Equipment for Combined Events: Cop or Drop?
BY HARRY KENDALL
Combined events require a massive amount of kit and equipment. That's because... you guessed it... they combine a lot of athletics activities!
In this blog, I will help you decide what kit is essential for your bag and what things should be left behind. It can be an expensive and confusing sport, so hopefully, you'll have more clarity after this article.
SPIKES AND SHOES
Let's start with everyone's favourite purchase, the spikes.
I use seven pairs of spikes and one pair of trainers for the decathlon, but it varies from person to person. For many events, you can double up your shoes. For example, I use the same spikes for 100m and 400m, the same throwing shoes for discus and shot put, and the same jumping spikes for pole vault and long jump. This can save you a fair bit of money, so you don't have to buy as many pairs, which currently go for at least £100 each! Many people also use the same spikes for high jump and javelin due to the extra heel spikes. I just prefer the javelin-specific spikes due to the additional ankle support.
A good pair of trainers is also essential, as that's what you'll be doing most of your training reps in and most of your walking in at competitions. A poorly suited pair of trainers can lead to slow times and, more importantly, bad injuries, which are a part of the sport, but also avoidable in many cases. Don't be afraid to go to a podiatrist or a specialist running shop and get them to test and fit shoes for you to find the right one because it could make all the difference in the long run.
SPECIALIST THROWS EQUIPMENT
Now we're going to move on to some more specialist equipment, which may be a little more pricey but could help in the long run.
Since I was around 18, I've had my own javelin, which I share with my clubmate, and it has helped me massively through the years and definitely led to many personal bests.
I have a Nemeth 70m rated javelin, which has worked for me as I've always had personal bests of between 50-60m, and I will hopefully improve in the future. It's important not to buy the wrong javelin, i.e., one with a very high distance rating. They are weighted differently and can lead to catastrophic injuries in elbows and shoulders. It can be a bit of a lottery with the quality of javelins you can have at competitions, so having your own reliable one is definitely a smart purchase.
WHICH SHOTS SHOULD I CHOOSE FOR MY ATHLETICS?
One item you can leave out of your shopping cart is an outdoor shot put. These are all very interchangeable, and they'll have different sizes at every competition. The cost-to-benefit ratio on these is not worth the purchase for an athlete, but if you can get your club to buy them, that could help.
An indoor shot put is a more valuable item due to its limited availability at clubs. These make it much easier to train in the winter, as cold hands and metal shot puts aren't a good combination. The main issue with these is they can break quickly if they are not well looked after.
Discus is another event where buying your own implement can have some benefit. At the same time, most competitions will come with solid quality implements, but as you improve, you'll notice that different discs have different advantages.
There's lo-spin, high-spin, and super-spin, along with different weight distribution around other brands. If you are to buy your own, it is worth doing research into the benefits and drawbacks.
RECOVERY TOOLS FOR ATHLETES
These days, there are hundreds of fancy and expensive recovery tools floating around. I'll narrow them down so you don't spend thousands on rocket ship technology that achieves next to nothing.
Here's a list of tools every athlete should own:
- Foam roller (vibrating roller optional)
- A golf ball (for foot management, will end up being your favourite piece of kit)
- A constant supply of ice (for baths, niggles and cooling down after a horrid lactic session)
- Resistance bands (for stretching, you'll have to buy them eventually for some rehab)
- A yoga mat (makes those core sessions and all that mobility work a bit more comfortable)
- A thermal heat pad (for relaxing tight muscles)
These are the primary tools I would make sure are in my kit bag for training and competition events, none of which should cost over around £10. Other items are often much more expensive and optional. I will, however, go over these shortly and demonstrate the benefits and the cost.
Aside from the essentials for recovery, there are more choice products that could do you good. One of the biggest trends at the moment is with recovery boots. These are the big, inflatable, astronaut-looking boots which cover your whole leg and apply compression to aid with recovery. Whilst these do make you feel slightly better afterwards, for a minimum of £500, I'm not sure they're worth the cost. You're much better off borrowing some from a friend/athlete/club/physio that you know, and if you don't know anyone with them, make sure you make friends with one soon!
Another tool which is widely used in modern-day sports is a massage gun. Essentially a modified jigsaw, these devices can get into some places that are hard to reach without assistance. The costs vary greatly, with some companies trying to convince you to spend hundreds of pounds on their model, whereas there are many available on Amazon for around £30/£40. Having bought one of these cheaper models myself, I can confirm they do exactly the same job, and it is absolutely not worth spending the extra few hundred pounds on an identical product. All in all, I would say this product is a handy tool to have and can definitely ease some aches and pains after a hard session.
USEFUL TRAINING AIDS FOR ATHLETICS
Now I'm going to move on to a more miscellaneous section of the blog, where I will go over a few less mainstream training aids. These may help you in different training predicaments, whether you want to level up your sprinting or you're forced to train on your own for a while.
Outside of your regular track work, medicine ball sessions are probably the most helpful supplementary workout for your training. These are incredibly beneficial for muscular endurance and straight-up power, making them ideal for combined events.
Medicine balls can be expensive, but there are lots of options available to you. Most importantly, you want one which rebounds so that you can do exercises on your own, with just a rebound wall to keep you company. They vary in weight, so it is easy to start with a light ball and progress as your training intensity and strength progress.
Now, while this won't necessarily be a direct training aid, it certainly will help make those long sessions and gym workouts more bearable.
Obviously, the main thing you want with headphones is for them to stay in your ears, in which case Airpods, whilst making you look good on Instagram, won't be the best bet for your athletics sessions. You can get a good pair of headphones for £20-30, and there is no need to break the bank for some which cost several hundred pounds.
CLOTHES FOR ATHLETICS
Now you'd think this would be an obvious one, but there are definitely some extra items of clothing which are much more useful than others.
A good pair of gloves cannot be underestimated! Cold hands are not what you need in a mid-throwing session or to distract you from the fun of a long-distance session. My staple for every training session below 15 degrees is an oversized puffy down jacket. It's crucial to stay warm during your sessions, and a coat you can throw on and off quickly can be a big help for this.
Now to things such as arm sleeves, calf sleeves, and sunglasses. Who knows if they have any performance benefits? They can look cool if you wear them, but definitely not in training. You should only wear all this extra kit if you're going to run well. You don't want to be judged as that guy with "all the gear and no idea".
I hope you found this piece helpful, and if there's even one thing in here which has rung true with you, then I'll consider it a success.
I'll be back at least once a month with more posts about all sorts of different topics, so stay tuned for more combined events advice.
ABOUT HARRY KENDALL
Harry is a decathlete who represented England at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham!
He has also won bronze at the 2021 British Athletics Championship, and he claimed victory at the 2022 English National Championship after scoring a record of 7843 points!
Currently a member of Tonbridge AC, one of his goals is to make it to the World Championships in Budapest next year.