‘Product Reviews’ Archives
It’s been awhile since I have reviewed a product that I am actively using as part of my training, but I have been relying on this one more and more lately, so I figured I should write about it. The calf compression sleeves from 2XU have been a standard part of my wardrobe for the past few weeks. What are they? Here is what’s written about them on the RoadRunnerSports.com website:
Targeting the calf muscle – a major driver in venous return from your lower body, calf guards can be worn during competition or used simply as a recovery tool. With similar benefits to compression tights but in a smaller package, calf guards improve circulation and protect against leg fatigue and muscle soreness. Essential training and recovery tool for people who need extra support through their calf region. Available with a foot stirrup for sports demanding shin protection or when support for the achilles region is required.
Why do I wear them? I have a long history of shin splints and tibial stress fractures. While I do not believe I have a stress fracture right now, every so often I feel some pain in my left shin and I believe it’s some inflammation in the muscle surrounding my shin. Wearing these compression sleeves helps to keep that muscle close to the bone where it belongs, preventing unnecessary strain on the bone… which could contribute to a new stress fracture. I am no doctor, but that’s what I believe. What I know is that the pain immediately goes away when I put them on… so I use them. As I continue to train for IronMan France, I am finding that it’s not just about managing the time required to fit all these workouts in, it’s also much about injury prevention and being very proactive about listening to your body and taking action as soon as possible. These sleeves are just one part of my action plan. I love them!
Want to buy some? Click here.
Ever since I was in college, I have been taking some sort of dietary supplement as part of my regular exercise program. Today, that routine consists of Mega Man from GNC, fiber pills (because once upon a time I couldn’t force a dump if my life depended on it), and glucosamine chondroitin (because I got tired of saying “no” whenever someone asked me if I took them). But I have recently added a new supplement to my hard workout days and races… and that is Chia Seeds. Yes, the same seeds used to transform the infamous chia pet can actually be eating and it has real benefit.
Here is a great article written about my new [not so] secret weapon. But the key point for me is the following:
One of the exceptional qualities of the Chia seed is its hydrophilic properties, having the ability to absorb more than 12 times its weigh in water. Its ability to hold on to water offers the ability to prolong hydration. Fluids and electrolytes provide the environment that supports the life of all the body’s cells. Their concentration and composition are regulated to remain as constant as possible. With Chia seeds, you retain moisture, regulate, more efficiently, the bodies absorption of nutrients and body fluids. Because there is a greater efficiency in the utilization of body fluids, the electrolyte balance is maintained.
This alone justifies ingesting the seeds before a long workout or race since it will help you avoid dehydrating by regulating how quickly your body absorbs fluids. But another interesting point is this:
As a source of protein, the Chia, after ingestion, is digested and absorbed very easily. This results in rapid transport to the tissue and utilization by the cells. This efficient assimilation makes the Chia very effective when rapid development of tissue takes place, primarily during growth periods if children and adolescents. Also for the growth and regeneration of tissue during pregnancy and lactation, and this would also include regeneration of muscle tissue for conditioning, athletes, weight lifters, etc.
I was introduced to these seeds (that look like poppy seeds, by the way) by my good friend Carl Rundell who is an elite marathon runner. The group he trains with uses them and has great success, so I figured if it’s good enough for them, then it must be good enough for me.
The first time I tried the Chia Seed was before my final long run in preparation for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. I finished 22-miles and felt tired, but nowhere near how I have felt in the past after that distance. In the actual race, I cut 36-minutes off my previous best and qualified for the Boston Marathon. Now, I can’t say the seeds made me qualify for the Boston… but they sure didn’t hurt!
On the ISM (Ideal Seat Modification) website, they state that studies have linked perineal pressure caused by straddling traditional bicycle seats to numbness, urinary tract and yeast infections, prostate inflammation and impotence. For male riders, in addition to the discomfort and numbness associated with a traditional saddle, there is an increased susceptibility to restricted blood flow, which can lead to arterial occlusion and permanent erectile dysfunction. For women, the restricted blood flow and hardening of the genital arteries can lead to an inability to reach orgasm. It has been found that as little as 11% of a person’s body weight can compress the genital artery!
