Things I Love

I have pretty much winged it in terms of running gear, and through trial and error have found certain things that I have come to love. I’ve not been asked to review these items nor have I been compensated for profiling them here. Not to say I’m not open to the opportunity. Have a product you’d like me to review? Send it my way and I will give an honest appraisal on this site. Just don’t wait for me to have a million followers before you ask me to review your products. I may just be out of your league by then.

Product Reviews

Product Review: Zelus Olympus Insoles

October 13, 2017 12:06 pm

This is a sponsored post. I was given paid compensation and a pair of Zelus Olympus insoles in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own and should not be taken as health care advice. Always consult your health care provider with questions or concerns about your health and well-being.

Are those insoles or outsoles I’m seeing there?

Hey, did you hear the one about the elite runner who ran the 2015 BMW Berlin Marathon with his insoles hanging out of his shoes throughout most of the race? Ha! I wonder what the punch line is to that one! Oh yeah, there isn’t one. It actually happened. In 2015, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge ran and actually won the race under such unimaginable circumstances. Blistered and bleeding, he finished the race in 2:04. Impressive as that is, some say the insole malfunction may have cost him the World Record. Still, he did earn the title of ‘most formidable marathoner in the world’ by Runner’s World Magazine.  The BMW Berlin Marathon was held on September 24th of this year, and of course footage (see what I did there?) of the 2015 debacle was repeatedly shown.

A fast 5 miles with my new insoles

Coincidentally, just three days later I received my new insoles in the mail. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘do we even need insoles? Heck, this guy won a marathon without them!’ Um, yeah, we need them. I seriously did wonder, though, do we need insoles other than what comes standard with our running shoes? I was excited to test them out. So much so in fact, I had just returned from a 27-mile bike ride when the insoles arrived. I couldn’t wait to try them, so I slipped them into my shoes anticipating a quick run around the block. However, I felt so good, I ran my usual 5.1 mile loop in them. In the fastest time of all of 2017, to boot!

SmartCells Patented Cushioning Technology

So let’s back up just a little. Have you heard of SmartCells Cushioning Technology? Even if you haven’t heard of it, you might have some experience with it. It’s used in things like floor mats for anti-fatigue and fall protection, not only in industry, but also in homes and places like playgrounds and volleyball courts. As for its use in insoles, Fastech Labs has been making insoles since 1985. They teamed up with top medical professionals, and using the SmartCells Cushioning Technology, created the Zelus insole. Then in 2017, Satech, Inc. launched the product.

SmartCells Cushioning Technology
No trimming necessary

There are a variety of insoles to choose from. I was sent the Olympus, which is a full-length insole with arch support and SmartCells at the heel and forefoot. According to the Zelus website, the Olympus insole is designed for maximum durability, cushioning, stability, and support. I wear a 1/2 size shoe, and since the insoles only come in full sizes, I was advised to order a size up and just trim them down. When the insoles arrived, I laid them side-by-side with the insoles that came standard with my shoes, and was happy to see that no custom trimming would be necessary. It was very easy to slide them into my shoes, and they fit like a glove…er, insole.

A perfect fit!

With the Chicago Marathon less than two weeks away, I wasn’t about to introduce anything new into an endurance race, so over the course of the next week, I ran with the insoles for another 5.1 mile run and then a 12 mile run to total 22.2 miles with the insoles. Each of these runs was faster than my usual time, and my feet and legs felt great. The weather had cooled during this week and I can’t say it was just the insoles that made these runs so quick, but given the fact that I was running with them at a faster pace than I was used to without any pain or additional fatigue, I was sold. I did, indeed wear them for the marathon, and while it wasn’t my fastest time (the warm weather and my slacking on my training was to blame), my feet felt perfectly fine in the days after the race.

Feeling fantastic at Mile 17!

So back to the original question…do we need insoles other than what comes standard with our running shoes? The answer is…it depends. The research is mixed, largely because everyone, and therefore everyone’s feet, are different. It also depends on the quality of shoes you buy. My very first job waaaaay back in 1977 was at Joe Singer Shoes in Chicago. I learned then the value of buying good shoes, and I never go cheap. But I look at it this way:  When you buy a new car, it comes with a great set of tires. There is nothing wrong with the standard tires, but if you want tires that perform differently (more speed, endurance, better performance in different weather conditions), you may want to upgrade. It’s (sort of) the same concept.

