Review: Fitbit Charge HR


fitbit-charge-250
Not long ago, I wrote a review on the Fitbit Charge. I opened it by saying that it might be the quickest review that I have ever written. Well, this one won’t be too far behind. The Fitbit Charge HR is the same device with a different band and one addition – an optical heart rate monitor. But that is a big addition. Since the rest of the tracker features are identical to the basic Charge, I will focus on the Heart Rate monitor in this post and encourage you to read about the basic Charge in my earlier review.

charge-hr-back

 

The recent history of Fitbit devices has been clouded by the recall of the Fitbit Force. Essentially, the new Charge is the Force re-released with a new band that shouldn’t cause skin irritation. This set them back a bit, so it was a very welcome announcement when they released three new products – the Charge, the Charge HR, and the Surge. I have also reviewed the Surge here. Out of the three devices, I think that the Charge HR is the best option.

When looking at Fitbit devices, there are several options from which to choose. You can start out with the Zip for less than $50. This is the most basic tracker and clips onto your clothing. It tracks steps and calories, then syncs to either your computer or smartphone. It has a replaceable battery and that lasts for a few months.

Moving up the chain is the Fitbit One, also a clip-on. This tracker adds stairs, sleep tracking, silent alarms, and is under $100 currently.

The Fitbit Flex moves the show to your wrist and is about the same price as the One. This is where some compromises begin. It is on the wrist all day, but removes the clock and stairs climbed while adding active minutes tracked.

This brings us to the Fitbit Charge. It currently costs under $130 and offers all features available in all tracking devices up to this point with the addition of Caller ID notification. It is also a wrist worn device.

The top of the Fitbit collection is the Surge at $250, which is billed as a “super watch.” It offers every available option in the trackers and adds an optical heart rate sensor, built-in GPS, text notifications and music control for smartphones.

The Fitbit Charge HR falls between the Charge and the Surge at around $150 (this is a hot seller on Amazon and the price is much higher as of this writing). The addition of the heart rate monitor makes the Charge HR an excellent activity tracker for all-day tracking in addition to sleep tracking. At only $20 more than the baseline charge, this is the one to get. A separate HR monitor that works with other trackers will cost $50 or more, so the small price difference is very fair. I would almost argue that Fitbit should just drop the Charge and have the Charge HR as the only device between the Flex and Surge. The Charge is nothing more than the Force remade. The Charge HR adds real value.

The biggest value of the Charge HR is to get a better gauge of how many calories you have burned throughout the day for general health conscious people. But, it is also useful for athletes in the middle of training. We are putting our body under a great deal of stress and the Charge HR can give us an idea of how we are doing with the training.

heart-rate-all-day

As you can see from the above image, the Charge tracks my heart rate all day long. The spike is from where I did a run. This all day tracking is very helpful. I can see if there are stress inducing activities happening at a particular part of the day in addition to my resting heart rate while sleeping. Sadly, at this point, optical heart rate sensors are not sensitive enough to allow for heart rate variability as demonstrated in the post Heart Rate Variability for Training, but hopefully over time they can account for it.

Heart rate tracking during exercise

Now, while the Charge HR is an excellent device for tracking your heart rate and activity levels for the majority of the day, it falls down when conducting vigorous exercise. Here is the run from the image above:

activity-tracking-heart-rate

 

You can see that I was credited for 7.55 miles, an average heart rate of 145 bp and a calorie burn of 1,044.

I also tracked the run using a Garmin 920XT and a chest heart rate strap. Here is a breakdown of the run from Garmin Connect. The Fitbit fell short in every metric. Interestingly, the calorie count wasn’t as far off as I would expect.

garmin-overview-run

 

Looking at the heart rate details from Garmin, you can see that the Charge HR definitely was under represented. This run involved intervals which pushed my heart rate up. This causes a wider margin of error.

garmin-heart-rate-run

 

When exercising with less intensity, the Charge HR is closer in accuracy. That makes it good for an activity like when I use my elliptical trainer.

It is very nice to press and hold the button. Start the workout and hold the button again when finished. Within the app, you can easily choose the type of workout. I was delighted to see that elliptical trainer was an option, so I have been using it to track my workouts there.

