Pivotal Living Tracker [Review]

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A while back I was sent an activity tracker wristband by Pivotal Living. The coolest thing about this tracker is the price.

$12

Yeah… you read that right. I’m not missing any digits in that. It’s really only $12. (as of this post, at least!) The way it works is you pay the $12 and get: the tracker, charging cable, 12-month membership to Pivotal Living for access to goal setting and motivational tips. The app is free. At the end of your 12-month membership, you have the chance to renew and get the new generation of the tracker band.

The app is kind of the brains behind the unit, so I’ll dig into that first. The dashboard is the first thing you see upon opening the app. It will display your progress in the various areas it tracks, from steps to activity, from sleeping to drinking (water = hydration tracking! ;-) )

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You can tap on the circle items in the dashboard and get more detailed information about each metric. Tapping on sleep will show you a graph of the ups/downs of your sleep overnight, I think the spikes downward are awake moments… which seems a little counter-intuitive to me. But each detailed metric gives you information for that specific day and then the average over the past seven days.

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I don’t track calories or water consumption. So I tried turning those off in the goals, but they still show up on the dashboard. But in the Edit Goals section you can edit your sleep, hydration, activity, steps, weight and calories burned goals. It’s a simple on/off switch and then entering a value.

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Back on the dashboard, you will see a Band entry that shows you your battery status as of the last sync. If you tap on that, the more detailed edits you can make are in terms of steps goal and alarm clocks. You can set a different alarm time for each day of the week and the band will silently vibrate to wake you. There’s even a setting for “Intelligent Awakening” that will wake you during your lightest sleep around your chosen wake time. There is also an activity reminder setting; you can turn this off or have it buzz you at regular intervals to remind you to get up and move.

I loved the vibration for waking, but I wished I could set alarms a little more like the iPhone alarm clock. It would be nice to specify every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday to wake at the same time, instead of having to set the slider for each day individually. Not a big deal, just a little thing that could maybe use a little user interface tweaking. The activity reminder disappointed me, though; I kept trying to set it for a 60-minute reminder. And each time it kept resetting to every 20 minutes. I can’t get up from my desk every 20 minutes. I have meetings, and I think it would look weird to those at the other end of my video conference if I just stood up and started marching in place to tell my tracker I’m active. But I also found it annoying when my wrist started buzzing while I was in meetings too. “Hey, it’s too soon for you to be bugging me! Pipe down!”

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If you have a group of friends who are all using the Pivotal Living app, you can create teams and encourage each other to reach goals.

As for the band itself, it seems pretty well made, and I didn’t have any problems with the clasp seeming loose. The one issue that I did have with it was the size. It’s kind of rigid and doesn’t adjust down enough; my dinky little wrists had extra room on the smallest setting.

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I frequently found the steps tracked to be a couple hundred off from the Garmin vivofit I wore at the same time during my testing phase. I don’t know if this is due to the tracker band being a little big for my wrist or just the nature of the device. However, I don’t think that’s a deal breaker. The reality is for regular tracking, you pick one device and go with it; comparing the day-to-day you gathered from that device, not numbers from different devices on different days.

Also, they recommend on the site you carry your phone with you. It will work in tandem with your phone to create an even more accurate picture, but I set my phone down during the day. When I’ve used phone-based trackers, I start to behave strangely and awkwardly carry my phone when I wouldn’t usually hold it just to make sure I get my steps counted. That’s the beauty of having something you wear… you don’t have to schlep the phone around on your person for every little movement. #amirite?

Overall I think this is a solid little entry into the tracking market, mainly because it has a lot of versatile features for an everyday user. And the price point can’t be beaten! If you’re looking for a tracker without a big entry price, Pivotal Living is a good one. If it weren’t for the large band size, I would say it would be a good one to get a kid playing with those numbers and thinking about activity/movement. And if you get one, decide it’s not for you… you may gift it to someone, and they get a 12-month free membership from that point!

I received the Pivotal Living tracker band and membership free for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received, and this post contains my honest opinions on the device. 

