RESTUBE – How To Enjoy Your Safest Triathlon Open Water Swim

Disclaimer: I was provided with the product for review purposes and compensated for preparing the review.  All opinions are my own.
I write about triathlon, I read about triathlon, and I talk about triathlon to people both in real life and online. What’s keeping most non-triathletes from participating in the sport, as far as I can tell, is swimming.  Improving your swim is as straightforward as spending time practising in your local pool.
What unnerves even experienced triathletes who have logged countless hours in the pool is swimming in the open water.  For example, see Organic Runner Mom here, or Fitness Cheerleader here.  While I see this as mostly a psychological hang-up, it is true that open water swimming carries a little more risk than the pool: you might not be able to see or touch the bottom, there are wind and waves (or maybe even current) to deal with, there could even be an encounter with watercraft or wildlife.  Yet training your open water swim is very necessary to a triathlete; unless every race you compete in is in a pool, you’ll need to deal with some of the aforementioned factors, as well as skills like sighting, bilateral breathing and rounding corners, or simply the novel sensation of wearing a wet-suit.

It seems to me like if there was a way to give triathletes a psychological crutch AND something to use should an actual emergency or physical difficulty occur, without impeding the swimmer’s technique, we could have a lot more happy triathletes.
I think RESTUBE is the solution.  RESTUBE is a portable buoy that can be used for flotation.   With it folded up on a belt pouch, you can swim with it strapped around your waist without it getting in your way at all, and a simple pull on a cord will inflate it should you find yourself needing extra flotation.  It can also be manually inflated with a mouth valve – then you’d simply pull it along behind you and it’s size and colour would make you more visible to boaters or any other people observing you from a distance.
Have a look at this video for further illustration:
A few notes from the video:
  • The weight I mention in the introduction comes from the extra two CO2 cartridges in the box.  When you swim with just one, it’s much lighter, and if you were to manually inflate the RESTUBE and have no cartridge, the weight would be next to nothing.
  • I’m 5’11” tall and a lot of that length is in my legs.  Many other swimmers would not experience their feet hitting the tube while swimming.  Even for me, it wasn’t a physical impediment to my swim, just a bit of a mental distraction.
The CO2 cartridges use compressed gas, which have special considerations for air travel.  If you were travelling by air to a destination where you wanted to use your RESTUBE, you’d need to notify the airline and follow the procedures they mandate, simply limit the number of cartridges you pack.  The RESTUBE instructions include guidelines for air travel – which is great, because RESTUBE would be handy for snorkeling, surfing,  and stand-up paddleboarding or other water activities you might undertake on vacation.
RESTUBE is available from Innovation Sports, and you can find out more about the product at RESTUBE.com.
UPDATE: Innovation Sports contacted me and let me know that:
Quick note about the green clip you didn’t find in the box, if you had opened the RESTUBE before using it in the water, you would have noticed this little green clip was on the unit.  When you trigger it, it breaks the clip and it is now in the lake somewhere… it is normal.


When customers are purchase the pack of 2 replacement cartridges, there are 2 clips in the package for this use.  We haven’t provided you with the green replacement clips as we sent you demo cartridges that are only used normally for demos, trade shows and testing. They are bulk, not to be sold and they do not come with the clip.

The unit can be used without a clip no problem. The green clip normally just reminds you that the cartridge is FULL of air. Once used, it becomes RED to tell you the cartridge is empty and needs to be replaced. This is a visual help. The clips also ensure that you do not trigger it too easily… just a safety clip to avoid triggering it for nothing.

Please note that Triathlon Quebec is accepting the product for races. We are working on getting the approval for races by Ironman and also Triathlon Canada.

We just got yesterday the note from RESTUBE that USAT approved it for races in USA!”

Additionally, they have provided a code which lets Canadian customers get FREE Shipping!  Simply use RT2015 when checking out.  Again, here’s the link to Innovation Sports.

How about you? Would knowing you had a flotation buoy at your fingertips make you feel more comfortable and secure in the water? Would you inflate the buoy before starting for visibility, or just keep it folded up for the just-in-case?

The 120 KM Weekend: 20k run with Legend Compression, and a Century Ride with MEC

I think I’ve hit the big times. This weekend (according to my training plan) called for 2 hours of running, 1 of swimming on Saturday as well as a 5 hour ride on Sunday.  I woke up at 5:00 AM on Saturday with running gear laid out in advance in the basement.  I even remembered hydration for myself.

Ready to roll… before sunrise.


My weather app said the sun wouldn’t rise until 6:30, so I had over an hour to make up my own course that would keep me under street lights.  I went towards my office and ran through the industrial areas there.  Seeing a truck yard at sunrise isn’t really my cup of tea, but if you want to fit your run in and be available for your family, you have to make some sacrifices.

I had a few peaks at a map and I felt 99% sure I could connect back to the Etobicoke Creek Trail once the sun was up.  The problem was I would be running beside the airport runways. I got to a point of no return on one of the airport service roads where there were signs saying that you couldn’t go any further… then I saw two cyclists go exactly where I wanted to run.  I followed.  It was nerve-racking, as I knew there were plenty of police cars patrolling the area; I’d been seeing them all morning.  As I envisioned explaining myself to a police officer, my confidence in knowing my local geography dropped from 99 to somewhere in the 80s…

Suddenly I recognized a familiar rolling in the landscape and some of the runway lights, and hopped onto the trail for the run home.  I thought I’d be over 19 km and find myself trying to go around the block to get 20, but I only clocked 19 once I was already near home.


