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Bench. Canada Rolls Out Activewear Collection

Women’s Activewear Collection from Bench. Canada

What It Is: A new activewear collection for fitness and yoga. The Bench. brand is available in Europe, USA, Canada and Australia.

What You Might Not Know: A British-born line that originated as city clothing and street style, Bench. (yes, the period is supposed to be there after the word “Bench”—it’s not a typo) has branched out to multi-purpose attire, including activewear.

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Shopping at Bench. Canada.

Feelin’ the Love: I usually don’t think of this brand for fitness clothes, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I stopped in at a local Bench. Canada store.

Their selection of fitness and yoga clothes for women isn’t huge; I had trouble piecing together an entire matching outfit with what was left in stock. But I did find the overall collection to be well-made and appropriate for more than just Millennials (I’ve always associated the brand with teens and 20-somethings).

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Supta Vest in Cerise

Bench. Canada offers the usual array of activewear basics: black leggings and solid tanks that are longer than most workout tops. My vibrant Supta Vest in Cerise hit just about at the top of my thighs, covering a bit of butt. This length eliminated my having to tug the shirt’s hem back down as I worked out or did yoga stretches.

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Purna Zip Thru in Griffin Marl

In addition to the basics, Bench. Canada also offers more unique-looking items, like the piece that first caught my eye when I was browsing online: the Purna Zip Thru in Griffin Marl. This funnel-necked jacket looked great when I tried it on in the store, thanks to its feminine, shaped back and side hems.

At the gym, the Purna Zip Thru performed nicely because of its weight: Substantial enough to shield you from chilly air conditioning as you’re just getting warmed up, but not so thick as to feel heavy during a cooldown.

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The pants I got (Baddah Legging in Jet Black Marl) performed well during cardio and lifting weights and are a good length for my average height (5’5″), hitting at just below my ankles. I think I like them best for yoga, though, because they’re so soft and slightly thick (and not at all see-through).

Made in Canada from 86% Nylon Supplex and 14% Lycra Spandex, these leggings are easily among the most comfortable fitness pants I own.

If I Could Change One Thing: Bench. Canada seems to have the workout-pant category well covered with lots of styles and fabrics to choose from. I’d love to see more variety in their selection of sleeveless tanks, as well. At the time of this post, they offer only one style that I can see (Supta Vest).

Should You Buy It? Bench. Canada’s activewear line is definitely worth a look as long as you’re not bargain shopping. The pricing is similar to or perhaps a little less than other popular fitness brands (around $69 for leggings and $99 for the zip-up jacket).

If you’re shopping online, it helps to know your size in Bench. Canada clothes as some items like the Purna Zip Thru seemed to have a scaled-down fit. I went with size Small across the board.

Available at Bench. Canada stores and online.

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Champion: Thank You For My New Favorite Workout Capris

CHAMPION Women’s Bras, Tops and Pants*

Champion

What It Is: A well-known leader in sports bras, Champion also makes a complete line of athletic apparel—workout tops and bottoms—for men and women.

What You Might Not Know: Champion is part of HanesBrands, the company that also manufactures apparel for Hanes underwear and Wonderbra. No wonder Champion does the sports bra so well.

Feelin’ the Love: When I first got the invitation to test-drive a complete Champion outfit—bra, tank, jacket and pants—I really didn’t know what to expect. Up until then, I was heavily invested in what I call my fitness apparel “inner circle,” i.e., those four or five brands that I shop for and wear most often. Champion wasn’t one of them.

I knew about Champion, but, you know, I had my “inner circle.” I’d just never thought to check them out before. Now I know better.

Let me review each of the four items Champion sent me in order of how much I love them. I’ll save the best for last.

  • Champion Absolute PowerFlex Women’s Workout Jacket  Soft fabric, gorgeous color (they call it Plum Dream). There’s a contrast color—sort of a bright orange—on the zipper and pockets that adds interest to this otherwise straightforward layering jacket.
  • Champion Shape T-Back Sports Bra  One of their best-sellers, this comfy racer-back bra was designed to provide medium to high support for A to C cups. Speaking for B-cuppers, I’d say Champion’s support claim is accurate. There’s a good amount of curved inner padding that eliminates the dreaded mono-boob, but I still felt like it flattened my chest a bit.
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Champion PowerTrain Heather Tank in Black/Granite

