GPS Activity Trackers – Surge vs Vivoactive HR

I’ve always been a fan of fitness gadgets and during my running life I have followed closely the Garmin Forerunner evolutionary path, seeking ever more specialist and techy running gear. This culminated with the world-class triathlete standard, Forerunner 910XT.

Forerunner Evolution
Forerunner 305, 405, FR60, 310XT, 920XT.

Now, as extremely loyal followers would know, way back in 2007 I competed in a pool based sprint triathlon and am therefore entitled to call myself a triathlete. I have however, begun to face facts relating to my world-class status in the sport and it has led me to question the need for such focus on multisport functionality. Even with running as my mainstay, I couldn’t really find a use for my stride length and vertical oscillation stats.

Besides, what all these watches lacked was 24/7 heart rate monitoring and that is of course essential in this day and age. I could have looked to the new range of wrist based HR mounted forerunners such as the Forerunner 735XT but it is still a world-class triathlete watch at heart. Feeling more comfortable with my amateur athlete status I looked to the activity tracking world where a few devices have been emerging with GPS functionality on the side.

Fitbit SurgeThe Fitbit Surge

Although its been around for a while now, the Fitbit Surge stood out from the crowd.

It’s a neat wrist watch that doesn’t draw attention to itself, includes a GPS unit and is built on the Fitbit infrastructure which is truly outstanding for activity and sleep tracking as well as social interaction.

The Fitbit Surge does feel a little bit dated now, it is black and white (or black and grey) and it takes a little getting used to the low contrast screen but the watch just works as its supposed to.

The GPS picks up quickly and the runs are recorded without fuss, the default running screen doesn’t tell me my vertical oscillation or position against a virtual running partner but I find I don’t use any of that stuff anyway. Nowadays I just press start, run, press stop, stop and I’m done. The Surge does that extremely well and then it syncs in seconds and if I like, it’s up there on Strava before I’ve caught my breath.

Activity tracking is of course brilliant with the Fitbit Surge and you don’t even need to tell the watch you are doing something. I use my eBike to get into work, it’s a pedelec which means I have to pedal and my Fitbit therefore recognises it as an outdoor bike ride, my heart rate shows this to be a relatively relaxed bike ride (due to the assistance) but it recognises the activity nonetheless. It does the same for my badminton sessions although it marks these as Other activity type for me to amend at a later date.

To be honest, if you gave me a splash of colour and a brighter screen, the Surge would almost be my favourite fitness watch ever.

Tooting Bec LidoBut then I took up swimming again!

For some reason I ventured into the Lido at Tooting and was completely hooked. The thrill of the cold plunge has given me an addictive buzz and a new activity to track which revealed a flaw in the Surge make-up.

It is not waterproof and will therefore not track swimming activities.

So, I could stick with the Surge and get a swim only watch (I’m ignoring the low tech option of manually recording my swims), or I could see what was available in the market for GPS activity trackers with swim functionality.

Enter the Garmin Vivoactive HR.

The Garmin Vivoactive HR

Garmin Vivoactive HRIt claimed to do everything that the Fitbit Surge had to offer but with so much more: detailed graphical outputs on the watch display – in full crisp colour, automatic activity detection, sleep tracking, golf and ski tracking (like I care) and the big one, Swim functionality.

DC Rainmaker seems to love the Garmin Vivoactive HR and quite neatly points out the disparity in features available:

Vivoactive HR vs Fitbit Surge: On a pure feature basis, there’s really no competition here.  While both units are priced the same, the Vivoactive HR has approximately 3,283 more features than the Fitbit Surge.  Ok, maybe just like 80 extra features.

It’s true, you can do stacks of stuff with the Vivoactive HR and you can do it all so beautifully. The watch is a miniaturised version of the Garmin Connect app and provided you have your specs on you can see weekly charts of all your main stats. It’s almost glorious.

But only almost.

When it comes down to the battle of GPS activity trackers, with the aged Fitbit Surge vs Garmin Vivoactive HR, the young flashy whipper snapper should win hands down. But Garmin is not getting my vote this time. In fact after 3 weeks trialling it, I’ve packed the Vivoactive HR into its box and sent it back to Amazon as a bad job.

