Normatec Pulse Recovery System Review

Normatec Pulse Review
4.2 / 5 Overall
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (0 votes)
Features
Durability
Cost
Used it before? Leave a review

Your browser does not support images upload. Please choose a modern one

It was a magical time of year with all of the holidays either happening or around the corner (December 2015). What better time to gift myself the updated compression recovery system from Normatec. Having previously owned the Normatec MVP and reviewed it here along with the other systems on the market, I was very excited to get my hands on a new version called the Normatec Pulse. It’s kind of like every year or so when Apple comes out with a better iPhone and you can’t wait for it. It’s not like the other one had problems that were huge, or you likely wouldn’t get the new one, but you know they will have made it even better. One big difference here is that Normatec doesn’t release new systems every year. Let’s jump into the new system.

normatec-pulse-review-1

Normatec Pulse Features

First I will list the main features their recovery boots had and still have followed by the updated and new features.

Sequential squeeze – The system works by compressing sections of your legs up and then down to flush them out similar to a massage.

Five Overlapping Zones – Most systems have 4 separate zones, Normatec has 5 zones. And as an added bonus all of their zones overlap so that you don’t have small pockets of your legs that don’t get an even and sequential squeeze.

Pressure adjustment – There are 7 different levels of compression to meet your comfort level and compression needs.

Sizing – They have 3 different sizes of their leg attachments to get the below 5’4″ people, middle range, and the super tall folks above 6’3″. If you fall in a middle zone they will be happy to answer your call or email about getting the correct size.

Easy Connectors – The new connectors are more modern looking but a little tougher to go and undo. They are also generally a little more bulky when you connect it into the hub.

normatec-pulse-review-3

Zone Boost – When you press the Zone Boost button on the main unit it will increase pressure in the current zone. This feature has always confused me to some degree but it works. There is no specific listed amount of time or pressure increase that it applies but it does apply an increase. I’m also a little unsure of how to time it best so that you press it on the right zone.

Updates

Improved foot design – This is one of the main reasons I sold my old unit and switched to this. If you have read about these or have any experience using the previous model by Normatec then you know about the foot squeeze problem. The Normatec MVP previously squeezed your foot laterally and this was very painful for many. The work around was to either put a PVC tube in there or a sandal. Now with the Normatec Pulse the squeeze is top to bottom and feels great.

Battery Powered – I have to say I hadn’t even considered this a possibility when I saw the new release. This was also something that existed as a separate add on called the Normatec battery kit and sold for nearly $200. While the add on gave 4 hours the built in battery in the Normatec Pulse life gives 2 hours. Still, it is built in and essentially free. But if you want extra battery power there is always something like this.

Lighter control unit – Even with the additional battery and the improved screen the main unit of the Normatec Pulse is about half the overall size. This clearly shows how all technology has gotten smaller and more efficient since the original suitcase like design of the Normatec MVP.

normatec-pulse-review-4

Zone Control – I’m not sure what the official name for this feature is but you now get the ability to turn sections of the unit on and off. This was previously a feature of the Normatec MVP Pro version that retailed for around $5,000. Now you get it in the base model of the Normatec Pulse that retails for only $1,595.

Timer – Another feature from the previous Pro model only. Now you can set your session time on the control unit. This is great because often times I wouldn’t really be paying attention to the time or would fall asleep if after a hard work out. Now it stops after however long of a session you need, awesome.

Normatec Pulse Usage

When I first got the unit I was immediately pleased with the look and feel of it. I knew going in that Normatec was modernizing their design but this was a huge step up. It was almost comparable to going from the Apple Newton to the iPhone in terms of features and usability. The previous MVP system was bulky and almost like a mysterious box that you would turn on and just assume it was doing everything right based on a handful of led indicators. Now you turn it on and you have options and features that are clearly presented and labeled.

On to the actual usage – it’s a mixed bag of very impressed and a few disappointments. As I listed above in the updated features; the new Normatec Pulse packs a punch with everything it does new and better. The new and improved foot design was the first thing I noticed when I slid them on and started using them. You can tell they heard the feedback and had really put some time into this crucial element of the compression recovery boot design. It now has a pleasant squeeze that goes from top to bottom and doesn’t hurt but instead feels great.

normatec-pulse-review-2

Unfortunately the next thing I noticed was that the new design of the standard size also changed the length just a little bit. For someone like me that falls into the 5’6″/5’7″ range I am probably the worst possible height. The standard height range goes from 5’4″ to 6’3, an 11 inch range of fit. What happens if you have an inseam of  about 29.5″ is that you can’t really use the 5th zone of the boots. If you try to adjust and move it around you will either have strange bunching in the lower zones or a crushing of your private parts. For me this makes them a 4 zone boot and has them end up reaching about 3″-4″ below where I would like them to squeeze. I know this isn’t the end of the world because they have the hip attachment but that is a $600 purchase and another 60-90 minute squeeze session just to get the upper quadricep area. With the Normatec MVP I was just barely skirting the edge of using all the zones. The silver lining on this is the next huge feature I noticed with the new Normatec Pulse system.

