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On the Seventh Day of Christmas, I encourage you to choose a fitness challenge for January. (Yes, the Seventh Day of Christmas. go look it up if you don’t believe me!)

January is one of the biggest months for fitness and workout challenges! Lots of gyms, studios, and boutique fitness locations host a January challenge to encourage people to start to build healthy habits to back their New Year’s resolutions. For example, Gold’s Gym has a 12-week challenge for gym members only. Some OrangeTheory Fitness locations will start their transformation challenges in January. And it’s not just the big chains and franchises: a quick google search led me to wish I lived in Charleston, South Carolina so I could do the Ignite 2019 challenge at This Time Fitness.

Online Fitness Challenges Work Just As Well

Personally, I find that a fitness challenge is a great way to help me stay on track, and you don’t have to belong to a gym or studio to participate. One of the groups I managed on Facebook has had lots of success with a monthly-themed challenge. If you prefer to work out at home, want to save money, or you just live too far from any facility offering a challenge, there are LOADS of options. The same goes for not starting in January. Maybe you’re moving house, changing jobs, having a baby, or otherwise just not down with January. Many sites with streaming content, such as Yoga International, have all sorts of options that you can start any time you want!

In general, an online or virtual workout challenge will include (1) a workout plan or template, (2) a qualified professional (e.g. for a running challenge, a coach with Revo2lution Running, RRCA, or USATF certification), (3) a Facebook group or other forum for chatting with other participants, and (4) prizes (maybe). Not every challenge includes all of these items, and some may include more–videos, printables, etc. Depending on the challenge’s rules, you might be required to check in each day, submit photos, or provide measurements–but don’t let that stop you. MANY challenges don’t have any requirements, and you can play along with any challenge by doing the workout even if you don’t submit materials to win prizes.

I’m collecting up all the challenges I can find to share with you–pick one and jump right in! (There’s still plenty of time to choose and get ready!)

The Challenges

Run the Year 2019

Website: https://runtheedge.com/run-the-year-2019/
Challenge: Run 2019 Miles (or your choice of miles) alone, or as part of a team
Led by: Run The Edge (Adam Goucher, Tim Catalano, and friends)
Start/Duration: January 1 to December 31, 2019
Cost/Discount: $25, $37, $57 (depends on swag pack selected) $3 discount if you use my affiliate link: http://runtheedgestore.refr.cc/elizabethbain
Content: Basic package includes access to the tracker (online/mobile), RTY 2019 Mileage Guide and plan, private Facebook groups, access to RTY FIT (a community for planning meet-ups) and local/regional Facebook groups. I expect there will be some fun monthly challenges as well!
Swag: Upgrade to Deluxe to add a Challenge Medal, Legacy Coin for 2019, a mileage tracking poster and stickers. Upgrade to Get It All to add a hi-tech challenge shirt.
Disclosure: I have done this challenge every year it has existed, and I collect the Legacy Coins. I am the Lead FITster for Portland, Oregon and the moderator of the related Facebook group. If enough people use my affiliate link, I get credit to use in the Run The Edge store.

100ABChallenge

Website: https://www.blogilates.com/100abchallenge-begins-jan-1st-you-in/
Challenge: Perform 100 reps of a specific Pilates abs exercise every day
Led by: Cassey Ho, aka Blogilates
Start/Duration: January 1 to January 31
Cost/Discount: Free
Content: Printable calendar of exercises, daily video of each exercise performed by Cassey. (If you haven’t checked out the Blogilates YouTube channel, you should! There are free workouts in the app, too. Plus if you subscribe to the newsletter, every month there is a new workout calendar–free–with a theme or focus.) There is a designated hashtag for social media posting/community
Swag: None (but it’s FREE)
Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Cassey. Nicest most real-deal Pilates instructor I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

30-Day Be a Better You Challenge

Website: https://grokker.com/individuals
Challenge: choose from four challenge options (mindfulness, healthy eating, fitness, yoga)
Led by: Various instructors on grokker
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 31, 2019
Cost/Discount: Free if you are new to grokker, with a 37-day trial period (but after January 31, access to grokker is $14.99/month OR you can choose to pre-pay a year at $9.99/month OR you can cancel)
Content: 30 videos selected by the grokker team (but you also have access to all of the other videos on grokker during your trial)
Swag: Four winners who accrue more than 100 points will receive an an Apple TV; winners selected via raffle/random drawing from all eligible participants
Disclosure: I signed up for the yoga challenge–why not? I’ve never tried grokker. (Look for a review sometime later…)

The Barre3 January Challenge

Website: https://barre3.com/januarychallenge
Challenge: Follow the barre3 and Headspace Mindfulness Plan
Led by: instructors from barre3 (including founder Sadie!) and Headspace
Start/Duration: January 7 to February 3, 2019
Cost/Discount: $29 online OR $99 in studio
Content: Online option: unlimited access to 500+ Barre3 classes online (auto-renews on February 4, 2019 unless you cancel) OR Studio option: unlimited Barre3 classes in studio and free unlimited access to Barre3 online. Both options include one free month of the Headspace app, the Mindfulness Plan, and daily email with the daily plan.
Swag: None. You can purchase optional equipment (light hand weights, yoga mat, resistance band, core sliders, core ball) when you register.
Disclosure: I’ve enrolled in this challenge twice…and never actually finished it. Oops. Of all of the barre-based workouts, Barre3 is in my top two for quality of instruction and programming, and for being rooted in the science of movement. Unlike so many other barre-based workouts, this one won’t send you straight to the chiropractor!

Whole Life Challenge

Website: https://www.wholelifechallenge.com
Challenge: Commit to seven habits, every day, for six weeks.
Led by: Andy Petranek, Michael Stanwyck, and the WLC team
Start/Duration: January 19 to March 1, 2019 (additional challenges start in April, July, and September)
Cost/Discount: $39 for new players, $29 for returning players; $89 Annual Membership (four challenges)
Content: “The Whole Life Challenge is a six-week online, community-building, habit-changing game that challenges you to create a happier, healthier life by making small changes to your daily habits. Playing along with your friends, and family, you’ll score points every day, focusing on seven key areas of health and well-being: nutrition, exercise, mobilization, sleep, hydration, lifestyle practices, and reflection.”
Swag: Swag includes use of the app to track points, the Whole Self Assessment, and the online community. There are no prizes. The website includes free e-books you can read before you start.
Disclosure: I have zero personal experience with this one. A friend of mine who does shift work has, and he mentioned being disappointed that the app tracked the day as ending at a certain time, causing him to “lose” some days.

30-Day Get Strong in 2019 Challenge

Website: https://www.livestrong.com/article/1012163-30day-slim-down-challenge/ (blog post/preview) https://www.livestrong.com/get-strong-challenge/ (signup)
Challenge: 30 days of exercises and nutrition (new healthy recipes to try out)
Led by: Workouts by Jordan Shalhoub, other content by the Livestrong.com team
Start/Duration: January 2
Cost/Discount: Free
Content: Daily email with a workout, recipes, motivational memes, playlist, and tips and advice. In addition to daily-themed workouts, and a healthy tip for each day, each week also has a health goal. Challengers have access to a Facebook group just for challengers.
Swag: None
Disclosure: I have no experience with this challenge.

Fit Chicks 28-Day Challenge

Website: https://www.fitchicks.ca/challenge
Challenge: Daily workouts and nutrition plans for women to build habits
Led by: Laura Jackson, founder of Fit Chicks
Start/Duration: January 1 to January 31
Cost/Discount: $297 (though the website showed  me a $97 offer)
Content: 28 workouts under 30 minutes, 50 exercise tutorials, 8 streaming workouts, meal plans (vegan and vegetarian options available) with grocery lists, 45 simple recipes, healthy lifestyle videos, daily email motivation, Facebook group, private members site, email support.
Swag: None (that I know of); additional purchases offered at a discount
Disclosure: I have no experience with this challenge; I thought a challenge for women only might appeal to some of my friends. The challenge page has some video workout previews.

