Move over Aunt Jemima!

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I have been running for longer than many peeps have been alive (but always those who have been running longer) and have tried many running food products.

I remember the days of Gatorade in glass bottles with metal caps, I remember Gatorade gum. More recently I have tried the many gel flavours which have gotten better and better – from bland or boring or vomit-inducing to tasty and not gut-wrenching.

Now along comes something new. Something for Canadians!

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MAPLE SYRUP BABY!

Yep – a truly Canadian running gel has been thought up and produced by 2 Canadian runners. I got in on the action before they were even really rolling out product and the samples arrived in cool plain silver twist-off cap squeeze packets (they actually worked really well).

I had been really eager when I had seen the pancake topper, not only flavoured but made with maple-syrup gels. I had to know more and try!

The company is called Endurance Tap – lets talk about the gels.

INGREDIENTS

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Classic Maple: Organic Canadian Maple Syrup + sea salt + ginger
Vanilla: Organic Canadian Maple Syrup + sea salt + ginger + natural vanilla flavour
Chocolate: Organic Canadian Maple Syrup + sea salt + ginger + natural cocoa flavour + natural caffeine (30mg)

I am not sure of how maple syrup differs from others sugars etc – but its tastier!

TASTE AND THOUGHTS

I set myself up and tried out gels before a race, a normal run and a workout. It really tastes like maple syrup (which I like) and is more fluid than most gels and really easy to take. The taste is strong and sweet but my stomach had no issues. I was impressed. I felt an energy rush. I liked.

I have had honey-based gels before and liked the taste but found they were sometimes too sweet and upset my stomach -no initial problems with Endurance Tap gels.

For other runners – if you do not like gels with a strong flavour or do not like maple syrup this may not be for you. If you like pancakes, need a tasty gel than will give you energy, one that doesn’t require 2 gallons of water to get down and is Canadian —-Endurance Tap is worth checking out.

I got maple flavoured and would like to try the others!

This is the product review. If you want to meet the guys behind the tree-sap flavoured new gels – join me on my Canadian Running magazine blog tomorrow!

Run on friends.

Find Endurance Tap online or on Twitter @endurancetap

*December 11, 2014 -update and comments from running friend Brian Culbert about his experiences with the gels!

“Absolutely no bloating or cramping. Not even a twinge of nausea. Which is amazing given the intensity of the workout.I kept a close watch on my perceived energy levels. Aside from creeping fatigue I had no discernible spikes or dips in energy. In fact it was the opposite. I had lots in the tank to push up the hills and noticed my pace of recovery was quicker when I dropped back to zone one.”

“The flavor was amazing. If anything I had to hold back from taking too many too quickly as I noticed I was watching my time early in the run waiting for the next feed interval to come along.I had one memorable moment towards the end of the run when I stopped after a sharp climb to enjoy the last one. The experience was similar to the one you might have when you treat yourself to your favorite food or drink (think beer) after a rewarding workout.”

“Thanks to Matthew Smith of Endurance Tap for letting me test the product. It was a great experience”

Two thumbs up!!

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From amongst the crowd but near the front

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“Running is about fun, the joy of moving from foot to foot and pushing past the comfort zone now and again.”

I dislike races that say they are for the average runner or focus only on the mid-packer. If races want to be inclusive they should open their arms to one and all, fast, slow, tiny and less tiny, young and old. I like running because it can bring so many types of runners together, stripping away differences regardless of where they finish.

This week’s blog is about someone who often lines up closer to the start line than some of us. Being an east coaster I figured it was time to highlight someone breathing is cool sea air again. This is

Allan’s story.

Allan MacKenzie

Allan is a married young 32-year old runner from Nova Scotia who works for cape Breton University. Allan was raised in Sydney River, Nova Scotia and says he first laced up running shoes in high school but never really trained seriously until 2005.

Many of us would say Allan is pretty quick, he is not at the back of races and for most runs he is not a mid-packer, he is even capable of winning the occasional race. Allan often starts near the front.

