15 must-have pieces of gear that helped me train for my first half-marathon

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  • I’ve been a runner for six years, and I’ve spent most of the
    last three years testing and reviewing hundreds of products.
  • Recently, I trained for my first half-marathon. Below, I round
    up all the durable, high-performing, trustworthy products I relied
    upon during training and on race day. 

If you don’t want to hate every second of a race, your only
option is to prepare. For half- and full-marathons, that ideally
includes a good training plan, healthy habits that support your
training, and the right toolkit of great gear.

Like most physical activities, the products you use take on
heightened importance. In every other area of your day, a sock is
an understudy. On a long-distance run, it is just as vital as the
shorts that don’t chafe, the sneakers with adequate arch support
and energy return, and the supportive sports bra.

I’ve been an on-and-off runner for the last six years, and I
recently trained for a half-marathon. For the last three of those
years, I’ve also tested and reviewed hundreds of products for
Insider Picks. Below, I’ve aggregated the tools that I used in my
own training, and the ones I trusted on race day. If you’re looking
for products that won’t let you down, I highly recommend any of
them. 

Below, you’ll find my healthy habit shortcuts and most of my
all-time favorite products for running. They deliver on durability
and performance best of all the options I’ve tried yet.  A
breathable, non-chafing singlet Women’s
Compass Singlet, available at Janji, $36

This is the singlet I wore on race day, but I also highly
recommend the
Janji Feather Tee (currently $32)
and
Under Armour’s Tech shirts
. If I’m not wearing something from a
brand I know and trust like Under Armor or Janji, I look out for a
loose style to avoid chafing and keep an eye out for indications
it’ll be really breathable — including materials like merino
wool, cotton, polyester, and mesh paneling. If the price is your
main concern, those are good rules of thumb, and you’re not likely
to go wrong if you shop at major performance retailers like

Nike
or
Under Armour
.

Long-lasting wireless earbuds that stay in place Jaybird
Vista Earbuds, available at Jaybird
and
Best Buy, $179.99

Jaybird’s Vista Earbuds are the best earbuds Jaybird has made
yet, and I’ve trusted them for the last three years with my main
running headphones. They’re comfortable in-ear, never pop out, and
deliver on both rich audio quality and great noise isolation.
They’ve got six hours of battery life on their own, and an
additional 10 with their charging case. Five minutes in the case
equals one hour of playback, and the case itself is light and
compact, so you can toss it into the hidden pocket on running
shorts. Find
a full review here
.

A supportive, lightweight sports bra Under
Armour Eclipse High Sports Bra, available at Under Armour,
$54.99

I wear a 32DD, and Under Armour’s Eclipse Sports Bra is one of
the very few that I trust. It’s supportive but not stuffy, doesn’t
cause chafing, and has adjustable straps and a breathable mesh
lining. Mine is an older version that’s since been replaced by
this, but it looks identical. For more personalized options, check
out the Insider Picks buying guide for
the best sports bras you can buy

Wireless headphones with perforated, removable pads Project
Rock Sport Wireless Train Headphones, available at Under Armour,
$249

When I’m not wearing my
Jaybird Vistas
, I’m wearing these exercise-specific headphones
created by Under Armor in collaboration with Dwayne “The Rock”
Johnson.

They have ventilated ear cushions for constant breathability,
and they’re removable so you can pop them off and hand wash them to
keep the pads hygienic. They also have an incredible 16-hour
battery life that usually lasts me a week of workouts, and five
minutes of charge equals one hour of playback. Oversized controls
are easy to manipulate, the grippy band material keeps them in
place while I run, and there’s a good bass-heavy sound courtesy of
JBL.

They also fold up so you can stash them in a gym bag. I have
this pair, but there’s a
similar, cheaper pair for sale at Best Buy
too. Here’s our full

review of the UA Project Rock Headphones
.

An effective hydrating balm Homeoplasmine, available
at Amazon, $12.95

This is a multipurpose ointment that tourists love to
pick up at French pharmacies
. It’s nongreasy and packed with
plant extracts and Vaseline, and it’s traditionally used to soothe
mothers’ nipples during breastfeeding. But it’s also gained
notoriety among makeup artists. Personally, it’s the best and only
product that moisturizes my lips after running headlong into wind
for an hour. 

Thin, durable running tights with targeted compression 2XU Women’s MCS Run
Compression Tights, available on Amazon, from $118.68

Hands down, these are the best running tights I own. They’re so
breathable and lightweight that they feel like a thin second skin.
They’re also made specifically for runners, with an internal
anatomical mapping that forces more blood into areas put under the
most stress during a run, like your quads and calves, to help you
recover fast and work more efficiently. In other words, it’s
targeted compression that doesn’t feel obtrusive.

Unfortunately, they also have a price to match their quality.
And there have been complaints in the past that 2XU tights are
see-through. Mine are not, and they’ve updated the style to add
more strategic paneling to avoid any oops-moments. But to be
honest, I’d wear them even if they were slightly too sheer. They’re
that good.
Find my full review here

 

Breathable, comfortable running shorts Janji
Women’s 3″ AFO Middle Short, available at Janji
and
REI, $60

I’ve always preferred leggings for runs, but Janji has converted
me. These shorts are fantastic. The material is light and
breathable, moisture-wicking, and fast-drying. The back pocket is
roomy and zippered for security, with a loop you can attach your
keys to. There’s a moisture-wicking brief liner and a drawcord
waistband. But, aside from that, it’s also a uniquely cool and
functional style — they’re short like most running shorts, but
the longer back lends a little more security while the curved,
shorter front maintains peak mobility. I love running in them.

