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Posts from the ‘review’ Category

Compression Socks

A few years ago when I was watching the New York City Marathon on television, I was quite intrigued by Shalane Flanagan’s choice of socks.  What in the world was she doing wearing those compression socks?  Since then, I have seen more and more athletes wearing these socks, and even my husband wears them for his long runs.  Recently my doctor recommended that I start wearing them to help with my lower left leg.  So now I’m curious…

My question, what is so great about compression socks and why should I be using them?

Photo Source: Zimbio

Compression socks were originally developed for people who had circulatory problems or forced inactivity.  Since then, athletes from many different sports have started using them as a way help performance and speed recovery.  The reasoning: during exercise blood can pool in the legs which leads to fatigue and muscle cramps.  With compression socks, the tight elasticity promotes blood flow which sends blood back to the heart.  With increased blood flow, there is less fatigue and muscle cramping.  There is also more oxygen being delivered throughout the body.

Not all compression socks are alike.  They actually come in different sizes (mid-calf, knee, thigh) and in different pressures gradients.  Depending on the pressure you are looking for, you can either buy them over the counter or you will need a prescription from your doctor.  (I had no idea doctors wrote prescriptions for socks!)  The over the counter socks come range in pressure from 10 mmHg – 15 mmHg to 15 mmHg – 20 mmHg.  And if you are looking for a little more pressure, your doctor can prescribe socks up to 50 mmHg.  Compression socks are tighter around the ankle and foot and then loosen up along the upper part of the leg.  In addition to helping promote blood flow through the body, some of the other benefits are increased oxygen delivery to the muscles, accelerated lactic acid removal, stabilization of the lower leg, minimized muscle fatigue and enhanced balance.

At first, I was quite skeptical about these socks.  However, if so many elites are using them, they have to be worth something, right?  In addition, the science supports the theory of increased blood flow and less muscle fatigue, which is definitely pushing me in the direction of getting a pair.  Compression socks are sold basically where you can get anything running related and the prices can range from $30 – $70, depending on the brand.  I have never worn any so I do not have any experience or reviews to share, however, Runner’s World has a nice article about the different types of socks and what they are good for.  Maybe my husband will let me borrow his so I can experiment with this increased blood flow.

Happy Trails, Happy Running, and HAPPY FRIDAY!

Tracie

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The Foam Roller

Before I get started with my question and answer session tonight, I just want to say it is amazing how what you think to be one simple question, can quickly grow into a much more complex answer.  My goal today was to keep the topic simpler than the last three days because my brain can only handle so much science in one week.  I assumed a simple topic such as foam rollers would be the way to go.  Oh what is it they say about assuming…?

Day Four

Question: Why foam roll?  And what are the differences between all of those different colors and sizes?

I’m sure most of us have seen people (or maybe even done it ourselves), rolling around with a look of pain on their faces on what seems to be a random piece of foam.  I purchased my own last year and I often times look at it as a form of punishment rather than a form of self-therapy.  It hurts.  But why? And why is it good for runners?

I once heard someone say that our bodies become what we do.  If we run all day and use the same muscles over and over, they will get tight.  In our body, we have connective tissue just below the skin that wraps around and connects to muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels.  The muscles plus this connective tissue (fascia) form the myofascia system.  When we overuse this system, underuse it, injure it, or simply don’t stretch it enough, it all gets stuck together and then forms knots, or trigger points.  When the myofascia system gets knotted up, we experience pain, soreness, and a limited range of motion.   This can lead to further problems for the runner if these “knots” are not worked out.  Enter the foam roller….

The purpose of the foam roller is to knead out those knots and break down scar tissue.  You use your own weight and the density of the foam, to work out those trigger points  By using a foam roller you are releasing and lengthening the fascia, which in addition to breaking down scar tissue, can increase range of motion.  A foam roller does what a good sports massage can do, but it’s significantly less expensive and much more convenient.

Foam rollers come in all different shapes and sizes.  From what I have read and researched, I have found five different types of foam rollers.  The softest and less expensive foam roller is the low density foam roller.  It costs about $12 and in my opinion, is good for a back support.  I’ve tried the white foam roller and it did absolutely nothing for me.  It was just too soft and didn’t even make me hurt.  Not my first choice.  Going up a level, there is the EVA foam roller which is more dense and therefore, offers more pressure.  It will do a much better job at working out those knots, but does cost a little more – around $36.  The EVA foam roller will definitely last longer than the low density foam roller, and it will certainly do a better job on that scar tissue.  Another type of foam roller is the molded foam roller.  It is made from thousands of small high density beads, which are then compressed into shape.  This foam roller tends to last longer and it is often the one you see at the gym.  It runs about $30.

