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Because when you're out on the course, all that's there is your internal monolog

Archives for Raves category

Review: Compex miSport

I recently had the opportunity to perform an extended evaluation on the Compex MiSport Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) system.

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I’d hoped to do a similar treatment with the miSport as I had done previously the the Recovery Pump system.  But when I started working with the Compex I found it to be a very different animal than the recovery pump and doing a testing protocol with it just didn’t make sense.

Let me try to explain. The recovery pump legs are essentially a 2-trick pony: using compression force metabolic waste out of your legs after a big workout; and, (also) using compression help refresh your legs with freshly oxygenated blood before a big workout.  The recovery pump  works the full length of both of your legs at once. All good, and really lends itself to a testing protocol where the preloading and recovery could shine.

The Compex is more like visiting a chiropractor or massage therapist or even a strength and conditioning coach, but a session with the Compex is limited to 1 or 2 muscle groups at a time (4 sets of pads, 1 set of pads per muscle group).  That said the Compex can still be used for recovery or potentiation: to do this you use the Compex to activate muscles at the extreme of the limb to encourage blood flow into the entire limb.   I found this to be a little less obvious, but it does work.

The Compex also really excels in rehab, strength and conditioning.  When I gained access to the Compex I was recovering from an upper-glute/lower-back strain that my chiro and I had linked to very tight hip flexors causing rotational stress thru my glute-med, glutes and lower back.  I’d been stretching, doing crab-walks with therabands, and a bunch of other exercises to target and strengthen the unbalanced muscles. I decided to add the Compex to the formula.  I spent 2 weeks, 2-3 times/week, doing a Compex strength program targeted at glute max and glute med while sitting watching TV or working at my desk.  The pain reduction and strength gains were noticeable almost immediately.  Being able to target these areas, for 30-45 minutes/day without putting more time aside for training was pretty epic.  Time is tight for most of us and being able to do these additional strength and conditioning sessions was amazing.  I could see this also being super useful if you were injured but wanted to reduce muscle wasting when you couldn’t train.

One thing I really like about using the Compex,  for recovery, rehab or strength/conditioning is that there’s no nervous system engagement or fatigue.  One thing endurance athletes can suffer from is not so much muscular fatigue, but rather neurological fatigue – where the brain and nervous system that’s engaged in driving your muscles just gets tired of firing those pathways.  When a lot of people think they’re bonking, it’s sometimes nervous system fatigue.  Their bodies are still capable of much more, but their brain is saying “enough”.  Because the Compex is driving the muscle directly, there is no mental fatigue: are recovery workout with the Compex is truly full body recovery (brain and nervous system too).

The miSport is a rechargeable device that holds a pretty serious charge.  I didn’t sit with a stopwatch, but think the battery lasted about 8 hours of use and recharged fully after 2-3 hours.  The Compex also uses electrode pads that are reusable but do eventually lose their stickiness and need to be replaced.  I think my skin may be a little oily because I was initially going through a set of pads in 1 sitting (several applications).  After a while I started swabbing my skin with an alcohol pad before application and found the pads lasted 2-3 times longer.

The Compex miSport is a pretty cool and flexible device.  Definitely an awesome tool to add to your toolbox for all that it offers: pain management, recovery, rehab, and strength and conditioning.  Is it a “magic bullet” that means you don’t have to train?  No.  (There’s no such thing!)  But the Compex can help you maximize your time and target problem areas on concert with or instead of using a chiropractor, massage therapist or physical trainer.  Pretty sweet.

If you’re in Canada feel free to reach out to the Compex Canada rep.  Derrick is a pretty great guy and he’ll hook you up.

Derrick Nield, MSc
Field Sales Associate
Recovery Sciences Division
DJO Canada Inc.

