CF Reviews

Excruciatingly Honest Opinions About Health and Fitness Products.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Spark! A "Spark People" Book Giveaway



So I kept hearing the words "Spark People" floating around the web, and I knew it was a fitness website of some sort. I kept meaning to investigate, but I never got around to it.

And frankly, there was something that seemed vaguely amusing and possibly cultish about the name "Sparkpeople." I even got kind of a science-fictiony picture in my head: fit and cheerful aliens coming together to share tips. Live long and prosper, Sparkpeople!

I was thinking sort of like this, only maybe with
actual sparks coming out of their heads.

(Image: Serendigity)

But, it turns out that Sparkpeople are not aliens. And their website is pretty cool! It has all kinds of tools and advice and a whole community of determined people who have helped each other lose over 9 million pounds, burn 7 billion calories and drink 218 million cups of water. (No word, however, as to how many million bathroom trips were logged in the course of drinking all that water.) And they have a blog called the Daily Spark that has some great info in it too.

Anyway, the three niftiest things about Sparkpeople, in my opinion?

1. Their website is free and has a hell of a lot of stuff on it;

2. They don't promote a particular diet or exercise plan but instead they "encourage small steps," and stress goal attainment, accountability, education, and community;

And, best of all:

3. They have a new book that just came and they're giving us 5 FREE COPIES for a giveaway!

The only thing I'm not 100% on board with? According to their website content editor, "most everything we promote is upbeat and optimistic."


Well, nobody's perfect.


So what's in the book?

I haven't read it yet, but it apparently it crams a lot of the best and most helpful stuff from the website in there, plus some inspiring success stories, and it includes a 28-day plan to change your life.

Oh, and it's got "27 proven secrets of success." And I am SUCH a sucker for lists like that, that if I do nothing else I'm going to at least have to get around to finding out what the 27 secrets are. I'm hoping to see "eat more chocolate" and "take more naps" on the list. You think?

And if you'd like to win a copy of the book (Sorry, U.S. residents only) please leave a comment below! Contest closes Sunday, January 3rd, midnight PST, and I'll announce the winners (chosen by random number generator) on Monday. Do check back to see if you've won and email me by Friday the 8th, or I'll pick some new winners!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kuru Shoe Review


So as I mentioned back on the main Cranky Fitness page, after whining about my sore feet on the blog, I recently got to try a pair of Kuru shoes. The Kuru people sell active footwear, including shoes for plantar fasciitis, and they let me try a pair for free to see what I thought of them.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR POST SKIMMERS: Sorry, at this point this is just a review of the shoes, not a giveaway. So please don't go thanking me in the comments for the great giveaway! You'll just make me feel all guilty for not giving you my shoes. But face it, unless you're a size 10 and don't mind my smelly feet having been in there first? You probably wouldn't want my pair anyway. Plus, the good news, is: a Kuru giveaway still remains a distinct possibility for the future!

Let's keep it simple, shall we? First the things I liked, then the things I didn't.

Some Awesome Things About Kuru Shoes:

1. The technology makes for an extremely comfortable, supportive shoe.

So they bill these things as having "the world's most anatomical midsole." The idea is that the Kuru sole is made out of stuff that enables the shoe to mold to your foot, offering "the support of a custom orthotic."

I'm not a podiatrist or anything, and of course every shoe maker says their stuff is the best in the world and they can't all be right. So I can't evaluate the science behind it.

But I can notice how they fit. And as soon as I put these on my feet and started walking around I said: Whooee! Yes!

I often find shoes to be either too hard and unyielding, or too springy and floppy and unsupportive. This pair of Kruzr's somehow managed to be both cushy enough inside to be comfortable on my sore heel, but firm and supportive enough all around so that I feel like I'm getting maximum protection from the kind of impact (and pronation problems) that got my foot messed up in the first place.

It's too early to tell whether these shoes will help my plantar fasciitis, because I'm nixing the long walks for now and not looking to risk irritating things by pushing it for the sake of a shoe review. But the shoes sure seem to be much better than my previous shoes at giving me the kind of support I think will help a lot in the long run.

2. They're Not Running Shoes But They Feel As Good.

I like to walk a lot, but generally if I'm going more than a couple miles or so I've learned to put on a pair of trail running shoes. Even "casual" non-running shoes tend to chafe or not offer enough support. Problem is, sometimes I don't feel like wearing running shoes if I'm walking, say, to a restaurant. Plus, how am I ever going to go to Europe again wearing shoes that scream "lazy American who can't ever manage to change out of her trainers?"

Kuru shoes are exactly the type of shoes that I've been looking for: athletic in terms of how they feel, but a slight step up in formality from your basic trail runner.

3. The Price Seems Very Reasonable.

A lot of times I've reviewed great products but then felt kind of guilty recommending them because I personally might be too cheap to spring for 'em myself if I hadn't scored them for free. The Kuru's, however, are in the $80-$90 range and seem well worth it. Most shoes this well-engineered would cost a heck of a lot more.


The things I didn't like as much about Kuru shoes:

1. They only sell online.

I like to try things on first. Now on the plus side, the Kuru folks let you send the shoes back for free, so there's no risk. But I'm lazy and I hate even the thought of having to send things back.

2. Depending on the model, the shoes look pretty wide and kind of clunky when viewed from the top.

This is partly my own fault--the model I really wanted to try wasn't available, and I went with color over style. I wanted a go-with-everything color scheme so I chose a gray and black pair, even though I had some fears about the width of the grey Kruzr's in the picture.

And sure enough, just as my feet were saying "ahh, these are so comfortable," my vain ego was saying "Eeek, my feet look so damn wide!"

Scary View of Kuru Shoes

In my own mind, I was seeing:


Photo: mliu92


And it's not that I have particularly fat feet--it's the shoes, I swear.




However, when I whined to the Lobster, she said, "really? They look pretty cute to me."

And I thought, how could this be? Doesn't she see my elephant feet?

Then she pointed out that no one else would be looking straight down at them like I was doing. She suggested I look at them from the viewing angle of other people. If I was going to let vanity threaten my enjoyment of my new awesome comfortable supportive shoes, I might as well get a more accurate idea of what they looked like to other people.

And sure enough, that helped a lot.


Much less scary from the side.

And fine from the front too!

And as further proof of Kuru's aesthetic coolness, here is Mizfit sporting a different pair. (And check out her Kuru review too).



See? Like I said, it was my own fault for picking the wrong pair. If you look at their website, they've got tons of other styles and colors.

Anyway, I am very happy with the shoes so far. I may even spring for the pair I really wanted with my own money! As a tight-fisted tight-clawed crab, that says a lot.

So when you guys find a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes do you fret about what they look like?

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Check In for Big Fall Giveaway!