The zone control ability is a welcome feature at this price point. With my previous issue it was a simple matter of just selecting the top zone and turning it off. I have also really enjoyed this feature because sometimes I don’t want a full leg squeeze. My calves recently have been acting up so sometimes I just turn on the bottom two zones while I’m sitting at my desk for a simple squeeze while I’m working. This isn’t the ideal positioning for clearing the gunk out of your legs but it is something I previously couldn’t have done.

The final thing I really want to dig into is the session timer. If you read my previous review comparing all of the models that existed you will know that I use the boots a lot and sometimes I fall asleep. One of the ways these boots work is similar to a massage and it is very relaxing. When you add the relaxation factor in with the fact that you probably just did a hard workout it adds up to some unplanned napping with boots. I’m not sure if having the boots squeeze for over 2 hours is good or bad for you but I know it isn’t suggested anywhere. I’ve only had this experience a handful of times previously but now I never have to worry about it. The Normatec Pulse has the session time that you can adjust in 5 minute increments with the easy plus and minus buttons on the two sides of the main screen. I also just really enjoy not having to set a separate timer on my iPhone or try to look at a clock and remember when I started.

Normatec Pulse Durability

I can’t speak for how well this unit will last over the course of many years. I can speak on the knowledge that this again feels like a very sturdy main control unit and durable material on the compression recovery boots. The connectors despite feeling a little more hard to manipulate also feel more durable. The only concern for durability that you could probably have is with the new control screen. This is to be expected because it is a digital display, like all digital displays, however I gladly except this one possible break point over the 7 led system of the MVP. I did look up the warranty on the Normatec site and saw it had 2 years on the control unit and one year on the recovery boots. But the bottom line is that this is a $1,595 piece of recovery equipment and you should treat it like you would any other electronic device of this price range.

Normatec Pulse Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Most of the features of a pro unit for the price of the previous entry unit
  • Built in Timer
  • Built in Battery
  • 7 power levels
  • 5 overlapping compression zones

Cons

  • 29″-30″ inseams will only get to use 4 zones
  • Battery life seems to die off fairly quickly when not in use
  • connectors are not compatible with old attachments

Normatec Pulse Conclusion

I have loved my previous Normatec MVP and held it in high regard above the other units on the market. The Normatec Pulse continues the excellence built on the previous version and added so many improved and new features. When I think about the one issue I had with the length I realized it must have existed for people an inch or more shorter than me in the previous model. With the ability to turn off zones this unit cancels out that problem and incompatibility that people would have had before. I suppose the only way they could make the next version better is longer battery life and more sizing variations. For now, the Normatec Pulse again stands alone as the best compression recovery boot on the market.

 



Follow Me

Dario

Dario is a long time distance runner and OCR athlete. When not on the roads and trails logging miles he can be found drinking coffee while reading bad science fiction books.
Follow Me

What people say... Used it before? Leave a review
Order by:

Be the first to leave a review.

User Avatar
Verified
{{{ review.rating_title }}}
{{{review.rating_comment | nl2br}}}

Show more
{{ pageNumber+1 }}

Night Runner 270 Review

Night Runner 270
2 / 5 Overall
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (6 votes)
Features
Durability
Cost
Used it before? Leave a review

Your browser does not support images upload. Please choose a modern one

nightrunner-270-review-4

Back in February when the Night Runner 270 was announced on Kickstarter I was really excited to see an innovative running product hit the market. It isn’t often that innovative products come out for running and this seemed like a clever idea. I run a fairly large amount while training for ultras and OCR and that means that I’m frequently burning the midnight oil to get in all my running and cross training. While I’ve never had any issues with running in the dark, it does sometimes slow you down when you aren’t wearing a headlamp. You have the need to take a little bit more of a probing step when in complete darkness and your focus goes from settling in on a long run to making sure you don’t get hurt. So there it stands – sweet new product, filling a need, tech guy likes tech, backed the project on kickstarter, waiting for package, package delivered, charge device, put on shoes, put Night Runner 270 on shoes and run.

nightrunner-270-review-1

Night Runner 270 Features

USB Charging – They have an estimated battery life of 4-8 hours which I would assume is 4 hours on high and 8 hours on blinking or low. There is a really cool USB Y cable that makes it so you can charge two at once from one USB port. As nice as it is to never need batteries that’s also one of those things that gets at me a little since you can’t change the batteries if you grab it and realize it’s dead.

