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Keep Your Running Shorts Short

10/01/2014 09:07 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST
Jordan Siemens via Getty Images

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Most of us with legs can run but not everyone chooses to. Running is a serious commitment and much more than simply putting one foot in front of the other. To run is to understand the body as an engine and a mechanism; a practice that pushes our limits and increases endurance and strength. Running is exhilarating and therapeutic; it is a lifestyle and a state of mind.

There are several different running styles, and each of them asks for its own equipment and apparel for top performance and comfort. Next to running shoes, the choice in running shorts is paramount because it affects the reach of a runner's stride.

Running styles and apparel

Developed in the 1930s, interval running is enjoying a renaissance right now because this type of training burns more calories faster than any other running style. According to New Interval Training, interval running is known as Fartlek, Swedish for "speed play" that integrates varied speeds for continuous aerobic training that results in a faster race pace.

"True Fartlek allows the athlete to run whatever distances and speeds they wish and to 'play' with varying the intensity, occasionally running at high intensity levels, occasionally at lower intensities."

James Pillow, runner and president of an online college running store, Fancastle.com, began running using this method. He says interval running is the preferred training style for the "couch to 5k" group, because this running method effectively gets people up off the couch to train to run a 5k race -- a method less intimidating than the running-as-fast-as-you-can-until-your-feet-bleed idea.

Interval training constantly changes speeds, so runners need to be aware how their apparel affects their performance. Running shorts need to have ample and unrestricted leg room to accommodate for stride and pace.

"Any type of clothing that is not cut for freedom of movement will add some type of resistance, be that from wind or fabric," Pillow says. "Typically, runners have enough resistance from the elements, so they want the least amount of resistance from their clothing."

Fabio Fernandes, a long-time marathon runner from Toronto agrees that the cuts of running apparel matter.

"So much depends on my freedom of movement when I run," he says, "so I wear race-ready shorts that are high-cut on the leg with no restrictions to impede my stride. Serious runners wear short shorts often with a split side seam, as opposed to long shorts which would drag on the leg and restrict extension."

Marathon runners like Fernandes opt for gear that is light and fluid, in breathable fabrics with good wicking properties. Wet or damp running clothes increases the risk of chafing, so "stay-dry" synthetic textiles that move with the body and wick away moisture into the air to evaporate are optimal.

Many brand names have been developed for athletic brands like Nike's Dri-Fit brand, DryRoad from Road Runner Sports, smart performance fabric engineered for Sport Science Wear, or basic microfiber textiles like Fancastle's running shorts. (For a clearer understanding of athletic engineered textiles, this site sorts them out.)

Though your running gear will hold its shape and colour after many wears, your garments may take on a smell that is difficult to remove with regular washing. Stay-dry fabric is made chiefly of polyester fibres, and polyester traps the bacteria in our sweat -- this gives athletic gear a sweaty, musty odor. Depending on the severity of the smell, try hanging your running clothes outside in the sun, a natural deodorizer, and/or soak your clothes in a bucket of vinegar and water for several hours, then wash and repeat if necessary.

Chafing: a word of caution

There are differing opinions on whether or not to wear underwear under your shorts on a run. For runners like Fernandes, an extra layer under the running shorts causes unnecessary chafing. Running shorts already have a gusset, or soft inner liner, so he runs au naturel and applies a layer of Body Glide, an anti-chafe and anti-blister product without parabens, petroleum, and not tested on animals. A slick of this barrier can be applied to feet, arms, and the groin area.

Marathon Training also says no to undies and says the gusset will suffice. However, His Room suggests that gents wear an athletic supporter, "to lift, support, and cradle a man's testes/scrotum against his body. A man's "jewels" hang in place with delicate cord and muscle tissues. Shock or strain on these cords and muscles can result in injury."

Running shorts for men are as important as sports bras for women. No matter what level of support you need, keep your man bits intact because an injury to these fragile parts could keep you out of the race entirely.

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