Salomon XA PRO 3D 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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One of the growing categories seems to be for adventure sports (info on a new Salomon off road shoe below). I guess you can only get excited from running on so many roads. I was reading the other day about a 60k race between Swedish Islands where you swim from one to the next and then run across and repeat. Sounds a bit more challenging and interesting that the London Marathon. I even confess myself to embarking on silly muddy duathlons like the GRIM series in the UK

 

 

——–Press Release Follows ————–

Salomon is celebrating 10 years of its iconic XA Pro 3D with a limited edition version for both men and women. After completely revolutionizing the mountain multi-sport category, and selling over a million pairs, XA Pro 3D remains the shoe that defines mountain sports versatility.  

Between 2003 and 2005, Salomon designers and engineers worked closely with elite adventure racing athletes to develop a shoe that would enable fast movement, running, hiking, scrambling, cycling, over a diverse mountain landscape.  The focus was to provide mid-foot and heel stability, while allowing agility in the forefoot. Through exhaustive testing, they developed the 3D Chassis, a flexible, cushioned plate in the midsole that provides an ideal balance of stability and flexibility for running in rugged terrain. In spring of 2005, the Salomon XA Pro 3D was launched into the global market.

Ten years later, the story has become familiar. XA Pro 3D has become synonymous with active mountain sports. Stable, lightweight, protective and cushioned, it is so loved by mountain athletes of all levels that you cannot visit a mountain town anywhere in the world without seeing the shoe. Refined and improved over the decade to include waterproof and mid-height versions, XA Pro 3D is still based on the 3D Chassis, a patented design that continues to perform better than the imitators even today.

Today, XA Pro 3D defines the category of mountain multi-sport shoes. Imitated by countless brands but never equalled, XA Pro’s combination of the stable 3D Chassis, all surface Contagrip® Sole, and unmatched fit via Sensifit™ with Quicklace™ continue to deliver performance and style details that are immediately recognized far beyond the mountain athlete community. As developer Fred Cretinon says, “This shoe is so multi-functional that it has extended out of the athlete’s niche. Amateurs have adopted it because it allows them to run short distances, hike, or even just for the sporty look.”

The Limited Edition models have a 10th anniversary tag running along the tongue of the shoe and are available in one exclusive colour way for both men and women. Rrp £100  www.salomon.com

How to Make a Training Schedule for Running That Fits You


Originally posted on Out Running:

runningbooks Some of my many running books.

How I made my schedule in the past:

1. Buy many running books looking for magic tips on how to run.

2. Put running books on shelf in library dedicated to running books.

3. Dust off books (trying to figure out who you lent the missing ones to).

4. Ask your running friends what schedule they are using.

5. Use whichever running friends’ schedule sounds easiest…

So, my approach has kind of worked in the past, but I’m hoping to do a better job this year. I’d like to get a PB in a half marathon this fall. So, I dusted off my running books again. I figured out where the missing one is (it’s okay Tab – I don’t need that one). Then I started looking at the training programs and comparing them to what has worked for me in the past.

I’ve…

View original 748 more words

Withings Pulse Ox O2 Review

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IMG_3670The Withings.com website nicely sums up its own product, the Pulse Ox: “During the day it captures steps, distance walked, elevation climbed and calories burned. At night, it monitors your sleep cycles. And when asked, it measures your heart rate and blood oxygen level.”

If only every company could be so clear it would make everyone’s job of researching and buying products easier!

Now of course companies will then go on to tell you how wonderful their products are and, I guess, that’s my job too for this post – at adding a dash of independence.

Some reviewers will compare a certain product to the best on the market or the best in that segment. That’s fine, I suppose. But normally there is a reason why products are different. Different in features; different in price. I try to find out what sort of person the product is best for (there usually is someone, somewhere) and try to also look at bit more at WHY and HOW it might be useful for athletes or sporty people in general.

So, the Pulse Ox looks interesting. It is marketed to analyse sleep cycles and to measure blood oxygen levels.

For an athlete; you train. That training is a stimulus to change/physical improvement. The change HAPPENS when you are not training and, most probably, when you are sleeping. To recover from a hard training session is not always easy; forget all the fancy food stuffs, quality sleep is the single best way to recover.

And, of course, if you are an athlete then blood oxygen levels are obviously of quite some importance.

REVIEW

OK. Here’s what I’m NOT going to review: steps, distances, elevation gained and calories. Pretty much every vaguely similar product does all of those. Sure the steps will vary from one product to the next but that’s not so important, you just want to track what you do in a consistent fashion over time with one product.

Firstly is this the WINTHINGS O2 or the Ox – I wasn’t so sure at first! It was the O2 and now it’s the Ox.

UNPACKING, AESTHETICS & SETTING UP

The packaging looks nice, the unit looks nice. Better than many. It has the options of wrist wearing and clip-to-the-belt wearing.

The sensor unit itself is designed to be regularly removed from either the wrist or belt mounting option. When removed, you can take blood oxygen (SPO2) or HR measurements as a one-off.

Here are some Withings images depicting ‘typical’ usage. (Nice pictures)

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It comes with a short micro-USB cable and it assume syou will charge it from your PC. Equally the same cable (or another longer ones) can readily be used to link and charge to a USB based plug socket from your mains supply.

Quickly looking at the sensor on the rear the image below also shows the USB cable to give an idea of size. The single sensor takes both readings. When the device is placed back in the cradle the sensor will point to the cradle and will not be in contact with the skin and hence it can ONLY work when removed from the cradle to take HR readings.

IMG_3672

To setup, I created an online account and downloaded an Android app. iOS is good too.

NAVIGATION

Navigation through the device’s menus is simple. Pressing the only button toggles through the menus/display screens. The touchscreen allows some further selections to be made or additional displays to be shown that are in some way linked to the initial screen by sliding them into view.

USAGE

It’s pretty much ‘clip and go’. You wear it and it tracks what you do. No interaction as such is usually required. If you go for a run then it automatically tracks that heightened level of activity.

When, however, you go to sleep/bed you need to enter sleep mode. In the morning automatic detection of ‘waking up’ can be enabled/disabled. For a variety of reasons that I won’t go though again, that is a reasonable approach to adopt. It is not properly possible for smart devices to REALLY detect sleep, despite claims to the contrary by some vendors I’ve yet to see a product that correctly tracks the entire sleep duration for me. so it makes sense to tell a device that ‘I’m trying to go to sleep now’.

