Review: Bulu Box (and coupon code!)

Sometimes, being a fitness blogger has some awesome perks. Recently, I was asked by the cool folks over at Bulu Box to try a sample box, and review it for the blog. I was delighted to have been asked, as I had heard of Bulu Box and had been interested in trying one. This was the perfect arrangement. I was provided one box to review.

Bulu Box is like many other subscription “box” services. Each month, the people at Bulu Box send you a box full of sample sized goodies to try. Bulu Box is the first health, nutrition and weight loss box. Each month, subscribers get a custom box filled with a new mix of 4 to 5 premium samples from top brands to try. Every sample is sufficient enough to decide if the product is right for you and there is a wide variety of products included in each box.

Here’s how it works: You sign up, filling out a profile of interests. Each month, Bulu Box sends you a box full of goodies. You try the goodies. Each month you can earn up to 100 Rewards Points ($10!) just for subscribing and sharing your thoughts via their online review system. Log in to your account to fill out your sample surveys about the products you tried to earn points. At any time, you can use cash or points to purchase full-size versions of the items you like.

I got my first box about two weeks ago. There were so many goodies in the box that it actually took me these whole two weeks to try everything – which is awesome.

Bulu Box

First, the Bulu Box is cool. My box was bright red and covered in inspirational quotes. I loved seeing it in the mailbox and spent a few minutes reading and enjoying the packaging. Seriously.

When I opened my box, I found it was full of awesome products to try. In fact, I used three of the products that very moment!

Bulu Box contents

I got chicken jerky, tea, vitamins, sport jellies, and an itch soothing cream. I made my tea, ate some jerky, and smoothed some cream on a huge mosquito bite within five minutes of opening the box. I was very impressed with not only the quality of the products, but the range of products included in my box. Each product was oriented toward a healthy lifestyle, but each was diverse. I liked that my box included food, tea, a product to use while exercising, and a skin cream.

The box was packaged nicely and the inserted pamphlets had more information about various products. Each product sample was sufficient to determine if I liked the product. I am still using the skin cream and I’ve had it for weeks. Confession: I ate all the jerky in one sitting (it was good).

Overall, I enjoyed my Bulu Box and will be heading over to their website to get my self some more of that jerky. I enjoyed sampling new products and think that Bulu Box is a wonderful addition to the bevy of sample box subscription services.

Interested in trying Bulu Box yourself? Use discount code SWEATPINK for 50% off a 3-month subscription to BuluBox. Happy sampling!!

Gear Review: Link Laces

Recently, I was approached by the people at Link Laces to review their product. Always willing to try new things, my mom and I reviewed the laces. I found them easy to use and install, but, being a regular shoelace person, didn’t have a strong opinion. So, I asked mom to review them. Mom regularly uses LockLaces and likes the elastic shoelaces. Here is what she had to say:

Link Laces are a elastic laces for shoes replacing standard laces.  The package comes with simple instructions to lace, cut, lock, and clip.    The laces were shorter than I was accustomed to, but I do not use the last hole on my shoes.  The tight spring loaded lock keeps the laces in place.

Link Laces

The shorter length meant a tighter fit when I slipped on my shoes, I tend to pull the tongue out a bit more than these would allow.  The clip cinched up nicely and I was ready for the first of several trial uses.  On the short walk, they were perfect, keeping the shoes firmly secure but not putting undo pressure on the top of my feet.  The next longer and admittedly warmer walk I had problems with the tight elastic laces. As my feet swelled, the laces remained firmly unstretchable.  I had to stop several times to adjust the tension for a more comfortable fit.  The main reason I want a product such as this is to keep from frequently stopping to readjust my laces as my feet change during my walks.   Finally I used the laces on shoes I planned to wear all day.  I encountered a similar problem, as my feet changed, the laces did not. It was not a comfortable fit.  I continued to try the Link Laces under various conditions and length of time worn, thinking it was just me or the shoes.

