LVL – First Wearable to Track Hydration

LVL wearable hydration monitor with smartphone
LVL is the first ever wearable to accurately measure hydration in real-time.

I love wearable technology. I follow along with a lot of the changes in the field. But honestly, I’ve felt a little bored over the past year, I wasn’t that excited about anything. The only innovations that have impressed me lately is the introduction of ways to measure mental health/stress level. But the rest have felt like the same old things. LVL changes that. LVL really feels like a fresh and truly innovative entry to what is becoming a crowded market.

The LVL band has:

  • activity tracking
  • sleep tracking
  • heart rate monitoring
  • mood tracking
  • hydration monitor

LVL wearable with black wristband

Activity and sleep tracking is fairly common in wearables these days. Next level ones have continuous heart rate monitoring and a few on the market are starting to include mood/stress tracking. Nobody has the continuous hydration tracking until now. This is a Level Up!

The LVL uses red lights to monitor heart rate and hydration, while most wearables are using green light for wrist bound heart rate tracking. (My Garmin… cough cough) The reason most of them use green lights is due to the fact that they are scientifically simpler, so their profit margins end up higher because they can get them to the market faster and don’t require as much development time. Red light is more common in medical grade products because it can reach 10x deeper into the body and it can read more signals in the body.

LVL wearable sensors showing

 

So why the interest in hydration tracking? LVL was developed by BSX Technologies, whose CEO (Dustin Freckleton) suffered a stroke while in med school due to dehydration. That sparked an interest in helping others understand that people can be pretty bad at recognizing how much they actually need to drink. People who are dehydrated perform worse than those who are hydrated, both at physical tasks and mental tasks. Dehydration affects sleep, weight, recovery… everything. And it is thought that 75% of Americans are walking around dehydrated to some extent.

I’m eager to get my hands on one of these and put it through the paces. BSX just launched their Kickstarter for LVL and it’s already met the goal in one day. I hope the momentum continues. Already people are asking about additional features (smart notifications is one I saw) and those can come with a larger backing fund to work with. But the hydration monitoring is still the key and focus goal.

Person wearing LVL wristband while holding glass of water

And for those of you who are leery of crowdfunding, I get it. I’ve made some poor backing decisions with technology products where the end result was very late and not well made. But BSX has been through crowdfunding before with their BSXinsight, a lactate threshold monitor that is being used by pros and high-level athletes all over now. They came through on that campaign perfectly and all of my interactions with the company have been very positive. Not only do they have the medical training and knowledge, they have the sport-athletic background because they are athletes themselves. They know how training can drive our lives.

I love how this device and the companion app will give you actionable insight into how you can improve. Messages like, “Drink this much water in the next so many minutes and you’ll feel better.” give the user real direction. And since it uses the red light sensor, it has the potential to expand to measuring other metrics.

Update:
With 37 days to go, LVL’s fundraising is killing it with $430,000+ raised! Their initial goal was $50,000.

Disclaimer: I volunteered to help BSX help spread the word on this campaign because of my past interactions with the company. I truly think they are and will continue to great things in the sports technology arena. All photos in this post came from them, since I don’t have a device to take photos of myself. And even if I did, my photos wouldn’t look this lovely!

 

RoadNoise Long Haul Vest

RoadNoise Long Haul VestThe RoadNoise Long Haul vest combines high-visibility safety, music/audio and hydration to build a complete system for runners, walkers or anyone.

I own the first version of the RoadNoise vest, it’s a reflective vest with built-in speakers so you can listen to music without blocking your ears. It’s a safety two-fer… You get a good reflective vest for maximum visibility and speakers with great sound that don’t block outside noise so you can be aware of the world around you.

The Long Haul vest is an update to that classic model in a few ways. Let’s talk about the core functionality of the changes first… sound. The speakers are higher on the shoulders, positioned more under the ears to improve the sound quality for both runners and cyclists. The pockets where the speakers live repel rain and the speakers themselves are built to be very weather tolerant. (But not submersible… you’re not swimming in this!)