I am really not sure I can put into words how much I LOVE this saddle. But I can guarantee that my grundle and any potential future children I might have could write a 50-page dissertation about it. I will summarize as best I can.
If we turn back the clock to June 2010, I was really just ramping up my cycling and had recently purchased a new bike. Said bike is a tri-specific bike that came with a tri-specific saddle (honestly, I can’t remember the type of saddle it was). During my first race, I would have sworn that I had to pee so bad that I thought I would explode; I pulled off to the side of the road to relieve myself. What did I find? Not only did I not have to urinate, my stuff was 100% numb. The sensation of having to go to the bathroom was actually just the feeling of pins and needles in my pee-pee. NOT a good feeling, but definitely a wakeup call that my saddle and I were not meant to be together. I started researching and demoing a bunch of different saddles.
After several different attempts (most were VERY stiff and uncomfortable), I decided to demo an ISM Adamo Racing saddle that I had sent to me from Tri Sports. Short version, I had zero numbing problems, but the saddle absolutely tore me up. I was on a 60-mile charity ride and by the end my inner thighs were completely raw and I was ready to throw the saddle away. But I soon learned that you really need to push an ISM Adamo saddle way up on the post in order to be comfortable, so I gave it another shot and it was MUCH better, but not perfect. But given the absence of numbess, I was ready to commit with the assumption that my body would adjust.
I ended up purchasing an ISM Adamo Breakaway (white). It’s a bit longer and more narrow than the other ISM Adamo models which I figured would address the issues I was having on my inner thighs. And I was right… I LOVE this saddle. I have it tilted a bit forward and pushed way up and it has been perfect since day 1. I find myself completely comfortable on anything from a quick 20-mile ride to a nice long 80-mile trek.
Take this review with a grain of salt. I was never a swimmer before 2010 and I have clearly never owned a wetsuit before now. But as I quickly became addicted to the triathlon lifestyle, it was clear that a wetsuit is an essential part of every triathlete’s gear bag. But which one to buy?? Should the beginner triathlete go for full-sleeve or sleeveless? Thick or thin? Cheap or expensive?
The decision for me was simple and it was based on none of the above. Basically, I borrowed a wetsuit (a Orca Men’s Sonar Fullsleeve Wetsuit) from a friend for the first open water swim race I ever participated in. We are built the same, so I knew the size would be perfect … and it was. And I am a bigger believer in going with what you know. If it works, why change it? So, I bought the Oraca Sonar. It has thickness in all the right places for some serious buoyancy to help those of us that drag their legs (Dragonfly Swimmer). It is thin where you want it to be; like in the shoulders for full movement allowing you to reach and pull without getting prematurely tired. With the textured plates on the forearms to help you pull, you look pretty bad-ass too.
I have now used this in several races ranging from olympic to half-ironman (and will be using it for the full ironman) races. It’s the perfect wetsuit for me and I have zero regrets. Now, if I were to do it again… how would I answer the questions above to pick another? Basically, I am a fan of the full-sleeve. It does offer a bit more buoyancy and it does not have the same risk of water filling up the suit as a sleeveless does. Also, full-sleeve is simply more versatile so you don’t have to worry about those races that are too cold for sleeveless. As for thick or thin? I guess something right in the middle. Too thin offers too little buoyancy while too much can be very restrictive. The Orca Sonar is perfect.
Finally, the Orca Sonar isn’t cheap. It’s clearly not the most expensive one out there, but for the beginner, it’s a lot of money to dish out (usually at least $350). But if you’re serious about performance and want to get the most out of your swim while leaving something in the tank for your bike and run, this is a GREAT way to go and well worth the money.