The marathon bug bit Allan in his early 20s and the desire to try the historic distance turned into reality during a trip to Calgary that coincided with that city’s marathon. Allan trained as best he could at that time and finished in a respectable 3:51. More running and Allan’s time dropped down to 3:38 the following year. Allan was hooked and more marathons followed including the New York City marathon in 2007 but his time only marginally improved.

Times started really dropping when Allan met a local Cape Breton marathon guru by the name of Lauchie McKinnon (marathon PB of 2:39). Three months of guided training and Allan qualified for Boston with a 3:09 qualification time, and in 2010 Allan found himself not near the front but at the very front when he won the 2010 Fiddlers Marathon.

Allan’s Personal bests:
5k 17:10
10k 37:10
Half Marathon 1:20:50
Full Marathon 2:49:19 (2014 Philadelphia marathon)

Winner of the 2009 Cape Breton Fiddlers Marathon

Allan slowed down enough for me to ask him a few running questions.

What drives you to keep chasing PBs and faster times?

“I enjoy pushing my body and mind to the limit, especially when I know deep down I can do better. Also, I love to compete – and in order to truly compete, you have to continually strive for better.”

How was your recent experience at the Philadelphia marathon?

“The marathon in Philly was great. It wasn’t my best race ever, but I had a plan of finally breaking 2:50, and I did just that. I would have liked to have some more breathing room (preferably more than 41 seconds), but all and all, I was pretty thrilled. “

What are your running goals for 2015?

“My main running goal for 2015 now that I’ve gone sub-2:50 at the marathon distance is to go sub 1:20 at the half marathon distance, and to go sub 17 minutes at 5k. I am quite confident that if I get quicker at these distances, further success at the marathon distance will follow. I’d also like to work towards a sub 3:10 marathon in Ironman Lake Placid (without sacrificing any of my swim or bike leg).”

Allan says he does not have all that many pictures of him smiling. This does not necessarily mean he did not enjoy the experience. I can relate. When the race is not merely about completing the distance and the goal race pace requires constant concentration, a grin can turn into a grimace. Each one of us has a different goal, race experience and story to tell.

Run on Allan and my running friends.

*Just after chatting with Allan he destroyed his marathon PB at the Philadelphia marathon, he didn’t win but he was near the front!
See you on the roads or in the blogosphere.

Do you have a running story to tell?
runningwriter@hotmail.com

You can check out more of Allan’s running and adventures on his personal blog.

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A book review and back to basics

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“It is always good to stop once in a while, in life or running and evaluate and think on or take in new ideas.”

The fall air has stiffened and chilled and the first few days of snowy and icy sidewalks and streets have arrived. Winter running and the time as the new year approaches to think on new running goals.

Unbreakable Runner

If you want a book to get the brain jumping over at a higher RPM and one that will make you look at your training and evaluate things. This is it. Its not a inspirational biography nor is it purely a “how to run a marathon” book.

The books main author is Crossfit Endurance (CFE) founder Brian MacKenzie who teams upwith journalist T.J. Murphy.

The book’s website describes it as an examination of long-held beliefs about how to train.  The book claims to challenge conventional training tenets such as high mileage and high-carb diets to show how reduced mileage and high-intensity training can make runners stronger, more durable athletes and prepare them for races of any distance. And it does.

Interesting.

BOOK REVIEW

The book is a good read and seems well researched and thought out. The book has the view of a Cross Fit enthusiast and a runner and cyclist who was a skeptic but then became fan of Cross Fit Endurance (CFE) ideas and training – thus giving the read more credibility.

I liked reading and made me think about the training I have done in the past and how many like me have not questioned the high-mileage trend and looked at other ways.

I would recommend any runner read this book. At minimum it will get you to think over and re-evaluate how and what you are doing. I found many of the workouts hard to imagine fitting into my day or gym or to do during cold Canadian winters.

When asked about the difficulties with gym and weather conditions, author Brian Mackenzie answered:

“Treadmill in winter is fine Use body weight movements if no gym. Gymnastics becomes S&C. Skill is paramount, intensity 2nd, Volume 3rd.”

