Gear Review: RAD Roller

I would like to think that I am no different than most ultra runners; I too am always trying to find the best way to deal with those little aches and pains that come with pushing your body to the limit.  Yoga works great for stretching and the occasional massage is great if I can afford it, but most days I tend to rely on my foam roller and “The Stick” to get the job done.  The problem I have always had with these though is in my ability to really get to the most troublesome spots.  I seem to never feel totally rejuvenated after using them.  I have always thought of the foam roller as an idea that someone in a manufacturing plant came up with when they were trying to figure out what to do with scrap packaging foam.  Sure, it fulfills a basic purpose, but I tend to get more frustrated than not while I am rolling around on the floor looking for the best way to use it.  The Stick, for all of its usefulness, has it’s shortcomings too.  For one, I actually don’t like that it flexes, which prevents me from getting deep into the muscle.  Second, I am tired of getting my leg hair stuck in between the small rollers…ouch!  It just seems to me that we athletes have become complacent when it comes to self massage and myofascial release.  We love how it aides recovery and helps with the sore spots, but seem to have really low expectations in what they are able to do for us.

While I was cruising around Outdoor Retailer, I ran across the team at the RAD Roller (www.radroller.com) booth (probably my best discovery at OR this year).  It seems we no longer have to settle for rudimentary tools.  This is a company that definitely took an innovative, problem-solving approach by looking at the frustrations we athletes have with everything else on the market in order to develop products that focus on the best ways to deal with our various ailments.  After watching a demo, I left with their full kit so that I could see just how well it worked.

DISCLAIMER: RAD Roller provided me with their whole kit for the purposes of this review. As always, I will do my best to remain unbiased in order to provide YOU with an informative review and THEM with honest product feedback.

Overview

RADRoller_Aii_In_Kit
The RAD Roller kit consists of a number of tools, including:

  • RAD Roller
  • RAD Rounds
  • RAD Block
  • RAD Rod
  • RAD Helix

Price: $140 for everything listed above as a kit

You can purchase these pieces separately, but get the most bang for the buck my buying the kit.  They also have different kit configurations if you don’t want to get everything.  Together, this replaces a number of tools in the typical athletes’ self-massage/myofascial release tool box.  For me, I was able to ditch my foam roller, Stick, and plantar fasciitis ball.  What’s more, I felt that I was not only replacing these previous tools, but upgrading in most cases.

Product Details

Each of the tools comes with extensive how-to documentation that covers using them to target different areas of the body and their website is also helpful, so I won’t get into too much of that here.  Instead, I will go over each tool and what I liked best about it.  I will then wrap up my review with some overall pro’s and con’s.

RAD Roller

RAD_Roller_Soft_fca9f588-d0d6-44ce-bc39-8b16926012da_medium

The Roller is their flagship product, which consists of two balls fused in the middle.  These are great for trigger point and working out tense spots in general.  They are also pretty flexible in that you can use them on just about any part of your body.  The best way to use these is to settle on a spot and roll back and forth no more than an inch in either direction. My favorite part of the body for the Roller was on the neck (using the block) and anywhere on the legs.

RAD Rounds

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The Rounds come in two different sizes and are great for trigger point therapy and reaching the small spaces.  I liked these mostly for my feet (like a golf ball to roll out the plantar fascia) and for knots in general.

RAD Block

rad-block-massage-sports-jiu-jitsu-scramble-main

The Block, in my mind, is a key accessory.  Some muscles are hard to work unless you can position your body a certain way.  While it does nothing by itself, when paired with the Roller/Rounds, it allows you to lift off the floor slightly so that you can get the right angle and maximum leverage to work certain muscles.  I found this to work especially well on the arms, hip flexors, and quads.

RAD Rod

Rad_Roller_Rad_Rod_1000x1000_1024x1024

As a Product Manager by profession, I always found The Stick to be a bit over-engineered. In the case of the Rod, simplicity is not only key, but twice as effective.  The core of the Rod is an unyielding steel bar, which allows you to get really deep into the muscle.  I LOVE this on my quads and upper shoulders.