Conclusion

The Fitbit Charge HR does an excellent job of tracking your activities and sleep throughout the day with the exception of during periods of vigorous exercise. So should you consider buying it? It depends.

If you are looking for the one device that you can wear all the time that tracks your heart rate, activities, exercise, and sleep, it will not fulfill all your needs. In fairness, I don’t know of any device on the market that does at this point.

However, if you are looking for a device that helps you track your general activities, health and diet (through the Fitbit app or another like MyFitnessPal), I would highly recommend the device. It is a perfect representation of what Fitbit does best. Tracking general activities and steps.

Also, if you are someone who already has a good running watch or other more accurate means to track your workouts and are looking for covering the rest of your day, I highly recommend the device.

Out of the three new Fitbit products on the market, I absolutely recommend the Charge HR. It can be found at REI and Clever Training for $150, or at Amazon shown below. Currently it is a hot seller at Amazon as mentioned before, so you may want to visit one of the other links. Also, all links in this review are affiliate links for which I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. That helps me purchase products to review and share.

Review: Fitbit Surge

As activity trackers start to become more popular and more and more people are getting into running, there is a bit of convergence happening. Full-blown GPS watches from major manufacturers are starting to add step tracking and at the same time, companies who are making activity trackers are coming out with more advanced products. This is a traditional path of disruption. You have cheaper single function items start to get more and more advanced and they eat up the marketshare from the bottom. By the time the larger established players see what is happening, they have become an also ran. This theory taught by Clayton Christenson is described in Wikipedia’s article Disruptive innovation.

The Fitbit Surge bills itself as a Super Watch. Does it deliver on its promise? Let’s break it down.

Unboxing

The packaging for the Surge is very attractive. It displays the watch and has a cover that opens to show a motivational paragraph with highlighted marketing terms.

surge-box

In order to get to the actual watch, there is some strategically placed tape that made it a challenge for me – but not so much for someone who has more patience. Inside of the box there are few contents. The watch, the charging cable, the USB stick for a computer, and a quick start manual. I wound up using the USB stick to set it up and then just connected to my iPhone the rest of the time.

fitbit-surge-tapefitbit-surge-box-contents

 

Wear and Fit

The Fitbit Surge is very comfortable to wear. It is odd looking from the side with the top of the face having more depth than the bottom, but it is fine when worn. It is one seamless unit, thus not having changeable bands but is not an unattractive sports watch. One nice feature is that with the watch face being a little wider, if the watch is fit snug, there is little to no light leakage. This is very helpful in the middle of the night if you don’t want to wake up a sleeping companion or accidentally blind yourself.

Interface

Using a mix of buttons and screen navigation, the device can be a little confusing at times, but you get used to it. Some of my confusion could be caused by a lot of experience with other devices. You tend to build muscle memory and pattern behaviors over time. However, I do wish it was more dependent on either buttons or the screen. The mix doesn’t flow as naturally for me.

Another issue I had was that the screen seemed to pick up oils from my finger tips very easily. When I would swipe though the screens to look at heart rate and steps, it would get a film on the face. I found myself often wiping it off to keep the face clear. I will say that it is very responsive to touch and the screens shifted easily.

You also have the ability to add different watch faces from within the app.

Activity Tracking

There is no surprise here. Fitbit is the Gold Standard when it comes to activity tracking. I wore the Surge for a week, it tracked my steps. I could find no real discrepancy between it and my Garmin Vivofit. I have previously compared the Vivofit to the Fitbit Flex and have been wearing either it or the Forerunner 920XT with a Fitbit Zip. The steps are always within a couple hundred steps either way. This is one time that boring is good. I don’t think too much about it because I feel pretty confident in the results. With of course the caveat being that no tracker is completely accurate anyway as I discussed in my post Are fitness trackers a waste of money?

The step information along with calories burned is tracked in Fitbit’s well designed Website and apps.

fitbit-surge-steps

Sleep Tracking

The Surge does a nice job here as well. One of the highlightable features of newer Fitbits is the ability to just track sleep. Polar does this as well. When you go to sleep, it will automatically determine when you went to sleep and when you woke up. You don’t have to press a button and notify the device – are you listening Garmin?