Link Laces in shoesI gave the Link Laces a fair chance to work, but for me, not so much.  The ease of slipping on shoes and cinching up got me out the door quick, but the trade off was stopping to adjust the laces on longer walks or warmer conditions.  It made my shoes just too tight for the long haul.  I will pass on adding these to my footwear.

Note: We were provided with complimentary product to complete this review, but were not compensated for the review.

Troy Conquers 26.2: BaNa Review

Dr. Rachel’s Note: My awesome brother, Troy, is training for this first marathon. You can read about how it started here. As part of his training, he’s trying new fueling methods and learning more about nutrition, hydration, and running. Recently, we were approached by BaNa rehydration with an opportunity to try their new product. Being the helpful sister I am, I offered the opportunity to Troy. Here’s his take:

BANa  – Review

This is not a new slang term for the delicious, ubiquitous post race treat of a partially green Banana (gre-nana?) but a sports drink I was voluntold into trying.  Sample bottles and pamphlet arrived at my door in the most unassuming of brown boxes.  BANa – ‘an IV in a bottle’ – so claims the pamphlet.  The drink is advertised for runners, outdoor workers, and those suffering from hangovers.  With a composition falling between Pediasure and a saline IV bag, the drink promises to replenish and refresh.  I am an engineer by trade and quickly devised an experimental plan to test this new concoction out.

BaNa

Test 1 – First Impressions

Rather than test BANa out on a long run and risk GI issues, I tried it at home and not even after a particularly grueling day.  The first sip caught me off-guard.  I had been expecting a tart and artificial berry flavor but instead was greeted by a mild berry taste.  The berry flavor worked but along with it came a strange sweet and salty mixture best described as very light syrup.  I struggled a bit and felt like I needed a water rinse when I finished the bottle.  I felt hydrated and continued to feel that way for a much longer time than I thought normal.  With no GI distress, the first bottle seemed to be ok … just a little syrupy. So, after this initial test, I had reservations about being able drink this without a water rinse (could be problematic during a workout) but was pleasantly surprised by the tasty berry flavor.

Test 2 – The Short Run

Basics out of the way, it was time to test BANa out during a workout.  My Tuesday training involves running 3 miles and doing 4 rounds of calisthenics for about an hour long workout and I thought this would be a great first test.  I wanted to try BANa in what I knew would be a tougher situation where I would really need to rehydrate.  I can’t explain what changed and I am not sure how or why it did, but my opinion of BANa drastically improved during that workout.  It was fantastic.  That sweet/salty syrup taste was gone completely and instead it was replaced by that pleasant berry flavor combined with fast hydration.  The consistency was not an issue at all.  Maybe it was my body craving the simple carbs and salt, but the BANa completely hit the spot.  One 12 oz bottle got me through the entire workout and I still felt hydrated when it was over.

Test 3 – The Long Run

I headed out for a 6 mile training run with a bottle of BANa and expectations of good things again.  As with the short run, BANa hit the spot.  The flavor, the mouth-feel, the hydration – all were perfect during the run.  Small sips were all that I needed to feel hydrated and keep me going through my workout.  I finished my run feeling hydrated and with BANa to spare.  Most importantly, no GI disturbance.  Additionally, when finished I wasn’t gulping down water which helped to avoid that “sloshing” feeling that everyone is so familiar with.

BaNa review

Overall

I am mixed here.  I don’t think BANa is something I would grab as a run recovery or hangover recovery when lazing about the house. The taste and texture just didn’t come across right to me when I am not in the middle of intense physical activity.  However, on a run or a workout, this stuff just hit the spot and was great.  I can’t explain it, but it was like a whole different experience while on a workout.  It was refreshing, mild on the stomach, and quenched my thirst completely.  Maybe next time I race, I will take a BANa water with me to keep from eating that gre-nana on the other side of the finish line.

Find them on social media at @BaNaRehydrates

Note: Free products were provided to make this review possible. No other compensation was provided and the opinions are our own.