 

Pursuit of a Running Skirt

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Alright… I’ve tried wearing running skirts in the past. I’ve had a few of them:

  • a Brooks skirt way back in 2008. This was before they were so commonplace and I felt like a goon wearing it. Also, the inner shorts rode up really bad and that was annoying!
  • Go Girl Sport skirt, another one with the shorts riding up problem.
  • a Mizuno skirt that I wore, and LOVED, while pregnant, but it stopped fitting after I wasn’t pregnant anymore. Go figure.

But I have decided, for some unknown reason, that I need to try a running skirt again. I guess it stems from the fact that most of my running shorts are pretty old and are showing some wear, I figured I may as well try again. So now I’m looking around at my options… lots to choose from.




Maybe I’ll have to post a skirt face-off…

So please, let me know what kind of skirts, or shorts, you swear by!

Wearable Tech to Manage Pain?!

I work a desk job… I sit at a computer for a lot of hours each day. But since I telecommute, I can usually stand up and do some jumping jacks without anyone as a witness, or I can respond to emails on my laptop while using my FitDesk, or I can use the upstairs bathroom instead of the one on the same floor as my office. Little ways to get some extra movement in to my day. But the past few weeks I’ve been making a lot of drives to work on site, which means a lot of time sitting in the car. And I’m finding my hips getting tight and even a few sore spots. So I foam roll and roll on Yoga Tune-Up balls and do hip opening yoga poses.

In addition to the hip trouble spots, my shoulders are chronically knotted up and I have pain in my wrist from using a mouse all day lately. I feel a little bit like a mess some days!

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So when I heard about the new Cur device, I was really interested. I want to get my hands on one of these… basically it’s a small TENS device, it sends a small current into the muscle to release pain. It’s useful for people with chronic pain, desk jockeys who develop cricks and creaks from being too stationary, or from active individuals who develop cricks and creaks from being active. (Wait a minute… how is this fair? We get problems from moving and NOT moving!) Maybe it’s just that it’s good for people who are aging… and we’re all aging!

I got to ask the CEO, Shaun Rahimi,  a few questions via email about it:

1. How long would the sensor/pads last?
Two weeks.

2. Is it possible for the consumer to mess this up and place it in a way that is harmful?
Cur’s biosensing technology is designed to measure your body and provide accurate settings that can lead to clinically effective results. That said, it’s designed for places below the head, meaning it’s not designed for migraines — just chronic pain like the hips you referred to, low back, etc.

3. Are there any pains that this wouldn’t be usable for?
Migraines/anything above the shoulders

4. Does it communicate with a smartphone? Or is there some other mechanism that controls it? And how does it work if you don’t have wires looped all over you?  
Cur has wireless and smartphone connectivity and a mobile app that allows people to build their own customized treatments for different reasons like rehab, massage, neuroscience, pain and even training for a marathon.

5. How much will this cost?
$299 retail, however for the first 30 days (May 13 – June 13) it will sell for $149!

6. How do people get it?
Cur.me

I also shared the full press release about it over on TheRUNiverse.com. I’m a geek… I’d love to get my hands on one. Or get this on my hands and upper back for some pain relief!

Disclaimer: Why do I feel like I need to write a disclaimer because I wrote a post about a product that I haven’t tried and just find interesting? Because that’s the state of the blogosphere now. Le sigh…

JVC Sport Headphones

If you’ve read my site or social media for any amount of time, you’ve probably picked up that I take issue with runners blocking out the world as they run. And if you haven’t picked up on that… I HATE when people have headphones on and cannot hear the world around them. I have run past people and had them get startled as I passed them because they never heard me coming. I have had runners I coached not even hear me come up behind them, run next to them and start talking to them because they were looking straight down and had on headphones to drown out the world. That’s dangerous… don’t do that!

So when I was given the opportunity to check out a new pair of sport headphones from JVC that have features that help runners listen to their tunes but still be aware of the world, I had to jump on that.