Yep, this is the promised check-in post to see who's still interested in winning one of our awesome Big Fall Giveaway prizes. If you've already entered, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post saying you're still in. But make sure you do it by midnight, PST, Wednesday November 4th. After that, the contest closes.

And if you didn't catch the first giveaway post, it's not too late to enter! Just make sure you read the instructions.

Winners will be announced sometime after I get back, which could be late this week or early next week.

Good luck!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Cranky Fitness Big Fall Giveaway!

UPDATE: CONTEST IS OVER, WINNERS HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED ON THE MAIN BLOG. BE SURE TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE BY NOVEMBER 13th 2009!

Yes, it's time to bribe thank the awesome readers of Cranky Fitness with a big fall giveaway! This will coincide with our road trip to the west coast, which will take a dawdly three weeks or so.


Dear, you sure we're still on the interstate?
Photo: Plan 59

So we have a great Grand Prize (a TRX Home Training Bundle) plus a whole bunch of other neato prizes too. (See below). The only sad thing? Most of these are U.S. only--but we've got at least a few sponsors who will ship to Canada, so please, dear Canadians, don't give up on us entirely.

(The rest of the international community? I'm afraid you're S.O.L., sorry. But it so wouldn't be worth moving to the land of Big Macs and Rush Limbaugh just to be able to enter a blog giveaway, right?)

NOTE: Please read the instructions! This contest works a bit differently than most of our giveaways have.

Contest Rules:

1. Comment on two posts: Yep, to officially enter you need to comment both on this post, and the Pre-Giveaway Check-in Post, which will be put up sometime in the first week of November. The winners will be picked by random number generator from a pool of all those who commented on both posts. This random drawing will happen sometime around November 8th, depending on when I get back to civilization.

Why this annoying two-post requirement? It's because while we're using a random number generator to pick the winners, we'd be really happy if most of the winners were people who actually read Cranky Fitness on a regular basis! We can't cheat and go non-random, but I think it's fair to stack the deck on behalf of regulars readers. So the arrival of the Pre-Giveaway Check-in Post will be announced prominently on the main blog, and there will be a limited number of days in which to comment before the contest closes. I'm thinking folks who stop in regularly will be more likely to catch the announcement post and remember to comment again--while the fly-by-nighter "Cranky What? Did you say TRX and Vitamuffins?" people who just want to win stuff will probably comment once and completely forget to come back, and so they won't be officially entered. Sneaky, huh?)

2. In your comment to this post, let us know if you live in the U.S. or Canada.

3. Also in your comment here, let us know which prizes you're particularly interested in. And if you do it politely, you can also let us the ones you wouldn't have a current use for. We'll presume it's because you're allergic or something or already have one. No need to trash a prize that don't appeal to you unless you're just in a really foul mood and can't help it.

4. The winners will be selected strictly by random number, but the prizes may be apportioned depending on multiple factors, including the order drawn, expressed preference, and eligibility.

I'm going to draw numbers, and the first numbers picked will get higher value prizes--however, it helps to know what you'd actually like.

Note: you may still end up winning a prize you specifically said you didn't want, if yours is one of the last numbers picked. Sorry in advance for the Cranky Fitness customized toothpick holders. (Don't worry--not actually a real prize).

5. Once the winners are announced you will have a limited time to claim your prize, so don't forget to check back to see if you are a winner. Any unclaimed prizes will be redistributed based on additional random drawings.

6. Conflict of Interest Warning: These prizes have all been donated, so you can officially worry that if I say nice things about them I am just making it up so they will send us more stuff in the future. Also, there are cases where I've gotten free stuff or sponsorship from a prize provider in the past, which I've tried to remember to mention. Just assume I'm completely corrupt and dishonest because it's easier for all of us that way. (Is that good enough, FTC? Please don't fine me!)

7. Sleazy Sponsor Warning: We've occasionally had giveaway prize delays before, but so far we've never had a sponsor entirely flake out. However, it occurred to me when putting together a multi-sponsor post that if somehow one of our many sponsors should fail to deliver, I can't afford to personally cover for them. Therefore: be warned you are assuming the risk of any Sponsor Flake-Outs. That is, you could enter, win a prize, and never get that prize if the sponsor skips town.

However, if any sponsor is stupid enough to fail to deliver, you can bet that Cranky Fitness will be blogging about it incessantly and announcing to the world what buttholes they are and that they will be very, very sorry they ever messed with us.

Okay, enough of the dire warnings, on to the prizes!


Grand Prize: The TRX Home Training Bundle! (US Only)

Remember back when I reviewed the TRX and then kept it all to myself, rather than offer it for a give-away like a more generous blogger would do? Well, that's 'cause I liked it. Sorry. Here's a chance to make it up to you though, as this time we're giving one away.

So the TRX is a suspension system that uses your own body weight and gravity to provide resistance for a bunch of different strength training exercises.



To quote myself in the review post: "The small size and convenience of this system makes it a great choice for home exercisers, especially for those who don't have a gym membership or a lot of space or money for a full-on home gym. It's great for functional fitness types, because you get a lot of core work, and you can pick up the speed and do the strengthening exercises for cardio too. And it's a particularly handy choice for folks who travel because of how portable it is."

The Home Training Bundle retails for $169.95. (And conflict-of-interest reminder: I got my original review model for free.)


OTHER GREAT PRIZES:

A $150 Giftcard for a customized T-Shirt Quilt from Campus Quilt Co! (US only)



So what's a T-Shirt Quilt? Well, it's kind of a cool concept. These folks take your old cherished T-shirts, sweatshirts, blankies, baby outfits, or any other fabric that holds memories, and they craft the items into a quilt. Here's how it works:

"You choose the layout of your quilt, select the backing color, and add extra services like embroidery, photo squares, or sashing. The quilts are fully quilted to ensure durability so you can cuddle up in your quilt, hang it on the wall, or save as a keepsake." After you place your order, you'll "receive a quilt kit with order form, layout guide, fabric swatch card, bag to mail the clothing, and a pre-paid UPS mailing label. Send your clothing back and in 2-3 weeks, you will receive your finished quilt."


Seven Winners: Vitalicious Super Sampler Pack! (US only)

I've done a full review of the Vitalicious goodies before, and while they're a Cranky Fitness sponsor (for which I am very grateful), I also appreciate that they offer a healthy convenience food that you can enjoy without feeling terribly guilty. The muffins are 100 calories or less, use natural ingredients, and have fiber and protein and good stuff like that. The sampler packs are especially nifty because they have tons of different flavors you can try. (My personal faves: Banana Nut and Double Chocolate Dream).


