Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. No one even knows I am writing it. I didn’t get any bonus, incentive, or anything else to write this post, and every single word is mine. I’m a proud “Brew Crew” member, and since the March and April events are rescheduled and it’s for a good cause, I signed up for the qua-RUN-tine too.

It’s a qua-RUN-tine!

Logo for the Oregon Virtual Distance Challenge

Yeah, so this just started today, and I’m still figuring out how it works, so if this part is wrong, oops. Since we can’t have our usual Oregon Brewery Running Series runs right now, this is what we’re doing. It’s $45 to enter, and the charity partner is Oregon Community Foundations’ COVID-19 Relief Fund. After you sign up–do that here–you join the group on Strava (which is how they track your miles). Strava is free, and you can connect it to your running watch or other gadget as well as a bunch of other apps.

There are prizes at 10, 25, 50, and 100+ miles, plus weekly giveaways. Even if you don’t join the qua-RUN-tine, the Oregon Brewery Running Series is having virtual Happy Hour (or should that be hoppy hour?) on Saturdays in April. Basically you go for a run, and then have your cool down (and a beer?) using videochat. Get on the mailing list, so you can join in via Zoom.

The 2020 Brew Crew Season

Last year I bought a ticket to the season opener, a party at the Oregon Historical Society (or was it the museum of Oregon history? something like that) and an exhibit on the history of brewing in Oregon. I didn’t go because I didn’t know anyone else who was going, and I wasn’t feeling up to a big party solo. This year the running season kicked off with a Brewfest at the Run Pub. Yup, you read that right–Portland Running Company has a Run Pub. During the kickoff everyone could sample a variety of beverages from the hosts of this season’s events. There were a variety of local eats and a food truck too. Now I know a lot of runners balk at paying to run an untimed event, especially if it’s a 5k-ish, and extra-super-especially if there’s no medal. But trust me this is $30 well spent. (If you were smart and bought a multi-pack, you paid way less than that.)

Bib decorating at LEVEL

The Venues. Each event starts and ends at a different Oregon brewery. The course is a loop through whatever is nearby, so you might be running a neighborhood, or you might be running around industrial parks. So far in 2020 we’ve run four places (though I’ve only made three). LEVEL beer is an old-school arcade game themed tasting room in NE Portland with a gigantic outdoor space (currently a heated tent); it hosts food trucks in the parking lot and has super cute merch. HUB–the Hopworks Urban Brewery–in Vancouver has a full service restaurant with a variety of food (though if you don’t get the pretzel sticks appetizer, you’re nuts). Baerlic has a small tasting room in NE Portland with an outdoor event space (heated tent–which I loved since it rained and was chilly!) and a pod of food carts.

Pre-Race “Registration.” This is the antidote to “packet pickup.” Ticket sales are through Eventbrite (which conveniently sends you reminders in case you’re like me and forget what you signed up to run and when and where.) Show up as early to get your ticket scanned and decorate your bib. The event bibs look the same for each event, and you can personalize them with a variety of sharpies (or even bring your own decorations). There’s usually coffee, and sometimes there are pre-race snacks (I hoovered a donut at Baerlic). If you’re really worried you’ll get lost (you won’t) there’s a map you can study (or snap a pic).

The Starting Line. All the people, and dogs, and strollers head out to the big inflatable start/finish line for a quick but energetic warm-up–think squats and range of motion type of movements–and an explanation of the course. After a few group photos everyone takes off running.

The Course. Each course is a loop, making logistics easy. It’s not a closed course and you’re supposed to obey all of the traffic laws. This means you’ll spend most of the time running on sidewalks or paved park trails, though in some areas there’s basically no traffic and it’s safe to run in the street. Every single corner or turn has a cheering volunteer holding a big arrow sign and giving directions. No course-markings to worry about–there’s always a real person to show you the way!

After party at Baerlic

The Finish Line. The official photographers will snap more pictures as you cross the finish line. Then it’s time to get your wooden nickel–redeemable for the pint of your choice–and turn in your raffle ticket. (If you want more raffle tickets, you can visit with the sponsors and vendors.) Don’t forget to grab your swag –your choice of what’s available that day, usually pint glasses, coffee mugs, and more–and some snacks. The Franz bakery is one of the series partners, so there’s often bread or bagels to take home with you too.

The After Party. I only know one reason people run: they like to eat! Some of the breweries are brew pubs that have their own kitchen. Others host food trucks. Either way, I’ve never gone hungry. Some people bring their own food in–once a family did a whole birthday party! Of course there is beer for sale, too. The fastest man and women are recognized with “The Golden Growler” award, which they sign and redeem for their very own growler (contents included!). There are a few announcements, and an introduction to the charity partners for that season, then there’s the raffle. There’s live music too! Of course my favorite after party entertainment is petting all of the dogs, but you probably already guessed that.

Honestly, it’s pretty good value for $30….but if you’re smart, you bought one of the Oregon Brewery Running Series Passes. Unlike other race series, this one lets you share the races in a multi-pack. The Pint is six races ($139), The Growler is twelve ($249), and The Keg is a twenty-pack ($359). So if you got The Growler, you could run twelve races, or run six with a friend, or run one with an entourage. But really, the best way to do it is to join The Brew Crew at the beginning of the season ($279). Brew Crew members get an entry to every event, but you can’t share. That shouldn’t matter, as who can run all 26 events? Even if you can’t (and I can’t) there are other perks: a special series shirt, a second pint at every race, and four entries you can share with your friends. (So it’s really $279 for 30 races–26 for you and 4 for friends!) But really, that’s $10.73 per race, so even if you only run half of them, you still end up way ahead!

