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.
My Gift to You for Valentine's DayFebruary 14, 2018 12:00 pm
This post contains affiliate links
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope you are having a day filled with love and happiness! To help you celebrate, I thought I would share some discounts on some products I absolutely love!
Momentum Jewelry Who doesn’t need (and love!) a little motivation every now and then? These motivational wraps and other products can help you stay on track and remember what an amazing person you are! You can check out their products using this link, and be sure to use the promo code sharetheSPARK2018 for 15% off of your order through March 31st!
SPIBelt I have used a SpiBelt to carry my necessities (and some things that aren’t so necessary) since I started running almost five years ago. I love this product so much, I recently became an ambassador! They have all kinds of products, including medical waist belts for diabetic supplies, insulin pumps, etc. They even have smaller sizes with fun patterns on them for kids. How cool is that? I will have a discount code (and some fun giveaways) to share soon, but in the mean time, check out their Instagram post from today for a chance to win a free SPIbelt! But hurry on over–the first person to guess correctly wins the prize! You can check out all of their products by going to their website here.
Lily Trotters Compression Socks Who doesn’t love fun socks? Add compression into the mix, and ooh la la! I don’t have a discount code to share, but these limited-edition Course-It Valentine’s Red compression socks are 50% off, with no shipping charge! I’ve been spying them for over a week and only just ordered mine today. I’m glad I got in when I did, because the L/XL size is sold out! If you wear a S/M, you are in luck because they are still available. But hurry on over to their site, because once these are gone, they’re gone! Here is the link to their website.
Legend Compression Wear You say the red color and criss-cross stitch pattern don’t fit your style? Then Legend Compression Wear may be up your alley! Plus, they have products for men, too! If you would like to check out their products, head to the website using this specific link and you will receive a coupon code for $15 off of your first order!
Zelus Insoles If you have followed me here or on Instagram, you know two things about me: 1) I’m as slow as molasses, and 2) I’ve been running with these insoles for a number of months and my feet and legs have never felt so good! The first 20 people to head on over to their website and use my promo code AM25EXTRA will receive 25% off of their purchase!
MyoBuddy Massager Pro And if you really want to splurge (and of course you do!), check out this uh-mazing massager by MyoBuddy! Use it to make your entire body feel good! If you click on this specific link and then at checkout use my discount code ACCIDENTAL, you will receive $100 off of your purchase, plus no tax and free shipping! Now who doesn’t love all that??!!
I hope you are able to enjoy some of these products that I love so much! Do you have any fun plans for today? Happy Valentine’s Day!
Holiday Gift Ideas for RunnersDecember 1, 2017 6:43 pm
It’s that time of year! December 1st is here, and for many of us, that means it’s time to launch into full panic mode as we haven’t even started our holiday shopping. For me personally, Black Friday left me a little meh. I bought one gift item online but most of what I saw that day didn’t seem like that much of a deal. Cyber Monday came and went without much luster for me either. And so begins my annual trek to stores both physical and virtual, trying to find just the right gift in just the right size at just the right price. I pride myself on being a procrastinator. Sometimes it works to my advantage, but sometimes…not so much.
If you are a runner, you have some ideas of your own for the gift-givers in your life. Perhaps this post will spark a few more ideas for those who are asking or need a little nudge. For those of you who are not runners, I hope you will find something here that will not only fit the bill for the runner (or other fitness enthusiast) in your life, but will also fit your budget. The items range in price from inexpensive to a little more pricey. I am happy to be able to offer discount codes for a number of them.
Momentum Jewelry I have been seeing these on the wrists and shoes of many runners/Instagrammers/bloggers in the past year or so, and I wanted in! What a fun way to express yourself as a runner, as well as to give yourself some added motivation during a tough run or workout. I had the opportunity to check out their product a couple of weeks ago. There were so many great choices, it was hard to pick just one! I picked the Oval Motivate Wrap with the words Strength • Courage • Wisdom in Navy Peony. The day it arrived I was wearing my 2017 Chicago Marathon finisher’s shirt, and the color was a perfect match. I absolutely love it, and especially that the wrap can be washed. It came in a cute little package and it really did feel like a special gift. I’ve already added a few more to my own Christmas wish list! You can check out their products using this link, and be sure to use the promo code sharetheSPARK for 15% off of your order through December 31st!