RAD Helix

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The Helix is genius, especially on the back.  I have been looking for something like a foam roller for my back and this is it!  It perfectly hits the support muscles along my entire spine, which are always the tightest, without aggravating my spine thanks to the groove in the middle.  For me personally, this may have been worth the price alone.  Other areas where I found the Helix to be most valuable were the neck, IT band, and calves.  One tip that is useful: although the instructions seem to imply you can use the Helix on its own, I found it to be more stable with the RAD Rod in it.

Final Impressions

Overall, this kit is exactly as advertised. It gives you access to complete self-service massage and myofascial release that, in my opinion, meets and exceeds the needs of most people.  For me, I found that it provides enough added benefits over existing tools that I know longer feel like FREQUENT trips to a masseuse are mandatory (in fact, I cancelled a planned massage because I didn’t feel like it was worth spending the money).  That is not to say that it can replace an experts’ touch when it is REALLY needed, but I think it is a great kit for the daily maintenance stuff we should all do and definitely better than other self-service products on the market.

Pros

  • An all-in-one kit that prevents you from having to piece a kit together.
  • Travels well.  Everything is compact and fits in a suitcase with ease.
  • Kit is price comparable to anything else on the market when factoring in everything that it replaces.
  • Only time will tell, but everything seems very durable.  You probably still shouldn’t let your dog chew on them, but they are able to bear weight with no issues.

Cons

  • More expensive when priced individually, so it is in your best interest to commit up front.  If you are interested, I would definitely buy the kit together and save yourself the extra $20 or so.
  • This may be personal, but the one thing I still preferred my foam roller for was the glutes.  As a large muscle, the Roller/Rounds/Helix just didn’t seem to work the whole muscle as well as the foam roller.  I may discover that I am doing it wrong and change my mind, but this is where I am at right now.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

Product Review: Orange Mud Duffel/Gym Bag

Orange Mud’s mantra is “Innovation from Frustration”.  Josh, CEO of Orange Mud and chief mastermind behind their products, gets inspired to create whenever he sees athletes struggle to use the very gear that is supposed to aid them in their endeavors.  He took this to heart with the first HydraQuiver hydration pack and every product that they have introduced since.  Frustrated with the lack of durability, form, and function of most of the duffel-style bags on the market, he wanted to introduce one that was designed by athletes, for athletes.  The new Orange Mud Modular Duffel/Gym bag is the result.  Let’s take a look at it.

Orange Mud Duffel Bag

DISCLAIMER: At the time of this review, I am a member of the Orange Mud Ambassador team.

Product Overview

Product Link: Orange Mud Duffel Bag
Price: $170

As a trail runner that really loves toys and gear, I have a lot of stuff to keep track of.  If you are like me (and I know most of you are), the back/trunk of your car is probably a hodge-podge of disorganized running stuff that tends to pile up with the passing of time.  I have tried to use a regular duffel bag to keep it organized, but still end up spending way too much time looking for the one item that I need within the bag full of stuff.  The Orange Mud duffel bag and its modular design provides the perfect solution.  In addition to the tough construction and high quality that is typical with all OM products, the bag itself has a number of features that you will love:

DCIM102GOPRO    OM Duffel Modular Bags      Orange Mud Duffel Shoe Bag
(Take a look at the full-size pictures by clicking on them)

  1. LOTS of storage space for your larger items in the main compartment of the bag.
  2. A side-accessible, detachable shoe bag that keeps your dirty shoes away from the rest of your gear.  The bag itself can also be taken out for quick cleaning.
  3. Two detachable modular bags inside of the larger compartment to help keep your stuff organized.
    1. If you like to change clothes after a long run, the larger bag is ideal for keeping your dirty, sweaty clothes separated from the rest of your gear.  This bag also has a handle on it, making it easy to carry on its own.  It can also be used as a drop bag too.
    2. The smaller bag is ideal for keeping your smaller items in one place.  Because it resides inside the bag, it is perfect for some of your more valuable items, such as your wallet, phone, keys, headlamp, etc.
  4. Four external zip pouches that allow for additional storage and quick, easy access for all of your essential items.  I use these pouches for nutrition, toiletries, spare socks, gloves, hats, etc.
  5. Durable construction and materials using military-grade canvas for the bag and seatbelt material for the straps/handles.

