It’s all about Balance

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BALANCE

Recently I ran into a friend of mine, a very accomplished runner. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time so as I was nearing the end of a long run I decided to double back with her and chat. We talked about her training season, or lack of. She told me how she was spending the entire year building her base. I was impressed. I essentially am doing the same thing this season, however I am the kind of person who needs something to focus on. I’ve been conditioned to have a goal to work towards. That would be the little miss Type-A shining through.

Base building is the foundation of all training anyone decides to start. It’s been a while since I’ve spent any amount of time just base building. The goals I gave myself this season have been easy to accomplish and just enough push to make me stronger physically without mentally breaking me down. Base building is very much about running just for today and not tomorrow’s goal.

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Practice staying present.

As my friend and I ran and chatted, I noticed she was holding two stones. I noticed but didn’t ask. We continued on our way, and I listened to her wisdom. We came to a stop and we were about to part ways, when I decided to ask about the rocks. The explanation was not anything I was expecting. She showed me her two equally weighted stones and explained how she used them. It was mostly about balance. The stones put weight in her hands and helped remind her to keep her shoulders down and relaxed. She was able to focus on the present task at hand using the rocks as a weighted reminder. I had a coach who would tell me to imagine I was carrying eggshells while I was doing speed workouts and it worked really well. My friend told me she used the rocks on all her runs. The stones also helped train her arms to move in the correct way, flowing like smooth pendulums.

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My two equally weighted stones.

She told me to pick up two equally weighted rocks and try it for the rest of my run. When a runner of her caliber tells you to try something you don’t question it. I picked them up. We hugged goodbye, and I continued on my journey home.

At first, I thought the rocks would annoy me, make my hands tense. Instead, the weighted feeling drew my shoulders down, and I relaxed into a smooth stride. I held the rocks gently rather than grip them with white knuckles. As I was nearing the end of a 36km solo run, I used the rocks as a focal point. They allowed me to stop focusing on how tired, sore or hungry I was and forced me to turn my thoughts my hands. I focused on the rocks and how they felt cool to the touch, strong and equal. I suddenly was staying present with my thoughts and letting my body flow through the movement.

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Mind and Body should stay present.

Since that day my two equally weight rocks sit on my desk by my front door. On days I don’t use them, they are a reminder to stay balanced, to stay strong. On my easy recovery runs I use them for the same reason my friend did. To stay relaxed, to have that physical reminder of my shoulders creeping up. The rocks gently pull them down and remind me that life is all about balance. Whether I’m running, walking or cycling, I need to stay present and focus on that very moment and for me the rocks are a symbol of the “present”.

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Important words of wisdom

Wear Test Wednesday – BUFF Canada Review

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My BEAST MODE BUFF!

I’m addicted to Buff products and it’s the perfect accessory for any athlete. BUFF was a major sponsor of the Canadian 5Peaks trail running series this year and BUFF is no longer just a BUFF. I’ve always used Buff products in the winter, but I had no idea they’d expanded their line until this summer.

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The Cap!

My favourite go to neck warmer is my fleece lined, reversible BUFF, which gets lots of use for Cross Country skiing, Downhill Skiing, Snow Shoeing and very cold winter running. This winter it will be replaced by the brand new knitted neck warmer. It’s cute and warm!

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The Brand New Knitted Neck Warmer.

BUFF showcased their infinity scarf this summer and I was addicted. Infinity scarves have become a staple accessory in my wardrobe. They are functional and fashionable and will never unwind or roll off your neck. (PS: BUFF make great Christmas presents and stocking stuffers!)

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As a runner my Buff will generally go around my head. This prevents sweat from getting into my eyes. On trails this is important because at any moment a twig, log or rock can pop up in front of you and cause a major spill. Keeping hair and sweat out of my face is what Buff does best! They offer different weights so if warmth is what you’re after they have something for you. The original Buff is something everyone should have in his or her backpack, purse or pocket. It’s simple, fashionable and completely functional letting you wear it in several unique ways. On those days I just can’t deal with a bad hair day, Original BUFF to the rescue! It’s always the day I get the most hair compliments, ironically enough.

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BUFF twins at the 5Peaks Trail Running Series this Summer.

I am not a big fan of bike hats (under my helmet). This summer I discovered the BUFF helmet liner. I like this headband for many reasons, namely it creates a snugger helmet fit and in winter a warmer skull. I also don’t have to deal with the dented forehead when I remove my helmet. It will also provide some UV protection where your helmet exposes your skull.

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My Helmut Liner getting lots of use this summer.

With winter just around the corner, it’s a good time to get out and find the perfect BUFF for you. Finding myself on the trails more often than the road, I make sure my Ultimate Hydration Jenny Pack always has packed away for emergencies.