Want proof that I use it? Here are some pictures of me with the wetsuit in action…
- Timberman 70.3
- 1st Open Water Swim
I have now put about 60 miles on my relatively new Newton running shoes, so I figured it’s about time to give them a review. First, let me provide a little background about the shoe and then my reasoning for buying them.
Here is a blurb from the Newton website (http://www.newtonrunning.com):
When your midfoot/forefoot LANDS on the ground, the technology’s four external actuator lugs are pressed into hollow chambers inside the shoe’s mid-sole via an elastic membrane (ACTION). This movement absorbs shock.
As you LEVER inside the shoe, the lugs release their stored energy and propel you forward through a burst of energetic return (REACTION) from the Action/Reaction Technology™. You then LIFT your knee and begin a new stride.
Most running shoes use various forms of air, gel, foam or plastic to counteract the foot’s impact and response with the ground. But none of these materials capture and return energy like our Action/Reaction Technology™. With independent laboratory testing, 9 US Patents (other US and foreign patents pending), two Ironman World Championships, numerous world records and personal records, Newton Running shoes are superior to any other running shoe technology.
All that sounds great (if you could follow it), but the key point is this (my version of it, anyway): the shoes are designed with extra material at the mid-foot to help you be more efficient with your running stride by promoting a forward lean and thus much less impact on your heals… which has been what I believe to be the major cause of my stress fracture issues. And this explains why I decided the $175 it costs to buy these suckers was worth it for me. I had spoken to several people that use them and feedback has been all positive, ranging from “it cut 30 seconds off my mile” to ” I didn’t get faster, but I now have zero pain and run much farther”. That’s all I needed to hear.
Ok. So, after 60 miles I can now say that I LOVE them. Hard to say how much faster I am in them, but more than anything else I just find them extremely comfortable. Back in 2002 I had a pair of Asics Nimbus that I thought felt like slippers… I loved those shoes. But then they changed their design and I have been switching shoes ever since trying to find something that felt as good. THESE are as comfortable as those. Not the same level of cushioning, but they just feel great around my feet. And when I am running, they do indeed force me to run more on my toes which in turn I find to be much more relaxing, especially over longer distances. The fact that the shoes are very light also helps – these are the lightest shoes I have ever run in.
Now, the picture I included here doesn’t do the sole of the shoe any justice. The “lugs” they talk about on the bottom are barely visible in the picture, but trust me, when you first see them and when you first try them on, they are HUGE. But now, I really don’t even notice them. My biggest fear when first running in them was tripping with these big things under my shoe – especially running on sidewalks or on trails, I was afraid they would catch edges I wouldn’t normally hit and fall on my face. No issue – knock on wood, it hasn’t happened once.
And if any of you have heard of Chi Running or have been following other programs that teach runners to use shorter strides and to run faster by leaning, you will find that these shoes absolutely compliment those techniques very nicely. I am trying to follow the Chi Running techniques and I find that these shoes keep me in line and I believe prevent me from falling out of correct form as I get further into my long runs.
Two big thumbs up from me. If you have some extra cash, they are worth the investment. If you want to buy one, click here or the button below.
UPDATE: August 8, 2010
I have now put about 150 miles on these suckers and I still LOVE them. However, I have noticed some things that I thought others should know. First, the fact that the shoes are still holding strong after 150 miles is a very good sign. I was concerned about the longevity of these shoes and so far, so good. I will say that these shoes are surprisingly hot… or, at least they are for me. I find my feet sloshing around quite a bit and then my socks give me blisters. Not sure if that’s a sock issue or not, but I have now been running without socks (are part of triathlons) and I haven’t had the issue. Not sure – but I wanted people to know. Has anyone had this happen to them with Newtons?
Garmin 310XT – Is it possible to love a watch too much? I suppose the answer would be yes in some perverse way, but as a typical man that absolutely loves gadgets, I don’t think I could possibly love this watch any more.
Now, before I continue, let me say this to avoid controversy at home. Yes, I love the Suunto watch you got me for Christmas 2 years ago, honey. It has served me well and I am eternally grateful.
