I’ve been a runner pretty much since I can remember. I took a few years off running when I was in college after getting some intensely painful shin splints. I was also super busy with classes and working my part-time job. Clearly I needed a bit of a break. After graduate school, I dove back into running and began racing and haven’t stopped since then.
Over the years, many things about running has changed. The apparel has gone from people just running in old cotton t-shirts, beat-up cotton shorts, tube socks (does anyone remember those atrocities), and athletic shoes normally worn for yard work or whatever you happened to have at the time to “performance” apparel made of material specifically meant to wick sweat away from the body and running shoes that are so high-tech some cost $250 (I’ve seen them selling for $350 on Amazon) and are so popular stores initially couldn’t keep them in stock (yes, Nike VaporFly 4% I’m talking about you). Nutrition has also radically changed over the years. When I was running in college (on my own, not on a team) the only option for me regarding options specifically geared toward athletes was Gatorade to drink and Powerbars to eat. Now there are so many different hydration and refueling options it could make your head spin or at least overwhelm a newbie runner.
I’ve tried many different running-related things over the years and would like to share some of my favorites here. I don’t receive free products from any of these companies and am not compensated in any way. Although I am a brand ambassador for Nuun, Honey Stinger, and Zensah, I receive discounts for their products but that’s it. I’ve entered into many giveaways and have never won anything from any of these companies, with the exception of a different product from a different company, which I will get into later.
So I’ll begin with fueling since it’s something I feel is hugely important to running. Several years ago I began hearing about Nuun hydration from other runners so I gave it a try. I was currently bouncing around trying different hydration products but I wasn’t completely satisfied with any of them, until I tried Nuun. Honestly, once I tried my first tablet of Nuun, I was hooked and haven’t tried anything else since. If you’re not familiar with Nuun products, they use all-natural ingredients for all of their products, which include Nuun Sport, Nuun Immunity, Nuun Vitamins, and Nuun Performance. All of their products contain only 1-2 grams of sugar except Nuun Performance, which has 12 grams of sugar per serving and is meant for longer runs (over an hour) and/or runs that require more intense effort. What I like most about Nuun, besides the fact that it’s a healthy, hydrating product is all of the choices of flavors. If you try one kind and don’t care for it, try another; there’s bound to be a flavor you’ll like! Nuun products
Shortly after I discovered Nuun, I also discovered Honey Stinger. Like with hydration products, I was also bouncing around trying different things to eat before, during, and after running, especially for long runs. I have a pretty sensitive stomach and many things I would try to eat just wouldn’t sit well in my stomach and I’d end up with every type of stomach issue you can think of. Not so with Honey Stinger. I finally found something that I could eat before running (or during) and not get sick. In fact, a couple of hours before I run a half marathon I’ll eat a Cracker N’ Nut Butter Snack Bar (my favorite is almond butter and dark chocolate) and 15-20 minutes before the race starts, I’ll eat a waffle. Those two things along with Nuun Performance are enough to fuel me through the race and I never feel sick, have heartburn, burping, gas, cramping, or any of those other GI problems that runners sometimes feel when running a long distance. I like that Honey Stinger uses wholesome, organic, non-GMO ingredients whenever possible and True Source Honey. Honey, which has a low glycemic index so you don’t get that insulin spike and crash, is the main source of carbohydrates for all Honey Stinger products. Honey Stinger has a huge variety of products with many different flavors including gluten-free varieties so there’s really something for everyone. Link to Honey Stinger
The third company that I’m an ambassador for is Zensah. Zensah is best-known for their compression socks and cute themed running socks like mini-crew socks with dinosaurs, donuts, hearts for Valentine’s Day, aliens, bees, Day of the Dead, hot dogs, cupcakes, beer, watermelon, and many more with new themes being added all the time, like one of the latest, mugs of coffee for all the coffee lovers. The Zensah products that I love the most are the Grit running socks, compression socks, recovery tights, and sports bras. My feet have never blistered since changing to Zensah socks and I’ve even run in the rain with my Grit socks and my feet were absolutely fine when I got home. Likewise, I’ve never gotten chaffed when wearing my Zensah sports bras, which for someone who runs during the hot, humid summers of the south, this is huge. After wearing the recovery tights after long runs of 12 miles or more, I feel like my legs are less tired afterwards. I always bring my Zensah recovery tights to half marathons so I can put them on after the race and I definitely think they help with recovery. You can shop online at Zensah.com here. Although some local running stores have some Zensah products, you’ll find a much wider selection online, so try local first then go online and try to contain yourself!
