review

YogaVibes Class Review: Exhale Flow Focus on the Hamstrings

Yoga Class at a Gym

Yoga Class at a Gym (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every time I do a yoga class through YogaVibes I find myself thinking I should review it–you know, keep track of which classes I’ve done, what they were like, and whether or not I liked them. I lose track pretty easily, and sometimes find myself going back to one I’ve already done, not realizing until I’m five or ten minutes in that it seems a bit too familiar to be entirely new…and that I didn’t like it when I did it before. Today, I’m turning thought into reality! I just finished Exhale Slow Yoga: Focus on the Hamstrings, what better time to write a review?

I’m not really sure why I chose this class. While browsing, I picked out a different practice, and was all set to do that one. At the last minute, I changed my mind. That Forrest yoga will have to wait for another time! I’ve had a chest cold for the past few days, so I was looking for something that wouldn’t be too strenuous, but I was also in the mood for something that would challenge me a little bit. As it turns out, this Exhale class was a good fit in that regard. It’s an hour long slow flow class, and I managed to get pretty sweaty. Stefanie Eris, the teacher, gets right into things and structures the class around a few sun salutation variations that open up into poses like warrior III, parsvottanasana (which, translated, is something like intense side stretch–very catchy), and what seems to be yoga’s pose-of-the-moment, hanumanasana. She also manages to work standing splits, crow, and whatever complicated name you want to call this pose. So it’s not a practice for the lighthearted. Although, I have to admit that it wasn’t until I started looking through the guide on the ‘Yoga Journal‘ website that I realized how many pretty solid poses were in this practice. I mean, the experience didn’t scar me or anything. I realized at the time that it was challenging, but I guess looking back on it I’m now realizing *how* challenging. It wasn’t something that I got hung up on during the practice–that’s a good thing in my book! Also, I think it’s important that you know that when I do those poses, I look exactly like the ‘Yoga Journal’ models. In fact, I’m not sure why they haven’t contacted me to do some modeling for them. (By the way, ‘Yoga Journal’ people: my rates are very reasonable.)

Although my overall feeling about this class is a positive one, there were a few things that I could have done without. First of all, Stefanie Eris definitely has a Yoga Teacher Voice, and the combination of that and the wireless mic that she used throughout the class were a bit much for me. I don’t know, am I the only one who doesn’t really like the microphone thing? I get it–your class is big, projecting can be draining, etc. But…meh. There’s just something about the mic–the inevitable popping and cracking? the amplified breathing? the fact that it makes me feel like I’m in the congregation of a mega-church?–that bugs me. Occasionally, the teacher would move the mic aside to talk to a student she was adjusting, but the sound would still be picked up, and she was speaking totally normally. I think I would have preferred that over the loooong draaaaawn ouuuuut vooooowel sooooouuuuunds (okay, I’m exaggerating…a little) of the Yoga Teacher Voice that she used while addressing the entire group.

Ultimately, though, the practice was well structured and had a good flow and rhythm to it. I feel really good having done it, and the positive things about it far outweigh the negative things. Would I do this one again? Yep!

The take-away:

pros: challenging practice, good length, logical flow from one pose to another, and good variety of poses

cons: Yoga Teacher Voice, megachurch microphones, occasional confusion about what pose I should be in (this might have had more to do with my chest cold-induced brain fog, though)

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For the Ladies: Instead Softcup Review

Fair warning: if you’re male, you can skip this post. In fact, you’d probably prefer to skip this post. If you’re female and you’re uncomfortable talking about your period, you should also probably skip this post. Why? Because this post is all about that delightful monthly visitor whose company we enjoy so much. Got it? Okay, then let’s get started.

 

Instead Softcup

Instead Softcup (Photo credit: Selbe B)

Sometime last year, I volunteered to try out and review the Instead Softcup, an opportunity I heard about through For the Love of the  Run. Softcup and FtLotR were offering runners a free box of the product and a free race entry in exchange for a review. It sounded like a great deal to me, so I signed up enthusiastically.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Softcup, here are the basics: it’s a “feminine hygiene” product (I hate that term but I couldn’t think of anything else to call it) that falls somewhere between tampons and menstrual cups when it comes to how it functions and how squicky it can end up being. It’s a very flexible, latex-free cup that you insert into the vagina in a way that allows it to sit and collect your (ahem) menstrual fluid. It can be worn for up to 12 hours, even on your heavier days. When you’re ready to remove it, you pull it out, wrap it up in tissue (and put it in the disposable pouch it came in, if you still have it) and throw it in the trash. It can be worn during sex, while you’re swimming, and has never been associated with a case of Toxic Shock Syndrome. All good things!