The front pocket where you stash your device is waterproof and large enough to hold the ever-increasing phone sizes. Probably not your iPad though… if you really want to run with an iPad on your chest, think again. 😉 There is also a place to hold the amp/volume control, which improves upon your sound quality but also allows you to adjust the volume by just pushing on the front of the vest. It’s pretty easy to use.

RoadNoise Long Haul vest pockets

This version adds in pockets. And some pockets. And some pockets. There’s so much space to carry all the little things you may want to carry during a long or short run. You’ve got pockets that can hold soft flasks or gel flasks, and smaller ones to hold gels, or chews, or salt tabs, or blinking lights…

RoadNoise Long Haul Vest ( front of vest)
Photo from RoadNoise.com

And if the pockets on the front of the RoadNoise vest aren’t enough, there are more on the back. There is a large pocket that can hold a hydration bladder and more small pockets to hold blinky lights or chapstick or random toys your child hands you. Then if that isn’t enough, there is a detachable large pocket that hooks onto the back so you can carry even more. And the detachable pocket has a big reflective area, so you’re increasing visibility even more!

RoadNoise Long Haul vest - back view
Photo from RoadNoise.com

There are loops at the shoulders to guide a hydration tube and a little magnetic clasp to hold your drink valve/tube in place. Tip: Fill the bladder with water, put it in the vest and put the vest on. Measure where you need the tube/mouthpiece to line up and trim the tube, unless you like excess tubing flapping around.

RoadNoise Long Haul vest hydration tube magnet

The vest comes in 3 sizes (Ex-small/Small, Medium/Large, X-Large/XX-Large) and within the size the vest is pretty adjustable. The bungee cord on the back can be changed to make things fit how you like. The vest is put on by putting it over your head and hooking the little clasps on each side. When the clasps are hooked, you can tighten/loosen things up to get a personalized fit.

RoadNoise Long Haul Vest side clasp

It costs $125 fully-loaded with 2 soft flasks and a 1-liter hydration bladder, but you can pre-order it right now and get it for $100. The regular version of the vest will sell for $90 and comes with 1 soft flask, but pre-order this month and it will cost $72. (Pre-Sale Pricing is available through September 23, 2016.)

I’m honestly super-impressed with this update. There are vests marketed toward ultra runners that have many similar functions in terms of pockets at a higher price. But they aren’t as reflective nor do they include the speakers. This is a great product and I fully endorse it. And I feel it’s the perfect thing for relay races. This past July I ran a Ragnar and kind of wish I had the RoadNoise Long Haul vest then. My night leg was 9.8 miles and it would have been nice to carry my water in the vest and have a place for a flashlight. (I wore my old RoadNoise vest with a flashlight in the front pocket when I didn’t want to hold it. I carried a handheld water bottle.)

ShinTekk – Strengthen the Lower Leg to Prevent Injury

shintekk-foot.jpg
Shin splints seem to be dreaded by a lot of people in the running community. Either they say “I’ve tried to start running and I immediately got shin splints” or the fear keeps them from running at all. (I’ve had people I coached tell me they’d rather just walk because they don’t want to end up with shin splints.) So the fear is real for many. But frequently the issue can be fixed and prevented with some strengthening in the lower leg. Targeting those muscles is the hard part. But the ShinTekk is a solution for that, it can help work all those muscle groups in the lower leg that can be the cause of injuries such as shin splints or ankle sprains.

(FTC disclosure: ShinTekk was sent to me for free to test and review. Opinions are always my own!)

So, how does it work? It’s super simple… you apply a tension band, slip your foot under the bar and lift your toe. That small action engages the muscles that aren’t worked as often as the others in our leg yet are important in keeping our whole body functioning. The human body is truly extraordinary, it works together in such great harmony but it will also try to compensate if one area is weaker. And when those compensations start to occur, that’s when injury can reveal it self.

You can use the ShinTekk while you watch TV, while in the office, pretty much anywhere you have a few minutes to sit and stand. Lift your toe, repeat. Lift your toe,  hold, repeat. Switch legs. Those are the basic moves needed to use the ShinTekk and they’re pretty easy to master. The tension bands are where you can start to progress and improve.

shintekk-tension.jpg

The lighter bands are for rehabilitation purposes, if you’re already injured and you are experiencing shin splints or ankle weakness. The stronger bands are for performance and advanced training. This can be used for prevention of shin splints in those who are prone, but also for anyone looking to improve their running performance. ShinTekk provides example workouts for the various users of the product… or for those who wish to work through the entire process of rehab to performance.