Three winners: Great books from Green Mountain Spa! (US and Canada)


So yes, Green Mountain is also a Cranky Fitness advertiser! But also love to mention them when I can anyway because I love their sensible healthy approach to fitness and weight loss. (I'm also a big fan of their blog, A Weight Lifted, and I got a big kick out of it when their director Marsha did an interview for us).

Anyway, here are the three books they've generously donated for our giveaway:

The Diet Survivor's Handbook, by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel;

Feeding the Hungry Heart: The Experience of Emotional Eating, by Geneen Roth; and

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Don Miguel Ruiz.


Three winners: "Groove" headphones from 2XL! (US and Canada).

These are "hanger buds" that are designed to avoid bacterial build up that can happen in regular in-ear buds, and at the same time, "provide stellar sound quality."

(Plus, some folks who are squeamish like me can not stand having things stuffed in our ears and so hate regular earbuds. Yet these things look to be quite a bit cuter and sleeker than most over-the-ear alternatives.)

See? Compare: Groove headphones--


to the less sleek over-the-ear alternative:

Photo: Beard Papa



Two winners: Pulse Yoga I Basic DVD! (US Only)


Pulse Yoga "combines all of the best elements and disciplines of Pilates, Weight Training, and Yoga." It includes micro movements with free weights to tone and strengthen target areas such as the gluteus muscles, abdominals, upper arms and lower back."

Bonus: there is actually some published research about the effectiveness of this approach, which you can find on their site. (But note: it's a powerpoint presentation, not a web page).

Five winners: True North Sample Packs! (US only)

Note: Duh, Wrong Flavor, Sorry!

Each sample pack contains one bag each of Apple Cinnamon, Citrus Burst and Almond Cranberry, which are not pictured above because I spaced out and forgot to get jpegs from the sponsor. So use your imaginations.

The thing I like about True North (and I am personally a huge fan of their almond clusters) is that they make an effort to keep the ingredients healthy, but make the snacks tasty enough to feel like treats.

(I received a free sample pack myself, and while the straightforward almond clusters remain my personal favorite, these more fruity flavors were a big hit with the Lobster and our houseguests).


Five Winners: Atkins sampler, 3 Bars and a Shake! (US only)


Have you been curious about these Atkins snacks? They certainly look tasty, and they're coming out with new flavors to try. The sample pack will contain a bar from the Day Break, Advantage and Endulge lines in addition to an Advantage shake.


Fifteen winners: A half-gallon of Silk Heart Health Soy Milk! (US only)


Silk Heart Health is "a new soymilk product that combines the heart-health benefits of soy protein and plant sterols. Both have been proven to help reduce the risk of cholesterol and heart disease. A recent study found that people who enjoyed three servings of Silk Heart Health per day for four weeks, as part of a sensible diet, lowered their cholesterol by 7%."

They've also provided a link for a coupon for 55 cents off.

Five Winners: ME beverages



So this new entrant into the lower-cal beverage market takes an offbeat approach, promising beverages with "edgy flavors" and "tons of personality." Alas, "Whiny™" and "Slacker™" aren't yet options, but you can find out if you are Vivacious™, Curious™, Uninhibited™ or Unavailable™ by going to their interactive web site, "Find Your Me." The drinks have 70 calories per can, no caffeine, natural ingredients and come in flavors like tangerine pineapple, blueberry lime, pink grapefruit, and dragonfruit blackberry.

Thanks so much, Cranky Fitness readers--and good luck!

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Vitalicious Review and Giveaway



So today we've got a review and giveaway of 3 sampler packs of Vitalicious products!

And is it just a coincidence that there's a big ol' Vitalicious banner ad running over on our main page all of a sudden? Er, well, not exactly! But here at Cranky Fitness we don't worry overly much about the feelings of the good people who give us samples or sponsor us or compensate us to review things, as is the case here. It's not that we're especially ethical--we're just too cranky and opinionated to be anything but honest. Oddly enough, sponsors are cool with that.

(Well, we don't know how warm and affectionate the Skinny Bitch video folks are feeling after Merry's honest review. But so far we haven't had any Skinny Bitches trying to bust down the doors of Cranky Fitness headquarters in order to beat the crap out of us. Yet. We'll keep you posted.)

Anyway, in case you haven't heard of Vitalicious, they sell muffins, muffin tops, cakes, mixes, brownies, and even coffee. Hungry Girl is a big fan. Their baked goods generally come in portion-controlled packs of 100 calories.

Our sampler pack of 24 muffins included:

VitaBrownies
Chocolate Fig VitaTops
Banana Nut VitaTops
Double Chocolate Dream VitaTops
Deep Chocolate VitaTops
Fudgy Peanut Butter Chip VitaTops
Golden Corn VitaTops
CranBran VitaTops
AppleBerry VitaTops
MultiBran VitaTops
BlueBran VitaTops

The Lobster and I tried every single variety, just to be thorough. We figured that calories can not possibly count if they're consumed while doing research!

So what did we think? Well, there were good things and bad things about the VitaMuffins. First the good news:

Things We Liked!

1. They're mostly whole grains, usually whole wheat flour, and generally it's the first ingredient.

2. A hundred calories isn't bad for either a muffin or a brownie. These are small, but they're fairly substantial and filling.

3. Most of the ingredients are pretty natural, and for those who don't like aspartame or sucralose, there doesn't seem to be any of that in there.

4. They're really convenient, and if you're trying to grab breakfast on the run, a stash of whole grain muffins on hand would serve you much better than a donut or a poptart.

5. For a hundred calories, they've got a fair amount of fiber and even a respectable amount of protein (typically 6 grams of fiber and 4 of protein).

6. They have 9 gazillion flavors (our sample pack didn't even get to them all) and chances are good you're going to find at least one of them you like.

I'd go with the Multibran or Banana Nut for breakfast, and either the Fudgy Peanut Butter Chip or the Double Chocolate Dream for a dessert. The Lobster's favorites were similar: the Golden Corn, Banana Nut, Apple Berry, and most of the chocolate flavors with one glaring exception (discussed below).

7. You can freeze 'em for up to nine months, or keep them around in the cupboard or fridge for about 5 days.

8. For a "convenience" food, they're a pretty darn healthy choice, and you don't have to feel horribly guilty eating them.

Things We Didn't Like:

1. I'm not a fan of adding vitamin supplements to food. I think it's best to get vitamins naturally whenever possible. And if I decide I need to supplement, I'd rather make a conscious decision about which sort of multivitamin formula makes sense to me--not get vitamins randomly added to processed foods. It's especially annoying to see this touted as a major selling point. If the vitamins occurred naturally because of all the healthy fruit in them, then sure, go ahead and mention that. But I wouldn't brag about throwing a vitamin pill into a muffin recipe. (On the other hand, the Lobster doesn't give a crap about the vitamin issue; no complaints there).