Rear Lights – There is a back light that is red that is kind of wrapped around the side to add to your road visibility from behind. Not something I ever thought I would find cool but it’s a nifty little feature, I guess I’m getting older.

Three Light Modes – They can be on low to conserve light for longer runs or when the ground is more simple, high for the most light, and blinking when you just want to use them to be seen.

Night Runner 270 Usage

After waiting for night to come as soon as I got the device charged, I strapped them up and out the door I went. At first I was impressed with how light they were and that you didn’t even notice them on your feet. This immediately changed when I started to feel them shifting. While the weight was never an issue, getting them to stay on your shoes was an issue for me. About 2 miles into an easy run and I decided that stopping about 9 times to adjust them, or put them back on my shoe after chasing them down, was too much. I guess another upside to their small size and weight was that carrying them for another 6 miles wasn’t too bad. I also noticed after taking them off that there had been a little stiffness added to my tongue that was now gone.

nightrunner-270-review-2

As far as the light goes, it didn’t really work for its intended purpose. I felt like more people noticed me but I couldn’t see much more than without. For the purpose of being seen their is a wide variety of things that are less expensive and equally effective – Nite Ize ShoeLit Indicator, LED Safety Lights, Portable Shoes Safety Lights for Running, and so on. If you want to light the ground in front of you, stick to a headlamp – also cheaper.

Night Runner 270 Durability

These are definitely not OCR friendly. The are only water resistant and from the few falls they took off of my laces they showed minor scratching. But as far as actual durability they are plastic molded and non sealed so I’m going to say they aren’t all that durable. They shouldn’t need to be based on their intended usage but they fall off your shoes so they should be able to take a beating when you lose one while crossing a street.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Added Safety while running at night
  • Rechargeable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • You can feel them while running
  • They Fall off
  • Rechargeable – yes this is also a con, you can’t swap batteries if you forget to charge

 

Night Runner 270 Verdict

I think it’s a pretty open and closed case, don’t buy these. They are expensive, fall off, and don’t light the way. It’s not often that I get products that don’t work so it makes this all the more disappointing. I’m thinking for version 2 they could add a second and/or third set of light that keep the ground illuminated through your entire legs range of motion. Maybe even adding more power at the price of weight; I’m not sure but wait until something better comes along. Wear a headlamp plus shoe blinking lights to cover all the bases in a way more effective manner.



Follow Me

Dario

Dario is a long time distance runner and OCR athlete. When not on the roads and trails logging miles he can be found drinking coffee while reading bad science fiction books.
Follow Me

What people say... Used it before? Leave a review
Order by:

Be the first to leave a review.

User Avatar
Verified
{{{ review.rating_title }}}
{{{review.rating_comment | nl2br}}}

Show more
{{ pageNumber+1 }}

Marc Pro Review

Marc Pro
3.5 / 5 Overall
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (0 votes)
Features
Durability
Cost
Summary

There are dozens of electrical muscle stimulators on the market, many of which make some pretty outlandish claims. Can you really get stronger just by hooking yourself up to a machine?

Used it before? Leave a review

Your browser does not support images upload. Please choose a modern one

I looked at the research behind EMS (electronic muscle stimulator) devices to find out how much a performance-driven athlete could really benefit from electrical stimulation, and I appreciated how Marc Pro focuses on where EMS really has the most potential: recovery. Plus, with some of my favorite OCR athletes personally using Marc Pro, I had to give it a try myself.

Marc Pro Technology

The idea behind EMS is to stimulate nerves and muscles by passing current through. However, different frequencies and amplitudes will have very different effects on the body, and not necessarily positive ones. Because different devices are tuned to different parameters, each will work differently. Unfortunately this means there’s a lot of variability among products, so while there are tons of research studies on EMS out there, there are very few studies on each specific use. In fact, only a dozen human studies have been done to investigate whether EMS enhances recovery, and the results weren’t entirely convincing [1]. That said, I looked at some other studies done with the Marc Pro unit specifically that show that it is effective at reducing muscle soreness and recovery time [2][3], and promoting angiogenesis / increased blood flow [4]. While these were all small sample studies done by the same guy, there was enough there for me to want to run a Marc Pro through a field test. Obviously, reducing down time between training sessions and increasing maximal blood flow would be great for any type of athlete [5].