Problems with the Garmin Vivoactive HR

It’s not a great activity tracker for one and the auto exercise detection didn’t work for me once. You may say that e-biking isn’t real cycling and while I wouldn’t agree, Garmin obviously would. Despite the wrist unit registering my heart rate hovering around 120 bpm for the duration of my 40 minute ride into work, I arrived at my desk at about 9:30 am to find no exercise recorded and as a further slap in the face, the vivoactive HR was declaring me to be still soundly asleep. I think that’s pretty pants on both the activity and sleep tracking front.

Its next major failing and the nail in the coffin for my short life with the vivoactive HR was its swim tracking functionality. Firstly, its not very good at counting laps so I still had to keep count in my head. If you jostle during a length, perhaps to grab a wayward noseclip, or to sight the end of the pool, the watch records a new length regardless of whether that would generate a world record lap or not. I find that quite inconvenient although it seems to be a flaw shared by all the swim watches and one that Garmin make particularly tricky to correct post swim. In fact they don’t make it possible at all but you can use third-party apps such as the brilliant swimmingwatchtools to correct.

Secondly, the touch screen functionality of the Vivoactive HR makes it particularly unsuitable for swimming. I’ve managed to delete no end of swims, mid-swim, by unintentional screen swipes. I’ve pressed the button to pause the swim during a rest at the end of the length and then adjusted my goggles or swim cap only to find that the action has deleted the entire activity. Hopping mad doesn’t come close!

Surge vs Vivoactive HR

Surge vs Vivoactive HRAs a result I have deemed the Vivoactive HR to be wholly unacceptable for swim recording and therefore why would I not go back to the Fitbit Surge with its flawless execution, its superb app and its world domination of my friends list?

I can’t help looking for a fitness watch that would do it all and do it well though…….

Atlas wearables wristband review

The Atlas wristband is an activity tracker aimed at athletes interested in free and body weight exercises.

When it appeared on Indiegogo around 18 months ago, it looked like the bees knees to me. I had just started weightlifting using the Stronglifts routine and imagined I might also dabble with the Olympic lifts one day.

Frankly the Atlas wristband seemed to be the perfect next gadget for my wrist. Never again would I need to tax my memory counting to five (Stronglifts is a 5×5 rep and set sequence) and I could throw out a manic crossfit style wod in the garden with every move captured for future analysis.

I ordered it at great expense and then the wait began. It was over a year from order to delivery so I was very lucky that I was still dabbling with weightlifting – not many of my fads last that long. Even then I had to wait a bit longer as my original device was dead on arrival.

When a working model did arrive I rushed outside full of glee for a Stronglifts session.

It was a complete flop.

I had set up a custom stronglifts routine with barbell squat, barbell bench press and deadlift included. I thought it might help the Atlas wristband to detect the correct exercise if it only had 3 to choose from. It seems not.

While it did manage to detect my the squat, it couldn’t count them accurately and refused pointedly to recognise my chest press.

I tried a few more times and had more success using the freestyle list of exercises rather than a fixed routine. It seems that the more exercises it has to choose from the better. It’s not that the Atlas device gets more accurate but it is more likely to register some form of exercise that can at least be corrected to the right form, either on the wristband or afterwards within the app.

If you can’t get the Atlas to register at least one of the exercises you can’t manually add it at a later point. I actually took to writing down my routine so I could alter the recordings after the event.

That was the last straw really, I had a perfectly good app for recording my Stronglifts routine and I didn’t see the benefit of creating yet another logging chore. The Atlas wristband went into the bottom drawer to await a firmware update or two.

Today I dragged it out again to see if the device was now working in a fit for purpose fashion.

Here are my squats, or are they actually deadlifts?

That still strikes me as a big fail.
It recognised the next set but only counted 4 of my 5 reps.

If you look at Amazon they have a mixed bag of reviews but on the whole people seem to be impressed. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong but as far as I’m concerned this device needs to go back into the bottom drawer or better still, eBay.

