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Meet Team X-1: Dani Holmes-Kirk

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For a lot of people, dealing with injuries, depression and an eating disorder would make them just want to pack it all in. Dani Holmes-Kirk is not that person. She has taken these challenges and used them to motivate herself and others as well as let people know they are not alone. We caught up with her in between rounds to answer some questions for us.


Your blog, WeightOffMyShoulders.com, is dedicated to your transformation through injury, eating disorders, racing and weight loss. How are you using your story to motivate people for a healthier lifestyle?

daniI never expected the blog/my little slice of the internet to touch as many people as it does. it is truly an honor. I began the blog to work though my own issues/depression from a back injury/surgery and it has morphed as I have grown and change. My goal with sharing my story is to make sure the readers know they are not alone. There were so many times (and still are) in my life when I thought I was the ONLY person suffering from X or dealing with Y. When I started sharing those deep dark secrets from the back of my brain I realized there were other people out there going through the same thing. It helped me feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders … hence the name. ;)

You also have a weekly YouTube series called “Dani Dishes” that has an honest, confessional style to it. What got you started doing your videos and why?

The hatred of my own voice. It’s something I grapple with all the time. I thought it would be a great way for me to tackle some of that, while also allowing me to answer reader questions and share about my week outside of the normal blog post. You know you can only express so much in word. Sometimes you really need folks to see your facial reactions and hear your tone when you are addressing a certain topic. For example, I had NO idea I would burst into such huge tears talking about completing the Dopey Challenge, but I did and it was one of the more popular videos because I showed how real I am. Same with some of the posts about eating disorders, etc.

Weight Watchers has been a big part of your success at weight loss and keeping it off. What part of the program really spoke to you and how do you think it can help other people struggling with weight issues?

Two things: the meetings and having nothing be off limits. Once I hear I can’t have something, that is all I want or that is all I think about. Additionally I new Weight Watchers wold help me lose weight in a healthy manner since I had previously done it in a very unhealthy manner. The support of the meetings was unparalleled.It was amazing to walk into a group of people I had never met before, but felt accepted. I could tell that group: “hey! I ate a box of cheez-its!” and no one would judge me. It was a completely judgement free zone, where they just want to help you work through the issue/problem. It was what drove me to become a Weight Watchers Leader myself.

Let’s talk Beer! Most of your race blogs end (and sometimes start) with you enjoying a nice craft beer. What are some of your favorites?

Ohhh do you have enough space for me to talk about that? Mmm beer! I preach drinking local. So when I travel for races I love to check out the local brews and visit the local breweries if possible. Since I am a Boston girl, I do love my Sam Adams. For a smaller super local brew would be Slumbrew, which hails out of my hometown of Somerville, MA. The Porter Square Porter is my favorite!! I am mainly an IPA gal, but the porters and stouts are really growing on me. :)

You travel to a lot of races. What are some of your favorites and what are you looking forward to this year?

I have been honored with the ability to travel to some great spots over the past few years. My favorite race series would be the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. I have competed races with them in Savannah, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Providence, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Savannah was a beautiful city and the race is in early November so the weather was delightful. Los Angeles held a special place in my heart because I got to meet a ton of my West Coast blogging/Twitter friends that I’ve known for years online, but never met in person.

I feel like Disney has to go in its own paragraph. It is the most magical place on Earth obviously so those races are second to none. Now the races starts at 5:30am so you are up between 2-3 every day, but it is worth it to run through Cinderella’s Castle and take pictures with the characters along the way. Plus I dress up in costume for those, which is a BLAST!!

What’s your go-to gear list?

I can’t run a race without my Garmin watch, my Sparkly Soul headbands, my Sparkle Athletic skirt, my ENERGYBits, my Zensah compression for pre/post race and my fun knee socks (usually Superman or Wonderwoman)!! Oh and obviously my X-1 Audio headphones … but those never leave my side.



Meet Team X-1: Bryan Lamb

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Everyone has heard the stories and may even have experience themselves, everything changes when you have a kid. I know it did for me. I went from happy-go-lucky, guy with all the time in the world to cast of the Walking Dead in a couple of days. But, it went by in a blur and everything was back to normal after 8 short years. Bryan Lamb is living that reality right now. Being an avid Triathlete and a new father sounds like a pretty tough task but Bryan is doing his best. We caught up with him during nap time for a little interview.

