Friday, April 29, 2016

Brooks Launch 3 Review

I have recently reviewed three shoes from Brooks, the Glycerin 13 (which received Runner’s World’s Best Update Award for 2015), the PureFlow 5, and the Neuro.   They all are great shoes that I use on a rotating basis in my training.   

Brooks is headquartered in Seattle, Washington.  Brooks’ motto is to “Run Happy” but they also try to “Live Green.”  Brooks has four categories for their shoes.
-          Cushion Me – Soft and protective shoes
-          Energize Me – Responsive and springy shoes
-          Connect Me – Light weight and flexible shoes
-          Propel Me – Fast, low-profile shoes   

Shoes in Brooks Energize series are responsive and springy to add a little extra lift to your stride.  Let’s get the basic specs out of the way.  The Brooks Launch 3 has a 10mm heel drop, is a neutral shoe, and weighs in at 9.8 ounces.  This shoe is ideal for people with medium to high arches and is a great shoe for all road running, from easy runs to races and everything in between. 

Brooks used their BioMoGo DNA midsole cushioning that dramatically adapts to each step and stride.  You get a fast heel-to-toe transition with the Segmented Crash Pad and Midfoot Transition Zone.  Brooks used blown rubber in the forefoot area for an extra-springy toe-off.  The upper material uses Brooks’ new 3D print which adds structure to the shoe without adding too much weight and the air mesh that they used in the shoe ensures a decent amount of ventilation.  That will help to keep your feet a little cooler and drier.  The bottom of the shoe has blown rubber covering the whole shoe for added durability.

Now that I have talked about the different materials (which may not be the easiest to understand), lets break it down in Layman’s terms.  The Launch 3 is not the lightest shoe at 9.8 ounces.  I have run in a bunch of shoes recently (some with more cushion) that are in the 8 ounce range.  With that being said, I had no idea that these weighed more when I was running in them.  They are still plenty light.  The Launch 3 just felt natural.  The materials are extremely durable, especially the blown rubber outsole (which looks like car tire tread).  There was tons of cushioning, yet I never felt like it was taking away any power.  I actually did feel like the shoes were springier than many of my other shoes and they fit true to size as well.

My first test run in the Launch 3 was supposed to be a 6 mile run at an easy pace.  I headed out and just started running.  I was not paying attention to my Garmin because it was supposed to be an easy pace.  I look down and I was going really fast, but it didn’t even seem like I was putting in that much effort.  I simply couldn’t run slow in the Launch 3!  That feeling lasted the whole 6 miles.  I figured that it was just a good running day so I wanted to see what would happen on a longer run. 

My long run was a few days later.  I headed out and it happened again.  I was pushing a fast pace and it felt awesome.  The Launch 3 has been comfortable, fast, and show almost no wear (after about 30 miles).  I am a huge fan of the Hoka One One Clayton and recently said that the Clayton not only took over as my favorite Hoka, but my favorite shoe period.  The Launch 3 just took over as my favorite shoe, hands down!

Best lacing system I have tried
Fit true to size
Great price $100-110
Looks awesome (several color options)
Light weight at 9.8 ounces
90 Day Trial at (Free Returns)

Brooks Social Media Links

Brooks keeps putting out great shoes.  I never expected the Launch 3 to completely blow me away the way it has.  When I run in the Launch 3, I feel like I can run forever.  The price point is great starting at $100 on the Brooks website.  You can also find them at your local retailer (click here for locations).  Go to your local running store and give it a test run.  If there was only one shoe I could recommend to neutral runners, it would be the Launch 3.  Get yours today and let me know what you think. 

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Do you know how to breathe while running?

When we aren’t exercising, we don’t really think about breathing.  It’s just natural, we breathe in and then breathe out.  We have been doing it our whole lives without out really thinking about it.  When it comes to exercising though, that all changes.  After 3 years of running, I am faster and stronger than ever.  My biggest foe is my breathing.  When I really push myself, I can’t seem to get enough air.  I also have had shin splint issues because of the impact that I was mainly putting on my right side.