Not in Oregon? The Brewery Running Series exists in OTHER states too! No matter where you run, the series motto is the same: Be Active, Have Fun, Give Back.

Top Reasons to Run the Oregon Brewery Running Series

Excellent Value. Did I mention there are also free race photos? If you want to mug for the photographers they’ll snap as many groupies as you like.

Everyone-Friendly Events. Speedy runner? Slow-poke walker? Stroller-pusher? Couple? Singlet? Entourage? Doggo? This is something you can do. The volunteers are out there until everyone is done.

The Beer is Optional. Yeah, I know, I’m the weirdo running the BREWERY running series who doesn’t like beer, and I get two pints per run (one for the event, and a bonus for Brew Crew). So far, the venues all have tasty local cider as well. HUB usually has cider (I had one last year) but they were out this year; fortunately they also have wine on tap!

Happy running doggo!
My favorite reason to run: the doggos. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Brewery Running Series

Have you attended any of the Brewery Series Runs in Oregon, or another state? Or been to a brewery run? Tell me about it!

Disclosure: I’m sharing these resources because I want to encourage you to STAY HOME. The links provided below are not affiliate links. I am a paid subscriber of some of these services, but I’m not getting any kick-back or brownie points or whatever for sharing about them. I have not excluded services I haven’t tried.

Stick inside? Get Your Workout ON! (c) Styled Stock Society

As of Wednesday last week, I was kinda non-plussed about people fleeing the gym. For one, COVID-19 isn’t transmitted through sweat. For two, at least at a gym I have access to wipes (unlike at the grocery store). Here’s the thing though, if you are going to go to a gym–and really, you shouldn’t–“be under no illusion. These are places where germs and bacteria of all kinds can thrive[.]” That’s true of the gym, that’s true of your CrossFit box, that’s true of every flavor of studio from aerial to zumba.

(By the way, have you seen my two prior posts? Here’s an easy click-through: (1) Don’t Panic, Do Act Responsibly. (2) A Practical Guide to COVID-19.

Initial steps are NOT enough to protect you. My inbox has been aflutter with emails during the past week, promising extra deep-cleaning of the studio, asking people to bring their own yoga mats and props (offering discounts to help people acquire these), limiting class size, spacing the in-use reformers and megaformers further apart, and more. It is really tough for a small business to close, especially when they have staff and teachers they are worried about. But these measures are not enough, and even the ordinarily irrelevant Yoga Alliance has recommended studios close.

Using lots of wipes is NOT enough. As you should know, the COVID-19 virus is primarily spread by “droplets.” Like when a person who has the virus coughs. Here’s what we know:

  • Asymptomatic people can spread the virus. This means you can give the virus to other people before you know you have it. It takes 2-14 days before you start to show symptoms.
  • Best practice is to stay 6′ away from others. This is an OSHA recommendation (see page 7).
  • We don’t know how long COVID-19 remains in the air under normal conditions.
  • We don’t know how long COVID-19 remains alive on hard surfaces (machines, dumbbells, etc. that are not cleaned after exposure). Some articles are guessing 3 days, but that might be optimistic; other viruses in the coronavirus family can last up to 9 days.

Today I’m focused on streaming fitness. That’s anything online, or available via Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Prime or Amazon Fire. (Initially I said I wasn’t doing apps, but some streaming services are also apps, so…yeah, I started to add them in.)

Support Small Businesses First

Yes, there are some large corporately-structured gyms and studios. Please remember that many of these that you see as “big corporations” are actually franchises–meaning your local location is owned by an individual member of your community (or a small business). I am not personally familiar with what type of financial assistance or relief is available to franchisees, but I do know that many of them will be forced to shut their doors.

Speaking of shutting their doors, yoga and fitness studios are taking a hit. If your local studio is closed, please support them if you can. This means (1) supporting and sharing any online offerings, and (2) keeping your membership active, even if there are no classes to attend. If you’re taking a hit financially and can’t afford to help, no worries. If you’ve got $5 or $20 and appreciated the option, please support your local and other small-businesses.

You don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to work out at home (c) Styled Stock Society

Free and Low-Cost Options:

Please Donate to Local Studio Offerings if You Are Able

Below are the free and low-cost options I am aware of as of Monday, March 16, 2020. If you know of others, please leave a comment. Due to my current schedule, I can’t promise to keep this updated. They are listed in no particular order, though I have put the locally-owned but closed studios I know about at the top.

Get creative. You do not need any gym, studio, or streaming service to get your workout on at home. Running on the Fly has some suggestions for you!

The Yoga Space. This is a locally-owned studio in Portland, Oregon. They will be offering livestream classes at theyogaspace.live This is being offered as a free gift to the greater community for the first few weeks, and then will be made available as a benefit for members and for individual class purchase. Confirmed classes so far are Tuesday, 4pm PDT (Vinyasa with Allison Duckworth) and 6pm PDT (Intermediate Vinyasa with Ian LeMasters). The Yoga Space is posting updates on their Instagram account @theyogaspace

Flex & Flow. This is a locally-owned yoga and HIIT studio in Portland, Oregon. During the closure, they are offering free livestreams via Instagram. Please donate if you can to help keep the teachers paid and the studio open. https://www.fitapproach.com/ffy for details

Hot Pot Studios. This is a locally-owned dance studio in Sacramento, CA. They currently have a dance class scheduled for Wednesday March 18 at 7:45 pm PDT. Here is their message: “Hey Y’all believers in Science who are staying home: We are getting our Dance Party on with an anti apocalypse I.T.S. Jam! @sarah_unmata Has set up the Virtual Classroom Join Sarah & April Via Zoom Classroom on Wednesday 3/18 $10 for one hour of Dance 7:45pm pacific time via PayPal Sign up by pm [see facebook link] or email April hollon verbatim at gmail dot com Where’s the money go? To cleaning supplies and the utility bills, helping the studio survive the social distancing. https://www.facebook.com/hotpotstudios/photos/a.150142574997245/3122173151127491/?type=3&theater

Tiffany Gustafson. What does a trainer do when you can’t train in person? Hop on a virtual platform and offer affordable group training. Here are two offerings: https://www.lubbdubb.io/class/hiit-it-and-quit-it-30-minute-workout/LXw1h7Dt9 https://www.lubbdubb.io/class/strength-circuit/LXw1h7Dt9 All class times are PDT. Can’t make these? Follow Tiffany on Instagram.