Bottle Band I always carry a water bottle with me when I run–usually a 1 liter capacity bottle that will last me about 5 miles. I’m used to holding the bottle and it’s never a problem…except during races. I have yet to run a race where the bottle wasn’t knocked out of my hand by at least one (rude!) runner bumping into me. I saw a post about this product on another blog recently, and thought I would try it out. Coincidentally, they were being given out at the Marine Corps Marathon expo, and I was lucky to snag one for myself. Since getting my freebie at the expo, I have never run without it. As you see in the picture here, they can stretch to fit most any sized bottle. I hear you can buy them at retail stores, but you can also get them on Amazon. You can easily slip them on and off of different bottles, but at less than $8 each, I’d just buy a few in a some different fun colors!
SPIBelt The year I started running, my husband bought me all kinds of running-related products for Christmas, one of which was The Original SpiBelt. I had originally spotted it in a store in an airport when we were traveling and since I had not been involved in the sport before, I knew nothing about these products. I love this belt and run with it all the time. They come in all sorts of fun colors. The one I have now is red, but I have my eye on the turquoise one. You can check them out here. While navigating the site recently, I found out they have all kinds of products, including medical waist belts for diabetic supplies, insulin pumps, etc. They even have smaller sizes with fun patterns on them for kids. So cool!
Body Glide Okay, okay, maybe this seems like too much of a personal gift. But trust me, your runner will love it, and it makes a great stocking stuffer! I recently ran a Ragnar Relay Race in Florida and it was brutally hot and humid and during the late-morning and afternoon runs with rain in and out throughout the race. The folks at Body Glide were kind enough to supply our team with some of their product and we were ever so glad we had it. I don’t generally have a problem with chafing, but with that much moisture in the air none of us was taking any chances. They sell all types of products, several of which provide sun protection. You can check them out here and here and here!
Lily Trotters Compression Socks There are two brands of compression socks that I love, love, love, the first of which is Lily Trotters. These are the first compression socks I tried and as you know, you never forget your first love! I won two pairs in an Instagram giveaway this past year. Prior to that, I had never worn compression socks, though many of my work colleagues do, as we are on our feet for 12 hours at a time. Runners have known for a long time the value of compression. There are some who run in them, and some who recover in them (and of course, some who do both). I have run a few distance races in them and have worn them for recovery as well. They come in lots of fun patterns and colors, and if you head on over to their website throughout the month of December, you can save 20% on your order using my promo code Accidental.
Legend Compression Wear Legend Compression Wear is my other love when it comes to compression. They offer compression socks not just for runners, but for all types of activities, including things like golfing and hiking. As the mom of three Eagle Scouts with a passion for high-adventure hiking, you can guess what will be in these guys’ stockings this year! Legend has a wide variety of products to choose from, including leg compression sleeves and even sheer hosiery for women. My favorite product (so far!) is the Legend Compression Recovery Socks. I wore these on my flight home from Florida after my recent Ragnar race, and my legs felt like they were getting a much-needed hug all the way home. I travel for business about once a month, and I always have a pair tucked in my bag for my long flights. If you would like to check out their products, head to the website using this specific link and you will receive a coupon code for $15 off of your first order!
Zelus Insoles As every runner knows, the single most important thing they can invest in is a good pair of running shoes. But did you know you can up your game with a better pair of insoles? I reviewed this product in a previous post. Two months, two marathons, and a Ragnar Relay later, I am still rocking my runs with my Zelus Insoles. Using patented SmartCells Cushioning Technology (which is 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), Zelus insoles help prevent fatigue and absorb impact to help prevent injury during all types of activities. They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee! The first 20 people to head on over to their website and use my promo code AM25EXTRA will receive 25% off of their purchase!
