Well, if you feel like you've been melting for the past few weeks...you're not alone!
Summer has arrived, and in brutal fashion. As a New England'er I can't complain too much since our summers are pretty mild compared to all of yours down south.
But right now we've had a pretty crazy heat wave...temperatures in the 90's and humidity in the 70% +, so yeah...I'm miserable.
You see, I'm more of a cold weather fan. I like snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding, hiking, and of course running in the winter months.
So when the heat gets crazy I start pulling out my summer running gear to help make things a bit more bearable.
This year, I've invested in a few new items that have made a big difference for me during some of these brutally hot days!
Now, I'm not a super tech-y runner...I don't think you need all the latest gear to be able to enjoy running or even to be a fast runner! I think you need a good pair of shoes, some running clothes, and a running watch! Those few things will allow you to make major improvements!
But, in extreme weather like this crazy summer heat, or the intense winter cold, the right gear can make the difference between you enjoying your run, or just surviving it!
For me, summer is rough. I'm a heavy dude, at around 200 pounds, so I've definitely got some extra "insulation", which is not what you want when you're trying to stay cool!
I've found a few pieces of running gear that are essential for me to survive, a few that are nice to have, and a few that are definitely unnecessary, but awesome!
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Let's get into some of my favorite summer running gear!
Nutrition and hydration
In the summer months it's super important to stay hydrated and maintain your electrolytes. Over the years I've found a few good ways to do that.
My favorite way of staying hydrated is with a hydration pack. I know, most people think this screams "trail runner". You might think it's goofy for a road runner to have a hydration pack but road runners use them all the time for longer workouts or races!
I use the Camelbak Circuit Vest that has a 50oz hydration bladder. I love this hydration pack because it's super lightweight, it's so comfortable I forget I have it on, it has a ton of pockets for gels, keys, phone, sunglasses, lip balm, etc, and it's got a massive reservoir for water.
I know what you're thinking, and no, it's not heavy, you don't feel the water sloshing around, and it's not going to make your back or shoulders sore!
I was a non-believer in carrying "bigger" packs like this for a long time because I liked running super lean. I tried running belts, handheld water bottles, and little waist flasks and I never fell in love with any of them for various reasons.
When I started using a hydration vest I realized what a doofus I was. I'm not trying to sound like a commercial here...but with the right vest you really do forget you have it on. It fits so snug on your body that it doesn't bounce up and down while you're running, it just feels like an extension of your body.
I generally wear this when I'm going on a run over 6 miles, it's super hot, or I'm feeling slightly dehydrated. I don't fill it all the way up unless I'm going on a really long run because 50 oz is a lot of water.
If you're new to the running game, you might not know what a gel is...let me explain. A gel is just a little gooey snack that is optimized for eating while you are running, biking, hiking, etc. It has a gel-like consistency that is similar to molasses.
Good gels have a lot of simple carbs that are easily digestible so your stomach doesn't throw a fit after you eat it. They should also have some amount of electrolytes in them to help you replenish what you're losing during your workout.
If you're going on a moderate length run (5-10 miles), you'll probably be just fine without gels. If you're going on a longer run (10-20 miles) gels or some other type of food is pretty important.
Of course, you have to figure out how to best approach your nutrition plan for your runs, but it's advisable to eat some type of food to help replenish your glycogen stores.
Some people have GI issues with gels but I have an iron stomach and I've never had that problem.
These gels typically run around $1-3 each so if you're looking to save a little dough you can always use honey or unsulfured blackstrap molasses as a substitute...they might not be quite as good as a gel, but they're pretty close!
Everyone has heard of electrolyte drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, and everyone knows how important these are for athletes. But no one knows why. And no one knows what the hell an electrolyte is and why we need them!
I'm not trying to give you a chemistry lesson here, but the general idea is this...our blood has a pH balance of about 7.4. Electrolytes help maintain that pH balance. If we don't have enough electrolytes, that pH balance is thrown off and all kinds of god awful things can start happening to your body like vomiting, fatigue, muscle cramps, confusion, or seizures!
People tend to lose a lot of electrolytes through sweat so it's easy to see why it's so important to be replenishing them as you workout, especially when it's hot and humid.
Of course, you're probably not going to get these symptoms on a 5 mile run, but a 15 mile long run in the heat...maybe. A marathon in the heat...uhhhh yeah!
For a while there were basically two options for "sports drinks", Gatorade and Powerade. Neither are very good for you. Luckily for us, dozens of new electrolyte drinks have flooded the market over the past few years that are healthy, taste good, and not insanely pricey.
What I look for in a drink mix is a moderate amount of carbs (15-25g) and a good variety of electrolytes like magnesium, calcium, potassium, etc. and not just sodium. It's important to realize that electrolytes do not equal sodium.
My absolute favorite is Body Armor Fruit Punch. It's right at the high end of how much sugar I'd like in a drink but it also has a great mix of electrolytes, it's not packed full of fake crap, and it is packed full of vitamins and minerals. Oh and it tastes pretty good and it's cheap!
Obviously in a pinch I'll drink other stuff, but Body Armor is my go-to for during or after my run.
Another simple electrolyte drink is Coconut water which is great for recovery and re-hydrating.
I've heard lots of people like Tailwind, but I'm not sure why. There is a lot of sugar and pretty much nothing else. Maybe I'm missing something... If you know why people love this stuff, let me know in the comments below.
