Scoring sweet swag, reviewing awesome products and living the rad mom life.

In case you didn’t know there is a magical place tucked in the little town of Tama – located within Tokyo, Japan.  It’s where a special lady lives with all of her best friends!  Her name?  Hello Kitty!  And yes she is a lady and not a cat.  Make sure you tell your friends that,  I get the feeling she doesn’t like being referred to as a cat.  😉  She lives in a castle called “Sanrio Puroland” although many people refer to it as “Hello Kitty Land”.

You might be familiar with Sanrio, they have locations all over the world and you can’t miss them – they are small, but colorful and bright stores. They sell lots of stationary, school supplies, and accessories as well as stuffed animals and apparel. We took our kids here during Thanksgiving week to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and I was pretty excited to go as well since I loved going to the Sanrio store when I was a kid.  So here are a few things I learned about our adventure!

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  • Take the train.  It’s a fairly easy train ride and the park is only a 5 minute walk from the Tama train station.  You even get to walk down Hello Kitty Street. 🙂

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  • Buy your tickets beforehand.  I got our tickets on GoVoyagin – it’s like the Groupon of Japan.  We ended up paying $19.50 for each adult and my daughter. Kids under 3 were free. You don’t even have to print anything, you can just show the barcodes right on your phone. If you plan to go frequently or want to purchase a Puropass (like a FastPass), then you may want to get your tickets from the park’s website.  Keep in mind, the price increases for weekend and holiday visits.

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  • It’s indoors.   One thing that might really surprise you is that the entire theme park is indoors!  I think this is pretty awesome since the weather conditions aren’t always great here in Japan.  You don’t have to worry about your kids being too hot or too cold and you can leave the ponchos at home. 🙂

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  • It’s kind of small.  Since the entire park is inside, you can imagine that this place isn’t all that big.  It’s four stories high but doesn’t really have a huge circumference and there’s an escalator and elevator.  But the steps are kind of built into the enchantment of the place so my kids loved going up and down the stairs.  They do have a large stroller parking area and locker rentals so you don’t have to lug around your bags and coats.
  • The details are amazing!  No Hello Kitty detail was left behind here.  You will see prints of Hello Kitty and her friends all over this place – down to the wallpaper and the vending machines!
  • Even the food is themed!  There are a few cafes/restaurants located throughout the park.  They serve all types of Japanese cuisine as well as French fries, pastries, and ice cream.  But you will see that Hello Kitty has made her mark on the food (and snacks), too!
  • There are rides.  Even though everything is indoors, there are a couple of rides within the park.  One is a boat ride that takes you through a land of mechanical characters and the other is a little car ride where you take photos in different themed rooms.  We had to wait about 25 minutes for each of these, but the PuroPass will get you in faster in case you’re in a time crunch.
  • There’s an arcade.  If you need a break from the rides or want to play some games, there’s a spot for that.  The park has an arcade area with a small carousel and little 100 yen arcade style rides.

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  • There are plenty of opportunities for character meet-and-greets.  If your little ones aren’t afraid of giant and crazy costumes, then they will love the characters at Hello Kitty Land!

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  • Catch the parade.  There are a few shows that happen throughout the day.  You’ll want to pick up a show guide at the front, but make sure to watch the parade!  They will start roping off areas (just like they do at Disney) long before the start of the parade, so make sure you grab your seat early.  They also sell light up wands for 1500 yen and your kids WILL want one so they can interact with the performance.  Since we were there the day after Thanksgiving, the show was Christmas themed and it was a mix of Japanese and English songs.
  • She’s worth the wait.  You will have the opportunity to meet Hello Kitty herself!  She has her own wing of the castle and it’s extra magical!  We waited about 30 minutes, but I did see the wait times increase at times.  You can also skip the line with the PuroPass.  Once it’s your turn, you are ushered into her special house.  There are lots of photo props and interactive areas – and it’s beautiful!  Then you wait in another short line to actually meet her.  You have the option to purchase a rose for 500 yen to give her during your meeting.  In exchange she will give you a gift as well.  We didn’t purchase this option so I’m not sure exactly what the gift was although it appeared to be a small notebook of some sort.  Also, this was the only spot where personal photography was not allowed.  We bought our Hello Kitty photo with the frame for 1600 yen.
  • There’s SWAG!  If you are celebrating a special occasion, head to the Information Desk when you first enter the park.  They will give you a card that you wear around your neck with your name and celebration date.  Then when you walk around, everyone will give you a sticker for your card and in our case, wish my daughter a Happy Birthday.  It really made her day extra special!  They even gave one to my son so he wouldn’t feel left out.  Instead of ‘Happy Birthday’, his occasion was ‘First Visit’.