Oofos Recovery Shoes Just as it’s important to take care of your feet during a run, it’s equally (if not more) important to take care of them after! One of the several benefits of having someone come and cheer a runner on during a race is having them waiting at the finish with big smile on their face and a pair of Oofos sandals in their hands! I recently had the opportunity to try these, and they definitely live up to the hype. Touted as shoes that make your feet feel like they are walking on marshmallows, these shoes would make an excellent gift for the runner in your life. They come in several styles including the thong style pictured here, as well as slides, clogs, and even a more traditional loafer-style. They even have commemorative limited-edition sandals for some of the big marathons like New York, Chicago, and Boston. Why not buy a pair for a loved one who ran one of these races in 2017 before they are gone? I especially love that they have a Project Pink collection, where $10 of each sale from that line will go towards breast cancer research. How cool is that? It’s like gifting more than just the person you are shopping for. The original flip flop style comes in lots of fun colors. You can check them out here.
Allied Medals Medal Hangers And once your loved one has completed his or her race, why not give them a cool way to display their medal? I was more than happy to display my medals on a men’s tie rack until I stumbled upon this website. They have a wide variety of products not just for runners, but for the many athletes you are shopping for this year! These beautiful hangers are made in the U.S.A., forged in the State of Washington and shipped directly to you or your gift recipient’s home. I was given the chance to sample this product and since I’ve run five consecutive Chicago Marathons, I chose the Chicago Cityscape medal hanger to display those particular medals. I can’t tell you how much I love this product! When it arrived I was struck by how solid and well-made it is. It is absolutely stunning. Now that I have this one for my Chicago-specific medals, I have my eye on several of their products and cannot wait to replace my men’s tie rack with these awesome themed medal hangers. I urge you to buy directly from the company. Right now they are offering a 10% discount if you buy directly from their site. Use discount code Holidays17 at checkout. Now, who needs a used men’s tie rack?
Jaybird Wireless Headphones And what holiday gift list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning these awesome headphones? I had the opportunity to test both the Jaybird Freedom 2 and the Jaybird RUN and can I just say, I love them both? It’s amazing what pristine sound can come from such small devices. When I texted my kids to
brag to tell them about this awesome opportunity, they all texted pictures of themselves with the ones they already own. Who knew? Each of them owns a pair of the Freedom 2s. My middle son Michael said they are the best headphones he’s ever owned (and trust me, over the years I bought these now 20-somethings many, many expensive sets of headphones). The Freedom 2 is not completely wireless in that they have a wire connecting the two different earpieces, but they connect wirelessly to your phone.
The RUNs are completely wireless and fit snugly and securely into your ears. I worried they would come loose or get lost during my runs, but with several attachments to customize the fit, they stayed in place over several long runs. I also worried about losing the bluetooth connection, but that never happened–even on my long rungs. I prefer the Freedom 2s while strength training. That way between sets I can loosely hang them around the back of my neck. That is the very reason my kids say the chose this model over the RUNs–they like the option of taking them out but not having to put them in their pocket and risk losing them.
How about paying the entry fee for an upcoming race? There are lots of local races throughout the country, so it will be easy to find one close to your runner’s home. If your budget and their ability to travel allows, what about a destination race? My favorite (since it combines two of my favorite things–running and wine!) is the Destination Races Wine Country Half Marathon series, a beautiful series of half marathons that run through vineyards and finish with a wine and music festival! Use my promo code DRAMBJUR for $10 off of all but the Napa to Sonoma race (which sells out quickly), or if you really want to send your runner out on an adventure, go for the Los Cabos Half Marathon and use promo code LINDA10 for $10 off!
Sunny Health Indoor Cycling Bike And for the cyclist in your life, or maybe the runner who is looking to do a little cross-training, check out this indoor cycling bike from Sunny Health! I love its sturdy features and the fact that it doesn’t take up too much space. The seat and handlebars are fully adjustable, which makes it easy for my 6′ 2″ husband and me to switch back and forth as users. The 40-pound flywheel makes for a smooth ride, and its nice and quite which I love for those days when I’m up early and don’t want to wake the entire house with my early-morning workout!