Similarly when you want to take a HR/SPO2 reading you have to specifically tell the device to do that. Again that’s reasonable.

There is no continuous monitoring of HR when running.

The device is not waterproof and you should avoid submerging it in water.

I took some photos of the various screens and displays but I will use those from Withings to give you a flavour – as they are better than mine ! The O2/ Ox has all the usual step/altitude/distance/calories/time information that you will probably need.

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Having played with the device for a few days my usage scenario (ideal for me) kept coming back to this

  1. Use it as a sleep tracker
  2. Use it to take waking HR
  3. Use it to take waking SPO2
  4. Review trends of waking SPO2/HR on smartphone
  5. Review sleep quality trends on smartphone
  6. Use throughout the day uninterrupted as a pedometer
  7. Review steps data in the evening before turning on SLEEP mode.

Here is a flavour of the rather good data on the app or web interface.

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So. In terms of integrating with my sports activity. It didn’t. I used my sports watch alongside the Withiings. The Pulse O2 / Ox is really a general fitness tool rather than a sports training tool.

If you are a Withings person with the weight scale and other home devices (air quality/weight/fat) then the Pule O2 / Ox augments your daily lifestyle tracking very nicely indeed. The O2 / Ox perhaps lacks a fair way behind some other activity trackers (well those that are smart bands) but it more than makes up for that in the quality of the online data/lifestyle platform. In the end, a step is a step – regardless of how you measure it!

Understanding WAKING HR and SPO2

When rested my waking HR will be less than 50bpm and my SPO2 was >98%. Anything below 70bpm or above 95% is fine. More info on interpretation is (here).

SUMMARY: Who is it suited For?

It’s most suited for someone who wants to record their daily steps/activity and general wellness indicators (waking HR/resting HR) and perhaps also someone who wants that as part of a more integrated home environment with other household sensors.

Someone more athletic might be interested, as I was, in the sleep/recovery/SPO2/waking HR metrics. Whilst there are other products that do those metrics equally as well there are FEW that will produce SPO2 data. Athletes should probably consider waking HRV and HR rather than waking HR alone – as such they would benefit from another tool.

But what draws me back to Withings is that the whole experience is good. It all works. It might be limited in a few respects but you plug it in. It’s pretty obvious what you have to do. It takes as little time to play with as you want and so does not interfere with your life…it just works and does a good job.

At less than GBP50.00 (below) it’s easily good value-for-money. A great present for yourself, a kid or your parents. I would say more than that; it is a great gateway product to get you into activity monitoring cheaply. Use it for a year and then see if you  REALLY need to spend more than GBP200.00. Bearing in mind also that >GBP200.00 in a year’s tie will probably buy a lot more than it does now.

Activity Trackers May 3rd 2015 Amazon Price
Basis Peak £169.99 Link
Epson Pulsense PS100 £79.00 Link
Epson Pulsense PS500 £95.70 Link
Fitbit Charge £70.27 Link
Fitbit Charge HR £119.00 Link
FitBit Flex £95.29 Link
Fitbit One £54.99 Link
Fitbit Surge Ultimate £199.00 Link
Fitbit Zip £46.66 Link
Fitbug Orb £38.44 Link
Garmin Forerunner 15 £99.00 Link
Garmin Vivoactive £156.80 Link
Garmin Vivofit £55.83 Link
Garmin Vivofit2 £80.99 Link
Garmin Vivosmart £99.99 Link
Jawbone UP24 £74.99 Link
Jaybird Reign £189.99 Link
Microsoft Band £168.19 Link
Milestone Altitude £25.99 Link
Mio Fuse £107.93 Link
Misfit Shine £59.99 Link
Nike+ Fuelband £69.95 Link
Polar Loop £58.49 Link
Samsung Gear Fit £94.95 Link
sony Mobile SWR10 £27.95 Link
Timex Move x20 £72.80 Link
Withings Pulse £59.71 Link

ex Blue Peter Helen Skelton’s get fit tips

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Karrimor’s Helen Skelton gives some beginner get-fit tips. Lists are often a good read and you sometimes find a gem. I particularly like her idea to flavour water (only because I do it!). Sometimes it’s hard/boring to drink the right quantity of water to properly hydrate and perform. If you go down the isotonic drink route then, that’s fine, but you’re talking a considerable amount of calories and if you are running for less than 45 minutes then water is generally all you need. So flavour it.

Here is Karrimor’s press release, verbatim along with Helen’s tips, verbatim !

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Karrimor girl Helen Skelton reveals her top get fit tips and how it’s up to women to change things for women’s sports, after statistics claim that around 2 million fewer women regularly exercise than men do in Britain. As a result of successful campaigns and strong female role models, Skelton feels like there’s an energy and enthusiasm behind women’s sport that we’ve never seen before. However in order for the disparity for men and women’s sport to be closed, in terms of coverage and sponsorship, women need to go out and support them. Huge audiences gives more reason for people to sponsor it and this will lead to greater participation and more opportunities. “I think really it’s up to women to change things if we care about women’s sport. It’s our responsibility to go and support women’s football, tennis, rugby and other sporting teams. It’s up to us to boost it and support the profile.” Skelton said Skelton is a keen athlete and action girl when she’s not presenting on television. She’s taken part in several marathons, and in 2009 she became only the second women to complete the 78-mile Namibian ultra-marathon. Here is her list of fundamental tips to enjoying getting fit.

Skelton’s top exercise tips – Enlist a friend – Mix it up, change your routine – Jog with your dog – Log your progress and challenge yourself – Be safe and make yourself visible – Flavour your water “If you want to get fit and you’re new to exercise, enlist a friend. I can go for a walk for an hour and a half with my friend and we don’t feel like we’ve exercised or burned any calories, even though we have.” “People say to me, ‘what do you do for exercise’? Well I have no routine, I just mix it up. So one week we’ll all go to Zumba, one week we’ll all go to body bump, then yoga and so on. “Get a dog because you have to go out walking every single day and you don’t feel like you’re exercising because it’s fun, you’ve got good company and its very sociable because you talk to other dog walkers. Skelton expressed how useful the Karrimor app is to keeping herself fit, “It’s really rewarding seeing it logged in an app; showing what you’ve done or how far you’ve been, or how many classes you’ve been to. The Karrimor app gives you a real psychological boost. You’re able to condition yourself to think that you’re in the habit of exercising, so you’ll keep doing it.