He also provided a link to an image – for those who are stuck inside but cannot get on a treadmill or run inside.

Read, think, look over workouts and see if the workouts or some of the exercises could help your running.

Click here to check out book website.

BACK TO BASICS

After a battle with injury and weak muscles that brought my Ottawa marathon attempt to a halt in May – I am back to planning out another running season (2015).

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Noel winning the Course de Noel!

Looks like a little race just outside Ottawa, Ontario (Course de Noel) will be my starting point. I will be dressed up like Santa and trying to haul my out of shape butt through a 5k race. Don’t feel overly fit but going to use this as test of where I am at. Going to fight the desire to pull out and just run with whatever is in the tank on Sunday. Going with a friend and the aim will be to smile and have fun. (I am defending my title from last year! lol)

The race and training plan so far looks like a 10k at the Ottawa race weekend (where I am a race ambassador), maybe sneak up to Toronto for the fast Yonge Street 10k in April before that and build towards the October Toronto marathon.

I am looking at trying to incorporate some principles from the “Unbreakable runner” – especially when the weather warms and makes it more easy and focus on getting core, glutes and hip flexors strong. Have never really worked on legs other than running – maybe now is the time. Less miles, more strength and more focus on intervals and speed. See what this ole body can do!

Details are slowly emerging for plan and races but would like to better 10K PB of 35:18 in the spring and aim for a 2:40 or faster marathon in the fall.

Gotta chase after something!

See you on the roads my friends!

Noel

*Upcoming reviews of Canadian maple-syrup gels, Training Mask and more!

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Preparing for snow and runner gifts

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“Ahhhh snotsicles, tuques, mitts and multiple layers – winter running.”

I live in Canada where it seems like we have snow, ice and cold 11.5 months out of 12. Not true but when its -20C with wind and a snow-covered landscape it feels long.

But snow does not stop many Canadian runners (or those who have cold winters) from getting out and running.

PLANNING FOR 2015

An online training plan

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Front page of Vicsytem with Eric and Reid

Vicsystem and Runtastic

I would love to have east access to a coach but with a busy schedule and so used to running on my won most of the time – I finally found an online program I like. Vicsystem is a well thought out and researched program that Canadian elite runners Eric Gillis and Reid Coolsaet helped out with. I use and find very helpful. Pick your days of running, your goals and it will adjust as you get fitter.

Runtastic is a great little company that offers many apps for runners and those looking to get fit. More geared for those who use their cell phone to run etc but still some neat tools. (Ask me about a discount code)

*Some great Canadian races to check out are the Ottawa race weekend (with IAAf-bronze level marathon and IAAF-gold level 10k, both flat and fast) and the Toronto Yonge Street 10k (fast spring 10k).

STAYING WARM AND ON YOUR FEET

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Traction - Icespikes

This is an easy and simple system of spikes you can screw in and out of any running shoe. Great on icy sidewalks and whenever you need traction. I put spikes into extra pair of shoes I use when the roads/sidewalks ice up.

The spikes are a complete step above anything you have to wrap around or strap onto a running shoe.

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Running shoes for slush and snowNB MT110

New Balance no longer makes this great trail/winter running shoe but there are still a few to get hold of. If you can’t find this cool NB shoe there are also some other brands that other similar options. With some traction and ability to keep some snow and slush out – you will be more comfortable and less likely to miss a run.

On non-icy days look for shoes with decent traction.

Warm toesSmartwool socks

I find to keep my feet warm its less about the shoes and more about the socks. I love Smartwool socks which are warm and breathable without needing to be too thick.

Choose, warm, breathable, not too thick (don’t want to make shoes tight) and ones of a longer length.

Great warm running tightsSugoi mid/subzero tights

Most running gear companies (apparel) have warm tight options. My favourite are from the Canadian company Sugoi. There are 2 options, midzero and subzero. Midzero works for most cold days but subzero will get you through bone-chilling days.