Marc Pro Unboxing

The packaging on the Marc Pro is great, and it’s really easy to get started. It comes in a carrying case with partitions for the unit itself, the wires/electrodes, and the charger. The case itself is compact and protects the unit pretty well, so it’s perfect for travelling with right out of the box. The unit came fully charged, so I started hooking up electrodes as soon as I opened it. There are two channels, with two electrodes each, so you can stimulate both sides of the body at once or just go double-time on a single area or muscle chain. Each channel operates at a fixed frequency (about 2Hz) but adjustable intensity. For some reason, intensity is on a scale of 0 to 9. Most other people I hooked up to it were hesitant to go above 5 or 6, but I would have loved a 10 on some of my larger muscle groups. Lower intensities were fine for smaller muscles on the arms and shoulders.  I’m not really sure what determines an individual’s tolerance to electrical stimulation, but it definitely varies. Here is what it looks like in action on my quad:

Marc Pro Usage

I tested out the Marc Pro on pretty much every muscle group I could think of, but there are some limitations on where you can use it. For obvious reasons, don’t use it around your head, neck, or heart; this means your chest muscles are going to have to recover the old fashioned way. As an endurance athlete, I mainly used it on my lower body, but I have heard more than one person say they used it to treat their bicep tendonitis with good results (disclaimer: I’m not a doctor). At first, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to figure out where to place the electrodes, but it was really simple. Generally, start by placing an electrode at each end of the muscle you’re trying to stimulate, and then adjust the electrode placement until you maximize the muscle’s contraction. The Marc Pro comes with a booklet with some suggestions on electrode placement that I found helpful. My personal favorite was one electrode on the bottom of the foot, another at the top of my calf. I loved the unit on my calves, hamstrings, and quads, but I never could find a configuration that really got my glutes firing. As far as upper body usage goes, my experience is limited. To be honest, I don’t push my upper body to the limit very often, and don’t need it to recovery any better than it already does. I tested out some upper body configurations for fun, and found lower intensities (3 to 5) were sufficient for stimulating the arms, shoulders, and upper back, but I didn’t find the sensations to be as enjoyable as on the legs. In certain configurations, the electrodes can cause some painful stings, but a slight placement adjustment will resolve any issues. The only minor issues I really had was that the electrodes pull out my leg hair, and my skin is sensitive to the adhesive.

To really see how well the Marc Pro worked for recovery, I pushed myself a little harder than usual during the two week training block that I had the unit. It’s so hard to definitively say whether something helped or not, especially when it comes to recovery aid, but I do believe the Marc Pro helped me sustain an increased training load for two weeks. I used the unit for about 90 minutes per day, after training, for 14 consecutive days. Weeks later, after a workout that was a bit too hard, I really wish I still had the Marc Pro to help me get ready for another full week of training. It may be placebo, but based on the studies cited above and the almost exclusively positive feedback from fellow athletes, I think there’s actually something to it. Here’s what top OCR athlete, Hunter McIntyre, had to say about his experience with Marc Pro:

marc-pro-review-Hunter-McIntyre“The Marc pro has been a key tool in my training for almost a year now. The body of an athlete is constantly taxed by the training that we put ourselves through to improve for future sport. The truth is that training is only part of the cocktail – it’s more recovery, more importantly, that will allow you to grow and excel the next time you test yourself. The Marc pro is a huge part of getting me ready for whatever I face next.”

For a kind of tutorial on how to use Marc Pro to help recovery after a run, check out this video from Bryan MacKenzie. He makes it seem pretty complicated, but it’s a starting point if you have no idea what to do.

Marc Pro Competition

While it’s definitely an expensive piece of equipment ($650) for a weekend warrior, a top athlete looking for an extra advantage should consider adding Marc Pro to their regimen. There are competing products on the market, like Compex and Tens units, but the Marc Pro is the only one designed for recovery only. The Tens unit focuses on treating nerve pain, and Compex has a bunch of different pre-set programs for a variety of purposes. I haven’t researched or tested a Compex unit, so I’m not sure if it works well for recovery like the Marc Pro, but I don’t think using EMS programs to build strength or endurance is the most productive use of an athlete’s time. I like how Marc Pro focuses their research and attention on enhancing recovery. In addition to the regular Marc Pro unit, the also make the Marc Pro Plus which includes a higher frequency pain-relief mode. I only got to test a regular unit, but if that sounds appealing, you can get that feature too for an extra $300.

