All the must-have items for a summer workout in Hong Kong
Don't let the heat and humidity get in the way of your exercise regime— here's our pick of the best gear to keep you working out all through summer
The popularity of running in Hong Kong has mushroomed in the last 15 years. Back in 1999, just 1,500 runners took part in the annual Standard Chartered Marathon. In January 70,000 people filled the streets for the 42km run. There are even four ultramarathons in Hong Kong, each of them over 100km. However, doing any kind of athletic exercise at this time of the year - whether it's running, hiking or cycling - in Hong Kong is not easy.
There is, of course, one easy way of coping with heat and humidity - avoid it. "If conditions are too adverse, like running in that heat and humidity lately, I recommend running indoors on a treadmill, or start outdoors and finish indoors, or vice versa," says Olivier Baillet, top Hong Kong triathlete and triathlon coach (beyondthelinecoaching.com).
If the "dreadmill" isn't for you, here is some guidance, gear and gadgets to help you through the heat.
Forget your last weekend stroll around the shops; running is a serious business that demands specialist equipment. "Basic running gear is a running shirt and shorts made of quick-dry fabric," says Derek Kwik, ultramarathoner. "A digital music player, sunglasses, a running cap, a hydration bladder or bottle, compression calf sleeves and a GPS watch are also standard fare," he says, though he stresses the importance of proper running footwear. You can find Advanced Multisport Optics (AMO) Gale Trail running sunglasses at gonerunning.hk while 2XU do compression calf sleeves (HK$420, 2xu.com.hk).
Picking the coolest time of day to run is common sense, but humidity is the thing that needs to be addressed. "For clothing, people tend to fall in two camps - loose or tight," says Bailett, who supports the latter. "Though tight clothing may feel warmer in the beginning, once it's wet with sweat, it gives a feeling of freshness that loose clothing does not."
There's another reason: loose clothing, when wet, tends to cause chafing, while tight clothes don't, so keep things close with the 2XU Project X Tri Shorts (HK$1,162, racingtheplanet.com) and Compressport ON/OFF Multisport Shirt (HK$790, escapade.com.hk.
Run slower, run shorter; that's the best advice for heat and humidity, though you'll still need to stay hydrated. Here, it's a choice between a hydration backpack or running belt that can store a water bottle. Let distance decide. "Backpacks are more bulky than hydration belts or hand bottles and they change your running position," says Baillet, who doesn't recommend them for triathletes. "For triathlon training, we stay in the city so I recommend a maximum of 500ml-750ml. Refuel regularly, either by hiding a bottle or two somewhere you know you'll come back to, or stop at a 7-Eleven or equivalent."
Baillet recommends the CamelBak Delaney Podium Chill Bottle (HK$420, escapade.com.hk). FuelBelt Revenge R2O hydration belts(HK$310, fuelbelt.com) and the Ultraspire Isomeric Magnon bottle (HK$320, escapade.com.hk).
Backpacks like the CamelBak Octane XCT (HK$814, escapade.com.hk) are ideal for other athletes, from trail runners to cyclists. "It's different for trail running, where it makes perfect sense - you may not find water refill points for hours, and you run slower when you are on the trails," says Baillet. Also ideal is the PB Adventure Vest 2.0 (HK$1,350, gonerunning.hk), which has plenty of pockets and two large water holsters.
Before long, expect all kinds of runners to be wearing Apple's Watch Sport (from HK$2,728, Apple Store, IFC Mall, tel: 3972 1500), Motorola's Moto 360 (HK$1,822, Concept Digital, Wan Chai Computer City, tel: 2574 8806) or Samsung's Gear 2 Neo (HK$1,720, hk.mobilefun.com For now, they're good enough for those starting out.
"The smart watch is still in its early stages of development so the first generation watches are not practical," says Kwik, who thinks that the technology will quickly improve. "An Apple Watch without an iPhone within Bluetooth range is completely useless other than telling the time, which means you must carry both devices during your exercise," says Kwik, who prefers more traditional GPS watches. "Real runners continue to use proven brands such as Garmin, Polar and Suunto," he says. The latest models include the Garmin Forerunner 920XT (HK$3,599, sportsworld.hk), Polar V800 (HK$4,480, price.com.hk) and Suunto Ambit 2 (HK$6,180, overlander.com.hk).
Although the heat and humidity will increase your heart rate, some think a heart rate monitor function is overrated. "Knowing my precise heart rate during training or competition makes little difference to me if I finish in 300th place or 500th place in a marathon," says Kwik.
Heart rate tracking may not be critical for all, but it's increasingly standard even on affordable tracker wristbands like the sweat-proof Jawbone UP3 (HK$1,588, jawbone.com).
These are exploding in popularity, but long distance runners should resist the temptation of wireless Bluetooth models; they can run out of power after just a few hours. "I use wired, water-resistant headphones to guard against sweat and rain," says Kwik, who avoids Bluetooth altogether. "My runs last between four and six hours so a wired set of headphones are more practical."
Cue the Sennheiser OCX 686G Sports (HK$493, valuebasket.com), Bose SoundSport (HK$1,280, bose.hk) or the unique Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless (HK$1,799, foresoon.com.hk), which features an in-ear heart rate monitor and voice coaching tips as you run.
For runners who like to finish with a swim, the all-in-one Sony Smart B Trainer SSE-BTR1 (HK$1,980, sony.com.hk) is a 16GB Walkman with Bluetooth that means you can leave your phone at home. As well as being sweatproof it can be used underwater.