Review and Giveaway: My Race Ragz

When the nice folks at My Race Ragz contacted me about doing a review, I was thrilled. I’m a huge fan of personalization and I think that a personalized anything makes a great gift. Their offer was perfect timing for the holidays – and for me to get some awesome DrRachelRuns gear for winter racing.

My Race Ragz is a custom apparel company that offers printing and embroidery services. What makes My Race Ragz unique is that they will do your printing with no minimum order. Seriously. You can print just one shirt, 10 shirts, 100 shirts, with no small order penalty (if you order more than 10 you do get a nice discount). What’s even better is that all the printing isn’t your average screen printing, it’s done through a dye sublimation process in which the dye is applied directly to the shirt. This ensures that your shirt retains its sweat-wicking properties and that the design never peels off. Super cool.

All printing is done on technical, wicking shirts made of microfiber performance polyester. They offer a wide range of styles for men and women and three fabric types: a 100% Microfiber Performance Mesh, a 100% Smooth Performance Microfiber, and a stretchy 88% Microfiber/12% Spandex blend. The My Race Ragz website has a variety of standard designs available, and users can upload custom art for that one of a kind shirt. Never again will I apply my name to my shirt with electrical tape. When my brother runs his first marathon and I want a shirt that points him out, I won’t have to write on myself in permanent marker. My Race Ragz makes it possible to have just the shirt I want in just the quantity I need.

Creating my custom shirt was easy. I went to the “Create” tab, uploaded the art, centered it, and submitted it. In less than 10 minutes (no kidding), my shirt was off to the printer. I was delighted with what came back.

My Race Ragz shirt

The design was exactly what I had uploaded. The colors are vibrant and the edges are sharp. The design looks exactly as I had hoped it would. The graphics were clear, crisp, and have so far withstood repeated washing in warm water and several trips through the dryer.

My Race Ragz close up

The shirt itself is excellent. It’s a nice quality, a normal thickness, and wicks well. It’s comfortable to wear and easy to layer. The feminine cut and sizing were just right for me. Just a note – the shirt I selected isn’t seamless, so if you’re someone who’s bothered by seams on your running gear, be forewarned. I didn’t find the seams noticeable, but it’s worth note just in case. There are a variety of styles to choose from, including singlets and short sleeve shirts. Overall, I was very impressed with My Race Ragz and will definitely order from them again. The whole process was easy, the shipping was fast, and the shirt is a nice addition to my running wardrobe.

Want to win your very own customizable shirt? Enter to win below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Full disclosure: The folks at My Race Ragz offered my a free, customized shirt for the purposes of writing this review. Despite that, the review is honest and the opinions my own.

Giveaway! – Lock Laces

Mom just ran her first half marathon (the Frankenfooter Half Marathon in New Port Richey, FL – full recap to follow) and I couldn’t be happier for her. To celebrate, the nice folks at Lock Laces are giving away three sets of Lack Laces to three lucky winners! You even get to choose the color you’d like! Super exciting!

Mom loves Lack Laces and raced in them this weekend. We love the bungee effect and the ease of wear. You can read my full review here. Those are pink Lock Laces on my mom’s feet…

Mom wearing Lock LacesHere are the entry instructions:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Gear Review: Janji Capris

Recently, I was contacted by the lovely people at Janji and offered the opportunity to review some of the new fall line. Being a loyal Janji customer (and having reviewed some shorts in the past), I was delighted. There are lots of reasons to love Janji, and I was hopeful the new fall line would be another.

My Janji gear arrived and I was struck by how colorful and fun the prints were.

Janji box

It’s been chilly in Connecticut, so I decided to try my new Women’s Tanzania Capris first. The capris are grey, with a inset print of the Tanzanian flag at a strategically placed, body-con angle. Like all Janji apparel, a portion of the profits are donated to charity to provide valuable services to people in need. The Janji Women’s Capris give 1 year of drinking water to a person in Tanzania. I think it’s a wonderful thing to know that my purchases are benefitting others.