Soul Yoga. This is one of those small, local yoga studios that is closed. Like many studios, it is trying to jump online as fast as possible. Classes are free, but how about throwing in a donation so they can stay in business through this? https://www.soulyogafenton.com/online-content

Love Hive Yoga. This is a locally-owned studio in Portland, Oregon that has responsibly shut the doors temporarily. Please check their website for updates on streaming classes and how to support them, and enjoy free videos until they can stream: https://www.lovehiveyoga.com/

The Bhakti Shop. This is another Portland, Oregon studio. Online recorded classes are $3 (that’s right, Three Dollars) or $15 for a month subscription. Check out their portal. They are also working to livestream their classes, and you can learn more about that over here. Finally, download a 3 minute meditation here.

Derek Beres yoga. Equinox is closed, and Derek is offering live stream classes on his YouTube channel. Classes are free, donations are appreciated. Please find more details, including a schedule, here: http://www.derekberes.com/yoga/

Athletes for Yoga. In addition to the 14-day free trial, Athletes for Yoga is offering 50% off your first month. Essentially, you get 6 weeks for like $5. Here’s how to do it: go to athletesforyoga.com Use code HOMESTUDIO when you create your account. In addition, there’s a free recovery meditation here: https://video.athletesforyoga.com/videos/recovery-visualization

Grokker. Grokker is free through April 30. Classes include yoga, meditation, indoor cycling, pilates, and more. After April 30, regular price is $14.99/ month (and I’m sure there is a yearly subscription discount, I just can’t find it). grokker.com Grokker also added a COVID-19 Coronavirus Preparedness program that is FREE to everyone, and you don’t need a Grokker account to watch it.

Down Dog App. All of their programs are free until April 1. https://www.downdogapp.com/

The Craft of Teaching Yoga/Yoga with Adrienne. Free online rituals. The first one is Wednesday March 18; follow them on Instagram and Facebook to find out about future options.

Glo.com (formerly YogaGlo). An offering of some free yoga, pilates, and meditation are on offer for free: https://glo.com/FromOurHearts

Now Foods Ambassadors. NOW has compiled a range of workouts from their wellness ambassadors. You can find the collection here. All free.

YouTube. Since anyone can post here, the workout options are definitely a mixed bag; some are clearly trained exercise professionals, others are scary and dangerous. Most of the trainers and channels you’ve heard of (PopSugar fitness, Leslie Sansone, Les MIlls, anyone who has released a DVD series) have a decent offering from 10 to 60 minutes.

General Online Resources

Below are a list of general online options to get your sweat on. Not all of these have a special deal going on, but they do have a free trial period. If you are clever, you can work out for free for quite some time before you commit to just one. These are presented in no particular order. If you usually support a local studio please go back when the threat of COVID-19 has passed!! Please note that streaming services sometimes offer coupons, discount codes, or other deals (e.g. subscribe for a year and save). I don’t have all that information for every service 🙂

Yoga can be a workout, but it can also help ease your mind during stressful times. (c) Styled Sock Society

Yoga

The Yoga Collective. Offers a 15-day free trial. Regular prices is $15/month. www.theyogacollective.com

Yoga International. Offers a 14-day free trial. Regular price is approx. $20/month, though you can save up to 50% by paying for a year in advance. www.yogainternational.com

Glo.com. Formerly known as YogaGlo. Offers a 15-day free trial. Regular price sis $18/month when you register through glo.com or $22.99/month if you register through the Glo app (because then iTunes manages the subscription); you get the same content either way. Hosts a number of big-name/famous yoga teachers. www.glo.com

Gaia. Offers a 1-week free trial. Regular price is $11.99/month. If you choose an annual membership, you pay $99 each year ($8.25/month). Gaia also offers a “Live Access” option at $299/year (or $24.92/month) with online workshops, live chats, and other benefits. Like Glo, there are lots of big-name teachers here. www.gaia.com

Yoga Download. If you go to the site a pop-up will offer you a free video. Unlike other sites, some of the Yoga Download classes are available to download, not stream. That means you get to keep them even if you cancel your subscription. Regular pricing is $12/month (2 downloads, unlimited streaming); $18/month (unlimited downloads); $120/year. They also offer 3-month and 6-month options. Easy to sort classes by style.

BUTI Yoga. This is not your mama’s yoga! Yoga with dance and other movement. Offers a 14-day free trial. Regular price is $39.99/month or $399.99/year. butiyoga.vhx.tv

Stretch Lab. This isn’t yoga at all, it’s literally stretching. Since it isn’t practical to have one-on-one stretching right now, and group stretches are also off the menu, they’ve moved to the Stretch Lab Go Facebook page. Follow the page for information on virtual events, and get your stretch on–some sessions are just 10-20 minutes. A strap and foam roller will be handy, if you have them.

Strala/Tara Stiles. If you’re not familiar with Strala, it’s like yoga with more emphasis on the movement in your body than the yoga poses. The library of free practices has meditation and movement. In addition, Tara is offering 50% off all classes. class series, and at-home retreats through the end of March. Use code PRACTICENOW at check-out.