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  • Everyone is super friendly!  Okay, maybe this isn’t surprising since it is Japan and all.  But everyone was very friendly – not just the employees, but the people in the park too.  It’s a pretty crowded and busy place, but anytime my son had a meltdown or fell (he falls a lot) – someone would stop and check on him.  Also, everyone that worked there spoke enough English to communicate basic instructions which made things a lot easier.

Overall, we really enjoyed our day at Hello Kitty Land!  If you plan to go, check the park schedule because it does close fairly early so you’ll want to give yourself enough time to explore everything.  And if you don’t have kids, don’t let that stop you from visiting this little gem.  We saw a lot of couples there without children and they looked even more excited than the kids we encountered.  🙂

Have you been to Sanrio Puroland?  What did you think?  Would you go if you had the chance?

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I’m off to review the next event!

~SM

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**Disclaimer: I received two boxes of Health Warrior Bars to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!!

Well it’s a brand new year guys!  Which means everyone is working on self-improvement, new goals, and lifestyle changes.  One of my 2018 goals is to improve my eating habits.  I love eating healthy foods, but I also probably indulge more than I should…and I’m definitely guilty of stealing french-fries from my kids.  So I was pretty stoked (yet a bit skeptical) when I had the opportunity to try out the Health Warrior Chia Bars.

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I was skeptical because usually healthy snack bars are either a) not really all that healthy (have too much sugar/carbs) or b) taste like an old shoe. The main ingredient in the Health Warrior Chia Bars is…well, you guessed it – Chia seeds!

They also contain:

  • 4-5 grams of unrefined sugar
  • 4g of fiber
  • 3g of protein
  • 100 calories (some 110)

AND they are:

  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • Dairy-free

Seems like these are leaning towards the “old shoe” taste, huh?  So I decided to start out with the Chocolate Peanut Butter bars first because I basically love PB/Choco flavored anything.

I was surprised to see that these little guys are actually smaller than many other typical health bars.  But I was even more surprised at how great they tasted!  They are pretty chewy, but not too hard and definitely had a great natural-tasting flavor.  I had them for a mid-morning snack a few times and then decided to take them out on a run!

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At first I was a little disappointed with the smallness, but realized that they are the perfect size for my purse and serve as a great pick-me-up during that late afternoon crash.

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Then I went on to try the Vanilla Almond bars.  I didn’t care for this flavor at first, mostly because I don’t really care for anything vanilla flavored in general.  But after the second or third bar, I developed a taste for this flavor and really began to enjoy it! My kids really liked this flavor, too!  No old shoe taste here!

Also, a little SWAG came with my shipment.  A pretty neat coloring book! Coloring is a great way to relax and relieve stress.  And this one is all about running so it’s extra special!  I’ve been thinking of running a marathon sometime in the next couple of years, so maybe this marathon coloring book is a sign that I should turn that dream into a goal. 😉  My kids were excited about the book too and even helped color the letter P. 😉

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He thinks that’s me. 🙂

Overall,  I really loved these bars!  They also come in some other great flavors like Coconut and Apple Cinnamon.   I definitely plan on ordering a few boxes!

Pricing: You can score a box of 15 for $15.99, but you can save some bucks if you subscribe.  And free shipping on orders overs $35!  Also, the marathon coloring book is on sale at the moment for $5.99!

They make great gifts, too! 😉

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So what’s the #1 reason WHY I love these little fellas????

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Answer:  They are super filling!!! I couldn’t believe the mighty punch these little bars packed.  Some days I just had one of these for breakfast and it kept me going through a 3 mile run and into lunch.  I think they are great to have for traveling, hiking, and running!  Not only did they fill me up, I didn’t get that heavy feeling or sugar crash feeling that some bars often give me.