On my calves, I was wearing lavender calf sleeves by Legend Compression (Disclaimer: I was given a pair of Legend Compression calf sleeves for review purposes, all opinions are my own). I wear compression sleeves while running (and sometimes cycling) mostly to combat Achilles tendinitis and any other calf tightness/injury.  What I noticed about the Legend compression sleeves it that the fabric felt very natural and breathable on my skin, like regular socks, and quite unlike most compression wear I’ve tried.  That morning was quite cold and though I don’t regret wearing shorts and short sleeves, having a little extra insulation for my lower legs was nice.  I could still feel some twinging in the lowest parts of my calf (which don’t get covered by sleeves – which I prefer to socks for the sake of wearing them in a triathlon where my feet get wet from swimming), but I think I weathered my 19 km run better for having worn them.


I was a lucky man that morning, as the kids had slept in, and I found them and my wife cuddled up together.  I snuck in a few cuddles of my own and made pancakes (with extra protein from both Manitoba Harvest and Everlast Nutrition).  We had a busy afternoon planned, and to make sure it happened, my wife ran errands while I took the kids to L.A. Fitness.   The Lightning Kid has been to their Kids Klub daycare a few times, but it was Shark Boy’s first time; I tried to couch it as less than a play centre, but more than a daycare (which he kind of equates with ‘school’), while I quickly got 1150 m (a.k.a 1.15 km) of swimming in to round out the day’s mileage at 20 km.

I got your Fitspo right here..

That busy afternoon, I mentioned? Two birthday parties.  The first was a classmate of Shark Boy’s and they went to Air Riderz trampoline park, which also had some climbing features (complete with safety harnesses and helmets).  I took the Lightning Kid down the road to a favourite play centre called ‘Balls of Fun‘ where we goofed off and recreated a scene from the old 90s video game Street Fighter II: the Hadouken ‘Fireball’ technique (minus actual fireball).


I collected them from those two venues and shuttled them to another birthday party, with a Frozen (Lighting Kid favourite) theme and bouncy castle.  I don’t need to tell you how well they slept that night.

As for myself, I had some nerves before the longest bike ride of my life.  I had signed up for the Burlington Mountain Equipment Co-op Century Ride; 100 km in Niagara Escarpment country.

I had put out my gear the night before, and I woke up before everyone else.  I dressed in my new gear from RODS Racing.  If you don’t know, RODS (Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome) helps get children with Down syndrome who are currently being housed in orphanages around the world into the loving arms of families who would like to adopt them; the families are ready, the kids are great, all it takes is cash to get around the bureaucracy and logistics.  If you would like to help, my donation page is here.

#RedAndBlackAttack

I drove to Burlington’s Hidden Valley Park to find things in full swing; although I was there before 8:30, which I considered early for the 9:00 start, I had just enough time to switch shoes and put the bike together, pick up my numbered bib and take a bathroom break before they wanted us to start lining up on the road to head out; this was around 8:45.


I asked someone in the crowd what their estimate of the number of participants was, and they figured 250.  I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only one with a triathlon bike there; I did see one girl with aero-bars on a road bike (much how I used to ride), but I still felt like a freak among what seemed to be a hard-core cycling crowd.  The large numbers did make it seem like it would be safer out on any heavily driven roads.  The marshals emphasized this was a ride, not a race, and the roads were open to all traffic, so safety first!




The ride started uphill, of course.  For the first 5 km or so, I was happy to take an easy meandering pace, but soon it felt too slow.  I needed to pace myself to last for 100 km – I knew this, but if the pace felt unnatural, and maintaining it was going to mean taking longer to finish than I was ready to spend on this event, that meant I would have to pass.  This is where I seem to have a bit of a disconnect with pure cyclists.  They like to ride at least 2 abreast and occupy the whole lane.  This is considered the safest practice, I know, because it forces cars to acknowledge that the bicycle is entitled to the entire lane under the highway traffic act.  When cars pass, they go around the group in a separate lane.  As a triathlete, though, I have an aversion to crossing the centre line, even when there is not oncoming traffic, just because the rules so strictly prohibit it – it can mean disqualification.  Plus, it seems dangerous.  So I found myself sometimes waiting for opportunities to pass; I don’t think “on your left” is as much of a thing in straight-up cycling.



After some climbing to get over the Niagara Escarpment, there was plenty of flat land to really see what kind of speed you could build up to on flat land.  It was a beautiful day, with perfect weather.  The first rest stop came at 23 km, and they had bananas, Clif Bars, Pro Bar Base protein bars and Nuun hydration tablets.  No porta-potties though; that might have been a little prohibitive for such a small support crew to transport, but I could have used one.  From that point, the century (100 km) and 50 k routes split up.

That was also the point where I separated from the crowd.  Sometimes I rode behind a pair of riders or so, but for the bulk of the ride I was on my own.  The course maps they had provided us had a list of ‘cues’ on the back that told you when your next turn would come in terms of total mileage.  That came in handy for reassurance, but for the most part I could see the little white arrows painted on the road because they came as such logical junctures. The route was so rural and abandoned that I often forgot that cars could come by.