The title of your Blog is “Learning to love and hate Swim, Bike, Run”. What is your love/hate relationship with Triathlon?

Bryan and his "Steed"

Bryan and his “Steed”

The title of the blog is an effort to explain the triathlon addiction and the struggles that accompany it.  I love endurance sports – especially triathlon.  There are not many things greater than pushing yourself to the brink of what you think your limits are – only to exceed them and create new boundaries for yourself.  There’s a ton of things in that mindset that parallel how I try to live my day to day life as well.  Obviously, endurance sports have their physical benefits (general health, etc) but the mental benefits are great as well.  Being able to go out for a long run or a long ride and completely clear my head is something that I hold very valuable to me, and I have grown to need it every now and then.  Nothing relieves the stress on the mind like a nice, long workout.   However, triathlon and endurance sports have a flip side to the coin (as most know).  There’s a ton to hate about it.  It’s time consuming, it’s demanding, it’s ever relenting.  Training requires a great deal of commitment – not only from yourself, but also from your family.  Races require a great deal of concentration and are extremely demanding.  All of that said – they’re worth it.  The lesson in triathlon (and endurance sports in general) is clear:  “You get what you put into it.  If you put in the sacrifice and work, the rewards will eventually follow.”  It’s something I like to think I live my life by – and I want my son and future children to grow up with that mindset as well.  So I love triathlon – not only for its rewards, but also for its faults.

You now have an almost 1 year old. How has fatherhood changed you and how has it changed your training?

Hopefully there's a kid in there.

Hopefully there’s a kid in there.

Fatherhood has completely changed everything about my life and everything about me.  Everything I do (whether it’s training, going to work, eating, literally any activity) revolves around him.  I think this is a great thing – as it has given me motivation beyond anything I’ve ever known (I want to be a great example for him and someone he can be proud of).   I feel I’ve become a lot less selfish when it comes to endurance sports as well because of him.  I used to want to cross a finish line and feel like *I* was a champion – now I want to cross the finish line and take him and my wife in my arms.  He’s not talking yet – but I long for the day where he tells me that he’s proud of me when I finish race (win or no win).

With all of that said – it has its challenges.  I work a full time job – which basically equates to around 10 hours of each weekday unavailable for any kind of training.  When I get home – I have to figure out how to make time to train and how to make time to spend with my son and wife.  What ends up happening is that training becomes a chore (because I want to spend time with my family).  Training for endurance events is tough enough as it is – but when it becomes something you don’t necessarily want to do at a specific time – it becomes massively difficult.  In addition, not being able to do things or be “completely in the moment” with my family (especially with my son) due to being physically tired from long training is a bit of a bummer.

So the solution I’ve found is do my absolute best to make my training completely invisible to my family (which is impossible to do – but I can make it as unobtrusive as possible).  This basically means that my lunch break during work has become my “run break” or my “swim break”.  I get an hour after work 3 times a week where I can work out and long workouts on the weekend (one of which I include my son on – pushing him in the stroller).  I do cross training (basically rowing) in the early am before work (while they are asleep).  With that schedule, my training time is limited, so most of my workouts become “quality” workouts – with intervals  and things of that nature dominating most of the workout schedule.

So far in 2014 – the results have been pretty good.  I’m 4 for 5 on podiums in my races thus far, and was just outside of it on the 5th race.

Your wife has done a couple Triathlons too. Is she as serious about it as you? Do you guys train together?

She’s purely a crossfit person who gave triathlon a try due to some urging from me.  When she did triathlon (two sprint races) – she basically used her crossfit training as the basis for her triathlon.  I was very impressed with her first go at it – as she did a “standard sprint” (800 m swim, 14 mile bike, 5k run) in 1:30(ish) – which is pretty good for someone who wasn’t doing any specific tri training.

We occasionally trained together (mostly swimming) and I’ll be doing some crossfit classes with her in the future.  For the most part – our activities that we do together mostly revolve around surfing or spending time with our son (walks, hikes, etc).

How often do you get out to Paddleboard? Do you ever get to compete in it?