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The many ways to wear a BUFF.

If you can’t find a pattern you love (they have so many choices that are awesome), you can now create your very own. The BC Race director for 5Peaks trail race series, Solanna (A.k.a. the Beast) created her very own BUFF with a cool image of a wolf and beast mode printed on it. All the 5peaks ambassadors got it as a great thank you gift. It’s definitely among my favourite of them of them all.

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How To!

Best of the all, BUFF for dogs! Get your furry friend a BUFF to protect the ears from UV, make him look cooler than the other dogs at the park and give him or her a little personality.

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Go to BUFFcanada.com for more info on where to buy Buff near you. Running Room and Running Free both sell a large selection of BUFF styles and patterns.

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The Classic Balaclava.

Next week on Wear Test Wednesdays! I’m going to share with you a sneak peak of the Mizuno Wave Rider 18’s. This is become my new favourite shoe. With lots of cool updates, it’s the best rider I’ve run in so far.

Motivation Monday – 5 Weeks to go. Little Miss “Type A” is not invited.

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The Start of my 32km training run.

This past week I spent 90% of the time training on trails or soft surfaces. Recovery was the word of week. Post STWM marathon and Pre Hamilton Marathon I had to make sure I was staying in my recovery zone. I got to experience my first trail tempo workout. I think I enjoy speed work on trails over road. The trail is definitely more challenging but the bounce back the next day is miles better than after a road session.

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Hill training was also included in this 32km run. OUCH!

Things I have been practicing this past week: training at night both on the bike and in my shoes. On Dec 6th we won’t be doing too much night running, but enough that I want to know what it will feel like. Most importantly for me I have been training my brain to deal with monotony. LOOPS. I spent a good deal of the week grinding my mind to a pulp by running and cycling loop after loop. When my inner self begged me to stop I would do just one more. I’m really bad at loops, I have a tendency to almost quit when I have completed one loop and about to start the second. The 5peaks trail series was the beginning of training myself to “toughen up” and now I’m on my own. San Fran won’t be a lot of loops but there is one section you have to run twice and for the good of my 50miler I need to overcome this negative space early on so I can finish in a good place.

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As many loops as possible.

The last big thing I did this week was a solo 32km run on the Bruce Trail from Dundas to Hamilton and back. Was this the smartest thing I’ve done in my life. Not at all. I fearlessly just started running and didn’t think about the consequences until I got to the gnarly parts, realizing I could twist and ankle, fall off the cliff and no one would know what happened to me. PLEASE do not do this EVER!

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Taking some Side Trails to change the pace.

I had a really great run and realized my inner type A personality was returning the surface. There was an immediate internal battle with myself. My heart rate was elevated because I had a number stuck in my head that I wanted to accomplish. On the Bruce trail you cannot stick to any number. I had to stop and have several “Talks” with myself that I was under no time constraints, this was not the race, the purpose of this run was to train my trail legs. After about 10km I finally relaxed into my trail mode self and put little miss Type A away for the day.

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I stopped at Canterbury Falls to refocus and let my inner trail runner take over the rest of the run.

This post was going to be about someone close to me, but after spending 32km on the Bruce Trail, I couldn’t stop thinking about Rhonda Avery who ran from top to bottom this past summer. She is a partially blind runner who is raising awareness for the cause. Envisions is where you can learn more about her and her amazing journey.

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Rhonda and her crew guiding her through her journey.

I’ve written many amazing things about her so I will make this one brief. While I ran, I almost fell off a cliff, was almost attacked by a dog, experienced the trails crazies, almost cried, laughed out loud for no reason, felt every emotion in the emotional hand book.

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9km to go and I needed to stop, sit, eat and get out of the trail crazy head space I was in. Great mental training day.

It was my best training day and scariest. I couldn’t fathom how she ran the whole thing and she lives to tell her story! When I wanted to quit at 18km and 24km it was Rhonda’s spirit that kept me moving. She is simply, in one word, INCREDIBLE. My crazy light bulb moment at 28km was that Rhonda should run the Bruce Trail again next summer but backwards. I’m always amazed how a trail can change so drastically just by turning around and running it the other direction.

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Best part of the day was 4km to the end I ran into a friend on the Bruce Trail. I thought for sure I was hallucinating so I took a selfie to confirm she was real. :)

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Following the Bruce trail markers out and back.

There is a life lesson in that statement, I’m sure but I’m running out of words to go down that path.

PS: If you are going to try trails this week or ever, please do me a favour and take a phone, a map, a whistle and water/food. Tell at least one person where you started and when you plan to finish.