At the second rest stop (48 km) my drink mix (Everlast FUEL with BCAAs and electrolytes, use the code IRONROGUE for a discount), was getting weak from being diluted with the water I had added, so I popped in a NUUN tablets.  I have many blogger friends who rave about NUUN, and now I get it.  It gave me some nice pep for the remainder of my ride.  I didn’t see any of the Pro Bar Cookie Dough flavour that I had promised myself at the second rest stop, and the third rest stop (same location as the first) had run out by the time I got there.


The ride went through so many small villages that I can’t remember the names of them all, but one location I did recognize was African Lion Safari.  One of the riders jokingly suggested a detour through there; “What could possibly go wrong?” I asked.

Overall on the ride, I had my chain pop off way too much.  Other riders suggested replacing the chain, but the bike is still too new.  I think the front derailleur needs an adjustment – this is something I have to take up with my bike shop, as it costs me way too much time, and trying to put the chain back on while balancing the bike at the side of the road seems to get a lot harder as my legs get tired.

The last 25 km were a bit of a struggle.  I can remember thinking at 82 km “I don’t want to do this anymore.”  It wasn’t so much that I wanted to quit, but the aero position was hurting my neck and shoulders quite a bit, and to not ride in aero was making the ride slower and ultimately take longer.  Still that part of the ride was a net downhill, and all familiar from the ride out, so the kilometres clicked by fairly quickly.


I rolled into Hidden Valley Park after nearly 4 hours of time in the saddle (I paused Garmin tracking during the rest stops) with a big smile of accomplishment on my face.  While I was tired, I think my legs would still have responded to the command to run, if I had to, so things are looking up for Barrelman.  The local Rotary club was grilling burgers for free and a bike shop had put up a beer tent with a local brew; sadly they only took cash so I have a future date with Cause and Effect by Nickelbrook Brewery.

Century Ride Finisher (minus beer) selfie


I drove home and tried to clean myself up – I had chain grease everywhere: my hands, my face, my legs, the insides of my arms.  Then I took the boys to the splash pad; they rode their bikes, showing me maybe someday they’ll be up for long rides too.  Trips to the splash pad, long bike rides, birthday parties, swimming, running… I wish the summer didn’t have to end.




What’s the longest bike ride you’ve ever done? How are you consoling yourself over the end of summer?

What I’ve Learned About Clipless Pedals (Tri-Talk/Tri-ed It Tuesday)



I’m doing a double link-up with Lakeshore Runner for Tri-ed Tuesday and both You Signed Up for What?! and Blisters and Black Toenails for Tri-Talk Tuesday to talk about some new knowledge about bikes that I picked up…

In my post announcing my new bike, Sable, I mentioned I had Shimano SPD pedals installed.  My rationale was that I wanted to be able to use my existing shoes in a Spin class, as spin bikes tend to have SPD compatible pedals.  I had been initially disappointed that I didn’t have such pedals on my original bike as I had been sold a set of Shimano 105 pedals.
The Shimano 105 pedal


The problem was that the bottoms of my shoes had three holes, which would make them compatible with a variety of road cleats, but not the SPDs. There did seem to be some kinds of adapters in existence, but I was never able to find any at local stores (in the very short amount of time I had to drive to stores and shop around).

One option would have been to buy new shoes, but a slightly cheaper one was to re-install the Shimano 105 pedals and buy new 105 cleats to install on my old shoes (the old ones were pretty worn out). I hadn’t had much luck taking my 105 pedals off my old bike with my own tools, so I also purchased a 15 mm pedal wrench; I consider that one of the smarter moves I’ve made when it comes to buying cycling accessories.

The Shimano 105 pedals on the left have some little pads that are better for walking on if you dismount your bike on a long ride.  At the bottom left you can see my old cleat.  The SPD equipment, you can see is much smaller and doesn’t fit the 3 holes you can just make out on the bottom of my shoe.
For removing the SPD pedals and installing the 105s, I followed this video:

Then I used an Allen Key to screw the cleats to the bottom of the shoes; there was still an outline from where the old ones were, so alignment didn’t seem to be an issue.

I’ll keep the SPD accessories and eventually install them on my mountain bike and buy new shoes for them too – apparently SPDs are intended almost solely for mountain biking. So I don’t meet my goal of having one pair of shoes for both road riding (and triathlon races) and spin class, but the good news is that Sable is finally ride-ready.

I celebrated with a 2 hours 15 minute ride on the trainer while I watched the movie Man of Steel – I think the recent trailers for the sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice have gotten into my head. Superman makes for surprisingly good training inspiration, considering he never had to work for his superpowers…

Do you find bike technology as confusing as I do?

Friday Five: Top Five Father’s Day Gifts for the Many Faces of Iron Rogue

Disclosure: The links in this post are referral and/or affiliate links.  I get a credit/commission for items purchased through them.


1.) For the office drone who needs to get more active and/or stronger on the bike:

In a triathlon, you’re likely to spend more time on the bike than swimming or running, yet it seems to be the hardest to get out and do; the extra equipment and getting to a safe route can be time consuming.  Enter the Stamina 15-0120 InStride Cycle XL. This thing sits under a desk and lets you quietly pedal during your workday.  