During my period, I tend to wear tampons during the day and pads at night. I get some fairly bad cramps at times, but my period is generally light-to-moderate and doesn’t really cause me too many problems. I’m not a big fan of tampons, though–the idea of putting something toxic in my body makes me uncomfortable, they create unnecessary waste, if I don’t insert them just right they can be painful…the list goes on–so when I heard about Softcup, I really wanted to like it. Like, a lot. I wanted it to replace tampons and pads for me, and change my life in the process. Okay, maybe changing my life is a tall order. But I did want to like it enough to use it exclusively. When I got my sample, I was actually excited about getting my period. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

 

Image via softcup.com

Image via softcup.com

Softcup comes with instructions for how to insert the cup, and also explains how to dispose of it. It seems like a pretty simple process, and according to everything I read, if you’d inserted it correctly, you weren’t supposed to even feel it was there. The first few times I tried it, I made sure to bring back-up with me, just in case. I continued to do so after the first few times, because I still didn’t feel entirely confident. Even though I was following the directions and felt like I was inserting the cup correctly, I ended up narrowly escaping an unsightly leak more than once. Every time this happened, I made sure to check the instructions again and really pay attention to what I was doing when inserting the cup, but that didn’t seem to help.

I also found that even though I couldn’t feel the cup when I first inserted it, I could sometimes feel it after a few hours of wear. That just seemed awkward, and had me worrying that the Softcup was going to somehow find its way outside my body before I was ready to remove it. Call me crazy, but at the age of 31, I don’t want to end up being the subject of one of those “most embarrassing” stories in Seventeen. And speaking of removal, I’m not all that squeamish about my body, but there were a few times when taking the cup out was just a bit too much for me. For one thing, on more than one occasion while at work, when I pulled the cup out, it made an audible squelching sound. Yuck. Fortunately, I was alone in the bathroom. For another, it’s just going to be messy. And there’s just no good way to take the cup out, dispose of it, and insert another one without getting your hands dirty (pun intended?)–my period isn’t my favorite thing, and I just don’t feel like I need to be that up front and personal with it.

Overall, I found the Softcup to be hit or miss. When I felt like it was securely in place and doing its job, I liked it. But after a while, I became less and less confident in it and found that I didn’t want to have to constantly monitor what was going on down there while I was in the middle of doing something else. I ended up never wearing it during a run for that reason–I just didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the park trying to find somewhere to make necessary adjustments…and then have to find some way to clean things up! The thing is, I still really want to like it. I still haven’t given up on it entirely. I still wonder if I’m just doing something wrong, and I still want to figure out how to get it right. If all the work ended up with me finding a replacement for tampons, then it would be worth it. So: to be continued, I guess.

If you’ve used the Softcup, I’d love to hear whether your experience was anything like mine!

 

What Kind of Month is February?

Why, it’s a Health Month!

Generally, I find February the most depressing and drawn-out month of the year, which is always strange to me given that it’s actually the shortest month of them all. If it’s so short, why does it feel like lasts forever? Why doesn’t it just fly by?

This February, I’m trying to turn things around a bit and not get caught up in my usual slump. To do this, I’m making a concerted effort to stay positive (vague!), run regularly (slightly less vague!), and chart my progress toward specific goals through this website/online game called Health Month. I started playing around with the site toward the end of last month, and decided I would play with it some more this month, in order to get the full effect.

Image via Health Month

Here’s how it works. At the beginning of the month, you choose a series of rules, and set parameters for yourself. The rules you choose can be selected from pre-entered ones, or customized to suit your goals. You get to determine how often you do/don’t do something, and what kind of reward or punishment will be meted out at the end of the month. To the left, I’ve provided a screen cap of the rules I set for myself.

Once you’ve chosen your rules, you’re ready to play. You can set things up so that the site sends you a reminder to check in (or “play your turn”) once a day, and there are different metrics you can use to track your weight, body fat percentage, energy level, mood, and stress level. You can provide as much or as little information as you want.