I’m a loyal Asics girl

I am an Asics girl true and true, and have honestly had very few problems with them. They are a good quality shoe and I’m sure the insoles are of good quality as well. However, after distance races including both half- and full-marathons, the arches of my feet are pretty achy for a couple of days. I did not experience that after the Chicago Marathon, and the only different thing was the insoles, which do offer arch support. I’ll be running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 22nd, and I will run with the Zelus insoles again. I think if I have a similar good experience with the insoles for a second marathon, I’ll be calling myself a Zelus girl true and true.

Interested in trying them out? I’m hosting a giveaway! So head on over to my Instagram account @theaccidentalmarathoner for your chance to win. And even if you don’t win, you can head over to the Zelus website and use my promo code accidentalzeal17 to receive 10% off of your purchase. They offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee!

Do you use orthotics or special insoles in your shoes? How have they affected your performance? How do you Feel the Zeal when you run???



October 11, 2017 2:04 pm

I was given the opportunity to preview a new app called The Breathing App in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own and should not be taken as health care advice. Always consult your health care provider with questions or concerns about your health and well-being.

Does this look like anyone you know?

Feeling stressed? Overwhelmed? Anxious? Who doesn’t?! Most of us live stressful, fast-paced lives and if you are like me, you sometimes feel like you are barely keeping your head above water. Back when I was raising small kids, working, starting a business, studying for my PhD, and just dealing with anything else life would throw at me, I felt stressed pretty much all the time. I can remember being (barely) awake until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning working on papers for school, then sleeping for just an hour or two before getting up for a 12-hour work day. I would get to the point of such sheer exhaustion and eventually became pretty much ineffective at just about everything I was doing. Sound familiar?

I thought my heart would jump out of my chest

During some of those long and sleepless nights I would get palpitations where it felt as if my heart was racing and about to jump out of my chest. I eventually had a complete cardiac work-up including a CT perfusion scan only to find out what I pretty much already knew; it was stress. That was 15 years ago and while I’m done with school, my kids are grown, and my business is thriving, I still have my moments. What I learned all those years ago was the benefit of deep breathing exercises to help calm myself when I was feeling most stressed. For the most part I winged it, literally just saying to myself, ‘slow down, take a deep breath, just…breathe‘, and within minutes the palpitations would go away.

It’s no surprise my heart rate went up when I was stressed, and it’s no coincidence controlling my breathing helped slow it down. There is much research and science behind the health effects of slow, deep breathing and how it affects the heart rate. Most of this research relates to heart rate variability, or HRV. As it turns out, it’s good to have variability in your heart rate, rather than a consistent, elevated heart rate as I experienced when I was most stressed. Improving your HRV has been shown in numerous studies to improve health, mood, and adaptability. Heart activity is controlled by the autonomic (think automatic) nervous system (ANS). The ANS is involved in things we typically can’t (or don’t need to) control like heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion, plus several other bodily functions. The ANS is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system elevates your heart rate (as with the fight-or-flight response), and the parasympathetic nervous system slows the heart rate to help calm and restore. Normally we have a balance between the two, but after repeated stress situations, that balance is disrupted and can become out of control. Slow, controlled breathing exercises can help bring that balance back.

One of the chief ways to improve your HRV is to identify your unique resonance frequency (RF) breathing rate. The RF breathing rate ranges between 4.5 and 7 breaths per minute, with the average being 6 breaths per minute. Compared to a ‘normal’ adult breathing rate of 12 to 20 breaths per minute, slowing your breaths to 6 per minute can be difficult. But of course, there’s an app for that! You can read all about the app and the science behind it hereThe app can be downloaded to your iPhone and will soon be available for Android phones as well. It is simple and easy to use, with several options to choose from.

First, you will choose how long you would like to practice breathing, ranging from 1 to 30 minutes. My first time trying the app I did it for just 3 minutes so I can get a feel for how it works. Since then, I’ve built up to 10 minute sessions.