Pros:

  • “Active” recovery without fatiguing muscles
  • Increased blood flow, possible angiogenesis
  • Portability, convenience, and battery life

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Benefit relative to other modes of recovery is debatable
  • Fixed frequency
  • Electrodes need occasional replacement (and can pull out leg hair!)

Marc Pro Verdict

After using the Marc Pro daily for 2 weeks, I feel like it helped me adapt to a higher training load by reducing the amount of time I needed to recover between workouts. I even used it to compete in two back to back races over a weekend and felt better than I ever have before when double racing. But was it superior to other recovery techniques like dynamic stretching, massage, rolling, etc? Maybe adding an hour of yoga to my daily routine could have similar effects at a fraction of the cost. Personally, I feel like one of the biggest advantages of the Marc Pro is improving recovery without further accumulating fatigue; you can just hook up the electrodes and relax while doing other things like working on the computer, something you wouldn’t be able to do while employing other recovery techniques. I guess you could say it’s passive recovery that works like active recovery. So, while there a tons of ways to help you recover, hooking up to a Marc Pro while you sit on the couch beats just sitting on the couch, and can easily be incorporated into any routine. And while it may be expensive, it’s a one time cost unlike the recurring costs of PT appointments and massage.

My recommendation: if you’re already maximizing your recovery ability in other ways and feel like there’s not much more you can do, the Marc Pro could give you an extra edge. But if you’re not even eating right and hydrating after your workouts, doing recovery workouts between harder ones, training purposefully instead of always going “beast mode” with random fitness challenges, etc., put your time and energy into the basics first.

As a Special Offer to ORM readers – Use Discount Code ORM1 to Save 5% off at the Marc Pro Store

 

Sources
 
 [1] http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Citation/2014/09000/Neuromuscular_Electrical_Stimulation_During.12.aspx
 
 [2] https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/JEPonlineAPRIL2013_Blum.pdf
 
 [3] https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/JEPonlineApril2011KennethBlum.pdf
 
 [4] https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/JEPonlineOctober2011Blum.pdf
 
 [5] http://jap.physiology.org/content/97/3/1119

 


Mio Link Strapless Heart Rate Monitor Review

Mio Link Heart Rate Monitor
3.9 / 5 Overall
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (0 votes)
Features
Durability
Battery Life
GPS Accuracy
Summary

If you like using heart rate data to get the most out of your training but you’re ready to ditch the cumbersome chest strap, then optical heart rate sensors might be for you.

Used it before? Leave a review

Your browser does not support images upload. Please choose a modern one

Mio Link Strapless Heart Rate Monitor and Optical Heart Rate Technology

Instead of directly measuring electrical impulses in the heart the Mio Link detects your pulse by shining light into your wrist. It sounds bizarre, but this new technology could make chest straps a thing of the past. Mio Global is leading the charge, and their recent partnership with Garmin will usher in a new era of wearable sports technology.

Mio Link Summary

I was skeptical when I first saw optical heart rate technology and, at the time, I was right. CNET posted a review last year on wristband HRMs (heart rate monitors), basically stating they are terrible and get even worse when you start moving; even if these devices could measure your heart rate accurately at rest, it was challenging to detect fast pulses in a real world environment. Luckily, technology has come a long way in the last year (and CNET failed to review Mio), and Mio’s heart rate sensors are the best of the bunch. But are we really ready to ditch tried-and-true chest straps for good?

Garmin may just think so. Although they just released their advanced HRM-RUN chest strap that measures vertical oscillation, ground contact time, and cadence in addition to heart rate last year, Garmin is now on board with optical heart rate technology. This May, they partnered with Mio and became the first of the big three (Garmin, Suunto, Polar) to release a GPS watch with an optical sensor built directly into the watch: the Garmin Forerunner 225.

Mio uses the same sensor in all of their wristbands, and I have a hunch that we’ll see the same sensor implemented in more Garmin devices in the near future. Naturally, Suunto and Polar will have to release competing products. If wrist based HRMs are the future, then I have to put the tech to the test. I purchased the Mio Link, which connects via Bluetooth or ANT+ to your favorite GPS device or smartphone, and put it through 50+ workouts before writing this review.

mio-review-hr-monitor-5

The good and the bad.

