Category Archives: tips

Product Review and Giveaway: Chafe Zone and Blister Zone Skin Protectant

These products were provided to me for no cost from the MedZone company. The opinions below are my own. 

It’s chafing season. I’ve run through many summers and am no stranger to those days when you forget to do chafing prevention and then pay for it within a couple miles. Just last weekend, I wore a tank top for the first time this season and completely forgot that the neckline rips my skin up. As a result, I’ve had to avoid v-neck shirts all week to hide my battle scars.

When Joe from MedZone reached out to me in April about their line of products, my question was a classic one that gets asked in lots of pharmacology trials: what’s the difference between this product and a well-established product (in this case, Body Glide). Joe was very diplomatic about things and said that the products would speak for themselves. As such, I approached trying the arsenal of MedZone products as a “non-inferiority” trial compared to Body Glide, a product I’ve used for years.

Chafe Zone

In short, Chafe Zone is non-inferior to Body Glide and I mean that in the best way. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve kept my stick of Chafe Zone in the bathroom where I throw my running clothes on and have used it religiously. It’s easy to apply (deodorant style stick) and is translucent but thick enough to see where you’ve applied. Unlike Body Glide, Chafe Zone has a subtle scent which I actually really enjoyed. In terms of function, I had zero chafing incidents and we had some hot, sweaty days that would have been prime opportunities. My only observation with Chafe Zone is that it really stays on, even through a shower with scrubbing! This is a good thing if you’re a really heavy sweater but I did have a couple days where I wished it came off a tiny bit easier. This is where Chafe Zone stands out to me. It was designed first for military and tactical use and it is a formidable product that can go as long as you need it to without reapplication. 

Blister Zone

Blister Zone was harder to evaluate. Knock on wood, blisters have never been an issue for me although spikes tear my heels up. Ironically, I got my first blister in a long time during the Plattsburgh Half and was kicking myself that I didn’t use Blister Zone. Since then, I’ve used Blister Zone to protect that area as it has healed back up. Although it’s not the preferred order of operations, it has worked to keep the skin from opening back up. Given how well the Chafe Zone worked for me, I imagine that Blister Zone would work similarly well for blister-prone folks and Will has been using it on his hands under gloves while doing trail building this Spring.

Pain Zone

Finally, PainZone: This product comes in single use packages but also comes in a roller and is a less viscous version of other muscle rubs. Close to a liquid in consistency, it also contains 3% camphor for pain relief. I’ve been using it on Will’s right shoulder (he recently tore his labrum falling on a run) and he says that although the pain relief is nice, the best part is that the consistency of the gel allows for good muscle glide without any painful friction or pinching. This would definitely have been a product I wanted around for scar massage after surgery and we’re buying a stick for our house as Will awaits surgery later this summer.

In addition to providing me product to review, MedZone also offered three MedZone gift packs to giveaway to readers! I’ll pick three people by Random.org next Sunday (6/12/16) at 5 pm EST. There are three ways to enter*:

  1. Leave a comment about your worst chafing experience and picture of the carnage if you’re really brave.
  2. Post a picture of a chafing nightmare on Instagram and tag me (@runswatrun) and @goMedZone
  3. Share this post on your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (maximum of 1 entry for this option) and tag me and @goMedZone or send me a screenshot of your Facebook post.

*Maximum of three entries per person.

No Body’s Perfect

At first blush, running seems like it should be easy. After all, we’ve been doing it since we were running away from wooly mammoths and the like. Spend fifteen minutes at a race, however, and you’ll note that although there are many different ways to “run,” they are not all equivalent in terms of efficiency or speed. As a result, running form is a constant focus of coaches and athletes alike. We spend time doing drills, striders and looking through video and pictures to assess the progression in form from the first 400 to the finishing stretch.

Despite knowing that my running form needs work, I haven’t spent a lot of time on it in recent years. Some of that is just from my schedule but some of it is stubbornness; my knees haven’t driven for almost 32 years, why would they start now?! However, behind this stubbornness, I know that if I want to get to the next level, I can’t fight my forward progress with low knees and a twisting upper body.

A skips. My face tells you how hard this is for me...

A skips. My face tells you how hard this is for me…

Now that I have the luxury of more time, I’m starting and ending every run with a routine of hip swings, cycle steps and skips to enforce good form and practicing good form in spurts throughout my easy runs. During my striders, I’m focused on driving knees and open arm swing. Finally, I’m lifting daily to make sure my muscles are strong enough to support all these new patterns of motion.

A physical reminder to stand tall.

A physical reminder to stand tall.

As a team, we are also working on posture this year. As most of us tire through a run or a race, we tend to collapse our shoulders inward which impedes our breathing and collapses our pelvis. Our taping project is the brain child of a team parent who is a PT. The tape (KT Tape) is placed such that you get a small tug on your lower back when you start to collapse inward. It definitely helps with running but I even notice its benefit when I’m just standing around and start to get lazy.

What parts of your form are you working on? Are you open to change or stubborn about your form? What drills do you do regularly?

Recently Read: Mistakes, Proper Arm Form, Faking Confidence and Do I Need a Coach?

