Even though running is a pretty simple and straightforward sport, it’s easy to get sucked into the commodification of it.
Before you know it, you can get sucked into thinking that in order to be a successful runner, you have to have one of everything in the running market:
special shoes for running on treadmills, tracks, roads, and trails;
shorts of varying lengths that are designed to maximize your stride and speed while you’re running, without causing any chafing;
supplements that promise to make you injury-proof and resilient and that’ll help you recover from each workout with a swiftness of a superhero
…and on, and on, the list goes.
We, runners, are incredibly driven and motivated individuals, and when it comes to perfecting our craft, we’ll do just about anything for progress and improvement. Given that, it makes sense that the market for running “stuff” is so broad and diverse. Running “stuff” manufacturers know that, and they want to capitalize on runners’ desires to improve and make a couple bucks in the process.
Fear not though, friends. It is entirely possible to become an accomplished runner without falling down the rabbit hole of “stuff” and letting it consume your life, your living space, and all your disposable income.
Below, I’ll share in detail some tips for becoming a “minimalist” runner. While we tend to think of “minimalist” runners as folks who are wearing super lightweight running shoes, instead of the heavier, bulkier counterparts, “minimalist” runners can also be those of us who approach running from a more immaterial vantage point.
Tips for becoming a minimalist runner
- Ensure your essentials are stocked first. Luckily, running is a sport that doesn’t require much “stuff.” Ask yourself what your essentials are for your running. They may include the obvious, like a certain brand/type of running shoes or a GPS watch, or your essentials may include other less apparent elements, like a certain pair of sunglasses or a headlamp. Consider the types of running you do most often — on a treadmill, on trails, or in the dark, for example — as you consider what your essentials are. Think about how often you run (and do laundry) to determine how many of each essential item you feel comfortable having around at any given time.
- Before buying anything to augment your essentials, consider its importance to you. Disposable income and ready access to credit cards make it really tempting to just buy, buy, buy all the time without thinking twice about it. We’ve all probably done it before: we go to a race and see a shirt that we like, and we go ahead and treat ourselves to said shirt — even though we know we have twenty shirts at home, most of which we never even wear.
- Before you purchase any additional gear for your running wardrobe, ask yourself if the new purchase is important or meaningful to you. Granted, this sounds a bit cerebral, a bit Marie Kondo (“does this shirt bring you happiness?”), but hear me out. If we always buy things that we like, just because we can, we’ll eventually find that our closets and drawers have been overrun with running clothing that we “simply couldn’t live without” but that we never wear. Instead, I’d encourage you to challenge yourself to the 1 in, 1 out rule or some variation therein: for every running-related item you purchase, you donate or otherwise get rid of an item already in your possession. This will help keep your spending in check, and it’ll also help you stay on top of your material belongings before they overtake your living space and income. Of course, you can make exceptions to this rule on an as-needed basis, but by and large, hold yourself accountable. You can make do with less; I promise.
- Reconsider your gym membership; entertain the home gym option instead. Another way of becoming a more minimalist runner is to reconsider the utility of your gym membership. A lot of runners don’t want to spend their exercise time doing anything but running, and yet for some reason, many of us still hold on to gym memberships that we never, ever use. If this describes you, consider swapping that monthly gym membership fee for a one-time, up-front expense to equip your home with some gym trappings. What’s more, even if you don’t want to pay to have the basic dumbbells, kettlebells, or exercise bands at home, you can still very effectively have at in-home, equipment-free exercise routine in your living room each day that will supplement your running fitness. Even a cursory look online for bodyweight fitness routines will show you tons of workout options that you can do in the privacy of your own home, using your own body for weight, for free.
- Consider donating your medals. One last suggestion to help you become a minimalist runner: if you’ve raced frequently over the past few years, chances are high that you’ve amassed a ton of race medals. If you’re like most runners, you’ve probably got them sitting in a box on a shelf somewhere, simply taking up space and gathering dust. In contrast, you could donate your race medals to an organization like Medals for Mettle (medals4mettle.org) so that they can be given to children who are enduring extraordinary health circumstances. If you’re not doing anything with the medals anyway, what difference is it to you? Not only will you be able to minimize your personal effects from your living space, but more importantly, by donating race medals that you no longer want or need, you can make the world a brighter, happier place for a child in need.
Going Minimalist Should Be Simple
When you’ve decided to take a more minimalist approach to your running, not only will your environs and your housemates thank you for not overrunning them with all your running “stuff,” but chances are, your wallet and your stress levels will, too.
As runners, we don’t need to have 400 of everything on the market — despite what really targeted and convincing advertising may make us believe — nor do we have to hang on to every single memento for all eternity. Keep that which you use or that which brings you happiness and joy, and discard the rest; it’s really that simple.