Obviously, having a wristband HRM offers some advantages to a chest strap. Even better, with the Garmin 225, you don’t need an external HRM at all. Comfort and convenience typically come at a high price, but the price tag of the Mio Link is comparable to a traditional chest strap and cheaper than a premium chest strap. And if you’re getting the Garmin 225 or a future watch with a built in sensor, you won’t have to spend money on an external HRM at all. It’s the best of both worlds! That said, there are some drawbacks as well. Premium HRM chest straps like the Garmin HRM-RUN offer more data than just pulse rate, and it’s simply impossible to get this data from a wristband. If you’re looking for more sophisticated data, you’re going to have to wear a chest strap. Plus, constantly shining light into your wrist demands a lot more power than simply detecting an impulse, so there are some battery life limitations that need to be addressed. Apparently, this technology may work better on certain skin colors than others, and users with tattooed wrists might find that optical HRMs aren’t good at sensing through ink. Finally, despite being a definite step in the right direction, there are some heart rate related issues that I’ll get into with more detail below.

Mio Link Features

The Mio Link is the simplest of all the Mio products. It features Mio’s optical heart rate sensor built into a silicon wristband, one button, and a single LED light; that’s all. The LED serves multiple purposes: the color and flashing pattern of the light gives you information about your heart rate and battery life. Other than that, it couldn’t be any simpler. Just turn it on, connect your GPS/phone to it, and go. This particular unit goes for $79 on Amazon. In addition to the Mio Link, they offer more “complete” options for users that don’t want to connect to a watch, or who want additional info. Options like the $149 Mio Fuse include an LCD display and activity tracker. The Mio Link has a 7-10 hour battery life, while the bulkier Mio Alpha has a 20 hour battery life. In my own tests, I got about 8 hours of use per full charge. The sensor itself is very small and lightweight, with most of its size being the battery, I imagine. If you’re interested in the Link, it comes in two sizes (small/medium and large), and two colors (black and white).

mio-review-hr-monitor-4  mio-review-hr-monitor-6

Competing products

After researching and reading reviews of all the different optical heart rate sensors on the market, it’s clear that not all optical HRMs are created equal. While there are at least a dozen watches/HRMs that use optical heart sensors today, many of them are using either Mio or Valencell sensors, most notably the Garmin 225 (Mio) and Scosche (Valencell). Other companies developed their own optical HR sensors in-house.

Fitbit SurgeApple Watch - Sport EditionMio LinkBasis PeakWithings Pulse O2
Battery Life7 days without GPS, 5 hours with GPS18 hours8 hours4 days14 days
GPSYesNoN/ANoNo
Heart Rate MonitorYes, opticalYes, opticalOpticalOpticalOptical
Waterproof 50 Meters (no swimming)Splash Resistant30m5 metersNo
Weight1.8 oz1.41 oz30 gN/AN/A
Phone CompatibilityAndroid, iOS, WindowsiOSBluetooth Smart (4.0) and ANT+Android, iOSAndroid, iOS
Price$249.99$549.99$79.00$199.99$119.95
ORM ReviewYesBeing TestedYesNoNo
Buy Amazon Apple StoreAmazonAmazon Amazon

 

Mio Link Usage

It’s race day, and you’ve just put your sponsor’s temporary tattoo on your chest. After spending most of the morning figuring out which hashtags would be most clever to include in your next instagram post, you realize that it would also be pretty cool to wear a heart rate monitor for the race. But wait! You already have a tattoo on your chest and you wouldn’t want to cover that up. Even if you don’t need your chest to be available for professional reasons, there’s no denying that a HRM on a bare chest looks pretty dumb. You might as well wear nostril openers and prescription eye goggles too. Thank goodness for the Mio Link! In this photo of me at the 2015 Atlanta Battlefrog race, you can’t even tell that I’m wearing a HRM; it’s discretely hidden under my orange wristband.

mio-review-hr-monitor-9

Not only is it way cooler looking, but also more functional and comfortable. The chest strap has the potential to get in the way of obstacles like bucket/log carries, and cause unwanted chaffing once mud gets stuck underneath the water-soaked strap. After running the 16k Battlefrog with the Mio Link, I’m pleased to say I never even noticed it was on. The wristband / strap is also pretty sturdy and secure, so I never had to adjust it while running (I did, however, have to tuck the strap of my fenix3 back in once or twice).

