6th April 2017.One of the best aspects of running as a sport is the very low barrier to entry: all you need to begin is a good pair of running shoes, after all. From there, it's just a matter of you, the road ahead, and how long you can push through stride after stride. However, while shoes are the only item necessary for running, there's plenty of other gear that can make your efforts easier, safer, and more comfortable. In fact, every runner should think carefully about their "kit" and what items they choose to include. While everyone's choices will be a little different, there are ultimately at least five essential items that every runner should consider including in their kit. From clothing specifically suited for running to even perhaps a gadget or two, you can enhance and improve your running experience with relative ease. However, it is also important to balance gear with your actual focus on running. Sometimes, with technology, it becomes all too easy to succumb to the distractions they offer rather than using them to improve your running ability. With all that said, let's dive in to what gear you should rely upon when you warm up and start your daily run.

Water is essential for runs both long and short

It's a no-brainer that you need to hydrate to be able to run effectively and without harming your body. However, it goes beyond simply making sure you drink water frequently throughout the day. Developing a good level of hydration is just the first step. You should strongly consider adding some water-related supplies to your running kit. The form it takes is up to you, though. It could be something as simple as a BPA-free water bottle, for example. This safe and reusable plastic makes it easy for you to keep a quick drink handy when you start feeling parched. There are more involved options, though, that are ideal for long distance and heavy runners. Take a closer look at hydration belts to see what we mean. These items, which sit snugly on your hips, hold one or two small water bottles right at your side, making it easy to reach down and grab one, rehydrate yourself without stopping, and put it back into place. While not everyone needs a belt, it can be much easier than lugging around a heavier water bottle that disrupts your stride. Regardless of the solution you choose, every runner needs some kind of gear for water.

Dress for success: choose light fabrics

We already know that the right running shoes are paramount to your success, but what about the rest of what you wear outdoors? Yes, the clothes you put on are just as crucial to your comfort. Anyone who has ever gone for a run while dressed in a cotton t-shirt can attest to the fact that by the end, you wish you hadn't worn it at all. Cotton, like many other natural fibres, soaks up moisture like perspiration and doesn't dry easily. As you can imagine, that's not comfortable at all. It prevents your body from cooling off as it should during a run ? and in cold weather, it can chill you deeply. The solution is to make sure your running kit includes plenty of "technical" fabrics or clothes made from naturally wicking fibres such as silk. Polypropylene and several branded fibres yield lightweight and comfortable clothing that pulls sweat away from your body and allows it to evaporate quickly. You gain running attire that's more comfortable while avoiding many other problems. Keep several running outfits in your closet, including high-visibility clothing for runs in the evening and during inclement weather.

Track your split times and personal progress with a racing watch

When you first begin running, how fast you are isn't important. It's simply about marking off those kilometres. The more you travel, the more you know you're improving your skills. Once you can reliably run without stopping for a reasonable distance, though, every runner starts to ask themselves the same question: "Can I do it faster?" To make it easier to keep track of how you're doing ? especially if you intend to start running in competitive races ? purchase a wristwatch suitable for racing. Sports watches can be straightforward and basic or highly advanced with tonnes of advanced capabilities. Again, what you put into your kit is ultimately your decision. On the basic end, you will have the standard timing capabilities: a stopwatch and the ability to take split times or lap times. These are useful for keeping an eye on your progress as you run so you can adjust your pace accordingly. In other products, you might find GPS-enabled capabilities to track your speed and distance throughout the run in addition to your time. For the stat lovers out there, these offer an excellent window into your performance capabilities. If you choose a way to keep time, though, you'll be able to monitor your improvements.

Protect yourself from the sun: sunscreen, glasses, & more

Let's spend a few minutes thinking about how to protect your body from the elements. Unless you spend all your time running on an indoor track or using a treadmill, you'll expose your body to the weather of the season. On every day but the rainiest, you'll also be vulnerable to UV radiation from the sun. Protecting yourself from the elements is simply a matter of adding the right items to your kit. First, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF is ideal for runners. Liberally apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of your body before heading out to run, especially on clear days. To protect your eyes from sun damage, wear a hat or invest in a pair of snug sunglasses for runners. You may even want to use a lip balm with a sunscreen component to protect your lips. Remember that even on cloudy days, though, some UV still reaches the surface of the earth. You can use a lower SPF sunscreen, but you'll still need some. Additionally, if you choose to run in the rain, consider a light poncho or even a windbreaker to make yourself more comfortable.

Get amped up and engaged: using headphones while running

Finally, let's turn our attention to throwing in some items that can help you enjoy your run more. If you've ever worked out to music in the gym, then you're familiar with how much extra energy it delivers. Consider picking up a pair of earbuds or headphones you can wear while running ? choose a model that will stay snug in your ears and won't distract you. With your favourite tunes pumping through your headphones, the kilometres could fly by in a rush of excitement. Headphones allow you to enjoy spending time customising a playlist for your run. What songs will help you get the best results? A word of caution, though. Wearing headphones while running does reduce your ability to be aware of your surroundings. Get into your music and allow it to inspire you to run harder, but be careful as well. Always take your earbuds out when preparing to cross a street or when encountering heavy traffic. Avoid staring straight ahead; keep looking around continuously to always know what is around you and what is happening. Whenever you feel unsure about your safety, pause the music so you can pay closer attention.

What items will you put into your kit?

Overall, we think the above items cover the essentials runners should consider bringing with them. Of course, it's not always safe to wear your earbuds during a run. At other times, you might want to focus on your surroundings, so eliminating all distractions is a better idea. However, everyone needs water and comfortable clothing. Pay a visit to your local athletic store to peruse the products available and start building up your running kit. Ultimately, you are free to include even more items or experiment with variations as well. What matters is accumulating gear that helps you prepare for success. Whether that's a fitness tracker with a GPS unit built in for mapping your routes or a simple wristwatch with basic timing functions is up to you. How will you equip yourself for success?