Alright first things first...I want to talk about what UPF is and whether or not it's something we need to worry about.
UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is basically SPF for clothing. UPF 50+ is the highest level of protection from UV rays you can buy.
UPF isn't a chemical or some type of treatment it's actually a combination of a few different factors like material, how tight the weave of the fabric is, color, and a few others. All of these factors work together to make a shirt more or less UV resistant.
Now, what this means is that there are shirts that have been tested to make sure they are at a specific UPF rating...but everything protects you from the sun to a certain degree!
Just because a shirt doesn't have a UPF rating doesn't mean it won't protect you from the sun, it just means the manufacturer didn't want to pay to get it tested for the UPF rating. Of course wearing a tightly woven, dark colored shirt is going to protect you from the sun more than nothing!
Ok, now we're all a little smarter. But, does UPF actually matter?
I want to say yes. There is a lot of science behind this saying that you can get UV radiation through your clothing and that UPF will help mitigate that. But personally, I've never been burned through a shirt and if my farmers tan is telling me anything, it's that my shirt does a pretty good job of protecting me from the sun!
However, I'm not about to use this anecdotal evidence as "science". So here is what I will say. You probably should wear UPF rated clothing if...
You live in a high altitude area or an area closer to the equator where the sun is stronger
You have a higher risk of skin cancer
You are taking a medication that makes you more sensitive to UV radiation
As for the rest of us...well, of course, it's up to you!
I do have a few UPF rated running shirts that I really like, but I don't wear UPF rated shirts all the time when I run.
The last thing to take note of is this. You need to protect yourself from the sun, but you also need a breathable, lightweight shirt. Finding the balance is the key.
This is one of the UPF 50+ shirts I have and really like... Little Donkey Andy running shirt.
This is another running shirt that I love. It's not UPF rated, but it's tightly woven and it's a dark color. It's also super lightweight... Hind Raglan.
Alright, let's get this out of the way...I have a big ol' melon. A plus sized pumpkin. A gigantic dome.
On top of the fact that I have a huge brain, I mean head, is the fact that I like deep hats that sit right down on top of my ears. I know, I'm being picky, but it's true.
This Adidas hat is by far the best hat I've run in. It's light and airy, it's got a nice brim, and it's got a great fit. It's also got a reflective backstrap which is a nice touch. Actually, this Instagram post has a decent picture of the side vents on this hat.
Problem is...it's a little pricey.
Here is another Adidas hat with almost the same fit and finish for a lot less coin.
Both of these hats have UPF 50+ and I think as long as you steer clear of the trucker hats you'll be hard pressed to find a hat that doesn't have UPF 50+.
Honestly, most of you don't care that much about hats, let's get on with this list.
I don't buy run-specific sunglasses. I've just found that I'm not picky when it comes to shades, so whatever I wear on a daily basis usually works fine for running as well.
I also don't spend much on sunglasses. I'm really hard on gear so I tend to break or lose them at an alarming rate so I usually just stick to the $15 rack wherever I can find them.
However, my sister recently told me about this company called Goodr that sell killer shades with some nice running features for $25-35. I took a look at some of their options and they seem pretty legit.
If you have some first hand experience with these, let us know in the comments section.
Alright, here's where I get a little picky again. When it comes to suncreen for my body, I don't care. I wear whatever spray sunscreen I have at home, it doesn't really matter to me.
But, I never put that stuff on my face. It irritates my skin, it runs when I sweat, it feels sticky...I just don't like it. I use this Sun Bum stick for my face and whatever SPF chap stick I have in the drawer! I don't use this stuff everyday because I always wear a hat on my runs, but if it's sunny I'll generally put some on my nose and cheeks just in case!
Ok folks, we've been through a lot today. From gels to sunscreen, it's been quite a ride. I feel like we're at the point in our relationship where we can talk about an important issue that often get's neglected because...well...it's a little awkward.
Yes, it's a real thing.
When you are running your shirt bounces up and down. That simple motion can cause your shirt to act like sandpaper on your precious lil' nips. You might not even notice...until you get in the shower.
That shirt rubbing on your chesticles will get even worse as you sweat. Not only does the shirt get slightly heavier from being waterlogged, but it also gets salt on it, which really does act like an exfoliator.
I know...this is a stupid problem. But it is a problem.
There is actually a company called RunGuard that makes "NipGuards" . I've tried these and they work well...but they look incredibly stupid. They are bombproof when it comes to stickiness and protection, but they are so thick that you can see them clear as day through your shirt, especially if you're wearing a thin running shirt.
I mean, they look like little shields for your nipples! It's crazy.
The much simpler, and cheaper, solution is to just use bandages. They sell these little "spot" bandages that are perfect for nipples. Don't get the square Band-Aid brand ones, they don't stick. And yes, I've analyzed nipple bandages.
I know. I know that we are still talking about nipples. Let's stop now.
I have lots of people ask me about my gear. Whether it be friends, family, or online followers, people are always interested in what gear I think is essential. Well, here you have it, all the summer gear that I use and love. Hope it helps!
If you made it all the way here...thank you so much for reading!
If you didn't...well then go back up there and read everything you skipped!
Now, I'd like your feedback...what did you think of this list? Do you use this gear? Anything that you absolutely love that I didn't feature on this list?
Leave a comment below and let me know what you think, I love talking shop!
If you're looking for more awesome running content, check out this link to my blog or some of the articles below!