#MotivationMonday – 6-Weeks to Go – STWM

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The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

As practice for this upcoming race, I ran a marathon. I was so grateful to be part of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The event was from start to finish simply perfect.

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Meeting your favourite runners is the best part of Expo life! Rob Watson in the house!

The previous week I ran 130km. Normally marathon runners get a two-week taper period. Not this girl. The week of the marathon I was still going to be clocking in approximately 110km. My “rest” days were working the expo all weekend, on my feet, for 10-hour days! By Saturday night I was done. My legs were sore, my feet were sore, and my brain was exhausted! I didn’t even have the energy to get my clothes ready for race day! I set the alarm for 6:30 am. 6:30 came and went. I went into Snooze mode. At 7:10 am I told myself to forget this and just do a long run later on. I was actually considering bailing on the whole deal. 7:15am I rolled myself out of bed, put on what I thought would be the best gear for the weather, a Mizuno singlet, my inspire shorts, CEP compression socks, Mizuno arm warmers and my favourite shoes – the Wave Sayonara 2. I had some oatmeal and Honeymaxx to hydrate and jump on my bike to ride to the start line. Cycle Toronto had a bike valet this year and I was so happy for it. Riding your bike to the marathon and not having to stress about traffic and streetcars and all that mess was the best part of my morning.

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Always nice to see Allan Brooks at the Expo.

Now at City Hall I met up JP and we headed for the start line. Was I feeling like running a Marathon? If I have to be honest, I would say not really. I could feel the expo in my legs and the morning was on the chilly side. I had two times in mind and a very focused plan for this training run. Faster than 3:10 would be a bad day and slower than 3:15 meant I had a bit more work to do in the next 6 weeks. After the excitement of the first couple of kilometres subsided, JP and I started to get into a groove. We had a few arguments early on regarding pace, all in a friendly fashion. The longest we’ve run together was a 10km, this was new territory for us. I learned JP likes to do these surges, which started to drive me crazy. Once I figured out this was his way, I would let him go knowing he would come back to me. It was inspiring to see so many people run up to JP to thank him for his work. He really does help so many people in a very special way. I was so proud to run beside him and watch him inspire others. I remember there were moments he went very quiet. He has been hammering out a lot of marathons recently. He was allowed to feel exhausted and beat up. I was mentally working through my training run and he was mentally working through his. The silence was so comfortable, something I rarely get to experience.

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We have so much fun running together!

The back half of the Marathon, I finally got the expo legs out and my body woke up. I started feeling stronger and soon I’d passed the 3:15 pace group. I knew by marker 36 I had this race in the bag. That’s a great feeling where where the race is supposed to really hurt but you feel better than when you started. The rest of the race I didn’t even look at my watch, I just ran on feel and wanted to simulate a strong race finish.

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More fun photos! 18km getting my PB and J from Clare.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:13. It was the perfect execution of my training run and my coach was beaming with pride. My motivation this past week came from everyone I saw at the expo and at the race. I want to name them all but that would be impossible. Key mentions are:

JP, Predrag, Simion, Rob, Anthony, Jonny, Carmy, Kerri, Heather, The Parkdale Roadrunners (best cheer sections), The TRIBE, George, Christine, Gregoire, Tara (who had a huge PB!), my entire Longboat Crew, The Nomads, especially Ryzchard, Jillian, Marky, Steve, Irun Magazine and Andrew. Peter and Clare get a special huge mention for preparing and handing off a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich for me to practice eating solids on during the race. Coach Timo of course! Every single person who screamed my name and cheered for all the runners are my heros. Thanks to everyone for making Toronto and the STWM such a great experience.

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First practice marathon done! See you at the Road to Hope for practice number 2.

In two weeks I will be at the Hamilton Road to Hope Marathon for practice run #2. If you are looking for a fast and fun race this is the perfect one to do. Come join me if you just want to have some fun!

Wear Test Wednesday – Polar V800

https://flow.polar.com/

It’s hard to decide where to begin with this watch. It’s a watch for runners, cyclists, swimmers, triathletes and gym rats. It’s a watch that can be what you want it to be.

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As an endurance athlete and one training 10-15 hours a week, this watch came into my life at the right time. I needed to be stressed out if I had enough battery life to get through my next workout. With a full charge the Polar v800 can last anywhere from 13 hours to 50 hours depending on which mode you select. At the moment I have it on the default mode and I can get almost a week of workouts in before I have to charge it up again. I’m also no longer needing to spend 10-15 minutes waiting for the GPS signal to kick in, which happened too many times with another brand of watch I used to use. Within 15 seconds I’m off to begin my run or ride.