While Fitbit is not the most detailed sleep tracker available, both Polar and Microsoft are have a more detailed breakdown, it does a solid job of getting the important data points across. It tracks a breakdown between actual sleep, time awakened and time restless.

One thing that is interesting is that if you are awake for a few minutes, it might split your sleep into multiple sessions as you can see in the image below from the iPhone App.

fitbit-surge-sleep

Tracking Heartrate

So far, everything discussed is already available in Fitbit devices on the market with sleep and stairs being the differentiator between each. All-day heart rate tracking is a new feature introduced in the 2015 Fitbit Surge and Fitbit Charge HR.

This is where things get interesting. The new Fitbits track heart rate through an optical heart rate sensor on the back of the watch where it contacts the wearer’s wrist. Optical heart rate monitors work by firing LED lights into your skin and detecting the rate that your blood pumps with another sensor. The problem is, optical heart rate sensors are notoriously inaccurate when heart rates are at a high level of BPMs (beats per minute) as discussed in the C-Net post Do wristband heart trackers actually work? A checkup.

Sadly, the Fitbit Surge suffered the same issue. As a baseline, I ran every run with a Garmin 920XT with the latest  Garmin HRM Run heart rate strap (Affiliate links). On every run, the heart rate was off when my heart rate was above 150 or so. The following image is an example run with the Surge results on the top and the Garmin results on the bottom. You can see that the Fitbit was off on the average by 18 beats or 11.32 percent off.

compare-garmin-fitbit-surge

It was closer on another run 153 versus 160, but way off on a harder run with a 144 versus 170. The Fitbit Surge seems to do a really good job with anything from a resting heart rate to a moderate level of activity. The more strenuous the exercise, the farther it strays.

Running

GPS is the biggest addition to the Surge and it does a decent job of tracking your runs. I didn’t find any crazy route issues and the distances and paces seemed to line up fine. I was unsuccessful in getting an exact comparison because I found myself incapable of starting all the devices I was testing at the same time (there were three). I seemed to always have forgotten to press the button twice, or had accidentally stopped recording because of one wrist device pressing against the button of an adjacent watch. But as far as tracking, the runs looked clean for pace and distance. The only issue I found as far as using the Fitbit Surge during a workout was that it was a bit slow in picking up the satellites. You can see an example of how a run was tracked in the Fitbit Website below.

fibit-surge-run

It is a very clean and easy to read breakdown of a run. It can serve very well as long as the user is satisfied being within the world of Fitbit only and does not plan to place the data on any other site. Someone has attempted to rectify this as addressed in the post An Open Source Tool to Export Fitbit GPS Data, but that does not account for heart rate data. Also, if you want to track other information like cadence from a footpod, this is not possible.

The Elliptical Surprise

I have had a terrible time trying to track my workouts on the elliptical trainer. I even bought a Pafers Xspin in an attempt to track my workouts. Surprisingly, the Fitbit Surge did it really well for me. And what is more interesting, the heart rate seemed to be pretty spot on. I checked against it with both an app and the elliptical machine itself and it was within a beat or two. I am wondering if it maybe has more trouble when running because it is tracking more information with the GPS added?

Notifications

The Surge also offers notifications. Sadly, they are only for text messages and caller id. This is really disappointing for those who want to hear from other apps like Facebook Messenger (where I do a good deal of texting). This is a serious limitation that I hope they will consider changing in a future update.

Conclusion

The Fitbit Surge is a well-designed, comfortable watch that offers a lot. Is it a Super watch? No. Not really. It is a tracker with a heart-beat monitor, GPS and watch form and interface. It is a good device, but at the $250 mark, there are other options out there.

It all depends on the user’s focus. If they are more interested in activity tracking and step counting with added heart-rate, this might be a good choice. The Fitbit software is top notch and the watch does a great job of tracking steps and heart rate with general activity throughout the day.