It’s acknowledged that the device detects exercises based on the movement of the wristband through space. It attempts to recognise the 3D path from a library of movements performed to a set form. You are supposed to watch the video and amend your form to match and it could be that my rendition of a squat or a bench or a deadlift just bears little resemblance to good form. I would prefer the device to cut me a little slack and recognise or learn what my squat looks like and perhaps with a bit more development time Atlas will do just this. There is the suggestion that in the future it will be able to learn new exercises so it ought to be able to learn old ones too.

It would be a pretty useful feature to tell me that my squats are off so that I can work on improving them, better at least than telling me they are deadlifts….

I just don’t think I have the patience to wait for many more updates and may have to go back to counting myself.

Overview of the Atlas wristband

Pros:

  • One of the few activity monitors directed at weightlifters
  • Wrist based heart rate monitoring
  • A varied list of exercises
  • Potential to give useful trend information
  • Potential to improve form
  • Atlas appear to be actively engaged in the improvement and development of the device

Cons:

  • Atlas wristbandAtlas can’t count
  • Atlas doesn’t consistently recognise exercises
  • Without the two points above the stats such as speed are pointless
  • The heartrate monitoring is a bit hit and miss
  • Its ugly and bulky and can’t be worn with wrist straps
  • Its expensive
  • Its impossible to read in daylight

 

Insomnia: The Activity Tracker Showdown

Many people will have gone to bed last night with a degree of melancholy angst. Like me they will have forlornly switched the alarm back on after the luxury of 10 back to back lie ins.

I fell asleep then woke, bolt upright at 2:30 am full of dread about my imminent return to work.

Two DotsI tossed. I turned. I got up and played Two Dots for 90 finger tapping minutes.

I contemplated cycling into work at 4am but thought better of it and dragged myself back upstairs where I promptly fell back to sleep.

Moments after, my 07:15 alarm went off and seemingly only seconds later the emergency 07:50 alarm blared.

Aargh. I need a new job. Should anyone have a spare job which would allow me to work from home and play with spreadsheets, I will take it.

Looking at the stats for my night I see there is a stark contrast between my two activity trackers of choice. On my left wrist was the Garmin 920XT on my right, a new Xmas treat, the Fitbit Charge HR.

Sleep according to Garmin

I think from my intro, I’ve made it clear that I did not have a great nights sleep. Why then would the Garmin declare this to be one of my best kips ever?

9 blissful hours asleep with only 18 waking minutes in the middle. What happened to the Two Dots interlude?

The Fitbit on the other hand appears to be a master at sleep tracking and insomnia detection.

It ascertained that I had completely given up on sleep as a concept and split my night completely in two, which is just as I remember it.

Fitbit sleep tracking
Insomnia according to Fitbit

Fitbit knows its sleep! Garmin is pants!

First Impressions of the Fitbit Flex

I have an obsession for activity trackers. It’s the tracking that absorbs me and not the activity, unfortunately.
I’ve worked my way through 5 different makes and models, often wearing two at a time but at the moment I am taking the Fitbit Flex (donated by LV=) through its paces.

Fitbit Flex

Out of the box, I have to admit to feeling a little underwhelmed by the Fitbit, it’s not exactly stylish. It reminds me of one of those magnetic locker fobs you get at the local swimming pool and they are hardly a fashion statement.

It does have a display though, unlike the swimming pool locker fob, but it is only one row deep which means the visual feedback is limited and fairly uninformative.

It does do a pretty good job of counting steps though and its sleep monitoring is the best I’ve seen so far. It is admittedly quite hard to put to sleep, a double tap is supposed to do the trick but I find it requires a manic tap-tap, tap, tap, tap before it switches to sleep mode. This action is then reversed in the morning to inform the gadget that I’m up and ready for the day and by that time I tend to be frowning in frustration.

The sleep tracking results are immediately available on the Fitbit app thanks to the wonder of Bluetooth and I find the interpretation to be particularly clear. It splits your sleep into coloured zones relating to sleep, restless and awake and then lists out the time in each category and the number of individual episodes. This qualitative categorisation is particularly useful for comparing days and is an improvement on the offerings from Garmin, Up and Withings.

itbit Sleep MetricsAlthough I’m very happy with the sleep aspect of the Fitbit app, the overall display is quite stark with an awful lot of blank space and it doesn’t feel as exciting as either the Up or Withings apps.