“Water is good for you but it’s boring. Karrimor do hydro tablets you can flavour water with, which I think is brilliant.” Skelton’s most important advice when exercising, is to stay safe, especially when running at night, where visibility can be a serious issue. Another vital safety tip is to not run with earphones on, particularly near busy roads. “Being able to run at night safely with the Karrimor reflect kit on is brilliant. I’m a grown woman but my husband and parents wouldn’t like me running without the right kit on because it’s just not safe, but the reflect kit has totally changed that and because of that kit I feel I’m able to run at night safely. “I get really concerned about women who run at night with ear phones in because you cannot hear traffic due to the loud music, you lose one of your senses. So if I’m anywhere near a road or junctions or whatever, I never have earphones in.” Maintaining regular exercise is what’s most difficult, Skelton stated how over complicating exercise will have a hindrance on performance.

“Don’t talk yourself out of doing things, quite often when it comes to fitness and challenges, ignorance can be bliss. If you overthink a marathon and constantly think about how hard it’s going to be, you’ll talk yourself out of doing it.

“The reality is if you don’t over think it you’ll just crack on and think, ‘right I’ll do a bit of training’, you’ll get the right kit, you’ll keep at it and then before you know it, you’ll be at the finish line.” Karrimor provides all essential running kit and Skelton commented on how fantastic the running shoes are, “The D30 technology in the trainers is having a positive effect and for that reason I keep wearing them. I know that the D30 is going to cushion the impact. I’m now definitely a Karrimor running trainer girl.” To get all the essential and affordable Karrimor running kit at a price no other brand can match, visit http://www.karrimor.com/.

The effect of temperature on running – adidas Climachill

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adidas climachillWell, the season for moaning about how cold it is is over and it will soon be time to start saying it’s too hot. Running at an ambient temperature above 16 degrees apparently slows you down if you look at the various running calculators.

Let’s say you did a 20:01 5k last weekend and it was 16 degrees. This weekend it’s going to be 18 degrees. the following table is sobering reading. You actually have to run the effort that is equivalent to about 10 seconds faster than last week in order to go under 20 minutes.

Temperature 16° c 18° c 21° c 24° c
Adjusted Time 0:20:00 0:20:09 0:20:18 0:20:27
Adj Pace / km 4:00 4:02 4:04 4:05

If you are wearing a thick cotton top the situation is probably worse. Hopefully this illustrates the importance of a ‘proper’ running top that keeps you as cool as possible.

The new adidas range should do nicely. CLIMACHILL.

Here’s a recent press release from adidas, verbatim.

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adidas launches its new SS15 Climachill range of temperature-control sportswear, ready for the summer season. Climachill is adidas’ most advanced cooling technology ever, promising to keep the wearer up to 36% cooler than previous adidas clothing.

The SS15 colourway is a departure from the norm, offering a sleek, all-black look that still keeps the wearer cooler than ever – even in the height of summer.

Thanks to its cutting edge instant cool sensation, advanced breathability and supreme heat and moisture transfer capabilities, the range keeps body temperatures under control even in the hottest conditions. The technology enables athletes of all levels to train harder, run longer and stay focused, enhancing performance whether in training or in the intensity of competition.

The adidas Climachill range has been revolutionary in active cooling technology due to its uniquely engineered design profile: industry-first 3D aluminum-cooling spheres are strategically located on the back and neck to correspond with the warmest area of the body, and provide an instant cooling sensation on contact. A micro fibre fabric allows the garment to act like mesh and transports excess moisture away from your skin. The revolutionary SubZero flat yarn contains titanium and maximises surface contact with skin, transferring more heat away from the body.

Real Madrid FC, Champions League winning footballer Gareth Bale commented on the new member of the Climachill range: ‘Moving from England to Spain meant getting used to a different country, culture, language and of course playing in warmer weather. adidas’ cooling technology regulates my temperature and releases excess moisture from my body, enabling me to perform at my best even in hot conditions. The new black training t-shirt is the perfect example of sports apparel that looks cool and keeps you cool.’

Dr Maarten Hupperets, Director Future Sport Science at adidas explained why it is important to consider body temperature during working out: Activity in high ambient temperatures offers a particular challenge to the human thermoregulatory system. Humans strive to maintain a stable body core temperature of about 37°C. In response to exercise, as metabolic demand and heat production increases, the body core temperature can increase up to 3°C in warm ambient conditions. To maintain a stable body core temperature, the human body will make efforts to lose excess heat. Climachill has been rigorously tested in our state-of-the-art Clima chamber as high as 122°F/50 degree Celsius exactly to find the best possible answer to facilitate body cooling. We are confident that our innovation and coolest t-shirt ever helps athletes of every level keep at their peak optimum temperature to perform at their best in any conditions’.

The new range includes tees, tanks and shorts, designed for training, running, football, tennis and cycling. It is available now from £18 at www.adidas.co.uk and in selected retailers nationwide.

Garmin Forerunner 930XT / 925XT (FENIX4) For 2015 – Opinion

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Not the Garmin 925XT – It’s the SWIM

The recent (May 2015) partnership announcement between MIO Global and Garmin brought Optical HR into the first Garmin Forerunner GPS watch – the Forerunner 225. This is BAD news for the likes of Epson, adidas and TomTom who, perhaps, have had recent sales buoyed by their generally good optical HR offerings – I suspect (but don’t know) that both adidas and Epson have a triathlon watch in the offing and also that TomTom might further improve their existing triathlon offering.

The sports GPS watch world *IS* going optical. Where does that leave us with the future incarnations of the Garmin Forerunner 920XT and the future incarnations of the FENIX3 by the same token? It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. It’s also a question of ‘what else will be added’.

Read this article as equally applying for a FENIX4.