I don’t want this post to get too long (too late, I know!) but I do want to briefly mention a few other things. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know I am all about safety on my runs. I almost always run alone and unfortunately I had a terrifying experience, so I take more precautions than your average Joe. Or Jane. Clipped to my SPIbelt I always have two items with me when I run: My Storm Whistle and my pepper spray. The Storm Whistle is touted as the loudest world’s loudest whistle, and can be purchased on Amazon for less than $10.
The pepper spray I purchased is said to be ‘Police Strength’. Also available on Amazon, it gives me a little extra peace of mind. And if these two weren’t enough, last year my youngest son purchased this nifty set of kubatons for me. What can I say? I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Alright, just a brief list of a few more items, just in case someone I know and love is looking for ideas for me here:
Hand-held or Waist-pack Water Bottle, Hydration Backpack or Vest
Lighted Gloves, Reflective or Lighted Safety Vest, Headlamp for nighttime running
Headband/Hat/Mittens/Gloves/Face Mask for cold-weather running
Subscription to Runners World or Women’s Running Magazine
Gift Cards for iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, or a Local Running Store
Foam Roller or (and!) a Gift Card for a Massage
Running Clothes or a Gift Card for their favorite running clothes brand. Check out my favorite, Rabbit. They have lots of great sales going on right now, and of course you can always purchase a gift card so they can pick what they like!
I hope some of these items will help you as you weed through the commercials, catalogs, and online ads trying to find the perfect gift for the runner or fitness enthusiast in your life. What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear from you!
Full Disclosure: I received a few free products from some of these companies in exchange for my honest review and the inclusion of their product(s) in this post. As always, all opinions are my own. I also have added affiliate links for some of the products, meaning if you purchase any product through a direct link in this post, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price from Amazon. This will not change the cost to you at all, but it can help support the ongoing costs of maintenance and upkeep of this blog. Several of the companies offered discount codes for me to pass on to you. I will not receive extra compensation or a percentage of any of these sales; I am just passing on the savings to you. In addition, I am an ambassador for a couple of these companies, which allows me to pass on a savings or promo code. Last, there are a few items listed here that I did not receive any compensation for listing, nor do I have any affiliation with the company or the products themselves. I just love these items and wanted to share my love for them with you! Now…let’s do a little shopping, shall we?
Cookbook Review! Fresh Tastes from a Well-Seasoned KitchenNovember 27, 2017 1:35 pm
This is a sponsored post. I was given a copy of Fresh Tastes From A Well-Seasoned Kitchen in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. I also have added affiliate links, meaning if you purchase any product through a direct link in this post, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price from Amazon. This will not change the cost to you at all, but it can help support the ongoing costs of maintenance and upkeep of this blog.
With Thanksgiving and all its trimmings now a thing of the past, it’s time to start thinking about your end of the year holiday parties and celebrations! While our only Thanksgiving duty is to show up with some great bottles of wine, we are responsible for hosting our family get-togethers on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as our extended-family get-together mid-December on a cycled schedule. We are not hosting the extended-family get-together this year, which means our only obligation is to show up with some great bottles of wine. Speaking of which…if you are looking for a great recommendation, I love the 2015 Unconditional Pinot Noir from Battle Creek Cellars. It is reasonably-priced and complements most any meal. I’m no sommelier (a girl can dream), but I do know what I like.
So, back to the cookbook…Fresh Tastes is a follow-up to the original book, A Well-Seasoned Kitchen, by the author, Lee Clayton Roper, and her mother, Sally. How fun is that to write a cookbook with your mom? As avid cooks we actually already own A Well-Seasoned Kitchen, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to give this new cookbook a try. Like the first in the series, Fresh Tastes did not disappoint. But first, a minute about ‘we’. By we, I mean my husband. He is the cook in the family. I am the casual observer and chief taster. Don’t get me wrong–I can cook, and I think very well. But he loves to cook. Have at it, dude. I’ll just sit here and watch, sipping my pinot noir.