I recently came across an article on the Runner’s World website, Running On Air: Breathing Technique by Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik. The article starts off by discussing some of their early running experiences.  Coates and Kowalchik then talk about a study by Dennis Bramble, Ph.D., and David Carrier, Ph.D., that explains that “the greatest impact stress of running occurs when one’s foot strike coincides with the beginning of an exhalation.” (1)  Basically if you exhale on the same foot each time, you are drastically increasing the force on that side of your body and therefore increasing the risk of injury on that side. 

When you are running, the force of the impact upon your foot striking the ground is 2-3 times your bodyweight.  The basic idea of rhythmic breathing is to spread that impact over both feet by not always exhaling on the same foot.  I, like many runners, breathe in for two foot strikes and then out for two foot strikes.  This means that I am exhaling on the same foot every time.  The article recommends alternating that pattern to an odd number of foot strikes.  More on that in a bit.

One important breathing technique is called Belly Breathing.  Before you learn to alter your breathing rhythm, it is important to learn how to breathe properly.  By belly breathing, you are learning to breathe from your diaphragm.    The key idea behind belly breathing is that by inhaling into your belly, you increase the amount of air that you take in.  The more air you inhale, the more oxygen your body has to transfer though your circulatory system to your working muscles.  Most people, myself included, breathe from their chests.  These muscles are smaller and will therefore fatigue more quickly than your diaphragm will.  You can train yourself to breathe from your belly by practicing.  Here is what you do:

Belly Breathing Exercise:
1. Lie down on your back
2. Keep your upper chest and shoulders still
3. Focus on raising your belly as you inhale
4. Lower your belly as you exhale
5. Inhale and exhale through both your nose and mouth
*This process was taken directly from the article (1)
Now that you know how to belly breathe, you can focus on rhythmic breathing techniques.  Try breathing in for 3 steps and out for 2 steps.  This is called the 3:2 cadence.  By using this breathing method, you’re alternating which foot you start exhaling on, spreading out the impact between your left and right sides.   If you are really pushing yourself (i.e. fast tempo runs, races, intervals, or running up hills) where you are having difficulty breathing, you can switch to a 2:1 cadence.  That is where you’re breathing in for 2 steps and out for 1 step. 

Practice these breathing techniques and if you are interested in more information on Budd Coates breathing technique, read the article from Runner’s World or buy his book, “Running on Air: The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter.” You can find the book for $13.95 (paperback) or $9.99 (kindle) on Amazon.  I will be focusing on my breathing technique over the next few months to reduce my risk of injury and increase my performance.  Who’s with me?

(1) “Running On Air: Breathing Technique” by Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik

Note: I am not a doctor.  The information that I am providing is strictly information that I have gathered.  I am not an expert and my blog post should not be taken as medical advice.

CHCB Cycling Apparel Review

Performance Bicycle was founded in 1981 by Garry and Sharon Snook.  They started a bicycle catalog company because they saw an opportunity to serve customers better.  With their second kid on the way, Garry and Sharon leveraged their life savings to start the company.  After almost 35 years in business they have grown into the number one specialty bicycle retailer in the United States with more than 100 stores.  Their goal is to provide the best customer experience possible to all cyclist, from the recreational rider to the avid enthusiast.

There are a couple reasons why I love Performance Bicycle.  They have a Low Price Promise.  I have found some bib shorts on sale at a competitor’s online store and the guy at Performance matched it instantly.  The prices at Performance are awesome, especially if things are on sale and they have sales all the time.

Performance also stands behind everything they sell with their Lifetime Guarantee.  If an item does not meet your expectations, simply return it.  You can get cash back for the first year and after that they would provide you with an exchange, repair, or store credit.  I had a pair of padded bike shorts that I wore for about 5 months.  The seams started to come apart.  I took it to the store to find out if this was a common issue or something specific to me, not expecting to exchange it (I just wanted to bitch).  The guy at the shop insisted on exchanging it for me.  That’s great customer service.