The Self Challenge

Website: https://www.self.com/join/sign-up-new-years-challenge
Challenge: workouts and fit tips, including suggested meal plans
Led by: contributors to Shape
Start/Duration: January 2, 2019
Cost/Discount: Free
Content: a workout plan, meal plans, nutrition tips, and more via email. Facebook group to talk all things challenge.
Swag: None, but there are prizes. Sweepstakes prizes include a vacation at the Grand Fiesta American a Coral Beach.
Disclosure: True confession, I have a soft spot for this challenge, which I first participated in way back in the 1990s. This year’s program includes 20 new bodyweight workouts, daily emails with motivation and advice, a Facebook group.

Gixo #FitForward Challenge

Website: Use Alyse’s affiliate link to get your free first week
Challenge: I’m fuzzy on the details right now, but I bet it’s a month of workouts and sharing on social!
Led by: Gixo trainers
Start/Duration: January 1
Cost/Discount: first week is free, then $19.99/month (or $14.99/month if you pre-pay a year)
Content: live audio and video classes via the Gixo app. These are NOT pre-recorded videos you can play over and over, but a live class, with an instructor teaching in real time, and other classmates sweating right there with you.
Swag: Unknown at this time–I’ll update as I learn more!
Disclosure: While I am not (yet?) a Gixo subscriber, I am a Sweat Pink ambassador, and Sweat Pink has an ongoing relationship with Gixo.

Lululemon 40/80 Challenge

Website: https://www.strava.com/challenges/lululemon-40-80-challenge-2019
Challenge: Run 40k or 80k in the first two weeks of the year
Led by: YOU!
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 15, 2019
Cost/Discount: Free (Strava’s premium membership, Summit, is optional; pricing varies–an “all three pack” is $5/month when you pre-pay a year)
Content: Go run! Use Strava to record your runs, or use a device (such as Vi) that connects with Strava.
Swag: Unknown–it’s a surprise every year. Last year there was a discount code good for online or in-store purchases. Also, you get a badge in the Strava app.
Disclosure: I’ve run this one, and am signed up for 2019. If you are training for a race, like to run with friends, or already track your miles, go for it!

New Year Yoga Reboot Challenge

Website: https://www.yogadownload.com/Challenge.aspx
Challenge: 3o minutes of yoga for 30 days
Led by: rotating instructors on the YogaDownload platform
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 131, 2019
Cost/Discount: $12 for one month of unlimited access to Yoga Download ($30 for three months, $90 for a year; all are cancel at any time)
Content: A curated selection of “reset” and “reboot” yoga videos. Log in each day, do that day’s video, and then leave a comment about how it went. NOTE: if you like the idea of a daily yoga challenge but the idea of “reboot” doesn’t do it for you, Yoga Download also has a variety of other challenges (e.g. 5-Day Evening Yoga, 2-Week Yoga for Busy People, etc.).
Swag: Unknown–there is a grand prize package, but I haven’t scoped it out.
Disclosure: I’ve had a Yoga Download membership for years, so I’m in!

 

Other Challenges…

In your neighborhood. Since January is absolutely the most popular challenge month, there are literally dozens of other options. Check the website for your local gym, yoga space, cycling studio, or boutique fitness class for special class packs and challenges.

Online. Also check out Instagram! One of my Sweat Pink sisters, Katie Arnold, aka @iamkatiearnold, is hosting a yoga challenge in 2019. You can read all of the details on her blog: http://www.talkless-saymore.com/weekly-workout-wednesday-13/

Did I miss your favorite? Drop a comment and share it!

 

Disclosure: Merrithew Health & Fitness sponsored Sweat Pink’s BlogFest at IDEA World Convention for several years, and I am thankful for their sponsorship and for the programming they provided. The prizes for this giveaway were provided to me by Merrithew Health & Fitness as part of Sweat Pink’s BlogFest with no strings, no compensation, and no requirements (e.g I was not asked to write a blog post, host a giveaway, or do anything else). The entire contents of this post, including all words and opinions, are my own honest opinions.

Hey, it’s time to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas! “Wait,” you may be asking, “wasn’t Christmas yesterday?” Indeed, it was! The Twelve Days of Christmas are actually the twelve days in between Christmas (the First Day of Christmas) and the day Christians celebrate as the day the magi (the three wise men/three kings) arrived, also called Epiphany. Traditionally, the last of the twelve days was the day you took down the Christmas decorations (I swear, I am not making this up). You know Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night? That’s about the twelfth night of Christmas. But enough of the history lesson…On the SECOND day of Christmas, I offer you this review and giveaway!

Merrithew Fitness Circle Lite (image from Merrithew website)

The Pilates Fitness Circle. If you’ve ever looked at a Pilates Fitness Circle and thought, “that’s a weird gadget that I can’t imagine doing much for me,” I’m with you—I used to think the same thing. (Pilates Fitness Circle Resistance Ring is a trademark of Merrithew Health and Fitness. You may also have seen a similar gadget called by another name: Pilates ring, magic circle, exercise circle, exercise ring.) Even in my Pilates classes, the Fitness Circle was largely used to help with body placement and awareness. It never occurred to me that the Fitness Circle had a role to play in athletic conditioning.

Workout. I took the DVD “Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle” for a test drive, using the Fitness Circle lite. (The Merrithew Fitness Circle also comes in two other models, flex and Pro. Flex provides less resistance and has a unique handle design that differs from the lite and the Pro. Pro is similar in design to lite, but is made of steel instead of plastic; as a result, the price for the Pro is $65.00 while the price for the lite is $34.99. It’s also a bit heavier than the lite.)  This workout is part of Merrithew’s CORE line, focused on athletic conditioning and performance training, so it is not strictly Pilates. According to Moira Merrithew, who introduces the workout, the 27 exercises in the workout are focused on strength, alignment, and efficient biomechanics. I now have an entirely new outlook on the Fitness Circle (and I’m glad I have one of my own!).

Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle (image from Merrithew website)

The workout is led by John Garey, a Master Instructor Trainer for Merrithew Health and Fitness. Two additional Merrithew Instructor Trainers (meaning they train teachers to teach the classes) demonstrate all of the exercises. John’s instruction is clear and detailed, carefully explaining body positioning and movement step-by-step. If you have never done any Pilates or mat-work style exercise before, you’re in good hands with John—just follow his instructions. Of course it is a video, so if you miss an instruction, you can take a look at the movement on the screen and follow along. That said, if these exercises are new to you, there are some exercises you may have a difficult time performing at the same tempo/speed as the DVD. I found this true of the hinge-back with rotation exercise.

The warm-up uses the Fitness Circle to assist with some stretches that may already be familiar to you. Throughout the workout, the Fitness Circle acts as a replacement for a yoga strap in some stretches, which limits both the range of motion (in a good way—making the stretch more stable) and the amount of tension on the wrists and forearms.

DVD and Fitness Circle lite
CORE Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle (and a Fitness Circle lite)

I was skeptical of the “Level of Difficulty” rating, which is four out of five. That is, until about five minutes into the workout, when there is a series of kneeling hinge-backs that incorporate the Fitness Circle. (A “hinge-back” from the kneeling position involves keeping everything from your knees to the top of your head in a line, and taking that line straight back to a 45 degree angle.) Holy quads and abs! Several of the exercises involve using the Fitness Circle either between your ankles (pressing in on the Fitness Circle) or with both feet inside the Fitness Circle (pressing out). I found these more difficult than they looked, as one of my legs is clearly bossier than the other! I enjoyed the variations on classic Pilates exercises, including a modified version of The Hundred and a version of Shoulder Bridge where you press one arm behind you on the Fitness Circle.

What really kicked my butt, however, were the single leg bridge variations. The gist of the exercise is to press up into a bridge pose, then lift one leg while pressing the Fitness Circle into that leg. My other hamstring was ON FIRE. So much so that I couldn’t do even half of the set on either leg. WHOA.

While I am currently not at my optimal level of fitness, I found this DVD very accessible with an appropriate level of challenge. Given my experience teaching yoga to very muscular men, I strongly suspect that serious athletes (like CrossFit junkies) would find at least parts of this program very useful in conditioning smaller muscles that don’t get much love during a typical workout, such as the multifidus, and for the range of motion and movement principles.