2. The taste was not quite as good as "real" muffins or brownies. They tasted more like virtuous, "not bad," compromise versions. The Lobster found them closer to the real thing than I did. I kept noticing a woody sort of taste, and the fruits added in lieu of extra fat tended to clash with the chocolate flavors. (The chocolate fig flavor was probably the worst of all. Neither of us liked that one).

But unless you live in fantasyland, there is kind of an expected flavor trade-off when eating a low fat, high fiber, vitamin fortified baked good. If you're feeling indulgent and want to splurge on the "real thing," these might not satisfy.

3. The Apple Comparison. In their marketing materials and on their website, Vitalicious compares the nutritional benefits of their products to those of an apple, implying that the muffins and brownies are a wiser choice.

I'm sorry, nice Vitalicious people, but come off it!

If you are honestly torn between eating an apple and eating a packaged processed vitamin-fortified muffin? Duh! Eat the apple!

The health benefits of Vitalicious products do not come from eating them instead of whole fruits and vegetables. They come from eating them instead of Krispy Kremes and Twinkies.

Overall: A sensible, healthy choice for a convenience food, especially if you crave muffins and brownies and are counting calories. If you're looking for a no-holds-barred indulgence, these probably wouldn't do it. But if you want something reasonably tasty, and are willing to experiment with finding your favorite flavor, these could become a great no-guilt alternative to much junkier options.

Now, On to The Giveaway--Where There is also Good News and Bad News.

First the bad news: U. S. residents only. So sorry!

And more Possibly Bad News: You need to provide an email address and sign up for a newsletter to enter.

But the Good News: There are three winners, and when you have even a slight contest entry barrier like a newsletter sign-up, you eliminate most of the competition! So if you sign up, there's a much better chance than usual that you'll win!

(Or, if that's too much hassle, the Vitalicious ad on in the left sidebar of our main page has a 10% discount if you want to try some without having to enter anything.)

Entry instructions:

Sign up for the newsletter here by the end of the day Wednesday, Sept 30.

Then come back and leave a comment on this post, or at the main Cranky Fitness post, letting me know you signed up.

The Vitalicious people will give me a list of the signer-uppers, and I'll haul out the Random Number Generator to pick the winner from those names.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Skinny Bitch Body Exercise DVD (Review)

It will take me 7 words to review this DVD.

The workout:



The music:

My overall opinion?

You want more words? Okay, here goes


Look, I'm sorry, but this is like the first Skinny Bitches exercise DVD that I reviewed: I can't find anything positive to say about either. I thought, from the cover, that there would be some weight lifting. I thought my muscles would get something out of this. All I got was a piano ear-worm. Skip it.

The DVD follows the usual routine: abs, legs, arms, and butt -- which the Skinny Bitches refer to as 'ass' during the workout because they're hip and cool. Or something like that.

By the time I finished sitting through the introductions (yes, plural), I'd lost any motivation that I ever had. The excessive patter turned me off before I'd even started.

A tip for people who make exercise DVDs: if the customer has already popped your DVD into their machine, that's not the time to give them a lecture on how exercise can help them -- they've already bought that proposition. And the DVD.

The warm up was so lightweight that I didn't feel like the core muscles got warmed at all.

The workout felt like a warm up.

And the music! Endless repetitions of piano muzak like being trapped in the elevator loop from hell. I kept thinking I was in a mall. Maybe that was the intention, to make people think shopping and Sex and the City trendiness. Because that's just so related to exercise. Or something like that.

My favorite part? A 5-minute meditation section at the end. Yes, for 5 whole minutes neither of these women says a damn thing! Not even the word 'ass'! I wouldn't have thought that was possible.

Okay, it was a little weird the way the camera stayed focused on them sitting there with their eyes closed for 5 minutes, but what the hell. Also, I wondered where the faint breeze came from -- this was filmed in what looked like an exercise studio -- but at least it looked artistic as it gently tossed their hair.

As with the Skinny Bitches Boot Camp DVD, there's a major disconnect between what the cover promises and what you get. Notice how the DVD cover at the top of this post shows a woman holding a dumbbell? I faithfully got out my weights when I started this thing, but I shouldn't have bothered. At no point in the DVD do they use weights. Presumably the picture of a woman lifting weights is supposed to be representative of fitness in general. It's symbolic. Or something like that. Bah humbug.

Want to feel hip and cool and get a workout at the same time? Rent a Sex and the City DVD and watch it while jogging on the treadmill. In high heels. You'll get more of a workout.

If you've got an alternative opinion of the Skinny Bitches, or their exercise DVDs, or if you have your own personal least favorite DVD, please leave a comment. You get bonus points if you can condense the comment to seven words :)

(Obligatory legalese: bonus points not redeemable for any cash value product. We're all about the verbal rewards here. Offer void where prohibited by law.)

Leopard:
Scream: Cat:

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Cranky Fitness Poetry Contest: Why Bother To Exercise?

Photo: spo0nman

A poetry contest on a health blog?

Well, yeah, we did one before, and readers came through! It was a challenging topic (low-cal snacks) and a "modest" prize (a coupon for low-cal snacks), and yet there were some awesome entries!

So we have another one today, with a better prize, inspired by today's post on the main Cranky Fitness page about the claim that vigorous exercise might make you gain weight.

(Anyone buying that? Anyone?)

Well, whatever you think of that notion, I suspect many of you will keep right on exercising. Either you don't believe the folks at Time Magazine, or you have other reasons for wanting to stay active.

Wanna write a little poem, haiku, or a limerick about why you exercise? Or hell, sing a song, draw a cartoon, pen a novel, produce a 3-act play, film a movie, or write and stage an Opera about it? Whatever!

I'm feeling tired of the boring old Random Number Generator and would rather just pick the "best" creative comment on this theme to win our prize for the week. I may ask the assistance of couple of Anonymous Impartial Judges to help me.

However, be warned that judging will be entirely subjective and probably unfair. Be prepared to write the best entry, and then lose out to one that is obviously not nearly as good! That's how these things generally work.


What's the prize?


Glad you asked! Have you heard of these gizmos? It's a SanDisk slotRadio player.

I will quote from the SanDisk website because I haven't gotten to try one yet:

"Introducing slotRadio™ – the instant load music player bundled with a 1,000 song slotRadio™ Mix card. No downloads, no PCs and no work involved. Simply pop the card in the player and enjoy a near-endless supply of full-length tracks. It’s great music, made effortless."

The player retails for $99.99, and the features include:
· FM tuner;
· Integrated belt clip for hands-free listening;
· 1.3 oz and the size of a matchbook;
· Additional genre-specific cards available for purchase;
· Up to 13 hours of battery life between charges.

