Swimming with Xtrainerz

Disclaimer: I received a set of Xtrainerz to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

As a triathlete, I go to the pool a lot. Okay, not a lot. In fact, not even as much as I really should. Sorry, Coach. But one thing that I’ve found makes swimming so much easier is listening to podcasts while I swim. A year or so ago, I bought a waterproof iPod shuffle with waterproof earbuds. I would load up my podcasts at home, clip the shuffle to my swim cap, and swim, listening to the dulcet tones of a random podcast (often The Baby-Sitters Club Club, let’s be honest).

But this system came with a few annoyances. First, earbuds have cords, and every so often, I would have things all twisted up such that when I turned my head to breathe, the earbud would pull in a weird way. Second, the earbuds had “custom” rubber things on each of them to fit any ear. You know what? Those things fall off and end up at the bottom of a swim bag way too easily. But the biggest problem I had was that water would get in my ear around the earbuds and then completely block the sound so I couldn’t hear anything. It was incredibly annoying, and if I wanted to keep listening, I had to stop and reposition the earbud.

Then I got the chance to try the Xtrainerz by Aftershokz. These probably look somewhat familiar, if you’ve used Aftershokz products before, and they work in a similar way – rather than the sound going into your ears, it uses bone conduction. The Xtrainers, however, are designed to be used in water (or out of water, but more about that later).

I will admit, I didn’t have the highest of hopes. I figured they would work, but wouldn’t be a huge difference from my current system.

Friends, I was so very wrong. Once I figured out how best to position the Xtrainerz on my head inside my swim cap along with all of my hair (I have a LOT of hair), I started the podcast playing and began my swim. Instead of the water entering my ears blocking the sound, it enhanced it. Which, of course, makes total sense if you’ve worn other bone conduction headphones before. If you block out the external noise, you can hear the sound through the bone conduction that much better. So when the water blocks out the noise, the sound becomes even clearer.

I am still so impressed at the sound quality. With podcasts, it’s always a risk, because words can easily be lost with poor sound quality, but it’s seriously not an issue here. This is definitely a game changer if you want to listen to music or podcasts while you swim.

Now, let’s go into some of the details and the questions many people have.

Can I stream music? Nope. Though this isn’t unique to the Xtrainerz – you can’t stream with any of the currently available swim music players. Why? Bluetooth can’t transmit through water. So you will have to physically transfer the music to your phone. That means that you won’t be able to transfer your Spotify playlist. If you still have old school music from iTunes, you can use that, or go my route and use podcasts. They’re free and entertaining and definitely make the laps go faster. The Xtrainerz will hold 4GB of music or podcasts. That’s around 1200 songs, or many, many hours of podcasts. If you really want to swim longer than that, well, you might be a fish.

How do you load music or podcasts? You just connect the Xtrainers to your computer using the cord that comes with it (also used for charging), and it appears as a new disk. You can then drag and drop your files. I used iTunes to download some podcasts, then just dragged them directly from the iTunes screen onto the Xtrainers. I’m on Mac, and was worried I’d have issues, since it seems like so many things are made for PC. I had no issue at all.

Can I use these while running? You can! The Xtrainers have a little button on the side to change them from general mode to swim mode. On swim mode, the pitch is apparently changed slightly to make it easier to hear underwater. But you can definitely load up the Xtrainers for a run, and you won’t have to worry about killing your phone battery or whether or not the rain (or your sweat) will damage your Xtrainerz.

How’s the battery? The battery lasts 8 hours, and will fully charge in 1.5 hours. What I like best is that when you turn them on, the voice over (named Audrey) will tell you if the battery is high, medium, or low, so you know when you need to charge. I have yet to need to charge mine (because I need to go to the pool more often), so I can confidently say I’m happy with the battery. And if you forget to turn them off, they do have an auto-off, so no worries there.

If you’ve been considering getting a music player to get you through all those laps at the pool, I definitely recommend the Xtrainerz. I’m so impressed by how well they work, and how little trouble they cause me while I swim. No more excuses for a long pause between sets!

Product Review – Nuun Rest

Disclaimer: I received tubes of Nuun Rest to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!”

 

I’ve been using Nuun products for years, and last year, started drinking Nuun Immunity thanks to an opportunity to try out the product. So when I got a chance to try Nuun Rest and do a review, I gave an emphatic yes.

Nuun Rest is very different from other Nuun products. Rather than a standard electrolyte beverage, Nuun Rest is designed to help with recovery. It contains magnesium, tart cherry, and potassium, all of which have been proven to aid in recovery for athletes.

Did you know that magnesium is important to helping the body restore to a restful state? And that many athletes are magnesium deficient? I had no idea. Magnesium helps calm the nerve functions in large muscle groups and helps to keep the heartbeat steady. Magnesium deficiency actually prevents optimal recovery, so adding a magnesium beverage before bed is definitely helpful, especially on hard workout days.