Three screen options

Next you will choose your breathing ratio. You have four options:

Inhale for four seconds, exhale for six seconds

Inhale for five seconds, exhale for five seconds

Inhale for six seconds, exhale for six seconds (true resonance)

Inhale for five seconds, exhale for seven seconds

I chose the 6:6 ratio since it was listed as ‘true’ resonance, which I imagine should be the goal. Last, you will choose from one of three screens:  One with an inflating and deflating ball to visually pace your inhalation and exhalation times, a clock that counts the two phases in seconds, and a musical sound breathing guide where you can keep your eyes closed and listen for cues. I chose the inflating/deflating ball as I am a visual person and thought seeing the seconds tick away on the clock would actually stress me out!

Legs on the Wall
Control of Breathing on My Phone

The nice thing about this app is its simplicity. The creators set out to do one thing–help you control and regulate your breathing–and that’s exactly what it does. It can be used anywhere as long as you have your phone and if you’re like me, that’s pretty much all the time (which is probably why we are all so stressed!) I like using it with the Legs on the Wall pose, which in itself is very relaxing to me. The musical cues feature would be great on your morning commute or whenever you just want to close your eyes and relax your breathing. I plan to incorporate resonance breathing into my daily routine. If I can reduce or prevent stress by doing breathing exercises just 10 or 20 minutes a day, it is well worth the time and effort.

Do you practice resonance breathing? What other routines or tools do you use to help relieve stress?


Spydergrip 2.0

June 14, 2017 11:15 pm

For the past few weeks, I’ve been having fun exploring ways to use my new toy, the Spydergrip. Haven’t heard of it? You can get the scoop…at least from my perspective…right here! Full Disclosure:  I like my Spydergrip so well, I am a Brand Ambassador! Ambassador or not, I leave my honest and unbiased review below:

Running with my favorite new toy

I first learned about the Spydergrip when I saw someone wearing one on an Instagram post. I was immediately intrigued, because I was in the market for a new piece of running gear to carry my phone and other necessities (ID, car key, a little cash, etc.), and it was different than anything else I had previously used. Touted as device-universal and sweat resistant, I thought I’d give it a try. Up until this time I had been using one of two waist belts I own, but lately—especially with long runs, I’ve had a lot of problems with them riding up, and I found myself constantly needing to adjust them, which is quite annoying, especially during a race. I had already (as the website suggests) ‘ditched the armband’ years ago, as I had trouble with the several armbands I tried not working out for me for various reasons.

My Spydergrip arrived by regular mail within just a few days of placing my order. In fact, it came a day earlier than promised, so I could test it out the following day on a planned 30-mile bike ride. The adjustable Velcro straps do, as the website claims, help provide a universal fit. I was able to adjust it to fit my small frame nicely, and also tested it out on my husband, who is 6’ 2” and has a broad chest size. He was able to adjust the straps so it fit him just as well. The main part of the Spydergrip is black, and the straps come in gray or a few fun colors. I chose gray (tempting as the Pink Recluse was!) because I figured it would go with anything. Fashion first, you know! The straps themselves are made of reflective material because really, safety first, and fashion second, right?

The Spydergrip easily fits my iPhone 6 while still in its bulky protective case. With any of the armbands or waist belts I have used, I had to take the phone out of its case for a better fit. Score 1 for Spydergrip! How nice not to have to remove my phone from its case every time I go out for a run. I can just pop it in my Spydergrip and go. Within the main pouch there is a second, smaller pouch (about 2/3 the size of the main one), with its own Velcro seal. I love this feature compared to my waist belt, which only has one compartment. This way, when I take my phone out of the Spydergrip for that mandatory mid-run IG pic, I won’t risk losing any of the other items I am carrying. Score another point for Spydergrip! The main pouch itself has a very sturdy Velcro closure, keeping all my items secure.

The Spydergrip is lightweight and fits nicely across my back.
From the side, you can barely even notice it!

There are three holes at the top of the main pouch, which allow the user to thread his or her wired head phones between the pouch and the outside. I especially like this feature, as I can coil the excess wire inside of the pouch, leaving just enough exposed to comfortably bring the buds to my ears. This eliminates the problem of getting caught on the wire during the arm swing while running, which happens to me all too often with my phone in my waist belt or as it was previously dangling under my arm when I wore an armband. These three holes are lined with a rubbery type of material, which keeps the wire from slipping in and out. The entire pack is very lightweight and fits nicely against my back. I honestly don’t even feel it when I wear it.

With its slim design, I can easily layer over it in the colder months. That way, if I decide to take off my outer layer, I won’t have to take off and re-fit the Spydergrip itself.