How to Enter the Cranky Fitness Poetry Contest:

Write a poem or do something else creative to answer the question: why do you bother exercising? If you can leave it in the comments, please do, if it's something especially weird and unwieldy creative, you can email whatever the hell it is to CrabbyMcslacker @ gmail dot com.

Deadline: Tuesday, August 18th.

Winner announced the next day, Wednesday Aug 19th. Check back by Saturday to claim your prize.


Do You Have to Have a U.S. Address to receive the prize?

Sorry, yes. However, if you enter and are not from the U.S., you can still have the glory of winning, and then you can designate a U.S. friend or favorite blogger or secret crush to receive the prize. They will be very grateful, and you will be revealed to be not only talented, but generous too!

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Friday, August 7, 2009

TRX Review


I'm always happy to disclose when I get a product sent to me for free to review, because I'm hoping it makes me look cool and popular because telling readers I've received goods in exchange for providing a review is the honest and ethical thing to do! So, um, yeah, I didn't pay for this fancy-pants TRX Home Training bundle. The package comes with the "TRX Suspension Trainer Professional," plus a dvd, door anchor, tote bag, and some instructional information.

And what the heck is a TRX Suspension Trainer? Well, it's basically a couple of adjustable straps that you anchor to something solid like a beam or a tree, or (if you get the doorway anchor accessory) to the top of a door in your house.

Like so:

You can tell this is not me because of:
(a) the rugrat and (b) all the
smiling.


You use this pair of straps to position yourself in a bunch of different ways, so that gravity and your body weight work together to provide resistance when you exercise. By changing the angle you're at, you can make it easy, hard, or totally freakin' impossible.

And it's not just for sissies like Crabby either. Apparently, even tough-ass military types use the TRX.


The TRX folks have figured out exercises designed to target your whole body. They've got presses and squats and dips and crunches and all kinds of stuff. The website has video demonstrations, and they've got lots of suggestions for creative ways to use the contraption to work your upper body, lower body, and your core. Or, if you're so inclined, to make porn videos.

This woman is probably very nice and we swear she is
not even THINKING of making a porn movie.


So I tried it, and what did I think about it? Well, in short, I mostly liked it!

What's Awesome About the TRX:

1. It's really well made. The materials are tough and heavy duty; there's nothing flimsy about it. Yet it's designed to be easily adjustable. It really is no hassle to lengthen or shorten the straps.

2. It's light-weight and portable. If you have a small apartment or do much traveling, the fact that you can get most of the functions of a home gym in a tiny little tote bag is pretty darn appealing.

3. You can do a LOT of different exercises with it. I just tried the first 12 they suggested, but it looked like online there were a lot more.

4. It's adjustable so you can make things harder or easier. And changing the angle you use is much easier than moving a bunch of weight plates around.

5. It recruits many muscles at the same time so you get more "functional" fitness. Because you are using your body weight to supply resistance, often the exercises involve you supporting that body weight with both your core and the specific muscles being targeted. Your core and all kinds of obscure supporting muscles get a workout, not just one isolated set of muscles.


What's Less Awesome About the TRX:

1. A lot of these exercises you could do without the fancy strap. Some of these are familiar floor exercises that have been modified by adding suspension. For many of these moves, you could probably achieve the same thing with a doorframe to hang onto or a stability ball to lean against or whatever.

2. It's an Expensive Fancy Strap. The bundle that includes the door anchor is $169; the basic model in $149. I know "Expensive" depends on your income and frame of reference, so perhaps this doesn't seem expensive to you. If you're financially comfortable and are comparing the TRX system to other home gym alternatives, the price tag is not gonna seem too bad. However, if you're a cheapskate like me or a handy Do It Yourself sort of person, it's going to seem bizarre to pay so much money for a pair of adjustable straps with handles. But then a lot of people will pay more than this for a trendy blouse or a purse, neither of which can give you a full body workout unless your fashion choices are mighty eccentric.

3. Gravity isn't always going in the right direction. On some of the exercises, like the abductors, it seemed like the resistance was not coming from quite the right direction to work the muscles it was supposed to. But what do I know? I'm not an exercise physiologist.

4. The TRX uses functional whole body movements at the expense of isolating individual muscles. While most people think of this as a great thing, I found that I couldn't seem to muster up nearly the same feeling of resistance in the muscles I was targeting when I used the TRX as when I use free weights or a universal-type weight machine. I felt like core muscles and other supporting muscles were the ones getting fatigued and supplying that feeling of "let's stop now, shall we?" But I wonder if once I got used to the movements, my core might strengthen and allow me to work the individual muscles more aggressively? Anyway, if you're used to using machines or free weights that isolate individual muscles, the TRX type resistance might not feel as "satisfying," if that makes any sense.

5. And (surprise!) some of the exercises aren't nearly as easy as they look in the demonstrations. Also, some aren't as challenging as you'd think either. But this may be a "newby" issue; it may just be a function of selecting the right level of difficulty and mastering the form.

Overall: The small size and convenience of this system makes it a great choice for home exercisers, especially for those who don't have a gym membership or a lot of space or money for a full-on home gym. It's great for functional fitness types, because you get a lot of core work, and you can pick up the speed and do the strengthening exercises for cardio too. And it's a particularly handy choice for folks who travel because of how portable it is.

However, if your have access to a real gym, and particularly if you like traditional strength training routines with heavy weights, you might find this more useful as an "on the road" alternative rather than a main source of exercise.

Caution: this product may improve your physique to the point where random strangers try to grab your ass.


Oh, and if you'd like to read a really thorough and enthusiastic review of this product, check out the review posts at The Great Fitness Experiment. (And there's another one here too).

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance Get Fit: Review & Giveaway

Photo credit: mikebaird

You know how they say you should dance like nobody's watching? The only time I can manage that level of carefree rug-cutting is when nobody in fact is watching. Like when I have the drapes drawn so the neighbors won't see me trying to learn how to dance.

The nice part about dancing along with a DVD is that the people on the television do not snigger at how you dance. Not once. And when I dance, there is much to laugh at. Sadly, my name will never be mentioned in the same sentence as dancers like Fred Astaire, Crabby McSlacker, or Dmitri Chaplin.

These DVDs give you the chance to try something fun and get a workout while you're doing it.

The Cardio Funk DVD features:
- Hip Hop - Lauren
- Contemporary - Travis
- Disco - Courtney (No, a glittery disco ball is not included. Sorry.)
- Cardio Funk Bonus Workout



The Tone and Groove DVD has:
- Hip Hop - Twitch
- Jazz - Katee
- Cha Cha - Dmitry
- Tone and Groove Bonus Workout

I included the names of the dancers/instructors because, if you've been watching the show you recognize the names and if you've been hiding under a rock you need to know what people have been so excited about.