The capris  are 88% polyester/12% spandex sueded heavy weight jersey. The fabric is thick, but breathes nicely. It has a smooth, cottony look and feel and a good stretch. The capris are designed to be high-calf length, but on me were a bit closer to low knee length.

Janji capris

They feature contrast mesh fabric at bottom leg panel, ergonomic flat seams, reflective detailing, and cute contrast stitching at the hem. There is a small, zipper pocket at the low back.

Janji capris full view

I wore the capris for a long day of workouts. First, they went with me on an easy five mile run, then I taught Pilates in them, and, finally, I wore the capris to a weightlifting class.

The first thing I noticed about the capris was the fit. I perpetually have a problem with tights fitting in the hips and thighs, but being several inches too large in the waist. With the small waist and larger thighs typical of most female runners, I usually have fit issues and end up pulling up my tights often during runs. The Janji capris have a thick, elastic waistband that’s stitched flat. The waist actually fits! I put the capris on, and didn’t have to adjust the waist or cinch up a drawstring. They just fit. The wide, thick waistband kept the capris in place through all my fitness activities. It was especially impressive in Pilates class, when the fit of tights around my core is put to the test with lots of stretching and moving.

During my run, the capris performed beautifully. They stayed fitted and didn’t stretch or shift during the run. They wicked away sweat and felt comfortable throughout the run. The best thing I can say about the Janji capris is that I forgot that I was wear testing them. They were so comfortable, they were completely un-noticeable. Which, I suppose, is what we all want from our running clothes. The zipper pocked kept my key secure and was just the right size and shape for a key and a few dollars of a credit card.

During my weight lifting class, I subjected the capris to more sweat and lots of shifting in the form of squats and lunges. Through it all, the capris maintained their fit and continued to wick away sweat. I got several compliments about their unusual pattern and lovely, cottony fabric. By the end of my three-workout day, the capris looked fresh. The fit was great, they dried easily, and they kept me comfortable.

Janji capris on a runAll in all, I would highly recommend the Janji Women’s Capris. Not only do they fit and perform well, they benefit a critical cause. With Janji, not only do you get great gear, you help others. Perfect.

 

Gear Review: Newton Energy

I’ve tried Newtons several times, but I couldn’t get used the to lugs. I could feel them while I was running. While I liked the extra cushioning, I just couldn’t get used to the feeling of something underfoot. It felt like something stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Enter the Newton Energy.

No cooler

Newton shoes use the underfoot lugs to provide proprioceptive feedback. This improves form by subtly reminding you to land in a more mechanically correct form – on the ball of your foot. Unfortunately, the technology that made the lugs fabulous also made the Newtons the most expensive on the market. The Newton Energy is a great change, making it more accessible to runners thanks to its $120 price point. The Energy makes the action-rection technology accessible.

I was skeptical, but I decided to give the Energy a try. I loved it!

The shoe features five smaller lugs that are filled with a semi-hollow rubber. The lugs help to evenly distribute weight along the shoe and foot and promote neutral running. I love the feel of the lugs underfoot. I can’t feel the individual lugs, but I can feel the increased cushioning in my forefoot. As a forefoot striker and neutral runner, the Energy offers me more support just where I need it. The cushioning feels supportive and wonderfully cushy. It is a great feeling. The Newton Energy is a great fit  for me. So far, the durability has been great. I don’t have many miles on them, but Newtons emphasize their stellar durability thanks to their actual rubber construction. The mesh upper has great breathability. I’ve worn my Energy shoes on long, hot runs, and found them to be comfortable. They keep my feet cool and the mesh expands and stays comfortable on my foot. I’m prone to blisters and I stay blister-free in the Newton Energy. All in all, I love the Newton Energy! I encourage all runners to give it a try. I imagine that forefoot strikers will find it particularly comfortable with a smooth, cushy ride.

A side note – I wanted to take a picture of myself in the Newton Energy shoes for this post. My friend took this picture after a long run. It’s terrifying. But, I’m posting it. This is what a real runner looks like. I have on one calf sleeve, I’m sweaty, my hair is disheveled, and I have a blob of energy gel spilled on my shirt. I am a runner.