At this point, there are only two downsides for me using the Spydergrip. For one, I do like to take my phone out and snap a few pics on my runs, especially during particularly scenic races. With the phone in a pouch on my back, it’s a bit of a hassle to take it out. Also, I keep a safety whistle and pepper spray on me whenever I run or bike alone, which is most of the time. I keep these items easily accessible by clipping them to the front of my waist belt. I will have to find a new way to carry them without having to hold them in my hands and obviously, I wouldn’t want them in a back pouch and out of reach.

Gardening fun!

Overall, I’d say I’m in love with my new ‘toy’. So much so in fact, I’ve used it for all sorts of activities; not just running. Seriously, any time I want to listen to music without having to carry my phone or deal with a loose, dangling wire, I can just slip my phone into my Spydergrip and away I go!

Great for biking!

Interested in trying one out? You can use my Promo Code ACCIDENTAL for $10 off of your order! Check it out and let me know how you like it!

My new favorite lawn-mowing accessory!

Asics Gel Kayano Running Shoes

October 23, 2016 2:51 am

Obviously, this will be one of your most important running gear purchases, so take your time, do your homework, and buy a good pair. In fact, ALL of your shoes should be good shoes. After all, your feet will be carrying you around for a long time! Do remember that expensive does not necessarily mean good, safe, or healthy for you. Do your research. Try on not just several, but lots of pairs, and find out what works best for you. Many running stores will evaluate your run and help you determine which type of running shoe is best for you. Also make sure you have the right fit. Do not worry about what the number says. Worry about what your feet say when you try them on. It just so happens that my very first job at the age of 16 was working in a small family-owned shoe store; the kind with a personal touch. I’m by no means an expert, but I do know the importance of a good pair of shoes.

Several years before I started running, I read a review about that year’s best running shoes. It was part of a whole ‘best of the year’ series in a health and exercise magazine. One of the shoes that was highlighted as best for marathon running was the Asics Gel Kayano. It caught my eye because I had been wearing Asics athletic shoes for a good 8 to 10 years at that point. They just fit the shape of my feet very well. I snapped a picture of the write-up about the shoes, and kept it on my phone. The October, 2016 issue of Chicago Athlete mentions these shoes in its Fall 2016 Shoe Guide, and points to a more detailed review of these shoes here.

When I signed up for my first marathon, I decided to give these shoes a try. I found them online, on sale, and with a 30% off coupon to boot. Sold! I bought the shoes in two sizes, just to make sure I had the right fit. I wound up loving the shoes, and have bought several new pairs since. I love them so much, in fact, that I have two new pairs waiting to be worn. So far, Asics Gel Kayanos have taken me through four marathons, seven half marathons, and a few other smaller races without so much as a blister. I tend to find what I love and stick with what works. Are there better shoes out there for me? Maybe, but as in life, if you find something that makes you happy, stick with it.


The Original SPIbelt

August 15, 2016 2:59 am

In the faSPIbeltll of 2013, just after completing my first marathon (and apparently declaring myself a “runner”), I came across the SPI (Small Personal Item) belt in an airport shop. New to running, I had never seen something like that, and just made the comment that I thought it was a cool idea. That Christmas, my husband bought one for me along with some other running gear. I like the SPIbelt fairly well. I have the smallest version, whose pocket, according to their website, expands to 6.5″ x 3″ x 2″. This is more than enough room for my iPhone 6S (in its somewhat bulky case) as well as a few other small items. When out on practice runs, the only thing I carry in it is my cell phone. During races, I also have my ID, a credit card, my car key, and a $20 bill (to buy beer at the post-race party, of course!). The small version holds all of these items without a problem. I have the red one as posted in this photo. There are several sizes and patterns available.

One thing I have noticed is that on longer runs or races, the belt itself tends to stretch out and I find myself tightening it prevent the pack fSpibelt with Accessoriesrom bouncing around. This may be because I have now had it for over two years, and maybe it’s time to buy a new one. Maybe the waistband itself is starting to lose some of its elasticity. I don’t actually wear it around my waist, but rather lower down at the top of my hips. I find when it is around my waist (which is what happens on these longer runs), it tends to bounce a lot more, making my run uncomfortable.

Since ‘the incident’ (which I will talk about in a later post), I love that I can keep my whistle and pepper spray clipped to the belt where I can easily access them should the need arise.


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