Brand new to Pilates type movements? The DVD includes a tutorial on the Five Basic Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, and Head & Cervical [spine] Placement).

Merrithew yellow soft hand weights
Soft hand weights can be incorporated into many yoga and Pilates exercises

Merrithew also offers additional DVDs that use the Fitness Circle as the only prop, including Fitness Circle Flow, the Fitness Circle Challenge, Power Paced Fitness Circle, and Precision & Control: Pilates with the Fitness Circle. If you prefer a workout that incorporates a reformer or more props, you can find more titles on the Merrithew website. Finally, there are a variety of other brands/companies/individuals that produce video content that incorporates the Fitness Circle and you can find many other options online.

 

 

 

This prize pack includes:

  • Merrithew Fitness Circle Lite in black (MSRP $34.99)
  • Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle DVD (MSRP $16.95)
  • Merrithew Soft Dumbbells 1.65 pound each (MSRP $23.99)
  • Miscellaneous treats and surprises
Bain's cat checks out the goodies
Professor Nick Sterling has thoroughly inspected the prizes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received advance access to the e-book version of Following Fit in exchange for my feedback and honest review. The author also graciously offered a copy of the printed book, which is the prize in this giveaway. All of the words and opinions in this post are my own.

Following Fit book cover
Available now in Kindle format, coming soon in print!

When I started to read Following Fit, I knew from the first pages of the introduction that I was going to rip through this book like college kids rip through a bag of Doritos. Like Kristen Perillo, I was a “bread thief” (and even had extra rolls and a tiny amount of butter instead of dessert in the no-fat, high-carb 90s). I also dropped athletic pursuits early. We had the same early experiences with self-imposed perfectionism and anything less than 100% meaning failure. If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you’ll recognize parts of your own life in Kristen’s story, too.

Like blogs? You’ll love the book. This book evolved from Kristen’s former blog, so it is written in bite-sized pieces. Each short chapter tells part of the story, and could stand alone as an essay. I could see an English class using this book as a study in essays, one chapter each week; I could see reading one chapter each night as a light and easy read before bed. Her commentary on how popular media treat the female body in a number of contexts is particularly on point.

It’s not just about the fitness. Even if you’re not an avid reader of health and fitness books, there’s something in here for you. This book touches on the very personal meanings of concepts like commitment, worthiness, motivation, health, and failure. I particularly enjoyed that several of the sections focused on fitness myths (e.g. “women should never lift weights over five pounds”), and how even a basic non-professional knowledge of weight lifting allowed Kristen to connect with her male high school students. Ultimately this is less a book about fitness, and more a book about identity and self-knowledge.

It’s not a “how to” book. Unlike many books in the health/fitness/healthy-diet space, this is not a how-to. Kristen does not pretend she has all the answers, or dole out advice claiming it is “one size fits all.” Instead, Kristen tells HER story—not in the social media highlights-reel-only style, instead including the parts of her life that film editors would leave on the cutting room floor. The scenes of lost motivation, feelings of disconnection between mind and body, and looking back on past choices and habits and wishing they were different are all a part of life, and all included in the book. One of the chapters I found most challenging to read was about Kristen’s decision to transition away from vegetarianism (being a vegetarian myself, and being constantly told this is “just a phase” punches my buttons to this day). It’s clear that this was the very best choice for her, and as I read through her process I found myself internally finding more empathy for my friends who are ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians. (I have always maintained that it’s not my job to decide what eating pattern is best for your body; the “I was vegetarian for x years” comments feed into my annoyance with the whole “just a phase” thing.)

Author, Teacher, Certified Personal Trainer: Kristen Perillo

Kristen is not one of those “fake experts.” I also really appreciated how—unlike most fitness bloggers—Kristen consistently reminds the reader she’s not a medical professional, sticks to facts when writing about medical issues, and always consults a medical professional when it is appropriate for her. If other bloggers learned nothing else from her book but this, she’d be doing a massive service to the fitness community. If her readers learned nothing beyond “hey, this is the pattern that reliable, legitimate bloggers follow,” again, that’s a massive service to the fitness community.

It’s not all sunshine and unicorns. Throughout the book, Kristen keeps it real. As a blogger myself, I’m sure she had plenty of material to work with and had to pick and choose which posts would become book chapters and which would be omitted. Yet instead of showing only the shiny happy moments, Kristen also shares her struggles with gaining weight due to binge eating, frustrations with a post-surgery shoulder that isn’t as strong as she would like, and nerves before her first session working as a personal trainer.

Just Read It. Following Fit is a delightful departure from the books that dominate the health and fitness market. I highly recommend this book, and wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself re-reading sections, or making notes in the margins and at the end of each chapter. Wherever YOU are in your relationship with yourself, this book will remind you that you are not alone. More important, you are fine just where you are.

Where to get it. Following Fit is on my Amazon list of books for runners (affiliate link). Once you’ve read it, why not leave a review on GoodReads? If you want to learn more about Kristen, check out her website. Or follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

Win Yours Here!

Rules: This giveaway is NOT sponsored by anyone or anything. You must have a mailing address in the United States or Canada to enter. (Sorry, international readers–postage overseas is killer.) Entries will be verified, so please follow the instructions. Winner will be notified by email and have a reasonable amount of time to respond and claim the prize. Winner must be patient! The printed book has not yet been released! You’ll get it when I get it, grasshopper.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: As a Sweat Pink member, I received an ActivMotion Bar for review purposes via Fit Approach. ActivMotion is also offering you a 25% discount (read on for details). Per my editorial policy, all of the opinions in this review are my own honest thoughts. 

If you’ve been to a Flywheel class, you’ve used one of the half-sized Body Bar to do the arm exercises in class. If you belong to a gym, you may have seen or used a full-length Body Bar in group ex class or with a trainer. The ActivMotion Bar start with the idea of a bar as a workout tool and ups the game: instead of a solid weighted bar with a rubber exterior, the ActivMotion Bar is a weighted bar composed of a hollow tube and metal balls inside. The exterior is metal, though there are rubber end caps so you don’t scratch the floor. When the ActivMotion Bar is level, the balls come to rest in the center. Change the angle even a wee bit and the balls start to slide, shifting the weight of the bar and challenging your balance and coordination!

I’ve played with ActivMotion Bars at the last few IDEA World conferences. Since I have the natural balance abilities of a drunken toddler, I was too shy to enter. My friend Sarah entered one of their IDEA World challenge sessions, during which participants go through a variety of movements and then hold a static position while holding the ActivMotion Bar horizontal with one hand. It’s MUCH harder than it looks! I was thrilled to get my hands on one to use at home–where I can work on my horrible balance with only myself laughing!–and trust me, you want one too.

ActivMotion Bar, 15# in my hand

First, the basics. According to creator Derek Mikulski, “The ActivMotion Bar was developed to provide an external stimulus that forces us to focus more on mind-muscle connection and to engage the core as we stabilize an unstable load, helping improve every aspect of fitness.” Derek, inspired to help others after losing 80 pounds changed his life, invented ActivMotion Bar as a tool to help his personal training clients.  Being a Michigan native, I’ve also got a soft spot for any innovation that comes out of Detroit–but I’d be an ActivMotion Bar fan no matter where it came from! (Want a peek at the new HQ in Sterling Heights? Check out the September video newsletter.)

ActivMotion Bar comes in a variety of weights, from 3 pounds to 18 pounds. As the bar gets heavier, it gets thicker in circumference, not longer. There is also a new bar called the ActivMotion Glimpse Bar, which has a clear window in the center so you can see the rolling balls, and use visual input to help you maintain the horizontal position. (Whether this makes things harder or easier is up for debate!) I opted to try the 15 pound bar, and so far it is PLENTY heavy enough for me. My bar arrived in a sturdy cardboard tube, with the end caps reinforced with tape (otherwise the weight of the bar would easily bust through).

