Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

And now for something different...

My Summer Product Review Board has completely taken over this blog recently! Though I love doing it, and have received such great feedback (thanks!) on the reviews, I felt the burning desire to, no matter how short, have something other than a product review appear at least somewhere on the blog!

Soooo, with that said: I have had such a great start to summer here. Despite the heat (We hit 99 degrees almost a Month ago and it's been mid to high 90's almost everyday since), I am really enjoying my time out on the roads!

I've had a really awesome opportunity to work with some great people to foster their running. For the last 6 or 8 weeks I've been working with a group of about 10 people (5 of them very closely) who I go to church with. It's been a free 9 week training course on running (which I have Loved) with people who have, mostly, Never run before. ever. So I started them off training their form, teaching them about the minimalist style, practicing barefoot running, and building their way up. I told them that I could take them from having never run, not currently doing anything athletic at all, to running a 5k in (comfortably) 7-9 weeks (depending on if they did 3 days a week or 4 days a week). I have LOVED going out and running with them; there is nothing better than seeing the 'lightbulb' come on!

Remember, we are often thought of as crazy. 'Crazy' leads to curiosity. From there, it's a short leap (or stride) to conversion ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Product Review 18: Sugoi Apparel Piston 200 Leg Sleeves

As most people know, Compression gear is meant to increase blood flow (and some say ‘squeeze’ out lactic acid) and improve performance while aiding with recovery.

Admittedly, I was a bit of a skeptic on compression gear as it seemed, on the surface, to be a bit fad driven and followed the thought I’m trying to get people away from (‘you’d run better if you Just had _X_ product!’). With that said, I began thinking about how each time I had to have knee surgery (6 times…) I had to wear compression sleeves on my legs to reduce swelling and save me from blot clots – by increasing blood flow/circulation… so I decided to give compression a true go and put several types, brands, and lines to the test; today we have Sugoi.

SUGOI Apparel
Sugoi translates “Incredible” in Japanese. The company was founded almost 25 years ago in a basement in Vancouver, British Columbia by a cyclist and has since been successfully acquired (in 2006) by Dorel (other lines include Cannondale, Schwinn, Mongoose, RoadMaster, etc.).

SUGOI Piston 200 Leg Sleeves

These leg sleeves fit very smoothly, no tags to irritate and well made with flat seams that did not bother me during distance runs.

The logo and piping are 3M Scotchlite and provide an excellent amount of reflective material for late evening/early morning runs.

The length of these sleeves was just right! They came high enough to cover my quads, but not too high where they would chafe or irritate, and they came low enough to completely cover the calf while not coming down over the ankle bone.

The level of compression was absolutely spot on – not too tight (not restrictive in movement or blood flow), but ample, ‘true’, compression.

The 3 things I was most worried about on these turned out to be there 3 biggest selling points:
1. I worried about the top seam around the top of the thigh being too restrictive or irritating. However, they have a thin black piping that goes around the top (and bottom) that provides almost a seal. It fit to the thigh very well.

2. I was concerned (as I am with all tights/leg sleeves) about how they would fit around the knee, specifically behind the knee while running. These sleeves proved to have a perfect second-skin fit moved with my stride instead of restricting it and also caused no irritation behind the knee.

3. As with all compression, one of the biggest things I look for is can I forget I’m wearing it: i.e. do they do what they are supposed to do without any sliding at all. The last think I want to do while I’m running is break stride to pull my sleeves up where they are falling down out of position. But again, these sleeves stayed in place perfectly with no twisting, sliding, or movement at all.

I ended up using these leg sleeves 2 fold:
First, I used them on my run where they fit very well and provided the perfect level of compression. My muscles felt ‘barely there’ along the run and I (anecdotally of course) did feel that DOMS was significantly reduced.
Secondly, I used the sleeves as a recovery tool: I ran sans sleeves and then returned home, showered, and placed the sleeves on for the rest of the evening (it was a dinner time run) and actually slept in the sleeves to aid in recovery. Even for sleeping, the sleeves did not bother me, caused no restriction in blood flow, and the compression level was strong enough to aid in my recovery without causing me any level of discomfort while falling asleep.

As a different approach to my standard reviews, I decided to have a second person, with a different background, try out these leg sleeves so that I could share their opinion as well.

This person was someone who had grown up as a strong athlete (a competitive gymnast) but someone who had never been a runner and who has just now begun to develop their potential as a novice runner.