2.) For a guy who, kind of, sort of, cares how he dresses.  Frank And Oak make some of the clothes I most like to wear (except my flannel sweatpants and old hooded sweatshirts though they do make hoodies too).  A Frank and Oak shirt is my go-to when I have an important meeting or it’s date night.  I’ve also got khakis, slacks, jeans, shoes and blazers from them.  All their stuff is affordable, and special mention goes to the shirts which are tailored well to an athletic physique; the more generic shirt you get from department stores tend to billow out if you’re slimmer than a husky man.  The styles lean toward hipster, which helps this 40-something feel younger, but not to the point of embarassment.



3.) For the dad who likes turning play time with the kids (or any other semi-reasonable time) into a workout.  Gripsling is an innovative, tough training device that basically can give you a handle on anything you can loop it around for lifting, or pulling yourself up.  Their base model has a loop on one end and you grip the other end of the strap, but I like their next model up which has loops on both ends.  If you don’t need the second loop, you don’t have to use it, but I always prefer have-it-but-don’t-need-it to need-it-but-don’t-have-it.  They’re light and portable so it would be easy to take them along on a run to make a burbathlon more interesting.  I can’t wait to integrate them into trips to the playgrounds and parks with the kids or even impromptu backyard workouts.

Save 20% on your order when you use the discount code “IronRogue” at checkout.


4.) For the multisport smart phone addict: I had a waterproof dustproof camera that I used for taking pics at races for the blog and for when the family was out and about the way we often are, but the quality was never very good, and in the meantime, my phone’s camera has eclipsed it in megapixels and capabilities.  While the Samsung Galaxy S5 has some baseline waterproof capabilities, I needed to not only feel safer in the water, but account for my own clumsiness which was going to result in a dropped phone (it’s happened in the past).  Enter Lifeproof.  I use the FRE case on my S5, and it’s saved it from multiple drops, and if you’ve ever seen one of my swim videos on Instagram, that’s how I capture them.  Customer service is very good too, as they replaced the first one I got after a scratch showed up, and they did it quickly and efficiently.
Galaxy S5 Case – frē $79.99




Once you have the case like I do though, the bulkiness of it can make it less convenient to have around at any given time, so I’m thinking about adding the quick mount accessories like this bike mount,
Bike + Bar Mount with QuickMount $39.99




























or a simple belt clip.
Belt Clip with QuickMount $29.99






























5.) For the father who’s not getting any younger… I only know two things about aging skin… a) sun makes it worse and b) you should moisturize.  I’ve gotten a lot of skin care products as birthday, Christmas and Father’s Day gifts over the years and some are expensive, but I’m simply not fussed enough to go about multiple steps in any kind of regimen, at least not on a regular basis.  Most days, I’ve been using the Every Man Jack Daily Protection after my shave; my skin gets moisturized against the irritation, and I get SPF 15 protection for the walk to and from my car and dropping the kids off (I use a higher SPF product if I’m training outside).  You can get Every Man Jack products, and other grooming items (as well as socks, underwear and neat things like deodorant wipes for when you can’t shower) at ManPacks.com.

Linking up with Friday Five from You Signed Up For WHAT? and Fit and Fashionable Friday from Fitful Focus

Friday Five: New Stuff

I’ve been training hard, and eating (fairly) well, maintaining my weight etc.  They say you shouldn’t reward these efforts (or the goals they produce) with food, as it’s kind of counter-productive.  Let’s pretend, for the sake of this post, that I’ve been following that advice and have rewarded myself with a more ‘retail’ type set of gifts.


  1. The first item is from Manpacks.  (Full disclosure, that’s a referral link.  You can use it to save $10 off your first purchase, and I get $10 credit if you do).  Manpacks has grooming goods, underwear and other consumables that busy men don’t seem to get around to shopping for themselves.  A pack arrives every 3 months, so I find it manageable to change the order to stuff I actually need.  This item, Brode Electrolyte Vitamin is supposed to help you stay hydrated by providing the needed electrolytes before you get dehydrated.  It’s aimed at travellers (long plane rides with that recycled air), hikers and athletes.  Obviously keeping water with you is the best option, but I have found that a lunchtime run (or runch) after a morning of coffee drinking is hard on my system (I have often said that I only exist in two states: Under-caffeinated or Dehydrated) and I often don’t pack a water bottle and belt or hydration pack, so I was curious to try these.  I will say that they seemed a little hard on my stomach and I experience some mild cramping and discomfort immediately after swallowing them, but I think I could notice the effect on some of my runs, especially since the weather has been getting warmer than I am used to.



  1. I’m not exactly Mr. Compression, but with an aggressive training schedule, I’m open to trying things that will help me recover better and stay injury-free.  I have a few pairs of compression socks (most of which are lousy and ineffective), and a pair of calf sleeves from 2XU.  Those are all focussed on lower body, obviously, but that’s where the work is principally done for your average triathlete (like me!).  Still, I took advantage of a guest sale at the Reebok/Adidas corporate store to pick up a few items, including this TechFit T-Shirt.  It’s the first time I’ve had compression on my upper body, and I wore it under a work shirt after a tough strength workout (in the ‘Specific Preparation Phase 2’ part of my training program, the strength workouts are primed for ‘Maximum Strength’).  I was hoping it would aid recovery so I’d be primed for a benchmark swim the next day – frankly, it felt weird.  Not necessarily bad, but weird, and I kept it on for about an hour and a half.  It might be better to wear it during the workout; like I said, I’m not Mr. Compression, and this stuff confuses me a little.  The official description says: “techfit® focuses your muscles’ energy to generate maximum explosive power, acceleration and long-term endurance” and the next phase of the program (starting next week) focusses on Power Endurance which combines strength with velocity (including plyometric work), so we’ll see.