Another stand out feature for the Fitbit Flex is price. At £79 it is a lot cheaper than any of the other trackers I’ve tried so far and is a great way get onto the activity tracking bandwagon.

Fitbit AppPros

  • Lightweight, comfortable fit
  • Excellent sleep statistics
  • Excellent value
  • Good battery life (about 5 days)

Cons

  • Not very stylish
  • Uninformative display on the wristband
  • No button on the wristband and it doesn’t always respond to taps
  • Minimal design to the app

Jawbone Up – Another Geeky Bracelet Review

I’ve never been one for jewellery but I don’t seem to be able to resist the lure of a bit of black rubber around my wrist.

Jawbone UpI started with the Nike Fuelband, complete with Star Trek inspired flashing lights and have now discarded that in favour of the more subdued Jawbone Up. For a few weeks I had both bands on simultaneously but fortunately I got over that fashion faux pas fairly quickly.

I think the Nike Fuelband is fab but I gradually became disillusioned with the unfathomable Fuel currency which seemed to reward an hour of ironing with more Fuel than two hours of running. I probably wouldn’t complain if I did much ironing but the fact is I don’t.

I’ve decided that the best currently available measure of daily activity is a step counter. Whether it’s a £10 fob for your waist or a stylish £100 wristband, its the step count that indicates if you’ve been sat on your arse all day or run yourself ragged. If I want detailed stats for a specific workout then I’ll supplement that with the output from a garmin watch or other heart rate monitor.

The Jawbone Up has been available for a while but they had a disastrous first launch and had to pull the model for re-work. I’ve had the re-launched wrist strap for a few months now and haven’t had a single technical glitch and I believe the iPhone app has been greatly improved in the interim.

So the Jawbone Up is a body monitor, recording steps, sleep, mood and nutritional info. I haven’t really bothered with the mood feature, I find it hard to decide exactly how I feel and the thought of assigning myself to a happy or sad face feels too constrained. For the purpose of this review I’ve just tested the feature out and discovered that I have an entire sliding scale of moods to choose from and feel somewhat inspired to try and define my spirit for a few weeks. It could be quite telling.

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I’ve opted for Good right now but if I’d been using this feature on Saturday’s London2Brighton walk I’d have oscillated between all 8 moods over the course of the day.

The graphics available on the iPhone app are suitably satisfying and informative. These two snapshots show my limited and restless sleep the night before the London2Brighton and then my step distribution during the event.

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The sleep function requires you to press a button on the bracelet when you intend to go to sleep and then press it again when you’ve woken up. This suggests that it clearly can’t tell when I’m asleep or awake if I have to prompt it in this way. However I’ve had the same problem with other monitors which will record deep sleep in the middle of the day if I happen to lift my feet up while engrossed in some rubbish on the telly.

Other features that set this monitor apart are the vibration reminders and alarms. You can set a smart alarm to wake you with a vague buzzing when it recognises you are in light sleep mode. It’s never worked well for me, either buzzing at me a full hour before necessary or not until I’m downstairs making the morning cuppa. Good idea though.

The inactivity reminders are quite telling. I’ve set mine to remind me when I’ve been idle for 2 hours (the longest setting) and on a work day it buzzes me like clockwork, every two hours. It does shame me into taking a trip to the toilet or coffee point so has some motivational uses.

The Jawbone Up syncs and charges by way of a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is fairly slick but does require an adaptor to charge. It comes boxed with the adaptor but if gets lost you’ll be scuppered as its a bit of a one off. The charge last 10 days.

I’m really happy with the Jawbone Up, it encourages me towards a healthy 10,000 steps per day and it will stay on my wrist until I find something with more bells and whistles to entice me away. I prefer it to the Nike Fuelband (although its missing the watch functionality) and the KiFit.

It’s a stylish pedometer, with an accomplished app and a designer price tag to match.

**UPDATE**

Strangely enough, not more than 3 days after I published this review, my Jawbone UP died. Quite tragic.

I’ve contacted Jawbone support and after a bit of too-ing and fro-ing they’ve agreed to send me a replacement. Hopefully that one will last a bit longer.

A Second Look at the Ki Fit Body Monitor

Two years ago, inspired by the Biggest Loser, I purchased the Ki Fit Body Monitor.