A DJO Global Company

866 866 5031
866 866 5032
647 629 1012

[email protected]
http://www.djoglobal.ca/en_CA/

Review(s): Finis Monofins: Foil vs Shooter

A few months ago I started learning how to swim fly.  I can say, much to my total amazement, that I LOVE swimming fly.  That said, I currently am not yet able to do so without fins of some sort (zoomers or a monofin). When I mentioned monofins to my swim coach she was super excited and promised me some serious strength workouts to utilize a mono.

So I started digging.  What kind of monofin should I get?  What are the options? What are the differences?  Why would I want “A” vs “B”?  To my surprise there was very little material “out there” and so I figured some personal research was in order.  The folks at Finis suggested that I start with 2 of their models: The Foil and The Shooter.

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I’ve now put several hours into each of the monofins I’ve developed some 1st hand experience with them and figured I’d share.

1st off for both monofins make sure that you have a good fit and wear a neoprene bootie or something similar to provide some chaffing/blistering protection between your foot and the fin pocket.  The fins don’t come in as many sizes as conventional fins and so you may need to play with this a little.  I, unfortunately, made the mistake of not doing this initially and totally destroyed my feet.  

This picture doesn’t show the real carnage that was on the other foot and literally took weeks to fully heal.

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Neoprene booties can also help with molding seems in the foot pockets of the monofins.  These flash seems are normally trimmed off in post-production at the factory, but when/if little ridges remain then can definitely cause irritaiton/hot-spots.  I’m told that very carefully cutting them off with a sharp exacto-knife can help, but that a great deal of care is requires so as not to weaken the strength of the rubber.  So if you go the removal route: take great care (booties are probably a better choice).  In the photo below you can see the Finis Shooter with my snorkel, Eney buoy, neoprene booties and water bottle.

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I tell ya.. some days when I hit the pool deck, I feel like I’ve packed for a week long vacation :)

The Finis Shooter

The shooter is composed of a rubber foot pocket and fibreglass blade.  The XXL model has an open toe (seen above), where the other sizes have fully enclosed foot pockets.

Shooter monofin

The fibreglass blade has pretty narrow edges and the fin comes with a warning sticker cautioning that the blade could cause damage to other swimmers, to take care when using it and that children should not be allowed to use the fin.  Now, it’s not that thin, but I could certainly see how contacting it with any amount of force could certainly cause a good scrape.

The fibreglass blade also generates a lot of force.  This is a surprising mixed blessing/curse: the force is awesome for getting a massive leg and core workout and for really driving you when swimming fly or other modified strokes.  That said, all that force really strains your ankles (and I found knees and lower back as well) so some acclimitization is a good idea.  Also, I found, as a new monofin swimmer, that because of the rigidity if I cheated my kick a bit and wasn’t driving from my core and hips that I’d still get a lot of propulsion: suboptimal if you’re working on training and not just goofing around.

The Finis Foil

The foil is a single molded piece of semi-flexible rubber, similar to the rubber in the Zoomers fins.  All models of the foil have an open foot pocket.

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Because of the molding process, I found the foil to be a little more susceptible to the extra flash (molding-waste) problem that I mentioned earlier, but again, with booties it really isn’t a problem.

The Foil being made from rubber with softer edges, is definitely a little more friendly in a busy pool, especially when you’re splitting a lane with other swimmers. 

The softer rubber, still generates a good amount of force per kick, but does force you to drive your kick using your core, and hips and not just your quads.  The flexibility and slightly less force than the shooter takes some of the pressure of your leg joints and lower back but still gives you a lot of propulsion.  The foil is definitely a good monofin to start with, and perhaps all you’d ever need unless you get into more competitive monofin swim competitions and/or free-diving. 

Others

Finis also have several other models of monofins: for training the Trainer1 and Trainer2; for competition, the MASSIVE competitor monofin; and a few other models for kids and adult play swim.  I’d love to try the competitor but generally I think it’d be impractical in the pool (shared lanes), but would be super fun to take south for some ocean free-diving :)  With my current level of skill the Trainer1 and Trainer2 look unwieldy with the added length over the Shooter.  The Foil and the Shooter were definitely good starting-point recommendations for monofins and perhaps all I’ll ever need in my training.