  2. As evidenced by our outfits at the Spring Into Action 10k, I’m liking the combination of red and black. I also like hoods (it goes with the whole ‘Rogue’ theme), but I don’t really need any more warm red hooded sweatshirts, so at the same sale, I picked up this long sleeved top with a hood. It’s Crossfit branded, but that doesn’t bother me; with the warmer weather, I’m not sure how much more use I’ll get out of it till autumn, maybe for some early morning workouts.
  3. I’m on a bit of a Saucony kick right now.  My Saucony ISO Triumphs continue to serve me well, and provide the cushioning I like on the road. I’m happy enough with them that I got Saucony’s for trail running too.  They kept me on the trail in the very muddy 5 Peaks Terra Cotta run and I can’t wait to get more mileage on them.  Heck, even my wife is on the Saucony bandwagon…
  4. Another product I scored from Manpacks is this Everyman Jack Face Moisturiser.  I needed something for the post-shave, and I’m not looking any younger, so one way to keep the face protected is with some sunscreen (which I also like for preventing melanoma of course).  I always like killing two birds with one stone when I can.
Any new stuff that you’ve treated yourself (or been treated to)? Moms out there probably have Mother’s Day Wishlists….

Gear Corner: Reviewing the Skulpt Aim

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Skulpt Aim for review purposes by Raynforest.  All opinions are my own, and this post was not otherwise compensated.


No matter where you are on your fitness journey, you probably want to see some improvement from where you are now.  How can you know you’re improving if you can’t measure it? Going by feel has its merits, but it can be subjective based on what else you have going on; how well did you sleep the night before, what did you eat, how much stress are you under external sources, etc..  If you measure your athletic performance numerically, i.e. how fast you can run a certain distance, how much you can lift, at least you have some quantification, but it’s still subject to those daily variables I just mentioned.


Just about every fitness blogger has a post about why the scale isn’t a good measure of health and wellness, and Body Mass Index still gets a lot of mainstream attention, in spite of being tied to weight.  If an obese person whose weight comes from a spare tire of fat and a power lifter whose extra weight comes from gigantic muscles have the same height and weight, they’ll have the same BMI value, even though they present entirely different pictures, health-wise.


Body fat seems to be a decent thing to measure, most of us would like less, and certain types of fat (e.g visceral) or locations (belly) are linked to many negative health outcomes.  The most accurate test of body fat involves getting immersed in a tank of water which makes it terribly inconvenient for tracking at regular intervals.  Calipers are accurate if you really know what you’re doing; I got myself a cheaper more ‘entry-level’ pair last year, but I’ll be darned if I could get similar measurements from day to day.  Bathroom scales that use bio-electric impedance analysis sound promising (I have one that I use from time to time), but trying to get a measurement of your whole body’s fat composition from the soles of your feet seems sketchy, and indeed there are a whole bunch of dependencies like not having eaten, slept or exercised within something like 5 hours of the measurement (when would those conditions ever be satisfied realistically?).


Enter the Skulpt Aim.  You take measurements directly on different parts of the body; the general snapshot it asks for takes for measurements: right side bicep, abdominals, tricep and quadriceps.  You can also measure (left and/or right) hamstrings, glutes, calves, upper back, lower back, biceps and  forearms.


The Skulpt Aim also measures MQ or Muscle Quality, which Skulpt equates to IQ, except for muscles rather than intellectual ability.  Higher MQ scores correlate with stronger, leaner, more defined and firm muscles. That way, you can measure how your training regimen is improving your physique and physiology, muscle by muscle.

Skulpt Aim – The Device Itself


When I got my hands on the Skulpt Aim, I was pleased to see it had a relatively simple interface.  One button on the left side for powering on/off or selecting a menu entry and two buttons on the right side for scrolling through menu entries – one up, one down. The sensors are at the back, and the screen is on the front, with fairly simple menus.


Once you get your user profile set up with a few basic stats about your gender, height and weight etc. the device walks you through how to take the basic measurements including showing an instructional video, right on the device itself!  I’ll admit for a split-second I thought the device had a camera, because it looked like a first-person view through it as I was lining it up with my bicep, until I notice that the bicep in question was better toned and more hairless than my own…


I’ve found it easiest to simply keep my Skulpt Aim in my shower caddy; it’s splash proof, and taking measurements after my shower (either as part of a morning ritual, or post-workout) is easy since I’m already wet, and all muscles are… *ahem* uncovered, shall we say.


Another great feature is a multi-coloured LED around the rim of the device that flashes as you scan the muscle.  It changes to solid when the scan is finished.  This is especially handy when you scan muscles that are hard to reach so you can’t see the screen to know if the scan is finished, e.g. calves, back, triceps.  I could usually see the side edge of the device no matter where I measured, but sometimes it was easier to look in the mirror to see the flashing end.


The App


I liked navigating the app more than on the device – a smart phone touch screen is more familiar than the button layout of the Skulpt Aim, and there are simply way more options.  The app only asks for one permission when you install it – access to Bluetooth so it can pair with the Skulpt Aim – rather than your location, friends list, camera, custody of your first born child that so many apps ask for, which is refreshing.  Bluetooth pairing worked quickly and easily.