We don’t all have a Reformer at home. If you do dust it off! (c) Styled Stock Society

Cycling

Peleton. I’m told the app is now free for 90 days (thanks, Jennifer!)

Train Right. In exchange for your email address, you can get access to 20+ training workouts (some of which were originally released on VHS, so be nice when you see they look “dated”). https://trainright.com/products/video-downloads/

Barre-style and Pilates-based workouts

Blogilates. One of the original online Pilates workouts (and an app), still free. Sign up for Cassie’s email list to get a monthly workout calendar. She’s also made a special 14-day quarantine workout. Most of her videos are on the Blogilates YouTube channel as well.

Sleek Ballet Fitness. Sleek is a ballet-based workout. Offers a 7-day free trial. Regular price is $19.99/month or $199.99/year.

Barre3. I have a soft spot for Barre3 as it was created by a Portlander, who was affiliated with YogaWorks, and (most important!!) is a body-friendly, anatomically sane barre workout. You don’t need a barre to do the home workouts, though some incorporate small hand weights and props. If you’ve never tried it, there is a YouTube channel. The streaming service at barre3.com/trial for a 15-day free trial. Regular price is $29/month.

Ballet Beautiful. One of the more expensive options, but rooted firmly in ballet (not “fitness”). This is the site of the professional ballerina and trainer who worked with Natalie Portman for Black Swan. There is a two week free trial, using code 2WTRIAL. (If you can’t make it work, try Instagram or Facebook, where they are running an ad for a 15 minute download class for free, and the two week free trial.) You you can get a discount on your first month with the code on the website (currently BBMARCH20). Regular price is $39.99/month. balletbeautiful.com

Physique 57. You may have seen Physique 57 studios, or perhaps you caught the DVD package back in the day. Now they offer a streaming service with new classes added weekly. Offers a 7-day free trial. Regular price $24.99/month or $249/year (essentially 2 months free). ondemand.physique57.com

Pilatesology. Focused on classic Pilates, this site has both equipment workouts (e.g. Refomer) and non-equipment workouts. Offers a 16-day free trial. Regular price $20/month or $179/year. pilatesology.com

Pilates Anytime. Currently has 1,582 mat videos, 812 Reformer videos, and 193 Wunda Chair videos, among others (barre, small props, tower, and more). Offers a 15-day free trial. Regular price is $18/month. pilatesanytime.com

Yoopod. Formerly known as “Pilates on Demand.” This service focuses on Pilates, yoga, and mindfulness practices. Offers a 14-day free trial. Regular prices are posted in British Pounds Sterling–you do the math. yoopod.com

Pilates on Fifth. Like most Pilates options, this site has both equipment workouts and those that use no equipment. Also includes some barre, cardio, and strength-training. Offers a 14-day free trial. Regular price $12.99/month or $129.99/year (includes some products with annual membership). pilatesonfifthonline,com

Pilates Interactive. This is a project of BASI Pilates. Unlike other sites, this is both written instruction and video. It is aimed at Pilates professionals (teachers and trainers) and includes breakdowns for the exercises. Offers a one month free trial. Regular price is $10/month for BASI Repertoire or Polestra Repertoire, $15/month for both. (Client management software is also an option.) I’m not a Pilates professional, but this looks like a screaming deal to me. pilatesinteractive.com

Balanced Body. I wasn’t able to wait for the site to load (I’m sure my internet is throttled at this point) but you can check it out at video.pilates.com

(c) Styled Stock Society

Gym-style and mixed variety group exercise

Bolly-X. Choreographed dance workouts using Bhangra hits! Apparently they were on Shark Tank?!? Regular price $14.99/month. Currently offering a $49 access for life special (or $24/year or $15/3 months): https://bollyx-swag-shop.myshopify.com/products/lifetime-membership-with-bollyx-on-demand-at-home-workouts

Body Groove. Another dance-based workout, this one uses HIIT theory. Offering a 30-day free trial. https://www.startbodygroove.com/hiit.htm Regular price is $9.99/month or $59.99/year (basically half price if you choose the year membership).

The Sufferfest. AltRed is sponsoring an additional free month. The Sufferfest is primarily a training tool for distance cyclists, but there are also a bunch of other videos including strength training and yoga for cyclists. To access a full six weeks, first download The Sufferfest. Then create your account to start your 14-day free trial. Next, go to Settings > Manage Subscription and choose the monthly subscription option. Enter promo code ALTREDSUF30 to get a free month (in addition to the 14-day free trial). Wile you do need to enter payment information for the code to activate, you won’t be charged if you cancel before the end of your free month (which is really six weeks).

OpenFit. This one appears to offer specific programming both live and recorded. (If you’re wondering where gixo went, OpenFit bought it.) The programs are Xtend Barre, Xtend Barre Pilates, Rough Around the Edges, Yoga 52, 600 seconds, Tough Mudder T-Minus 30, and Sugar Free 3. I’m only familiar with Xtend Barre, which I personally recommend as one of the top barre programs for attention to form. Offers a 14 day free trial. Regular price is $96/year ($8./month), $60/6 months, or $39/3 months).

Sissfit. Sisters Lauren and Kelly are offering free access to the Sissfit app (which they apologize is only available in iOS right now). Click here for 30 Days Free Access. (Offer is only for new users.)

Jari Love/Get Ripped. Jari is relasing free workouts via YouTube. You can find the workouts on her channel, starting with this one. The workouts require dumbbells/weights, and you can use a step or the floor. She also released “Slim and Lean” on Vimeo.