Where the Surge struggles is when it is being used by a serious workout enthusiast or runner. While the heart-rate works well throughout the day and while sleeping, it is inaccurate when performing strenuous workouts. The more intense, the further it drifts. It also does not offer the ability to capture any other inputs like a foot pod for cadence, or the ability to track cycling. This makes it hard to recommend when there are offerings like the Polar M400 available for $30 less at the time of this writing with the Heart Rate monitor, or $70 less without. I reviewed the Polar M400 here. You can also get your data from Polar Flow and place it in other services. This is a big deal for those who track their runs and/or have coaching.

Another issue with the Fitbit Surge is with the notifications. Without providing full notifications – only text and caller id – it really is disappointing. Again it is hard to justify the price when the Polar M400 will be adding them later this year and there are devices like the Microsoft Band that currently offer many types of notifications and have the built-in heart rate monitor for $200. I reviewed the Microsoft Band on Gearist.

The Fitbit Surge can be purchased at many locations including Amazon below (affiliate link):

Are fitness trackers a waste of money?

Graph from original Daily Mail article demonstrating differences between devices.

There was a study done recently that examined the effectiveness of several fitness trackers on the market. It was covered in the Daily Mail with the descriptive but provocative headline Why your fitness tracker could be a waste of money: New research shows the must-have gadgets are often wildly inaccurate by as much as 40 PER CENT.

This is a great question. Is tracking activity and diet a waste of time and money? I think it depends on how you look at it. Why are you tracking your activity? What is your goal? Are you following a plan to the letter, or the spirit?

I feel that there are a couple of camps on this. There are some who want everything to be an exact science. They want to have specific numbers. How many calories did I consume? They want to know this to the exact calorie count.

I would argue that this is an impossible task. There is calorie guidance available from the FDA, but it can’t be exact. This article from the New York Times — Counting of Calories Isn’t Always Accurate — demonstrates this point. The FDA allows for up 20% variance for packaged foods and similar results can be found in restaurants. This seems to be obvious as a food item prepared can be vastly different depending on different factors – size, ingredients, source etc. If someone orders a cheeseburger with no pickles, the count will be different. Extras and other modifications will make things worse.

So, should it be any surprise that fitness trackers are not completely accurate? After all, they are based on varied ingredients as well – us, what activities we are doing, and what effort level we are achieving. If you are going for a walk, how many calories are you burning? Well, let’s think about it. How fast are you walking? Are you swinging your arms? How fast? Are you carrying anything? Are you walking up or down a hill?

All these factors can lead to vastly different results. Believe me, I feel the frustration of not having all my steps counted in a day. A good example is March 16th of 2014. On that day, Fitbit counted me having 43,706 steps and 25.38 miles – the most steps I had in a single day. The only problem is this. I ran the Shamrock Marathon on that day. In the event alone, I had more distance than I was credited by Fitbit.

This happens frequently on days that I run. Does this mean that I get no value from the Fitbit and throw it against the wall? No.

This is where the spirit of things come in. As I have written before, I was 283 lbs in January of 2012. I decided to change. In order to accomplish this, I used two tools – MyFitnessPal and later a Fitbit. I saw results quickly with MyFitnessPal. Was this because I was following a specific diet, or getting exact numbers of calories as I consumed? No. It is because I took some responsibility, ate healthier and kept my calories within a prescribed range. This is the most important thing. The numbers were not exact. I made it a point of being comfortably under my ceiling and paying attention to my consumption.

I feel that people get in trouble when they try to parse things out too much. An example would be, “I am allowed 1800 calories for the day. I am at 1746. I can have that piece of candy that is 52 calories.” This is not a great attitude. That is being too clever by half. It’s probable that with other factors like the 20% accuracy issue etc, that the person may not lose much weight at all. Maybe even gain.

Now if someone is at 1500 of 1800 and wants to have another food item that is not a huge number of calories and especially if it is also healthy, that is not bad. Playing games with numbers is what gets people in trouble. Just try to stay in the spirit of things.

Back to my tale. I felt that MyFitnessPal and my diet changes were good, but I could make them better if I managed to get over 10000 steps per day, so I got a Fitbit. As soon as I started trying to get over 10000 steps a day, I found out how it wasn’t super easy and that my normal lifestyle didn’t accomplish this. I had to make changes to meet the goal. I walked all over the place and hit the treadmill to make up the difference. I went from little activity to much more activity than I had before that point.