They (a female) stated they loved the compression level and second-skin like fit that the leg sleeves provided. They found, as another benefit, that they allowed their legs to “glide” much easier and eliminated chafing and thigh-to-thigh restrictive contact. They also tried sleeping in the sleeves as a recovery aid and felt that was a very effective use of the sleeves. They noted that, as a matter of opinion (stated from a female perspective), that they preferred full tights for running so that they come all the way to top of the thigh and did not leave the 2”-3” gap at the top as the sleeves do.

I’m pleased to say that I have no complaints and I am very happy with these Sugoi leg sleeves

Product Review 17: Sugoi Apparel Calf Sleeves

SUGOI Piston 200 Calf Sleeves

The calf sleeves, as most of you know, were the 1 piece of compression gear I was most interested in as (running barefoot or in VFF) my calves often suffer from DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

The Sugoi sleeve had one of the best levels of compression of any sleeves I tried and, as such, had an excellent second-skin fit to them.
It Did compress but it did Not squeeze. What I’ve found is that many ‘cheap’ compression companies just squeeze you to death and call it a day, which hurts, restricts movement, restricts blood flow, etc. But in the Sugoi, the fit was extremely comfortable.
The height on these particular sleeves was a little off for me (I am a towering 5’ 6”). They were just too long for my personal fit, coming too high up behind my knee cap causing irritation while running and still coming down past ankle bone on the bottom end. Again, I am 5’ 6” so this will likely be a non issue for most of you, but it is still worth mentioning.

On the calf sleeves, like the leg sleeves, I decided to have others try them out and give their opinions, 2 people this time.
The 1st person, male, was a dedicated fitness guru (serving as a State Trooper) who loves his Cross-Fit but is just now beginning to foster his distance running. It was their very first experience with calf sleeves.

The 2nd person, female (the same from the leg sleeves review), was someone who had grown up as a strong athlete (a competitive gymnast) but someone who had never been a runner and who has just now begun to develop their potential as a novice runner. It was their very first experience with any type of compression gear at all.

The 1st person felt that leg sleeves proved to be an excellent tool in recovery, and though they liked them a great deal (and will continue to wear them), they did state their one drawback was that their heat. They were impressed with the comfort of the sleeves and how they “disappeared” once they were put on and said that they made his legs feel fresh throughout the run. His best statement to their effectiveness was that the day after his race he said he experienced the lowest level of DOMS he had ever had post run.

The 2nd person could not speak highly enough about these sleeves! As I mentioned, it was their first experience with compression gear of any kind and she was amazed at the “difference it made” in her post run soreness. She has very defined, muscular, “sprinter” calves and she stated that the calves were very comfortable and that once she put them on she felt nothing but refreshed with no discomfort, no squeezing, and no sliding/shifting of the material while she ran.

As a final note, myself and persons 1 and 2 mentioned above ran a benefit 5k to try out the sleeves. It was the second time any of us had worn them and at the end of the run we noticed that on 3 of the 6 sleeves the “Sugoi” logo on the sleeves had peeled off at some point during the race.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Product Review 16: icebreaker GT Run Top

icebreaker apparel

icebreaker is a very unique company. They have taken a stance (a real stance – not a marketing ploy) on environmental conservation, from their materials, to their factories, every step of the way.

Now, this isn’t done by throwing a couple bucks at Al Gore to offset a carbon footprint, instead, icebreaker took a holistic approach: from the raw materials, the farmers, the supply chain and transportation, to the manufacturers and their employees, icebreaker is striving (and doing an amazingly good job) to be in control every step of the way.

Icebreaker is making a valiant effort to not only have a great slogan, “It’s about our relationship with nature and to each other”, but taking ground breaking steps in transparency all the way down to the end user on how they are living that slogan out (check out their ‘baacode’). 


IceBreaker GT Top

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when I received icebreakers GT Run top in the mail. It’s a shirt, how excited can I be? Well…. Let’s just say I was wrong to have given it so little credit. A small bit of background information, I rarely run in shirts, at all. So the idea of testing out a running shirt didn’t immediately appeal to me. However, I was truly impressed with this icebreaker shirt in a lot of ways.

First off, the shirt looks good, and would be just as much at home sitting above a pair of designer blue jeans as it would sitting above a pair of sweaty running shorts. The cut is very detailed, the fit is just right, and it’s tapered to sit perfectly on your form while not being at all compressing (it’s still a loose fit T, but doesn’t fit like a baggy 1 size fits all Hanes).