The paddleboard was mostly meant as a means to supplement my swimming (if it was ridiculously cold) and to stay in shape for surfing.  I’ve used it as such and still do – but I rarely am able to get paddleboard specific workouts these days.  When my son is older, able to swim, etc – I’d love to take him out on it.

I’ve competed in a few paddleboard races (stock class) and they’re always enjoyable.  The good thing about paddleboarding is that you can still do well in races without specifically training on the paddleboard (if you’re swimming and rowing and staying in general shape).  I’m not a front of the pack paddleboarder by any means – so racing for a podium isn’t in the cards for me.   However, one of my dreams and “bucket list” races is to do the Catalina crossing sometime.  Joe Bark has an awesome group that paddles to Catalina, runs the Catalina Marathon, and then paddles back.  I would love to do that some day.

There are so many races close to your home in Southern California, do you ever get to travel for races?

Most of my races are local, due to my sponsorship with Renegade Race Series.  However, I do travel outside of Southern California for bigger races.  This year I’m going to Arizona for Leadman in April, to Northern California for Vineman in July, IMLT in September, and Surf City Half in November.  In 2015, I’d like to do either Challenge Philippines or Ironman Cebu and want to get in on Celtman or Norseman as well.

Gear reviews are a big part of your blog. What’s your current gear list look like?

It's all about aerodynamics.

It’s all about aerodynamics.

Right now:
Watch:  Garmin Fenix 2
Headphones:  X-1 Audio Flex Headphones or Interval System (if swimming)
Shoes: Skora Fit (running), Bont Sub8 (cycling)
Headgear:  Headsweats Supervisor
Clothing:  Champion Systems
Bike:  Kestrel 4000 w/ Cobb Saddles and Stages Powermeter
Helmet:  POC Tempor, Giro Air Attack, Catlike Whisper
Wetsuit:  Orca Equip
Nutrition:  Enduropacks monthly nutrition, CLIFF Bars, Biotta Juice, random gummy candy from the market



Meet Team X-1: Michael Deater

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What’s not to love about a guy who races in nothing but a Panda hat, speedo and shoes? Michael Deater is just that guy. Living in Palm Bay, Florida he’s made a name, and spectacle of sorts, as the PANDA at many Obstacle Course Races and Mud Runs. Along with his buddy Haidar Hachem, he is bringing a little fun into what can sometimes be the serious world of running.

You’re an OCR fanatic. How did you first get involved doing OCR and what about it hooked you?

The PANDA getting inverted

The PANDA getting inverted

The first time I heard of an OCR was in 2011, I was sitting in the airport in waiting to board my flight heading to Mexico for a work trip and I heard a commercial on Pandora for Tough Mudder. I reach out to my friend’s mother who was a runner and asked her if she would like to run it with me. She quickly recommended a shorter event that was coming up the weekend I returned from Mexico, the event was called FL ROC. I registered and went into the event with absolutely no training or running prior to it. Once I finished the race I wanted more, just didn’t get enough with that short run (about 3.2 mile). Once I got home I instantly started looking up “mud run, Obstacle course races, OCR’s” found out there was a few events coming up and quickly registered for them. What keeps me coming back is the people, the atmosphere and the events. Personally I’m not a big fan of running but when you tell me I have to run, jump, swim, climb, crawl and flip my way to the finish you can go ahead and count me in, no matter the distance the location or the difficulty of the event I will try and be there and I will not give up until its completed.

Now that you’ve focused on OCR do you do any other events during the year?

Since I started running and competing in events I try and throw in different types of events each year. I completed my first triathlon in 2012, as well as my first full marathon. I like to throw in a few road races throughout the year just to see what my times are on the road. I also do trail runs without obstacles as well as a local event called the yakathon, it’s similar to a triathlon but you kayak instead of swim, the bike is an off-road mountain bike, and then the run is a short obstacle course race. In February of this year I ventured off to Nicaragua and the Island of Ometepe with Haidar to compete in our first ever ultra-marathon Fuego Y Agua. We only completed the 50K because we missed the time cut off for the 100K but it was a life changing experience that I will never forget.

Tell who the PANDA is? How did this persona come about?

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Spreading the PANDA love to the youth of the world.

