Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Goddess Garden Natural Sunscreen

I've often been known to joke that I'd love to visit Hawaii but I'd have to wear a burka at the beach. Although I grew up in Southern California, I was never a sun worshipper and rarely had any kind of tan. My genetic background is mostly Scottish, Swedish and British and it shows in my blonde hair, whiter-than-liquid-paper skin and my tendency to burn if I think about sunshine for too long. After one or two bad incidents as a child, I learned to stay out of the sun for the most part.

Now I live in Seattle, WA. I love Washington and, in reality, it's great for me because we don't have a lot of really sunny days in a row and I could just slap on some sunscreen when I went out on a sunny day but it certainly wasn't year round. Maybe fewer than ten days in the summer.

Then about three years ago, I developed rosacea. This is an auto-immune disease that makes my face really red, gives me acne-like breakouts and if it's irritated too much, the skin on my face starts to burn and tingle like a bad case of ant bites. It also means I'm extremely susceptible to irritation from many topical products.

So I stayed inside pretty much all the time - which is not actually very good for me.

Now I'm both on my path to losing weight and becoming a runner as well as being the team photographer for my ten-year-old son's soccer team. And I've discovered I like walking outside in nice weather (and running is in that plan, too). Now, I'm not stupid and I still usually wear a hat & sunglasses and I don't stay out all day, but the further I get into my exercise program, the more I resent being stuck inside for long periods of time. I have dreams of even going for outdoor runs in the dead of winter!

I need a good sunscreen that isn't full of chemicals that will irritate my rosacea and is safe. There are a lot of products out there but how do you know their safety?

Well, the Evironmental Working Group (EWG) has a database of sunscreens out that allows you to look up the ones you have or are considering. EWG's Skin Deep is a site I recommend everyone read and user their database. If you look up your sunscreen, you can get detailed information on overall risk and risk for each individual ingredient. It's a GREAT resource.

I've tried several sunscreens so far based on their limited contents and the recommendations in this dabase.

Last year I tried Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen. It was pretty thick and required some muscle to dispense from the tube but seemed to cover well and didn't smell bad. It didn't cause my rosacea to react and it didn't leave me with a ghostly white sheen either. I never burned with it on, either. I had intended to use it this year but when I pulled it out, it was separated and smelled rancid. Apparently I don't go through sunscreen fast enough to be able to use the majority of the tube and I've not been able to find a smaller size. So it got discarded because it was costly when I only used about 1/4 of it. (This has an EWG rating of 1: Limited, by the way).

This year I went on the hunt again and tried Mexitan's Sunscreen Lotion. This was quite a bit thinner so it dispensed well and was easy to rub on. It smells very tropical and very nice, actually. It caused no rosacea reaction either. The issue with this product is that, particularly noticeable on my face because of its redness, I was left looking a bit like I was growing mold or had become a zombie with a serious white haze. Ugh. I've kept it because I can still use it on my arms and legs but I wanted a different solution for my face lest someone think the Zombie Apolocolypse has arrived. (This has an EWG rating of 1: Limited, as well).

So back to the database. This time I decided to try Goddess Garden's Natural Sunscreen and Goddess Garden Natural Facial Sunscreen. (EWG Rating 1: Limited on the facial and 2: Limited on the regular sunscreen). I tried them out yesterday at my son's soccer game where I would be in the full sun for two hours, taking pictures.

Both sunscreens were easy to dispense and spread and smelled nice - not too perfumey and not too oily. They soaked in quickly and I could not see a perceptible white haze on my arms or face. My rosacea didn't react at all and my skin didn't feel oily or heavy. Slapping on a hat anyway, I went off to the game and stood in the full sun for the several hours, sweating and hot and even wiping my face periodically. I didn't burn in the least! An extra bonus for me was that I could buy them in smaller sizes than many brands.

I looked up Goddess Garden's story and was happy to learn the company was founded by a mother in need of products for her daughter and has grown a lot since then. I try hard to support smaller niche companies when I can and it makes me happy that I like this product so much.

If you're looking for a great, natural, organic sunscreen with excellent safety ratings that works well, give the Goddess Garden line a try!

