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New spandex sportswear: This dream is no stretch By JA Staes

Are there any dreams that would make you would work next to the Arctic Circle in Alaska for months, virtually alone, at a fish cannery? Where, when you take your morning run, there’s a good chance you’d run into a bear or a moose?

Metro Detroiter Jackie Gross braved that environment to fulfill her dream … about spandex. Not just any spandex. It’s called UR Sportswear. She self-funded the development and prototypes through her Alaska trip and then went to Kickstarter to make it possible to ramp up production on sportswear that actually fits right.

As an avid runner and former college coach, Gross found most of what’s out there for runners, climbers, yoga enthusiasts and other active women takes away focus from the athletics. It doesn’t fit well, it’s unattractive or a combination of the two. So she reached out and asked people who are actually working out, running and being active what kind of sportswear they wanted. For the first product line she surveyed more than 300 women athletes. By directly asking those who actually are going to use the clothing, she was able to find out what they’re really looking for and develop a unique product.

Whereas companies like Nike and Reebok are generally top down in their approach, UR Sportswear is aiming to be the clothing choice of those who are the doers … the athletes themselves. UR Sportswear is starting off on the right foot. Social interaction is part of its DNA and it has a constant feedback loop between customers and the company.

“I think people want to be in control of what they wear and feel like what they have to say should be taken into consideration in designing their workout apparel,” says Gross. “They want to have confidence in what they’re wearing.”

The Michigan State graduate is now taking the project to Kickstarter to raise $35,000. Admittedly that’s a hefty sum but this kind of project uses a high-tech material. That requires capital to buy a special fabric that cannot be purchased in small quantities. It’s smart thinking to ask for that money since one of the top reasons businesses fail is underfunding.

“The goal is to keep everything in the United States, Michigan and Detroit … the manufacture, the design, the marketing, everything,” says Gross.

She is already planning a factory visit in the next couple of months to personally ensure the working conditions and quality of a potential supplier.

Once UR gets funded, it plans to expand into menswear and is already are surveying men about their needs.
If you’re interested in helping establish a new business that will help diversify the Detroit economy you can pre-purchase a pair of the first line of UR spandex shorts or contribute in anyway comfortable for you.

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The Deep Chill

Downhill skiing. Cross-country skiing. Snowshoeing. Sledding. There are many reasons do a happy dance around your kitchen when you wake up to your first real snowstorm of the year.  The frosty windows obscure the sparkling outdoors from your view so you fling open your back door and…. Well then, if your anything like me, your smile slides down just a smidge as you realize how bone chilling it is out there. Don’t get me wrong; I love living in Michigan and my winter sports especially skiing. Snowman building takes a close second.

In all this winter fun I must confess to you something, something  I am guilty of something very pitiful; sometimes I quit skiing halfway through. It will be an otherwise amazing day, complete with fresh powder and bluebird skies… but I quit simply because I’m so very cold! AAAHH I know, I am a freezing, shivering wimp. While everyone else is frolicking around, looking content as can be, I’m doing my best icicle impression.

I was certain this happened to others at times too, so what are we doing wrong???  We shall not succumb to being ruled by the thermometer! So I started looking for tips.

1. Dress in layers. Check. I regularly look like Randy from the Christmas story.

2. Don’t wear cotton next to the skin, it absorbs moisture too readily and then you get chilled. …OOOOO.  Now that, I never thought of that. My idea of  “base layering” is putting three old race t-shirts on top of each other and calling myself snug.  Apparently though, there are many amazing new fabrics out now that replace even wool on the  “snug” chart. If you’re really looking for heavy-duty warmth, look for fabrics that describe themselves as expedition-weight or even mountaineering –weight. Though at times, these might be too bulky for some activities.

3. Get yourself a online gambling good parka with a tightly woven nylon shell, or even better, a waterproof/breathable layer such as Gore-tex. Turns out, that many winter jackets, snowboarding jackets, dress coats and the like, look really warm but are built with the latest trends in mind rather then with technical performance.  But truly high quality outerwear can be pricey, do research on your outerwear before making the purchase! It’ the one piece of clothing that, I feel at least, you get what you pay for.

4. Make the accessories count. Meaning, socks designed for the activity you are pursuing, choosing hats of earmuffs or headbands (you lose incredible amounts of head off the top of your head), and something I never thought of: using glove liners alone with your regular gloves or mittens. My feet and fingers are always the first parts of me body to freeze, how have I not thought to give them more loving before this!

So basically, note to self: it’s time to retire some of your old high school cross-country shirt, mountaineering socks and glove liners PLEASE!

Aside from these relatively basic tips, does anyone else have clues as too how to keep an enthusiastic yet frozen winter athlete warm? If so, do share!