And they go great with coffee. 😉

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What do you think?  Have you tried these?  What’s your fave flavor?!

Happy New Year!

~SM

Feel the Music with Weav Run!

*Disclaimer: The Weav Run app is currently free, but I will be receiving a lifetime subscription in January 2018 as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Last month I was informed about a new running app called Weav Run.  I was a little hesitant to try it because I’m not super techy and sometimes technology in general can be frustrating.  But, I decided to go ahead and give it a try because YOLO (do the kids still say that?) 😉  I’ll explain how Weav Run impacted my running, #ButFirst, let me tell you what makes the app so unique.

The Weav Run app uses Weav Music to sync to your running speeds.  There’s a lot that goes into this as the music composition changes in real time without impacting the quality of the song.  There’s also the issue of music licenses and such…which is why the playlist on the app isn’t huge, but more songs are being added all the time.  There are even less songs available outside of the U.S. (because of licensing), but that will also evolve over time.

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Let me break it down for you:  Let’s say you are out for a morning run and you want to run a steady pace of a 10 min/mile (the steps/minute will be different for everyone based on cadence).  You fire up the Weav Run app and the music will stay in sync with your steps! But then, your neighbor’s dog gets loose and chases you down the street – increasing your speed to an 8 min/mile.  Oh no!  Have no fear, the music from the app will speed up with you!  Finally, the dog gives up but your hot neighbor is out working in the yard and maybe you want to slow down a bit 😉 like to a 12 min/mile.  The music will slow down to your tempo so you don’t lose any precious running time.  Did I mention, this all happens with the SAME song?  And the song still sounds great – either fast or slow – without sounding like a band of Darth Vaders or chipmunks!

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So now that you know a little bit more about the app, I’ll explain how this technology impacts your running.

From the Weav Run website:

Studies show that running in sync with music can:

  • Boost performance by an extra 15-20%**
  • Decrease your perception of effort by 10% (erasing pain & making running more pleasurable)
  • Motivate you to get out the door, or stick to your routine

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I can honestly say that after using this app for the last month – I have experienced all of these things!  I even ran one of my fastest miles this year!

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I have also been running more negative splits, enjoying my runs, and getting motivated everyday!  And I literally mean everyday, because I have been participating in Weav Run’s #WeavStreak this month!  30 days of running to finish the year!

Streaking is hard during the winter because it’s cold and the days are shorter.  Streaking during Christmas is harder because I just want to drink hot chocolate and watch Hallmark movies, but the Weav Run app has definitely made me lace up and get out the door for at least one mile each day!  In case you’re wondering, I’m on day 21 now – follow me on Instagram @theswagmama to see me finish out the streak!

The app has 2 different modes (Indoor and Outdoor) and you can choose to either enter your desired steps per minute or have the app detect your cadence.

I also beta tested the interval mode on the treadmill and really enjoyed my experience! The change in tempo of the music prompted me when to speed up and slow down during each interval and it made the time pass quickly.

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But, with all new technology there are always a few hiccups.  I did have a few technical issues with the app:

  • Sometimes the app measured that I was running longer distances compared to my Garmin.
  • The time was a little off with the interval mode.  The app said I ran 34 minutes, whereas the treadmill said I only ran 30 minutes.
  • You can’t go back and edit your runs.
  • I had issues sharing my runs to Twitter.  It acted like I could upload my run to Twitter, but then there wasn’t an actual upload button to click.
  • The music takes up a lot of space.  If you download the music to your phone, it will take up a lot of memory.
  • It’s only available for Apple iPhone users. Sorry Android friends!

However, I believe these are all things that will be improved with time!

You can also check out some frequently asked questions here.

Another added bonus is that the Weav Run app team is pretty awesome!  They are quick to respond to your questions about the app and they are dedicated to improving your Weav Run experience!

Overall, I really loved this app and will continue to use it to improve my running performance!  I learned that my cadence is not that great, so I’m looking forward to setting a new cadence goal for 2018!

Until then, I’ll keep on streaking! 😉

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The app is currently free on the IOS app store.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Join me on #BibChat on Twitter on Tuesday, December 26th at 8pm CST to learn more about the app and to chat with some fun folks from the running community!  See you there!