The last two types of foam rollers are quite different than your traditional ones.  First, the TriggerPoint foam roller uses zones, or a “unique matrix of varying widths and densities”, that allow for a more precision based massage.  Because of the different zones, you are able to apply different amounts of pressure to certain areas of your body.  This foam roller comes in two sizes, the 13 inch and the 26 inch.  The smaller would fit great in your gym bag.  Depending on the size you get, the price can range from $30 to $65.  Personally, I’m only foam rolling one leg at a time so I think the small one would work just fine.

And I’ve saved the best for last… the RumbleRoller.  The RumbleRoller, which looks and sounds much scarier than an EVA foam roller, has a bumpy surface instead of a smooth one.  The bumps are similar to the thumbs of a massage therapist and are better suited for kneading the contours of your body.  In other words, you can apply more direct pressure on that knotty scar tissue.  I have never used one, but I imagine it is similar to the direct pressure I get on my legs during active release therapy.  Intense and painful, but totally worth it.  The RumbleRoller comes in two colors and two sizes.  The black one is firmer than the blue, and the smaller one is 12 inches long as opposed to the bigger one at 31 inches.  My massage therapist, who recommends the RumbleRoller, suggested the blue one.  Apparently the black roller is just a little more intense than what most people can handle.   The price can range from $40 – $70, which is quite a bit more expensive than the $12 low density roller.  However, I’m willing to bet this one is much more effective and that it will last much longer.

So there you have it.  Foam Roller 101.  Although I currently have a molded foam roller, I really want to try the RumbleRoller.  Maybe I’ll put it on my Christmas list…


Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

My medical team

Margarita Activewear: A Review

I must admit, I’m always on the look out for new running gear and my tastes have slowly moved from Target to Nike to Lululemon, and unfortunately the price continues to go up.  However, in the name of not chafing, it’s all worth it to me.   Recently, I read an awesome product review of Margarita Activewear from Live Run Yoga and was quite interested in this new brand.  For one, they claim to be better than Lululemon (which is  quite a tall order)  and two, the name of the company is Margarita Activewear – sounds like my kind of company!

As luck would have it, Kellie from ActivewearUsa.com emailed me on Friday and asked if she sent me any Margarita Activewear item of my choice, would I review it.  By Monday afternoon, I had my new tank and by Tuesday afternoon I put it to the test.

Appearance
Before going into performance, here’s a brief overview on Margarita’s style.  When I first visited their website, it was very clear they had a style all their own.  From funky colors and flower designs to polka dots and tye-dye, I wasn’t quite sure I was going to find something I would like.  However, I chose a super cute black tank with blue criss-cross straps across the back and am now considering these pants to match.  They had some other tops that were a little more revealing, but I personally would not be comfortable wearing them.

Daisy

   


Performance

When I first opened my package on Monday, I was immediately impressed with the feel of the top.  Margarita Activewear is made from a material known as Supplex in addition to Lycra.  The Supplex gives the top a super soft and breathable feel which is definitely comparable to anything from Lululemon.

I tried out my new Margarita tank for my Tuesday speed workout.  When I tried it on, I felt like the straps were cutting into my underarms.  It felt slightly uncomfortable and it had me wondering if maybe I should have chosen a different size (or maybe if I should have stayed away from Emily’s cupcakes =P).   Once I started running, however, it didn’t bother me.  It felt great and it did everything I would expect from a good workout top.  The three main things that I really liked were:

  1. The material was soft and did a great job of wicking away sweat
  2. It had great support and everything stayed exactly where it was suppose to, no extra sports bra needed (which I absolutely loved).
  3. Even with a super supportive built in sports bra, there was never any chafing.

One problem that I’ve had with other tanks is that they will move- either slide up or twist and turn.  I was really impressed at how well this top stayed put, and yet was so breathable.  This was a big plus for me.  My main problem with the top was the way I felt the straps cut into my underarms.  If you are someone with broader shoulders, you may want to stay away from the criss cross design.  Other than that, this is a great workout top.

Cost
As far as price goes, the tank cost $63, which is on the more expensive side.  But in comparison to other high end workout gear, it’s fairly reasonable.   I checked out a few other brands and Nike can range from $50 – $64, Brooks from $38-$53, Asics from $48-$60, and a comparable tank from Lululemon is $52.  However, even they have one that costs $64.  So if you are not concerned with a extra few dollars, then the price is within reason for what you get.

Conclusion
When considering high end active gear, Margarita Activewear falls right in line with other top of the line athletic companies.  The price is comparable, the material is great, and the support is amazing.  The one thing that really sets Margarita Activewear apart from the other companies is their style.  If you’re interested in adding a little spunk to your workout wardrobe, then this is certainly a brand worth trying.   Their workout  clothes are stylish, comfortable, supportive, and are worth becoming a part of your running wardrobe.