(Products bought by myself.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I LUST for these: INKnBURN !

(NOTE: All graphics in this post are copyright INKnBURN)

I occasionally troll through the pages of magazines at my gym and yesterday I found an ad for INKnBURN, a small specialty clothing company in Lake Forest, CA.

Allow me to confess to the fact that I have tattoos - a lot of them - and I like standing out from the crowd. I like edgy designs and, honestly, they are few and far between in running gear. Right now I have a wardrobe of solids and, really, it's pretty boring. But I have come into some strong preferencs that limit my choices in exercise clothes a LOT:
  • I can't stand short sleeve shirts to walk/run in.
  • I can't stand built-in or shelf bras.
  • I can't stand cotton.

See - rather an ugly list of negating factors to most of the mass-market exercise gear for women. So far the best I've been able to do is wear one of my zip up hoodies in glaring tie dye on my way to the gym.

After staring lustfully at INKnBURN's website, I now have the following on my wishlist (you can click on the image to visit the page on INKnBURN's website):

Run or Die Blue Tank
Blue Green Leaf Tech Tank Top
Lust Tank Top
Sun Totem Tech Tank Top

Aren't they amazing?? I'm in lust. I'll need to scrimp and save but, someday, these will be MINE.

Oh, and as an added bonus, they have matching arm warmers! Maybe this will mean I don't have to put on a jacket I will only wear until I get too warm and then have to take off and figure out what to do with!

Blue Run or Die 4ARMS

Green SaLeafs 4ARMS
Lust 4ARMS
Sun Totem 4ARMS
I've got their web page bookmarked and have already subscribed to the newsletter and set up a wishlist. I'd love to get the Run or Die tank in the green and red, also - maybe someday.

I really encourage anyone that wants striking and bold running gear to check out INKnBURN. They have some gorgeous designs for men as well as women and even childrens' sizes!

Now to start saving for mine!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Garmin Foot Pod Placement

I've been doing well with using my Garmin to track my walking but indoors I need to use the Garmin's Foot Pod to track walking on the treadmill because, well, you are walking but not going anywhere!

The Garmin Foot Pod is actually a small accelerometer you are supposed to attach to the laces of your shoes so it lays along the top of your foot. Well, this would be great if I wore shoes with laces....

Since I wear my VFF Komodo Sport shoes to walk in, I don't have laces. I have one velcro strap across the top of my foot and I initially put the Foot Pod on that strap. While it worked, it had some issues with both flopping around a bit and messing up my readings and with having to be taken off and put on again if I switched shoes to wash a pair (great plus of the VFF) or if I was outside for a walk and didn't need the Foot Pod.

When I walked on different treadmills at my gym and looked at several weeks of data comparisons between the Garmin and the treadmill readouts, the Garmin Foot Pod seems to be about .2 mph faster than the treadmill readout. Not enough that I'm willing to go through the hassle of calibrating it.

But after one day where I was somehow getting a blister on one foot and took off my VFFs to walk barefoot on the treadmill, I decided I needed to figure out how to wear the Foot Pod to get reasonable accuracy but be shoe-independent.

So, like any self-respecting geek, I googled around for other people's solutions. There were a lot of people "guessing" that it wouldn't work except if you made a sorta shoelace foot net to put it on - but I did find a few people who said they had tried or were going to try an ankle strap. Most of these were using hair ties or rubber sports bracelets but I saw someone refer to the ankle RoadID.

BINGO - I have two of these (I bought a spare).

Over the last week, I've experimented with the Garmin Foot Pod on the ankle RoadID. I have the Foot Pod on the neoprene strap and the reflective thinner strap wraps over it to keep it secure and reduce extra movement.

The most comfortable position with the least movement seems to be with the Foot Pod on the back of my ankle with the narrow end down (the end that would normally point toward your toes). Using this placement, I looked at some more sets of data and I'm getting about the same error factor as I do with the Foot Pod on top of my foot. So I'll call this a GO.