The game is meant to have a social aspect to it, but so far I haven’t really interacted with anyone, which is fine with me. I think (although I’m not sure) that it’s currently in beta, but I was able to sign up without having to request an account, so I’m not sure that access is limited in any way.

Admittedly, I haven’t been a user of Health Month for a very long period of time. But that hasn’t stopped me from formulating an opinion on it, naturally! As far as I’m concerned, there are things about it that are positive, and there are things about it that are less positive. Here’s my assessment (and I should point out that a) these opinions are entirely my own and b) I wasn’t asked by anyone from Health Month to post about it, mention it, or even use it. I just thought it  might be kind of interesting to check out):

Pro:

  • A lot of options to customize. You really can select a variety of things to focus on, and there’s a lot of freedom when it comes to determining how important your goals are, how hard they will be to accomplish, etc.
  • Playing can add an element of fun or interest to goals that might be hard for you to achieve otherwise. When you fail to meet your goals, you lose points. No one likes to lose points, even if the points have no value outside of the game. I lost one recently and I feel really guilty and kind of ashamed of myself.
  • The social aspect of the game potentially puts you in touch with others who are looking to accomplish similar things.
  • The site analyzes the information you put in and tracks progress for you in a variety of ways. I always find it fun and interesting to track my own progress in different areas, and I like the fact that I don’t have to generate summaries and analyses myself.

Con:

  • A general lack of information when it comes to many aspects of the game. For instance, you can set up to three rules for free. If you want to add more rules on top of those, you have to pay. I’m sure that’s fine for some people (depending, of course, on how much you value your rules), but the site doesn’t make it very clear.
  • A few things seem kind of buggy. I set up a profile, and to the best of my knowledge, I completed it. But the site is still prompting me to complete my profile.
  • Support doesn’t seem great. I sent in an email about a few problems I was having early on (ie back in January) and never heard back. This struck me as strange because there are a lot of places on the site where users are encouraged to submit feedback and interact with the Health Month team (which, as far as I can tell, consists principally of one person).
  • I really had to work out for myself how things were supposed to be done. There are guidelines, but their location wasn’t immediately obvious, and I didn’t get a sense that there was anything equivalent to a quick setup resource. Everything I know about Health Month, I figured out on my own. For that reason, everything I’ve said in this post could be 100% wrong.

Basically, the concept is a good once, but the execution still has a few kinks that need to be worked out. I think a bit more transparency when it comes to policies, procedures, and user guidelines could really help make this into a fun, enjoyable way for people to work toward achieving something. I definitely prefer it to Social Workout which, in spite of its potential, just doesn’t really go anywhere if you ask me. And because sites like these are becoming more and more common, they really need to set themselves apart in order to avoid fading into obscurity or never getting off the ground.

150 minutes of Pure Yoga

A few weeks ago I read about a series of free events taking place at a New York City yoga studio that I’d heard a lot about: Pure Yoga.  With one location on the Upper East Side and another on the Upper West Side, the studio was celebrating its third anniversary with classes, workshops, and giveaways.  Although there were a number of activities I wanted to sign up for immediately, there was only one that fit in with my schedule: 108 Sun Salutations.  Without giving it a second thought, I enrolled.

The exterior of Pure Yoga on the Upper East Side

It never occurred to me to be nervous about what the event entailed.  Instead, I felt a bit worried about going to the yoga studio itself.  I’d heard a lot about Pure, but the only thing I knew definitively about it was that I couldn’t possibly afford to attend classes there with any sort of regularity.  Because I’m really self-conscious about my income, I was concerned that somehow, everyone else at the workshop I was attending (not to mention the staff at the studio) would be able to recognize that I was an outsider, some kind of socioeconomic interloper.  Totally in line with yoga, right?

To my relief, the environment was nothing but welcoming.  The interior of the studio is beautiful, and evokes elements of the outdoors that you rarely get to experience in the heart of the city: water features, stones, woods, and greenery.  When I checked in for the workshop, the staff member I spoke to suggested that I go to the location on the west side, saying that just going in would make me want to start taking classes there.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to do that!  Being at Pure Yoga for a one-time workshop was a treat, I can’t imagine how incredible it would be to go consistently!