I’m off to work on my next review!

~SM

“Disclaimer: I’m promoting the Honolulu Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

The Honolulu Marathon is coming up on December 10th,  and I have great news!!  There’s still time to get involved!  Here a few ways for you to get in on the action!

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photo courtesy of honolulumarathon.org
  • RUN!  There are 3 chances to run during the Honolulu Marathon weekend – The Kalakaua Merrie Mile is on December 9th in Waikiki.  Participate in this one mile fun run and then head over for a fun beach party and concert!  All ages welcome!  The Start to Park 10k is on December 10th and has the same start time and location of the Honolulu Marathon.  This is perfect for those who want to get a taste of the marathon course, but aren’t quite ready to run 26.2 miles.  The Honolulu Marathon – Then there’s the main event on December 10th.  It’s the fourth largest marathon in the United States and is commonly referred to as “26.2 miles in Paradise”.  Who doesn’t want to run in PARADISE?! ***Fun Fact: Last year, there were over 33,000 entrants and over 14,000 of them were from Japan!

 

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photo courtesy of honolulumarathon.org

 

  • Expo!  The expo will be held on December 7th, 8th, and 9th at the Hawaii Convention Center and is free and open to anyone!  You can register for any of the running events here at the expo, so it’s not too late to run any of the races! But if you aren’t up to running, then just enjoy roaming the expo and checking out all of the fun vendors!  You may even score some samples and swag!  You can also check out the vendor list and their booth locations here.
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photo courtesy of honolulumarathonexpo.com

  • Witness Greatness!  After everyone has run the Kalakaua Merrie Mile, you can cheer on all of the elite runners!  This is your chance to see Olympians from all over the world in action!  Check out who all will be running in the Elite Field here, including the current marathon world record holder, Dennis Kimetto    Also, be on the lookout for two-time Olympian, Nick Symmonds as he has announced that his final professional race will be this year’s Honolulu Marathon!
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photo courtesy of honolulumarathon.org

  • Tracking!  Even if you can’t make the event, you can still track your friends, family, or favorite racers!  You can follow the live results and watchlist page or you can download the event app!  Create a watchlist of all of the participants you are tracking and then see their progress as they cross each timing mat.

 

What do you think is the most interesting part of the Honolulu Marathon?!  Will you be participating this year?

I’m off to review the next event!

~SM

 

 

Hats Off to BOCO Gear!

“Disclaimer: I received a free BOCO Gear Run Hat to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

If you scroll through most of my running photos, you will find that I am almost always wearing a hat.  Why is that?  Well a few reasons.  1.  I have a ton of hair.  2.  I don’t usually have a lot of time to properly style said hair (thanks kids).   3.  Hats offer protection from the daily elements (i.e. sun, wind, rain).  4.  They are stylish!

So you can imagine my excitement when I had the chance to test out a new run hat from BOCO Gear!

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If you’ve never heard of BOCO Gear, they are a company based out of BOulder, COlorado (clever, huh?)…and they create performance hats, headbands, and other accessories for athletes.  You can browse their online shop or they will even create custom orders for your organization, team or event!  They created custom hats for BibRave and I love the look of this product!

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Since moving to Japan, I’ve been faced with some “challenging” weather conditions that I haven’t been used to.  San Diego spoiled me with it’s annual perfect weather, so I had to quickly adjust to various temperatures, humidity, rain, and even some crazy wind.  When I first received my BOCO Run Hat, it was typhoon season.  I didn’t even know that was a thing until I moved here.  BTW –  the height of typhoon season is like September/October so beware if you plan to travel to Japan during those times.  😉  Anywho, I didn’t want to let any little typhoon weather get me down so I thought, “What the heck – I’ll run outside anyway.”  Well the wind was no joke.  Running against the wind will really test your strength and it’s also annoying.  But I survived, and more importantly – My BOCO Run Hat didn’t budge!  I was shocked!  In fact, I kinda forgot I was wearing it at one point because it’s so lightweight!

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The good news about typhoons is they don’t last long.  After about 8 hours, it was all over and the skies cleared.  In fact, the next day was absolutely beautiful and I had to run again so I could see Mount Fuji in all of her glory!