I've been in the Under-the-rock category, so it was educational to try these DVDs out. Obviously your heart rate is not going to be as high if you're stopping to figure out the steps, but once you get going, these DVDs can provide a workout!

Would you like to try these exercise DVDs?
If you'd like to be entered for the giveaway, please leave a comment. Do you like to get out there and dance all night long, or are you looking for a new fun way to get fit?

Finicky fine print stuff:
- 3 Winners, picked by Mr. Random Number Generator on Thursday, August 6th at 11:59 pm Manhattan Time
- USian mailing address
- Winners announced Friday, August 7th.
- If you win, as I really hope you do, 'cause I kinda like you, then we need your name and address by Wednesday, August 12th.

This Contest Is Now Closed. Sorry.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

"Moji" Knee Wrap: Review and Giveaway


No, this is not a picture of me. I am not that tan, that slim, or that hairless. However, on the plus side, I am also not sliced down the middle, and unlike this lady I actually have a head.

So I've complained many times over the years about how running hurts my knees. I've tried different stretches, various strengthening exercises, orthotics, ibuprofin, taking breaks, cross training, avoiding pavement--it all helps, but nothing completely resolves the issue.

And sure, I'll quit running for a while (for a time I even tried to embrace dorkwalking racewalking). But I always come back to running, because unlike many forms of exercise, I actually like it!

One weapon in the battle against the pain in my crappy crunchy knees that I discovered in the last year or so (at the suggestion of the always helpful Dr. J), was icing my knees after a run. It really does seem to help pain and inflammation, and has allowed me to continue to abuse my knees week after week, which may not sound like a great thing but trust me, it is!

Here is a picture of my first Reusable Ice Pack:



But it started to leak and stink after a while.

So then I graduated to a big lumpy gel cold pack thingy I bought from a running store. I forget the brand name, but it cost about $25. You store it in the freezer, and strap in on with velcro straps. But it wasn't specifically designed for knees, so it wouldn't fit snugly and would fall off if I tried to walk in it.

So when the Moji folks told me that they had a Cold-Wrap designed for knees that would fit comfortably rather than lumpily and wondered if I wanted one of my own? I said you betcha!

And sure enough, this is gonna be a short review because the Moji really is great and there's not a lot of "cons" to talk about, just "pro's." It's a comfortable way to ice your knees with minimal hassle.

The whole thing stores relatively flat in your freezer in it's own little ziplock bag. When it's time to ice, you strap it on for 20 minutes (do watch the time or you could get frostbite), and unlike actual ice, it's not painfully cold. It uses compression as well as cold temperatures, so getting the size right is important. (It comes in lots of sizes). The thing is comfortable enough to walk around in, and if you're willing to spring for the "to go" thermos, you can take it with you you're exercising away from home and keep it cold for hours. (I didn't get to try this part, but i think it would be a really nice feature).

There's only one con to the whole system: the price. The thing retails for almost $85, and the "to go" accessory is another $55.

Is it worth it? Well, it seems like it is to me, but then I got mine free. Before, when I just had the lumpy bumpy icepack, I would frequently "forget" to ice because it seemed like a hassle. Now I use the Moji much more often.


Would you like to win a Moji Cold Knee Wrap?

Just leave a comment! The Random Number Generator will pick a winner on Wednesday, Aug 5th.

If you win, you'll need to email us your name, address, and your size information by Saturday, Aug 8th.

And I believe they are opening this giveaway to anyone! (Apparently there are some ordering issues online for those buying internationally that they expect to resolve soon, but that won't affect the giveaway).

So does anyone else have knee issues when they work out?

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Fitness Magazine Giveaway



So Do We Really Need Another Health and Fitness Magazine?

Of course we do! Or at least I do. I have to confess I'm addicted to them, despite my many complaints about them. You'd think spending so much time on the web visiting health blogs, news sites, journals, etc, the last thing I'd want is a glossy magazine full of healthy eating and exercise tips. But as it turns out, yes I do! Because when the Fitness Magazine folks offered me a free subscription I jumped all over it. Jump, jump, jump! And they were generous enough to offer a giveaway subscription and prize pack too.


So What Do I Think?

Well, unfortunately, my copy hasn't arrived yet, and I'm too cheap too darn busy at the moment to purchase an issue off the newsstand. So this isn't intended to be a review. But I did get a peek at the July issue, and it's got some cool stuff in there. Don't let the cover throw you off though, because as is the case with almost all magazines marketed to women, it's annoying as hell.

The cover makes many promises to make you "slim," "hot," "pretty," and "skinny," but there is the frustratingly little cover ink devoted to "getting healthy," "building strength," "avoiding heart attacks" or "kicking ass." However, I suspect this is because most women standing in line at the grocery store will not buy magazines about kicking ass, just about looking pretty. I have ranted about this many times before and so will just shut up about it now.

Anyway, that said, the magazine itself seems way more health and fitness-focused than the cover. In fact, the article billed as "50 Best Foods That Will Keep You Skinny" on the cover turns out to actually be titled the Fitness Healthy Foods Awards, highlighting the best tasting and healthiest convenience foods they could find. And many of my favorites were on the list!

So I sense there may be some tension between the Skinny Pretty Cover Agenda and the Fit and Healthy Editorial Agenda. And I personally think the best way to resolve it would be to have a kickboxing match between the marketing folks and the editorial folks. And if the editorial people should happen to thrash the marketing people? Then they should be able to put an actual real life Size 12 model on the cover and talk about nothing but actual health and fitness! In which case sales would no doubt plummet and all the Fitness Magazine people would unfortunately be out of jobs, but it would great while it lasted and at least it would be fun to watch them duke it out, don't you think?

Go Editorial!
Photo: livegym-showtime


How to Win a Subscription and a Prize Pack:


So sadly, I think this is another US only deal. To be honest, I forgot to ask but I noticed it said U.S. only at MizFit's site. And what are the chances they're going to say: oh, but for you, Crabby McSlacker, we'll ship anywhere! So Canadians and others non-Americans, comment at your own risk. We'll totally appreciate your contribution, but you probably won't win a magazine subscription. Winner will be chosen via Random Number generator; only first comment counts if you comment more than once.

So the Prize Pack includes a magazine subscription, cosmetic bag, umbrella, apron, hat, notebook, and massager. (Note: not that kind of massager, sorry).

To enter, just leave a comment below saying what you like or don't like about health and fitness magazines.

Entry deadline: Tuesday night, July 28th.
Winner announced: Wednesday, July 29th.
Check back to claim your prize by end of day Saturday, Aug 1.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Grok vs Crabby; Primal Blueprint Giveaway


Welcome, you found us!