The second half of 2015 is going to be an exciting year for runners and triathletes who love their gadgets or reading about somebody else’s. I’m pretty sure there will be a slew of products. Starting with the Garmin Forerunner 630 sometime soon (the 2-year cycle and Garmin’s quarterly reporting cycle dictates one is due around September/October 2015). There might be a Garmin 925XT/930XT, a FENIX4 and there might be new TomTom MULTISPORTs, adidas SMART RUN / SMART TRI, and an Epson RUNSENSE / TRISENSE. And that’s ignoring the possibility of a Suunto AMBIT 4 as soon as July 2015 !

A review of the Garmin Forerunner 925XT / 930XT requires one thing. A watch! So, just for the avoidance of doubt: I have not got one; it may or may not exist; it may or may not be planned; no-one at Garmin has told me about one as they are forbidden to release market sensitive information before the financial markets. External reviewers close to Garmin and other suppliers are probably legally restricted by Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) for the same reason.

So please read on if you want to. This is just an opinion piece and a bit of fun.

Having said that I predict there will be a successor to the Garmin Forerunner 920XT on general release in Spring 2016 – announced sooner.

I think what you are about to read will be broadly correct. You might want to check back to a similar piece I wrote when we triathletes owned 910XTs and just dreamed of the 920XT. (Here) are my pre-announcement opinions of the 920XT – and you might also want to consider my opinions of the Garmin Forerunner 625 / 630 runner’s watch – or not!

This article/opinion piece IS NOT SOLELY about whether Garmin will introduce optical HR to the 920XT – it just starts out that way and then moves on.

Rationale:

Garmin have got a whopping stockpile of cash, some $18bn I believe, they are a tech-focused company and will only prosper with continued investment in R&D in new products. They simply HAVE TO innovate in the outdoors and fitness and wearables markets to survive and prosper. It’s their raison d’être (yes I do own a thesaurus).

September 2014 marked the release of the Forerunner 920XT and the FENIX3 came soon after in January 2015. The FENIX3 came out a mere 12 months after the FENIX2.

Whilst the Forerunner 225, and the MIO Global partnership that underpins that, was announced in May 2015 the agreement would have been signed MANY months previously – at least as far back as early 2014. Would all that time have been spent developing one product? (Forerunner 225) You know the answer!

Do stock markets prefer companies to make money NOW or ‘a bit later in the future’. You know the answer!

Operating income (profit) is growing in Garmin’s fitness product areas. Business rationale would want to continue that growth.

GARMIN-revenue-profit

Fitness Sector Gives More Profit Year On Year

Is implementing optical HR (from a pre-built external unit by MIO) really THAT difficult? Any more so than integrating WIFI or BTLE capability? I wouldn’t have thought so.

So the 2-year product cycle would dictate a 925XT / 930XT announcement in September 2016. However look at the FENIX2/3 release dates – a year apart like the Suunto AMBIT2/3 release dates funnily enough. Look at the Forerunner 225 incorporating optical HR. Look at the need to leverage the MIO Global partnership. Look at the financial imperative from investors and that 16 month wait might become shortened somewhat.

Look at this chart, respectively showing 620, FENIX2 and 920XT announcement dates. Consider also the recent share price slide (Strength of US$?). Not sure how that relates to the market/sector but I think not too well. NEW PRODUCT REVENUES NEEDED!!

GARMIN-STOCK

Shows the financial imperative to release new products ASAP

Garmin.com Quote from earnings call Q1.2015 (http://www8.garmin.com/aboutGarmin/invRelations/reports/Q12015_Earnings_Call_Transcript.pdf) : “Fitness has been an exciting growth driver for our business in recent quarters and we believe there are more opportunities to capture. We are well-positioned with our current product breadth and depth, and will continue to invest for future growth and expansion.”

Also from the same Garmin.com source:

“Beginning with the fitness segment, revenue grew 31% on a year-over-year basis with strong contributions from activity trackers, multisport and cycling products. We delivered gross and operating margins of 63% and 26% respectively. Operating margin was lower on a year-over-year basis, reflecting an increase in R&D and advertising investments during the quarter, as planned. As you are aware, the fitness market is highly competitive, and thus requires additional R&D investments in order to bring innovations to market faster.

Arguments against an impending release/announcement:

  • A triathlon watch is feature-full and complex. It took 3 years to get from the 910XT to the 920XT. Why only one year to the 925XT/930XT?
  • Garmin may be nervous about optical HR. Indeed they may have tried themselves and failed – hence having to partner with MIO. As a result they might approach this technology with caution with just the running watches as a testbed (One of dcrainmaker’s comments said a similar thing). Companies really do want to sell products and not continually have to replace them for free!
  • Optical technology has its problems. These problems will be magnified in water. Garmin won’t want products that don’t always work and create bad feelings in the user base – any more than ‘necessary’.
  • There are still products like the EPIX to hit the streets (mountains!).
  • Maybe there really hasn’t been enough time for a limited R&D team to implement new technology?
  • Personally I would discount most of these arguments. Money talks. Triathlon and Running are globally growing pastimes/sports. It’s a big world. It’s a lot of money.

Products tend to come out ‘a bit’ before Christmas or ‘a bit’ before the outdoor sporty season gets underway in the Northern Hemisphere. So we are looking at September 2015 or soon after January 1st.

My prediction is for an announcement in Q1.2016 with a Spring 2016 general release

FORM FACTOR

Form factor is what a product looks like – its ‘shape’. We know that the Forerunner Multisport watches are rectangular/square and that the and FENIX range are circular. That won’t change.

This great clickable image from zitasport.com shows progression of the various watches over time – needs the 225 and Approach adding please Javier.

TimelineGarmin[1]

You can see from the 310XT and 910XT that the newer 920XT product was notably different in appearance whilst still remaining a rectangular-display. So do we get a very similar form factor with the 925XT (compare the Forerunner 225 to the visually similar Forerunner 220) OR do we get a more noticeable change as we have done so far through all the multisport iterations?

My prediction for the Forerunner 925 / 930’s FORM would be that it would be a natural progression, different to the 920XT but more similar to the 920XT than the  920XT was to the 910XT.  So we are still left with:

It will continue to be a lightweight, rectangular-display GPS watch with 6 buttons, a colour screen and optical HR to the rear. It will be visually similar to the 920XT.

Nothing too controversial there, I think.

AESTHETICS

The 620 and 920 were treated with aesthetic disdain by many people on the various forums. That disdain boils down to the colour scheme! I would imagine that Garmin have learnt their lesson over those 2 or so years of criticism and would at least look towards something more monochromatic like the Epix the Fenix3 or the 910XT – all of which, IMHO, are pleasing to my eye.