A real (scary) runner

Details for my outfit, above: Lulelemon Run Swiftly Short Sleeve top, Lululemon Turbo Run Shorts (no longer made, but the closest fit today is the Groovy Run Short), Zensah compression calf sleeve, Newton Energy shoes.

Cooking for One

My husband works long hours so it’s often just me for dinner. That’s great if I want to microwave something frozen, but that plan doesn’t fit in with my desire to eat clean and monitor my nutrition. Eating right each meal is important to me, but it is sometimes difficult to make a healthy meal for one. Compound the complexity of cooking for one with my crazy schedule – there isn’t much that can be made in the two minutes before hungry deteriorates into starving, angry mess.

Enter the Lekue Steam Case. This thing is one of the best inventions ever!

Lekue

The Lekue Steam Case comes in a variety of shapes and sizes – a tray (pictured above), a large case, a pot, a large pot, an omelette case, and small cups. Each case has a specific use. I bought the omelette case and the steam tray for 1-2 people. I love it.

The steam case makes it possible for foods to be cooked in their own juice or steam, enhancing the flavors and preserving nutrients. Safe for microwave or oven use, the steam case cooks food with steam at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The case is specially shaped the allow the steam to circulate for faster cooking. The case has a small tray in the bottom to keep food elevated and liquids at the bottom. The tray can be removed for more “stew-like” results.

These unique features make it possible to cook just about anything in record time. Using the Steam Tray, chicken breasts straight from the freezer cook in about 5 minutes. Steak, turkey, and sausages cook in about two minutes. I’m serious. You can go from starving to eating in less than five minutes. The Lekue company has a cookbook associated with the steam cases. I have it and it has simple, tasty recipes that feature a variety of meats and vegetables. So far, I’ve made chicken with artichokes, braised beef, and an assortment of other healthy, fresh meals. I’ve discovered that I can put just about any combination of vegetables and proteins in the case, add some EVOO or balsamic vinegar,  cook for five minutes, and eat a clean, fresh meal.

I also have the omelette pan and it’s fantastic. I can throw in two eggs, any combination of vegetables and toppings, cook for two minutes (seriously! Two minutes!) and enjoy a fresh omelette any time. It’s revolutionized my breakfasts.

Follow a clean diet? Hooked on the paleo lifestyle? The Lekue system is perfect for you. It’s well worth the investment and will make cooking clean meals simple!

Gear Review: Pace Crops

Spring is here! I experienced one of my favorite springtime traditions recently – the switching of the running clothes. I keep out of season gear in big boxes in my basement, and, twice each year, that means that I get to switch seasons of my athletic gear. The switch almost always leads to the purchase of a few new items to add to my collection.

Given my deep an abiding love of all things Lululemon (and, full disclosure, my Ambassador status), Lululemon was the logical destination for new gear. I am in love with the Pace Tights and decided to try their sister crops, the Run: Pace Crops. I bought the black/frond pair and have now tested them on a number of runs (and one race!).

Pace Crops

I like these crops. Honestly, I was a bit confused by the crops the first time I wore them. I expected them to fit and feel like their Pace Tights sister, but they’re more like distant cousins. The Pace Crops fit differently and look distinct from the tights. But, the fit and feel are great. They are primarily Power Luxtreme, with a very lightweight feel. The back of the knees has Circle Mesh venting. I like the added touch of the Circle Mesh. It keeps the material from bunching behind the knees for a comfortable stride. The crops have two gel pockets in the front waistband and a zipper pocket in the back waistband. The inseam is 17 inches, or just below knee length.

I have worn these crops on several runs. In the cool and humid conditions that are typical in the spring in my area, the crops were just the right weight for running comfort.  The lightweight feel of the material was perfect for the soggy weather. The Power Luxtreme material was quick to dry and stayed comfortable, holding its shape even when wet. The waistband felt secure and the circle drawstring enabled me to get a good fit around my waist. The flat seams ensured that my skin was chafe-free. I appreciated the small, reflective strip on the side of the leg. It was just right for lower light running. Overall, I love my Run: Pace Crops. They fit well, they’re lightweight, and they perform in a variety of conditions.