 

The Mio Link did allow me to get heart rate data without looking like the data nerd that I am, but the data wasn’t quite perfect. Almost though. After running through dozens of workouts with the Mio, I’ve noticed a few things that cause it to malfunction every once in a while. I’d say 9/10 times, it works without any issues, but cold skin and extremely rapid changes in HR can throw it off sometimes. For this race, it had trouble tracking for the first mile, then worked great besides a brief loss of HR around 33 minutes (due to a water submersion at “mounds of grounds”). The second graph, below, is from a half marathon road race I did the next day, and the Mio performed perfectly. Note that the graph is much smoother for the road race due to the nature of the event, compared to the varying intensity of completing obstacles and navigating trails.

mio-review-hr-monitor-10

For fairness, the Garmin brand chest strap would also have some difficulty in an obstacle race with water submersions, and possibly additional circumstances that wouldn’t have given the Mio any issues. So, in spite of it having some issues for the first couple of minutes, I don’t consider this to be typical, and don’t imagine a chest strap would be definitively better in an obstacle race environment. After dozens of workouts with the Mio, I found that it has trouble tracking the first few minutes of an activity about 5-10% of the time. This issue can be avoided by connecting the HRM and giving it 5-10 minutes to start tracking your warm up, etc, before actually beginning an activity. Another minor issue I found is that it doesn’t track well on very cold skin. In the summer, this isn’t an issue, but in the winter, it’s best to either wear it extra tight or underneath a sweatband or long sleeve. In general, it works much better if you’ve warmed up first, because of both temperature and additional time to start tracking accurately. Adjusting tightness and position on the arm are both ways that you can try to get a better reading. Thankfully, you don’t generally have to wear it too tight for it work. Just tight enough so that it stays in place is okay, but for an obstacle race I would recommend a tighter fit to keep dirt from getting between your skin and the sensor. A tighter fit in cold weather or rain is also a good way to keep the skin beneath the sensor a little warmer. If you’re wrist looks like this after wearing it, it was probably on too tight:mio-review-hr-monitor-2

Mio Link Durability

You probably don’t think of durability issues at all when it comes to heart rate monitors, but the Mio is actually the clear winner in this category. Over time, the elastic band on a chest strap gets over-stretched and worn out, often needing adjustments. Not only that, but it gets sweaty and gross after every workout. I remember leaving my chest strap out in the sun to dry after hard workouts, and washing it by hand with soap when it got especially nasty. I can only imagine how gross a chest strap would be after an OCR. With the Mio Link, simply rinse it under the sink if it gets gross and you’re good to go. That’s it! The only downside to the Mio Link is that you do have to charge it. I get about 8 hours of use per full charge. It is very convenient to charge though, snapping on magnetically to a small usb mount.

mio-review-hr-monitor-3

Pros

  • no more annoying chest strap
  • connects via Bluetooth and/or ANT+ to pretty much anything
  • comfortable, convenient, and works well most of the time
  • cost effective
  • no maintenance
  • water resistant to 30m
  • light weight (approximately 30g)

Cons

  • not quite as accurate as chest strap, especially when high degree of precision is needed, such as for HRV tests.
  • battery life / requires more power than a chest strap.
  • cold skin, tattoos, poor circulation, and other factors may reduce accuracy.
  • no advanced data like vertical oscillation and ground contact time that you get from premium straps

 

Mio Link Verdict

So you’re probably wondering if I’m going to throw away my chest strap, and the answer is…. I’ll put it on the shelf, but not throw it away. I do like the precision of chest straps for if I want to do an HRV test, and if I want to track heart rate for an event longer than 8 hours then the Mio Link won’t cut it. But, for day to day use, I definitely won’t be using the chest strap. More than anything, I love that the Mio HRM is so convenient that I actually want to track my heart rate for every single workout. It was such as hassle and annoyance having to wear a chest strap that I rarely even used it; now I’ve been tracking HR for every workout for almost a month, and have been able to make use of the data to improve my training. The power of HR training isn’t looking at your HR for a single workout, but tracking it over time, establishing trends and zones, and adjusting your training accordingly. For me, the simplicity of wearing a HRM on my wrist allows me to get the data all the time, and I’m already seeing the benefits. Sure, you may not really be getting data as accurate as from an EKG, but if you’re ready to take your training to the next level and geek out all at the same time, get a device equipped with Mio sensor like the Mio Link or Garmin 225… and leave your chest strap on the shelf.

