OK, it’s the start of the new year and that means it’s time for all of us to ratchet up our commitment to running and fitness, right? Yup, that’s certainly my intent, too, and for me that means it’s time to get down to the brass tacks of consistent training and planning out my year. I’m not a fan of spending money just to have cool stuff, but I am a proponent of investing in healthy things that will pay off throughout the year.
1. Invest in a new running shoes
I’ve always found that early January is a great time to buy a new pair of durable, high-mileage training shoes as a means to kick-start my running. No, that doesn’t mean spending $130 to $170 (or more!) on a new pair of kicks will help me become a better runner, but it will inspire me to run more. I believe happiness can truly be found in a new pair of shoes that fit well, feel good and put an energetic spring in my step. Already have a good pair of shoes? That’s great, because adding a new pair to your quiver will help you get maximal wear out of each pair.
My best advice is to visit your local running store to make sure you try on a few models and narrow the selection down to one or two options that fit your feet and match your gait style. That’s a really good idea this year, because most running shops are overflowing with inventory of very good 2022 shoes. (If you would rather just shop online, you’ll miss that valuable try-on process, but you can still find great deals at FleetFeet.com and RunningWarehouse.com.) In fact, knowing that there are dozens of (regular-priced) new shoes coming out in February, I would consider stocking up now on a few pairs of shoes for the rest of the year, if you can leverage the funds to make it happen.
Three of my favorite 2022 training shoes that you should be able to find at closeout prices include the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v12, Hoka Clifton 8 and On Cloudmonster. But you also might find some screaming deals on 2021 shoes like the ASICS Novablast 2 if you do a bit of internet searching. Looking for a great low-budget shoe? Consider the versatile Brooks Launch, which is normally a $110 shoe but available now at a $10 discount at a lot of sites.
2. Invest in gear that improves your experience
I’m pretty frugal when it comes to buying new running accessories, but I tend to spend money on gear that improves my experience and not on things that are essentially just fashion upgrades like new jackets, shirts, hats or shorts. I burn through a lot of socks, but I’m happy to wear my running clothes from 5-10 years ago just as long as the shoes on my feet feel good.
As for new gear that debuted recently, I love the Roll Recovery R8 Plus ($169) for working on soft tissue soreness and fatigue before and after runs; Shokz OpenRun bone-conduction headphones ($130) because they simplify my ability to safely and effectively run with music (or listen to podcasts on the trails); and Norda’s 001 G+ Spike shoes ($330) for exceptional traction running on all of the snow and ice I’ve encountered in Colorado. Also, I’m saving my money for a Suunto Peak 9 Pro smartwatch ($699), because it does everything I could ask it to do and it has an easy-to-use, intuitive interface. But at that price I might be waiting several months.
3. Invest in sleeping better
I really don’t sleep much — typically about 4 hours per night — but I know if I want to reach my endurance-oriented goals this year I will need to prioritize it more. For me, that means doing a better job of scheduling my waking hours — including when and where I’m going to run every day — and shutting down at a decent hour every night to assure that I get good sleep. To improve my slumber, I recently invested in a Cosmo Performance Pillow from BedGear that’s soft on one side and firmer on the other. It is extremely ventilated and breathable. So far, it’s been a game-changer, but the best thing I’ve done to improve my sleeping is embark on my own personal Dry January quest of temporary sobriety. Truth be told, I didn’t drink much alcohol last year, but I found even when I had a single beer at night, it would throw off my rhythms and make for inconsistent sleep. (And two beers would ruin the productivity of the following morning!) No, I’m not a teetotaler and have no judgment about alcohol intake, but so far I like the break. I’ve never understood the concept of non-alcoholic beer, but I have to admit I love the Cerveza Atletica (lager) and Upside Dawn (golden) brews I had this week from Athletic Brewing. We’ll see how this goes!
4. Invest in race registrations
Nothing inspires me more than a long-term goal, which is why I find that signing up for a big goal race in the second half of the year is the perfect motivational carrot. Picking a race (or races) that far in advance gives you plenty of time to start training and get fit to optimally enjoy the experience.
I’ve already registered for the Chicago Marathon on October 8, but I’ll probably sign up for a summer trail race like the Never Summer 60K on July 30 in Gould, Colorado. While it’s increasingly difficult to get into the country’s biggest marathons (Boston, Chicago, New York), there are plenty of other races worth considering, including the March 19 Los Angeles Marathon, June 17 Grandma’s Marathon, Oct. 28 Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon and Dec. 3 California International Marathon. Just make sure you’re following a training plan of at least 12 weeks for a half marathon and 16 weeks for a marathon so you can really enjoy the journey to the finish line.
I’m grateful to have had opportunities to travel to numerous international trail running races in recent years and would highly recommend the wide range of events in the ever-expanding UTMB World Series (especially the Doi Inthanon Thailand event in early December), as well as the July 15 Laugavegur Ultra Marathon in Iceland or the on Sept. 9 Patagonia International Marathon in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. I’ve never been to Africa, but I’ve always wanted to run the Big 5 Marathon through the African savannah. I’ll have to wait at least another year for that one.
Even though I only speak English and Spanish, I’ve found there truly is a universal language of running that transcends culture and brings people closer together. Traveling to an overseas race and immersing yourself in the local culture, food and history — even for just a few days — is an engaging way to learn about a new place and appreciate people who share your same passion for running. To me, that’s about the best investment a runner can make.