Garmin-Forerunner-225

Garmin-Forerunner-225

Then again the May 2015-announced Forerunner 225 (image to the right) shows a strong similarity to the 220 so maybe the 925 / 930 will be more like either the 920XT? that would be easier to accomplish and speed up development.

They may also learn a trick or two from Apple and Suunto with a later introduction of premium-aesthetic forms over summer 2016. Perhaps not a gold-plated model (Apple Watch), that would be silly, but something could be done with interchangeable straps or dedicated IQ watch faces to better enable it to be a day-to-day watch for the masses.

Better colour options to enable it to be a better day-to-day watch and a bit chunkier to accommodate the optical HR unit

Although now I’m not so sure. I was just asked to contribute to a POLAR survey about new colours for the beautiful-as-it-is V800. Colours?! maybe I’m out of touch?

CONNECTIVITY and COMMUNICATIONS

More of the same too here I’m afraid. It will still be ANT+ only for sensor support. It will not support BTLE sensors directly (without the aid of a BRIDGE). It will still allow uploads/comms through both WIFI and BLUETOOTH over your home network and/or to your smartphone. You will also get GLONASS just like the FENIX3 and 920XT.

Sorry, it’s just the existing GLONASS+GPS and BTLE(out) and ANT+ that you’ll get.

THE SCREEN + ALERTS

The multisport glass screens have always felt great to me. This was probably all part of making it creditably super-light. Garmin will want to continue with the 920’s day-to-day watch ability. It might have a touch screen BUT I think it will be a better, tougher glass with much better screen display with better colours and resolution. It will need the resolution and vibrancy to LOOK like a great day-to-day watch (when a decent IQ watch face is downloaded) and this is certainly possible as we have seen with the Apple Watch and even the Samsung Gear Fit.

A noticeably better, vibrant and tougher screen with slightly improved resolution

Perhaps too, like the Apple Watch, innovation might come through a less expected route such as an EVEN better screen than I’ve imagined that can allow different kinds of taps and gestures (eg a tap vs. a firm press). Perhaps, like the Apple Watch, different levels and types of alerts will be felt with different kinds of vibrations or heard with different kinds of audible tones. Perhaps? Perhaps not? I think ‘perhaps NOT is most likely.

CUSTOMISABILITY

I’ve mentioned IQ a few ties. This is Garmin’s APP STORE. You can download lots of clever stuff, including stuff that changes the display. IQ will bring whatever IQ will bring and that will all come to the 930XT / 925XT.

IQ WILL be supported by the 925XT / 930XT.

CHIPSET

I don’t profess to know or care much about the chip that is inside the device. There will be a better one inside (the chipset in a 920XT is: Media Tek MT3333). A better one will make the 925XT / 930XT faster than ever and able to cope with some of the rigours that errant IQ apps may place on the device as well as handling the demands of the optical HR unit – all of which will then slow it down!

Will be better (Earth-shattering predictions abound).

CHEST STRAP

Well the chest strap for the 925XT / 930XT is already released. Here’s a picture and (here) is a bit more information on the straps.

630's new HRM-RUN strap

Just to be clear though. It’s just a new strap and new product codes exist, for example, for the 920XT which allow you to purchase the strap bundled with a 920XT. It’s not really, therefore, ear-marked specifically for an impending 630 or 925XT or 930XT announcement. You can buy one in the Garmin store, I’ve got one. AFAIK It’s the same HRM-RUN pod that you get with the existing 620 but on a new strap (or you can buy the new strap with the cheaper HRM3 pod instead – shown above).

Whether this strap addresses the HR spike and dropouts that we get with ALL VENDOR’S straps, I don’t know. It could just be a better performing strap that we are looking at rather than one which helps new functionality. Indeed I believe that to be the case.

The strap will not NEED to ship with the 925XT / 930XT as it will have optical HR. There will of course be an option to turn off optical HR (saves battery power) and use a chest strap. Also the chest strap will almost certainly be required to continue to produce the running dynamics data. I don’t think it will be possible to produce running dynamics (other than cadence) from the watch unit itself as the wrist is the wrong position for this. It would have to be on the feet or chest.

Garmin 225 REAR

Garmin 225 REAR

Oh and here’s a picture of the optical HR unit (to the right) that will be in the 925XT / 930XT!! It already exists on the 225. It has a circular rubber seal to stop water and light ingress to the sensor area. As you can see there are 2x LEDs.

Actually this might be changed to have more multicoloured LEDs, more LEDs and/or more sensors – all of which might improve accuracy. This would be a good move for the top-end devices in the Forerunner ranges. But I think not. This is an image of what you will get.

The new strap already exists for the 925XT / 930XT and the optical HR unti will probably be very similar to that in the 225 (and 630).

THE PODs – HR PODs and OTHER PODs

Have a look at cycling dynamics that came with the bike computer that use the GARMIN VECTOR power-meter pedals.

Cycling Dynamic metrics were introduced in two tranches.

We have one set of running metrics already (Vertical Oscillation, Ground Contact Time, Cadence) perhaps there is another tranche waiting to be released onto the running world?

I know for sure that other vendors are actively pursuing new technique metrics for running eg RUNTEQ and AMBIOTEX.

There may be new RUNNING DYNAMICS metrics supplied by an updated HRM-RUN2 pod.

Actually, other sensors could also be developed as a new footpod. But realistically I don’t think that Garmin will want yet another footpod to sell along with a HRM pod.

Then again with cadence being supplied within the watch/HRM-RUN why not introduce a pod that can do something else a bit cleverer? (eg http://www.runteq.com)

Turning briefly to the current 920XT, it is a glaring omission that Heart Rate cannot be recorded underwater like with Polar and Suunto. This HAS to be addressed by either inaccurate and more error-prone wrist-based optical HR straps AND/OR by data caching on the chest strap/pod. Providing the additional option of a caching HRM-RUN pod will be the best option.

Another area of improvement for the POD (which the new strap may have been designed to support) is super-accurate HR readings. I mentioned earlier about AMBIOTEX, they are in beta for a super accurate HR pod which they claim is able to estimate Lactate Threshold Heart Rates (LTHR). Such hardware capability could feed though into a watch that is able to automatically set ‘correct’ heart rate training zones.