My Friday swims were historically dubbed “Fun Fin Friday” because I was typically doing a lot of kick work with fins on.  We’ve now renamed them “Funny Fin Fridays” and I feel like “Captain Finis” with my suitcase full of gear.  But it’s fun and fast and tiring so I’ll take it.  

.. and I love fly! :)

Review: Yurbuds Focus Talk Headphones

The weather in Toronto still sucks to be training outside, so I’ve been spending a lot of time on the trainer and the dreadmill. Being on the dreadmill is a great opportunity to test out some new headphones.

On deck this week: the Yurbuds Focus Talk Headphones

Yurbuds

Now, it’s no secret that I’m a long-time fan of Yurbuds headphones.  I’ve used them pretty much exclusively in my training for the last 3 years, since I found them, but I wear glasses or, when I’m outside, sunglasses. Typically in the past I have avoided over-ear headphones because I found them uncomfortable as they competed for space, with my glasses, atop my ear.

I’m happy to report this isn’t an issue with the Yurbuds Focus.  The over-ear arms are very flexible and mounted to the ear-bud in a way that allows for rotational and length adjustment and I found it very easy to get a snug and comfortable fit.  The ear-buds themselves have the signature Yurbuds twist in design, but with a slightly looser fit that allows for a little more ambient sound to enter: definitely a plus if you’re on public roads.  The loose fit didnt’ feel as secure as the snug twist-in models, but I couldn’t shake them loose, so it’s just a perception not a reality :).  The loose fit may also be a little more comfortable over extremely long efforts, not that I’ve ever found my yurbuds uncomfortable. 

The Focus Talk also features a microphone and single-button phone control button.  I only tested with the iphone and iPad, but I understand the microphone and button work with Android devices as well.  The microphone quality is really good.  I placed a call with the headphones, while running on the treadmill: even with the ambient noise of the ‘mill, I’m told the audio quality through the mic was clear and easily understood. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly (we are talking about headphones here): sound quality.  I’ve always been impressed with the audio representation from Yurbuds headphones.  They’re so small and so light, it was and is a pleasant surprise to experience the fidelity from this compact buds.  I have several pairs of audiophile quality headphones and I can tell you these buds perform at a level of professional headphones costing nearly ten times as much.  

Well done Yurbuds!  Definitely a great addition to your headphone lineup!

Review: Rudy Project Proflow Sport Shades

I have to admit it, this winter in Toronto has successfully chased me inside for running.  All the snow, ice, black ice, lakes of slush, combined with Toronto’s seemingly increasingly poor drivers has had me running on the dreadmill watching Netflics.

I’d really wanted to spend more time with these shades before reviewing them, but they’ve been in my review queue for far too long and I need to get them done. 

I’ll startout with a spoiler: I LOVE Rudy Project.  I haven’t yet used a product of theirs that I didn’t think was excellent.   I have prescription glasses from them that I race and do a lot of my training in and they are extremely well made and an excellent value.

The PROFLOW sports shades are absolutely no exception to my love affair with Rudy Project.  

SP248606 N000 detail

These shades are pretty sweet: of course they have all the standard Rudy Project adjustable nose/bridge and excellent anti-fogging lenses that are sharp and distortion free, but if these aren’t some of the lightest sunglasses I’ve EVER worn I’d be truly surprised!

They’re apparently forged out of some space-aged aluminum alloy called Kynetium… I’m not a metallurgist, but as a consumer and glass wearer, I’ll tell you it was a good choice.  I have titanium frames that feel like a boat anchor in comparison.   They also have a design feature on them called a “dorsal stabilizer”.  I gather it’s something to do with the temple area of the frame that helps balance the weight of the glasses even when you’re heads down on the bike.  I can’t say how they’d feel without the stabilizer, so I’ll take their word for it.  A few times, while I was out running in the Proflow, I actually forgot that I had them on.  They’re that comfortable.  