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JVC HA-ETR40 features:

  • A soft, rotating rubber hook that holds them securely in place and
    can be adjusted to get the perfect fit;
  • Waterproof and washable;
  • Two sets of earpieces — conventional that seal out ambient noise (in three sizes) and “open type” (also in three sizes) that allow ambient sounds to be heard so runners can hear the sound of approaching vehicles, etc.;
  • Two-piece cord — Use the short cord if you wear your phone/music player on your arm, and so avoid the hassle of excess cord; use the extension if you carry your phone in your hand or pocket;
  • One-button microphone and remote control

Waterproof and washable are super cool. A remote/microphone is a fantastic feature. Two piece cord so you can have a shorter line when wearing your device on your arm is swell. But I want to focus on the different earpieces…

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I was curious how well the different earpieces would actually work. So I took all the little parts and pieces into my backyard. There is a fairly big road construction project happening just over the wall from my house (will be sooooooo nice when that is done!) and my backyard is fairly noisy right now. It scares my dog.

I put the conventional buds in place, popped them in my ear and turned on music. Sure enough, I didn’t hear much construction noise. So… they’re great at blocking out ambient noise. Then I switched to the open buds, they have little divots around them. And I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I could hear the offending construction noise.

Hanging out in the backyard = don’t want to hear that construction ambiance

Going on a run = necessary to hear the worldly traffic ambiance

Honestly, I was pretty impressed and I’m glad to have these JVC sport headphones as another headphone option in my arsenal of recommendations. Great sound and safety options!

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You can snag a pair for about $35. They come in two color options: red/black and gray/black.

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

Rock My Run Giveaway

Putting a little music to your run can go a long way to improving your performance. If I know I’m feeling a little down, the right music on my run (or during work! or during a drive! or just while hanging out!) can turn my mood around. And sometimes, if I’m going out for a run and know I need to run slower (such as for a recovery effort) I’ll make sure I listen to either slow music or I will listen to a news podcast to hold me back. There are even experts who devote their lives to researching the power of music!

See: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music

Putting your device on shuffle can work, but then you may be running and end up with something really random that is on your phone only because you have a 2-year-old. (Or maybe that’s just me?) And making a custom playlist can be awesome… but it can also be time-consuming. Or that song you just love when making your list is a real downer when you start to run. (I had that moment years back when listening to Maroon 5’s Harder To Breathe. I didn’t need to be reminded that “it’s getting harder and harder to breathe!”)

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Rock My Run has worked out all the kinks so that you can have a “playlist” all built to perfectly mesh together and last your entire run. They build them based upon certain genres and tempos and lengths so there is probably a perfect mix for just about everyone out there. The coolest thing about Rock My Run? It’s a FREE service. FREE! As in…. zero dollars.

That’s pretty sweet, but there is also a premium version, or the Rockstar version, as it’s called. So what do you get if you upgrade? For as low as $2.99 a month you can have access to mixes that are up to 4 hours long, add-free content, continuous play in the app for workouts that are longer than just one mix, etc.

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I played with the app when they first released it, but I hadn’t kept it on my phone since I’m constantly rotating running-related apps in and out of my phone. One of the coolest enhancements they’ve made is the myBeats feature. You can manually change the tempo of a mix to match your running pace. But if you have an iOS device (coming soon to Android) you can use the accelerometer in the device to adjust the mix BPM or you can connect a heart rate monitor to adapt the beat.

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They offer a 7-day free trial of Rockstar status for anyone through the app, but 7 days isn’t that much time… right? So I’ve got a code to get one free month of Rockstar access on Rock My Run: RMR3I

What about a year? Want a year of premium access to Rock My Run? Yes, you do…. I’ve got a year to give away. And it comes with a sweet pair of JLab Audio’s Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds. Just enter via the Rafflecopter widget, the giveaway will run March 3-10.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Red Fox Edge Wireless Headset

Do you use bluetooth headphones? I have tried a couple of pairs but most haven’t “stuck” with me. They are decent enough, but they just don’t work for my lifestyle most of the time.

I was recently sent the Red Fox Edge Wireless Headset to test. They were named the “Best Cordless Headphones” by Runner’s World magazine last year and I was pretty impressed with them.

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The wireless headphones are pretty lightweight and they don’t bounce around. Full disclosure, the first time I paired them I ran around my house and bounced up and down trying to see if they would flop around. I run very scientific tests around these parts! They have an “IPX nano coating” which matters because that gives them protection from sweat and moisture.

