Gearing Up

Tips for making your runs safe, healthy and satisfying.

Running may be the original stealth sport. Expensive extra equipment, green fees, permits or reservations aren’t required. Extensive travel isn’t necessary. Minimalism prevails.

Purchase a pair of appropriate shoes, shorts, a top and a hat. Venture outside and put one foot in front of the other for an extended distance at an advanced pace and fitness has begun.

Southwest Floridians get it. Festive holiday five-kilometer runs to coastal route half marathons and marathons fill the calendar year in Naples and nearby areas. Gulf-to-gulf relays and charity events are equally popular.

But enjoying long-distance running as a solo pursuit or with friends for recreation or competition and to its fullest requires proper preparation, diet and common sense.

A quality pair of running shoes is paramount. Experienced runners who have a favorite brand and style can often find good prices online. New runners purchasing shoes at a specialty store should test several pairs.

Retail shoe and apparel stores such as Naples On the Run should ask customers questions during the purchase process, like details about runners’ workout routines. That will provide guidance toward as many as a half-dozen options for quick test runs. The final shoe choice should provide the best combination of proper fit, running style, weekly mileage, etc.

Appropriate running apparel should include lightweight, breathable and quick-dry fabrics. Looser fits are best for arms and leg movement. A brimmed, breathable cap prevents overt sun exposure. Sunglasses, preferably polarized to reduce ultraviolet light and glare, are helpful. Using lubricants such as BodyGlide or 2Toms on sensitive areas will also prevent chaffing. It’s a runner’s curse with consequences including bleeding that quickly ruin a workout or race.

“There’s never too much lubrication,” says Marco Tona, manager of the running shoe and apparel retailer Naples On The Run. “I’ve found that to be extremely important. And use sunscreen, especially down here in Florida.”

Proper diets for runners vary. But in general terms, carbohydrate intake is beneficial for training or racing and protein helps recovery. Never use an energy bar, gel or other products during races unless you’ve used it while training.

“One thing I figured out from personal experience is that if you’re not a consistent caffeine consumer [do] not to consume caffeine on race days,” says Tona. “It can lead to some GI [gastrointestinal] distress.”

For new or veteran runners, consider joining a running club. Many training groups, like Gulf Coast Runners and North Naples Runners have a variety of workouts and social gatherings. The Gulf Shore Runners meet two nights and two early mornings per week. North Naples Runners meet three mornings a week.

Following runners’ commonsense practices recommended by many coaches and national organizations like the American Running Association (ARA) is also paramount to success.

“The two key things about running are to see and to be seen,” says Susan Kalish, former ARA executive director. “You need to know where you’re going, what you’ll find there, and whether drivers can see you coming.”

Commonsense practices also include:

• Running behind vehicles at intersections. Even if a car or truck has stopped at a stop sign, there’s no guarantee the driver has seen you.

• Never wear headphones. It diminishes a runner’s ability to hear a car horn, a voice or a potential attacker.

• Run with a training partner or group. There’s strength in numbers. Running is an ideal form of cardiovascular fitness. Accepting and completing a challenge can simultaneously be exhilarating, satisfying and enjoyable. But without proper preparation, diet and commonsense practices, runners can also easily experience frustration or injury and quickly consider a new fitness activity.