Maybe the extra sensors that are clearly on the new HRM strap can be used by a new pod for even more accurate readings? I hope that sort of thing will be introduced but I just don’t think it will.

Manual favouring of footpod speed was removed in the 920XT. This should be re-incorporated in the 930XT.

To keep triathletes/swimmers happy I hope that a new HR pod will cache data but I can’t see it happening as optical HR will be available instead. The new strap will improve reliability but there will be no increased granularity/accuracy per se.

METRICS

New metrics could be added and yes I know that there are plenty-enough already. You can get new ones through IQ but some may be introduced through improvements to RUNNING DYNAMICS, especially if there is a new pod (either HRM pod or foot pod).

Having said that METMAX or EPOC may be introduced as they are used extensively by the partner-company of Garmin – FIRSTBEAT.  As you can see, below, Suunto already do this sort of thing to a degree.

Analysis

The 930XT/925XT will be integrated through HRV enablement into FRISTBEAT ATHLETE software.

Segments? Just as on-device segments have been added to the Edge 810 and Edge 100 cycling computers then so must they be added on running and triathlon watches – just a notification of the start of a favourite segment would be a nod in the right direction.

Other running watches, such as the Epson SF-810, also handle laps within splits (or laps within longer intervals eg 1km autolap within 2×20′ threshold runs). These should be added as well to the 920XT just to give a more complete product offering.

Laps based are both GPS position and time are also needed with the latter much less likely to be added (alerts can be set by time to have a similar effect).

Segments support may be added and laps within intervals should be added. Laps based on position could be added.

However I suspect that the continued innovation in this area will see new methods of displaying existing metrics. Thus the dials that are already available for the running dynamics (and similar ones on the golfing watch, the Approach) will also be avaialble for selected other measures – like on the newly released Forerunner 225 for HR data.

WEIGHT& BATTERY LIFE

Battery life will be improved to accommodate ultra-runners.

A more powerful battery will be necessary to fuel the optical HR and any upgraded processor/GPS chip or higher resolution screen. We have seen the improvements in battery life that are possible with newer models from Garmin as well as the other manufacturers. However I’m not sure that power saving technology or battery technology has improved that much since the 920XT. So I would imagine any gains in this area will be consumed by the optical HR and perhaps also by the fancy new dial-display metrics. However where more battery capacity is REALLY required then more innovative solutions are possible by, for example, incorporating elements of the battery in the strap – I believe the Microsoft BAND does this, it certainly incorporates its optical HR sensor into the strap.

The 920XT is light, the 620 is super-light and the VivoActive is lighter still. I can’t see the 920XT getting lighter. It might get a bit heavier to accommodate a bigger battery and/or the optical HR unit. the optical unit will be on the back and the battery inside the watch!

It will be a heavier

NAVIGATION

Some more enhanced navigation maybe introduced but then this starts to stray the 930XT in the direction of the FENIX3 and EPIX. I recently followed a 50 mile off-road MTB route down and the existing ‘mapping’ that enabled me to follow a pre-determined course was fine. I can’t see that many more currently unmet needs in this respect existing.

Limited token or aesthetic navigational improvements may be introduced, not ‘proper’ maps.

NOTIFICATIONS

This feature will carry over from the 920XT.

Standard ‘TEXT replies to SMS messages’ or ‘TEXT replies to unanswered calls’ features could be implemented as with many activity/smart bands but existing functionality is pretty much where it needs to be for the 925XT/930XT in this respect.

It will have bluetooth, smartphone notifications

ACTIVITY MONITOR

Yes, as with the 920XT.

Possible unseen hardware improvements might make the existing tracker better for example eliminating the “hundreds of steps I do” when driving!

It will be an activity tracker.

SWIM/BIKE – MULTISPOPRT

Some form of token nod could be given to improve canoeing/paddling or rowing or indoor machine compatibility but I ‘m not too fussed about that and neither would be most users.

Allowing manual laps within a multisport could be added, allowing more legs per multisport session could be added. But I’m not convinced too much tinkering will be done here which is a shame.

Nothing earth shattering either outside of triathlon or with what currently constitutes a triathlon/duathlon profile

BIKE-SPECIFIC FUNCTIONALITY

I’m really struggling to see what can be added here that can be handled on a small screen. Di2 integration is already there for example. ‘Proper’ mapping and ‘proper’ segment functionality like the Edge 1000 will be very hard to do well on a small screen.

Perhaps some form of better handling of bike-specific sensors in the sensor pools and linking them to specific bikes or profiles is possible? But I’m clutching at straws here.

No exciting new bike functionality.

SWIM SPECIFIC FUNCTIONALITY

Much improvement here is possible and this could be the selling point of the watch alongside the optical HR.

  1. Enabling of HR whilst in pool mode (already exists in openwater on the 920XT)
  2. Support of optical HR of course
  3. Support of a caching HR pod is possible but less likely given the optical HR
  4. Optical HR will not be HRV -ready. This will still mean that the link to FIRSTBEAT ATHLETE is only for duathlon training and not triathlon training. Which is a bit silly really. UNLESS a caching pod is introduced, this is the only way in the short term to enable HRV in swimming.
  5. Support of swim workouts – Yes
  6. Swim Metronome – Possible but No

This is all fine of course but I suspect not that attractive to many people to make them upgrade from the 920XT.

Significant swim improvements

A NEW RANGE?

The Garmin multisport position is confused. The Epix, Vivoactive and Fenix3 all do similar things. In some cases identical things and you can even use the 620 for a duathlon. The vivoactive is triathlon-light and the Epix is triathlon + mapping adventure. The Fenix and 920XT are essentially the same from a triathlon perspective but in a different aesthetic form.

There could be scope for a 925XT and a 930XT. The former being pretty much as-is for the 920XT but with the addition of Optical HR. Then the 930XT has all the other minor enhancements and an improved swim offering. The pen pushers might see two lots of revenues there but I don’t think swim improvements alone will tempt many to upgrade whereas optical HR might…many women for example. A caching HR pod for swimming might make me upgrade but I suspect I am in a very small minority.

Continued confusion with the Epix/FENIX/VivoActive ranges but just one upgrade to the 920XT itself

PRICING

You can see the trend in the price of the 920XT since launch in the UK.