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They have a 32 foot range, so you can move about a lot with them on. I listened to a conference call with them on and it was nice to be able to pace around my office and not have to worry about carrying my phone every step of the way too, I could just leave it on my desk and “enjoy” my call.

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I did find that if I had my ponytail in the slightly wrong place then it kind of annoyed me against the back of the headset, that caused it to bounce around! And I would recommend it for indoor exercise over outdoors, just because I’m such a stickler about blocking your ears while running outside.

Also, I haven’t gotten really smooth with the buttons on the side. I sometimes skip tracks when I’m trying to turn the volume up or I activate Siri on accident (but at least I know Siri is very responsive via the Edge Headphones!) but I think with more regular use I’d get better! Practice makes perfect or something. But it’s just not intuitive to me, I have to really think if I was supposed to be tapping on the left or right side of my head to accomplish a task.

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Features include:

  • Built in microphone with single button call answering feature
  • SIRI and Google Voice integration
  • Easy-to-use controls on headset for play/pause and track forward/backward
  • The lithium ion battery provides 9 hours of continuous use and requires only 1 hour to recharge.
  • IPX4 Nano Coating provides sweat and moisture protection
  • Includes a custom case for protective storage

Time will tell if these actually become part of my regular routine. I still need to try talking on them in the car. My car has built-in bluetooth phone controls, but I’ve found the road noise makes conversations difficult so perhaps these would be better. But then, I don’t talk on the phone in the car that often anyway.

Buy on Amazon for $119.99

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

adidas Bra and miCoach HR Monitor

A couple of months back I was sent an adidas heart rate monitor and a miCoach bra from Numetrex. The bra eliminates the need to have a separate heart rate monitor strap wrapped around your chest along with the bra. It sounded great to me.

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The heart rate device hooks into the bra in a little pocket that is on the inside of the bra. It snaps in easily and tucks out of the way. The bra is comfortable and it was supportive for me (small chest, larger chest ladies may need something different). The monitor also came with a strap so you can wear it the more typical way… with a separate strap, unless you wanted to do laundry all the time or wanted to wear the same bra day-in-day-out. (ew…)

It pairs with the miCoach app to track your heart rate.  The app can be used to track GPS for a workout, but I do like that it has the capability to turn off the GPS and just track heart rate monitor. (Or if you don’t have the HR monitor, just track GPS if you’re intersted in that!)

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Here’s the thing I didn’t like about it… to get the HR monitor to pair you have to rub water on the sensors (this is typical with most chest straps) but I didn’t like rubbing water inside the bra, that seemed weird. Also, once I did that it paired effortlessly with the app but I never did get it to pair with my Garmin, via the bra or the strap. I’m not technically inept… but I am impatient when it is 5AM and cold/dark outside and I want to get running.

And honestly, I don’t want to use one more app. I’ll test them out, I love testing and experimenting with new apps, but unless something really blows me away I’m highly doubtful it will become my go-to tracking option for runs.

Also, since I got this right around the time of Ragnar, I got to thinking about putting on a HR monitor during a race like that. With a strap, you can loop it around your waist, hook it up and pull it into place, a little bit discreetly. With this you would have to pull up your shirt and fold up the bra. Now, true… people are changing all over the place on a relay race, but that’s something to think about!

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5 Ways to Illuminate Yourself on a Dark Run

I do much of my running in the dark. When you have to run, shower, get a toddler ready for school and be ready for work by 7AM, that’s the way it goes. But I really don’t want to be hidden from cars driving around. I know that a lot of drivers may not see runners on the side of the road, especially in the dark and at 5 in the morning when they may be bleary-eyed already. I’m just doing my part to help them out, as well as helping my own peace of mind. Here are some ways to improve your running visibility:

Knuckle Lights

I have a set of KnuckleLights that I purchased through Amazon. It can be a nuisance to hold something in your hands and if you have a handheld water bottle, then it’s one more thing to hold… however, these are really bright and I really like the way you can aim them at something to get a good luck in different directions. I ran past a dark, vacant lot the other morning and got a weird vibe. It was nice to be able to sweep my light across the lot to get a look at the whole area… and then hustle my butt past the area because it’s always smart to trust your intuition.