Don’t be fooled by the relatively low weight. If you’re used to doing your upright row or biceps curl with 20 pounds in each hand, that 18 pound bar is still going to kick your butt in new and interesting ways. The unstable weight forces your body to recruit more core muscles for balance, and as the weight shifts during difference exercises you can feel your body engaging slightly different parts of each muscle. For example, the first exercise I tried was a standing upright row. I can do this with a decent amount of weight on a standard barbell, or with a dumbbell in each hand. What I can’t tell using those tools is just how much I favor my right side–the balls started rolling left as soon as I began moving! This immediately required me to engage core muscles to maintain my upright position, as well as give more with my left arm. It sounds incredible to say the ActivMotion Bar engages 173% more muscles than the same activity done with a stable weight, but I believe it (and there is a 2015 University of Michigan study to back that claim).

When you buy an ActivMotion Bar, you get four free workouts (provided as digital downloads, not DVDs–immediate access, no plastic coasters). These include exercises you probably already know, like a biceps curl, but also exercises you might not think to do with the ActivMotion bar. One move I really like to do with the ActivMotin Bar is a variation on yoga’s “boat pose.” When I was teaching classes at Harbor Bay Club I used to up the ante by having everyone hold a light dumbbell and use it to “row the canoe” by twisting to one side and making a dipping motion with the weight, followed by the same movement on the other side. This is significantly more challenging with the ActivMotion Bar! Holding the bar in the center–there are white stripes on the bar for your hand position (approximately shoulder-distance apart)–you take boat pose and then row kayak-style. Each dip of your “oar” causes all the balls to roll to one side, shifting the balance of the bar. Twist while you do this, and you can feel your abs responding to that shift.

You can also purchase IGNITE, which is a 60-day program featuring 15 workouts led by 6 trainers. Each workout is 20-30 minutes, making it easy to fit into your busy schedule. You can download or stream the workouts (again, no plastic coasters). The program comes with a schedule you can follow (so you don’t have to decide which workout to do when), or you can mix it up. There’s also a dietary guide with nutrition information. IGNITE has a 30-day 100% money back guarantee. IGNITE can be purchased with an ActivMotion Bar, or without one (in case like me, you already own one). It’s just $60 to own all the videos ($25 to rent them), which is $1/day if you follow the entire program.

Opting-in to the newsletter guarantees you will receive a wealth of additi0nal information. For example, this week’s newsletter included a link to this video, featuring three variations on a hockey-inspired lateral move. You can find additional videos on the ActivMotion Bar YouTube channel.

Head to the ActivMotion website and use code fitapproach25 to save 25% on your purchase, now through January 7. (Hint: there’s a good pre-Christmas sale on right now–and the discount code stacks!–so don’t wait.)

Want to read what my fellow Sweat Pink Ambassadors thought? I swear, I’m not the only one who loves this fitness tool. Check out these other reviews!

Disclosure: I received a pair of Legend Compression socks for testing purposes because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.

If you’ve been following along, you know that socks are my jam. Even before I started running, I had two large dresser drawers filled with socks. (With the addition of compression socks, they have now spilled into a third drawer. Clearly it’s time to get rid of some t-shirts so I have more room.) Naturally I leaped at the opportunity to try Legend Compression socks.

Fresh out of the package and ready for testing--instructions included!
Fresh out of the package and ready for testing–instructions included!

By the way, if you want a concise, bullet-pointed, reader friendly review (plus pictures of the cute yellow socks!) you’re in the wrong place. Try BibRave Pro Casey‘s review instead.  (BibRave Pro Janelle also did a less verbose review, but she picked the same aqua color that I did.)

See how those socks are leg-shaped and not tube-shaped? Yeah, that’s the mark of a quality sock right there. (Otherwise how could the compression be graduated?) They have the size marked on them, which initially made me worry I had two left socks. Nope! While I’m on the topic of shape, the “Wear 101” card that came with the socks is helpful in case you’ve never tried compression and I’m surprised other brands don’t include it. Basics: to put them on, bunch up the sock and get your foot in there first, toes then heel; then begin to pull them on from the bottom (as opposed to pulling on the top edge of the sock). To take them off, reverse the directions (don’t just yank on the toes!). Store flat with their friends. I’m used to struggling with compression socks, like they are a girdle for your calves, but Legend isn’t like that. BibRave Pro Chris also loved how easy they were to get on and off.

The first try-on! NO seams. Wraps around the arch of the foot without squeezing. Cushion in the toe and heel. Sweat-wicking too!
The first try-on! NO seams. Wraps around the arch of the foot without squeezing. Cushion in the toe and heel. Sweat-wicking too!

Legend is based in North Carolina. All of their compression performance socks, leg sleeves, and recovery socks are made in the USA. That by itself is a huge plus for me. Even better, the founder, John Thomas, spent 30 years working in the medical industry (where compression products are tightly regulated, unlike the sports products on the market) and ran the largest compression manufacturing facility in the world.

Compression socks are like a happy little hug for your legs. But don’t just take my word for it; BibRave Pro Chadd is also a compression lover, as is BibRave Pro Christine. Check out his blog for pictures of these unisex socks in black. BibRave Pro Nora is also a compression fan (she opted for a classic white, since Legend was kind enough to let us choose colors, while BibRave Pro Jen picked classic black.)

They are not just “tight socks” however. Think of how your blood circulates in your body, with arteries taking fresh, oxygenated blood from your heart to your muscles, and veins bringing back the “used up” blood. Veins are closer to the skin and less muscular than arteries, so they are more susceptible to a hug from a nice sock. Since the veins in your legs are helping to move blood back to your heart, they are working against the pull of gravity. When you work out or run, your muscles need more oxygenated blood (hence your pulse speeds up and your heart works harder), which means your muscles produce more de-oxygenated, used-up blood, and those little veins have to work harder. The theory is that giving those veins a little hug helps to give them a leg up (you know I couldn’t resist!).

Look, I'm on a roll! I crack myself up, but really, compression plus the Nano Roller is the best!
Look, I’m on a roll! I crack myself up, but really, compression plus the Nano Roller is the best!

From personal experience, I can tell you that compression also helps reduce the amount of movement in your legs. Okay wait, let me explain that… If you are a woman, you’re familiar with the difference between a good sports bra (keeps your breasts from bouncing all over the place) and a bad one (lets your breasts swing from side to side and bounce up and down); if you’re a man, you may have similar observations from seeing female runners. Compression socks basically do the same thing as a good sports bra, hugging your muscles and other tissues a little tighter to the bone, reducing the amount of bounce. I have big ol’ soccer player calves (they are strong and muscular, and while they prevent loads of cute boots from fitting, I love them for their strength), so I am a fan of compression.

The amount of compression in a sock is measured in millimeters of mercury. Legwear sold as medical grade compression is tightly regulated (no pun intended!) while the “recreational” flavor of compression is not regulated the same way. This is one of the reasons it matter that Legend founder John Thomas has a background in medical compression. (Think about it; if graduated compression helps, what if the compression is reversed or otherwise messed up? #BadNews) Legend Compression Performance Socks are 15-20 mmHG of graduated compression.

Other benefits of the Legend compression socks (the performance socks!) include:

  • UV protections
  • cushioned toe and heel
  • moisture wicking material
  • breathability

I have really weird feet, so I prefer to run in double-layered socks and compression sleeves for long runs, but the Legend Compression Performance Socks were delicious for 5k and 10k.  BibRave Pro Brie wore hers for trail running, where I’m sure I will also love them. I specifically appreciated the seamless toe construction (seams give me blisters). I also loved them for recovery. (Legend does make a separate compression sock for recovery.) Legend also touts greater power input (makes sense to me, since there is less jiggle!), increased oxygen levels and blood circulation, and reduced muscle fatigue. I don’t have a way to measure these items.

Legend Compression Performance Socks were great on my runs, and I loved them for recovery. (Cute, fit well, great for hopping on a plane a few hours after a half marathon.) Right now, you can get a discount on Legend compression wear from BibRave!

Click here to share the discount with your tweeps! bibsave15 scores you 15% off, courtesy of Legend Compression and BibRave!Click To Tweet

When you order your first pair, be sure to check out their sizing guide. BibRave Pro John agrees with me that they fit true to size (per the guide on their website). Don’t rely on sizing guides from other brands–I have a size 10.5 foot and wear a medium in another brand, but the large Legend socks were perfect for me.