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Maps display your route in the Polar Flow App

The buttons are easy to use and feel sturdier than the RC3 GPS. The band is comfortable and the watch face is easy to read. I have a small wrist and I find the V800 fits me comfortably and I often forget that it’s on my wrist after my workouts.

So far I have used it mainly for running and cycling. On your Polar Flow sport profiles page you can set up what you data you want to view. Distance, average distance, time of day, Heart rate or all four.

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Easily set up what you want to see on your watch inside the Polar Flow Sports Profile settings.

The best thing I love about the Polar v800 is the watch gestures. With each sport profile you can set up a unique gestures. For example, as it’s getting dark earlier I found I was hitting the light button more often. I went into the gestures and set the running profile up so if I tape the watch face the light will come on.

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Heart touch is another great feature where you simply bring your device close to your rate monitor in order to activate one of the gestures.

The Polar Flow App is where the magic really happens. I’m both impatient and efficient. In my Ultimate Hydration pack I’ll carry my phone for both emergency and picture opportunities. Instead of waiting to get back to my place and plug my watch into my computer, I simply hit the back button on the watch and it will sync to the phone app. It’s efficient use of my cool down walk from the bottom of my street to my apartment.

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Easily Sync data from the watch to your phone app in seconds.

Polar came out with the Polar Loop activity tracker. This is a great tool for just about anybody and everybody. It sets a daily goal for you and lets you know when and if you reach it. With the Polar V800 you get both a GPS watch and an activity tracker in one. As I sit at my desk and work on my computer, I will get notifications telling me I haven’t moved in the last two hours and that I should to promote healthy circulation. I’m a sometimes sleepwalker and both the v800 and the Loop shows me if I had any excessive movement while sleeping. This is great data for me during peak training periods to know if I’m getting the rest I need to recover.

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The Polar Loop – now in NEW colours!

Everyday I discover a new reason to love this watch. Recently, I dove into the maps section. At the moment of writing this, I can favourite one of my routes and it will show up on my watch under the favourite setting. Once I go back to that route, it will navigate me through the directions so I can repeat the same route and not get lost. There are rumours’ the next update will allow me to upload maps to my profile and I will be able to try other people’s routes.

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Easily add and name your favourite routes.

For the Strava users, there is a way! At the moment you can export you training session and then upload the .GPX file to Strava. It’s a simple two-step process and one I don’t mind at all. If Polar updates the watch to directly upload to Strava that will just be the cherry on the cake.

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Export your route or training session and easily upload to Strava.

What’s next for Polar? The M400 white version is expected to hit markets in November. Some European web stores are already selling it. The M400 is a runner’s dream watch with all the sports specific features I have come to love in the V800.

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The future! The Polar M400 is coming soon!

Next Week on Wear Test Wednesday I’m getting ready for cooler temperatures with Buff Canada. I will tell you why you want one, how to wear one and where to get them!

Motivation Monday – 7 Weeks to Go: I’m running a F**king ULTRA

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My previous week of training was probably the most challenging week I’ve had – EVER. Moving into a build week, I was faced with double workouts for 5 of the 7 days. That’s 12 workouts in 7 days for anyone who doesn’t want to think too much on a Monday morning. I also still managed to squeeze in a few bike rides increasing doubles to triples. This might sound to some like I’m bragging, but I’m not. I went into this week as any other week, excited by the challenge and even more motivated than ever before. Everyone who spends hours training alone knows the thoughts and ideas that come to the surface while your feet pitter patter along the pavement. It was Tuesday morning, the word ultra kept rising to surface and the internal conversation kept telling me I was training for an ultra. I WAS TRAINING FOR AN ULTRA! Worse, I convinced my best friend to train for an ULTRA! I phoned my friend that afternoon and told her, it had just occurred to me that I’m actually going to be doing an ULTRA, it was no longer a 50miler, it’s a F**king ULTRA! We laughed hysterically and then I had to go do another run.

Last week was tougher than I ultimately expected and in turn it made me stronger. There are some amazing mentions for my motivation Monday post. Some big stars in this post so I hope you’ll Google them and learn more about who and what they do as well.

  1. Kilian Jornet: He is the king of running in my books. He is a master of the mountains. He is the Flash in real life. I was extremely lucky to have not only met last year in San Francisco but to also run several km’s with him and his girlfriend. I got to see the magic live that I’d witnessed watching all his videos. He is so fast he would scoot up ahead and his tiny body would disappear and eventually I would see him standing still looking at the scenery waiting for his girlfriend to catch up so he could continue to pace her. After the race, he spoke to me and told me I was a very strong runner and was impressed with my win. Kilian told ME I’m a strong runner. I died and went to heaven that day.