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Not only did I like how this hat protected against the wind and rain,  I also liked knowing that my face was being shielded from the sun.  But for real – wear your sunscreen, kids!

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I also took my new hat friend for a ride in spin class, for some posing in yoga, and some stretching in pilates.  Obviously I didn’t need any protecting from the elements here…I just didn’t feel like doing my hair. 😉

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Overall, I think this is a great hat that all runners should own!  I love how light it feels and the way it stays put without squeezing my head.  The inside features a soft sweatband to wick away the sweat and it’s totally adjustable with a snap buckle (Velcro pulls my hair so I especially appreciate this feature).  It also folds up really easily so you can stick it in your pocket or bag when you’re travelling.  And throw it in the wash when it needs to refresh!  Super easy!

I was really impressed at how much this hat could withstand!  It even stayed put during play time with the kids and speed work on the track!

If you are looking for a new running hat, then BOCO Gear is the way to go!  Or if you are an organization or have a team looking for a custom order of hats, BOCO will hook it up!

Prices range from $23-$35 in their online shop and there is a minimum of 35 hats for a custom order.  So go create some great SWAG that anyone would love to have! 😉

Already own some BOCO Gear?  Snap a pic and tag #BOCOGEAR on Instagram for your chance to be seen on their website!

I’m off to review the next product!

~SM

From Japan with Love

You may have noticed that the scenery has changed a bit in my pictures and that’s because it HAS! That’s because a few months ago I relocated from sunny Southern California to The Land of the Rising Sun (seriously, the sun rises crazy early).

So I thought I would share what I’ve been up to and what I’ve learned over the last few months!

Trains are the way of life.  I’m still trying to navigate the train systems – like figure out if I need to be on a local or express train.  I had never been on a train before living here, so this has been quite the experience.  There is also train etiquette – everyone is pretty quiet and you don’t invade other people’s space.  They are also very clean!  This is kind of surprising since public trash cans aren’t as common as they are in the U.S.

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Noodles are on every corner.  You won’t find many drive thru fast food restaurants here with the exception of a McDonald’s here and there, but you will find sushi and noodles spots everywhere!  And ramen is amazeballs here!

No drink refills.  Unlike dining in the U.S., you will have to pay for each cup of soda in most restaurants.  But you will get unlimited water and many places have pitchers of ice water right on the table!  Also, there is no tipping and the servers rarely check on you because they want you to enjoy your meal without being interrupted.

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Treats are everywhere!  While we are on the topic of food, you will also find donut shops, ice cream, pastries, crepes, etc. on almost every block.  Sweets are a big deal here and it’s all delicious!  You will also find KitKat bars in all types of flavors like wasabi and wine flavor!

Starbucks isn’t the same.  You will find Starbucks all over Japan, but their drink options aren’t quite the same as they are in the U.S. (no pumpkin spice lattes here) 😦 And the drinks are also a little sweeter than they are back home, but I’ve tried some interesting flavors as well like the Almond Milk and Granola Frappuccino!

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Vending machines.  Speaking of coffee, you can find it in any vending machine.  Cold or HOT!  That’s right, you can get hot coffee, tea, or hot chocolate right out of the vending machine!  And you literally can’t walk more than 10 steps without passing a vending machine in Japan.

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Toilets.  Toilets are either really fancy or really primitive.  😉

Playgrounds.  The parks in Japan are unlike anything you’ve ever seen!  So much larger and complete with streams, bouncy areas, zip lines, roller coaster slides, etc.  Even the adults have a great time!

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Manhole covers. You can find art everywhere you look, including the street!  Even the manhole covers are beautifully painted!

Nature.  You really don’t have to go far to appreciate the nature in Japan!  There are gardens everywhere, beautiful forests, and the trees are so unique and gorgeous!

Temples.  Temples are everywhere and they are quite sacred so do as the locals do as respect the grounds.  Also visit the Big Buddha! It looks just the way it does in the history books!

Narrow Roads.  The roads are pretty narrow here which takes some getting used to…as well as the whole driving on the left side of the road deal.  There’s also tons of pedestrians so you gotta watch out for people riding bikes and crossing the street.