The Data That Skulpt Gives You


The following charts show the progress I made (or didn’t make).  More than anything else, I used the ‘Total Body’ measurement which uses right bicep, tricep, ab and quad to take an average picture of your body, so I have the most data for those muscles.  The big take-aways I have are that my glutes and hamstrings are the fittest (and most lean) parts of my body.  Which is not too surprising for a triathlete, especially one who’s stronger on the run than the bike.  I was proud of my posterior chain and hill-climbing at the beginning of the off-season, and I’ve been incorporating dead-lifts into my strength routine since last December or November, so that’s nice to see.
I made this chart myself.  I know it’s a little dense.


Having quads that are much weaker (less fit according to MQ) than my hamstrings is a bit of an alarm for me.  I knew I needed to get stronger on the bike, and muscle imbalances can lead to injury so I started trying to focus on isolating the quads in my strength routine since I first saw that.  Overall, I’ve seen my Right Quad MQ go from 102 to 110, so that looks good.


We can also see differences between right and left sides.  This may be due to actual differences between my right and left side muscles, or due to how I’m measuring the muscle.  Given that I can see fluctuations in MQ and Body Fat from one day to the next consecutive day, it has to be at least a bit of both causes.  The nice part is that if you take more than one measurement in a day, the progress feature of the app will report the average value of that day, so you can use the law of averages to get the best reading if you want more accuracy.


I think this device (and app) would be useful for
  • Bodybuilding/Fitness competitors who want a picture of what each muscle is doing over time
  • Runners with gait issues who need to strengthen given muscles for better running function
  • Triathletes who want to avoid problems in the future related to muscle imbalances

Does this device sound useful to you? What quantities do you like to track when it comes to your training?

Tri-ed It Tuesday: Gear Corner Screws in my Shoes

In the past, I’ve used Yaktrax or another traction device that you strap onto the outside of your shoes to run safely in the snow and ice.  Some of the feedback I’ve gotten from the review and asking around is that putting screws into the soles of an old pair is a way to make sure you don’t slip, without having to muck around with an extra piece of equipment, and it’s cheap too.


I filed this away somewhere in my brain for at least a year before Jessica from Laces and Lattes reminded me of it and provided this link with instructions for the best implementation (via Skyrunner).


Skyrunner prescribes hexagonal sheet metal screws, and says 3/8″ isn’t too long for most shoes.  I wasn’t able to find 1/2″ screws, so I figured I would have to gamble.  I’d be putting them into my old Salomon’s which have served me well, and don’t owe me anything.  Being a trail running shoe, they’re already well suited to more extreme conditions and they’re probably the best shoe I own for running in the snow, regardless of what kind of traction assistance I’m getting (if any).  Still, the notion of these screws being in my shoes with the sharp ends pointing up made me nervous; one of the challenges I’ve found about winter running isn’t the snow or ice, per se, it’s the mixture of plowed sidewalk (running on cement) to sudden transition of ice and/or snow.  With the Yaktrax I found running on the plowed sidewalk to be like getting light acupuncture… I was worried it wouldn’t be so “light” with the screws!


I’m glad I had a drill with the right attachments; I wasn’t afraid of using some muscle/elbow grease to get the screws in, but the rubber makes it hard to get a hole started.  While the instructions mentioned having screws numbering upwards of 18, but that seemed like overkill.  I put 12 into each shoe, and I managed to be almost symmetrical on each shoe, but not quite.  


On Thursday, I took them out for a run.  Or more accurately a “Runch” – when you run on your lunch break.  Challenge #1: not wearing shoes with hard metal protrusions on the soles on any delicate surfaces like the change room floor (this goes double for my floors at home) on the way out.  I waited till I was on a rug by the exit before I put the shoes on.


The first surface I ran/walked on was the plowed walkway near the office.  To my surprise, the acupuncture feeling was less with the screws than I remember it being with the Yaktrax.  I did notice when I progressed onto the sidewalk on my way to enter the Etobicoke Creek Trail that I was getting some poking on the side of my foot, right in the space between my big toe and the ball of my foot.  Not stabby pain, but not comfortable either.


Once I was on the snowy trail, the discomfort went away entirely.  I couldn’t feel the screws at all.  That’s both the good news and the bad news.  I started off slower, with the intention of really making sure I warmed up properly and slowly in addition to wanting a negative split on the run.  On the way back, if I pushed the pace a little, my feet slipped backwards on each step.  If the snow had been packed down unevenly, my feet could slide laterally to the edges of the cleared/tramped down space of the path.  I made the final climb off the trail back out to the road without any extra traction at all.  It wasn’t totally slippery, but on the other hand, the Salomons have a good enough tread that I don’t think I would have slipped any more than I did had I not installed the screws in the first place.


I can practically hear proponents of this method now: I didn’t put enough screws in, or by placing some of them in between treads, I minimized their impact.  That may be true, but given that at least one screw was hurting my foot, I think I was right not to put too many in, and many of the screws were placed on the flatter areas of the sole, and did not provide any perceived improvement.
At least I got to do some of that winter outdoor Yoga all the cool kids are doing…


On the plus side, the screws stayed in place and I didn’t have to manage any extra bucking or unbuckling in the cold; when I was inside, I took off the shoes, and that’s it.  The screws didn’t cost much, but they cost more than nothing, and nothing is seemingly the value I got out of them.  Just my two cents. And now, I think I deserve a medal, because it’s really difficult to write ‘screws’ that many times without turning it into a dirty joke… I mean, it’s really hard (that’s what she said). *Whew*

Do you run in the snow with a little extra traction help? If so, what kind?