The sides have micro mesh (holes cut for extra breathability which are almost indiscernible to the eye) which run all the way from the underside of the cap of the sleeve all the way down to the bottom of the shirt, providing added breathability where you need it most.
Also, the piping and logo are made with reflective material for additional visibility.
A nice extra touch on this shirt is that on the back there is a small slot-pocket where you can place an mp3 player (iPod nano sized) and there is a reinforced cutout on the inside of the shirt to run your headphone wires underneath the shirt up the back to your ears. I really like the up-the-back design and under the shirt – this keeps all the wires hidden and out of the way where you aren’t brushing them every stride or catching them with your hands.

Now that we have the details out of way, here’s the best thing about this shirt: It is honestly, with no exaggeration, the softest, lightest, most comfortable shirt I have every put on. No question. The shirt is made of 96% Merino wool (not synthetic, pure, natural New Zealand Merino wool) and, even though ‘wool’ has a bad connotation with a lot of athletes and is known for being hot and scratchy, this Merion wool was like nothing I had ever felt. It breathes like I’m not wearing anything (which is a huge plus to me – it’s already reaching 96-99 degrees here), is weightless (I swear it floats with your body instead of lying on it), and, again, is the softest material I’ve ever felt (forget ‘wool’ – think 10,000 thread count Egyptian cotton and you might get some idea of what I’m talking about).

Another huge + for this shirt: not only is it naturally anti-microbial, but when it does start to stink, you just throw it in the washer. No fancy washing bags and delicate cycles, no dry cleaning, 100% machine washable.

A+ product icebreaker, very well done.

Product Review 15: icebreaker apparel GT Run Short

icebreaker GT Run Distance Short

These shorts from icebreaker are from their GT Run line (”a premium range of technical garments designed specifically for runners. Icebreaker merino breathes, controls temperature and protects runners from the sun's harmful rays.”) and, like the GT Run Shirt I also reviewed, is made from natural New Zealand Merino wool. In fact, the shorts are made from 97% Merino wool. As such, these shorts do an excellent job of regulating temperature and wicking moisture exceptionally well.

In addition to the excellent drying, these shorts also do an excellent job of staying odor free! Most of my running days happen on my lunch break at work, so I’ll change in my office, take off on my run, come back and change again. I was able to do this for a couple of weeks (leaving the shorts hanging on a small rack in the corner of my office) without taking these shorts home and they remained fresh.

Far and away, the Merino wool (the quality of the natural Merino wool that they use) is the number one feature of these shorts. Even the liner is Merino wool (which having the underwear liner made in this way is a huge benefit for obvious reasons). These icebreaker shorts also feature Flatlock seams which make the shorts have a completely seamless feel – no riding, no chaffing, no irritiation. Additionally, the shorts have an interior key pocket, which I always look for in running shorts.

Also, strictly as a matter of opinion, these shorts are the perfect length. At a 5” inseam you have enough length that anyone is comfortable wearing them, but they are short enough to provide complete freedom of movement, be light weight, and not look like you’re running in basketball shorts!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Product Review 14: Polar Bottle Insulated water Bottles

Polar Bottle company

Today I’m going to be reviewing 3 water bottles from Polar Bottles. Ironically, my last reviewed company was RecoFit, and identical to RecoFit, Polar Bottle was founded in Boulder, CO by an avid cyclist.

Polar Bottle has been making their insulated water bottles since 1994 and has largely stayed true to their original design. There’s a lot to be said for a company who chooses to focus on one thing and be the best they can at it. Polar doesn’t sell t-shirts, supplements, wristbands, or anything else – just high-quality water bottles.

Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottles:

Insulated Polar Bottles

These are my favorite. Remember when I said Polar had stuck true to their original concept and design? This is it. It’s very simple, very inexpensive, and does everything you need it to do. Well.

They come in 20 oz and 24 oz sizes, weighing in at 4.6 oz and 5 oz respectively. These things are double walled, insulated/vacuum, plus a foil layer on the outside to reflect the sun – in short, they’ve gone to great lengths to keep what’s inside cold – for which it does an excellent job.

The top has a large, wide mouth which makes it easy to fill with ice, even from my fridge’s ice dispenser.