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Halo Belt

I backed this project on Kickstarter and I’m really glad that I did. The belt charges via USB, one charge lasts 2-3 weeks (depending on how long you’re running in the dark) it has different settings (solid light or blinking light) and it provides a nice chunk of light to make you visible. I like wearing it on my waist, with the light on my side, so it wraps around to my front and back.

HALO BELT 2.0 BLUE

Headlamp

There are a wide variety of headlamps available in a wide range of prices. I bought mine for about $20 at REI in 2008 for a midnight race. I find a headlamp is very annoying without a hat/visor on, but it is a convenient way to get light that doesn’t require the use of your hands. I wore it for my long leg in the middle of the night during my most recent Ragnar so I could carry my handheld water bottle as well.

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Reflective Vest

This is a necessity if you are doing a relay race, not just for your own running legs but everyone must wear a vest during the specified “night” hours. I wore the Road Noise vest, the only product I’m mentioning here that I didn’t purchase myself but it’s a great product and it’s really pretty comfortable. You can tighten it up so you don’t have a lot of extra material flapping or twisting around you. Plus it has removable speakers in the shoulders so you can listen to tunes without obstructing your ears with headphones.

Attached Supplemental Lights

There are lots of clip-on blinking lights on the market. Most of these are not meant to help you see things better, but are designed to help make you more visible. One that looks cool but I don’t have, is the Armpocket Flash. I do use an Armpocket for all of my runs to carry my phone, so this one kind of makes sense because it wouldn’t be an additional thing that I’m not used to carrying already. PS – I really recommend Armpockets because they’re comfy, they can hold a lot of crap and you don’t have to wear something on your waist!

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Bonus: Light-up Elsa dress

My two-year-old daughter ran a 5K in her Elsa Halloween dress. This one has motion-activated lights AND music! However, I don’t think they make it in my size…

What are your favorite ways to make sure you’re seen when running/walking in the dark?

5 Ways to Illuminate your Dark Run

Metaball Fitness System

A while back I was asked if I wanted to test out the new Metaball Fitness System. It looked like a pretty cool setup, so I agreed. This system is amazingly diverse, and sadly I barely scratched the surface of how to use it during my time with it.

Disclaimer: This system was sent to me so I could test it for the site. And then I sent it back. Holding it while standing in line at FedEx was a nice little workout itself!

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So the basic idea is that it is a compact set of weights and tools that is designed to replace a whole range of fitness equipment, giving the user a diverse home gym for a much cheaper overall price tag.

All the equipment a Metaball replaces

I admit that I was surprised at just how compact it was when it arrived. It’s all tucked neatly inside a small bag. The system is built extremely efficiently!

Metball bag, full of all the components.

It’s easy to use as well, everything just snaps together or apart the way it should. It even comes complete with several workout options on DVD and poster exercises too. The system is selling for “three easy payments of $69.95″ right now in its pre-sale period. Then in 2015 it will be released to the general public for its regular price. Pre-sale orders are guaranteed to arrive by the holidays.

The Metaball Fitness System is the brainchild of fitness expert Greg Plitt.  Greg has appeared on the covers of more than 200 fitness magazines and 25 romance novels in the last four years. That’s an awesome resume line! I had the opportunity to ask Greg a few questions and he was kind enough to answer them:

Why Metaball? What made you decide that this was the way to package a workout tool?
– Metaball Fitness System is the first exercise equipment I’ve actually put my name because I believe in it. Whether you’re working out at home, in the gym, in your backyard, on the beach or in a hotel room, it really travels with you which is an important factor for being able to stay in shape regardless of a busy lifestyle.

How did you come up with the concept? Did you have to go through a lot of versions to settle on this one?
– I wanted to take out the excuses a lot of people have for why they can’t get in shape — whether it’s time or money. Seven years in the making, the finished product meets my 100% approval.

What’s your favorite move to do with the Metaball?
– Wow-that’s hard to say since it can do so much but if I had to choose, I personally like using the Metaball for rotating push-ups; the Metaball breaks down in half to two rotating handles to really get that perfect push up in your work out.