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    Kilian Jornet

  2. Emelie Forsberg: An amazing runner in her own right, and bringing life the budding sport of Skyrunning. She is also Kilian’s girlfriend. The two of them post the most amazing pictures of their running adventures. Her philosophy on running is simple. She doesn’t train she just moves. I spent a great deal of time this summer, using that sentence to rehab my injury. I knew I would come back stronger, if I let the idea of training go and just keep moving in any matter that would only put me further ahead and not further behind.

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    Emelie Forsberg

  3. Anna Frost: Another amazing runner. A woman who went through what I had gone through with anxiety and pressure and over training. I also got to meet her last year. She was humble, shy but friendly. She was at that point, coming out the other end of her bad place and it was clear she was still mending. I have since watched her documentary and learned from her a great deal about balancing your love for running and your love for yourself.

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    Anna Frost

  4. Paula Radcliffe: My absolute hero. I read her bio many years ago. Her early days of running were very similar to my early days. Affected with asthma at an early age, she struggled with how to manage it and still went on to be the fastest female marathoner. She’s has been a runner who has been burdened with immense pressure from her country and the world. Just when the world was ready to give up on her, this September she marked her return to racing and will attempt another marathon. She is tough as nails and I’m excited to see her return.

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    Paula Radcliffe winning the NYC Marathon

  5. This one I wanted to save for last. Patrick Elliot is a great guy to have in your corner. We’ve known of each other for a while, did Cyclocross practice together, but we didn’t really chatted much. After my first cross race I came to the tent and was immediately verbally attacked about why I didn’t podium or ride harder. I took him with a grain of salt, and carried on with my list of excuses. I didn’t even get to the good ones and he’d cut me off and said, “I didn’t figure you for the type of person who made excuses”. That was now stuck in my head forever! But he was right. I have never made excuses. I have battled with asthma, chronic bronchitis, sleep apnea and anemia, all things that work against any athlete. So on my hardest week of all it was the voice in my head “no excuses” that got me through.
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    Patrick at More Cowbell Cross Race. Mr. No excuses

    This week will be much easier with some pre marathon rest days. I’m running the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon as part of my training for this ultra. I’m going out easy to test both legs and mind. See you all next Sunday. Take your taper seriously.

Wear Test Wednesday – Shock Absorber HRM Sports Bra.

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What it looks like to shower post-run and not thinking you have chafed.

ULTIMATE RUN BRA HRM

For many years I have gone sans heart rate monitor because of the awful chafing that usually results. No matter how much body glide I apply, the post run shower is like a scene from a horror movie.

There is a reason why most HRM strap chafes more for the ladies . For us women we have to wear a sports bra and then shove the heart rate monitor under the bra strap, where the ideal connection occurs. This will create the perfect storm for a chafing situation. A tiny amount of bounce and you will lose skin.

I just stayed away from the whole scene. Knowing my heart rate wasn’t worth the lifelong scars especially after seeing my friend Clare’s scars. However, knowing your heart rate for specific workouts is important feedback to understand your current fitness levels. Did you know … small changes in your heart rate could also alert you to an on-coming cold or flu.

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Heart Rate monitoring will help you train smarter and healthier.

Shock Absorber came to my rescue this summer and launched a sports bra that also is a heart rate monitor. It’s 2014, I have no idea why it took anyone this long to make this product. It’s brilliant and with a proper fit, it will reduce or completely eliminate chafing.

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The Ultimate Run HRM bra.

For many years Shock Absorber has been my favourite sports bra. It offers the Infinity-8 support system, which counteracts the breasts’ figure-of-eight movement during running. All Shock Absorber sports bras are designed specifically for runners, the award-winning Ultimate RUN bra reduces bounce by up to 78%* and provides ultimate friction-free comfort.

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The infinity 8 strap design.

Girls, we know how painful the cold can be for us up top? Shock Absorber also thought of a solution. With the regular ultimate run bra, you get all the fit and comfort of their bras but with an extra wind layer to protect from that painful cold nipple syndrome.

http://www.shockabsorber.ca/en/products/ultimate-range/ultimate-run-bra/

Fun Facts about women and our breasts!

Shock Absorber ultimate run bra HRM is compatible with Garmin and Polar connectors. Washing is just the same as any other sports bra, just make sure you remove your heart rate monitor first. If you are looking for a sports bra with more, I highly recommend getting this heart rate monitor bra. Chafing will become just a bad memory and with some vitamin E cream you can hopefully make the scars vanish as well.

Next week on Wear Test Wednesday – The Polar V800 and the Loop. It’s the watch the just keeps getting better.