Once I’d been given the information I needed (location of the locker rooms, where the water fountain was located, etc.), I stowed my shoes and other extraneous objects in a cubby and headed into the studio itself, where roughly one hundred yoga mats sat waiting for their yogis.  I couldn’t wait to get started.  Not too long after I picked a mat and got settled, the studio manager came in to tell us a little bit about what we were doing and why.  Pure Yoga had chosen for us to do 108 sun salutations so that each one would correspond to a bead on a mala.  The sun salutations would be led by ten instructors, nine of whom would take us through eleven salutations each.  He would be the last instructor and would lead us through the final nine.

We started off with a pretty standard salutation, and warmed up quickly.  Each instructor brought their own style as well as their own variation on the sun salutation to the practice, so each set of eleven that we did was different from the last one.  Some were energizing, some were calming, and all of them underscored the power that yoga has to unite people in a common practice, even as it honors the differences that everyone brings to the mat.  This balance of uniqueness and union showed in the teaching styles that were on display as well as the way in which we all moved through the poses.  It’s not often that you get to be part of something like that, and I really appreciate having had the opportunity.

We moved through two and a half sweaty and satisfying hours of yoga, cheering at the end in celebration of having pushed through chaturanga after chaturanga, and countless downward dogs.  In spite of all the sweating I did, I felt hydrated and alert, proud of what I had just accomplished.  Because I had to stop occasionally to reposition the towels I was forced to place on my mat (and I want to apologize to Pure Yoga for sweating SO MUCH on that mat), I missed some of the salutations, but I’m pretty sure I did over 100.  My body had stayed strong throughout the duration of the workshop, the only hindrance being the amount I was perspiring.

After the event, I was so sweaty that I chose to bypass the free granola and yogurt parfaits, and mimosas that were on offer right outside the studio, and go straight to the showers which, once again, made me long to find an additional source of income in order to spend more time at Pure Yoga.  The showers were large and luxurious, the towels were soft, and the locker room experience was almost as relaxing as the yoga practice itself.  I left the studio feeling amazing, vowing to keep my eyes peeled for any more free events I could take advantage of.

I’m obviously a huge fan of having an at-home yoga practice; I love being able to pop over to YogaVibes, and have complete control over what sort of practice I do and when I do it.  But doing 108 sun salutations at Pure Yoga reminded me of the power (yes, I said it) of practicing yoga alongside others, of engaging in this individual and meditative, yet shared activity.  Although yoga is a strongly unique and individualized experience, there is value and comfort to be found in being surrounded by others, even if you never speak to them or see them again.  It’s just another one of those things that makes yoga so great, and one of those things that I wish I could be a part of more often.  Special thanks to Pure Yoga for making that possible for so many on Saturday.

 

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Race Report: JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge

Well in terms of this week’s race reports I am happy to say we’ve hit the home stretch!  I know that technically, this is only the second race this week, but since the Women’s Mini 10k took place in the past seven days and I just did the report on Tuesday, I feel like I’ve been blogging about races non-stop.  Needless to say, all this racing has been exhausting and although I didn’t plan for things to happen this way, today ended up being a rest day.  I got home from work and my body just shut down completely.  This means that I won’t be able to make my goal of 25 miles this week, because there’s no way I’m running 20 miles over two days this weekend, but since another one of my goals was to get rest when I needed it, I can at least feel good about doing the right thing for my body.

So.  Last night I ran the Chase Corporate Challenge with a small team of people from my office.  This is such a strange race.  I

Stampede! Image via Cartoon Stock

meant to do it last year but a last-minute subway mishap ended up making me miss it, so this was my first year.  I’d heard a lot about it, how “corporate” it is, and how crowded it is.  The race is so popular that it’s done over two days in New York, with 15,000 runners scheduled to race on Wednesday, and another 15,000 schedule for Thursday.  And yes, that’s 15,000.  It’s a 3.5 mile course through Central Park, so the roads are not super wide, and there are people who are not doing the race using the park and yelling because they can’t cross the road due to the mass of people running.