(Note: I'm using the 2nd generation Foot Pod but have ordered the newer 3rd generation one to try this also)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Small Signs of Progress: Heartrate Changes

Since I gave myself shin-splints a few weeks ago, I've been limiting myself to walking daily. No running. I worried for a while that I would feel like I was stuck because I wasn't progressing to running but I think that was a false concern.

I've been able to walk faster from week to week and I've settled for walking for an hour, most days (a few days I've been the butt of Mother Nature's joke on females and just couldn't go far or fast - but I still went). I started out with under three miles in an hour, now I'm up to over 3.1.

I've also been paying attention to my heartrate and using it to help judge how fast I should be walking. I like my heartrate to be in the 120s during the bulk of my walk. When I first started out, 2.8 mph would have my heartrate in the high 120s easily. And if I slowed down, my heartrate would take several minutes to slow to the 110s.

Today I noticed that walking at 3.4 mph had my heartrate in the low to mid-120s and when I slowed down, it took under a minute for my heartrate to drop.

That's progress that may not show on a scale or as running, but my body is slowly adjusting and getting healthier.!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Don't Rely on Treadmill Calibration!

I've already confessed to being both a geek and a data junkie, so this post may not come as a surprise to any of the (no) people reading this blog. Once I had my new Garmin in hand and started using it, I started to see interesting discrepancies between what the treadmill's display was telling me and what the Garmin was telling me.

Now, I would expect that if it were a problem with the Garmin or its footpod, I'd see the same or very similar discrepancies all the time. But that's not what I'm seeing.

A few days ago, I used the third treadmill from the end at my gym and noticed that 3mph seemed exceptionally slow. After a bit, I glanced at the Garmin and it said that I was really walking at 2.8mph. hmmm.

Today I used the fifth treadmill from the end to see what happened. The treadmill's stated speed agreed with the Garmin's reading so it was probably reasonably close. But the problem came in mileage....

I walked for 2 min at 2.5 mph (a warm-up and a cool-down minute)
Then I walked for 58 minutes at a 3.0 OR GREATER speed. I was watching my HR monitor and would go between 3.0 and 3.2, depending on what my HR was doing, mostly 3.1-3.2.

At the end of the hour total time, the treadmill told me I had walked a total of 2.75 miles.

Ummm.... that math does NOT work at all.

58/60 = .97 (the portion of an hour actually walked in full-on mode)
.97 * 3mph = 2.9 miles (minimum distance because I'd actually spent most of it at 3.1 to 3.2 mph).
1.0-.97 = .03 (the portion spent in warm-up/cool-down mode)
.03*2.5mph = .075 miles (distance walked in warm-up/cool-down)
2.9+.075 = 2.975 miles

2.975 is the MINIMUM I walked. This is a difference of almost a quarter mile from what the treadmill told me. The difference is greater if I take 3.1 mph as an average and do the same calculation.

Seriously - walking 2 minutes short of an hour at a 3mph pace should give me just shourt of 3 miles, no? Not 2.75.....

So, in light of all the variances, I'm going to stick with the Garmin's variances since they should be consistent over time. I think my best bet is to walk for an hour and just see how far I go, since I know I can walk 5K in an hour at a very doable pace.

So - this is my data geek warning to never take what the display on any exercise machine tells you as the truth. Calibration (or lack thereof) can play havoc with the stated values.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nurturing Confidence

I'm still a long way from many of my goals, including weight loss and fitness goals, but I can already see some changes in myself. This time the changes are more in attitude and emotions than in the physical. It's a bit strange because I've been so focused on the physical but those actually aren't the first changes I notice.

In most of my life I'm a pretty confident person and, when I'm not sure, I usually will take the risk anyway. True, it does take some talking myself into it sometimes, but I often will make the leap. This has definitely shown in my work life.

But there are parts of my life where I'm really not confident and many of these revolve around either how I look or what I can physically do. I was always comparing myself to others and feeling negative about how I looked but because I had no confidence in my physical abilities, I thought I was trapped in the skin I'm in. No, I'm not sure why I thought that - because it's obvious I can make changes (and have). Maybe it's a symptom of feeling if I don't try and I'm negatively judged, I have an excuse for why?