This cracked me up this week. I hope this isn't my purpose on the planet.

This cracked me up. I hope this isn’t my purpose on the planet.

In the perennial debate of how should we run, another study concludes that the “best” form is basically whatever you do naturally. This conclusion is one we’re seeing more and more as running becomes extremely mainstream and “form coaches” attempt to make money off the shufflers, the T-rexers and the paddlers. Yes, some form quirks are highly inefficient but we should all aim for small adjustments, not total overhauls.

Pacing matters. We’re all guilty of getting overexcited at the start of a race or chasing someone down a sidewalk on a recovery day. Appropriate pace and correct perception of pace, however, is critical to top performance. One of my big foci this training cycle is to be more attuned to effort; I’m doing this by using my GPS, my own RPE and a heart rate monitor to compare what I feel to what my body is reporting that I feel.

This TED talk really deserves it’s own post but I don’t know enough about the psychology of body language and don’t have time right now to delve into it. That being said, it’s just a beautiful clip with actionable suggestions to help you on the starting line, in the board room or basically anywhere where you need confidence but are likely to lack it. It’s something we’ll be working on as a team this fall and I’m so looking forward to seeing the results.

Finally, although there should be an enormous caveat to vet anyone claiming to be a coach, this article is a good example of how coaching can help athletes of all levels. With the proliferation of free online plans, I’ve also observed a proliferation of injuries from plans that don’t (and couldn’t) accommodate individual needs. Can you complete events without a coach? Absolutely and many do (I did for years). Can you maximize your potential without a coach? I’m not so sure about that.

Check Your VO2 Max in 12 Minutes

There’s a saying in cross country that State Champions are built in July and it’s true, much to the chagrin of coaches who battle summer jobs, family vacations and Netflix as they mumble on about summer mileage. For the most part, my team does an excellent job of getting summer runs in. We use a number of tools to encourage people to keep up with their running, including online running logs to which the whole team belongs, captain’s practices throughout the summer, training camp and time trials. Time trials are an excellent way for athletes to check in with themselves and for coaches to monitor progress throughout the summer. We don’t expect PR performances; after all, most athletes who are running are at peak mileage with no speed work. We do expect to see hard efforts and a good approximation of how things are going.

One of my favorite “reality checks” is one that you can do yourself. This is perfect for someone with a fall marathon on the calendar that doesn’t have an interim race scheduled or for someone coming off a base building cycle. It’s a simple test: warmup, then run as many laps as you can in 12 minutes and enter the results into the Cooper calculator. The calculator isn’t a perfect estimate of VO2 max, but it’s a good litmus test for training paces and progress. Used at regular intervals, it gives a great estimate of fitness improvements and possible race outcomes. Try adding this into your training plan once a month and see how much progress you make!

We’ve done three time trials this summer: one 3K time trial on the cross country course, one 5K race on our home course and one 12 minute test. Before the season starts, we’ll do a mile trial and one more 3K trial. All of the information from those efforts helps me to evaluate how well summer training went, design workouts for training camp and select early season teams.

What tools do you use to monitor your fitness? Have you ever had the full VO2 max test? How do you motivate yourself in a time trial setting?

Sh@& Runner Girls Eat

It took me a remarkably long time to bounce back after VCM this year. Only in the past week have I started to feel like my legs have spring and like I might be fast again. A big part of that was taking a frank look at my nutrition; for me, training and nutrition are linked. When I train hard, I eat well. When I’m not running much, however, I tend towards crappy food that makes me feel horrible. So over the past two weeks, I’ve worked hard to get back in a nutrition groove and it’s working. Even on the road last week, I stopped to get fruits, veggies and yogurt to snack on. And last night, I returned to my Sunday routine of making all my carbs and veggies for the week. Here’s hoping the recovery continues…

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Saucony Kinvara 2 Review

I’m miles into my newest pair and still pretty enthralled with the brand. Major improvements over the original version?

*The shoelaces: As anyone who owned a version of the 1 can attest, something about those shoelaces just didn’t work. They came untied all the time. On the 2’s, they are back to a normal lace and I haven’t had to stop every two miles to retie. They are also a better length; no more loops hanging down below the shoe.

*The durability: My original Kinvaras wore out quickly, especially in the salt and wet of winter. We’ve had no shortage of rain, ice and salt this winter, but this model seems to be holding up better thanks to some more reinforcements in the structure of the shoe. The shoe is still breathable and light, but the plastic that makes the frame seems more durable and the seams of the shoe are in places less prone to blowouts.

Besides the still heinous color choices, I like this model a lot and probably more than it’s predecessor. The ride feels a little firmer (but still has a minimal drop), there’s a better toe box shape so my little toes aren’t getting smashed out to the side and they remain light and nimble.

Definite recommendation for speedwork for all runners and as a trainer for those looking for a shoe with minimalist features but some aesthetic appeal.

Roll Away Your Stone

You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works…

I don’t run with music, but I use it to lift and do core and am always looking for songs to get me through it. I’m a huge Pat McGee Band fan, and Mumford and Sons fall somewhere between Pat and the Dropkick Murphy’s for me. If this song doesn’t make you tap your feet, well, ignore my musical recommendations from now on.

