Tag Archives: product review

Product Review: Quick Strength for Runners


Like most runners, I am way better at finding time to run that I am at finding time for strength training.  I’ve made attempts in the past to strength train regularly, but I always find myself forgetting to do these workouts. And any workout that gets forgotten before it gets done isn’t very useful, is it?

I came across the book Quick Strength for Runners by longtime running coach and Runner’s World writer Jeff Horowitz.  I took a look at it on Amazon, and I thought it was well laid-out, simple to follow, and (most importantly) succinct.

Here’s the deal: most runners want to run.  They don’t want to strength train.  If you write a runner an exercise program where they need to spend 2-3 hours a week in the gym, they aren’t going to do it.  But Quick Strength gives runners 16 workouts, each about 30 minutes, that can be done at home with minimal equipment.  A set of dumbbells and a stability ball are all you really need.

The book does a good job assuming that runners need to start at the beginning:


Once a basic overview of muscle groups and their locations and roles in the running body was given, there is a big section devoted to the individual exercises that make up the workouts.


The exercises focus on hips, core, and legs, which make sense for a runner’s workout.  Each exercise is clearly explained with helpful photographs. The form cues were clear and easy-to-understand.


 I really liked that advanced forms of most exercises were included, which allows the book to be useful well beyond its 8-week program lifespan.

Finally, the exercise program is laid out.  It is two workouts per week for eight weeks.  The workouts are easy-to-follow.  In fact, there are times where the workouts repeat exercises in short circuits.  Rather than saying “do exercises 8-11 again”, they are written out in full.  It makes the book incredibly user-friendly for even the most novice exerciser.


In all of my years of trying to be good about including strength training, this is the first program I have followed start-to-finish in the prescribed time-frame.  I admit that some of the exercises were on the easy side for me, but I never finished a workout feeling like it was a waste of time.  Certainly, I could have chosen the harder versions of exercises or used heavier weights to give myself more of a challenge.

I was so impressed with the book, especially in its usability thanks to clear photos and clear workout layout, that I bought my dad a copy for his Father’s Day present.  I recommend Jeff Horowitz’s Quick Strength for Runners to any runner who wants to add some quality strength training to their workouts without feeling like you’re taking precious time away from your running.

Good health and great happiness to you!

I was not asked to write this review, nor was I compensated to do so.


Product Review: HOKA ONE ONE


This post is one in an occasional series reviewing various fitness products.  These are not sponsored posts. 

Only two times in my two-and-a-half decades of running have I dared to change shoes from my trusty Asics.  Once was when I had just started running marathons (gulp, 17 years ago, gulp) when I was talked in to some Nikes (and wound up with plantar fasciatis that took more than eight years– and a pregnancy-induced running break– to get rid of) and once a few years ago when I desperately wanted to love Vibram Five Fingers.  Both times I returned to my Asics, switching models as the shoes changed over the years, and I have no real reason to stop loving them.  Asics have been good to me.

But I get curious when something new hits the market, and with the current swing of the shoe pendulum away from minimalist shoes over to “maximalist” styles, I’ve been reading a lot about HOKA ONE ONE shoes.  Easily identifiable by the super cushioned, high stacked sole, HOKA has become the savior shoes of many over-40 runners I know.

Also, my favorite local running legend, Leo Manzano, is sponsored by HOKA.

2013-03-23 12.17.40

Not usually one to be swayed by celebrity endorsements, my respect for Leo and his running made me even more curious about HOKA shoes.  When a friend of mine told me about a screaming deal on HOKA Conquest shoes, I decided to try them out.


I got my shoes, and then they sat on my shelf for nearly two months.  I was afraid to wear them…but I finally decided I had to give them a try.  From the outset, it was a challenge.  The slide-lock tie system makes it hard to open the shoe wide to put my foot in; then once I got my foot in the shoe, I immediately felt my right outer foot rubbing on the lip of the shoe.  Granted, I have particularly bony feet, so this is likely a particular-to-me fit issue.  One of the things I love about Asics is their straight out of the box comfort.  It’s like they were meant for my feet.  Sorry to say, I did not have that same experience with my HOKA’s.