The PANDA, this is a fun one. I found a panda hat in my friend’s car and thought it would be awesome to run in it. My friend being a non-runner told me not to get his hat dirty so I bought my own. The first race I ran as the PANDA was a 6 mile race called Dirty Foot, it was a hot day temps reached around 92 degrees. I wore the hat the entire race and after I had completed the event. Shortly after this event we were in the Gainesville FL area for the Superhero Scramble Waldo Charger, I thought it would be a good idea to run the night wave in my panda hat and whitey tighties. I was coming to the leap of faith obstacle and seen a young kid around the age of 6 or 7 standing on the side lines of the obstacle scream go panda go and jumping around cheering me on, he followed me the remainder of the race cheering me on at each obstacle. After this event I invested in a speedo and titled myself the OCR PANDA or just PANDA for short. I often bring Panda Hats to events with me, I’ll pick out little kids that are screaming for the runners and cheering them on to do a good job and finish the obstacles or the race itself and ill present them with a Panda Hat as a thank you for keeping everyone smiling and moving forward. I have seen some kids I have given hats to compete in events and it makes me happy to see them out there smiling and having fun running around and giving it their all to one day possibly be a competitor in the sport.

Are you and Haidar actively recruiting people to join your Speedo Army?

Deater and Haidar bringing sexxxxy back.

Deater and Haidar bringing sexxxxy back.

Haidar and I aren’t necessarily recruiting people to join our Speedo Army but more of actively trying to make everyone feel comfortable with themselves so they can run in bizarre clothing such as a speedo. When I first met him he asked me why I run in a speedo, my response was simple “why not”. We have friends in other states that run in speedos as well, always an interesting sight I feel when people see 2-5 guys in nothing but speedos running together.

How much do you train? Is there anything you do to specifically train for OCR?

My training is very spread out, I run short distance 2 or 3 times a week anything from 3 to 6 miles. I bike anywhere from 20 to 60 miles a week as well. I do the standard push-ups, sit ups, and pull ups. I don’t normally do anything to train specifically for OCR but I do often climb trams, ropes, vines and various other things to keep my grip strength up to par.

Going anywhere cool for a race coming up?

The races I have coming up are all located in the US, heading back to Killington Vermont to go after my second Spartan Ultra Beast medal in September. Im also looking at traveling to Hawaii in August to compete in the first Spartan Race trifecta weekend out there, this is what you complete all three events over the course of two days to earn your trifecta medal. The events are a sprint 3+ miles 15+ obstacles, a super 8+ miles 20+ obstacles,  and the beast 12+ miles 25+ obstacles.

What’s your go-to gear list?

My go to gear list for OCR events is

  • Panda Hat
  • Inov8 Xtalon 212
  • Speedo

Longer OCR’s I bring

  • Geiger rig (water bladder)
  • Gu gels
  • Cliff bars
  • Beef jerky
  • Electrolyte pills
  • Salt pills
  • Trail mix

My Gear list for training and road runs is



Meet Team X-1: Ande Wegner

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Ande Wegner is pretty hard to pin down, literally, she’s on the go constantly. If you have a race, she’ll run it. Whether it’s a marathon, half, 5 k, or obstacle-course-shark-wrestling she’ll probably do it. She was even the first woman to finish the 24 hour Legend of The Death Race, which is no easy task. Hailing from just outside Chicago, she spends her days healing the sick and injured animals of Bradley, Illinois. We stopped her in between training and updating her MySpace (wait, what?) page just long enough to answer some questions for us.


Ande's "this is supposed to be fun?" face.

Ande’s “this is supposed to be fun?” face.

You’re a well rounded endurance runner with lots of Marathons, Half’s, 5ks, Triathlons, and OCRs under your belt. What’s your favorite to do and why?

That’s a tough choice to pick because they all have their endearing qualities.  Triathlon is the sport I am the most successful at and have been doing the longest, but I have to say my love of Obstacle Course Racing is unmatched right now.  I love how it requires total body strength, and it has also helped me to conquer my fear of heights!  Additionally, the teamwork aspect of the sport is refreshing.  I love seeing people helping others to complete obstacles and moving together as a single entity.  It makes me happy to help people who are struggling, and to see the looks on their faces when they accomplish something they never thought they could.