Clean, dry, and ready to go!
Clean, dry, and ready to go!

Oh, final note: compression isn’t just for running!  BibRave Pro Haley likes to wear hers when she lifts. Same benefits–increased circulation, “fresh” legs, comfort–plus they make a nice shin guard for your deadlifts. (I’m looking at you, CrossFitters.) Legend comes in lots of fun colors (BibRave Pro Jessica picked purple!) so grab more than one pair!

Have you tried compression socks?

Disclosure: I received an original Buff® for testing purposes because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.

The genuine article has the Buff logo on it--proof of quality and brand!
The genuine article has the Buff logo on it–proof of quality and brand!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Buff®

Okay, maybe you already knew this. If you’ve been paying attention to my blog, or have seen me at any races, then you probably know about my love affair with Buff® products. I use the UV half Buff® as a hat liner when running, which keeps my bangs out of my face and covers my ears (which never seen to get sunblock on them for some reason). I’ve used UV Buff® in the full size as a hat replacement/”do-rag,” to keep my neck warm during the pre-race chill in Arizona and Nevada, as a sweat mopper during races, and as a combination hat liner and ice holder during the 2016 Buffalo Marathon. As I started to figure out just how useful Buff® is–and how each variety (e.g. UV, infinity scarf, merino wool) is multifunctional–I could kick myself for not grabbing a drawerfull earlier. Given the chance to score a Buff® I will always be interested, and I’ve purchased quite a few for myself, friends, and family. Since I love Buff® products so much, I’m thrilled that BibRave and Buff® have an ongoing partnership!

Sweaty post-race selfie at Rock n Roll Virginia Beach
Sweaty post-race selfie at Rock n Roll Virginia Beach

It’s local.

Betcha didn’t know that! (Okay, local to me…) While the parent company (Original Buff®, S.A.) is in Spain, Buff® Inc. (the U.S. subsidiary company) is located in Sonoma County, northern California! No wonder they are a sponsor of the Levi’s Granfondo in Santa Rosa.

On my wrist to mop sweat (Half Buff)
On my wrist to mop sweat (Half Buff)

Don’t be a Pirate.

Buff® is a Brand Name that Indicates The Real Deal. Just like Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Clinique, and Nike, the term Buff® is a registered trademark. (Through the magic of WordPress I have found the ® symbol!) Unfortunately, just like you can buy knock-off Fendi and Gucci out of some dude’s trunk in many cities, there are imitation/fake/imposter Buff® products out there. (Note that it is absolutely 100% fine to sell a multi-functional headgear, headwrap, tube, etc. but calling it a “buff” when it is not a Buff® is misleading and a violation of trademark law.) For example, at least two race series I know of advertise that runners get a race-themed “buff” with registration, and the Marathon Maniacs and the Half Fanatics sell a club logo “buff” in their member stores. This isn’t just bad news for Buff®, it’s bad news for you.

First, you’re not getting a real Buff® when you buy these products, but you’re probably paying the same price–or more! When I order a Buff® or am promised a Buff®, I expect the real deal. The real original Buff® is made from a soft technical fabric that dries quickly, wicks sweat away from you, and is treated with Polygiene to prevent the build up of bacteria in the product. (The UV version blocks at least 93% of harmful UV rays, there is a reflective Buff® for low-light safety, and Insectshield® has a built-in repellent that lasts through 70 washes.)  The fabric has been tested and is warranted to meet several international standards including Oeko-Tex Standard 100 (which prohibits the use of certain types of chemicals that are known to be harmful to humans or the planet). Fake “buff” products–at least every single one I have seen–are generally made of cheaper fabric that holds the heat in, doesn’t dry quickly, and has no UV protection.

Second, you’re hurting Buff® when you buy fakes. Genuine Buff® products are reasonably priced, and there are great sales (be sure to get on the mailing list!). There is no reason for any race or club to offer a fake “buff” because Buff® offers custom products (here’s the U.S. site!) and has a low minimum order requirement (25 pieces!). Buff also supports numerous international charities with custom designs, including UNICEF, Walking With The Wounded, and World Horse Welfare. (In the U.S., charity designs include The Breast Cancer Fund, and Buff® USA sponsors the Marine Corps Marathon.)

Finding this interesting? Why not Tweet it to your peeps so they can learn about Buff(R) too? Click To Tweet

Buff® isn’t just for running!

Last year I bought a super cute Buff® headband after trying it out at a race expo. (Most headbands go shooting off of my head like a slingshot. Insert joke about having a big head here.) My intent was to use it during yoga and group ex classes to help keep sweat from my head/hair off of my face. My body is very efficient at cooling itself, which is to say I sweat A LOT during workouts. It did a great job of keeping my bangs from dripping sweat into my eyes, and further did a great job of keeping adjacent hair from sticking to my face, but there was still the issue of my ponytail whacking me in the face during sun salutations.

In addition to my large melon, I have baby-fine, stick-straight hair with zero texture. If you put a clip barrette into my hair, it will slowly slide right out–same with most hair elastics (unless applied super duper tightly)–and the giant claw-clips tend to wobble unless held in place with something else (like a shower cap) and are impractical for yoga classes. During this round of BibRave testing, I opted for a full Buff® from the National Geographic collection. (The design I picked was so awesome that it is now sold out.) At first I tried wearing it foulard/do-rag style (see the “How to Wear” video on the Buff® website). While that kept more sweat off of my face and kept all of my hair from sticking to my face, it had the unfortunate effect of letting my ponytail turn into a giant dreadlock.

The finished look, from the top
The finished look, from the top

So I messed around with it more, and came up with a solution. It’s not in the video on the website, so here’s how to do it:

  1. Pull Buff® over head and all the way down onto neck, pattern side out. (Like the neckerchief in the video)
  2. Pull top edge of Buff® up over head (temporarily covering face) until bottom edge of Buff hits chin. Ponytail should be inside (not below the bottom edge). (This is like foulard/do-rag in the video.)
  3. Scrunch and/or roll bottom edge of Buff® up to hairline; multiple layers of fabric should be at the hairline. (I put it behind my ears, which I know looks dorky, but my goal was “effective sweat and hair control” and not “fashion statement.”)
  4. Grab ponytail and twist a few times, making a faux bun right next to head; using one hand to hold ponytail, grab free edges of Buff® with the other hand. (It helps to bend over a little bit while you do this.)
  5. Grip opposite sides of Buff® (it’s a tube, so anything approximate will do) and tie a single, firm overhand knot.

BOOM! Hair and sweat control in one! I used this method in multiple deep-flow style yoga classes that included inversions and plenty of movement, as well as a Lagree Method class. Gravity was no match for this baby.

Post-sweaty yoga selfie--hair intact, no sweat in eyes
Post-sweaty yoga selfie–hair intact, no sweat in eyes. (When all else fails, through a filter on it.)

 

Do you have a favorite Buff® product?

I’ve been a huge fan of keeping a food and exercise log/journal since I first started to dip my toes into the health and fitness arena. I call it “tracking,” largely because that’s how my Weight Watchers peeps refer to it. Yes, it’s kind of a pain in the butt sometimes, and I’m not 100% compliant with my own goal of tracking every day, but in my experience it’s been a huge help. When I write it down, I stick to my plans. I tend to eat healthier (because who wants to write down, “Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby, 1 pint”??). I tend to workout more because I can see lots of blank space when I haven’t been exercising.

There are many electronic options to track, including free and paid apps and websites where you can track both exercise and food (e.g. My Fitness Pal, Livestrong, FitBit) but I do best when I write things down. For one, I spend so much time on my phone and computer that I don’t really need to find another reason to do that. For two, when I’m using pen and paper it’s easy to track what I had planned versus what I actually did. Or doodle in the margins. Or reward myself with a cool gel pen with funky ink. Finally, I’m more like to review my data if I can thumb through the pages and compare multiple pages at once.

So you might wonder, why bother with tracking? Trust me, it’s not just my personal obsession.