The race was to start at 7 pm, and we arrived at the park around 5:45 so that we could get situated with a team area and start to prepare for the race.  I wasn’t concerned about the distance, and I wasn’t thinking too much about what sort of pace I wanted to keep or time I was shooting for.  After all, a 3.5 mile race is pretty uncommon, and in my case, any time would count as a PR.  I was concerned, though, about the sheer number of people milling around, using the port-o-potties, stretching, socializing, and heading to the corrals at the start.  15,000 is a difficult number for the human mind to comprehend, and when I thought a bit about it, I realized it was the kind of number I’d really only seen in marathon distance races–the Philly marathon, for example, is capped at 25,000–and with good reason: the longer a race, the more people it can generally support, because the field will spread out over the course’s distance.  The shorter the race, the more dense the crowd will be throughout the entire thing.  15,000 runners and 3.5 miles?  Maybe not the best idea.  To try to calm my worries, I reminded myself that this race has been going on for 35 years, and the organizers surely knew what they were doing.

The event was organized with wave starts, and the majority of my office/teammates and I were in the same wave so we could start together.  We’d been asked to provide predicted finish times when we registered, so I kind of assumed that our starting order was determined by the time we had given.  But as soon as the gun went off and the race started, I started to wonder if that was really the case.  I had been pretty close to the starting line in my wave, and I still had a really difficult time throughout the first two miles waving through the massive crowd and trying to find spots where I could run at a good pace without the risk of tripping over someone.  Doing so involved a lot of lateral movement as I often had to go from one side of the road to the other, trying to make my way through the crowd.  People were walking several abreast, others would run very short distances and stop abruptly, and it seemed like very few people had any concept of race etiquette (which I consider to be mostly comprised of common sense knowledge.  For example, if you’re a slower runner, move over to the right or the left to stay on the edge of the crowd; if you’re going to stop running and start walking, slow down first, and try to make your way over to the right or left, don’t just stop short where you are; etc).  The experience was maddening, but also extremely nerve wracking because the potential to hurt someone or be hurt by someone was so high.  You had to be incredibly alert, and as I ran along dodging walkers and slower runners, I got the impression that there weren’t many people who had realized how much attention needed to be paid to the course and the other people on it.

During the first mile, I got kicked in the leg by someone who tried to cut in front of me and misjudged his pace, my pace, and the distance between us.  At the first fluid station, which popped up not long after we’d passed the first mile marker, a guy stopped dead in his tracks right in front of me.  We were in the center of the course and I can only presume that he’d decided he wanted to grab a cup of water.  So instead of running past the tables and grabbing one (or even walking through the fluid station as many runners do), he just stopped, and I guess wanted to walk across the course, in a path perpendicular to the one being followed by the runners, in order to get his water.  But because he stopped directly in front of me, and did so without giving any indication that he was going to do that, I ended up slamming right into him.  If I’d had any choice, I would have happily avoided this bodily contact, but the speed at which I was running and the amount of time I had to react to his stop made it impossible for me to do anything but run right into him.  This was immediately followed by the woman behind me slamming into me.  Aggravated and unnerved by the entire thing, I yelled at him as I ran off, “You can’t do that here!”  It struck me as one of the most idiotic things I’d ever seen, and also incredibly dangerous.  If I had hit him with enough force to knock him over, he could have been very seriously hurt not only by the fall, but by the people who probably would have trampled him.  I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if I’d fallen too.  And we were all lucky that his decision didn’t cause others to slam into us and bring us all down.  At that point, I realized that all I could really do was speed up and try to get as far ahead of the majority of the pack as I could.  I thought that maybe, if I managed to go faster, I had a better chance of either being in the company of people who were a bit more familiar with the way a race should be run, or just being in the company of fewer people overall.  Even though I’d been careful to hydrate, I still had the same cotton-mouthed feeling that I’d had the night before at the 5k; nevertheless, I chose to bypass the first fluid station altogether and push through to the next one.