You were told at the young age of 25 that you had arthritis so bad, you wouldn’t be able to run anymore. What did you do to defy those odds?

When the doc told me my knees were shot, I was horrified.  While I knew I couldn’t undo the damage done to my knees that years of playing softball and falling off of horses had done, I figured there had to be some way to control the pain and regain my mobility.  While I believe in the power of joint supplements, the real secret is strength training.  I started with simple weight lifting, then progressed to full-body incorporated exercises like burpees.  The soft tissues around my knees are what’s holding everything together, and they’re stronger than ever before, even a decade later!  I’m running faster and for longer distances than I’ve ever been able to do.  And while I do deal with pain, it’s minimal and totally controllable.

You entered and finished the Legend of The Death Race Adventure Race. For those unfamiliar with 24 hours of agony, explain what the race is and why you wanted to do it.

This is what a Death Racer looks like.

This is what a Death Racer looks like.

Legend of the Death Race was amazing.  I entered this race in order to gain experience for the Spartan Death Race that I was going to participate in that following month.  There are really no words that can truly define the experience, but the race involves completing tasks such as carrying a weighted pack over long distances, chopping wood, memorizing quotes only to have to recite them hours later, enduring cold water…and doing a lot of burpees.  At one point we had to cover a mile’s distance by doing only burpees!  I was the only woman that started the race, and the first and only woman to ever finish it.  While that is an accomplishment, I value more the bonds that were created with several of the racers as well as the race director.  We all still talk and hang out regularly!

What’s a typical training week for you?

ande_wegner_X-1.1My training varies from week to week.  I get bored easily so I like to switch things up to keep myself engaged.  Most of it still centers around the standard swim/bike/run of triathlon training, but I also incorporate a lot of pushups, pullups, burpees, man-makers, and kettlebell training.  I also work with a personal trainer once a week who keeps me on my toes — when I walk into his gym I never know what to expect!  There’s a reason he’s called Coach Pain!

To make things even more fun, my boyfriend and I built a practice obstacle course in our backyard.  So now we have an 8 foot wall, monkey rings, a 20 foot rope climb, a balance beam, and hay bales to practice spear throws.  Yes, I said spear throws!

Are you traveling any where fun for a race this year?

Actually, yes!  I’ve already competed twice in Florida this year at the Special Ops Spartan Sprint in Tampa, and at the A1A half marathon in Fort Lauderdale the next day.  I’m heading to North Carolina this weekend to compete in the Spartan Sprint there.  Then I’ll be travelling to California in the beginning of May to compete in the SISU IRON – a 30 hour adventure race.  I’m also competing in Team Death Race in Vermont in September, and will be doing the Beach to Battleship 140.6 triathlon in October in North Carolina.  As you can see, I love to travel for races!

What gear keeps you at your best?

When I’m in the pool, I can’t live without my Surge headphones and Amphibx Fit waterproof casing!  There’s nothing like having my music to keep me motivated while pounding out lap after lap.  I never swim without them!  For everything else, my Momentum earbuds are my go-to gear.  I credit having my tunes and my Momentums for helping me to power through that A1A half marathon to a PR, despite having raced hard to win my age group the day before at the Spartan Sprint!  I absolutely love that I can have great sound quality and still be able to hear ambient noise so that I can be aware of my surroundings.  It’s genius!

ande_wegner_x-1.8ande_wegner_X-1.7ande_wegner_X-1.2 ande_wegner_X-1.3

 



Meet Team X-1: Haidar Hachem

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Once in a while when I am going through Team X-1 applications I see one that just makes me ask “What the…”? Haidar Hachem is one such guy. It takes a lot of guts to put on Speedo and a pig-faced beanie and run out in public. I should know, I haven’t taken my shirt off at the beach since the 1970′s. While you may look at the pictures and think he is just a living “wardrobe malfunction”, you’ll find he’s a really interesting guy who battles everyday to get better at what he loves. We stopped him just long enough between costume changes to get some questions answered.


You are really active in the Obstacle Course Racing community. When and what got you into doing OCR?

Somewhere a child's love for Toy Story has been ruined forever.

Somewhere a child’s love for Toy Story has been ruined forever.