Three reasons you might track

1. Lose Weight

My first experience with tracking was actually when my office started a Weight Watchers group. As part of the program, we kept track of what we ate each day, working to stay within our “points” allowance. Tracking to lose weight is a proven method for adherence to a weight loss program.A study called Long Term Weight Loss Maintenance indicates tracking is also useful for maintenance, noting that some of the factors for long-term success (taken from the National Weight Loss Registry data) include “self-monitoring weight, and maintaining a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends.” (You can read the rest of the abstract for more.)

Mileage Data (Believe Journal)
Mileage Data (Believe Journal)

2. Collect Data

If you’re tracking food intake, you probably know to write down what you ate. Don’t forget to write down how much! You might also write down how you felt afterwards. (I know people who have discovered food sensitivities this way.) Food is really tied up in emotions, and you might discover you’re eating because you are upset or bored!

If you’re tracking workout data, what you track probably depends on what you’re doing. In the P90X programs, Tony Horton recommends writing down how many reps you got through of each exercise (in addition to how much weight you used). If you’re running, you probably want to track time and distance, but you might also want to track weather, road conditions, and other factors that could affect your run.

Tracking both food and exercise allows you to see whether there are correlations (I always run better after a half cup of coffee, I’m miserable if I had champagne the night before), or if you’ve fallen into a habit you’d like to keep up or break up with. Right now I’m also tracking my water intake and hours of sleep.

If you’re really into the idea of collecting up data, you might want to check out the Quantified Self movement and see if there is a meet-up or conference near you.

The big picture page (FitBook)
The big picture page (FitBook)

3. Plan Ahead

If you are training for an event, you probably have some kind of training plan. Runners often plan a certain number of miles or minutes per training day. But planning isn’t just for “those people” (if you’re not one of them!). Maybe you need to plan out your workouts because you’ve got a busy schedule and a full plate, and planning it out ensures it will happen. You could put the workout in your regular calendar like an appointment, then write out the details in your tracker. If you’re following a training plan from a book or magazine, you can pre-write your workout in your tracker. I find carrying my small FitBook much more convenient than bringing the magazine, and I can always note where I made changes or did more reps. Another example, you can use a tracker to plan meals for you or your family (and from that, create your grocery list!). It can save you a bunch of time and money if you plan your meals that way.

Trackers I have known and loved

First, true confession, I’m actually tracking different things in different places. I have a FitBook for food and workouts. I have the Believe Journal for running, where I also write about how the run felt, what I got right and wrong, and my general thoughts about events, etc. I track my weight in the FitBit app. It might seem horribly inefficient to have all this data in different places, but it works for me–I want the graph the FitBit app makes, but I want space to write about my runs. I use the food section of FitBook to track container equivalents from the 21-Day Fix eating plan, but formerly used it to track points.

While you can just grab any notebook and start your own tracker, I’ve not have great success with this. The main issue for me is that since the pages are not organized into days and weeks, it is just too easy to skip a day, and “just for today” turns into “I don’t track anymore.” When I first started tracking I wasn’t sure what I wanted to track, and I tried to do too much, which also made the blank notebooks less than effective. I enjoy the graphic elements of the published trackers as well.

An example of my inspiration collages
An example of my inspiration collages

Weight Watchers

There is a WeWa app now, and some of my friends love it. I’ve never tried it, in part because I found the website quite buggy when I tried to use it to track. Instead, I used the spiral-bound purse-sized trackers. Note that there is a free downloadable tracker, and those attending meetings can pick up single-week trackers (or used to be able to do so–I’ve not checking up on it lately). The link leads to the current journal, which is a 12-week hardcover, because I couldn’t find the spiral-bound one online. Pros: highly portable, used the covers for inspiration collages. Cons: not much room to track exercise, frequently ran out of room to write.

Red for 2015; Lavender for 2016!
Red for 2015; Lavender for 2016!

Believe Journal

This is a running-specific journal, with information, inspiration, and worksheet-like activities between the regular weekly tracking pages. It was created by professional runners Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas. You don’t have to be a runner to use it though–you could use the weekly pages for any activity, the yearly overview for planning, and the worksheets apply to almost every sport. There are some runner-specific information sections that don’t cross-apply though, including a variety of speed workouts, pace charts, and training plans.  Pros: plenty of room to write, spaces are customizable, textured cover, knowledge bombs/content. Cons: too large to carry around in a purse, not designed to track both exercise and food.

Workouts on the left, foods on the right
FitBook: Workouts on the left, foods on the right

FitBook

I first met FitBook at IDEA World in…wow, 2010. FitBook had a table at the expo, and I was so excited at how much better the format would be for my purposes. FitBook has a place to record stats other than weight, a weekly planning page, and a weekly summary page with space to journal, reflect on the week and how to move forward. There are two daily pages; the left side is for exercise and the right side is for food. The FitBook website and email newsletter deliver some great content for free, including inspiration, receipts, and printable calendars and goals worksheets. Pros: lots of space to track both food and exercise, largely blank areas are highly customizable, spiral binding lays flat for easy use. Cons: some might find it too big to carry daily.

A giveaway!

FitBook and FitBook Lite
FitBook and FitBook Lite

I’ve got ONE brand new FitBook Lite! The “lite” version of FitBook is a six week version of it’s big sister, FitBook. Once you’ve got FitBook Lite in your hands, you can downdload a free kickstart ebook with a meal plan, recipes, tips, and a workout plan guide. Please note: this giveaway is not sponsored by FitBook (or anyone else) in any way.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a complimentary XX2i France 1 Dual Pack to review because I am a BibRave Pro. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at BibRave.com! It’s a great way to choose between conflicting races, to help runners find the best races, and the help race directors improve each year.

Details, upfront: XX2i USA1 sunglasses retail for $59.99, though you can choose a kit that comes with additional lenses for $99.99. (Hint: if you read through this review, you’ll find a way to score a sweet discount.) The XX2i Optics website is www.xx2i.com.

When I was a kid, I knew you were supposed to wear sunglasses when it was sunny outside. (My pale blue eyes are also uber sensitive to sunlight, so the idea that anyone could go without just boggled me.) Unfortunately, I grew up into one of those teenagers and then adults who is always sitting on sunglasses, losing them, scratching them, etc. I mistakenly assumed the way to deal with this was to buy cheap dollar store type sunglasses. I suspect this is pretty common, as John had a similar history and so did Emily. (We are all now reformed!)

Then one day I was given a pair of super nice sunglasses with polarized lenses. If you’ve never tried polarized lenses, WOW are you missing out. (Eric agrees.) Polarized lenses contain a special filter in them to block intense reflected light. As a result, you get much less haze or glare. I had no idea that I could run in bright sunlight without squinting until I tried polarized lenses. So when I had the opportunity to try the XX2i USA1 sunglasses with polarized lenses, I was pretty excited to see how they compared to the XX2i France1 I previously tried. While I liked them both equally–well, I do prefer the polarized lenses of the USA1–Danielle preferred the look of the France1 but loved the fit on the USA1.

The XX2i USA1
The XX2i USA1

As I previously reported, XX2i has a fantastic lifetime guarantee on their products, and a mission statement I can get behind (“We support people that make a difference every day. People who are committed to a healthy, athletic lifestyle and being good citizens. People who appreciate quality, innovation and no BS marketing. We are committed to producing the best possible eyewear for outdoor enthusiasts and stand behind each product we produce with integrity and pride to insure your completely satisfied no matter what. All of our products are perfect for running, cycling, golfing, fishing, tennis, sport shooting and just about any outdoor activity.”) Also cool, XX2i gave a huge number of BibRave Pro team members the opportunity to try out these glasses. That’s not only generous, but to me it shows complete confidence in their products.

Like the France1, the USA1 come in a kit. (Abbie’s picture is way better than the ones I took, so please don’t judge these glasses by my lame photography!) This includes a zippered hard storage case, a soft pouch (that fits inside the hard case, protects the lenses from scratching, and doubles as a cleaning cloth), a screwdriver plus red and blue arm covers and nose piece (so you can change them out to match your gear), and a sports strap (similar to the Croakies brand strap). The frames allow for interchangeable lenses, which are an optional additional purpose. (Good thing, as Jessica would prefer photochromatic lenses.) The hard case has a foam interior with slots in the foam, in case you opt to purchase additional lenses.