As I mentioned in the intro back at Cranky Fitness, Mark Sissons of Mark's Daily Apple has come out with a book called The Primal Blueprint. He believes we should all be eating and exercising the way humans did 10,000 years ago.

In fact, the role model/poster-boy over at his blog is a fellow named "Grok," who lived back in Paleolithic times. "What would Grok do?" is a frequent subject of discussion over at Mark's Daily Apple.

Hi there, Grok!

So this looks like a very interesting read, and there are many, many aspects of primal living that seem quite sensible. We at Cranky Fitness totally endorse cutting way down on processed crap, eating more whole natural foods, and getting lots of exercise.

However, longtime readers of both blogs might have noticed that Crabby McSlacker and Grok have slightly different approaches to healthy living. (In fact, back in the early days of Cranky Fitness, Crabby wrote a guest post over Mark's place defending the consumption of Splenda and cupcakes!)

So how to handle the fact that Grok followers are a bit more hard core than Crabby, and that we don't see eye to eye on everything? Well, I could embark on a scholarly debate about evolutionary biology, and question the notion that we should try to emulate the paleolithic lifestyle in so many of its particulars. But that might involve a lot of work! make for a dull post.

Instead, I'll just point out a few random similarities and differences between Crabby and Grok and let you readers weigh with your own thoughts about Primal Living. You folks (a) know a lot more about the specifics of what's involved and (b) always have the best observations and arguments anyway!

Sample Differences Between Crabby and Grok's Approach to Healthy Living:

1. Grok didn't eat grains or sugar. So Grok's followers think you should limit them--and not just junky white flour and other refined grains, but whole grains too.

Crabby says screw that. She has a hard enough time staying the heck away from Krispy Kremes. Do not mess with her whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oat bran muffins.

2. Grok ate a fair amount of animal fat--and many of Grok's followers love their lard. They believe it is good for us and has been unfairly demonized.

Crabby is more scared animal fat. Though she could happily gorge on cheeseburgers and barbecued pork ribs on a daily basis, she believes that red meats and animal fats are best kept to a minimum.

3. Grok didn't eat burritos and his followers say you should go easy on legumes as they are not all that great for you.

Crabby says WTF? She feels quite virtuous when she eats things like beans and split peas and lentils! She is working on eating more of these, not less.

4. Grok did not use an elliptical machine, go jogging, or take Zumba classes, and his followers think we should skip the 3-5 sessions a week of traditional aerobic exercise we are so often told to do. Instead, you should "move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy things, and run really fast once in a while."

Crabby agrees that those three things are all good, but Crabby likes to get high on endorphins. She loves to run, and bouncing around on an elliptical machine to good music gives her a rush she just can't get by torturing herself with intervals. She is not convinced yet that she'd be better off chucking her cardio workouts.

5. Grok must have eaten lots of protein, because his followers advocate eating greater amounts protein than many of us typically get.

Crabby also believes protein is important (and many women don't get enough), but she is hesitant to "beef up" (sorry) her protein intake as much as Grok's followers would recommend. She worries about medical complications like kidney disease that one can get from high protein/low carb diets.

But enough with the pesky differences. There are also many ways in which Crabby is totally willing to consider Grok a role model!

1. Grok didn't sit on his ass in a desk chair all day long and Crabby doesn't think this is a great idea either.

2. Grok never went to Friendly's, McDonald's, or TGI Fridays, and Crabby would just as soon stay the hell away from them too.

3. Grok didn't run marathons and Crabby ain't gonna either!

4. Grok didn't have a twitter account or a facebook page...and neither does Crabby!

5. Flying across the country in a metal tube 40,000 feet in the air would have scared the crap out of Grok, and Crabby does her best to avoid this too!

6. Grok wouldn't have known what the heck to make of shows like "The Real Housewives of Orange County" and neither does Crabby!

Proving that Crabby is actually very primal!


How To Win a Copy of The Primal Blueprint:

You don't have to be a U.S. resident to win!

Just leave a comment about anything to do with the whole caveman/primal/paleolithic approach to health and fitness, pro or con or confused. I'll chose a winner by Random Number Generator by Tuesday night, June 23rd . Winner announced Wednesday, June 24th. And if you win, please email us at Crabby McSlacker @ gmail dot com to claim your prize by Saturday the 27th!

UPDATE: The Winner has been selected! Go to the Cranky Fitness winner announcement post and find out if you won!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

The End of Overeating Review and Giveaway



Ever wondered how you could be such an "adult" in so many other areas of your life, yet respond like Pavlov's poor drooling dog when cued by the sight of crispy french fries or creamy frosting, or the smell of a bacon cheeseburger sizzling on the grill?

We know this stuff is terrible for us... yet some of us find it so difficult to resist.

Why the heck is that?

Well, according to Dr. David Kessler (who served as the FDA commissioner in two administrations), part of the reason we overeat is because our brains have been hijacked! In the book "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite," Kessler exposes some fascinating tricks the food industry has for making their products incredibly, unnaturally enticing.

He also explains why our brain chemistry makes us so vulnerable to the cheap thrills provided by sugar, fat, and salt. (So for those of you hopping over from the intro back at Cranky Fitness wondering what the heck "orosensory self-stimulation" is, this it where it comes in: it's "the cyclical process in which eating delicious food tells the brain to make us want more of those foods." And similarly, the "hedonic hotspot" is not a nightclub but a tiny part of the brain about the size of a head of a pin that "causes us to really like something.")

The book also describes a problem that so many in our society seem to struggle with: that of "Conditioned Hypereating." Kessler proposes a treatment theory that involves "food rehab," featuring sensible concepts like like "planned eating." He also advises people on how to make the "critical perceptual shift" necessary to regain control of our diet and our health. (And Crabby promises to stop quoting practically every word the poor man has written "any minute now.")

So this is the part of the review where Conscientious Co-Blogger Merry Sunshine would provide the thoughtful analysis. Whereas I'm going to present instead a gratuitous photo of an Italian Men's Soccer Team in order to distract the heterosexual female portion of our demographic. (But this time, instead of their white undies, the boys are wearing black!):



Did that work? Are you distracted enough that I can get by with a really quick take on the book?

It's actually a fascinating read, and has a lot of great details about how our brains and current food manufacturing technology conspire against us to defeat our best intentions. No wonder we're so tempted to eat such unhealthy stuff! It's one thing to think abstractly "My those Cinnabon rolls sure are tasty" and another to read how carefully they were designed to make us helpless to resist. So the book is really useful in providing perspective on how tough it is to avoid unhealthy food, and to appreciate the power of the forces that lead to "conditioned hypereating."

This would be an especially great book for a friend or relative who does not frequent health blogs and is only just beginning to appreciate how totally f*cked up our society is when it comes to "normal" eating habits.