Clearly this shows the price willing to be paid by early adopters for the initial limited production units available outside the USA. Actually they would probably have paid more. But there obviously, initially, weren’t too many units and hence the fairly rapid decline by >20% over 3-4 months as more units got to the market.

It is clear that the 930XT will be initially priced around £430 with HRM (for running dynamics and as an option).

Prices may, perhaps, even start as high as £450 w/HRM.

And then you would be right to ask how such a price is justified? And how is it justified on the rather limited expansion in the number of features I’ve suggested here, albeit with a major new hardware revamp with the optical HR. Good questions indeed.

So IMHO Garmin NEED to offer something MORE than what is above.

THE DIFFERENTIATORS

I’ve mentioned these differentiators before in other places. My little pet ‘wants’ really. Also with so many features in an already feature packed watch it’s hard to see where materially new differentiators will come from.

1. Power When Running

An ANT+ power sensor FOR RUNNING already exists with STRYD and it ‘sort of’ works if the watch is put in bike mode so that it can receive generic power data. STRYD is to be imminently launched (written May 2015). Should that go well I suspect that Garmin might, just might, include ANT+ POWER SENSOR support. That might sound trivial but don’t forget that all the follow-on power-running metrics need to be added and also then potentially reported on in Garmin Connect. That is a considerable task to merely ‘support’ a 3rd party product.

Maybe the 3rd party manufacturer (STRYD) could implement functionality through IQ?

However should Garmin ever buy such a company then we are talking a different ball game totally and there would be full integration throughout the top end of all running related products.

There won’t be direct ANT+ Power Running Support. Some form of RUN+POWER enablement through IQ may happen.

2. Tests and Recovery Metrics

Fitness protocols or tests could be included with the 930XT / 925XT. Perhaps waking HRV (an IQ app already exists for this), perhaps tests that determine LTHR or that further utilise or refine HR zones through the existing VO2max estimates or through LTHR estimates.

Tests like Polar’s JUMP test could be incorporated as a measure of recovery.

Perhaps just a little more insight than the current ‘RECOVERY TIME 36 HOURS’, or similar, message. Perhaps something like Polar’s slightly more insightful data.

There might be scope for including additional in-exercise recovery metrics. Again, these sorts of things are quite possible with HRV-enablement (which the 930XT WILL have, like the 920XT). So, for example, a 10x 2minute interval session could be specified so that the recovery time in-between reps is automatically adjusted for each repetition based on your fatigue state. And that particular session might also be ended after a particular fatigue state or training effect is achieved.

3. Coached Training – Tailoring Training Load and Daily Sessions

You can already download and follow plans from Garmin Connect. What I am talking about here is different and more dynamic.

If you’ve seen FIRSTBEAT’s ATHLETE software then you will have seen that the training coach does a similar thing to what I have just talked about with the 10x2minute session example (above) EXCEPT that it does it on a day-to-day basis. So it might tell you to do a training effect=3.4 session on Monday BUT depending on how you perform in that session it will make Tuesday either harder or easier. That sort of thing would have to be implemented from the Garmin Connect level and I can’t see it happening unfortunately – I actually use the FIRSTBEAT ATHLETE TRAINING COACH as one of the inputs to MY training FWIW…it’s quite good (example below).

Source: FIRSTBEAT KUVA6

Source: FIRSTBEAT KUVA6

4. Coached Training – Technique

Perhaps something that could be incorporated into the ‘special’ running metrics (VO GTC) is something in Garmin Connect to actually tell you what to do about it. This could equally apply to cycling metrics of course. Currently the general consensus with the existing metrics is that they are ‘nice’ but largely unactionable, with the exception of cadence.

So what I am thinking of here is some form of feedback into your TECHNIQUE training. Maybe you BOUNCE too much. Well Garmin could then point that out to you AND tell you what to do about it (eg drills). This sort of thing might build on new RUNNING DYNAMICS metrics or the recently extended set of CYCLING DYNAMICS METRICS.

SWIMMING DYNAMICS, if you look, are recognised by Garmin Connect. However they are essentially stroke-rate (cadence) related metrics as opposed to the wobble/bounce/twist/reach/catch/etc-related technical aspects of swimming.

Having said all of this I suspect Garmin’s response would be that the data produced by the 3x TRIATHLON DYNAMICS need to be interpreted by YOUR coach and s/he should be the one who tells you what to do about it. That would be a shame as most people do not have one-to-one coaching!

I can’t really see anything new being added around tests, technique- and recovery-feedback.

5. Garmin Patents

I have looked through some Garmin patents (on the net). The only thing that stood out to me were navigational aids when openwater swimming. So you could imagine some kind of feedback device to help steer a course towards the next buoy during a race. This would reduce the need for sighting and would make you faster. Unfortunately you would be disqualified for using such technology and/or would be reliant on getting the buoy position precisely correct in order to be correctly directed to it from the watch’s probably incorrect estimate of where you currently are!!

Nice idea though!

Closing Thoughts

So having got to the end I confess to, once again, coming to the end of this opinion piece without jumping up and down with childlike excitement. Yet I come back to the FACT that Garmin will HAVE to innovate and differentiate their 925XT / 930XT offering from the 920XT. I am 100% certain about that if nothing else (share price!).

Feeling that there is not so much that either can or will be added in terms of firmware/software functionality I am left with the disappointing conclusion that the differentiation will happen almost exclusively through the ‘better’ optical HR hardware from MIO GLOBAL.  Garmin is a technology company after all, so maybe this should not surprise us.

Perhaps there will be an expansion of SWIM capability and perhaps also HR caching on a new chest strap. However the one remaining SMALL hole in the offering will be a lack of HRV/R-R data when swimming.

PREDICTION: A 925XT to include optical HR and maybe swim enablement of optical HR. Followed later by a 930XT to include swim enablement of optical HR, some more swim related goodies a bit more too.

More thoughts on the MICROSOFT BAND

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Microsoft has got it right with the Microsoft BAND. It’s a cutting edge, hi-tech product that works. It’s directly comparable with the Apple Watch – better in some respects, less so in others. The key thing is the 2 day battery life, the Apple Watch will hardly last you from dawn ‘til dusk. For that reason the Apple Watch simply can’t be a ‘proper’ activity tracker as, by definition, it can’t track your daily activity. If, like me, you do a lot of exercise then you realise that quality sleep is fundamental.