City Row. The City Row studios (which to my knowledge are all franchises) are closed. They are posting workouts that require no equipment on their Instagram page; follow them at @cityrow for details. The City Row GO app (which is separate from the scheduling app) is free for a month with code 1MONTH_FREE. It has rowing workouts (in case you own a rower) as well as strength, yoga, and mobility. Psst! There is apparently a whole family of “[insert name here] GO” apps.

Crunch Live. You know the gym chain called Crunch? This is their streaming service. If you belong to a Crunch gym, you can use this for free (unless you are on the base membership plan). Offers a 10-day free trial. Regular price is $9.99/month o $90/year. www.crunchlive.com

Daily Burn. A little bit of everything. Actually a LOT of everything. Whatever you like, they have it. Offers a 30-day free trial. Regular price is $19.99/month. dailyburn.com

TRX. I haven’t seen any specials on the TRX app (yet). If you own a suspension trainer, sign up for their newsletter to receive free weekly workouts.

Centr. Who doesn’t want to work out with Chris Hemsworth?? HIIT, boxing, yoga, strength training, MMA. Offering six weeks free. Regular prices is $29.99/month, $59.99/3-months, $119.99/year. https://centr.com/join-us

Get Healthy U TV. Started by Chris Freytag, with powerhouse Amy Dixon and others! Kickboxing, strength training, yoga, and more. A whole year is $9.99 right now (“regular” price is $59.99) https://go.gethealthyutv.com/a21445/

Body FX. JNL Fitness and Figure 8 workouts, among others. I hesitate slightly to recommend this one, only because several years ago they were planning to launch an MLM to compete with BeachBody, and I don’t know if they will try to upsell you a bunch of supplements (they do make a protein powder) and nonsense (there’s a recipe for something called Sueperfood Detox Soup). Offers 30 days free, regular price is $11.99/month or $84/year. https://bodyfx.com/home-workout/

Suzanne Bowen Fitness. I kinda love that you can click ‘surprise me’ and the site will choose a workout for you! This site also has a workout builder, and a collection of prenatal videos. Offers a 24-hour free trial. Regular price $14.99/month, $129.99/year, or $74.99/6-months. suzannebowenfitness.com

SCW On Demand. SCW produces the fitness Mania events where your teachers go to get their continuing education credits. Offerings include personal training type videos plus active aging, yoga, and aqua. $19.95 month-to-month; $9.95 with an annual commitment (but you pay one month at a time); $99/year (paid all at once). https://scwfit.com/store/on-demand/

Jillian Michaels. Her fitness app offers a 7-day free trial. More information at https://www.jillianmichaels.com/ Note that Jillian offers nutritional advice that is sometimes way off the mark (at least in terms of evidence-based practice). She’s publicly pooh-poohed keto and vegan diets, and promotes misinformation about organic products. If you’re going to use her app for nutrition tracking, just be aware you might want to take her advice with a salt lick.

Pvolve. This is a streaming service that uses custom equipment, though I think you could hack most of it from other equipment (e.g. using a band instead of the gloves with the band). They offer a variety of packages of equipment and their streaming service. Whatever you do, do NOT pay full price. At any given moment I see at least a dozen different ads or influencer campaigns for 20% off. https://www.pvolve.com/

What did I miss? Drop a comment with what you are offering, or how you are supporting your trainers and teachers when their studios and gyms are closed!

Disclosure: I received the gently used Grid and new-in-package MobiPoint Massage Ball as conference swag, directly from TriggerPoint Therapy, one of the sponsors of Sweat Pink’s BlogFest at IDEA World 2019. (I’m only giving them away because I already had my own!) I wasn’t asked to write a blog post, host a giveaway, or anything else for that matter. All opinions and words are my own.

What Have You Heard about Foam Rolling?

Pictures of The Grid
The Grid (left), The Grid Vibe Plus (right), and the travel Grid

If you haven’t heard about “foam rolling,” you’ve probably been living under a rock. There’s WAY more to the world of self-myofacial release (SMFR or MFR) than the foamy logs you see at the Relax the Back store or in your yoga/pilates studio. Essentially, SMFR is a type of self-massage that often involves specialized tools, including various kinds of stick-rollers, log/tube-shaped rollers, balls, and other tools. SMFR techniques manipulate and massage the muscles and surrounding tissues, increasing blood flow and elasticity. In my experience, while there is sometimes a bit of “owww, that’s a tight spot,” the end result is a bit like the end result of a massage: everything feels better.

I first encountered the Grid at an SCW Mania event nearly ten years ago, back when TP Therapy was a small company based in Austin, TX. (It is now owned by Implus, the American parent company of SKLZ, Harbinger, Balega, RockTape, FuelBelt, Sofsole, Spenco, and more.) Their trainers–including Cassidy Phillips, the founder and CEO–taught several practical SMFR sessions. Cassidy taught us a little bit about fascia, the connective tissue that helps form the structure of the human body; it’s like a scaffolding around the bones that helps keep other body tissues and organs in their place. Think of it as a stretchy mesh: if you pull on one corner and wad it up, the rest of the mesh stretches out to accommodate. Fascia does something similar in the body (which is why when your left low back gets tight, you might find your right upper back, or some other seemingly unrelated body part, is also upset). Cassidy also explained that human muscle tissue is just like any other animal muscle tissue; when it is fully hydrated and moving well it is like a tender steak, but when it is partially dehydrated and has knots or spots of uneven tension it is more like beef jerky. (That image has stuck with me, and I’m a more hydrated-human because of it.)