In spite of all the weaving and kicking, I completed my first mile with a time of 8:48.  In spite of the body slamming, I finished my second with a time of 8:14 (identical, I think, to the miles I clocked during the 5k).  In my third mile I started up with the mind games, as I usually do when I’m in the final throes of a race, regardless of the distance (really, I should see if this is just what I do when I get 2/3 of the way through a run.  Note to self: keep that in mind).  ‘You just ran a 5k race yesterday.  You’re tired.  Take it easy.  Slow down.  WALK,’ my tricksy brain was telling me.  I ignored it, thinking about what might happen if I did slow to a walk–more full-contact running?  No thanks.  Even though the urge to slow down or start walking (just for a little bit!) was strong, I ignored it.  ‘You know this course,’ I told myself.  ‘This is your territory, you know the hills, you know what you’re doing, your body is ready for this.’  I tuned out my thoughts and focused again on dodging the other runners around me.  At the second fluid station I took a quick sip of water without ending up in another pile-up, and set myself on a course for the finish.  I ended up with a watch time of 29:55 (and a distance of 3.54) and a chip time of 30:07, the first woman to finish on my office team, and second overall (I was beaten by my boss)!  My average pace for this race was slightly faster than my average for the 5k the night before, which I attribute to the fact that during this race, I managed to quiet the negative thinking that got to me on Wednesday.  I’m proud of myself for managing to run two strong races in a row, and to stay mentally strong through the second one, even though it was a difficult experience.  Whereas I’d felt slightly discouraged by my performance at the 5k (argh, those 5 seconds!), I felt reassured after the 3.5 miles, and comfortable in my place as a runner.  As far as my performance is concerned, I’d definitely consider this race to have been a success.

Logistically, though, I think this was a disaster.  It sort of pains me to say that, too, because there were many elements of the race that were extremely well-organized.  The team areas were well set-up, the start was efficient, the course marshalls were clear in their directions, the fluid stations were well-staffed, and the finish moved people through the chute and back to their team area very quickly.  There was a lot of water, plenty of bananas, and an abundance of coconut water at the end of the race, too.  It is undoubtedly very difficult to pull off something of this magnitude, and the race organizers did a good job of that.  But, and this is a big but, the conditions on the course itself were downright dangerous.  It is unsafe and unwise to put that many people on a narrow roadway for such a short distance.  There aren’t enough wave starts or course marshalls in the world to change that.  Like I said before, I don’t know if the waves were determined by the times people provided when they registered–if they were, then a lot of people falsified their times.  If they were randomly assigned, then that strategy is problematic and really needs to be reconsidered.  Either the race needs to be done over more than just two days, or the field needs to be significantly reduced in size.  As it currently is, the situation is untenable and if people haven’t been seriously injured already, it is bound to happen at next year’s race.  Why even risk it?  If nothing is done next year to address this problem, then I think the CCC organizers will be making a huge mistake.  No matter how much you love running, when the race experience is unpleasant, you’re not going to want to do the race again.  And since I don’t even remember the course (I can only remember it because I am so familiar with Central Park already) because I spent so much time and energy concentrating on not tripping over people, I think I can say that this was a pretty unpleasant experience and not one that I’ll be all that excited to repeat in the future.  I’m already afraid of stampedes, I don’t really want to end up involved in one.

Five-fingered running

Image via EnvironmentTeam.com

Carrie Bradshaw dreams about Manolo Blahniks.  I dream about Vibram FiveFingers.  You can probably guess how much interest I have in Sex and the City.

I count myself among the many skeptics when it comes to the barefoot running movement.  It’s not that I don’t believe that the people who run barefoot love it, because I do.  And I would love to try out a pair of minimalist shoes, since I’ve heard good things about them.  But I’m not convinced when I hear people saying that we would all be better off if we took off our shoes.

Last week at the NYC Run Show, I stopped by the Vibram booth for a couple reasons.  On one hand, I wanted to find out what all the fuss is about, since it seems like fivefingers are the trendy new thing that everyone has to have; on the other hand, I’m intrigued by them and I (not so secretly anymore) want a pair.  I was at the Run Show early with press access, so I had the booth, the attention of the Vibram employees staffing it, and the funky treadmill (on the right) they had brought along with them all to myself.

I talked to one of the employees for a little bit about the evolution of the fivefingers’ design (over the past few years, the shoe has developed mostly as a result of customer feedback and demand, which I thought was pretty cool), and then I tried a pair on.  She handed me a pair of the Bikila LS and then gave me a brief description of the treadmill, the design of which encourages a forefoot strike (it’s self-powered so a forefoot strike is the most efficient way to run on it.  A heel strike would probably just be frustrating).  I started out slowly, and as I got used to the feel of the treadmill and the shoes, I gradually picked up my pace until I was running.  The sensation was amazing, and I feel like describing it would just be an exercise in cliché–I felt light, airy, and worry-free.  It was liberating and invigorating, and I got embarrassingly gushy about it: “Oh my gosh, I want these shoes and one of these treadmills!” (The Vibram staff just sort of looked at me like I was crazy, and nothing will make you feel crazier than getting looks from a bunch of people wearing crazy looking shoes.)  I ran merrily along the treadmill (like you do) for about a minute before getting self-conscious and deciding I should stop, especially since I knew I couldn’t afford the shoes to begin with.