I decided to take them out for a run anyway, and after just three miles my outer foot felt really bruised.  I’m sure my gait was off, though, as I kept skimming the bottom of the shoe on the asphalt.  I don’t know whether it was the thick sole of the shoe, the build up of the footbed, or the heavier weight of the shoe.  I did enjoy the super-cushiony feel while running in the HOKAs.

Not one to give up easily, I continued to run in the HOKAs.  My feet seem to be settling in to the shoe a bit better, and the bruising on the low ankle is lessening.  I have learned to pick my feet up higher,which is probably better for my stride anyway.  I like the feeling of stability that the large sole provides, and that’s useful to the significant over-pronation in my gait.  I haven’t worked up the confidence to try them on a long run (10+ miles) yet, nor did they make the packing list for my annual summer vacation.

Despite my initial disappointment, I can see why the HOKAs would be worth getting used to, particularly for a marathon or ultramarathon distance event.  I’m going to continue to wear them as an alternate shoe to my tried-and-true Asics Gel Kayano.  We’ll see who gets to the starting line of my fall marathon with me.

I was not asked to write this review.  All opinions are my own.  

Product Review: the FLYUP


OnBalance is all about combining family life with fitness for a lifestyle of wellness.  I am contacted regularly by companies who would like me to review (or just flat out endorse) their product.  It is rare, though that the basic premise of a fitness product aligns so well with my simple, straightforward, realistic approach.  I’m please to say that the good folks at Flyup Fitness have developed a fitness tool that is easy-to-use, effective, inexpensive, and perfect for people who travel.

The FLYUP is two rectangles, smooth on one side and slightly textured on the other.  The textured side has holes where handles (included) can be inserted or removed easily, depending on whether you need them for a particular exercise.  When you’re finished, you can stack the blocks together and insert the handles into the ends which makes the product compact for either storage or travel.


I used the FLYUP several times before writing this post.  At first, I was uncertain how useful it would be, as I could only think of  several variations of plank and pushups to do using it.  I went to the Flyup Fitness website to check out the videos of exercise demos.   I tried the exercises– first on my knees, then up on my toes for more of a challenge–and came away feeling like my core and shoulders were on fire.  I started to figure out how the FLYUP would be good for travel, even when I’m taking a resistance tube– these little sliders require core stability in almost every exercise.

The Flyup Fitness You Tube channel has a wide variety of videos introducing even more exercises.  I found the videos easy to follow, and their informal, friendly approach gave me confidence.  I liked that the videos gave quick overviews of several exercises rather than a do-as-I’m-doing-it video class format. That allowed me to learn the exercises, try them out myself at my own pace, and then move on to the next one when I was ready. The FLYUP is good for both beginners as well as advanced exercisers, as each individual can choose body position and unilateral or bilateral movement to modify exercises to a specific ability level.

The only drawback to the FLYUP is pracitcal– it is to be used on low-pile carpet.  My entire house has wood floors, and the only low-pile rugs are in my closet and The Monkey’s bedroom.  He’s an 8-year-old boy, which means his low-pile rug is covered in legos more often than not.  I did one workout in my closet (see photos), but I’m not too keen on being sweaty where my clean clothes are.  I read the warning that comes with the FLYUP that using the product on anything except low-pile carpet could damage flooring or the FLYUP itself– I took the risk and used mine on the wood laminate in my laundry room.  While I may be reducing the lifespan of my FLYUP by scratching the smooth surface slightly each workout, that’s better than never using them.


Also, I’m not likely to use the FLYUP much with my clients, as I train so many pregnant women.  Most of the exercises are done prone, so it’s not a great fit for expectant moms who aren’t already confident in their core, chest, and shoulder strength.  Regardless, it’s a great way to do deep abdominal work post-baby.

The FLYUP is sold through the Flyup Fitness website  for $40.  I haven’t had mine long enough to tell you how they hold up over frequent, regular use.  But I do think they are priced fairly and are a good investment, particularly for people who have little storage space or travel frequently.  They’re also inexpensive enough that you could use them only occasionally to change up your strength training routine.  Overall, I thought the FLYUP was a useful fitness tool that caused me to focus on my alignment and muscular integration in a new way.