There followed a relatively short-lived love affair with the gizmo which promised so much gadgety joy but delivered more frustration – check here for the review of the Ki Fit.

The idea is that the armband is a 24/7 body monitor that registers a whole host of metrics such as sleep length and efficiency, calorie burn, steps and exercise intensity. Combined with an accurate measure of your calorie intake you should be able to apply a “scientific” approach to weight loss – balancing the calorie intake and burn or tipping the balance to achieve the rate of weight loss required.

I became disillusioned with Ki Fit because I had doubts over the accuracy of particular elements, the food input options were restrictive and the syncing process was extremely painful and unreliable.

In terms of accuracy, I found that motorbike riding seemed to cause havoc with the calorie burn calculation, if I were to believe the gadget I burned more calories riding my Bonneville into work than I would have walking into work. Given the number of fat bikers out there I don’t think motorbiking is generally considered to be a high intensity work out option.

After 3 months I’d packed the gadget back in its box and flogged it on eBay.

This week I rekindled my interest in the Ki Fit body monitor after Fortnightflo raved about hers. I love the idea of 24/7 body monitors – I’ve been wearing the Nike Fuelband for over 6 months but its out of action at the moment and I’m waiting for a replacement from Nike. While I’ve been waiting my eyes have wandered and I’m now sporting a replacement Ki Fit on my arm.

It seems that the Ki Fit offering has moved on a bit. In an act of brilliance they have linked with MyFitnessPal to enable you to enter food details from their website or app. MyFitnessPal offers the most intuitive and British focussed calorie logging system that I’ve seen and is a huge improvement on the Ki Fit system. There is also an app from Bodymedia that enables you to view the activity dashboard from your phone.

20130213-224705.jpgDespite the enhancements I’m afraid I am still disappointed with this gadget. The data is great, oodles of detail and beautiful charts but unless you physically connect it up to a PC you can’t access the data. I’m particularly cross about it as I’d managed to convince myself that the Ki Fit monitor was now Bluetooth enabled and that it would link wirelessly to the iPhone app. I think the US version works in this way and despite scouring the UK website I didn’t find anything that contradicted my impression. Having spoken to Ki Fit I can now confirm that Bluetooth armbands are not yet available in the UK and that the iPhone app acts only as a window to the last synced position of the dashboard.

20130213-224715.jpgIf you want to view your activity or burn status without access to the computer where you’ve installed the sync software, you’ll need to purchase another gadget – the Ki display. At another £60 I find the overall package a bit steep. It seems strange to create such a potentially motivational body monitor and then make it so hard to access the data. If you have to wait until the end of the day to see how the day panned out you’ve lost most of the opportunity to act on the information collected.

I may have to bite the bullet and buy the additional display though. I’m planning a DIY Biggest Loser style boot camp starting next week and this could be the perfect gadget to help me commit to the silly levels of intense exercise.

The Nike FuelBand Review

At first sight the Nike Fuelband appears to be little more than a black plastic wristband. If you explore further you’ll find a button, and on pressing you will discover an array of colourful LED lights. It’s quite cool and it tells the time (for a brief moment) but I’m not sure this level of excitement will encourage you to part with £149.

Of course it’s neither a wristband or a watch. Its a daily activity tracker wrapped in a slick Nike package.

When I first saw the ads for the Nike Fuelband, I didn’t think I was interested, I’ve worked my way through a number of body monitors and activity trackers such as the Ki Fit (my KiFit blog review) and the Fitbug pedometer and they are all flawed in some way. These things aren’t 100% accurate or even close actually. You can sit in your armchair and shake your accelerometer device of choice and will eventually record your target number of steps or fuel without budging more than an inch. That is obviously not in the spirit of things and in fact, as a motivational device and as a guide to your activity levels they can all be quite inspirational.

If you are driven by personal goals and like a little virtual pat on the back or social media awards when you achieve the goals, you are likely to increase your activity levels just by wearing this innocuous band.

I really like getting a silent cheer from my wrist. When I reach my target and press the button I get a colourful waterfall of lights and the word GOAL flashing. It makes me feel good.