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I can attest to the anti-fog of the lenses: the days that I did manage a run in them it was cold out and I got pretty steamy. The lenses, however, did not.  Magic!  Dunno how they managed it, but I’ll just leave it at magic.

As with many of the Rudy Project glasses: the Proflow can be purchased with different types of lenses.  Prescription, or insert, or no prescription.  Polarized, tinted different colours, different levels of light transmission shading, anti-reflective coatings… the whole 9 yards!

Finally, the Proflow comes with a pretty nice hard-case that has a storage compartment for those extra lenses.  

I just got my prescription updated… I’m in progressive bifocals now my friends (ack!) so I think I may just have to order some clear, amber and dark lenses in my new ‘scrip to take full advantage of these awesome shades.

If you’re lucky enough to be training outside these days, or you’re heading somewhere warm and sunny, definitely do yourself a favour and checkout the Rudy Project Proflow Shades.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

ENVEous? You will be… (read on)

I’m super-stoked to announce that I’ve been added to ENVE’s 2014 athlete list.

Yes, that ENVE.. the ones who make the amazingly aerodynamic carbon wheels for road and trail (as well as bars, stems, posts and a few other bits and pieces).

Yes! I have a wheel sponsor and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve drooled over ENVE wheels for years and now I’ll have a stable-full. Pictures of my Storck with new “legs” coming soon. :)

BOOM!

Review: Rudy Project Wing 57 Helmet

I recently had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the new Rudy Project Wing57 aero helmet.

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The Wing57 is RudyProject’s newest and most advanced player in the aero ft-helmet category and I have to say it’s pretty amazing.  The first thing you’ll notice about the Wing57 when you lift it up is how crazy light it is.  It weighs in at just 300g that’s a full 50g lighter than the wingspan TT helmet.  It feels so light that I found myself amazed that it’d actually protect the noodle, but it’s passed the european safety standards and is in process for the US certification, so concerns assuaged :)

The Wing57 comes in a robust and nicely designed storage case.


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The helmet comes with the usual Rudy Project vent inserts so you can run with the vent plugged, filtered or wide open


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One of the visible ways that the Wing57 has made great improvements is with the internal air channels off the venting.  The pictures here don’t really do it justice, but there are deep channels running from the front vent, to the rear vents that would move cool air over the rider’s head helping to reduce overheating on the bike.  Many pros were wearing the Wing57 at Kona in 2013 and they all reported that these channels definitely helped keep their heads cool in the Kona heat and humidity.  Good stuff!

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The Wing57 was born and bred in the wind tunnel in a partnership with aerodynamics Guru John Cobb.

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The tuning done in the tunnel was done to optimize the helmet’s performance, not just straight into the wind but at yaw angles more realistic to real world racing.  The helmet has a detachable magnetically-mounted rear fin to better direct air-flow depending on the rider’s body shape and riding geometry.


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Now all this probably sounds great, and in fact it is pretty amazing stuff, but the real question outstanding is: How does it ride and how does it perform?   Well, unfortunately, as I’m writing this it’s December (nearly January) and Toronto has already had one of our worst winters in decades.  Given the conditions outside, the idea of taking my TT-bike out for a time-trial is really a non-starter.

I did, however, have a metabolic testing session recently and… well…

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Yea, ok… totally tongue in cheek but had to have at least one image on a bike with it… suppose I could have taken a pick in the snow on a fat bike… :)

If things go according to schedule, I’ll have one of these beauties in my hands for IM70.3 New Orleans in April and I’ll be able to give you some 1st hand data on how it handles in a hot and humid race.

Review: Ogio Flex Form F3 Gym Bag

Have to admit it, I’m a fan of Ogio bags.  I’ve previously have the Flex Form L bag, which is a massive bag that is awesome for my big weekend brick sessions: I can store food, shoes, cycling shoes, helmet, clothes, towels, electronics and still have room in that beast.  I’ve also previously reviewed the bags that Ogio debuted at Le Tour de France last year.  The Flex Form F3 is like the little brother of the Flex Form L.