If you buy a bike from Performance, they will make adjustments like basic spot wheel truing, shifting and brake adjustments, tightening bolts, checking and filling tires, and lubing chains.  This won’t just happen for the first year like at most bike shops offer, but for as long as you own the bike.  I have purchased some components and they installed them free of charge, even though they could have charged me. 

You can also join Team Performance, cycling’s #1 buyers’ club.  You pay $29.99 per year but get 10% back on all of your purchases.  This adds up quickly.  You also get upgraded to 2nd day for all orders over $50 at no cost.  For orders under $50 you just pay for standard shipping and get it upgraded 2 day shipping for free.  I can tell you from personal experience that the membership fee is more than covered by the savings, even if you don’t buy a lot of gear.

Performance developed a new line of bike clothes last year called CHCB.  They developed the CHCB line of clothing to help ride the roads you travel the most.  If you are heading to the grocery store, commuting to work, riding with your kids to school or just riding around the neighborhood, this clothing line was made for you.  Tight bike shorts are not always the most appropriate apparel.  The CHCB line combine’s excellent performance with a contemporary stylish design. 

The James Woven Button Up is a polyester/spandex, stretch woven top that really does feel great.  It was designed for a new generation of road riders who want all of the technical advantages of traditional bike gear but allows you to look and feel good off the bike as well.  The James has a slimmer cut than normal technical t-shirts, but is not too tight, that way you don’t have too much wind drag.  The poly/spandex blend is built to be durable, helps wick moisture and dries really fast.  One of my favorite features of the James Woven Button Up is the back pocket with the reflective tab.  It doesn’t look out of place and is perfect to store your phone or some other gear.  You can either keep the flap out for added visibility or tuck it in when you don’t need it.  There are ventilated mesh side panels, a chest pocket, and a wide hemline for added style.    The James Woven Button Up is regularly $79.99, but is on sale $49.99.  If you are a Team Performance member you get $4.99 back for future purchases.

The VC II Shorts area a pair of overshorts, which means that they can be worn on their own, or with a pair of cycling shorts underneath.  That way, you can be fashionable while still being comfortable.  I have to say that the VC II Shorts are probably the most comfortable pair of shorts that I own.  The look great and feel even better.  They have a slimmer cut than your normal mountain bike shorts, but are still relaxed.  The shorts feature Lycra gussets, which are extremely soft and provide ease movement.  There are 2 front hand pockets, a side zippered pocket and a rear pocket with a reflective flap to help you stay visible in lower light situations.  The VC II Shorts are regularly $99.99, but is on sale $59.99.  If you are a Team Performance member you get $5.99 back for future purchases.

Let me be completely honest, I am no fashion guru.  The reality is that I usually wear shirts from past running races or t-shirts and comfortable shorts around the house.  I tried on the CHCB gear and was really surprised by not only how comfortable the clothes were, but that they fit perfectly too.  I also was surprised that trendy clothes looked good on me as I tend to not look good in the more trendy clothes (I like to still think I am in my 20’s at times). 

Extremely comfortable
Looks awesome
Pockets for storage
Moisture control and dries quickly
You can wear bike shorts under the VC II shorts.

A little on the pricey side.

Performance Bike’s Social Media Links:

If you are looking for some stylish cycling clothes that look just as good, if not better, off the bike as they do on the bike than you might be interested in CHCB’s lineup at Performance Bike.  While they can be a little pricey, the clothes fit great, feel awesome, and look amazing.  Look for them on sale and you can save a little money.  Performance Bicycle is a great company with a great return policy, so if you don’t like the gear, just take it back.  Try returning clothes to other local bike shop and see what they say.  If you want to look good on and off your bike, but still want to stay comfortable and dry, pick up some CHCB clothes at your local Performance Bicycle or at Performance’s website.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.