Grade: A

Suggested Retail Price: $86 on the Lululemon website (Direct link here) – and they now come in adorable, bright colors!

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon pullover in frond (they don’t make this one anymore – sorry), black Lululemon Speed Demon Run Hat (I LOVE this hat and its sister, the Shady Lady Run Visor), Brooks Pure Flow shoes. And, don’t worry. I’m not going to die in the picture, I’m just squinting at the finish line clock.

Gear Review: Skora Base Shoes First Impressions

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to review a pair of Skora Running shoes. I jumped at the chance. I’m someone who loves new shoes, and running gear in general, and I was happy to review the shoes. I picked out the super cool looking Skora Base in the blue/white color. I’ve only worn them once, so this is a preliminary review. I decided that something like shoes needed two reviews – one of my first impressions and one once they have some miles on them.

Skora shoes are built on the philosophy that running shoes should be made practically, for real runners in the real world. Thus, their slogan, “Run Real”. Skora shoes are designed using RealFit technology and are manufactured to offer a natural fit that encourages natural performance and foot movement. The Skora Base shoes are zero drop, have minimal cushioning, and feature a specially shaped outsole to offer a natural, close to the ground feel and encourage natural foot movement. They also feature an anatomically correct fit, including a wide toe box and asymmetrical lacing for comfort.

I was super excited when my new shoes arrived because, let’s face it, they’re cool looking! I selected a pair that doesn’t have laces, but has an elastic strap for a customized fit.

Cool, right? I immediately liked the look of the shoe. I think the strap is clever and interesting. They certainly don’t look like any other shoes I own. I also love the color. It’s pretty and soft and the reflective detailing on the heel, toe, and side of the shoe is a nice touch. I tested out the size of my new shoes. Turns out they run a little big (I usually wear a 9.5 and needed a 9), so I had to send them back. A few weeks later, my shoes were in and ready for a test drive.

I tested the shoes out on a quick recovery run in a friend’s neighborhood. It was the perfect day for running – 68, sunny, and breezy – so we decided to fit in a quick run. I slipped on my new Skoras for the run. The fit of the shoe is noticably roomy in the toe box. I loved that. I liked being able to move my toes freely and the flexible material made it easy. The toe box is wide, but the fit isn’t too large thanks to the snug fit through the mid foot. The elastic strap at the mid foot ensures a tight, custom fit. I cinched my shoes up and hit the road.

At first, the feel of the Skora Base is different than even a low-drop shoe. There is some molding in the heel and forefoot that gives them a distinct fit. The heel molding feels like a cup and my feet slid right in. There definitely is very, very minimal padding. I could feel every rock, stick, and bump in the road. My friend and I decided to run on a variety of surfaces to ensure a good test. I liked the close to the road feel. I generally run in lower profile shoes and I like to wear a responsive shoe. The Skora Base fit the bill. I felt close to the ground and connected to the running surface. My feet were very comfortable in the shoes. I loved the wide toe box and enjoyed the feeling of space around my toes. I also liked the snug fit through the mid foot. It ensured a great fit despite the extra room in the toe box and the heel cup area. The shoes stayed put on my feet, and, thanks to the comfortable fit, were easy to run in. The only down side to the close to the road, responsive fit and feel – the sensitivity of my poor feet. Part of our run was on a gravel road that isn’t well traveled. Large chunks of rock are everywhere. I could feel every large rock and I even have a bruise on the bottom of one foot from a particualrly poorly timed landing on a large rock.

The bottom line – I like the feel and structure of the Skora Base. They run a little large, so consider going a half size down. They have a close to the road feel that’s great on most surfaces but I don’t recommend running on gravel roads in them.

I’ll post another, more complete review when I have some miles on the shoes, but so far, so  good. The Skore Base retails for $110 and can be found online here.