Look for seams that won’t chafe and a thicker tight with a soft/brushed feel inside. Some winter tights will also have a wind panel on front to stop wind.

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Support and compression - EC3D Compression wear

I have worked with medical compression socks and know they work. I have used sport compression socks and tights from the Canadian company EC3D and have nothing but good to day about them. I don’t use socks for training but use for recovery and use tights and shorts when weather permits. the tights are warm but may need layer over top for colder days.

Great product worth going to their website if you or someone you are shopping for is thing about compression products.

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A warm running tuqueBoutique Endurance running tuque

Most running shops have lots of options to keep the head warm – this is where most heat escapes. Remember, less hair and the colder it is the more hat you need. I like supporting local running shops and opt for a branded running tuque if I can.

Warmest running mitts

Warmest mitts for uber cool days are some beasts from the Running Room (started by Canadian John Stanton). Ask for their warmest ones and they will know. Other local running shops like my hangout (Sports4) in Ottawa also will have options.

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Warm base layers

Staying warm is about layering with multiple layers of breathable long sleeve and short sleeve tops. Number and thickness will depend on cold – you will have to decide on what works for you. I love New Balance gear but have also recently reviewed some Champion gear – they have some decently priced options.

I have Champion tights, shorts and a top and impressed with efforts of the company, a few small tweeks here and there and they would be in competition with others.

MY FAVOURITE RUNNING GADGETS

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Polar V800 and Polar loop – the HR company now has great GPS running watches and I use the RC3 and have tested and reviewed the V800 and recommend as great training tool! The Polar loop is a very cool fitness tracker that can count steps, calories, activity and sleep and can be matched up w HR strap-cool for someone who wants more info to aid their training.

The RC3 is a great watch but the V800 picks up a signal faster. One small comment is that neither allow you to use a stopwatch at same time as GPS.

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Wellograph FItness tracker – this is a very slick fitness tracker that will allow you to feel like you are wearing a professional leather strapped watch but have all the sports options. HR, activity, steps, calories, an app for the cell phone and an upcoming update that will allow dist/pace options for running. Great looking tool.

BOOKS and FILMS

Unbroken – a great book and looking forward to seeing the movie. A runner you probably never heard of but should read about and an amazing war-time story.

Mo Farah’s biography – currently reading this book about Britain’s running hero and a very good read about his life, struggles and ambitions.

The film Transcend – great film by a Canadian runner and filmaker about a Kenyan elite runner with a passion for running but also a desire to change his country. Great film and you’ll find yourself wanting to go for a run after!

*More book reviews here.

**You can also find some cool free running videos and documentaries on my Youtube Channel. (link at bottom of page)

FUEL FOR THE FIRE

Tailwind Nutrition – have tried and reviewed a few running drink mixes but like the mild taste and easy on the stomach mix of this brand. Worth checking out! Check my review.

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Endurance Tap (Maple Syrup gels) – very cool Canadian company just getting going with truly Canuck style running gels made from maple syrup. Some are on the way to me and review coming soon.

Worth checking out!

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Energy Bits – I have only had small tins to sample of these algae-derived, energy rich, green tablets but liked what I tried. Worth checking out to add to your diet and provide pre and post run fuel.

EXTRAS

Vaseline for the face – put it on your face to prevent wind burn and frostbite.

Bodyglide for any friction from all those layers to keep you warm.

Lip chap – whether my Clifbar chocolate mint lipchap or another – good to have.

FOR OTTAWA (Canada) RUNNERS

Gift ideas for the Ottawa area runner.

  • Gift certificate to Sports4 – my favourite running shop with great friendly staff and a small fun Wed night group run at 5:30pm
  • A gift certificate to my favourite massage therapist – Katy Chancey at OC3.
  • A new alternative therapy with Sioned Watkins to keep you running.
  • A Chi running clinic with Eric Collard – run smooth and keep running.
  • Get a session with the folks at Peak Performance-find out how to get 100% out of your training or just get a VO2 max test!
  • A subscription to Canadian Running magazine.

