Each year, we have new athletes joining the ranks of Evergreen Vikings Cross Country, and that means new parents who may not be familiar with some of the gear commonly involved with the sport. With the Christmas season approaching, we thought we would provide this Holiday Gift Guide with some ideas for what to get the runner in your house. Note that these are merely suggestions, not team requirements, and the links provided are likewise simply examples of the items so feel free to shop around for the best deals. Also, for any clothing items intended for races please refer to the OHSAA Uniform Regulations to be sure they meet the color and logo requirements. Our team policy for shirts and tights under the racing uniform is all black.
Knit gloves – During the latter part of the season, it seems you can never have too many pairs of knit gloves. Few of the runners actually wear them during races, but they’re very useful for pre-race and for training runs in October.
Running Hats/Headbands – The 2016 season ended up avoiding any really cold weather, but typically the last several weeks feature lots of chilly runs. There are a variety of options, from ballcap style to beanies to headbands with ponytail holes in the back. You can find them just about anywhere you find fitness wear.
Running/Compression Socks – Another thing that takes a lot of wear and tear. Running socks tend to be more breathable than regular cotton socks and can actually help avoid blisters and promote foot stability.
Runner’s World subscription – Runner’s World is a great all around magazine dedicated to the sport. Lots of interesting articles and tips.
RoadID – Excellent safety accessory for those of us who run out on the road regularly. There are several options, including flexband style (think Livestrong) and velcro. The RoadID basically contains important emergency contact and medical info for the runner. Very highly recommended.
Reflective Running Vest – In our district, very little of our running is done on sidewalks. We run the roads, and sometimes we run closer to dawn or dusk. Reflective gear is always a good idea.
Pepper Spray – Another safety-oriented gift for those long runs out on the country roads. The linked product includes a velcro band to make it easy to hold while running.
Body Glide – Friction is bad. Long runs involve a lot of friction…think inner thigh and chest area. We’ll leave it at that.
Personalized Swag – Always fun to get personalized gear, and this site focuses specifically on running-oriented gifts.
Watch/Stopwatch – While not absolutely required, it is highly recommended runners have some sort of stopwatch to be able to time repetitions and intervals during workouts. It can be as simple as just a wristwatch with a timer function, or a stopwatch like the one linked that has multi-lap recall. It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 or $50 as long as it has a stopwatch function (some of the athletes even use their phones). The bonus is that they are legal to wear during races.
Compression Sleeves (Leg) – These can be very useful for treating or avoiding shin splints. Shin splints are typically caused by trying to run too hard (or too much) too quickly, and while we structure our training to minimize
Foam Rollers – “I’m SO SORE.” Post-run and post-race fatigue are a hallmark of XC training, and foam rollers can provide an excellent tool for improving recovery and flexibility (see here for a quick example of exercises). Amazon has a wide selection, or you can check with the local running shops.
Training Journal – As distance runners, we can put in a LOT of miles in a season. One of the best tools for improving over time is also one of the most simple: a journal. Keeping track of runs not only has practical applications in terms of measuring total miles per week, but also mental applications by serving as a means of accountability. It is also very rewarding to be able to look back at past workouts and see progression, and useful to know practical things like a sweatshirt with a compression shirt underneath is too much for a 55F day.
Cold Weather Clothes – Again, during the cooler fall days or early spring days, and especially over the winter, layers are a must. Base layer clothing like long-sleeve compression shirts (think “Under Armor” style) and tights will get a lot of use, and outer layers like track suits, running jackets and windbreaker pants can address a variety of conditions.
Distance Spikes – The terrain we race on is varied and challenging. As with a stopwatch, while not a required piece of equipment a good set of spikes makes a world of difference in high school cross country. The great thing is that these spikes also work for track, and unlike regular running shoes they’re only worn for races and thus tend to last more than just one season. Sprinter spikes tend to have a lot of plastic and “nubs” all over the forefoot, where distance spikes tend to have more of a waffle sole with removable recessed spikes. Sets of spikes (or even individual spikes) can be purchased and swapped out according to the conditions (ex – 1/8″ for track vs 3/8″ for a muddy XC course), and they can even be taken out completely to serve as racing flats for a road race. These shoes tend to be lighter and narrower than regular trainers, so it’s a good idea to get the athlete fitted for them at a running store even if you end up purchasing online.
Training Shoes – This is THE single most important piece of equipment for a runner, and not all shoes are created equal. Literally all that comes between the runner and the road is the pair of shoes on their feet, and those shoes take a pounding. Every runner is different, so it’s important to get a pair of shoes that fit properly and provide the right combination of comfort and stability. While inserts can be a good idea in some cases (especially if you have overpronation because of flat feet and have sports orthotics from your podiatrist), running shoes are designed to provide adequate cushioning and stability for normal running. Expect to get roughly 300-500 miles out of a pair of running shoes, and it’s recommended that they be used only for running and not for daily wear if possible. As with the spikes, it’s a good idea to get your athlete fitted for shoes at a running store. A good pair of running shoes will run anywhere from $65 to $115+ depending on what fits best and where you purchase. Ask the coaches if you have any questions.
GPS Watch – One of the most useful training tools to come on the scene in the past ten years is wide availability of GPS watches, and with that wide availability has been a reduction in price for basic models. The key features that are great for high school runners are total time, total distance, and current average pace. The last is tremendously useful for mile repeats when you’re trying to hit a target pace and aren’t on the track where the math is easy. Some function purely as a running watch, others like the Garmin Forerunner 230 can also serve as a daily wristwatch, connect to heart rate monitors, and can even synchronize with a smartphone app. You can check out the DCRainmaker site for buying guides and great product reviews, and feel free to ask Coach Schwan if you have any questions.