Welcome to “On the Run,” a Strategist column in which we ask discerning runners to tell us everything they wore and brought on their most recent run, from shoes and socks to headphones and energy gels. Running-gear preferences are very personal and change depending on the season, so instead of declaring one pair of shorts or one sports bra the categorical best, we hope this series captures what works best for one particular runner on one particular run — and that maybe you can find something in it that works for you, too.
For this edition, I spoke with professional runner Nia Akins, a member of the Brooks Beasts Track Club, who competed in the 800-meter race in the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials. When she isn’t training for the upcoming indoor-track season (which kicks off January 29 at New York City’s Millrose Games), Akins keeps busy with her other passion: recording feel-good music to help her stay positive even when things don’t go her way on the track. Her first song, “Smoke,” which she wrote during the Olympic Trials last summer, is available for download now. Here, Akins tells us everything she wore for a tempo workout on a mild, misty day along Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail.
Akins admits she’s had her Garmin for “a really long time” (her model has since been replaced with the Forerunner 55), but it’s still working perfectly after years of running. “It’s been with me for most of my career and I haven’t felt like changing it,” she says. While some other GPS watches have more advanced features, Akins says she only needs the basic functions the Forerunner 35 provides: pace, time, and distance. “I’m actually pretty notorious for not looking at my watch,” she says.
Wireless and compact, AirPods are Akins’s headphones of choice for running. She’ll often use her runs as time to work on her own music, listening to snippets she’s recorded as voice memos. But when she’d rather get out of her head, she turns to her go-to “catchy-song playlist.”
On the recommendation of her team’s nutritionist, Akins follows every run with a mixture of whey protein and Gatorade electrolyte powders to aid recovery. “I personally really like mixing the Gatorade flavors,” she says. “It’s an acquired taste.” Compared to other protein powders, she says the Now Sports formula dissolves easily, isn’t chalky, and doesn’t have a pronounced taste so it blends well with whatever Gatorade flavors she feels like combining. (The Now Sports protein is also recommended by nutritionists and personal trainers we’ve surveyed). Since both supplements come in powder form, she can travel with them and just add water to make her shake.
Being a runner and a singer presents some unique challenges, as Akins sometimes experiences “track hack,” or congestion and hoarseness after a tough run. To get her voice back in shape, she relies on Ricola cough drops. “They’re like candy to me,” she says. “They were recommended by a friend who also sings and she uses them before she performs.” A few drops help clear her throat so she can go from practice to the recording studio.
This portable massage gun — that’s popular among physical therapists and other runners — is a regular part of Akins’s recovery routine. “My hamstrings have a tendency to just go to sleep on me, and I use the Hypervolt to basically wake them up,” she says. Experts say the vibrating massager loosens up muscles by increasing blood flow.
One of our favorite running shoes, the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, is Akins’s pick for fast workouts. “They ride really close to the ground,” she says, “and have a good amount of support in them.” As a Brooks-sponsored athlete, all of her running clothes are also from the brand. For this run, she wore the Chaser shorts, Pick-Up tank, and the Drive 3-Pocket sports bra under a light rain jacket she only kept on for the first few warmup miles. “That’s my favorite Brooks outfit,” she says. “I wear it for most of my workouts.”
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