What about calories? They didn’t matter. The Fitbit got me up and active. I exercised within the spirit of the thing. I didn’t even eat the extra calories that were allotted to me from the Fitbit exercise.

I find that activity trackers or tracking period is invaluable as long as you understand how it is most effective. If you are looking for exact figures of how many calories you burn, you are likely to be frustrated. However, if you are looking to challenge yourself, be accountable, and have a record to prove your efforts over time, they are a great choice.

What do you think? Do you use a fitness tracker? What kind? Do you track calories? How has it worked out for you. Please comment and share.

Fit Challenge 2015 – February Challenge

Fit Challenge 2015 continues with a new challenge for February, conducted by the great Lisa Hamilton of Conscious Runner.

lisahamilton

Lisa is a tremendous athlete with both a great record and a generous spirit. She started out as a swimmer and discovered running as covered in the article Lisah Hamilton: Swimmer to Champion Runner. She ran an amazing 2:43:59 marathon in the 2004 San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, set a Virgin Island Record, and nearly represented her native country of St Croix in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Now she is a Masters runner, host of the Conscious Runner Podcast and helps runners of all types find focus and connectivity with themselves when running. She describes it as “meditation in motion.”

Lisa will be leading everyone through bridges. It is a great exercise that strengthens the core and glutes. It is a stabilizing exercise and helps athletes focus on their center. Sounds perfect from the Conscious Runner.

Please check out the Fit Challenge 2015 page, like the sites involved and create a Final Surge account so you can be eligible for the end of month prize (if you already have an account, just keep logging). This will be a blast. Please share with everyone.

Just announced! The prize for February will be a training plan of your choice from Final Surge and Hanson’s Coaching Services. See all the plans available at Final Surge!

HCS-TrainingPlans

Review: Aftershokz Bluez 2

I like to run and bike while listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks. This allows me to multitask and either get pumped up by my tunes, or catch up on some reading. I love to do this with Bluetooth headphones so I don’t have to deal with wires, but I am concerned about safety when I am am listening. Especially when I am on my bike. That’s where Aftershokz Bluez 2 bone conduction headphones come in.

aftershokz-open-box

The Bluez 2 are very nicely packaged. The box is set up like a book with a nice ribbon to pull it open. It looks as nice inside the box as outside. This book packaging is especially appreciated because the headphones truly excel for audiobooks and podcasts.

I train in an urban environment and have to contend with quite a lot of traffic. The area is also coastal and there is quite a lot of wind. When combining the traffic noise and wind, I sometimes have to increase the volume on my headphones to unsafe levels. Unsafe for my atmospheric awareness and for my eardrums.

This is especially troublesome on the bike. I am a new rider and am very nervous about what is going on around me – not enough to stop wearing headphones, but we all have our blind (or deaf) spots.

Connecting

I unboxed my Bluez 2 and paired them with my iPhone. Most things pair fairly easily, but these actually were easier than most. When I powered them on, they showed up in my Bluetooth menu. I selected them and they were paired. Very straightforward. Well done. If you have to pair to another device, or it doesn’t immediately work, just press and hold the power button for 5 seconds until the LED alternates between red and blue flashing.

After I paired the headphones, I started listening to a podcast. This was a remarkable experience. It is hard to describe. I was hearing everything around me in the room etc, but also, voices that seemed almost disembodied. It was literally like hearing voices in my head. I quickly adapted to it and actually have grown to love it. Audiobooks and podcasts are already a very intimate medium. I feel like the headphones make them even more so.

I also had no trouble with clipping. I like to wear my iPhone to my front. My favorite spot is in the center of my waist like a belt buckle. Many Bluetooth headphones will cut in and out when the iPhone is placed there. These I am happy to report do not.

Fit

I first helmeted up to go for a ride. By default, with nothing else on, the headphones fit me well and feel very light which is a huge plus. The only issues arose when I had to wear other clothing or gear on my head.

bike-helmetstrap

This is where some choices have to me made. Since I was riding on a sunny day, I also had sunglasses. Whenever dealing with headphones with a headband, there are often challenges when wearing sunglasses. The two pieces of gear tend to rub against one another and getting the fit right can be a challenge.