Although the fuelband will record steps and calories and distance, Nike’s main currency is FUEL. I don’t really know what that is but it has some relationship to movement and an assessment of work or effort expended and supposedly sets an equal playing field so that an hours running around on the football pitch scores the same FUEL award whether you are a weekend warrior or David Beckham. It strikes me as a suitably unfathomable currency but that was probably more by design than accident. Regardless of what it is, you set a daily target of FUEL and work your way towards it by whatever means required.

To give an example of my days:

Day 1: Typical desk based office job required a 30 min treadmill run at the end of the day to hit my target.

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Day 2: A mid afternoon 15km run shattered both me and my target and I closed the day with 6256 fuel points.

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Day 3: A whole morning spent on the allotment, digging planting, watering and then an afternoon doing similar in the garden. My target was reached before I did any “exercise”.

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Day 4 – I felt robbed today. I walked all over the place and managed a whopping 12000 steps but I couldn’t seem to hit my FUEL target. I whacked out a 20 minute rowing session in an attempt to crack the target but indoor rowing proves to be a fairly poor Fuelband exercise. I was quite sulky and ready to quit but was spurred on to greater things and further 20 mins of partner medicine ball exercise did the trick. Playing catch with a 4kg ball seems to be a very effective form of Fuelband exercise.
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Being a gadget fiend I have multiple sports gadgets and will use a GPS device to provide detailed analysis of my activity – calories, distance, pace etc, but as my example days show you, that is only a very small part of the picture. Somehow, despite all the running and rowing I still manage to stay fat. Gadgets such as the Nike Fuelband which stay on all day, help to explain part of the missing link and that is, when I’m not partaking in official exercise, I am practically comatose. I’m very good at staying still and this simple target based monitor encourages me to move just a little bit more.

I think its interesting that Nike have moved into the market of activity monitoring and challenged the likes of Fitbit Ultra, Jawbone UP and Bodymedia’s Ki Fit. These monitors are likely to appeal to those in need of motivation to move either for fitness or weightloss rather than the performance athlete but I have to say that Nike have done an exceptional job.

The Fuelband works seamlessly with the free iPhone app called Nike+ FuelBand, all the screenshots above are taken from this app. The syncing occurs via Bluetooth so you don’t need internet access. I’m forever updating mine so that I can see the activity distribution across the day and love the fact that I don’t have to wait until I get home to upload my data. The only flaw that I can see is that the friends function doesn’t seem to work yet, although it says on the website that they are working on it. They need to get that sorted pretty smartish as this gadget is designed for competition and rivalry and I’ve just been out to buy Lynn one so we can have an in-house show down.

The cost of the Nike Fuelband is high at £149 but comparable with the others and I particularly like the fact that it is a one-off purchase. The KiFit and many of the pedometer style monitors require a subscription and the costs mount up very quickly, it’s also cool while the KiFit armband made me feel like an escapee from a young offenders detention centre and I didn’t really want to be seen wearing it.

Activity is only ever part of the answer. If you are concerned about health, fitness and weightloss you obviously need to concern yourself with food intake as well. The KiFit offers nutritional monitoring as part of their subscription package while Nike ignores this side of things. I actually prefer to keep the monitoring separate and track my intake with yet another app, that way I am in complete control.

So in essence I think the Nike Fuelband does an admirable job of tracking activity and rewarding me for going the extra mile. I’m happy with that. What it doesn’t do is track my fuel intake and nor does it accurately collect a whole host of stats relating to my dedicated exercise such as GPS trail, heart rate etc. To me that is not a deal breaker, I have all those other elements covered by other apps and other sports gadgets and I’m really happy to have a cool band sitting on my wrist and collecting data all day without me having to remember to switch the on/off button.

So, the question is, do you want one?

The Scosche myTrek Running Gadget Review

Scosche myTrek is a wireless pulse monitor that works in combination with the myTrek app on your iPhone or Android smartphone.

The full package enables you to set training plans and receive verbal motivation based on target heart rate zones, record your route using the phone’s in-built GPS and then seamlessly publish your efforts on assorted social media sites.