I'm truly not sure.

What I have noticed is that I'm seeing less of these negative comparisons in myself and when I do compare myself to another person and find something lacking, I start thinking about how to get there (if possible) or how it's just the breaks that I won't ever have x attribute. I just don't seem to linger on it past a thought or two.

When something is physically hard, I seem more able to acknowledge it's hard and put aside my almost obsessive need to WIN the first time and recognize that it may take time to get there but I can do it if I both want to do it and I put the necessary work for into it. It's okay to not have things happen overnight. It's okay to have to build up to something.

Hell, it's okay not to be Wonder Woman!

Instead I'm trying to nurture this little seed of confidence in my ability to achieve my long-term goals on this fitness journey. One pound at a time. One step at a time. One new experience at a time.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: Road ID

(photo courtesy of the Road ID website -

I'll confess to being a bit of a worrier in the "what if..." realms. I'm always thinking about what would happen if I got hurt. Or I got mugged. Or the generic "something bad" happened. Now that I'm starting (as of today) to take long walks outdoors, I have some concerns that don't apply at the gym.

I don't tend to have pockets in my workout gear and though I have a camelback, I don't want to carry any valuables in it because, well, what if I'm either mugged or (more likely) I spill things out somewhere and don't notice? I've had my wallet stolen before and the pain of having to get all new credit cards, insurance cards, etc. was Not Fun. I really don't want to have to do it again.

Since I knew I wouldn't be gym-bound forever, especially since my friends had persuaded me to agree to doing a 5K before the end of the year, I started doing some research several weeks ago on how to solve the problem of wanting first responders to be able to get information on who I am, emergency contacts and maybe some medical information but without carrying my wallet around. Medic-alert bracelets weren't really the answer either.

I know someone will tell me about programming "ICE" contacts in my cell phone but, even though my cell phone does go with me at all times, I keep it locked. Because I receive work information on it, it's a hard and fast requirement plus I really don't want to lose it and have someone calling Mars on my dime.

Luckily, in the course of reading about how barefoot runners are attaching timing chips, I stumbled across a reference to a Road ID anklet. A quick search and I found the website for Road ID  ( and looked through their products.

The basis of their product is that people should have some sort of ID on them when working out. They offer laser-etched stainless steel tags (with a lifetime guarantee) that can come attached to various attachment mechanisms to provide that ID. I was really pleased to see they actually offer two versions, one has your name and info printed directly on it, the other has your name and selected info but on the back has an id number and pin # for first responders to use to call Road ID to obtain your information. This information is updatable and they have great interest in making certain it's secure.

Now, I will point out that if someone has the tag with the two numbers, they can get your data. There's no verification that they really ARE emergency services or such. So if you choose the "interactive" version, you need to keep the tags safe. There is also a small yearly fee for the interactive version, though the first year is free with your purchase.

I hate having things around my neck and my wrists are pretty taken up with the Garmin on one side and I hate things on the other. So I ordered a black anklet. The order process was easy and straightforward and very smooth. I received a confirmation email and a second email that showed me how to set up my account and enter my information while I waited for the ID to arrive (so I would have the ID# and PIN#).

Setting up that profile and entering my information was quite straightforward and simple as well.

I got several status emails from RoadID while my id was being produced and then shipped. It showed up about a week after I ordered it and I registered the ID# and PIN# to my profile.

The anklet itself is very adjustable and the plate is attached to it with elastic so it doesn't flop around. There is a band of reflective tape around the anklet to help visibility. When I tried it on, the inner neoprene kept my ankle from being scratched and the velcro was plentiful and strong. It's light so after about five minutes, I hardly noticed it was there. It appears to be very size-adjustable as well.

Now I will worry a little less about "what if..." when I want to walk/run with just my Camelbak, my cell phone and car keys. It's not a guarantee but it's a good safety net. It may also come in handy in any races that need me to wear a timing chip that won't attach well to my VFF shoes - or if I ever go completely barefoot.

Check out the RoadID at There are lots of options, colors and sizes.

(Note: I bought the RoadID myself and this review expresses my personal opinions)