With that covered, this watch is SO much better. Granted, it looks like I am wearing an orange Rice Krispy Treat on my wrist, but the features are unreal.
Now, before I continue, let me say this to avoid controversy at home. Yes, I love the old Forerunner watch you got me for Christmas 5 years ago, honey. It has served me well and I am eternally grateful.
Why do I love this watch?
- Great GPS connectivity- My previous experience with a GPS watch was not so great. The original Forerunners really struggled to get signal, so I spent much of my time running with my arms above my head trying to get the perfect angle to stay connected to satellites. Not the 310XT – this thing gets connected almost immediately and I have yet to have problems keeping a signal.
- Multi-Sport Functions- You can easily set the watch up to track you through multiple sports (ie. a triathlon). Great for tracking your times during a race, including all of your transitions.
- Waterproof- You can swim in it and both the heart rate monitor and GPS actually work. That said, the GPS loses signal under water, so it’s not real accurate. [ UPDATE 8/16/2010: with the latest firmware release, the watch's ability to track me in the water is MUCH better. Still not perfect, but it's definitely accurate enough!]
- Customizable Views- I am a stats guy. I look at Quicken about 20 times a day to see where my financials are and I like looking at about 50 different reports that give me different views into what’s going on. The same basic principal applies to me doing whatever sport. I like to know how fast I am going, what my average speed is, my average heart rate, my overall time, my lap time… and you can see all that on this thing. The best part is that you can customize up to 4 different screens for each sport, so as I switch from biking to running, I can have speed based info (x miles/hour) for biking and pace info (x minutes/mile) for running. And when you’re in multi-sport mode, that just happens automatically. Pretty awesome.
- Wireless Transfer to PC- Once I get close to my PC, the watch just automatically syncs up to the Garmin training management program.
- GarminConnect.com – All of my workouts are automatically uploaded to the Internet where I can share them with people and/or view them on a nice big map.
The watch wasn’t cheap. It cost $399 – that’s a lot, but to me, very much worth it. If you are interested in purchasing, click here, or use the button below.
I was prescribed the Exogen Bone Healing System (from Smith & Nephew) as a way to speed recovery for my slow healing tibial stress fracture. The stress fracture was officially diagnosed on Labor Day, 2009 and still had not healed by January 2010, so after 2 x-rays and an MRI, my doctor prescribed Calcitonin Salmon nasal spray and for me to use the Exogen device.
A layman’s description of the device is that it’s a hand held ultrasound that you place over the point of fracture for 20 minutes a day. The concept is that the waves promote healing by stimulating bone growth.
Usage is very simple. Simply apply the fun lube to the transducer and place it into a holder that is then strapped over the point of fracture. Press a button and wait 20 minutes. You don’t feel anything – no pain and no relief from pain. The biggest challenge I have had with the device is how it needs to be placed directly over the point of fracture. Even through my leg is fractured, it is deep in my bone, so there is no longer any single point I can press on my tibia to help mark where the fracture is. What I have found myself doing is alternating placement between two different locations – one mid-tibia and one lower-tibia. Only one is right and the other I have to assume is some sort of phantom pain (I am a bit mental that way). At the very least, it is disconcerting that I can not pinpoint the fracture but still feel pain when doing certain activities.
So, what is my feedback on this device? It is impossible for me to know if my fracture has healed any faster from using it. All I can say is that after 2 months, I still had pain and a follow-up CT scan showed that I was healing, but not healed – so I stopped using it. VERY frustrating. I am not sold. I was hoping the device would be magical, but it has instead been a good party joke about how I have a device to heal my bone.
Warning: My doctors checked with my insurance (BCBS of MA) and found that the device was covered, so they gave me one. As it turns out, BCBS of MA only covers $750 of the $3,000+ device, so I am currently fighting with Smith & Nephew to somehow cover the cost as I was not informed correctly. I love my leg, but not enough to pay $2,25o for a relatively unproven device.