Monday, November 28, 2016

Beginning the Holidays with a Review Round-Up

The holidays are upon us, and consumerism is now at its peak.  I am not ashamed to admit that I love holiday shopping, especially now that I have nieces and nephews, and yes, a lot of that shopping are gifts to myself. 

I usually save a lot of self-related purchases for this time of year.  I know deals can be found all year long, but I am often not in the mood to shop during the year.  Also, I usually just stock up on things that pretty much last me until this time for year, anyway.

Anyway, along with the backlog of shopping, I also have a backlog of product reviews, some of which would make great gifts for yourself or someone else this holiday season.  I will try to summarize some of my favorite gear of all time in a formal holiday post soon, but I'll start with the below:

Wimi Patella Knee System

I am not sure if it was the turning 31, having a baby, or stopping my glucosamine, but my right knee has been particularly finicky over the past several months.  One off-step causes a sharp pain followed by soreness, so this is one of the many factors that has kept me from running as much as I would like.  Earlier in the year, I had a similar issue with my wrist (which got so severe that it was limiting my daily activities), and I ended up buying a wearing a brace for several weeks before I felt normal again.  So when I was offered to try this knee brace, I figured, why not?

This system comes with a supporting knee sleeve and Velcro brace.  It took me a while to figure out how to get this on, but I think I did okay.  I think the sleeve is fine to wear while running, etc., but the whole system together is probably best-suited to more stationary activities such as weight-lifting, as it's slightly bulky to me.  Maybe it's just that I'm not used to wearing anything like this.  However, when I am wearing it, it does keep me from jerking my knee.

Hana by Xero Shoes

I've reviewed Xero shoes before -- a sandal, which I still wear because it's light, flexible, and stays on my feet.  When I heard that they released a closed-toe shoe, I was excited to try them.  Technically, this is a men's shoe, but I understand that a women's version is not too far behind.  While not a running shoe, per say, they are light and flexible enough to be move around.  I've worn them my fair share of times chasing my kid around, and they also look presentable enough to pass as a fashionable casual shoe.  This combination of comfort and style are important to me since I'm always in a rush.  The soles are minimal, so it really does give you the feeling of being barefoot.

Babytime by Episencial Mighty Shield Bug Repellent

I've been sitting on reviewing this product for a while, since summer.  However, my area has had an uptick in mosquitos, due to the hot weather we had, and per some conversation with friends, they are possibly here to stay.  Thus, it's nice to have this DEET-free bug-repellent for my son when we can't exactly cover him up.
I think the hardest thing about bug repellents is remembering to put them on, so I try to keep this next to the sunscreen if we are going to be out late outdoors or going to someplace that I expect to be "buggy."  It has a slight greasy feel (like sunscreen) but otherwise isn't bothersome.
Finally, I received some Mamma Chia products to try.  My son loves pouches, so these are a perfect way to sneak chia into his diet (I also put chia in oatmeal).  I also like slurping these up if I'm feeling particularly dehydrated.  Since the chia seeds are in liquid, they are not hard at all and kind of like very, very small tapioca balls.
The bars are chewy and good for deterring hunger.  I found I could only eat half at a time because I guess my normal fiber intake isn't enough to accustom my stomach to a whole bar.

FTC Disclaimer: I was provided samples of the products listed above but was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive opinion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Preliminary Review of Nike+ Apple Watch (Apple Watch Series 2)

Hey, a picture of me, finally!

I'm not sure why it is that I rarely turn the camera on myself these days.  It must be something about busy hands and focusing my camera on food and a certain toddler.

Late one night, with toddler asleep and husband away, I was clicking around on my AppleTV out of boredom and decided to watch the Apple press conference that had taken place the day before. 

I normally watch these each year, but I couldn't look away, particularly from the new Apple watch.  When the first Apple watch came out, I was pretty much like, "that's nice to have, but I have no use for it."  Then I got a FitBit, which turned out to be a fail for me.  I then just got an old-school watch and had been happily using that (mostly at work) for over a year.  Yes, I did not wear a watch before then -- never needed to because I would either check my phone or be in places with a clock.

What is it about this watch drew me in?  Well, the water-resistance for one -- this means that I wouldn't need to remove it for a shower.  Lazy?  Yes.  The activity tracking integration (including swimming) was the other allure, with heart rate tracking and GPS that works independently of the phone.  While I don't leave my phone at home, it's nice to have the option to track without it.  And, I'll be frank, I want to eventually play Pokémon Go on it.

In terms of "real" uses, the best thing is being able to check e-mail and receive texts and calls, even if my phone is stashed away somewhere.  This is VERY handy when my hands are often full with my son and his things.

So I sprung on this watch as a long overdue gift to myself (probably the most expensive thing I've bought for myself in a long time), waiting for the Nike model to come out in late, late October since I liked the sporty band.  If I'm going to be running with this, it better have some ventilation!

Now that I'm nearly three weeks in with it, I thought I'd give a preliminary review of it in the form of a Pro/Con list for anyone who is considering getting one.

  • Nice style, not as "ugly" as I had feared.  I wear this in the office with no comment.  Very light.
  • You can customize the watch face, which helped with the appearance factor.  Mine is set to look like a normal clock face.
  • Water resistant -- you can swim, shower, or bathe your toddler with it.  Will also share that it's been puked on by said toddler, and you'd never know.  You can eject water from it by turning the knob, and the sound-waves from the speaker will spit it out.
  • Decently accurate heart-rate tracking (so far) without the annoyance of a chest strap.
  • Indoor Run: fairly accurate distance detected in spite of my laziness to calibrate it
  • Outdoor Run: GPS integration
  • Can get e-mail, texts, and calls and speak right into it to input into the phone
  • Can turn on Siri without touching buttons
  • Activity reminders telling you stand and move at least once an hour, and "breathe" (guided breathing exercises) reminders
  • Decent number of useful apps: e.g, Amazon, Lyft, Yelp, the thing I use to log into my work VPN, weather, calendar, maps, ApplePay, Skype, even Instagram
  • Notifications come in via little "haptics" that only you can notice
  • Needs to be charged nightly.  You *might* be able to get a second day out of it if you're not using it intensively (maps, GPS, etc.).
  • This probably user error, but I'm having trouble syncing my Activity to other platforms (even Nike Run Club, which you would think should work since this is marketed by them)
  • Apps have limited functionality and integration (e.g., my calorie burn doesn't automatically roll into the MyFitnessPal app)
  • Siri doesn't always work correctly, but this is true on my phone as well
  • Without locking the watch regularly, it's all too easy to have the maps talking to you all of a sudden in the middle of a meeting (yes, this happened to me) or end a workout prematurely
  • Locking the phone does not appeal to my laziness and adds a PIN, but it's hard to punch in because of the tiny buttons.
As you can see, the Pros outweigh the cons, and most of the cons are due to user error.  Overall, I'm relieved that I am not regretting my decision to splurge yet.  While it hasn't gotten me to become more active necessarily since I'm pretty self-motivated, I think it will be a great tool to have once I kick my running into gear again.  It's pretty much my next FitBit/Garmin rolled into one.
I'll keep updating this post as I use this a bit longer, but if you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to address them. 
Now, my watch is saying I need to get up. :)
FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this product on my own and am expressing my true opinion.