I received a FLYUP from Flyup Fitness in exchange for writing this review.  The opinions presented in this post are entirely my own, based on my experiences of using the FLYUP.  

Product Review: SlimIce

2013-09-12 09.52.12

Weight loss and fat burning are two topics that people ask me about regularly.  There are lots of different theories out there– some based on science and some based on hope– about things people can do to accelerate their  weight loss.

The SlimIce pack is a product that  takes advantage of the body’s natural inclination to maintain the same temperature at all times.

Okay, class, say: “thermoregulatory homeostasis”.

By introducing cold to the upper back via the SlimIce Pack, the body engages the brown fat in the upper back and shoulders (this is the good fat that allows thermoregulartory homeostasis to occur) to burn off white fat (the bad kind that usually accumulates in places we don’t want it) as the body works to maintain its preferred temperature.

As you can see in the above photo, the SlimIce Pack is a small backpack into which the user inserts a frozen gel pack.  The pack is worn for 20 minutes per day (with a warning that more is not better), and the user is encouraged to wear it just before bed to maintain the fat burning.  Because I was testing this product in August and September in Austin, I chose to wear mine while I was in my hot kitchen making dinner each evening.  My only complaint with the physical product itself is that I had the straps on the smallest setting, and it was still fairly loose.  I am a petite person, though, and the SlimIce would certainly fit the average to above-average build.

I’ve been wearing the SlimIce pack daily for the last three weeks.  I can’t say I’ve noticed any real difference in my body composition, but I haven’t been trying to lose weight, either.  The informational packet that comes with the SlimIce stresses the importance of eating whole, nutritious foods as the cornerstone for weight loss.  I take issue with the suggestion to eat at least 30 grams of protein at breakfast, as this advice is given as a blanket statement.  While I certainly understand the importance of shifting from a carbohydrate-based breakfast to a protein-packed breakfast as a dietary change to lose weight, I prefer my nutrition direction to come from a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

On the whole, I understand the science behind SlimIce, and it is sound.  There are several good videos on the SlimIce website that go into more detail about how and why the product works to accelerate weight loss.  I always opt for the least-invasive methods of intervention when dealing with my own body, so I feel confident recommending that people who have made dietary changes and have a steady fitness routine for weight loss to add SlimIce as part of their overall wellness program.

The SlimIce product I wore was given to me by Bennett Johnston, creator of the product.  I received no further compensation for writing this blog post, and all opinions are mine.

Product Review: Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender



A few weeks ago, I posted about my love for green smoothies.  Because I had come to rely on the nutrition and energy boost in my morning smoothie, I wasn’t looking forward to going on vacation and leaving my daily breakfast behind.  Of course, I also wasn’t necessarily interested in spending a lot of money on a new blender just for smoothies for a month.

I did some research, and if you’ve ever done research about blenders you’ll know that this is a product people take very seriously.  I did my due diligence on Amazon.com, and I wound up purchasing a Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender.  I’ve been using it almost daily for three weeks now, so it’s time for a review.

All in all, this is a great product.  I like that I can make my smoothie in the same cup I drink it in.  Easy cleanup is always a plus!  I’m impressed with the strength of the motor– my smoothies include spinach, frozen berries, greek yogurt, and bananas.  This little blender is able to tackle the frozen berries and very full cup with no problems.  I also like that this cup has a 16oz (plus) capacity, because I tend to fill my smoothies to the tip top every time. 

I haven’t experienced the smoking smell that some of the Amazon reviewers noted.  To avoid this, I’ve been careful to pulse the blender rather than run it continuously.  The motor shows no signs of losing power, and in fact it blends the smoothie in about 15-20 seconds– much faster than I would have anticipated.

My only complaint is that the base of the blades inside the cup seems to stain easily.  Of course, I’m using berries and spinach, so staining should be expected.  I just like to know that the cups are clean, and it’s hard to tell by eyeballing it.

If you travel often, I recommend this blender.  It’s been a great way for me to start my day with 4 servings of fruit/veg and 10 grams of protein, all for about 200 calories.  And it’s mighty tasty, too!