Conclusion
For the Mountain and Ultra trail runner (which is the perspective I do most of my reviews from), this bag is awesome.  It makes a PERFECT trunk bag (the one you keep in your car at all times and use to organize your stuff), a crew/drop bag on race day, or everyday gym bag.  This is also durable enough to use as a travel bag too.  While the price may seem a little steep, I always believe that you get what you pay for.  What you are getting with this bag is a rough and tough duffel that will last, the flexibility of a truly modular design, and less frustration in those times when you need to find that ONE important thing.  If you are in the market for a bag, this is definitely the one you need!

I hope you found this review informative.  If you like something a bit more interactive (and don’t mind my so-so presentation skills), I also recorded a two-part video review.  They can be found here:

Part 1: Feature Overview
http://youtu.be/XDe3MjcVKu8
Part 2: Loading Up the Bag
http://youtu.be/YEoMa9PzlGI

If you are interested in checking this or any other Orange Mud products #out, swing on over to their site by clicking this link.  You can use the code THEMANJOE to get 10% off of your order.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

Product Review: Titin Tech Weighted Compression System

I have been really excited to write this review, as I typically am for any product that I feel is a game changer.  As a mountain trail runner in Salt Lake City, I have been on a quest for some time to find a tool that can help me add resistance and build running strength on the days when I can’t hit the mountain climbs.  I have tried weighted vests in the past, but they all fit awkwardly, bounce, chafe, and/or cause muscle strains due to how they unevenly distribute weight (especially the shoulders).  Enter the Titin Weighted Compression system.  Titin has gone back to the drawing board and come up with a completely different solution to this problem; a combination of weight training and compression.  Let’s take a look at it!

Product Overview
Titin Tech markets itself as the world’s only weighted compression gear.  It has gained a lot of momentum recently, making a successful appearance on Shark Tank and being adopted and endorsed by professional athletes and coaches across a number of sports and disciplines.  Their main selling point is that the product keeps weight in place better than any other solution by using a combination of weight disbursement and compression.  As a result of the overwhelming effectiveness of their product, they are able to claim measurable results, with those “using it during warm up achieving a 13% increase in vertical leap, 11% increase in endurance, and 3% increase in running speed.”  They seem to have a lot of supporters that back their product already, but I am a hands on guy that likes to see for himself.  Let me share what I thought of the Titin system from an ultra runner’s perspective.

In the Box
The Titin system comes with (3) main components as pictured below:

  • Anti-microbial pocket shirt
  • (14) weight gels
  • Outer compression shirt

IMG_2771      IMG_2772

Price:
$249 for the whole system (includes one pocket shirt, one compression shirt, 14 gels)
$52.95 for an additional pocket shirt
$32.95 for an additional compression shirt

An important thing to keep in mind is that the gels come with a lifetime replacement warranty, which means that after the one time investment in these, you will no longer need to purchase them again.

Benefits and Uses
It is important that you don’t oversimplify this product and thing of it just as a weighted vest because the flexibility of this product is unlike anything else on the market.  It’s versatility allows it to be used in a number of different ways with a number of different benefits.  The truth is, while it is more expensive up front, you are getting much more utility and value out of the Titin system.  In fact, I will go as far as to say that you will likely replace some of your other gear/equipment with this system.  Let’s look at some of the key benefits:

  1. Due to its compression design, bounce normally experienced with fast movements is greatly reduced.  This means that it is more friendly for use while running, doing speed work or circuit training, or even sports drills such as what you would find in basketball or football.
  2. The even weight distribution means the weight is not putting a burden unevenly on parts of your body.  With most weighted vests, a good deal of the weight rests on your shoulders.  With the 14-point placement of the gels with the Titin system, you can ensure that all parts of your upper body are supporting the weight without any one area picking up the slack.
  3. The gel system itself is an added benefit in that they can be both heated and cooled.  This allows the vest not only to be used during weight training activities, but as a recovery tool as well.

Here are a few shots of me wearing it, both with and without the outer compression on.

Titin Front 1     Titin Back 1

Titin Front 2      Titin Back 2

In Action
So all of the marketing and third-party impressions aside, none of that matters if it doesn’t do the job when it counts!  After years of disappointment in my own search to find something that that I could run in, I am not exaggerating when I say that I have built up some lofty performance expectations coming into this review.  And while my focus for using this product is on how it performs while running, I also wanted to test it across a number of activities that I do that contribute to my running fitness, which I have included below.