  • Champion PowerTrain Women’s Heather Tank  Love at first touch. This tank feels ultra-soft like pajamas, but, I assure you, Champion’s Vapor® technology performs at a high level as you work out, wicking away sweat and drying quickly. Airy and cool (and nicely loose around the middle), I can already tell this will be my go-to gear in the hot summer months. Plus, its sleek racerback cut is cute and feminine.
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Champion Balance Capri in Flatlander Feeder Stripe

  •  Champion Balance Capri  Make way “inner circle” brands. These are now among my most adored workout pants/capris. Made from what Champion calls “supportive powermesh”— which sounds like the stuff of superhero clothes—the double-layered waistband feels like it’s holding you in without squeezing you in. The result is a fit that flatters the abs. Champion’s Balance Capris also passed the ultimate test in fitness pants: They’re stretchy but not see-through when you squat or bend over.

If I Could Change One Thing: Most Champion sizes for women start at Small and go to XL. I usually wear XS or S and found that the size Small tank and jacket would have fit me better as XS.

The tank in particular gapes a bit just under the armholes on my 34B frame, making it ideal for someone with a larger bust than what I’ve got going on. I’d love to see Champion include XS in their sizing options in shirts and jackets for those of us who are less curvaceous on top. As for bottoms, my beloved capris fit perfectly in size Small.

Should You Buy It? Yes, especially with such a reasonable price point. Tanks for 20 bucks. And at $48, those Champion Balance Capris are half the price of many other fitness pants and just as nice, or nicer! Available in major fitness apparel stores and online at Hanes.com/Champion.

*Disclosure: I will be receiving a small payment for testing out these products and blogging about them. 
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A Day In The Life Of My Runtastic Orbit Activity Tracker

RUNTASTIC ORBIT ACTIVITY & FITNESS TRACKER

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A day in the life of my Runtastic Orbit.

What It Is: An activity, fitness and sleep tracker that uses wireless Bluetooth technology. You can wear the waterproof Orbit on your wrist or clip it onto a waistband or bra.

The Orbit measures steps and distance, calories burned and sleep duration. It also tells time and has a sound-free, vibrating alarm to get you up in the morning.

What You Might Not Know: The Orbit device is meant to be used with the free, compatible Runtastic Me app (Apple, Android).

Feelin’ the Love: I’ve tried other activity trackers, but this is one of my favorites. When it comes to technology, I shy away from too many bells and whistles. I don’t like tinkering with tech or reading manuals.

My ideal gadget is one I can turn on and use pretty much right out of the box with no more than a few minutes of fiddling. Sleek and simple with only one button, the Runtastic Orbit is right up my alley.

When I cracked open the barebones manual with its clear photographic instruction, I knew the Orbit was made for people like me. Once the battery was charged, I was immediately up and running (and tracking every step, too).

This is my kind of manual.

The Runtastic Me app is just as easy to use. When I wanted to save data from the Orbit to the app, I just opened my iPad and everything synced from my wrist to the app automatically. Beautiful.

Wearing the Orbit verified for me what most people who use activity trackers already know: These devices really do motivate you to move more. When you pay attention to a positive behavior, such as how active you are in a day, you put more effort into improving that behavior.

From the Runtastic Me app, you can set your goal for number of daily steps to whatever you want. Some experts say that number should be around 10,000, give or take a couple of thousand. I stuck with the device’s default setting—8,000—but got to 10,000 or more on most days. The Orbit buzzes when you hit halfway and again when you reach your daily goal.

Later, you can analyze data synced into the app to determine your most active periods of the day. Mine: At the gym (no surprise) and from 4pm to about 7pm (dog walk, pick up my daughter from school, make dinner, tidy up, etc.).

Even after weeks of wearing my Orbit, I never got tired of it buzzing to reward me for all the good activity I’d done so far that day.

A few times it buzzed to alert me to a milestone when I was driving or standing still brushing my teeth. I think there’s a short lag in how the Orbit tallies steps—no matter, as long as they’re all accounted for. Obsessed; see below.

If I Could Change One Thing: At bedtime, you press and hold Orbit’s one button until it turns to sleep mode. In the morning, you’re supposed to press the button again to start counting steps for the day. Problem is, I’d often forget to switch to awake mode, which made it look like I slept longer than I did and “cheated” me out of the precious daily steps I’d earned so far that morning.