Anyhoo…back to the cookbook (didn’t I just say that?) The book itself is beautiful. Hardcover and almost 300 pages, it’s like eye candy for the cook in your life, and would make a great holiday gift. The pages are filled with beautiful illustrations of the varied recipes. It is nicely divided into sections, starting with appetizers and ending with menu suggestions. The week I received the book, my kids were coming over for the weekend. Our family loves spicy foods, so we decided to try two appetizers–the Chorizo, Cheese and Jalapeño Turnovers and the Green Chile Canapés. Both were delicious and easy to make. Since we like spicy, we didn’t seed and remove the ribs from the jalapeños as the first recipe instructed. If you don’t like things real spicy, I would suggest you follow the recipe exactly. Rather than work with full sheets of phyllo dough, we purchased mini phyllo dough shells, which helped speed up the process. If you want to work with the full sheets, the book has a great tip on how to work with them.
The next section in the book includes recipes for breakfast and brunch. I am honestly not much of a breakfast eater, so I skimmed through this section. A few of these recipes have a Southwestern flair (for example, Southwestern Chile-Cheese Souffle, Huevos Rancheros) so if we were to try them, those would probably be the first two we would make. Next are the sections on soups and salads. Hello. You had me at roasted. I love (love, love) eggplant, so the first recipe we tried was the Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup. We still had plenty of tomatoes from our garden (blanched and frozen in our deep freezer), so we were happy to try a recipe where we could utilize some of them. We doubled the recipe so we could enjoy it for more than one day. It was delicious. The recipe stated if the soup was too thick we could cut it with vegetable broth. We didn’t need to do that. I suspect it’s because frozen fresh tomatoes tend to be watery when they thaw. I have an excellent recipe for Butternut Squash Soup from a friend. I haven’t tried the one in this book yet, but I would love to see how they compare, since the ingredients are very different. There are a number of recipes for salads, including several that can be used as main dishes. We haven’t tried them yet, but there are several that we have bookmarked for future meals.
The next five sections include recipes for poultry, meats, fish and seafood, pasta, and vegetarian mains. There truly is something in this book for everyone! We haven’t had our hands on this book for very long, but we have made the Eggplant Parmesan with Sausage, Mushroom and Olive Marinara Sauce (did I mention I love eggplant?) This particular recipe had to be cut in half, since as presented it serves 12 to 14 people. We also omitted the black olives. I know they’re a staple in a lot of Italian dishes, but I don’t care for them in a hot meal. The next main recipe we have our eyes on is the Chicken Pot Pie. We make pot pie quite a bit for my mom, and she really likes it. The recipe calls for either light coconut milk, evaporated milk, or half and half. I think we will try it with the evaporated milk. I’m not sure she’d like the coconut milk flavor, and I think the evaporated milk will help thicken it up a little.
I’m also interested in trying the Ham and Shrimp Jambalaya. We have a fantastic recipe for Orzolaya (jambalaya with orzo instead of rice) from the The Heaven on Seven cookbook. This has been one of our favorite recipes for almost two decades, so it has a lot to live up to! The recipes are dissimilar enough that we may just end up loving both!
The last recipe section in the book is desserts. I have to admit, I’m not much of a sweet eater (I know, I know!), but of course my kids love them. There are some interesting-looking recipes, a few of which I might try for our Christmas celebrations. The book concludes with 13 full menus for hosting various dinner parties. What a fantastic idea! I sometimes struggle with putting a full menu together, and more often than not things are a mish-mosh of what I like or like to make, but not necessarily what goes well together. I love the lineup for the New Year’s Even Dinner Menu and even though I won’t be cooking on New Year’s Eve, I might try it for another get-together over the holidays.
I really like this book and am thrilled to add it to our collection. There are lots of great tips and do-ahead ideas that help streamline the cooking process. I also like that the author adds stories and anecdotes throughout the book, so by the time you’ve perused it or made a few of the recipes, you really feel like you know her.
How about you? Do you like to cook? What are some of your favorite cookbooks? If you’d like to add this one to your collection (or maybe gift it to someone this year), head on over to my Instagram feed for a chance to win an autographed copy!
Product Review: Zelus Olympus InsolesOctober 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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???
Just...BreatheOctober 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.
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?
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 here. The 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.
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!
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?