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GENERAL ADVICE

Don’t be afraid to run in the winter. Dress warm, be prepared and if REALLY icy out, don’t risk it. If a bit icy get some traction on your feet and don’t make sudden turns or moves and ease off the speed.

Stay hydrated just like in the summer – you still sweat.

Protect your skin.

Stay safe and watch for cars etc.

Have an indoor option ready or do some stretching, exercises or heck running on the spot to replace.

Run on my friends!

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Canadian Compression

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“Resting is as important as running and running with the right gear helps.”

A review of a pair of 3/4 -length EC3D‘s (A Canadian company) compression knickers.

I was a slight skeptic (always) am about the benefits of compression wear when it first hit the market for runners. I am not sure why because for a short period while working in the pedorthic field (orthotics) I also fitted people up for medical compression socks. The compression socks then were for medical purposes and low on fashion appeal but really helped folks with blood flow issues.

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I found the compression gear at my local running shop in Ottawa (Sports4) and soon got in contact with the Canadian (Quebec) based company. The close-knit and family based group started more on the medical side of compression gear but saw the use for athletes and things took off.

Carine (a cute, energetic runner and key member of the EC3D team) met with me, ate me under the table at breakfast and sent me some gear to try.

The Knickers

The website states that there are enhanced compression zones at the groin and surrounding the knee put this knicker head and shoulder above the crowd. Graduated compression for better circulation and increased muscle stabilization.

Like with other products the aim of the compression gear is to enhance blood circulation, shape and support muscles, help prevent injuries and speed up recovery.

Details:

Calibrated compression : 15-20 mmHg

Content : 70% Polyester, 30% Elastane (Invista Lycra)

Features:

EC3D ENGINEERED COMPRESSION TECHNOLOGY EC3D ENGINEERED COMPRESSION TECHNOLOGY

BCOOL FABRIC BCOOL FABRIC

SEAMLESS ZONED COMPRESSION SEAMLESS ZONED COMPRESSION

ANTIMICROBIAL FIBRES ANTIMICROBIAL FIBRES

Review and Recommendation:

The knickers are 3/4 length and leave a bit of my calves and ankles bare. Compression wear is snug but the knickers were exceptionally snug to get on (or maybe I am getting chubby legs) but felt good when on. The design is a bit different but still looks good and not too flashy. Would be kind of cool to maybe have a bigger logo running down the side of one leg though (thats cosmetics not function though!).

I did a solid 12k run in the knickers on a milder late fall day and they felt great. No chafing and no issues and felt supported throughout run.

I would recommend the knickers for spring and fall running or cool summer days or for use under warmer tights on cold running/xc-ski days.

*Careful when pulling on or off the compression gear in general not to stress out the area you are pulling on. The gear is well-stitched but because you need to tug it can be rough on shorts, tights etc.

**Note that not everything marked compression gear has been made to benefit you, or has been sized or has right pressure – choose companies like EC3D that have medical expertise and take time with research and products for various sized athletes.

***I run in the shorts, tights and knickers and use the socks and recovery tights for recovering after long runs, workouts or when feeling beat up.

I am unsure if it would improve my performance on race day but have felt they help me recover after runs and feel supportive on training runs.

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Research

To do some of your own research reading on compression gear and running:

Australian Sports Commission article

2010 Canadian Running magazine article

2013 article about benefit of compression socks

2013 article about benefit for runners

**Here is a recent running story I recently wrote featuring on of EC3D team members. Very inspiring!**

Life is short so get out for a run my friends!

 

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The view from my socks

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“Running has been my companion through the valleys and mountains of my life.”

Through the eyes of my socks. Okay so my running socks don’t have eyes, no mouth or ears either, but if they did they’d have a story to tell!

So the socks can’t talk but I can. Been battling back from low mileage and cranky hips but at least now have knowledge that i am only afflicted by something most runners have – weak hip flexors and glutes!

The mileage has not dropped to zero but not a lot of miles for me and it has been tough – down to one run a day and some gym workouts.