 

Contour ROAM3 Camera Review

This is a great action camera…but I won’t be using it.

It’s no secret that GoPro is king of the action cameras that you can attach to your body, especially within OCR’s so I’ll be comparing the Contour ROAM3 to the GoPro HERO4.

First off, let me just highlight a few of the features that the Contour has that goes above and beyond what the GoPro offers:

1) It looks less dorky. Face it, the GoPro looks as if your carrying around a tiny phylactery box on your head. You’re known as ‘one of those guys’ when you show up at a race with it and your race pics don’t looks so cool. The Contour on the other hand is much more sleek looking and attaches to the side of your head and is a little less noticeable, and if the photographer catches ‘your good side’ it won’t even show up in the pics. It still looks dorky, but less dorky.

contourbox

2) The design is simple, but genius. On the bottom you have a standard 1/4-20 screw socket that is the standard size tripods use, this means unlike the GoPro where you have to purchase a special adapter you can immediately attach the Contour to any tripod, monopod, or grip that you would purchase at Walmart, Best Buy or Pro Camera shops. On each side you have grooves that slide and lock into Contour-specific attachments. Among the attachments are flexible adhesive mounts that are ideal for sticking to surfaces that aren’t perfectly flat, such as the side of motorcycle helmet. Many of these mounts rotate as well—meaning you have wiggle room if you can’t apply the mount perfectly level. Which brings me to my next point…

3) A rotating lens. This is another simple yet genius idea. With the GoPro, if you want to attach it to a bike for example, you may have to use (and purchase) several attachments before you can configure it in a way so that it’s not at a crooked angle. With the Contour you can attach it at almost any angle with one simple mount and then rotate the lens without repositioning the entire camera and to ensure your angle is even with the horizon a button on the back of the camera emits a laser level.

contourlaser

4) The record button. To turn on the camera and start the recording there’s a sliding switch on top that you can feel click into place when it’s on. This is a nice change from wearing a GoPro on your head, mashing a spongy button and either removing it to double check it’s indeed recording or asking someone to stare at your forehead a minute to see if that little red light is blinking.

5) The camera itself is water proof. The GoPro’s have separate water proof housings (except the new baseline GoPro has a ‘fixed’ waterproof housing). It’s just one less thing to worry about and I like that. But a word of caution here; without a housing around the camera, once your lens is scratched or damaged, your video is forever compromised, whereas with the GoPro you can simply buy another housing. Fortunately, you also have the option of buying a housing for the Contour as well, but it’s noticeably heavier than the GoPro already, so you just have to decide what what’s more important to you.

photo 5

And there’s other things I could go onto rave about including the ease of switching between preset video configurations as opposed to dialing through submenus, the price is nice, the variety of adjustable settings, the amount of ‘goodies’ it comes with, including an 8gb SD Card to get you started.

So why on earth am I not going to use this camera? To much fisheye? Bad video quality? Poor construction?

No, nope and no….it’s because of the headband mount system.

As great as all the mounting options are, the end of the day I’ll be using this camera mounted to my head at OCR’s 99% of the time and that’s where it just falls short for me. I tightened that headband to the point where I felt I was going to lose circulation in my tiny head and I just couldn’t get rid of the bounce or the unbalanced feeling, and it’s evident in the footage compared the GoPro. It actually made me appreciate the balanced feeling and smooth(er) footage that GoPro headmount offers. Also, because their headband mount doesn’t offer the cool rotating feature that many of their other mounts do, the way you wear the headband mount it makes the Contour point at a slightly upward angle, which I found to be aesthetically annoying compared to the GoPro’s ability to angle it up and down (so you’re not just seeing the tops of people’s heads).

(See the test footage here)

I REALLY wanted to use this camera as an alternative to the GoPro and test it out on the field to really see it’s durability (especially since I’ve had to exchange almost every GoPro I own due to bugs and quirks), but I can’t compromise on getting shakier footage than the GoPro already produces. I really wish Contour would create a more balanced and thoughtfully designed headband mount (with the rotation option) that would appeal to the growing popularity of the use of the types of cameras in the OCR and general running community, and if they do, we’d be happy to review it. But since it couldn’t handle the short jaunt around my backyard I was sadly compelled to return both the headband mount and the camera.

Now if OCR is not your sole and primary intention with this camera, I would highly recommend checking it out as it’s far more flexible than the GoPro. If you’d like to see more reviews for gear like this, let us know in the comments below.

*Photos and Video By: Jeff Marier