This is potentially even more of an issue with the Bluez 2. Since they are bone conduction headphones, they need physical contact with your cheekbones. Otherwise, their functionality is defeated. If possible, when wearing the bike helmet, if you can line the strap over the earpiece as shown on the right, it can really help enhance the sound.

I found that I had challenges with some winter headgear when running as well. My options were to wear the headgear without it going over my ears if it was at all snug, or wearing a relatively loose fitting beanie.

Performance

When I was out riding and listening a podcast, the experience was wonderful. I loved the fact that I could hear my tire on the asphalt and all the other environmental sounds. But at the same time, I felt almost like I was with a couple friends who were speaking with me. It really was amazing.

Throughout my ride of over and hour, I was able to clearly hear every part of the podcast with no trouble at all. What was really amazing was when I crossed over a bridge I have to use. There was a ton of traffic and the wind really had picked up. Normally when it is like that, my headphones are nearly completely washed out and I have to have the volume jacked way up.

This time, I could hear the traffic, the wind was whipping through my ears like rabid seashells. But I could hear every word of the podcast. It was like it was separated from all the external noise. I am not often “wowed” by a product, but this was a truly great experience.

I have had the same experience on both the bike and running numerous times now when listening to both audiobooks and podcasts. I even switched back to my standard Bluetooth headphones because the weather was really cold and I wanted a better hat on my run. Boy, did I suffer. It is night and day. I could no longer hear my footfalls, I felt like my head was stuffed up and in multiple areas, I had to turn them way up to hear anything. It was miserable.

The battery life on the headphones is good. I feel that I pretty consistently get 5-6 hours out of the headphones or 3-4 runs/rides. I would like if they could give a better projection of battery level like an approximate time left when pressing the button or a chart expressing what the time left is for High, Medium or Low means in terms of time.

Now, while these headphones are the best thing I have ever heard or used for spoken word during workouts, they are not quite as stellar when it comes to music.

When it comes to music, they are not as capable of pumping out a lot of bass. In order to get more bass, I had to turn them up and they actually tickled my cheekbones. Definitely an interesting experience. Music that has  more mid-range to high tones comes across better. This is not to say that it is terrible, it is just not as strong. I will still be wearing these when listening to music in training because I want to hear traffic etc. But I may wear my other Bluetooth headphones when racing.

Another consideration is when listening to the headphones when not working out. Unless you live alone, or you want to share everything you are listening to with your roommate or spouse, you may want to make another choice. The Bluez 2 sound like iPhone earbuds turned away from someone’s head. They broadcast everything.

Conclusion

I like this product a great deal and unabashedly recommend it to anyone. It has already become an indispensable part of my training gear. I like it enough that I am considering getting a second pair to have on standby in case these break. I like them that much. If you listen to spoken word especially, these will really enhance your workouts. And I cannot express the peace of mind that they have brought me by allowing me to hear what is going on around me.

You can buy these at Amazon with the my affiliate link below (I get a small commission).

Review: Skechers GOrun 4

It has been a trend over the last couple years for everyone to have a double-take about Skechers making running shoes. Then the shoes test well and they are shocked. These were fun to read and I was definitely cheering to see the underdog American Meb Keflezighi, sponsored by the underdog shoe company Skechers, win the 2014 Boston Marathon. But it’s time for that to end. I think that Skechers is a serious competitor releasing shoes on an equal standing of more well known companies like Brooks or Saucony.

The Sole

The sole of the GOrun 4 like previous editions is made up of their own proprietary material Resalyte™. There are strategically placed discs called GOimpulse sensors. These are to provide a little more wear resistance on the sole and add a little traction and guidance.

GoRun 4 Sole

 

There is   good tread on the bottom of the shoe. It has a good depth without promoting pebble collection.