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Tokyo.  Tokyo is enormous.  There are so many different districts and things to look at…you could easily get lost for days in this city.  Harajuku has some pretty amazing shopping spots and the architecture is unique and beautiful!  Shibuya Crossing (Pedestrian Scramble) is insanely busy and a great place to sit and watch all the traffic!

The people.  The people here are so friendly and many will try to speak as much English as they can when speaking to you. They are so polite and will help you if you are lost!

I’m still adjusting to this new life, but trying to enjoy the ride. 🙂  Stay tuned for more updates on Japan and I will continue to share the SWAG as much as I can!

And continue to enjoy the view! 🙂

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Have you been to Japan?  What was your favorite part?

I’m off to explore!

~SM

“Disclaimer: I received a free pair of Aftershokz Trekz Air to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

Earlier this year, I tested a pair of wired Aftershokz headphones and they were pretty great…buuutttt wired has kinda become soooo 2016. Cause ya know, some phones don’t even have headphone ports now.  And then Aftershokz stepped up their game and came out with a new version of their bone-conducting headphones – called Trekz Air!

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In case you aren’t familiar with bone-conducting technology, here is an explanation straight from the Aftershokz website: “Transducers guide mini vibrations through the cheekbones to the inner ears, delivering sound without plugging or covering them.”  Basically, the headphones sit ABOVE your ears rather than going INSIDE of your ears.

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Me and Mount Fuji

Pretty fancy huh?  But how do they feel?  Umm…I barely noticed I was wearing them!  The unique thing about the Trekz Air is that they are the most lightweight model from Aftershokz.  The entire product is made from titanium so that they fit snug and secure…and did I mention that you can barely feel them?  And you don’t have to fumble with ANY wires!  I even ran on some pretty windy and rainy days and they didn’t budge one bit!

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How do they sound?  I was a little skeptical about trying headphones that don’t go inside my ears, because sometimes I like to really jam out (like when I’m cleaning) and tune out everything around me.  So the first thing I did when I put these on was crank up the volume.  And surprisingly, I actually had to turn it down a few notches – the sound was clearer and louder than I had imagined.  I even used them to watch a whole movie while on the elliptical and hit the treadmill during “rush hour” at the gym and had no sound issues either time.

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But could I REALLY hear my surroundings?  Yes! I usually run with my kids or take them along to the family gym so I love knowing that I can hear them as well as my surroundings while running and working out.

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What about performance?   Trekz Air were inspired by elite athletes and I definitely feel that these are an elite pair of headphones.  Music motivates me to run and workout so I always expect my headphones to perform well.  I loved that I was able to just focus on my run while wearing these, rather than adjusting my headphones or worrying about an earbud falling out. I also liked that “Audrey” (the little voice lady in the headphones) talks you through powering on and off, pairing, and playing music.

Overall, I really love this product and I will continue using them for my future runs and workouts!

Who else would love them?  Anyone!  Maybe you are looking for the perfect gift for a special person in your life.  Look no further!  Everyone would love a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Air in their stocking!  They aren’t just for athletes!  They work great with hearing aids too!  Or maybe you share your headphones with friends sometimes but don’t like the idea of sharing earwax and whatnot (yeah…gross).  Well no wax worries here!  And you aren’t killing your eardrums by listening to your music too loud.  So there are lots of reasons why a pair of Aftershokz should always be in your bag!

Price?  $149.95 – This is pretty comparable to other Bluetooth headphone brands.  Plus FREE SHIPPING!

Battery life? – Awesome!  6 hours on a continuous charge!

Any cons?  –  Well I do wish they came in other colors so hopefully they will be adding colors to their line in the near future.

What comes in the package?

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-A charging cable, a sleek carrying case, ear plugs, and an instruction booklet

SWAG BONUS: You can score a FREE Bibrave Trucker Hat with your order!bibrave.aftershokz.com

So what are you waiting for?  It’s time to #beopen!  The only thing you will need to worry about are what new songs to add to your playlist!

Join me on #Bibchat on Twitter on Tuesday, November 28th at 6pm CST for your chance to win a pair of your own!

I’m off to review the next product!

~SM

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