Best For: A boring treadmill workout or pre-race mix.

Gear Geek: Holiday Edition

Justin (RunVermont’s Rookie) and I were talking last week about pulling together a holiday gift guide and he wrote a great post on his holiday running wish list. Joe from SkiRack and I also got together to brainstorm and added a few items to the list. This season is all about the best bang for your buck and outfitting for a comfortable, warm marathon training season. My favorites are highlighted below, but the staff at your local running store will also be able to help you with what’s best for the runner on your list.

Headlamp: It’s dark out there and uneven sidewalks, potholes and cars threaten your healthy training season. The new headlamps are light and bright and often feature both solid and flashing beams, depending on your needs.

Compression Gear: I love my 2XU calf compression sleeves and regularly don them after workouts. Compression can help recovery by improving the rate at which blood “recycles.” Some people are comfortable working out in compression gear as well. Expect some adjustment time; compression is significantly tighter than even spandex and can take some getting used to.

Hydration Belts: I have the Nathan Trail Mix and the Fuel Belt Helium 2. I use the Nathan on longer training runs because it has more storage space and the Fuel Belt on runs where I only need hydration. I also own a handheld, which I use in the summer. If I just had to buy one? The Nathan Trail Mix wins for best fit, least bounce and most storage. Does your runner already have a belt? Consider replacing their bottles and caps because they get nasty fast. Want to make the gift even sweeter? Stuff the pocket with Gu, ClifBloks or another food product.

Reflective Vest: With the plethora of items on the market, there’s no reason not to be seen. Although a reflective jacket is also a great purchase, the reflective vest is more versatile and can be adjusted to fit over whatever the day’s weather calls for in terms of warmth. I have the Amphipod Vest and wear it daily in the winter.

Socks: As Justin will corroborate, there’s nothing like realizing that your old cotton socks just don’t cut it for marathon training. The polyester and wool blends do a better job of cushioning your feet and preventing blisters and feel just like cotton. Darn Tough is my favorite brand, but SmartWool and Balega also have great offerings. Help your runner build their collection by buying a couple new pairs this holiday season. The rule is, though, that for every new pair of socks an old pair has to go!

The Stick and Foam Rollers: Join the rest of us who have discovered just how good it hurts to foam roll or use The Stick. Marathoning comes with sore muscles and these tools can help relieve the pain. I use the Stick every night before bed on my problem calf and a foam roller twice a day to keep my IT band loose and happy.

Anyone for Streaking?

When I saw this idea last week, I thought it was an excellent one. It’s so basic: commit to run at least a mile a day from now until New Years Day. I meant to get this post out before the start date but…what can you do? We can all run til January 2nd instead.

What I love about the Holiday Running Streak is that it challenges us to prioritize our running enough to get at least ten minutes in a day. Set the alarm ten minutes earlier. Pack a lunch so you have time during your lunch hour. Bring running clothes to work and run around the parking lot before you head home. Run with the dog instead of walking.

I also love that it will get me out the door. Oftentimes, I have trouble getting myself going for a run, but once I’m out there, I’m good. By making the promise that I will do at least a mile every day from now til the New Year, I’m looking at another 6 weeks or so of solid base building. It also sets me up well for First Run, my favorite way to kick off the year.

I’m going streaking. So who’s with me?

The Holiday Express

Somehow, it’s December 22nd. As I often remark to friends, we are aboard the “Thanksgiving-Christmas-how the f&^% is it Valentine’s Day Express.” It’s enough of a struggle to meet all our commitments during the holidays; how do we even begin to maintain a running schedule? Below are two ways I keep moving during the holidays:

*Commit to 10: You can find ten minutes in your day.  Yes, you can.  On busy days when I’m too tired/busy/sick to run, I get myself out the door for a ten minute run. Usually it will turn into a longer run, but sometimes, it’s just 10 minutes (or 20 if I did an out and back).  Obviously the benefits aren’t immense, but I get my heart rate up, stave off the “ugh, I haven’t run in a week” motivation killer and sometimes end up with a worthwhile run.

*Lunchtime Run: In the winter (at least in the Northcountry), it’s cold enough to reasonably run at lunch. I keep a complete set of running clothes under my desk for days when it’s way below zero at 5 am, or if I’m exhausted. For winter, I leave a pair of cheap trail sneakers (I bought a New Balance pair from a couple of years ago) kicking around.  They have enough tread for snowy days, but can go inside for the treadmill or track.  I aim for a 30 to 45 minute run, leaving me enough time to clean up before the afternoon.  Work Running essentials?

  • Dry Shampoo (women): TRESemme has a decent line, just rub in and shake out hair.
  • Baby Wipes
  • Face Wash
  • Mascara, tinted face cream and blush
  • Hand Towel

Pack a bag on January 2nd to start the first work week of the year off right.  30 minutes is better than nothing.

How do you force yourself out of bed during the winter? What tricks do you have to keep motivation high when the mercury drops?

Run On ~S