Margarita 4

Running Music (and finding new recommendations)

When it comes to the debate of whether or not to run with music, I am very much pro-music.  Music inspires me, motivates me, and can change my mood from bummed out and lazy to ready to take on the world.  Case in point: during the last mile of my long run this past weekend, I played Fort Minor’s Remember the Name and I finished it in 7:18 – for me, music is powerful.

I’m always on a quest to find new music.  Once I start rapping the words to Eminem, I know it’s time for a new song.  But music is something that is completely a personal preference.  Whereas I may like some rap to get me through long runs in the rain, someone else may like something a little more mellow.  Therefore, stalking out other people’s running playlists may give you a few ideas, but it might not always be the exact music you are looking for. I speak from experience.  This past Saturday I spent quite a bit of time in iTunes listening to the playlists of Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Sara Hall, Josh Cox, and many other elite athletes.  I got a few ideas but still needed some songs that would get me through those last miles.  I don’t remember exactly how I came across it, but I found a pretty cool website to recommend some new music for the workout playlist.

Jog.fm is a website that recommends workout music based on what you’re doing (running/walking/cycling) and how fast you you’re doing it.  For example, if you want to run a 9:00 min/mile, Jog.fm will suggest songs that are best suited for running at that pace.  If you are training in a particular heart rate zone, it will recommend songs that will keep you in that zone. You can also search songs for what’s new, what’s hot, and which songs are the most added.  The feature I like the most on Jog.fm is the ability to preview the songs directly from the website.  This avoids the time and energy spent going into iTunes and having to search for the songs.  There is also an app you can purchase for $2.99.  However, based on the reviews, your $3 are better spent somewhere else.   Apparently the app doesn’t work like it is suppose to and Pandora is a much better free option.  So if you stay away from the app and use the website as a way to get some new ideas to add to your playlist, you’re certain to find some pretty good music.  I would also like to add that some of the recommendations for target heart rates and paces seem a little off to me, but again, music is completely personal.  Redneck Yacht Club might work for you at 170 bpm, but I prefer a little Panic! At the Disco.  It’s just a pretty cool website to broaden your music library.

Good luck finding some new running music, and I always welcome any of your recommendations!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,
Tracie

Garmin 405

This past summer I went to Mexico and made the mistake of packing my Garmin Forerunner 110 in the outside pocket of my suitcase.  Needless to say, when I returned home from the airport, it was gone. For two weeks I debated on spending the $200-$300 on another Garmin, but like a miracle, Amazon sent me a message saying the Garmin 405 was on sale for $150.  With one click shopping, the Garmin 405 was on its way to my house within 5 minutes. (Sigh of relief.)  Sure, there were mixed reviews, but this Garmin did more than my previous one and it was cheaper. I didn’t see the problem.  Maybe I should have paid attention to the reviews.

When I first got it, I opened it and started playing.  The first difference I noticed was how many more options there were than the 110.  I could set courses, have a virtual training partner, transfer workouts with the ANT agent, (which I LOVE) and easily view the history of my past workouts.  To this day, the only extras I have used are the history menu and the ANT agent.

I had read a few complaints about the Bezel and wasn’t quite sure what it even was until I received the watch.  Come to find out, the bezel is the round thing around the face of the watch that allows you to switch screens simply by sliding your fingers in a circular motion.  I keep my bezel locked because it’s too difficult to try sliding your fingers with the appropriate pressure while running.  Honestly, all I really care about is my pace per mile anyway, so it serves no purpose to me.  It’s a feature that I can keep locked, therefore, it really isn’t a big deal… until stuff starts to go wrong.

I’m currently on my second Garmin 405 and will soon be on my third.  I’m not exactly sure why it goes crazy like it does, but I’m almost 100% certain it has something to do with the bezel. About a month after I had the watch, it literally went berserk.  Beeping, blinking, off, on, you name it. Luckily the battery was almost dead so it didn’t last too long.  I’ve been on my second Garmin 405 for about three months and it was doing just fine until this past Saturday.  When I walked out into my living room at 6am and heard it beeping for no reason, I knew there was a 50/50 chance it wasn’t going to work for my run.  The moment I got the satellites to lock, it went from the “Bezel Locked” to “Bezel Unlocked” screen non-stop, and beeped every single time it switched. After a pause for some water, I couldn’t get the time to start back up (it was too busy deciding whether it was locked or unlocked), and it continued to beep every single moment of my run.  When I came home, the beeping continued and I was getting quite irritated.  There was nothing I could do, not even switch screens or start the timer.

When it’s working, the 405 is great, but the bezel opens you up to the possibility of so many malfunctions, it’s just not worth it.   If you’re a runner who relies on your Garmin (maybe a little more than you should), this is not the device for you.  You never know if its going to go a little bonkers and start beeping like its a watch with a vengeance, or if it’s going to function like it should.  Thanks Amazon, but perhaps there is a reason for that super discounted price.