Once again, a huge benefit of these bottles is that they are completely dishwasher safe with no problems and, again, the valve can be completely disassembled for added cleanliness.

A feature that I really like about these is that they are also freezer safe: allowing you to
a. keep the empty bottle in the freezer and then fill it with cold water to keep the water even colder for short runs,

b. fill the bottle about half way, freeze it, then fill the rest of the bottle with water and allow the ice to super cool your water + melt slowly and refill your bottle, or

c. I even tried filling the bottle full and freezing the entire thing over night with no problems – no cracking, breaking, busted valves, nothing. This allowed me to take the bottle with me on a long outing (heat index of 99 degrees here right now) and allow it to very slowly melt and have cool water the entire day

For anecdotal findings, I found that if I did not freeze the bottle and instead just pulled it out of the dishwasher, filled it a 1/3 of the way with ice, then filled it with tap water, the water remain cold for me for about 2 ½ hours in 90+ degree heat. So 2 ½ hours is your worst case scenario base line and you can build up (more ice, freeze the bottle, freeze the bottles contents, etc.) from there.

Product Review 13: Polar Bottle Stainless Steel water Bottles

Polar Bottle

Stainless Steel Water Bottles:

Stainless Steel Bottle

Polar’s stainless steel bottle is made out of 18/8 stainless steel (18% chromium and 8% nickel), which is what most of the stainless steel gadgets in your kitchen are made out of. This helps it match in color and makes it very durable and scratch resistant (same reason that particular blend of steel is used in other kitchen fixtures).

These stainless steel bottles feature the exact same Half Twist lids as the previously reviewed plastic bottles. Same as before, quick, easy, and No leaks.

The bottle is single walled non insulated, though Polar tells me that a double walled insulated version is on the horizon, bottle that is quite thick. Though not particularly heavy (8 ½ oz), it is certainly thicker and heavier than the “stainless steel” bottles that are popping up all over wal-mart and elsewhere these days.

A big reason why people make stainless steel bottles (a big reason – not the only reason) is the aesthetics, and as far as that goes, the bottle looks great (so great in fact I never get to see it or use it – my wife has permanently adopted it and takes it everywhere).

Here are a few things I really liked about this bottle: it looks great, the half twist cap

(really can’t make it leak), it is very durable, having already survived countless drops on hardwood and concrete floors while not showing any dents or wear, it’s 100% dishwasher safe (I’ve washed it many many times on the top and bottom racks and it’s held up perfectly with no problems), and that it doesn’t stink!

I’ve had several stainless steel bottles before and they’ve all had a distinct odor to them that has kept me from wanting to use them, but somehow Polar (much better materials would be my assumption) has keep the smell out of these.

Product Review 12: Polar Bottle Plastic Half-Twist bottles

Polar Bottle's Plastic Water Bottle

First off, this bottle is out of what Polar calls their “lifestyle” line. What differentiates this bottle from their sport bottles is 2 main things:

1. The bottle is not insulated, and

2. It features Polar Bottles brand new “Half Twist” cap technology (more on that in a minute).
This bottle is extremely light weight (less than 3 ½ oz) and yet will still hold a full 24oz of fluid. The colors are dark enough where the color of your liquid can be not be seen but you are still able to make out your fluid level.

Despite its light weight nature, the bottle is quite durable. I dropped the bottle from various heights (up to 10 feet on concrete) both full and empty and never had a break or a puncture.
Now for what really sets this bottle apart is it Half Twist cap. Polar Bottle’s Half Twist cap (see below)

The Half Twist cap

allows the user to turn the cap a half turn to open it. So if you were looking at the picture above, the cap as pictured is sealed. Now, twist the cap a half turn, where the “Half Twist” logo is upside down, and it’s fully open (allowing you to drink from the lid and seal the lid without ever having to remove it).
It’s handy, it’s fast, and it’s nice (and quick) to not have to untwist the lid all the way off in order to take a drink (like say, a Nalgene).
The openings (one on each side) to drink out of are wide and provide a perfect amount of liquid to flow; not too much to drown you, but a steady solid stream. Once you close the lid (with a half turn back) it is completely sealed with no leaks. I tried shaking, dropping, storing it upside down – no leaks.