The first ever Mud Run I did was “Merrells Down And Dirty Mud Run.” That was back in May of 2012. A bunch of friends and I thought it would be fun to just go ahead do one. I fell in love. While it was only a Mud Run, as soon as I got home I searched the internet for any and all types of events I could do. And it eventually evolved to longer and harder events. The more I can push myself physically and mentally the more fun I have at these events.

You are known for your “costumes” out on the course. How did this get started and when did you lose all sense of shame?

Believe it or not, I actually used to run in a t-shirt and shorts. I had always run as a piggy, but was dressed. Then I met one of my best friends today who goes by the OCR Panda, Michael Deater, who is also part of Team X-1! I thought it was hilarious that he would run in nothing but a Speedo and a Panda hat. Then I thought to myself, why not? So I bought myself some pink Speedos and started running in that. The significance of the orange and green socks are twofold. I love the University of Miami & they are the team colors for the first ever mud run team I joined “MudrunFun.” And I never really had a sense of shame prior to me dressing up. Growing up I always had the state of mind to do what I wanted to do and what I liked and if anybody had a problem with it, well that’s their opinion and I could really care less for it. So here we are today, a 6’2, really hairy guy who runs around in nothing but a Speedo and a piggy hat.

I have worn other costumes in different races though!

You’ve had Type 1 Diabetes your whole life and most recently been treated for thyroid cancer. How do these issues affect your training and races?

It actually affects it a lot. I am currently treating my diabetes with an insulin pump. It’s a device that stays attached to my body all day and night (except when I shower, race or train) and delivers insulin. It’s basically an external pancreas. Since I train so hard and so often I have to test my blood sugars about 10 times a day, once every two hours or so. I even wake up in the middle of the night to test myself just so my numbers don’t dip too low.

Now when race day or an event that I signed up for comes up, I always have the same procedure. I eat 2-3 hours before. Test my blood sugars, eat if I need to and disconnect my pump and go. Depending on the distance of the race I’ll take food or nutrition on the course with me to keep my blood sugars up. But with something like a GoRuck, SERE or anything longer than a 5k, I’ll always have food with me to prevent a diabetic seizure.

Then comes the thyroid cancer. That has been a hard one to really deal with when it comes to training. You really don’t know what you have till it’s gone. The thyroid actually controls sleep, growth, heart rate, metabolism, emotions… And I don’t have one. There are some days where I don’t want to get out of bed, where I’ll snap out of nowhere, where I’ll just be completely lethargic or depressed. It’s taken its toll on me, but I won’t let it keep me down. I push harder and harder every single day to show that if you set your mind to something you can achieve it no matter what is ailing you. That is why I keep signing up for longer and harder events to show that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

You ran the insane “Fuego Y Agua” 100k trail race in Nicaragua about a month ago. What kind of experience was that?

That was one of the most miserable/amazing experiences I have ever had in my life. Now, I was disappointed because I missed the cut off time to go on to the 100k, but the 50k was enough to break you. I really had to dig deep and fight to push on to the end. But the experience was beautiful, how many people can say they actually scaled and was inside a volcano? I can. And me missing the cut off has fueled me even more to train harder. Josue Stephens put on a hell of an event and I will definitely be back there next year to complete the 100k.

What other races do you plan on running this year? Any more travel/destination races?

Haidar Hachem

Here’s a little man-candy for the ladies, courtesy of Haidar.

I received a Spartan Season Pass for my birthday last year. So I will be travelling to multiple locations around the US to compete in the Sprint, Super and Beast events. And I want to also go to Vermont for the Ultra Beast (marathon distance). I also want to do Worlds Toughest Mudder, a GoRuck or two, some SERE events and a lot of events here in FL as well (Hogwild, Monster Challenges, Highlander) maybe a couple Disney races as well. Some triathlons too! I love the bike and swim portion.

Besides your trusty Speedo, what gear do you use in your training?

Haha! Well I can’t lie, the Speedo only comes out race day. But honestly, I would not be able to complete any of my training without music. So of course I’ll have my phone and headphones on me. And I do have to do a name drop because now I can actually have fun training while swimming because of my Surge Headphones and Amphibx armband. But other than what I use to train, for recovery I love my rolling stick, foam roller and lacrosse balls.