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?


My days are numbered. Biking days, that is. Each week that goes by in September, the mornings get darker and most definitely colder. I rode to work on Tuesday last week and it was pitch black when I first woke up (luckily it got light enough by the time I left) and it was freezing. I could see my breathe in the air, dew was on the flowers in the yard. I knew almost immediately that I would regret not digging out my cold weather gloves but I skipped them anyways. Yep, I did regret it. It was so cold I could barely feel my fingers. My toes weren’t much better.

I imagine I only have a few more weeks biking to work and then I will be resigned to weekend rides when the weather is decent or spin class.

My ride home was a little bit different. Instead of going home, I rode my bike from downtown to the Springwater trail to the Cartlandia food carts just off the trail. I met Michael for dinner at that burger cart we visited a few weeks ago. This time, we did not split a burger!

The Rock House Grill — Take Two! The place wasn’t to crowded, which was weird because it was such a nice day out. We sat in the beer garden but skipped the beers (they were a bit pricey). Next time perhaps.

Now, how was the burger? It was great! It looks bigger than it was. It was big, but the bulk came from the pound of spinach leaves and thickly cut tomato slices. I also had them put avocado on mine, which made it even taller. It’s a mess and difficult to eat but it’s delicious.

I liked the flavors a lot, smokey and salty. The hamburger patty itself was super thin, which I also liked. It didn’t feel like I ate a big mound of meat.

Total Biking Stats for Tuesday: 21.23 miles.


I wore my cold weather gloves this time! I felt much more comfortable on my ride. I’d dressed appropriately and didn’t feel too cold. I was sore from Wednesday’s weight workout (after about a month off from strength training) so I was a bit slower. My hamstrings and glutes were not too happy with me (thank you squats and lunges).

On another note, my office is participating in the Bike Commute Challenge for the month of September. I actually signed up this year and am logging my miles for the team. Our team has 766 miles logged as of this week so far! The number would be even higher if I could add in my weekend rides. Boo!

Anyway, it’s been a good summer in terms of biking. I feel like I was able to ride a lot more this year than last year, despite the flat tires and bike issues I had earlier this summer. I wish summer wasn’t coming to an end. I’d like to bike to work for  just a little while longer…

QUESTION: Have you participated in a bike commute challenge?