That evening, I went for a run in my usual pair of shoes, the Mizuno Wave Riders (I also tried on the newest model of Wave Riders at the Run Show, and they felt great, too).  I pranced merrily through the park much like I had done earlier on the treadmill, albeit in entirely different shoes.  That brief amount of time I’d spent in the fivefingers was enough to give me a sense of lightness that endured through my evening run, and I felt really connected to the pureness that running can have.  I was entirely connected to everything my body was doing, and at the same time I felt totally removed from where I was.  It was an incredible feeling, and one that I don’t think I would have had without the minute I spent on the treadmill earlier that day.  I ended up having one of the fastest and most effortless runs I’ve had in a long time, the kind of run that makes you feel like you’re absolutely at one with everything.

When I got home, I told Nat about it: “I just had the best run ever!  I think it was because of running in the fivefingers earlier!!”  He just rolled his eyes, and then implied that I was a shoe diva when I told him how much I wanted a pair not, to replace my regular shoes, but just to have around for a change of pace every now and then.  Clearly, he just doesn’t get it.

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Review Re-visit: Sweaty Bands

This is my pirate face. And my unplucked eyebrow. And my thin Sweaty Band.

Approximately forever ago, I did a review of the two Sweaty Bands the company was kind enough to send me.  Actually, it was only about a month and a half ago that I wrote the review, but it feels like it’s been so much longer.

At any rate, here’s what I had to say about my Sweaty Bands at that time:

Unfortunately due to the weather, I haven’t had a chance to wear either of my Bands during a run (instead I’ve opted for an ear warmer) so I haven’t had a chance to test them while in full-on ultra sweat mode.  But I still sweat quite a bit while doing yoga, and I’m happy to say that I didn’t have to worry about getting sweat in my eyes while wearing a Sweaty Band.  To me, the combination of their ability to stay put and absorb sweat makes Sweaty Bands a big time winner.  They’re multifunctional, and they come in a huge variety of designs so you’re bound to find something you like.

The one problem I did have was with the thick Sweaty Band, which ended up poking me behind the ears a little bit after a few hours of wear at work.  This was due to the fact that the corners of the band (which you can see in the picture above) were rather stiff.  I’m not sure if this was because of the embroidered design or if there was some stiff backing in between the layers of fabric that hadn’t been trimmed entirely, but I didn’t have the same problem with the thin Band, which is much softer at the corners.  And as I said, this started to bother me after a couple hours, so if you had a stiff band and wore it for a shorter period of time, it would probably be fine.

Since writing that review, I’ve (obviously) used the Bands a whole lot more, and while wearing the thin one today I realized it might be worthwhile to re-visit my review and give an update now that I’ve had more of a chance to test-drive these bad boys.  I got my hair cut a couple weeks ago and it’s now all sorts of short lengths, so I find myself reaching for something that will hold my hair out of my face pretty much all the time.  Sometimes I end up with a Goody Stay-Put headband (and OMG their website is kind of annoying to use), which I like, but which doesn’t really live up to its name.  What I mean by that is that it tends to slide back, sometimes entirely off my head.  In this department, the Sweaty Band has it all over the competition.

However!  I’ve worn one Sweaty Band or another for most of this weekend, and my head hurts.  I have a headache, and my head also literally hurts.  I have little indents behind my ears where the corners of the Band hits; I took the Band I’d been wearing today off a few hours ago, and the indents are still there.  And they still hurt.  I don’t know, maybe I have a big head, although I’ve never had this problem with other things.  Maybe I have a soft head.  I don’t know.

They also do a great job of absorbing the sweat on your head (that sounds weird) and in your hair (which also sounds weird, but don’t act like your hair doesn’t get sweaty when you workout), but since they don’t have any contact with your forehead, yeah, you’ll definitely still get sweat in your eyes.  So just be aware that these things are no miracle workers.  They won’t vacuum the sweat from places they don’t otherwise reach.

The take-away: I still like the Bands overall, but I now know that I’ll have to use them with caution, and I’d advise you to do the same.  Avoid wearing them for too long, and maybe try to modify them in some way so that the corners of the band are a bit less pointy.