Tart Cherry is definitely something I’ve heard of recently, as it can help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. And, of course, our old friend potassium helps muscle relaxation and prevents cramping.

Nuun Rest is best dropped into 4-6 ounces of water, and they suggest trying it in hot water. It comes in two flavors, Lemon Chamomile and Blackberry Vanilla, and personally, I much preferred the Lemon Chamomile hot and the Blackberry Vanilla cool.

Magnesium doesn’t fully dissolve, in this product or any other, so there will be a bit of a residue in your cup. It seems a little less prominent in hot water than in cold, but either way, I found that as I neared the end of the drink, if I swirled my cup, I made sure I got all of that good-for-me magnesium. And then I made sure to rinse out the cup so the residue didn’t dry.

So did it work? That’s definitely a hard one to judge, since recovery is based on so many different elements, but I can honestly say that the nights where I drank Nuun Rest, I woke up feeling like I had slept well and was ready for the day (well, as ready as I ever am at my 5am alarm). It was a great part of my evening routine, helping me wind down at the end of a long day. As I continue to ramp up my running workouts, I think adding in this supplement will be a good piece to my recovery.

While I may not drink it every night, I plan to keep Nuun Rest as part of my routine, especially after a long, stressful day or a big workout push. If you want to try Nuun Rest, you can use the code HYDRATEBIBPRO for 20% off through 10/31 at nuunlife.com.

Ditch the plastic with GoSili Straws

Disclaimer: I received GoSili straws to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

I am very vocal about the fact that I am not a fan of outright straw bans, because there are people who do need disposable straws. That said, I’m also a fan of doing what I can to reduce my own plastic waste and I have the physical ability to carry and clean a reusable straw. Even though it might be only a small dent in the overall picture, every little bit helps.

Last year, in an effort to try to reduce my plastic consumption, I picked up some plastic straws and some metal straws. I wasn’t a huge fan of either of them. They weren’t very flexible and with the metal straws especially, I was convinced I was going to somehow chip my teeth on them. Still, they were better than disposable. A lot of places have gone to paper straws, and I have to admit, I kind of hate them. They absorb liquid and get mushy pretty fast.

I had initially avoided silicone straws because in my mind, they were going to be overly squishy and annoying to use. But when the chance came up to try GoSili straws for BibRave, I agreed to try them out and decide on silicone straws for myself.

I was very wrong about silicone straws. These things are great!

First and foremost, they are much more firm than I thought they would be. They are, of course, still squishy and foldable and GoSili has some super cute versions that come in tins that make them easy to carry.

The squishyness is also a way that you can clean them. Because of my prior straw collection, I own a few straw brushes, but an easy way to clean GoSili straws is to put them in soapy water and sort of squeeze and rub sides of the straw (so the interior sort of scrubs against itself). Because they’re a bit translucent, you can also see if the straw is clean, something I definitely can’t do with metal straws.

And of course, the softness makes me much less concerned about hurting myself with the straw. I even felt comfortable enough driving while using a cup and a straw, something that I wasn’t comfortable doing when I was using a metal straw.

GoSili straws come in regular, wide (great for smoothies or boba tea), and extra long. I have mainly used my regular length, and currently have them stashed in various locations (my desk drawer at work, my purse, my kitchen drawer). I don’t understand why, but adding a straw makes it so much easier to drink water throughout the day, which has definitely helped me stay hydrated as I’m picking up my training.

So if you’ve been considering trying out silicone straws, I definitely recommend GoSili. They’re inexpensive, easy to transport, and GoSili even has a recycling program for them once they’ve outlived their usefulness (though I’m not sure how that might happen). They’re easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and can be used in hot or cold liquids. I’m certainly going to continue to use mine and hope to come across someone in a bar or restaurant using one as well.

Hurts So Good – The Addaday Pro Massage Roller

Disclaimer: I received an Addaday Pro massage roller to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

Since my labral tear diagnosis a year ago, I have had to really commit to self-massage, in the form of a lot of foam rolling and utilizing other tools. And let me tell you, I have tried a lot of tools. I have an entire box of self-massage tools. I had heard others raving about the Addaday Pro massage roller, so when I got the chance to try it out, I was absolutely in. After all, what could it hurt?

Okay, well as anyone who has done self-massage knows, it does hurt, but in the good way.

Though the strength work I’ve been doing on my hips and legs has done wonders to help balance the effects of my labral tear, the muscles in my left leg generally have to work a bit harder than those in my right leg, simply because not only are they working to make me run or bike or swim, but they’re also doing extra work to keep my hip in place. That means that I often end up with tightness in my quad. The foam roller is great for working out that tightness, but it’s not really all that portable, nor is it easy to use.