Garmin, I will be contacting you about another replacement BUT I would love it if I could switch models.  I don’t want the 405 anymore.  I could care less about all of the extras and the bezel.  I want the reliability of my Forerunner 110.  It never once gave me any problems, and I’m still sad someone stole it.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,
Tracie

Pace Per Mile – An Update (And Why I love the Running Community)

When I decided to write my first “critical” review of a website, I was a little nervous. Offering a review of a website that seeks to help the running community was uncharted territory for me, but I went for it.  Last night I posted about Pace Per Mile – what they did great and what needed a little work.  Well when I came home from an awesome run this afternoon and had a direct message from Pace Per Mile, I thought this could go one of two ways – thanks for the input or either some not so great feedback.

What did PPM have to say?  To my surprise and much excitement, they were writing to tell me they had fixed one of the kinks mentioned in the blog post. (Deep sigh of relief.)  I immediately wrote back to say thank you and that I really appreciated them listening.

The one thing they have fixed so far was my biggest issue.  Now, when you click on a link from @PacePerMile, instead of being taken to an archive of all of their news articles, you go directly to the article.  This definitely saves time and allows you to read exactly what you clicked on.  No more “control F.”   I tried the Race Calculator again and it still isn’t giving me any results for my pace per mile, but  I’m hoping this is something they are working on.  Runners love this tool because we always want to know how fast we’re going.  I’ll also be checking for some of their shows and hopefully the music will be put on pause while Kevin and Chris are talking.  Like I said previously, they have a lot of great information and great interviews that are worthy of a listen.

And on a side note, I would like to say I am thankful to belong to a community of dedicated and positive people who are always trying to grow and be better.  I think we all have the same goal in mind – to help people like us (runners and athletes), get the best information out there and to have access to the best possible tools.  Thanks Pace Per Mile for caring and being a source of information for us runners.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,
Tracie
Boston Note: Training going well. Awesome easy 7.2 miler today @ 7:49 pace.

Pace Per Mile – A Review

Some of the older people in my life don’t quite get the importance of Twitter and all of the possibilities it offers.  I try to explain to them that it gives you the opportunity to converse, share, and learn from others, who you may never have actually come in contact with during pre-Twitter era.  I, personally, have learned so much from my fellow runners and feel like a better athlete because of it. I mean really, where else can I follow elite athletes and learn from their day to day training tips?

Recently, Twitter introduced me to Pace per Mile – the “1st Place for Endurance Radio.”  Cool, free things to listen to while I get ready in the morning AND lots of great articles to read.  Well… I haven’t found it to be the easy access to an endless supply of information I was hoping for.

First, let me explain what Pace Per Mile does well.  They have a staff of well educated athletes who know their sport.  Kevin Leathers and Chris Nicholas get great interviews with running legends like Bart Yasso and Scott Jurek.  There is a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be uncovered on their website.  Their news section covers all things running related, and you can even find people who report on local events in your area.  I submitted an inquiry to be a reporter for North Carolina back in early December and am still waiting to hear back.  (By the way PPM, I’m still interested.)

So why am I struggling with making Pace Per Mile my “1st Place for Endurance Radio”?  The first problem I noticed immediately from clicking on their Twitter links.  They share links about energy gels, upcoming races, shoes, etc., and instead of taking me directly to the article when I click on the link, it takes me to their news page where I have to in turn search for the article.  I don’t think I should have to use “control F” to find an article I already clicked on (or so I thought).  Which brings me to my second issue – organization.  The articles in the news section are not archived or tagged in any sort of way.  This makes it very difficult for me to search specifically for running gear, nutrition, or whatever it is I want to know about.

The endurance radio part of Pace Per Mile has been quite a struggle for me as well.  I haven’t made it through all of the shows, and maybe that’s because my ears couldn’t take it.  There was music playing the entire time in the background which made it INCREDIBLY distracting.  Yes, I am a woman and can multi-task but that was pushing it.  I did notice there were some interviews with Bart Yasso, Kristin Armstrong (who I love), and Amby Burfoot, and in fast forwarding through the episodes, they were mostly sans music (phew).  I’m sure these are definitely worth a listen, and as long as the music DJ takes a break, I’ll gladly tune in.

Perhaps my biggest issue with PPM comes from the fact that so many links, including the Race Calculator link, do not work.  The name of the website is Pace Per Mile and I can not even calculate my pace per mile with their race calculator?  Maybe it is a temporary malfunction, but I did try it in three different browsers and on three different computers.  Not cool PPM.

Pace Per Mile, I want to check in with your website daily. I think you have a lot of great information, but it’s just not easy to follow.  Make the links a one step process, kill the music during the radio shows, and please fix your race calculator.  It’s a must have with a name like Pace Per Mile.

Happy Trails and Happy Running everyone!
Tracie