Before I get into why I love The Grid, let’s take a step back. If you’ve tried SMFR you probably agree that it feels good (well, after it stops hurting like hell), and maybe you’ve read some other blogger yammer on about how fantastic it is. That’s all well and good, but fancy tea tastes good and no matter how many bloggers say so it isn’t going to “detox” you (at least not any more than your liver and kidneys already do). So…is foam rolling worthwhile, or is it some woo-woo goop-esque trend?

What Science Says

If you’re a science geek, you probably already know about PubMed. If you are an athlete interested in exercise science, or a person interested in the latest nutrition research, or a blogger who doles out advice on anything related to the human body (including products and ingredients) you really ought to bookmark it. PubMed is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is part of the National Institute of Health. PubMed largely includes abstracts of peer-reviewed articles, though a few articles are available for free. The articles include clinical trials, epidemiology reviews, case studies, and more. You can choose to view the results by “best match” or “most recent”

Pro tip: if you don’t want to pay for access to an article, but you really want to read it, you have two free options. One, reach out to the authors of the paper. Many authors are happy that someone wants to read their research, and would be thrilled to send you a copy of the publication. Two, seek out access via a college or university library. If you attended a college or university, start there. Many allow their alumni to use the library resources for free or super cheap. If you didn’t, you can try a nearby college or university. Many have a non-student library card that you can obtain for a fee, and that may include access to electronic resources.

A PubMed search for “foam rolling” returned 83 results! (The more scientific “self myofascial release” returned 100. There is some overlap, of course.) Some of the articles are very general, while others are almost nauseatingly specific, such as Behara B, and Jacobson BH’s “Acute Effects of Deep Tissue Foam Rolling and Dynamic Stretching on Muscular Strength, Power, and Flexibility in Division I Linemen.” J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Apr;31(4):888-892. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001051. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26121431

A Little of the Bad News

There are several articles that cast doubt on what you’ve likely heard about foam rolling.

At least one review concludes that the term “self-myofascial release” is misleading, because there isn’t enough evidence to support the idea that foam rolling and similar practices actually release myofascial restrictions. Behm, DG and Wilke, J. Do Self-Myofascial Release Devices Release Myofascia? Rolling Mechanisms: A Narrative Review. Sports Med. 2019 Aug;49(8):1173-1181. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01149-y. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31256353  It strikes me that this is a fair conclusion, since the research on foam rolling and similar practices is still pretty young, and it’s entirely possible that any results achieved are from something other than myofascial release, maybe improved blood circulation, or something about how your breathing changes while you are doing it–we don’t know. (But we might, soon!)

Bundle of TP tools
TP Performance Collection (minus the Baller Block–trust me, you want that too) and MB5 Massage Ball

Another study concluded that adding SMFR to static stretching did not have an effect on hamstring stiffness, as a group that did only static stretching achieved the same results. Mortin, RW et al. Self-Myofascial Release: No Improvement of Functional Outcomes in ‘Tight’ Hamstrings. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016 Jul;11(5):658-63. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2015-0399. Epub 2015 Nov 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26562930

Remember that in order to make sense of any study’s result, you need to take a look at who the participants were (students, professionals, weekend warriors?), what the researchers looked at (how did they measure results? what did they consider or fail to consider?), and the testing protocol (what did the participants actually do? was there a control group?). The results of a small study of college tennis players, for example, may not apply to a Gen Xer who only does Crossfit.

A Little of the Good News

I love the way I feel in my body after a good session with The Grid, so I almost don’t care if there is any science to support it. Since I’m recommending it to you though, I think it would be irresponsible to talk about how great I think it is if in reality it’s a sham like detoxing foot pads or alkaline water. Here are a few studies that found foam rolling or SMFR beneficial–these are the ones I found interesting, but you can go find more on PubMed. The term “key finding” is mine (as some abstracts use “results,” others use “conclusions,” and I like a tidy organization to my references).

Several studies concluded that the protocol they studied led to an improved range of motion:

  • Su H, et al. Acute Effects of Foam Rolling, Static Stretching, and Dynamic Stretching During Warm-ups on Muscular Flexibility and Strength in Young Adults. J Sport Rehabil. 2017 Nov;26(6):469-477. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2016-0102. Epub 2016 Oct 13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27736289 Key finding: flexibility test scores improved significantly more after foam rolling a compared with static and dynamic stretching.
  • Mohr AR, et al. Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion. J Sport Rehabil. 2014 Nov;23(4):296-9. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2013-0025. Epub 2014 Jan 21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24458506 Key finding: Regardless of the treatment, all subjects had increased range of motion (regardless of treatment: static stretching, foam rolling and static stretching, or only foam rolling). Use of a foam roller followed by static-stretching increased range of motion more than static stretching alone.
  • Bushell JE, et al. Clinical Relevance of Foam Rolling on Hip Extension Angle in a Functional Lunge Position. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Sep;29(9):2397-403. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000888. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25734777
    Key finding: repeated foam rolling is beneficial, both objectively and subjectively, for increasing range of motion immediately preceding a dynamic activity.

Several studies concluded that the protocol they studied led to improvement in recovery, including delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS, or the soreness you get a day or two after your workout):

  • Pearcey GE, et al. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train. 2015 Jan;50(1):5-13. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-50.1.01. Epub 2014 Nov 21.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25415413
    Key finding: Foam rolling effectively reduced DOMS and associated decrements in most dynamic performance measures.
  • Rey E, et al. Effects of Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool in Professional Soccer Players. J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Aug;33(8):2194-2201. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002277. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29016479 Key finding: soccer coaches and trainers working with high-level players should use a structured recovery session of 15-20 minutes using foam rolling at the end of a training session to enhance recovery.