Review: Saucony Triumph ISO shoes

Disclosure: I was given a free pair of Saucony Triumph ISO for review purposes through Fitfluential LLC.  All opinions are my own.


The last time I wore a pair of Saucony’s they were the Virratas, and we were in the throes of the minamalist shoe revolution.  I, for one, am glad to be on the tail end of that dark time.  I was excited to be trying out a more cushioning shoe… enter the Saucony Triumph ISO.



A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

Saucony wanted to produce a shoe that would stun its users; making a WhoaFace, as they’ve dubbed it.  I really liked the colours of the pair they sent me; too often shoes seem to be going for garish, loud colours (like the ones in some of their promotional shots which I’ll share below).  These shoes, on the other hand let me put together outfits that make me feel like a superhero.




Even better than the look was how they felt.  It reminded me of the shoes I’d buy in high school, when it seemed like running shoe brands first started caring about technology and the feeling and experience of running in their shoes.



They felt incredibly light to run in, considering what a soft ride I was getting.  The topside (ISOFIT) must be very breathable, and will come in handy in hotter weather; unfortunately, the cold made me notice this feature very quickly.  I should probably play around with the lacing, as I think I could have used a little more motion control, which is weird, because that’s not what my gait usually demands.


What I want the most out of a shoe is cushioning, and the Triumph delivers with its PWRGRID+ platform.  Impacts simply feel soft, without feeling like you’ve got a pillow wedged under your heel. It was most noticeable running downhill; I could really let myself loose on any downward slope.


The Triumphs held up well on sidewalk and gravel, I think they’d be optimal for road running in warmer weather.


Could a shoe make you make a WHOAFACE? Based on looks? Based on feel?

Gear Corner: Review of the Samsung Gear Fit #Smartwatch

Ever since smartwatches were announced (and yes, it was well before Apple announced theirs) I’ve wanted one.  It would have to be waterproof and fitness oriented, though which narrowed down the selection somewhat.  The Samsung Gear Fit would fit the bill (and work well with my phone the Galaxy S3 since they’re made by the same company), and when one went on sale, I couldn’t pass it up.


Once I got it out of the box, it was quick to pair with the phone.  There is a Gear Fit Manager app to download, and the fitness features require a separate app.  The first one (from here on, I’ll refer to it as the Manager) let me make some adjustments to the watch’s display and interface.

I didn’t like the default wallpaper (too colourful) and went with a purple one.  The other default I ddidn’tlike was the orientation of the screen for data.  It was perpendicular to the way I usually look at a watch.

Bluetooth pairing went seamlessly; there was hardly anything to do – the connection can be initiated from the phone’s app side or the watch. I think people who struggle with Bluetooth pairing won’t have any trouble.

As I started using the watch, there were things I liked right away. I loved getting notifications through the watch – I usually keep my phone on vibrate because I don’t like it making obtrusive noises, but sometimes I still miss notifications or calls. When your wrist buzzes, it’s hard to ignore. You can configure what kinds of notifications get sent to the watch: text messages are probably important, notifications from Google+ communities (for example), maybe not so much. The notifications don’t get sent to the watch when you’re using the phone, which is a very intelligent feature.

The watch has a pretty good range from the phone (I think I got as far as 50 feet from it), so it can be handy to leave the phone somewhere nearby yet safe and secure. Of course, that range gets decreased by walls or obstructions.

Beyond the convenience of having an interface to the phone on my wrist, the biggest benefit of the Gear Fit is as a fitness device. There’s an accelerometer inside which tracks arm movements and is used to drive the step counter, much like the Fitbit Flex. Unlike the Fitbit, however, you can look at your progress on the Gear Fit’s own screen. Making 10,000 steps a day is a great way to keep burning calories throughout the day, and better yet, you have proof of how tiring chasing kids around really is.

The Gear Fit has a Heart Rate sensor, which I was really excited about. It’s worth noting though, that you have to hold still to use it, so you can’t track your heart rate continuously while working out. It’s better for spot checks like seeing what your resting heart rate is; I tried taking measurements during a run, and even though I stood still it wouldn’t get a reading because I was too sweaty or something. The heart rate readings don’t interface into third party apps like Endomondo (see below).

Heart rate aside, the Gear Fit has its own interface to apps like Endomondo and Strava, so that you can start and stop tracking your mileage through the watch. This is probably my favourite feature, since this kind of thing (starting/stopping, pausing) is always awkward. Now, I put the phone in a Spi-belt (or armband) and don’t fiddle with it once I’m out the door.

The Gear Fit has an interface to the media player, so that you can start, stop the music (or even video) you may be listening to (or watching) or skip tracks. That’s a lot easier than mucking about with the phone that was nicely tucked away in a pocket. I did notice one time that when I used Endomondo to pick my music, there was a serious lag between when I’d hit a control on the smart watch and when the action (e.g. skipping tracks) took place.