Last and not least, it is easy to clean. The white rubber gasket/valve piece you can see in the above picture pops out, the opening where it goes is wide (no need for annoying baby bottle brushes to get in to tiny crevices to clean), and the entire thing is dishwasher safe…a Requirement for me! I washed these bottles many times on top and bottom rack, normal and high-temp wash, and have had no problems.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Product Review 11: RecoFit Calf Sleeves

**RecoFit has extended a 15% coupon code for all of my readers! Just input the coupon code "CCTC" at check out to receive your 15% off**

As most people know, Compression gear is meant to increase blood flow (and some say ‘squeeze’ out lactic acid) and improve performance while aiding with recovery.

Admittedly, I was a bit of a skeptic on compression gear as it seemed, on the surface, to be a bit fad driven and followed the thought I’m trying to get people away from (‘you’d run better if you Just had _X_ product!’). With that said, I began thinking about how each time I had to have knee surgery (6 times…) I had to wear compression sleeves on my legs to reduce swelling and save me from blot clots – by increasing blood flow/circulation… so I decided to give compression a true go and put several types, brands, and lines to the test; today we have a Boulder, CO company founded by Susan Eastman Walton (a cycler and runner herself): RecoFit (the name is derived from RECOvery and FITness).

Today we move on to 2 products for review from from RecoFit:


RecoFit Compression Calf Sleeves

Here’s what I found:
As most of you know by now, the calf sleeves were the 1 piece of compression gear I was most interested in as (running barefoot or in VFF) my calves often suffer from DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

The RecoFit sleeves fit great! The height of the sleeves provided the best fit (length) of any sleeves I have tried to date. They completely covered my calf without being too high (where they rub in the back of your knee) or coming too low (covering up the entire ankle).

I was very happy with the level of compression as well – it Did compress at a level that I could feel (some feel simply like tight fitting socks – not so with these) but it did Not over-squeeze. As you know, many ‘cheap’ compression companies just squeeze you to death and call it a day, which hurts, restricts movement, restricts bloodflow, etc. But in the RecoFit sleeves, the fit was spot on.

Of course, one of the most important questions about calf sleeves is whether or not they stay put. The RecoFit sleeves held their position perfectly, from thin ankle to the top of the calf, allowing me to forget that they were there – never having to bend down and adjust them or pay any attention to them at all – a great second skin fit! These sleeves featured flat seams that truly made the sleeves disappear once I put them on. Very smooth fit.

The best benefit of the RecoFit sleeves is what, on first impression, I feared would be their downfall. When you first hold a pair of the sleeves in your hand, they feel like normal nylon stretch material and gave me the impression that they would be very hot. However, after wearing them extensively I can say that (where the heat index hit 99 degrees here yesterday) they breathe extraordinarily well.
Not only were these sleeves comfortable, but I do feel that it did reduce my post race soreness as well as DOMS, allowing me to recover quicker.

These sleeves are not a cheaper counterpart to the “big names”, or a rushed replica. The fit is top notch, the compression level and gradation were designed very well, and, much to my own surprise, this Boulder, CO company’s calf sleeves are now my go-to sleeves.

Product Review 10: RecoFit ArmCooler Compression Sleeves

**RecoFit has extended a 15% coupon code for all of my readers! Just input the coupon code "CCTC" at check out to receive your 15% off**

RecoFit ArmCooler Compression Sleeves

These were a first for me. Never before had I ever tried (or even thought about trying) arm coolers or arm compression of any kind. With that said, I was presented with the opportunity to try these out from RecoFit, and here’s what I found:

Of course the principles of compression and why you would wear them stay the same. To that end, the arm sleeves fit great, they stayed put, didn’t rub or slide or cause any irritation. What was impressive to me was that putting them on (just straight out of the package), I really could feel a ‘cool sensation’ on my arms (similar to how IcyHot feels when you first put it on). It was mild, but certainly noticeable.

I took them on a run and about half way through I emptied my water bottle on both arms (as RecoFit suggests) and drenching the sleeves in cold water helped to super-charge them. Though the sleeves dried quickly, the extra cool feeling remained and did, in fact, help to keep me cool over the course of my run.

This was a hard product for me to review because admittedly, I’m just not personally interested in it. It seemed to do what it was designed to do, but I, personally, just don’t see the need for the product. As such, I have no experience with similar products with which to compare this one. That said, if you have a desire for such a product (I would imagine this would be well suited for cyclist – which I am not), it did keep me cool, the compression was consistent, it held in place, and it does sport 50+ UV protection.