How would you recommend a distance runner incorporate the Metaball into their training regimen?
– The Metaball is a perfect tool for someone adding weight or strength training to their regimen, especially for a runner. While you are going to get that great fat burning and cardio with running, Metaball will allow you to train targeted areas on your body to increase strength in your stride.

If you’re looking to stock a home gym in a small amount of space or for not that much money… or if you’re looking to supplement everything you’ve already got or replace some of that stuff, the Metaball Fitness System is a VERY cool option.

Armpocket Racer and Ultra i-35

I’ve mentioned on here that I upgraded my iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 is bigger… as such, I needed a new way to carry it. The timing of this is all so fortuitous… I was recently asked to be an ambassador for Armpocket armbands! I used my first Armpocket way way way back in 2009 or so and it’s something that I have purchased for myself. As part of my newly appointed ambassadorship (that sounds so formal, huh… I need a coronation ceremony!) I received some new Armpockets.

Armpocket i-30 and Racer both hold an iPhone6

Both the Racer and the Ultra i-35 are large enough to hold the new iPhone 6 (not the 6 Plus… I can’t imagine wanting to carry that one around ever. But if you do, they’ve got it covered… their Mega i-40 will do the job!)

The Armpocket Racer™ is an ultra-thin sport armband ideal for the minimalist.
The Armpocket Ultra i-35 is more in line with their typical designs.

Some of the standard features of the Armpocket family:

  • Water and sweat resistant, with a large storage compartment to carry what you need
  • Touch-through screen for “on the move” device operation
  • Available in 3 strap-lengths, as “one-size” does not fit all: Small for arm size 7″ – 11″, Medium
    for arm size 10″ – 15″ and Large for size 13″ -18″.
  • Audio ports—allows you to easily connect your headphones to your phone or device
  • Double pull zippers- allows easy “on the run” access – and “top-side” ear-bud wire access^
    (Racer has sport Velcro closure)
  • Durable, comfortable, and securely carries multiple items—does not bounce
  • Does not slip: ultra soft – padded with breathable memory foam” contours to your arm
  • Moisture-wicking, anti-bacterial, natural bamboo rayon back and vented strap- keeps you cool and dry
  • Eco-friendly – primary fabric is constructed from recycled plastic bottles (PET), and uses bamboo rayon
  • Versatile – great for running, hiking, hiking, running errands, traveling and more!

I may be the exact opposite of how these Armpockets are labeled. The Racer is more of an everyday, going running straight from my front door holder for me. It’s minimal and won’t hold much beyond my iPhone6. The top doesn’t use the zipper enclosure, instead it has a velcro flap. I’m not entirely sold on it, but I can see the point with the minimal design. It’s a tight fit on this one with my iPhone in a very slim case. Basically, I have to put the phone in the Armpocket Racer first, then strap it to my arm.

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On the flipside, the i-35 is bigger and will hold more. Which means if I’m going to a race, I can stash my car key in there, or a pre-packed face wipe for post race or some gels or… well, you get the picture. Basically, it’s more accommodating!

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Over the years, I’ve found that when the Armpockets are brand new, they tend to still be a little stiff. They need some wear time to really learn to contour to your arms. After several good sweat sessions, the memory form tends to start molding to the shape of your arm a little bit quicker and they become more and more comfortable over time.

I may be a little weird, but I don’t like to use the headphone port on the Armpocket armbands. Since Apple moved the headphone jack from the top to the bottom of the iPhone, I’ve been putting my iPhone in my Armpocket upside down. Plus with the larger Armpocket, like the i-30, if I do this I can easily unzip it, grab the phone for a quick photo without worrying about unplugging the headphones and/or rethreading it through the port on the go. But the thing is… they’re versatile enough to allow for this practice!

Currently they’ve got a free domestic shipping promo going on their site, so if you’re one of the many who have moved to larger phones over the past, check them out. It’s a way to carry your device (and more) without bulky waist packs. (Okay, it’s adding bulk to a different place, your arm… but it’s comfortable!)