But for many of us who have long been aware of the Ubiquitous Evil we are up against at our restaurants, grocery stores, and shopping mall food courts... it's a bit like preaching to the choir. And while we all grapple with temptation, many of us have developed our own common sense strategies for indulging only occasionally, in moderation. Kessler's "rehab" techniques, while certainly sensible, are not all that novel or detailed. Because while stating the problem is helpful, it's the "solution" part that's tough to implement.

That said, he does make at least a good start on it, and while many of us may feel we know this stuff, we can always use reminders. Plus, there is obviously a huge segment of the population (no pun intended) that does not frequent health blogs. Many folks are in the dark about how pathological their eating behavior has become, how unhealthy that is, how it's not just a matter of "willpower," and what some good techniques are to regain control over what we eat.

So, want to win a copy?

Leave a comment by Thursday. Unfortunately, this giveaway is limited to folks who can receive mail at a U.S. address. The random number generator will pick a winner Thursday June 18th, which will be announced by Friday, June 19th. Please check in by Wednesday June 24th to claim your prize or we'll have another drawing. (NOTE: I'm going to be out of town for a few days which is why the entry period is longer than we normally do.)

Special Update: More chances to win! Sagan over at Living Healthy in the Real World and Rupal over at 101 Exercises are also doing a giveaways of this book, and they explain it all much better than I did!

Any thoughts on the obesity epidemic, the role of sugary, fatty, salty, processed foods, the menus as restaurant chains, the methods you use to eat healthy in spite of being surrounded by junky temptations, or the Italian men's soccer team? Comments of all sorts welcome!

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Friday, June 5, 2009

SleepPhones Review and Giveaway


So as I was saying (back on the main blog), I sometimes need some help getting to sleep when it's noisy outside.

But before I tell you what's so nifty about the SleepPhones system, I'd like to whine a bit about other available methods of dealing with this problem. Because if there weren't some whining and complaining, how would you know that you were really still at Cranky Fitness?


Other Solutions to Night-Time Noise That I've Tried:

A "sleep soother" machine like they sell at Sharper Image, the kind that play white noise or various other sounds that are supposed to lull you to sleep.

I hated it.

Not only did it prove I am a schizophrenic because I heard voices in it, but the sound quality was really crappy, and the sounds were recorded loops that only lasted a few seconds. I couldn't help but pick out repetitive noises and then wait for them to come back around again, and again, and again. Neurotic, who me?

Earplugs. They creep me out. (I don't do earbuds on my iPod either. I hate things inside my ears.)

Closing the Window And Turning on the Air Conditioner. This works but makes me feel incredibly wasteful. We get a nice cool breeze most summer nights, and I hate to shut that out and use a power-guzzling machine just because some obnoxious idiot is out there slamming down tequila shots, cranking his stereo and crooning along to I Shot The Sheriff.

Lying There Feeling Angry and Frustrated. Contrary to popular belief, I don't actually enjoy being Cranky. I'd prefer to be relaxed and happy and blissful!


So, What are Sleep Phones and Why Do I Like Them Better Than These Other Options?


They're headphones embedded in a soft fleecy headband that you wear over your ears and plug into your mp3 player, cd player, or other audio device. I use my iPod because it's pretty unobtrusive. (And did you know your iPod has timer and alarm functions? I didn't!)

The headphones are designed to be comfortable enough to sleep in. The package also comes with a lavender sachet and a CD that has three tracks--the one I'm partial to is 30 minutes long and it's called "Rowayton Stream."

Okay, I'll confess, "Rowayton Stream" is the only one I downloaded. The other two are called "Harriman Birds" and "Wake Up!" Since I've already got cacophonous birdcalls waking me up at 4:30 am , I thought I'd pass on any dang birdies chirping. And "Wake Up!" didn't sound all that promising as a track for putting me to sleep.

These soundtracks feature binaural beats, which through a complicated process that I've never quite understood, are supposed to affect your brainwaves and help you to sleep. Over at the SleepPhones site they've got a round-up of some of the relevant binaural beat research. They also offer several more free sleep-inducing mp3 downloads over on the SleepPhone downloads page.

The downside of binaural beats? Well, they sound odd. It's sort of like a washing machine is sitting in the middle of my peaceful Rowayton Stream, on spin cycle, thrumming away.

Excuse me, washing machine, what are you doing here?
Don't you have some dirty clothes to tackle down in the basement?


Actually, at least it sounds like an expensive, possibly European washing machine is sitting in the stream, not a 15 year old Kenmore with a pair of tennis shoes in it. So after a few seconds I don't tend to notice the binaural beat aspect anymore, and I like the idea that it might be messing with my brainwaves and helping me sleep. But if that creeps you out or annoys you, you can use any old CD or MP3 you want to lull you to sleep.

Besides drowning out obnoxious neighbors, the SleepPhones are also supposed to help with tinnitus, insomnia, anxiety, and are probably a good alternative to divorce if you have a spouse who snores.

Additional Options for Dealing With Insomnia

The SleepPhones people have conveniently put together a nice list of sleep hygiene tips, saving me from gathering them up.

And I also thought I'd mention that there was a recent study out endorsing an online cognitive behavioral approach to insomnia. Time Magazine has a good article on the study and on web-based insomnia treatments. Apparently some health insurers like Blue Cross and Aetna offer free anti-insomnia programs, and there are cheap retail versions at cbtforinsomnia.com or myselfhelp.com). I see no reason not to try both the SleepPhones and an online CBT program, but what do I know? I don't have insomnia, just noisy neighbors.

How To Win Your Own Set of SleepPhones:

Leave a comment on this post by Tuesday night, June 9th; the winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator and announced sometime the next day on Wednesday June 10th. If you win, please send an email with your name and mailing address to Crabby McSlacker at Gmail dot com by midnight Saturday June 13th.

The good news: if you live outside the U.S., you can enter! The bad news: if you win, it may take longer for your SleepPhones to arrive. Also, depending on where you live, you may be required to pay import tax. But if you're okay with that, please leave a comment!

So does anyone have any issues getting or staying asleep, or do you just drop right off? Any good tips for beating insomnia?


IMPORTANT UPDATE: A WINNER HAS BEEN DECLARED! PLEASE SEE WHO IT WAS BACK AT CRANKY FITNESS!

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Welcome!


The authors of Cranky Fitness have opinions about fitness and weight loss products.

And we like Free Stuff!

This Review and Giveaway Page was the temporary home for product reviews, which now appear in full back at the main blog.

While we've randomly included some old posts from Cranky Fitness concerning products in these archives, we weren't all-inclusive. So if you're looking for something particular, you may want to search back at the main blog too.

For more information, check out About CF Product Reviews.