A hydrating face wash CeraVe Hydrating Face
Wash, available at Amazon, $13.79

When I go for a run after work, I wash the day’s grime and
makeup away first to avoid blocked pores. To keep from drying out
my skin or messing with its natural barrier, I use a gentle and
hydrating cleanser. At night, I still use my
AHA/BHA exfoliants to slough off dead skin cells

Neutral sneakers Women’s
Kinvara 10, available at

Saucony,

$110

I’ve tried a lot of great running shoes over the years of
testing products. A few of my favorites are
Nike’s Flyknit Epic React
, On
Cloudswift
, Adidas
Pulseboost HD
, and these Saucony Kinvaras are the ones I wore
on race day. They’re neutral. They’re a great match for anyone
looking for versatility. A dense foam makes them cushiony enough
for long-distance runs, but light like a race shoe. The woven mesh
upper is breathable and forgettable. In other words, it’s the shoe
you wear if you want something that stays out of your way. Find a
full review of the Kinvaras here
.

A towel that cuts down on the hair’s drying time and damage
Aquis
Lisse Luxe Long Hair Towel, available at Sephora, $35

Running with hair ties in and showering often can be damaging to
your hair. To minimize breakage, I keep showers short and wrap my
hair in a towel made from a material that’s finer than silk and
reduces the friction my hair experiences in its most vulnerable
state. It also cuts drying time by 50%.

If you’re concerned about the impact on your hair, you can also
invest in dry shampoo
and a
shower cap
to lengthen periods in between hair washes, get a
silk
pillowcase
, change your
shower filter
, try
Olaplex
, and start using hair
masks
regularly. I also run with a braid in — it keeps the
friction and breakage to the ends of my hair, which will be chopped
off in my next haircut appointment, rather than the middle that
will then need to grow out.

Breathable, lightweight underwear Performa
Thong, available at Athleta, $16

When you’re running, everything makes a difference, including
underwear. If you’re looking for breathability and comfort, it
doesn’t get better than Athleta’s Performa line — and I’ve tried
enough of the internet’s best and newest underwear lines to know.
They go for $16 per thong, but you can get three or more for $12
each. The Performa material is unbelievably lightweight, and the
mesh material is superior in airflow.

Socks with protective blister tabs Women’s
Performance Running Ankle Sock, available at Bombas, $16

Does $16 for socks sound ridiculous to you? Well, it probably
is. I can’t defend the price, but I can say these are the best
socks if that’s what you’re after. Bombas running socks are
lightweight, moisture-wicking, and very breathable. They have
strategic cushioning for the areas that need it most, and a design
that protects you from blistering from the heel or lip of your
sneaker. Plus, they donate a pair of socks for every pair
purchased. And, while $16 is a lot for a pair of socks, a $5 pair
can make $100-plus running shoes unbearable if they’re too
thick.

Sleepwear that helps your muscles recover overnight Recover
Ultra Comfort Sleepwear Long Sleeve Shirt, available at Under
Armour
and Amazon, from
$42.51

Recover Track Pants, available at Under Armour
and Amazon, from $65.99

If you didn’t know, Under Armour makes pajamas that use infrared
light to help you recover faster while you sleep. A mineral-lined
fabric sends infrared energy back to your muscles to improve
circulation and muscle regeneration
. It’s the tech Tom Brady is
known to use, and its
part of the TB12 Sleepwear line at Under Armour

The pajamas themselves are super soft. They’re loose, and the
fabric is lightweight, has four-way stretch, and feels
cool-to-the-touch. Despite the proposed cheat code of infrared
tech, they’re also just some of the best pajamas I own. 

I can’t measure if these pajamas’ infrared tech works. But

coworkers
and friends and other reviewers at
ESPN
tend to think they do help. And, even if it’s a placebo
effect, they make me feel good about having an intentional regimen,
which helps me maintain healthy habits that make training easier.
I’m more likely to eat well and wake up early when I’m taking steps
as granular as wearing a specific pair of pajamas right after a
tough workout.  

An exercise app that gives back Download Charity Miles
for free

There are lots of apps that will benefit you during training.
Some will help you
develop a running habit
, build an
adaptive training plan
, and map your run
and track your metrics
. And some will simply help you mix
it up with other demanding classes on the cheap
when you need
to get some cardio in but don’t want to run anymore.

If you don’t have a gym membership because you’re using local
trails, you may want to look into
POPiN
for inclement weather. It lets you pay per minute or hour
at local gyms.

The apps I used were Charity
Miles
, a free app that donates to charity on your behalf like
any sponsored run, Spotify, and
Scribd
for all the times I wanted to listen to audiobooks
instead.

Healthy grocery delivery 3-4
Two-Serving Meals Plus Snacks, available at Hungryroot, $69


Grocery Delivery, available at Instacart, free delivery on orders
over $35

If you’re working and training, sometimes heading to the grocery
store is a nice break. Other times, it’s a chore and your muscles
are sore and your hair is wet. For the latter, it may be good to
treat yourself to
grocery delivery like Instacart
.

Or, use a healthy eating meal kit service. You’ll give up some
autonomy in making your own diet, but it’s also unbeatably
convenient. My personal favorite is
Hungryroot
. The ingredients are healthy and fresh, the
packaging relatively eco-friendly, lots of dietary restriction
options available, and the food is always delicious. 

If you’re doing your own grocery shopping, focus on proteins and
carbohydrates and
keep these rules of thumb in mind

 

Source: FS – All – Interesting – Lifestyle
15 must-have pieces of gear that helped me train for my first half-marathon