With an activity tracker, it’s easy to become a tad obsessive about wanting every step to go on record—even those first few of the day when you’re stumbling to the kitchen for a cup of caffeine. It would be nice if my Orbit sensed that I was no longer supine, sending a vibrating reminder to hop over to awake mode after, maybe, five minutes of continuous activity.

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Runtastic Orbit comes with two wristbands and a clip.

I’d also love to see a variety of wristband sizes. I have scrawny wrists—most watches and bracelets look too big on me, and the Orbit is no exception. There are plenty of wristband colors to buy on the Runtastic website. Mine came with a black and a blue one in the package. But no matter the color, they’re one size fits all.

I could wear the clip on my clothes instead of the wristband, but it would be a hassle to keep it with me through all the day’s outfit changes: pajamas (good morning), jeans (dropping my daughter off at school), workout pants (gym) and kick-around sweats (my writing uniform).

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Running errands adds up to a lot of steps—my highest step count so far.

Should You Buy It: If you’re in the market for an activity tracker, the $119 Runtastic Orbit is worth checking out. (On special now for $99.) I recommend it for people who want the benefits of using fitness technology without having to fuss with too many bells and whistles.

However, if you like bells and whistles, you could always upgrade to the Runtastic Gold Membership, which offers lots to tinker around with, like fitness reports, advanced stats analysis, and more.

Find it at Runtastic.com/orbit or Amazon Canada.

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ViewSPORT Sweat-Activated Women’s & Men’s Workout Shirts

ViewSPORT Sweat-Activated Sportswear

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What It Is: A line of fitness apparel for men and women with a twist: This company’s USP is that their tanks and t-shirts are made with a patent-pending “sweat-activated technology” that reveals a secret message in the fabric when it gets wet.

The point is for you to wear your ViewSPORT shirt while you work out then sweat enough to make a motivational message—like “Work Hard / Hard Work”—appear. When the shirt dries, the message disappears.

What You Might Not Know: When I first got my shirts, I did wonder exactly what makes the “sweat-activated technology” work. Is it safe? According to the ViewSPORT website and creator Ben Wood—a former med-school student and chem major in college—the technology is safe, orderless and non-toxic. Whew.

Feelin’ the Love: I like the idea of a secret message appearing in a workout top, and I love ViewSPORT’s philosophy on motivating people to feel #SweatProud after a good workout.

However, what appeals to me most about ViewSPORT’s shirts is, in fact, not the sweat-activated technology (see why below). I’m drawn to the sayings on the shirts that are visible whether you’re drenched in sweat or not.

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ViewSPORT Women’s Tank

I’ll gladly wear my “Burpees Don’t Like You Either” tank all day at the gym (burpees suck) even if it never reveals a secret message. Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 2.07.25 PM

Fitness memes are a huge trend, and not just on Facebook and Instagram. ViewSPORT is right on target. The memes on their shirts are smart, funny, motivational and sometimes a bit cheeky, steering clear of anything too cliche or “grumpy cat-ish.”

If I Could Change One Thing: Even during my toughest workouts, I don’t sweat nearly enough to reap the benefits of actually seeing ViewSPORT’s motivational messages.

When I wore their 100% microfiber polyester Performance Tank for an at-home HIIT workout, the tank looked like the same solid-blue, nondescript racerback by the cool-down as it did in the warm-up. And no, I wasn’t slacking off. Curious, I ran the tank through the shower until its “Faster, Better, Stronger” message showed up. I wouldn’t mind having it visible all the time!

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ViewSPORT Women’s Tank

I’d love to see more of ViewSPORT’s clever fitness memes on true performance fabrics for women. My “Burpees Don’t Like You Either” shirt feels like a cotton tee, which isn’t my first choice for exercise gear. (Note: the t-shirt is actually a tri-blend of 50% polyester, 25% cotton and 25% rayon.)

Should You Buy It? If you’re tired of plain workout tops and want something with an on-trend inspirational message—which also makes a hip holiday gift or stocking stuffer for the fitness folks on your list—ViewSPORT is worth a look.

They sell other merchandise, too, without the sweat-sayings. There are leggings. And hoodies (I adore mine). After test-driving the ViewSPORT headbands, I can verify that they stay put—no slipping forward or backwards on your head during a workout.

Women’s shirts come in S-XL and I’d say they run slightly small versus being true to size. Average price of tanks/tees: $25; ViewSPORT.us (ships internationally).

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ViewSPORT Women’s Crew

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