Some studies looked at specific health conditions or effects, rather than muscular performance. A few of the ones I found nifty:

  • Improvement of Fibromyalgia. Ceca, D et al. Benefits of a self-myofascial release program on health-related quality of life in people with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017 Jul-Aug;57(7-8):993-1002. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.17.07025-6. Epub 2017 Jan 31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28139112
    Key finding: regular, structured practice of SMFR can improve health-related quality of life for people with fibromyalgia.
  • Reduction of Arterial Stiffness. Okamoto T, et al. Acute effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller on arterial function. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):69-73. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31829480f5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23575360 Key finding: SMFR with a foam roller reduces arterial stiffness and improves vascular endothelial function.

In short, while the jury is still out on some claims about foam rolling, there is also some evidence–at least regarding the population and specific protocols studied–that foam rolling provides a benefit. I mean beyond feeling good when you’re done.

Back To The Grid

Comparison of The Grid and The Grid Vibe
Above, my well-worn The Grid (yours will be nicer); The Grid Vibe Plus is a bit more slender

Unlike the long foam rollers I’d known before, the Grid has a hollow hard-plastic core. (While there is a smaller travel Grid available–think as if you took a slice of the roller–the original Grid is great for travel, as you can stuff a lot of clothing in there inside your suitcase.) On the outside, the Grid is textured in an un-even grid-like pattern: small squares are high and firm, like fingertips or a thumb tip; long and narrow rectangles are more like fingers; and larger rectangular flat areas are like palms. Positioning the Grid so that a particular surface hits the targeted area changes how it feels on your body. Rolling through all of the different zones feels delicious to me! In my first class, we learned techniques to roll out the peroneals, IT band, quads, anterior tibialis, and more.

Also unlike the long foam rollers I’d known before, the Grid is very sturdy. (I’ve had my personal Grid since that first SCW Mania, I’ve toted it around the country, and you’d be hard pressed to tell.) The fact that it is hollow means you can also incorporate it into exercises apart from SMFR. For example, you can hold the sides (palms on top, fingers tucked inside the hollow center) and plank. This adds an extra dose of instability to your plank, as any shift of your body weight forward or back will cause the Grid to roll. Another example exercise is the lunge. Standing with your front foot on the Grid and your back leg in an extended lunge, keep your torso upright and your front leg steady while you drop you back knee to a right angle. Another example is the plank-to-pike exercise: start in a plank with your toes on the Grid, transition to a pike with the soles of your feet on the Grid. Quite possibly my favorite is the wall squat using the Grid between your back and the wall.

Your Only Tool Is a Hammer…Is Everything a Nail?

One of the things that impressed me was that the staff at the TriggerPoint booth were more interested in showing you how to use their tools than selling you the tools. SMFR isn’t something you just do here and there to make a workout smoother, or to recover from a workout. In order to create and maintain results, any SMFR program requires repetition–just like exercise. The TriggerPoint website includes a library of videos on how to use their products (which back in the day we bought on DVD). After using it in a workshop targeted towards runners, I purchased a tools kit (similar to what is now called the TP Performance Collection) that came with a booklet outlining a total body program (including a dry-erase calendar to plan your program); I also bought The Ultimate 6 for Runners–a similar booklet that targets the soleus, qaudcriceps, psoas, piriformis, pectorales, and thoracic spine. I particularly like the booklets. They are spiral bound to lay flat, and have plenty of photographs in addition to the text description.

Today, the TP Therapy products in my SMFR tool kit also include the Grid Vibe (thinner than the Grid, but OMG the vibration is brilliant!), MB5 large foam massage ball, MobiPoint massage ball, and the Nano X foot roller (the extra-dense version of the Nano foot roller). Recently TP Therapy released a new tool, the MB Vibe, which is similar to the MB5 but also has vibration to it. (I cannot wait to get my hands on one!)

Win Your Own!

I have ONE prize pack to give away. It includes The Grid, the original TP Therapy product, in orange; and the MobiPoint Massage Ball (a sweet treat for runner feet!). Apologies to my friends elsewhere, but postage is spendy these days and so I have to limit this giveaway to U.S. residents only. Void where prohibited.

Start by leaving a comment and tell me about your experiencce: Have you tried foam rolling or another form of self myofacial release? Which tools do you use? What’s your favorite exercise? How often do you roll?

Then work your way through the steps in the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Portions of this post were provided by New Hope Network and are from Melaina Juntti’s article, “10 Ways to Say No to Plastic.”  I am a member of the New Hope Influencer Co-op, a network of health and wellness bloggers committed to spreading more health to more people. New Hope is NOT related to #PlasticFreeJuly, which is based in Australia.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen a lot of information about plastic recently. Whether it is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the fact that China is no longer accepting plastic from the United States for recycling, we are generating more plastic waste than ever.

Humans have generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since 1950, when plastic first came into common usage, according to a 2017 University of Georgia study. What’s more, almost 80 percent of that plastic is still sitting in landfills or junking up the environment. Plastic—even the “biodegradable” kind—is a permanent substance and in the United States we are using it to solve problems that last for just a minute. (Most biodegradable plastics just break down into smaller and smaller pieces, which might become fish food.) It clogs waterways, chokes out wildlife, and emits an unfriendly mix of chemicals (when it burns or breaks down) that leech into water and soil.

Join me for #PlasticFreeJuly

I just learned about the Plastic Free July Challenge, and I’m game. Are you? According to the Challenge website, the top four sources of plastic waste in takeaway/to-go items are bags, straws, bottles, and coffee cups (either the foam-like self-insulating cups, or the lids on paper cups).

Ideally plastic is like junk food: just don’t bring it home, and you can’t use it. In reality? I get it. There are some applications for which there isn’t a good non-plastic option available to you. (I can think of some medical items that I would rather not re-use, for example!) If you absolutely have to get a plastic thing, choose the least plastic you can, and choose the option that is reusable and try to re-use it as long as you can. Large yogurt containers, for example, can be re-used for storing leftovers (or broken crayon bits, or legos, or…).