GoRun 4 Tread

 

The MStrike technology (Skechers likes marketing terms) is a slight rocker formed at the midsole. You can see it in the below picture with the Kinvara 5s on the right. Notice how the front and back of the GOrun 4 have definite clearance. I seemed to run comfortably with a mid/forefoot strike, but I didn’t really notice the rocker as I went.
GoRun 4 Kinvara 5

 

GoRun 4 Back

 

The Upper

The Upper of the shoe is very smooth and comfortable. It is made up of two layers of fine mesh and thin welded overlays. It is very flexible and has a nice look about it as well.
The back of the shoe has a really interesting feature. Yep, that’s a hole. I really appreciate the attention to detail here. I am one who double-knots his laces and it is really a convenient feature to be able to just pull the shoe up using the hole on the back like a handle.

This attention to detail along with things like an extra set of laces are nice unexpected touches. I really appreciate the little things. If they pay attention to such details, it bodes well for the rest of the design and durability. I expect to get a good couple hundred miles out of the shoes.

The Fit

Skechers GOrun 4 has a fairly roomy toe box – almost too roomy. I found that I was able to lock things down using the laces and the tongue was padded enough that I didn’t lose circulation. You may want to consider getting a half size down along with your normal size if you have normal width feet.

Performance

It feels very comfortable with a moderately firm ride. Comparing it to other shoes I am used to, it is firmer than both the Saucony Kinvara 4 and 5 as well as the Brooks PureCadence 2. But it is not as firm as a racing flat like the Saucony A5. This makes the shoe fit in a really interesting place. It has a really nice ground feel and makes you want to go fast. I can see this being a strong contender for my next half-marathon in February.

Conclusion

The Skechers GOrun 4 is a solid shoe that can be considered a great all-around trainer with a touch of speed. I comfortable alternate it with another favorite shoe the Saucony Kinvara 5.

The GOrun 4 can be bought from Skechers.com.

Review: Arctic Ease Cold Therapy Wrap

I have been recovering from a series of injuries lately including peroneal tendonitis and a shin splint on my right leg. So it was very helpful that I was sent some Arctic Ease wraps to try during workouts.

I decided to wear one during a bike workout. I am very concerned about putting anything on my legs as I have suffered several initial injuries, and then cascading compensation injuries. I am a little leery of calf skins and the like because they may offer too much support for me and cause other issues when I am training.

Fortunately, with Arctic Ease, this is not an issue. I am able to apply the wrap as loose or tight as I need. The other important feature of the wrap is the cooling. It actually is not frigid like an ice pack, but just cool. This cool seemed to last for the full hour plus I had it on. It’s a very pleasant sensation. I felt like my leg was secure without being too constricted and my injuries didn’t flare up as much as normal.

Arctic Ease Bottle

When applying the wrap, it initially feels kind of slimy. It sticks to itself pretty well, but I found that the end pieces had trouble, so I tucked the last bit under the top. I didn’t need to use anything else for securing. It stayed on well as I rode too.

As time went by when riding, the wrap started to get drier and it stiffened into an almost cast like state. It was still pliable, but I wouldn’t recommend letting it completely dry out while wearing. It may not dry out as quickly during runs as the speed is much slower. One unexpected benefit came from wearing the Arctic Ease, I crashed my bike and the wrap was dried but sturdy. Even after I slid over asphalt and a sidewalk with it, it actually protected my leg but showed no additional wear.

To reuse the wrap, Arctic Ease recommends 2-3 teaspoons of water and resealing the wrap in the bottle. After 2-3 hours, it is supposed to to be ready to use again. I found that more water was required to return the wrap into its initial state.

Overall, I feel that this is a solid product for the price. I especially like the fact that I can wear it and control the amount of support that it gives. Between that and the cooling, I plan to use it during long workouts when I am having more issues with my legs.

You can buy the product using my affiliate link from Amazon below (I get a small commission), or locally in the United States at CVS.

Mountain Climbers

For the first month of Fit Challenge 2015, I am hosting Mountain Climbers. I wanted to write a quick description of what they are and share a video of how to do them.

Mountain Climbers are a great full body workout that not only strengthen your core, butt, hips and thighs, but also provide cardiovascular benefit. As you do them, you will feel your heart rate increase rapidly.