The accelerometer in the Gear Fit doesn’t just track your steps while walking, but you can put the smart watch into sleep mode to track the quality of your sleep, like the Fitbit. The screen makes it easier than the Fitbit to start tracking, but I didn’t like how the assessments were presented. It simply gives you a total amount of time, and a percentage that you were motionless. At least Fitbit tried to differentiate (and illustrate the occurrence of) restless sleep vs. waking, even if it got it wrong some of the time.

The Gear Fit can be used for alarms, but it doesn’t store the alarms locally; the phone must be on and connected (via Bluetooth) to the watch for alarms to work. In my opinion, that makes the alarm feature next to useless.

Staying connected to the Gear Fit drains the phone’s battery quite aggressively, and the Galaxy S3 didn’t have great battery life to begin with. Turning off Bluetooth occasionally (when you didn’t need them to be connected) was a good way to save a little battery life. The watch’s battery typically lasted about 2.5 days between charging. It charges with the regular charging cable that works for Samsung and Blackberry, but needs an adapter cradle. This cradle is roughly 1 square centimeter and black, so of course, I eventually lost it. I’ve ordered a new one from Amazon, and I’ve written this post from notes I’ve taken during my ownership of the Gear Fit. I’d probably have more details in this review if I was still using the watch (and rest assured, I will again), but I’d really like to get this review finished and move on to other posts.

Overall, with smartphones getting bigger and bigger screens, the smartwatch form factor has a lot going for it, and a fitness oriented, waterproof model like the Gear Fit is close to perfect for the tech-savvy, connected fitness enthusiast.

What do you think of smartwatches? Cool, or dorky?

Gear Corner: Reviewing the Fitbit Flex

There are an increasing amount of activity trackers on the market these days, including models from Jawbone, Polar and Samsung but I chose to get a Fitbit Flex. My reasons are that Fitbit syncs with Earndit and Pact, as well as I could get one for Air Miles (which I had racked up enough of).

The Fitbit Flex came with two wristbands (one large and one small) as well as a USB cable for charging. Inserting the unit into the wristband of choice is easy enough – in fact, it seems to be fitted so that you can’t put in in wrong and have the lights/LEDs not display. Fastening the wristband is straightforward, but not easy to do one-handed, especially if you don’t want the band to be too loose on your wrist. With a little practice, this becomes a non-issue. In addition to the cable, there is a wireless adapter that you plug into your USB port so the Flex can sync its recorded data automatically when it’s within range. I honestly don’t use this feature, since I always sync to my Smartphone or iPad with the Fitbit app.

I find I have to recharge the Flex every 3 days or so, possibly because I’m a little obsessed with seeing my data update and sync often during the day. If I’m not careful, the Flex won’t make contact in the little socket for the charging cable, and it won’t charge.

Though the app gives you all kinds of things you can track (manually entering activities, food log, weight, body fat%), my main motivation for using this thing is steps taken and tracking sleep.

Tracking Activity (Steps)


Saturday


This is the Saturday before the Yonge St 10K.  I took it easy, no workout, but I still had to take the kids outside, pick them up, a few light chores around the house.  So I still burned well over my recommended 2100 calories.  This is one of the things I like best about having the Fitbit Flex.  I wanted to write a post about ‘The Calories I Can’t Count” for all those little things that tire, without being part of a workout or training plan.  Now I have a rough measurement.


Sunday

Sunday was the race, so you can see how I racked up the steps, calories and ‘very active minutes’.

Monday


The day after the race, was one of those days where I would usually have to miss my slotted workout (which I usually do at lunch).  I was on a training course all day, which usually makes for a very sedentary workday.  Here’s where Fitbit (and GymPact) help; I parked far away from the office, took stairs and extra walks on every break I got, and managed to exceed 10,000 steps on a day where I was booked too heavily to make it to the gym.

That training course lasted till Wednesday, and on Thursday I made it to an intense bootcamp class.

Before

After

The class had things like mountain climbers, lunges, and burpees, and I question how well the Fitbit Flex can track those movements since it’s only giving me credit for about 200 calories for the 40 minute class, and I’m pretty sure it’s worth than that (to say nothing of how the ‘active minutes’ didn’t increase much either).

All in all, the Fitbit Flex let’s me feel good about days when I seem to be tired without having done a ‘workout’ and is helping me stay active during non-workout periods and burning more calories during the day.  I’d say it helped me with my most recent DietBet.

Tracking Sleep


This feature is a little less interesting to me, since I know that my sleep is of poor quality; the Lightning Kid wakes us up a few times a night.  Still I’m curious, and like the activity tracking, the Fitbit could do a job of ‘keeping me honest’ so that I know a little better how much/little sleep I got; if I feel tired, I might exaggerate – what feels like 4 hours might actually be closer to 6 for example.

 

My biggest problem is I think it underestimates my wake-ups.  That night, the 3:00 wake-up (visible in red), was due to… um, a call of nature.  But the Lightning Kid woke up at 4:30 and I had to rock him and put him back down.  This involved some squirming on his part that often wakes him back up again, so I had to restrict his flailing – the point is that I was on my feet for 10-15 minutes and the Flex marked that as ‘Restless’ sleep.  So I don’t put the most faith in this feature, but it’s better than nothing.

Overall, I’m really happy with my Fitbit Flex and continue to use it daily.

How do you feel about the activity tracker trend? If you have one, do you use it/like it?