The lifting/lower motion of with your toes is called dorsiflexion and that is an important part of the running phase. Your foot needs to be flexible, your legs need to be strong and you need to be running in a smooth pattern to keep running strong. Going back to the compensation issue mentioned earlier, when we start letting some other muscle do the work for another (and often it’s our big muscles taking over for the small ones) we aren’t working in a smooth, efficient pattern. But when we get those muscles balanced, we are more flexible, more powerful and stronger… which will all translate to being better at our sport.

shintekk.jpg

It’s meant to be a portable package, you can throw it in the backpack and have everything for this setup in a pretty small package. Take it with you on a run and crank out a few reps before/after getting some miles done. (Or if you’re in another sport, take it to the field/court with you.) It’s probably not the most portable for air travel, as it is a stiff plastic thing, so unless you don’t try packing as light as possible (which I do) it’s probably not going to that business conference with you. But maybe it is… You’re call.

The ShinTekk is designed and built in the USA. It came about as an invention of an athlete struggling with the same issues that many of runners do. I respect that they developed this after learning of so many others experiencing the same issues and a desire to help. It has been tested and recommended by coaches and physical therapists as a way to properly build strength in hard-to-target muscles.

There are a range of packages for purchasing a ShinTekk. Starting at $59.95 for the basic starter set up to $89.95 for more bands and the backpack. But you could also buy more bands down the road as needed, so the starter pack is a perfectly legit way to enter this training.

Disclaimer: All reviews are my own opinion, this product was provided free for the purpose of review.

The Inner Runner [Book Review]

The Inner Runner by Jason Karp
This book… this book… The Inner Runner is a really really really good book!

The Inner Runner by Jason R. Karp, PhD is not a technique book. It’s not a training plan book. It’s not going to tell you how to run faster, longer, harder. What it does is tries to tap into the magic that is running and how it can benefit our lives in so many ways.

There are a lot of people who get into running because they want to lose weight, they want to get healthy, they want to achieve some goal on a to do list. But there are a whole host of mental reasons that it sticks for so many of us… I really do believe that it changes us. (As does the author.)

Before I was a runner, I exercised sometimes. Sometimes I didn’t. I didn’t feel particularly vehemently about either way. But when I started to run, and I mean really run (running regularly and scheduling it into my life), I started to feel better about things. It was something I did for myself, but it also connected me to my community more. It taught me that I was physically stronger than I thought and it could give me a euphoric high that nothing else could rival.

But running is powerful and it can bring me to really deep lows too. Injuries that prevent me from being able to run can bring on heartbreak. Since becoming a parent, the stress I feel about fitting things for me personally into my life is overwhelming. It probably means I need to include more of that self-care time, but in reality I’ve whittled it down to a bare minimum and the stress actually makes me so ill I can’t run at times, which then gives me more anxiety. Like I said, running has strength and power and that power can be used for good and evil.

There is a chapter called “Better Runs” that really resonated with me… basically it mentions all the different types of runs and why they are good for our soul/psyche/whatever. Indoor, outdoor, solo, group, morning, night… there is a run for everybody and everybody could benefit from switching up their normal routine to a different kind of run. I’ve been known to say I hate the “dreadmill”, but reading the portion on ways that can be good reminded me of the possibility in all areas.

This is the kind of book that you could probably just pick up off the shelf, randomly flip open and read a paragraph or two to feel some kind of inspiration. But not in a far-out mystical way, just solid good feelings. In fact, if you find the book on the shelves in a store… flip it open and read the very last paragraph. Maybe Dr. Karp should consider getting that paragraph styled into a poster to sell. I’d buy it to hang on the wall in my office.

Disclaimer: All reviews are my own opinion, this product was provided free for the purpose of review.

I received this book for free to review on the site. I always write my own opinions. Following links in this post and then making a purchase will result in a few pennies coming my way as they are affiliate links, and if you do so I thank you.