while you exercise.
So – in my experience, at least – I think the best basic equipment is a good, comfortable pair of shoes, some synthetic socks and some comfortable shorts and t-shirts. In my next post we’ll talk about optional equipment – goodies like music players and other gadgets.