Additional slots for lens storage
Additional slots for lens storage

Since I made many of the same observations about the France1 as I did with the USA1, I asked my friend Kirsten to test drive these sunglasses for a few days during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. (BibRave Pro Gina actually tried them running.) After a few seconds of adjusting the nose piece to fit perfectly, the first thing she noticed was that they have a wrap-around feel, with a wide protected field of view. This surprised her a bit, as they don’t have the boxy look of other sunglasses she’d tried that have that same effect.

My wear-testing friend Kirsten
My wear-testing friend Kirsten

The second thing she noticed is that they are polarized. Actually, she thought her phone was malfunctioning because she couldn’t see the app she had open–one of the effects of polarized lenses, ha ha! While not obsessively messing with her phone (hey, you know we all plan our days and meetups using phones these days), she wore them during all of the sunny parts of the day (it did rain during that weekend) and found them lightweight and comfortable, with a clear view. They stayed put on rides and in the “jump test,” as well as the “shake your head” test. Kirsten enjoyed wearing these XX2i, though in choosing a pair for herself she probably wouldn’t choose white–it’s just her personal preference. Fortunately for her, they also come in black, and you can check out some BibRave Pro photos of them.

My first observation is that there is a very slight gap between the upper outer corner of the frame and the lenses. (Christine and Erin took better picture of that than I did.) Initially I thought this was a problem, but it turns out it is a feature to help prevent them from fogging up. When I tried them on, I didn’t even notice that gap–it made zero difference in my field of vision or the quality of the view. Man, do I love polarized lenses. Since I live in California, my wear-testing options were sun and our mostly dreary “winter.” Hey, I’m not complaining, we NEED the rain! BibRave Pro Angie tried them out in real winter–snow and everything–and also found them great for playing cards.

Actually, the first thing I noticed is that I need a haircut.
Actually, the first thing I noticed is that I need a haircut.

I was at a bit of a loss to describe what makes sunglasses “a good fit” since I now tend to stick with what I know. They have to be comfortable. For me, that’s glasses that sit on my nose and stay there without my eyebrows hitting the lenses and messing them up. I also need the earpieces to be gentle, basically sit there, stay put, and gently hug my head; I can’t stand stiff sunglasses, in part because they really irritate the scar tissue behind my right ear. Kim pointed out one thing I forgot, which is I hate it when the bottom of the frame hits my face. (The last thing I need is little sunglasses dents on my face when I take them off.)

The overall consensus from the BibRave Pro team? A few Pros had issues with fogging (which could be about snow?), but overall we loved them. Jen is ordering another pair of frames (because they come in many colors). Laurel has to keep stealing hers back from her son! Amy noted that the durability of XX2i products is pretty amazing, as she’s been constantly wearing her France model glasses since she got them.

If you’d like to get a pair of your own use codeXX2iRocks for a 50% discount! 

Disclosure: I am a 2015 Nuunbassador. This post is not sponsored by Nuun in any way. The giveaway is not sponsored by Nuun. All opinions are my own. Many thanks to Briana of Mat, Miles, Medals for the image above.

December is more than half over, and the new calendar year is almost upon us. (I know, I know–I have to keep saying it to myself over and over, because I barely believe it!) I was fortunate enough to be selected to be a Nuunbassador in 2015, and it’s time to celebrate that adventure coming to a close.

By the way, I decided not to reapply for 2016. That decision had nothing to do with Nuun–which I still drink all the time and am just shy of obsessed with–or my experience (it was great!). So many of my friends were really excited to apply, and really deserved a chance to represent Nuun in 2016. They wanted it SO badly! Since I already had the chance to represent Nuun, and I have my fingers crossed that I’ll be chosen as an ambassador for the Detroit Marathon, I decided to step aside this year. (Hey Nuun, maybe let’s get together again in 2017?) No need to be greedy, and I want to continue to do an excellent job for BibRave in 2016.

So, let’s talk Nuun!

Nuun’s major innovation is to separate hydration from fueling. Most sports hydration drinks are designed to do both, which is why they are filled with sugar–simple sugar can be readily broken down for use as fuel. Unfortunately, many endurance athletes find that consuming too much sugar while hydrating leads to…let’s just call it unpleasant digestive side effects. Nuun decided to separate the hydration (and and accompanying electrolyte replacement) and fueling.

Nuun Active is the original, and comes in the widest variety of flavors. Nuun Active contains the optimal blend of electrolytes because you need more than sodium when running (this is why salt packets are not the best electrolyte replacement!). Nuun has sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Here’s the nutrition facts and ingredients for my favorite flavor, tropical.

Some advantages to choosing Nuun Active for hydration:

  • light flavor
  • highly portable tablet format
  • easy to change or mix flavors
  • thin, non-sticky consistency
  • add more/less water to adjust taste and consistency

Nuun fizzes a bit as it mixes itself. Only add a half tab to champagne.) Image courtesy of Mat, Miles, Medals.
Nuun fizzes a bit as it mixes itself. Only add a half tab to champagne.) Image courtesy of Mat, Miles, Medals.

Since Nuun ships as tablets in a recyclable tube, I suspect it also has less of an environmental impact, at least on the consumer side–no water is shipped so you can move more Nuun with less fuel, and using your own bottle means no disposable plastics. Finally, while the tube is recyclable, many people wash and re-purpose the tubes.

Repurposed Nuun tube. Photo courtesy of @cratina. Follow her at http://fabulosi-t.blogspot.com/
Repurposed Nuun tube. Photo courtesy of @cratina. Follow her at http://fabulosi-t.blogspot.com/

They are just the right size to carry Energy Bits, or store change for parking meters. If you travel as much as I do, you might also use the tubes to pack cotton swabs, part of a Lush bubble bath bar, or earrings.

2015 #TeamNuun kit
2015 #TeamNuun kit

Nuun Active is what I used all year for running. (Nuunbassadors do get a product discount, but frankly the expo special is a better price so I rarely used it.) In addition to my regularly scheduled events, this year was also the first virtual run co-sponsored by Nuun (with Motigo and the website now known as FitFam). Only Nuunbassadors and Team Nuun members could participate, and the run included a cute fitted shirt and medal. Athletes representing Nuun also had the opportunity to purchase specialty Nuun apparel twice during the year. Pactimo prints the Nuun team gear, which is quality technical gear. Most of Pactimo’s styles are for cycling, not running. So, for example, there weren’t running tights, or singlets. I opted for a pair of cycle shorts (encouragement to go to FlyWheel more often!) and a cycling jersey. (It’s got pockets on the back, so I know it wasn’t made for running.)

Andrew--find him on twitter @smartwatermelon--uses Nuun Plus in tri training
Andrew–find him on twitter @smartwatermelon–uses Nuun Plus in tri training

Nuun Plus is the newest Nuun invention. It contains electrolytes and sugar (dextrose and sucrose). Basically, it’s a way to add the fuel into your Nuun. You can easily adjust how frequently you fuel by adding Plus to some bottles, but not to others. I haven’t tried it yet, but my friends who have tried it do like it.

Nuun Energy is my favorite product, especially the cherry limeade. Like Nuun Active, it contains an optimal blend of electrolytes. Unlike Nuun Active, it also contains a B vitamin blend and caffeine. I keep a tube of the cherry limeade on my desk at work, so I have a low-calorie, less junky, option when I need an afternoon boost. (My non-Nuun choices are coffee drinks and sodas.)

Nuun All Day is a multi-vitamin disguised as Nuun! My favorite flavor is the blueberry pomegranate. The flavors are a little different, in part because the vitamin/mineral content is different. I’m not a huge fan of all of them, and as a friend of mine observed, it tastes a little “vitaminy.” I like the blueberry pomegranate all by itself, but you can easily mix it with another flavor (say half tab of each) or mix it into a beverage other than water (such as iced tea).

