I’ve always thought running gadgets were for the more seasoned and experienced runners, but as it turns out, us rookies are just as equally gaga for them. One particular doodad goes by many a name: fuel belt, energy belt, hydration belt – but they all now mean the same thing to me: life saver!
I simply could not turn my nose up at energy belts after suffering an unwelcome bout of dehydration during the SAF run. A smart runner would have a backup hydration plan should water stations become scarce or non-existent in a race. However so far I’ve never thought about picking up a fuel belt because firstly, they are rather expensive for what I saw back then as being just a waist pouch with water bottles, and secondly I always thought they were more suited for people who ran at least half marathons (21km).
When I stumbled upon this handsome unit from Salomon called the XR Energy Belt, paired with a modest but enticing discount, it became mine within an instant. It’s unnerving how trauma turns you into an impulsive buyer.
The belt itself weighs around 150g and comes with 2 water bottles that could hold about 200ml each. There is a zipped pouch in the center where you could store other personal artifacts such as energy bars, car keys, a small towel, identification cards, etc. Once you’ve loaded your energy belt, you could easily be looking at hauling at least half a kilogram or slightly more. But as the water empties from the bottles and into your body during the course of your run, the belt weight inevitably gets lighter and your runs can go a bit faster with less burden.
In order to be comfortable running with the fuel belt, I needed to incorporate it into my weekly runs so that I could get used to carrying and running with the extra weight. I’ve always seen runners wear these things with the bottles and center pouch facing to the back, so that’s what I did. And since there were two bottles, I decided to fill one up with an energy drink and the other with good ol’ H2O. I would later regret putting in the energy drink.
The first time I tried running with the belt in this manner was annoying: no matter how much I tightened the belt using the padded straps and velcro, it somehow always rode up my waist and reached my tummy level, after which it will circumambulate until the center compartment reached my torso sides or even to the front. The fact that the bottles, when full, go ‘squish squish squish’ as I made my strides also stressed me out.
However I noticed that when I ran in more proper form, the belt behaved and pretty much stayed in place. A-hah! So that’s what you want me to do, run in proper form, that I can do! In a way the belt forced me not to be lazy with my form. But eventually the belt would do its swinging gig and the next thing I knew the bottles had moved from my back and plastered to my stomach.
My second try with the belt saw me not fighting its tendency and giving it the position it so craves for when I run: the front! My, what a difference in feeling that simple change made, I could run more comfortably and confidently! The belt stayed in place! Sure, the ‘squish squish’ sound effect was still there, but at least the darn thing stayed in place when I moved. One key thing I had to be mindful of when the belt is in this position is not to slouch forward in tandem with the added weight.
It was also during this time that I forgot I had fizzy isotonic drink in one bottle, so as I popped the nozzle up for a refresher, I got a huge squirt. Two girls who were walking in the opposite direction stared at me like I was a complete ninny. There I was covered with sweat and isotonic drink. Nice move, Fairy.
As I did a third attempt with the belt, I resorted to only filling up water in the bottles, and a small towel bunched up in the pouch to fill out the space and stop my car keys from jiggling against my phone. Now we’re talking, I’ve perfected the art of carrying the thing.
One sort of good thing that came out of me using the energy belt is me putting away my iPod in favor of wanting to listen to the splashing sounds of water in my bottles (which I had grown strangely fond of) and to tune more into my natural surroundings at the lush park (minus the elderly aunties and uncles who yak loudly when they walk, during which I’ll sprint like Speedy Gonzales – ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba!).
Over time I hope to get better at running with the XR Energy Belt. The next thing I want to tackle with it is… to run faster!