Now on to headphones. When I discovered the headphones from Anker, it was a game-changer for me. First I had the SoundBuds Slim Bluetooth Headphone and loved them, then I tried the Spirit X Sports Earphones and also loved them. Both sets of headphones had excellent sound quality, long-lasting batteries, and are extremely affordable. I have a post on the Soundcore Spirit X Sports Earphones by Anker here and the link to Anker’s audio products is here. I would still be using my Spirit X Sports Earphones if not for a bit of serendipity. I saw a contest on Instagram offering the chance to win a free pair of AfterShokz Trekz Titanium by a blogger I’ve been following for quite some time. Cut to the chase, my name was drawn in a random drawing and I WON! Now, I had been well aware of AfterShokz for at least a few years but had never bought a pair because, well, I was quite happy with the aforementioned headphones I had from Anker, and let’s face it, AfterShokz products are not cheap. For comparison, the Spirit X Sports Earphones are $39.99 compared to $99.95 for the Trekz Titanium. However, the technology is completely different so it’s like comparing a Toyota Camry to a Tesla Model S.
If you’re not familiar with AfterShokz products, they use bone conduction technology, so nothing goes into your ear canal. Transducers in the headphones guide mini vibrations through the cheekbones to the inner ears so there are small pieces that rest just outside your ears to deliver sound. I’ll freely admit I was skeptical at first- would they truly live up to the hype? When I first tried them, they did seem a bit odd. How could I hear what I was listening to without having things stuffed into my ears but people around me couldn’t hear it, AND here’s the kicker, I could also hear everything going on around me. What now? Yes, not only can you hear your music, podcast, or whatever you choose to listen to on the headphones but you can also simultaneously hear that car that’s coming up behind you or that person on the bike that’s getting ready to pass you but isn’t calling out. Talk about game changer. Just about the only drawback I’ve noticed with the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium headphones is it can be a bit hard to hear what you’re listening to if there’s a lot of ambient noise around you. They do come with earplugs for times like this, but I haven’t had to use them yet. I also haven’t flown with them and am curious about the quality on flights given how noisy airplanes are. I should add that AfterShokz has a pretty wide range of products including more affordably priced wired headphones and even accessories, plus they have some great bundle deals right now. Find all of the AfterShokz products here.
Finally, there are a couple of smaller things that I absolutely love and use all the time. I got a wool Buff several years ago and I swear it still looks brand new even though I’ve worn it on countless runs and traveled around the world with it. If you don’t have anything from Buff and aren’t familiar with them, the great thing about their products is they last forever (unlike say a bandana). The original is also extremely versatile; you can wear it a half dozen different ways and easily pull it around to adjust it mid-run if you need more or less coverage. Like everything else I’ve mentioned here, Buff has a wide range of products including hats, balaclavas, shirts, jackets, and headwear. Shop Buff online here.
The last running-related thing I’m loving right now is my Garmin watch and Garmin Connect. No, I don’t have the latest and greatest Garmin but I have the Forerunner 630. Over the years, I’ve had athletic watches by Polar, TomTom, and Garmin. I have to say my favorite has always been Garmin and now that I have Garmin Connect, it definitely pushes it over the top. I’ve had my current Garmin watch a little over a year now and it still works just as good as it did when I first got it. I’ve only rarely had to wait for it to pick up a GPS signal and then it was when I was in remote areas or extremely cloudy. Garmin Connect shows you all of the statistics from calories, heart rate, pace, speed, VO2 max, cadence, distance, time, elevation, and more. You can pull up reports and check your progress over the last week, month, or year. Garmin Connect also syncs nicely with Strava. Similar to Strava, you can also add “connections” meaning other people who use Garmin Connect and even arrange them by groups but I haven’t done that.
I sometimes get discount codes I can share with others for Nuun and Honey Stinger products. If you follow me on Instagram at Runningtotraveltheworld and on Twitter at Runningtotravel I often post discount codes and other special offers there.
What about you guys- what running gear and running-related products do you love right now?