Ff3

 This time of the year, the biggest need I have for a gym bag is carrying swim gear to and from the pool.  Here’s a pic of my current (sad) bag.

 

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It’s a big bag… to big to fit in a YMCA locker well and it has no shape.  It holds a lot (perhaps too much) but has certainly seen better days :)

Here’s the bag unpacked.  Yea… lots of stuff…

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My 1st attempt to load all this stuff into the F3 was almost successful, but not totally.

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So I did a little bag “spring cleaning”.  Do I really need to carry 3 spare pairs of goggles?!  2 different sets of fins?  So stripping down the load a bit it all fit!

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And best of all – it comfortably fits in a YMCA locker:

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The F3’s design is very much like the Flex Form L bag, just scaled down: it has 2 end compartments that in the L are big enough for a pair of shoes each, in the F3 each would hold a shoe well; it has an internal electronics pocket, a large thin external side pocket and an expansion panel on the other side that probably adds another 40% capacity to the main storage compartment.

Ogio uses a strong rip-stop nylon in these bags and good heavy zips on their bags.  I’ve truly abused my Flex Form L bag and it still looks new.  The F3 having withstood 2 weeks (that’s 10 mornings) of swim workouts looks exactly the same as it did when it arrived.  I’d be really surprised if you managed to damage one of these bags without going out of your way to do so.  The bags carry a lifetime manufacturer’s defect warrantee and I’m not surprised they can offer this because these bags are pretty bombproof.

Have to say I’m generally pretty happy with the F3.  My only wish (and yea it’s minor) is that the bag is missing an external water bottle holder.  (Told you it was minor).  If you’re in the market for a new bag, or looking for a last minute gift for someone, I’d say you can’t go wrong with an Ogio bag.  Check them out: www.ogio.com

Review: BowSwim

Recently I had to spend, yet another, few days away from home traveling for work.  Historically, when traveling for work, I’d find a local masters swim group or YMCA to get my swim workouts.  In this recent trip there was no masters group I could find nearby and similarly no convenient YMCA.  The hotel had a pool, but it was a pretty typical hotel pool (i.e. super small).   I was beginning to think I was out of luck but then I remembered seeing some posts on Facebook and Youtube talking about a tethered swim system called the Bowswim.

Bowswim

From bowswim’s website:

BOWSWIM® Resistance Swimming System manufactures the strongest stationary swimming pole in the industry.  The Bowswim® pole is engineered with telescoping technology, and is constructed from reinforced carbon/fiber material.

The pole is designed to be used in the fully extended position, and when used as directed, is capable of safely deflecting greater than twice the static thrust force an Olympic swimmer can generate.  It is the only system offering “Variable Custom Lift”with the added benefits horizontal water exercise brings to fitness and rehabilitation.  The Bowswim® pole telescopes to 72 inches from 21 ½ inches making it the only truly portable device of its kind.  Add the optional Bowswim Ladder Clamp to your system, and never miss a travel related workout.

If your pool or spa is at least 10 feet long and 3 ½ feet deep, Bowswim’s revolutionary technologies can transform your pool or swim spa to a nearly stress free, impact free training environment.  With Bowswim you exercise, train, rehabilitate, strengthen and tone, and you do it better, smarter and more efficiently.

Here’s a video/commercial they have up on youtube:

My 1st experience with the bowswim was, as I said, in the hotel tiny pool.  After a 30 minute session I felt like I’d been crushed by a 90 minute intense workout.  It was CRAZY!  Subsequently, I’ve discovered more subtleties of the bowswim.

Sure the bowswim can give you an awesome tethered swim workout, but it can do so much more.  The 1st thing you’ll find after swimming tethered for a bit, is that when you start to swim normally again your feel for the water is heightened and you feel the water pushing on the back of your arm during your catch.  Let me tell you, this really cranks up your stroke rate. Also, the spring-recoil of the bow is useful for finding an eliminating dead-spots in your stroke:  if you’re over-gliding or otherwise wasting effort, the bow will pull you backwards in the water (and if you aren’t exhaling at the time, you get a mild water boarding effect, or at least I do :) ).