Since getting the Addaday Pro massage roller, I’ve been taking it to work almost every day and periodically rolling out my legs for a few minutes, occasionally while on a conference call. It’s so easy to use, and don’t let those cute little massage balls fool you, they can get in there and hit those sore spots.

Wet hair, don’t care

The Addaday Pro has three types of rollers on it – two firmer rollers, two softer rollers, and one pinpoint roller, which is amazing on my shin. Personally, I use the firmest rollers the most, but I’ve also spent over a year doing self-massage, getting regular Graston work, and generally torturing my leg into behaving. Many people will likely prefer the softer rollers.

Where I think this roller rises above some other products that I have tried is the fact that you can do more pinpoint work with the massage balls. Many rolling products (including my beloved foam roller) are flat, and while those certainly have a place, the Addaday Pro really lets you get into those knots and work them out. I have a spot near my knee that always tightens up and this tool lets me really get in there and work out the knot. It’s not the most enjoyable experience, but it works. It’s great on your IT band too. And you’re controlling the pressure, so you can go as firm or as gentle as you want.

(I let my coworker try the roller and the response was “This is terrible. But it feels so good!”)

Given the portability and ease of use, I think this roller is moving to the top of my list of self-massage tools. Thanks to weather, I had to cancel my last PT appointment, so I’m overdue for Graston and dry needling in my leg, and yet I’m not noticing any crazy stiffness, and I think that I owe that to all the time I’ve spent with the Addaday Pro. No, it’s not going to replace my physical therapist, but it’s certainly a good addition to my arsenal.

This one goes into my “Absolutely Recommended” column. If you don’t do some form of self-massage, you’re really missing out on a key element of recovery, and this tool is worth checking out.

Training Safely with AfterShokz Trekz Air

Of course, I wore them around the house while doing chores too.

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Trekz Air to review (and one to give away) as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

My first experience with AfterShokz bone conduction headphones wasn’t actually wearing them myself, it was hearing all about them from friends and family. While I’ve never had an issue wearing earbuds, plenty of people find that they hurt their ears, and AfterShokz made a great solution to the problem. I was never sold on the idea, but I did like the added safety feature of having your ears completely unblocked, and thus able to hear all the ambient sounds around you.

What sold me on the product, even before trying them, was racing Space Coast with my sister. She wore her AfterShokz headphones during the race, and she was able to hear her music and still have a conversation with me and I couldn’t hear a single thing from her headphones. I honestly didn’t realize she even had the music on until she commented about a song that was playing. They aren’t lying about the lack of sound leakage.

So of course, when I was offered the chance to try them myself, I was absolutely in. The AfterShokz Trekz Air paired easily to my phone and I immediately tried them out, wearing them around the house as I did chores. It took me a bit to figure out how to best position them on my head, but once I did, I was immediately impressed. The sound quality was incredible and I could still hear what was going on around me.

Of course, I had to test if they were working because I was hearing the sound from the speakers or if it was actually bone conduction. So I put in a pair of earplugs. Yep, still clear as a bell. This technology is awesome.

I’m not sure that these would stay on Minnie’s head when running.

The first opportunity I had to wear them outside was on a rainy day, and I was thankful for the water resistant features. (Though one thing I did miss from my earbuds was that they kept cold water from dripping into my ears! Maybe this is the only downside.)

This is probably a dumb feature to some, but I love the fact that when I’m not wearing them on my head, I can just put them around my neck. Yes, I know this is a feature of all headphones. But after years of earbuds, I was so used to having to deal with something in my hands and getting the cord all tangled up that being able to just put these around my neck as I got ready to head out felt miraculous.

I mostly listen to podcasts and audiobooks when I workout, and I wasn’t sure how well the bone conduction would work, and I did find I had to increase the volume slightly, but other than that, I had no issues at all.

I was really impressed by the strength of the connection between the headphones and my phone. I had my phone charging in the kitchen and was walking around the house with a podcast playing and I only once had some audio dropout when I was a floor away and across the house (of course, my house isn’t that big). Conversely, when using my wireless speaker, I need to keep it in relatively close proximity to my phone (such as across the room) to hold the connection. I’m not sure how this is a useful feature, but it’s good to know that even if I have my phone buried under layers, I’ll still have great sound.

And in the spirit of the holiday season, AfterShokz even sent me a pair to share. I’m looking forward to 70.3 training with Liz, and thanks to these headphones, we can run together, listen to music, and still be able to chat!

I made her go swimming with me on a cold day before I gave these to her. I think it was a well-deserved reward.

So in sum, I’m now an AfterShokz convert. I’m excited to have a better way to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I’m running on the trails in my neighborhood. The single earbud just wasn’t cutting it. Wearing AfterShokz not only gives me better sound quality, but allows me to truly hear what’s going on around me. I look forward to a season of training with them!