To perform the exercise, follow these steps:

  1. Assume a plank position with your hands at shoulder width.
  2. Thrust your right leg forward to just under your chest.
  3. Return your right leg to full extension and repeat with the left leg.
  4. Continue alternating for each repetition.

See video below:

Introducing Fit Challenge 2015

It’s almost 2015, are you ready for a challenge? I am proud to be teaming up with some great Facebook sites to create something a bit different.

Have you done 30 day challenges? I have and they are really fun. The problem is though, what happens after the 30 days are up? Where do we go from there? That is the idea behind this challenge. Hampton Runner has teamed up with five great sites to offer a new challenge each month through each site’s Facebook page.

How does the challenge work? It’s easy. Just Follow the six Facebook pages involved; links have been provided below on the page. Each month one of the participating sites will post daily workouts on their Facebook page. Hampton Runner kicks off the challenge with Mountain Climbers for the full month of January – we will climb our way into the new year. February has The Conscious Runner leading us through Bridges. KR Endurance will then have us lunging into the spring. Next, RunBuzz makes us strong with Burpees. Running with Curves returns with Lunges. And FitNicePT takes us into summer with Push-ups.

Then it’s back to Hampton Runner to start off the second half of the year with Planks. Conscious Runner continues with Push-ups, followed by KR Endurances with Side Leg Lifts!

Final Surge Tracking

Even better, all of your efforts can be tracked with your own free Final Surge account. As a bonus, each month there will be a prize given out to one of the participants who has completed all the challenges successfully and entered each workout in Final Surge. To have your workouts tracked in Final Surge, simply create a free account at  https://log.finalsurge.com/register.cshtml?page_redirect=ActivateFitChallenge. Or if you are already a Final Surge user, simply click  https://log.finalsurge.com/login.cshtml?page_redirect=ActivateFitChallenge and login to your account.

To add a workout to Final Surge, click Quick Add either at the top right of your training calendar or on the date itself (located under the “+” sign) as shown below:

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After choosing Quick Add, you can scroll down to the challenge workouts and choose the appropriate one:

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Participating Pages to Follow

The pages to involved in the contest are listed here:

Hampton Runner

Conscious Runner

KR Endurance

Running with Curves

RunBuzz

FitNicePT

Now, one issue that you may run into is that Facebook does not always show all posts when you are following a site. If you find this happening to you, you can assure receipt of these by using the “Get Notifications” option on a page. This is accessed by hovering over Like on the Facebook page in question as shown below:

get_notifications

 

Please be certain to Like Hampton Runner so you can receive updates about the challenge and start things off in January. This will be really fun!

Also, please share this with anyone you know. We are trying to make this as big as possible. If you have any ideas or suggestions, we would love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Facebook. Thanks again!

Shameful Running Representation

As a runner, I feel ashamed when I read stories like this one – Thanksgiving Day Race organizer: I can’t sleep. This poor organizer had to deal with behavior from runners that is absolutely reprehensible.

It is common for there to be snacks or treats after a race for racers to consume to replenish energy spent. It can be anything from bananas to protein bars to beer (although I can’t drink beer myself after a race in the daytime). This helps fill emptied stores and add to the social element of all the runners finishing – kind of a party.

Well, in Cincinnati, at the Thanksgiving race, participants turned things upside down. It’s almost like Black Friday greed took ahold of them early and they decided that they were entitled to something for nothing. There was a vendor who provided post race snacks – Pure Protein who handed out small boxes of treats. Many runners apparently couldn’t stop with just one… Or two… Or several… They were so disgusting about it that they actually dumpster-dived to hoard as many snacks as they could.

These individuals couldn’t care less it appears about any runners who came behind them, or even for the homeless who would get the leftovers in previous years. This is truly a bleak day for the sport.

I think of running as a sport of good competition and fellowship. I have seen some of the most generous people imaginable sharing courses whenever I have run. That has made me very proud to be among their ranks.

Incidents like this one however, make me sad. Perhaps I am not jaded enough. I considered running to be a safe-haven from the cynicism and greed plaguing the world around us. Now, I fear that it is seeping in. I only hope this is an aberration and doesn’t repeat itself.

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