Image courtesy of New Hope Blogger Co-op

Tip #1: Skip Even More Plastic Bags

Choose to Reuse–at ALL The Stores. If you’re a green shopper you probably already bring your own your own re-usable shopping bags to the grocery store. (Do you take them to Target, too?)  If you’re choosing paper, remember that you have to re-use them multiple times to reduce the environmenal impact of making them (otherwise the single-use plastic is actually more Earth-friendly, no kidding). I keep mine in the car so they are there when I go shopping, and keep a Chico Bag (or two–they’re small) in my backpack. Next up, do you really need to toss those individual green peppers into a disposable plastic bag? You’re going to wash them before you eat them, so letting them go free-range in your cart shouldn’t be a big deal. Other alternatives: get reusable mesh produce bags, or toss produce right into your cloth shopping bags while you finish shopping. And  hey, you don’t need that giant plastic tote from the running store either. Your shoes come in boxes, and you can choose a reusable bag instead–if you work out, you probably have a few dozen.

Avoid the Plastic Wrap Trap. You can save time (and money!) by using a reusable beeswax paper wrap such as Bees Wrap. Many beeswax wrappers will stick to themselves to seal. Just be careful when you wash them: make sure the water is not so hot that the wax melts, and use the softer side of the sponge. When you’re done, many of these wraps are compostable or at least repurpose-able (no more wax = fabric for craft projects). Not ready to commit to beeswax wrap? Try aluminum foil. If you don’t crush it you can wash it and re-use it multiple times. When it has reached the end of its useful life, give it a thorough bath, dry it off, and toss it into in the recycling bin.

Skip the plastic baggies too. At home, choose re-usable storage containers. While those made by baggie companies are reusable, invest in something sturdier that will last longer.  IKEA has plastic containers with rubber-sealed lids for $1 each piece, and the ones I’ve had for years are in great shape. You can also choose glass (glass lids are easy at home but tricky in lunches), though I admit it’s less than ideal for families with young children who mess around in the fridge. For lunchboxes, you can wrap sandwiches in waxed paper (which is also compostable, though not accepted by all municipal compost facilities). I’m using silicone “bags” that are resealable and reusable by Stasher. So far, they are holding up very well to multiple uses, reuses, and washes. As a bonus, they are dishwasher safe. Perfect for my pre-race and post-race snacks. They come in multiple colors, include fun limited edition shades.

At the races, skip the plastic bags! You’ve got multiple ways to skip plastic bags here. (1) Unless a race is FORCING you to use a plastic bag as your checked bag, DON’T TAKE ONE! If you run a bunch of races in the same series that insists on using plastic bags (such as Revel or Rock ‘n’ Roll) REUSE your bag. It’s the same identical bag, you don’t need another one. (2) Don’t use a plastic garbage bag as a warm-up in the corrals. Instead, either use clothing you’re willing to toss, or buy something very cheap at the thrift store (bathrobe, anyone?). Clothing tossed at start lines often goes to charity, and some races put it directly on the backs of local people experiencing homelessness (after a good washing, of course). (3) If you carry supplies in a plastic bag–which isn’t a terrible idea, since rain and smart phones don’t go together–choose a freezer bag, and then reuse it. Freezer bags are slightly thicker than regular zip-top bags, which means you can reuse it dozens of times before you will need to replace it. If you’re not going to use your phone to take pictures, a Stasher bag might work well too.

Skip the Plastic Bags at the Gym! Lots of gyms have a roll of plastic bags in the locker room to bag up your wet swimsuit or sweaty gym clothes. As nice as it is to keep those sweaty, wet things from getting loose in your gym bag, a plastic bag is not the best way. Instead, try using your swim  or shower towel to wrap those things. I lay the towel on the bench, layer on the wet stuff, fold the towel in half, and then roll it up like sushi.

Image courtesy of New Hope Blogger Co-op

Tip #2: Choose Wines That Use Real Corks

Celebrate Sustainably! Trust me, I enjoy a good post-race bubbly or glass of shower wine. I’m definitely NOT begrudging you yours! About 15 years ago, buzz began circulating that cork, the classic wine preserver, wasn’t so sustainable. There was concern that cork tree forests were being depleted, so perhaps plastic wine stoppers would be better. Well, the truth is cork production is pretty darned sustainable. The bark can be stripped and used to make wine closures without cutting the trees down, and this process actually makes the trees better able to offset carbon dioxide. Also, Mediterranean cork forests host some of the greatest plant biodiversity on the planet, according to the World Wildlife Fund. So next time you’re selecting wine, opt for bottles with real-cork corks, not plastic stoppers. As a bonus, many wineries will accept corks for recycling, or you can  get a cork box through TerraCycle.

Check Your Inner Wine Snob. As an intermediate option, don’t snub your nose at screw-top wine. While screw-tops used to be endlessly mocked as they were only used on cheap, poor quality wines, now even big and fancy wineries are looking at screw-tops. They make it easier to re-seal your wine bottle, but also tend to protect your wine better than corks. And hey, there’s always that old college staple. (No, not Boone’s Farm!) Boxed wine, while lined with a plastic bag, keeps much longer than bottled wine. If you only indulge every now and again, boxed wine might be your best bet…and the more people nudging the wine makers to recycle their packaging, the more likely it is that it will happen.

Stay Tuned for More Tips to Just Say No to Plastic!

In the meanwhile, what’s your top “just say no to plastic” tip? Do you have a tip that is especially applicable to runners?