IMG_3543Turning from Apple to most of the other competitors in the ‘health & wellness’ market then these other competitors are simply not in the same league. The Microsoft BAND has built-in optical heart rate and GPS. These two ‘simple’ components are fundamental to tracking activity and even more obviously for tracking exercise. Even tracking your heart rate at night is VERY important, IMHO, as your resting heart rate is a great measure of stress and recovery from exercise. Recovery (adaptation) from exercise is fundamental in the effectiveness of that exercise.

The zealots from other manufacturers’ camps can argue all they want to. They’re wrong.

I have never reviewed a Microsoft product before and I own an iPAD.

The BAND does an awful lot of other stuff. I won’t dwell on this here too much as I have already reviewed the MICROSOFT BAND from a sporty/activity perspective (here).

Suffice to say you can do very much of the same things that other manufacturers can do:

  • Everywhere: The BAND seems to work on everything, everywhere. I deliberately tested it on an old Android phone, a 3 year old iPAD and a Windows phone. Simply, it worked on them all. More than that you don’t need ANY of those devices with you. Head off for a run without your mobile phone and all the GPS/speed/pace data is stored on the band. Many other products, if they can even show ‘correct’ speed, rely on the GPS from your smartphone.
  • Productive: When within Bluetooth range of your smartphone it notifies you of text message, emails, calls and calendar items.
  • But prettier: OK the Apple Watch is pretty and some of the other manufacturers have ‘pretty’ devices. But most are not pretty. The Microsoft BAND is pretty. It took me 48 hours to find someone who didn’t like the look of it.
  • And more accurate: Some other devices are accurate, some not. The accuracy of ‘steps’ is probably not so important but my Garmin measures 1000 steps when I drive a hundred or so miles. The BAND does NOT do that, moreover even if I keep my arm still when walking it still correctly records steps.
  • And you won’t get sunburn: It’s got a rather clever inbuilt UV monitor.
  • It differentiates: Tells you your fat burning exercise vs. your higher intensity activity (both are important), it tells you in detail your sleep quality restfulness, number of cycles and more.
  • It can’t do it all. But what can? I like it.

Being Different – Non-Garmin Alternatives

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When buying sports gadgets I suspect that many people are faced with the “choice” ‘what is the most expensive Garmin I can afford?’. Whilst this strategy is generally not a bad one, sometimes it might be good to cast the net a bit wider and be a bit different. Would you have been the person who always bought a Ford?

Here are some alternatives for 2015, below. I would welcome your opinions about why YOU chose something that was not a Garmin when, perhaps, Garmin was the default choice.

RUNNING WATCH:

Don’t fancy a Garmin 620? Then how about

  1. Epson Runsense SF-810 : Quality running watch. Fully featured with good battery and optical HR
  2. Polar M400 – Well featured with a nice aesthetic
  3. TomTom Runner Cardio – Optical HR

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TRIATHLON WATCH:

Don’t fancy a Garmin 920XT or a FENIX3? Then how about

  1. Suunto Ambit 3 Sport – Oozes quality
  2. Polar V800 – Hey good looking.
  3. TomTom Multisport Cardio

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CYCLING WATCH:

Don’t fancy a Garmin Edge 1000? Then how about

  1. Garmin Edge 810 (Sorry)

IMG_3482

SWIM WATCH:

Don’t fancy a Garmin SWIM? Then how about

FINIS Swimsense – Pool only

SMARTWATCH/ACTIVITY TRACKER:

Don’t fancy a Garmin VIVOACTIVE? Then how about

  1. Apple WATCH (love it)
  2. Fitbit Surge

ACTIVITY BAND/ACTIVITY TRACKER:

Don’t fancy a Garmin VIVOFIT or VIVOSMART? Then how about

  1. Microsoft BAND (love it)
Microsoft Band

Microsoft Band

ACTION CAMERA:

Don’t fancy a Garmin VIRB? Then how about

  1. TomTom BANDIT
  2. GoPro Hero4 Black

POWER METER

Don’t fancy a Garmin Vector? Then how about

  1. 4iiii Precision Power Meter

HEART RATE MONITOR / CHEST STRAP

Don’t fancy a Garmin HRM-RUN? Then how about

  1. WAHOO FITNESS TICKR-X (Read link for detailed compatibility of all functions )

OPTICAL HEART RATE MONITOR

Don’t fancy the inbuilt Optical HR on the Garmin Forerunner 225? Then how about

  1. MIO Link (well really it’s the same thing!)

BIKE ACCESSORIES

Don’t fancy the Garmin GSC-10 or the 2014 separate Garmin speed and cadence sensors? Then how about

  1. 4iiii Ride

Running Mystery? What is ZOI?

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Zoi3

Strange orange pods have been appearing on shoes all over Scandinavia.

What is Zoi?

Is Zoi a mirror-image/miss-capitalised version of iOS? Perhaps some Apple-inspired piece of itech wizardry?

Well no. As any of you who have followed this site will know ZOI is RUNTEQ‘s running pods. And before you say “What another cadence meter?” I’d quickly point out that ZOI looks like it will be your new running coach analysing your sways and bumps and then, importantly, telling you what to do about it.

Despite being quite clever, there are a few other start-ups trying to do similar things, one reason I like this is because Zoi is attempting to do more than just tell you how much you bounce or wiggle. The application itself interprets your results and tells you what to do about it. Think about that. It is QUITE different to, for example, Garmin’s Vertical Oscillation or Ground Contact Time or simply Cadence – it TELLS YOU how to correct whatever fault or deficiency Zoi thinks you have.

Whether the Zoi’s advice is correct remains to be seen. However at around GBP100 it could be a great way of getting a personalised run-coach.

If you’ve been training for quite a while you may well have plateaud. One way to climb up off that plateau is to become more efficient through better technique. Zoi beckons.

Shipping Q3.2015

New pool swim training strategy with curranz

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Decided to move up a land on Wednesday night’s swim session. When the going gets tough and all that.

I found the transition to much more intense session easier with #curranz. They just seemed to give me a little extra personal edge to keep going longer when the acid starts to burn! And, as always with curranz, it never seems to hurt so much the next day which is always nice.

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