Finally, there’s U Natural. I’ve never tried it. U Natural is intended for use as hydration in less intense physical activities. (This is not the marathon runner blend.)

You can buy Nuun online, but buying it at your local sports or running store helps them to keep the doors open. The best price for Nuun right now is always at a race expo, where the expo special is two tubes for $10 plus a free refillable bottle.

Speaking of those bottles, I’m a bit of a water bottle junky. I came across an impressive photo of a Nuun bottle collection that essentially took up an entire kitchen cabinet. While I don’t have that many Nuun bottles, I do have quite the collection of other bottles too. When I started this year, I had two Nuun bottles: one Rock ‘n’ Roll, and one Active. I seemed to have crummy luck, and missed all the specialty bottles–the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas, the Kara Goucher…but really, how many do I need??

The Nuun Vegas bottle, courtesy of @crantina
The Nuun Vegas bottle, courtesy of @crantina

Throughout the course of the year it became clear I was going to end up with MANY more bottles, so I made a rule: I can only keep one in each design. I haven’t used any of the rest of them–that’s where the giveaway comes in!

I’m giving away my extra, brand-new, un-used Nuun bottles! I’ll also put some Nuun samples inside for the lucky winners! Important Note: the samples are not the Nuun-factory-sealed samples. They will be untouched Nuun tablets, poured directly from the Nuun tube into a fresh snack-sized Ziploc bag. (Remember, this isn’t sponsored by Nuun! Cut me some slack, since I’m paying for the product and the shipping; I’d hate to send you a tube and it turns out you hate that flavor.)

Nuun bottles! There will be at least 3 prizes!
Nuun bottles!
There will be at least 3 prizes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a free Plantronics BackBeat Fit to review because I am a BibRave Pro. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at BibRave.com!

Prior to testing the Plantronics BackBeat Fit wireless headphones, I’d never run with Bluetooth headphones. I’m not sure why I thought I wouldn’t like wireless headphones, especially since I’d pretty much stopped running with music due to corded headphone issues. The ear buds that come with the iPhone/iPod are pretty from a design standpoint, but had a tendency to jump out when I run (plus if you sweat on the ones with the volume control thingy on the cord, you can kill them–Awesomeness alert: the BackBeat FIT is 100% waterproof. You can even fully submerge them. Tunes while swimming, anyone??). I’d switched to Yurbuds since they are a huge improvement in terms of both of those issues, but now those are my at-work earbuds. It’s probably my naturally graceful movement, but once I’m geared up to run they were sure to snag on something–hat, watch, Road ID, Handana–and yank a bud out of my ear.

Running without music is a drag sometimes. When I’m running alone and not at a big event, I need more motivation than I can get from just running. Otherwise it is just too easy to sit on the couch. So when the BibRave Pro team had the opportunity to test the Plantronics BackBeat Fit, I decided to give them a spin. Worst case scenario, I’d decide they are not for me and give them away. (No such luck for you, dear reader, as it turns out I love them.)

When the box arrived, I felt like it was just like Christmas! I knew exactly what was inside.

Santa Cruz? We're practically neighbors!
Santa Cruz? We’re practically neighbors!

I forgot to mention that long before Bluetooth, when most of us didn’t have cell phones and Apple hadn’t invented the iPod, back in the days before we were worried that the Y2K bug was going to cause the end of the universe, that’s when I first learned of Plantronics. The context was that I was a student at Coach U., where all of the classes are conducted telephonically via bridge lines. In order to avoid the creaky neck caused by spending hours and hours holding the receiver with your head and shoulder so both hands are free to reference materials and take notes, the Coach U. team recommended all students buy a headset for their phones. (This was a radial notion at the time.) The brand Coach U recommended as the top-of-the-line, best investment was Plantronics.

Now I have a Plantronics headset in my office for conference calls and depositions. From the context I always associated Plantronics with businesses and offices, so hearing a connection to running was quite the surprise to me.

Handwritten note!
Handwritten note!

The Plantronics team included a handwritten note inside. I really love that kind of personal touch–it makes me feel like there are people on the other side of the box and the product, instead of a monolithic corporate entity. (I have no idea whether Plantronics is a huge company or a tiny one. All I know is that I associate the name with quality headsets.)

I’m also a giant nerd, and I’m interested in packaging and presentation. Instead of ripping open the package and extracting the contents, I’ve got to examine all the elements first. Notice the sticky-note on the box not only has the social media information and a QR code, it also has a color photo of the two most important items in the box, the headset and the carrying case. (The box also contains a charging cable and instruction booklet.) The carrying case is reversible neoprene: turned one way, it’s a storage unit for the headphones, cable, and instructions; turned the other, it’s an adjustable armband to carry your phone (keys, cash, etc.) while you run.  Also, the note is color-coordinated with the box and contents in Lime Burst (the headset also comes in Electric Blue). Enough already, let’s open the package.

Here (hear?) they are!
Here (hear?) they are!

The front piece of the box opens like the cover on a book. It reminded me of the Lifesavers “A Sweet Story” packages my parents used to get for us kids at Christmas. Anyway, peek inside!

Pretty, right? The picture doesn’t quite do it justice, the color is much nicer live. Also, you can’t tell, but the piece connecting the two earbuds is flexible like a cable, not stiff like what I suppose are now “old-fashioned” headphones like the kind that came with the Walkman.  Awesomeness note: this makes them super adaptable to different sizes of heads, and you can wear them under or over headgear!

Charging is simple. First pull out the small tab to slide the cover off of the plug receptor. Plug the charging cord into the receptor, and then connect the other end to a USB power source (e.g. computer, wall-wart). Rings around each bud turn red when the power is connected, and blue when charging is complete. Final step, pair the headphones with the iPhone. Boom.

Back of the box
Back of the box

Ready to go! I read the instructions, and you’d think I could have figured this out since there are only really two buttons, but some days I am short a few clues. I put the headphones on and hit the button, but nothing happened. I tried the other button. I tried both buttons. Cut to the chase, you don’t just hit the button, you hold it down for 2 seconds. The headphones then speak to you (“Power On”). If you tap the button, they will tell you how much charge is on them. Awesomeness note: there is an 8 hour battery charge life. That means you can psych up before the race, run a marathon, and still have tunes to enjoy with your post-race beer!  To adjust the volume, you can either use the button on the headset, or you can use the volume controls on your phone. (Bonus: my iPhone shows that the headset is connected and shows the power level.)

One thing I really love about the Plantronics BackBeat Fit is that these are NOT noise-cancelling (“block out”) headphones. Wearing noise-cancelling headphones while running is a major safety hazard, because they are designed to block out all of the ambient noise, anything not coming from the sound source. When you’re running, you need to hear the world around you! Not being able to hear traffic, other runners, and race officials/volunteers is downright dangerous. Awesomeness note: the BackBeat Fit delivers quality sound while still allowing me to safely hear important environmental clues. Or as the website puts it, “Eartip design directs audio into ear but lets you hear a bit of your surroundings.”

I’ve now taken these out on short runs like the Road Runner Sports Adventure Runs, and on long runs like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach half marathon. So far, I love them! There are a few features I haven’t tried yet.

  • Phone usage. Use the buttons to switch between music and phone calls without fuss.
  • Armband case, because I’m either holding my phone in my hand (Adventure Run uses a map) or it is in one of my skirt pockets, so  my biggest problem is what to do with the headphones when I’m done running. I tried hanging them around my neck, but if I bend over I lose them (which could be perilous in a porta-potty!). After one run I put them around my neck, and secured them with a Buff. Another time I put them into a free pocket.
  • Apps. Plantronics has some apps in the app store. According to the website, “Our apps help you get the most from your headphones by explaining features, updating to the latest firmware, and even locating your lost headphones.”

If you haven’t tried the Plantronics BackBeat Fit and are in the market for wireless headphones or Bluetooth headphones (these are both!), I highly recommend these headphones. I love them so much I’ve committed to a year of membership in Rock My Run, now that I know I have reliable, non-tangle, headphones.

But hey, don’t just take my word for it! Take a look at reviews by some of the other BibRave Pros!