All About Gear

Last year I wrote a post, I Don’t Know Where to Start, that addressed the most common issue with weight loss: “I want to lose weight but I don’t know where to start.” It’s normal to feel that way. Check out some of my other posts if you need some motivation: How to Exercise Regularly21 Days to a New LifeStarting Over.

So if you’re just starting a workout program and you’re not sure where to start, this post is for you! It was inspired by an email from a long time reader:

“Hi! I’ve been a follower of your blog for a few years now and I want to start swimming for exercise. Are there any tips/advice you can share with a beginner? Wondering if a cap is necessary, how many minutes/laps to start with, what brand of goggles, etc? Maybe you already have a blog post like this, not sure? Thanks!”

It’s a fantastic question. I’ve written a lot of posts about swimming and you can check them out here:

My Favorite Swimming Gear

Swimming Tips for Beginners

So You Want to Be a Swimmer

But what do you REALLY need when starting a workout program? Honestly, you don’t need much. You can get all the bells and whistles and spend a lot of money on gear but it’s not necessary.

What You Need: Swimming

A lot of what you need starting to swim is based on personal preference. If you want to go the simple route you need a swimsuit, goggles and a swim cap. That’s pretty much it. My personal preference is to have ear plugs and nose plugs. I’m just more comfortable with those extra things and they don’t cost much.


Try different goggles. I can’t really recommend a specific brand or style because it really is based on what fits YOU. I’ve tried a million goggles over the years trying to find the right ones that fit my eyes and don’t leak. I’ve settled on TYR goggles but Speedo makes some good models, too. The swim cap is recommended for two reasons, whether you are male or female: 1) it’s good hygiene in the pool (no one wants to see clumps of hair floating around) and 2) it’s so much easier to enjoy your swim when you don’t have to mess with your hair in your eyes.

What You Need: Cycling

Read Michael’s post: Day Zero – Bike Purchases. It’s very informative. So, you need a bike, a helmet and probably a decent pair of cycling shorts for comfort.

When it comes to cycling, you can go into debt buying all sorts of fancy things: the shoes, the sunglasses, the gloves, the gear…You have to decide what is absolutely necessary because really you just want to be comfort sitting on your bike and protect your head.


I have arm warmers, compression tights and click in shoes. I also have various types of clothes depending on the weather. Weather can be unpredictable in Portland so I need stuff for rain and sunshine–we can have both in a single day.

What You Need: Running

All you really need for starting to run is GOOD SHOES. Get fitted at a running store before you start any program. Prevent injuries before they happen. I cannot stress this enough. It amazes me when I see people running in shoes that looks 10 years old. When I got fitted at Foot Traffic, I was fitted for Brooks Ravenna. Love them! They are fantastic.


That’s it. That’s all you need! Good shoes. But if you want to get a little more…I recommend some good wicking clothes (you don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy Nike clothes–running shorts should not cost $60!). I love my Polar Heart Rate monitor and could never go back to working out with one. You don’t need one, though, and you don’t need a Garmin. There are so many free apps for iPhone that you can use for mileage.

What You Need: Weight Lifting

If you’re working out at home then you’ll want to buy some free weights, maybe a medicine ball or a kettle bell. If you’re working out at gym you’re set. I’d suggest gloves. You can buy gloves that are specific for lifting but I just use my old cycling gloves. It’s worked well for me for years. Gloves are a personal preference. I wear them so that when I get sweaty I don’t slip or drop the weights but there are some schools of thought that say gloves prevent you from developing grip strength. I also wear gloves to prevent calluses (which I’m getting anyway!).

A training journal or notebook is a good idea to keep track of what exercises you are doing, what weight you are at and how you’re progressing. When I started working out with Suzanne, I got a journal to record the workouts and my PT exercises. I can’t believe it took me this long to get one!

What You Need: Walking

Just like with running, you need good shoes. It’s worth it to spend a little money on nice shoes. If you are an avid walker and want to track your mileage, you don’t need to buy a fancy gadget or pedometer. If you have a smart phone, there are free apps you can use to track mileage. I use Cyclemeter because it tracks my miles for any activity I select. I use it for biking and running.

Bottom Line

Bottom Line: you don’t need to spend a ton of money to get in shape. Please don’t let cost keep you from starting your weight loss journey. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. And in the long run, getting fit and healthy will save you money!

QUESTION: What is your “must have” gear for working out?

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

16 thoughts on “All About Gear”

  1. When I first started exercising more seriously, I bought my clothes on clearance at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I couldn’t imagine spending $60 for a piece of black spandex!

    Now a year later, I wish someone had told me it was ok to spend a little more because I wear all the time and they need to hold up to multiple washings without fraying or fading. I’ve chucked a few of those “bargains” because they fell apart.

    My other advice is to look for bottoms with drawstrings. Almost all the bottoms I bought last year don’t have them. I can only wear them on the elliptical or walking because if I wear them to zumba or running I’m constantly hiking them back up. It’s crazy how few bottoms actually have a drawstring so maybe that’s a problem that only I have with sliding spandex?
    christi recently posted..Ten on Tuesday – Looking Forward to May

    1. The clothes are a hard part. Especially if you’re goal is weight loss. I spent SO MUCH MONEY on new clothes when I went down in sizes. I wish now that I had bought cheap/used stuff for the in-between sizes!

  2. My must-haves are shorts with a drawstring waist and that are long enough that they don’t creep up my legs. Also, shirts that breath for when I get hot and sweaty. I started out wearing cotton t-shirts, but the shirts with wicking really do help keep me cool so those are must-haves now too.
    The most important purchase for me has been shoes. Investing in quality footwear is where I recommend spending money especially if you are pursuing exercises on the ground like running or using indoor gym equipment. And going to a sports footwear store for a good fitting is something I recommend too – you may be surprised to find out you aren’t wearing the right size shoes. If my feet don’t feel good I have a hard time exercising!

    1. Great tips! I agree. I learned late in the game that wicking shirts make it so much better. Also, I get really hot and sweaty at the gym, so tank tops are preferred over something with sleeves.

  3. Finding quality clothing is so hard, especially when you are between sizes! I’ve gone through 5 pairs of bottoms since last summer, due to losing size or the pants losing elasticity. I have a pair I love, and I’d love to replace them with a smaller size, but finding them at a price that I can afford is insane. Next time I find them on sale, I am buying double!

    Things that are a must have for me: supportive trainers, my iPhone, my Polar HRM, and clothes that fit well enough!
    Cindy recently posted..Weekly workout wrapup

        1. That is so awesome! I’m you got one and love it. Doesn’t it make a huge difference in your workouts? It completely changed mine and I became so much more efficient with my time and energy.

  4. Love all the tips! It took me about three pairs of goggles to find ones that didn’t make huge circles around my eyes when I was done! I swam at lunch today as a matter of fact – and was wondering if they make ipods for water! After 40 minutes I was really bored. 😀
    Biz recently posted..Wonderful Weekend!

    1. So true! If something doesn’t fit right and ends up bugging me the entire time I get rid of it! I notice it more when I was running. That could REALLY ruin a good run!

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