Putting it on and General Care
This is about as simple as it gets.  The gels come in two shapes which are designed to fit into certain pockets on the under shirt.  It is pretty straight forward which ones go in each pocket and they are very easy to insert…I had them all in in less than two minutes.  On the back (as seen in one of the pictures above), there is a half zipper that makes it easier to put on and take off.  I also found it easy to reach the zipper without assistance thanks to a ribbon that is attached to it.  As far as the zipper itself, it is unnoticeable while wearing, with no chafing or rubbing.

The gels can be heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer for added heat or cold therapy.  They don’t freeze solid, so you don’t have to worry about them forming into some weird, uncomfortable shape either.  Once heated or cooled, you are good for about 45 minutes.

The pocketed undershirt is anti-microbial, which means you don’t have to wash it after every use.  After using it for a solid week, I smelled no odor.  Still, I will probably wash it relatively frequently…every 1-3 weeks depending on frequency of use.

Now, here are my impressions when used for a number of different activities.

Running
For me, this was the most important test.  With other weighted vests I have tried in the past, the biggest issue was bounce.  I was constantly having to reposition the vest while running.  This resulted in chafing and an overall unpleasant/unpeaceful running experience.  Most vests are often bulky too, making it difficult to wear my hydration pack.  Lastly, with most previous weight vests, when I take it off I generally feel stiff and can tell that the weight was straining my muscles in bad ways.  This are all of the things I was looking to asses.

With the Titin vest, all of these problems disappeared.  With the outer compression shirt, the weight stayed snug and in place without impacting my running motion.  The gels are distributed and positioned in a way that they don’t restrict movement in the arms and torso.  I experienced almost zero bounce with Titin.  Because the weights are broken up into small packages, it is easier to used the compression to hold them in place while getting the collective benefit of the total 8lbs at the same time.  I ran multiple times up to an hour in it during my tests (which mimics my intended use), and experienced no chafing or weird rubbing.  The 8 lbs of weight is the perfect amount for offering some resistance training while not overdoing it (general recommendations is no more than 5-10% of your body weight).  When I took it off after my run, aside from fatigue from the added weight, I had no immediate soreness or stiffness in my upper body, which held true the day after as well.  Lastly, as you can see from the picture below, it is not nearly as bulky, which allowed me to wear my Orange Mud hydration pack normally and without any awkwardness.  In short, I have finally found the perfect resistance training solution for running.

Titin in Action

Circuit Training (Using Insanity T25 – Total Body Circuit)
While running certainly provided a good test of how the Titin system would perform under movement, I still wanted to test it with a bit more of an explosive workout.  I am happy to say that it performed equally as well with the quick, jerky movements found in circuit training workouts.  Additionally, the added weight made the workout quite a bit more more challenging, but in a good way.

Yoga/Body Weight Exercising
My test here was focused less on fast movements and more about how it performed in strength training routines and other programs that incorporate different body positioning.  I was most interested in how it would feel while in inverted positions, such as downward dog in yoga.  I am happy to say that it performed great in these scenarios quite well too.  In downward dog position, there was only some minor shifting, but no issues with the weights sliding into my neck or out of position.

Downward Dog Titin

My Final Thoughts

Pros

  • This system, while not necessarily designed for runners, suits the purpose extremely well with no bounce, chafing, or discomfort while running or cross training.
  • The weight is distributed extremely well as to not cause any unnecessary muscle strain.  The 8 lbs. is also the right amount of weight to provide benefit without increasing the risk of injury.
  • The system is multi-purpose, serving the job of both weight and resistance training as well as hot or cold therapeutic recovery.
  • The gels come with a lifetime warranty requiring you to only buy them once.  This way, you only need to buy additional shirts as needed.
  • Can use your own outer compression tops that you already own.

Cons

  • The price will likely turn some away, which is a shame because I believe the value far surpasses the price tag.  Even so, a slightly lower price point may encourage people to jump on board.
  • One design change I would make is to have the zipper on the back open up just a bit higher.  While it was super easy to put on, it was a bit difficult to take off once I was a little sweaty.
  • Addiction — I am not going to want to stop using it.  🙂

Conclusion
While the upfront investment can be eye-catching, what you get in return with the whole system returns much more value to you considering the multiple uses and the overall training benefit.  This product is truly a game changer that I believe finally gives runners a product that they can use to improve their performance and recover successfully afterwards.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!