I had a mild wake-up call Sunday when I headed out for a run with a potential new running partner. A younger, slightly quicker runner. I have been running and fit but it has been a while since I have run with someone quicker than I am. Great wake-up call for me to get back to work and start working harder. The runner was a guy by the name of Nick who ran a 2:30 marathon at the fall Toronto marathon (he was aiming for faster).

So back to work.

Coming reviews

View all my running reviews here.

Always running and trying to promote running. Let me know if you have a running story to share or want to add a video to my Youtube channel.

My socks have seen enough and I hope they will see more – putting on some EC3D compression socks after today’s noon run.

I am out there on the roads with you my friends – keep running!

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Champion?

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“Runners are not all that picky but like clothing and gear that is common sense and makes the act of running easier and comfortable.”

There are lots of gadgets, gear, apps and information for runners now. It is no longer a sport of just shorts, t-shirt and shoes, it can be, but there are so many things that can add or subtract from your running – that you can now buy.

Champion

Champion is the athletic clothing company you have seen around for years but may not think of when you think running gear. Founded in 1919 this company has been around for a long time and brought out the Jogbra in the 1970s and considers themselves experts in sports bras for women. When the chance to check out some their running gear….I said why not!

I am not a picky runner, but have been running for over 27-years and like to be honest and simple with reviews and comments.

Here is what I had the chance to try out:

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Champion PerforMax Men’s Running Tight

The Champion tights are all black with small Champion reflective logo and used what they call Vapor technology – dries faster the more your body heat rises.

The tights have drawstring, smooth seams but no key pocket at waist and no zippers at ankles. Despite no zippers the tights were easy to get on and comfortable.

REVIEW

Very comfortable tight, simple black but lacked key pocket (although you could tie keys into drawstring if needed). I picked the right size for me and were snug not tight and no chafing anywhere.

RECOMMEND

Mid-level warmth for Canadian spring and fall and maybe cold summer mornings. Recommend for runners looking for basic functional running tight with no stripes or fancy designs.

*Champion if you add a small key/card pocket near front of waist would add to appeal.

**I tried around the house and first run was a cold mid-November run with snow and ice on ground and air temperature with wind chill was near -10C. Legs were a bit chilly but was doable.

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Powertrain Tech Fleece full zip

The colour I got was not what I was expecting but colour (maroon) is not function. The zip was I thought a bit big for a medium and looked boxy but looked warm.

The fleece has 2 zippered pockets and inner spaces, small logo on chest, minimal smooth seams and medium weight.

REVIEW

The jacket/zip is a bit roomy and square cut for me and there is no way to cinch things in at the bottom. The material is nice and kept me warm under light wind-breaking jacket on cold windy day. Zip did seem a bit heavy with sweat after run but may have been as was a bit baggy on me.

RECOMMEND

Not a bad choice under a jacket or for stockier built runner. Some may find fit loose and would recommend another Champion zip, the Champion PerforMax Men’s Stretch Fleece Jacket. The other option has reflective piping, looks snugger and has thumb-holes (I like these). Both would be good choice as main layer in spring and fall or under jacket when it gets colder.

Performax® Short

The short is black with some white (vented sides) and logo on them, ample venting (mesh) at waist and a white breathable liner (inner short) along with quality drawstring. The length is a bit long for me to run in (just above knee) but may be ok for others. I am going to use as a pair of shorts for the gym. The materials

RECOMMEND

I would recommend this short to runners who don’t like the shorter running shorts or for something you can wear to the gym to do some cross-training in. With the longer cut and inner short there is no fear of being indecent or showing anything when stretching etc.

Good workout short – like to see something shorter for running (in Canada). On US Champion site there are shorter shorts (Champion Mileage shorts) that some may like better for running.

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Champion website

After many years of running and starting when there were not that many clothing options – priority is comfort, chafe free gear that fits well and meets the individual runner’s requirements.

The Champion gear I tested is good quality and could be reasonably priced option for many runners. I am hoping that some of the other products I mentioned are available in Canada (ie. zip with thumb holes).

Run on friends!

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