Fortunately, I haven’t had occasion to use the bowswim for rehab (touch wood), but I can see how water running or aquafit-type activities could be greatly enhanced with the use of the bowswim.

I can’t end this review without talking about the customer service from Bowswim: it’s truly second to none.  Randy, the owner/inventor, is really great.  He’s really interested in making sure that his customers are having a good experience and followed up with me several times after my purchase.  Certainly a level of service you don’t get every day!

I have to say, I love my bowswim! It’s become an integral part of my swim training and has already had a notable impact on my times.  Awesome!

Review: MyID Medical Information and Personal Information Bracelet

I’ve spent the last few weeks wearing and evaluating the wearability of the MyID medical and personal information bracelet from Endevr.  

(Apologies to the reader but I’ve blacked out bits of info here and there to keep some privacy from prying internet eyes.)

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MyID is a similar product to the RoadID that I’ve reviewed here before.  I’m a big fan of running and cycling with some sort of id, and I think that carrying government issued id (driver’s license, etc.) is risky if you lose it.  This is where these types of products really excel.  With the MyID you can carry your total medical and biographical info, at least as much as 1st responders would need, in a small wrist band.

The MyID band is a soft silicon band with a watch-style clasp.  You can see the MyID band (blue) beneath my yellow RoadID bracelet.

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The band comes long, and you trim it to fit your wrist.  The kit comes with a sizing guide that gives you a rough indication of how much to trim off each end of the band.  Obviously you want to be cautious here, cut it long, and to back to trim if need-be. 

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The MyID is not pre-engraved with static information for the owner.  Instead on the inside of the band is a serial number and pin.

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With this information the owner can setup an info page with medical conditions, contacts, name, address, allergies, etc.   1st responders also use this information to access your information page.   The web service is pretty solid: the interface is clean and quick, there are areas to enter all kinds of structured information about your stats, medical contacts, emergency contacts, any allergies, medications, medical conditions and then free-form areas for entering “other stuff” that you might wish that 1st responders were informed of if you were unable to speak for yourself.  Unlike custom engraved IDs, the MyID allows you to update your info whenever it changes.

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There is also an iPhone app to enter and maintain your profile information.

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I have to admit that I was a little dubious about the merits of an ID and PIN-based ID system.  My health and contact info all fit into an engraved tag and I’d always felt that having it immediately available to 1st responders was valuable. With this doubt in mind I talked to a few police officers, several ambulance drivers, and a few folks in ER departments.  They agree that a decade or so ago having all the info on your wrist, immediately available, would have made a difference, but today the 1st responders are so well connected that looking up the info online or via a 800-number is just as good, and significantly better if the owner has significant medical conditions.

In Summary

The MyID offers a good option for an emergency ID that can speak for you in the event you cannot.  The web service that collects and presents your information is good.  The band is comfortable and durable. The only negative is that the web service and 800-number are available as an annual subscription.  Unlike printed bands where your information is totally on your wrist, the MyID service depends on you maintaining the paid subscription service.

FirstEndurance Ultragen HP New Formulation

I’ve reviewed FirstEndurance’s products before, but felt that I needed to put up a quick blurb about the new formulation of Ultragen HP.

new_hp_large

I’ve been a long-time user of FirstEndurance’s products and I have always felt in the past that they helped keep me healthy and recovering quickly.  Well, the new formula of Ultragen HP has blown my mind!

Seriously, this stuff is pretty amazing.  Yesterday I crushed myself with a 45 minute TT at or above FTP.  I was totaled after the ride.  This morning I woke, before my alarm, at 4:45am ready to crush a tempo swim set and eager to get into it!

Now that’s some serious recovery!

Really, if you haven’t tried UltragenHP, you should! (and I can’t put it any more directly than that).

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