At the moment I keep a manual record of runs and rowing sessions on one of my iPhone tracking logs but the actual data is scattered across an assortment of sites such as garmin connect, nike+ and concept2. I am attracted to the notion of linking my fitness gadgets to my iPhone, I like the idea of all my data and stats being held in one place and therefore easily accessible but unfortunately I don’t think the smartphone is ready for this level of integration yet.

The Scosche myTREK armband is a comfortable contraption that straps around your forearm and doesn’t require any additional wires or chest bands, the pulse is picked up from the sensor on your arm. Linking the Scosche myTrek to my iPhone via the bluetooth connection was easy and so was the set up of the myTrek app. The pulse picked up immediately and the beat and pattern appeared convincing while still at rest. When I moved around the pulse trace became quite erratic but the displayed pulse rate matched that recorded by my Garmin Forerunner.

My first exercise session was not very successful. I had the band attached and confirmed that the pulse was being picked up ok, then pressed the start workout button, wrapped the iPhone in the armband and strapped it out of sight under my t-shirt sleeve. At this point I’d wasted a good couple of minutes with pre-run faffing but the myTrek app was recording it all, or at least I thought it was.

Eventually the exercise got under way but I didn’t get any feedback and I couldn’t see anything as the iPhone was wrapped up and rather inconveniently placed on my upper arm.

When I stopped the run and checked the output I discovered that neither the GPS or pulse monitor had recorded anything – it was just a glorified stopwatch.

I really don’t know what happened but it does highlight a flaw in the design – it’s quite tricky to use a sports tracker without easily being able to view any of the stats while exercising.

I had more success on my second attempt and the voice over gave me enough indication to assure me that it was working – it beeped at me quite regularly to inform me that my heart rate was too high!

Overall I would have to say that I was not terribly impressed. If I wanted the option of verbal feedback on motivation to complete a specific training program then I would prefer to use the Adidas miCoach pacer option which is a beautifully executed device with an excellent website. If I was more interested in the data recording and GPS mapping functionality then I would go for the Garmin every time. Phone based GPS devices are too flawed, the GPS quality is rarely as good as you’ll find in a GPS specific watch and the phone battery is drained at an unacceptable rate. My current Garmin is the Forerunner 310XT but for the same price of the Scosche myTrek you could invest in the highly regarded Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS sports watch.

Where the Scosche myTrek scores highly is the social network aspect. It does make it extremely easy to share workouts to facebook and twitter and that is the joy of a networked device. The Nike+ sportband has social networking down to a fine art but you still have to connect the gadget to your computer first with the myTrek app you can complete your workout and tell the world within seconds.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with the Scosche myTrek – let me know if you’ve tried it out.

KiFit Body Monitor – The Update

I’ve been wearing KiFit body monitor for 3 weeks now and have just downloaded the stats for analysis.

I love this bit. I have masses of data points for each day and feel compelled to create myself a database to store it all in. I can look back on each day determine my calorie intake, activity level, calorie expenditure, sleep quality, nutrient %, alcohol overload and probably more.

At the moment I am having to make do with a spreadsheet but that is fascinating enough.

I’ve matched the daily calorie deficit with a predicted weightoss (on the basis of 3500 calorie deficit = 1 pound) and matched it with actual weightloss.

Despite having a marvelous second week, this last week has been pants and my three week total was a paltry 2lbs. The calculated cumulative deficit suggests I should have lost a far more acceptable 6 lbs. I’m not dejected though, as I have the data to fall back on.

A quick glance over the stats reveals a few discrepancies. I didn’t enter any food on the first day of registering the KiFit armband and another day I forgot to enter my dinner. These knocked the expected weightloss down to 5lbs and then Lynn started looking over it with a critical eye. “Did you record those chocolate orange segments on Friday night?”

What chocolate orange segments?

I staggered home somewhat inebriated on Friday and only vaguely remember stealing the kids sweets. Having been prompted though, a few more sins crept out of the woodwork. There had been a stick of rock upstairs for quite some weeks and that seemed to disappear on that Friday night too. I woke up on Saturday to find the wrapper in the bin. I “forgot” to enter the smoothie I had at lunch yesterday and Thursday’s 50g pack of peanuts was recorded as 1 peanut rather than 1 bag of peanuts.

Having cleared up the data my expected weight loss dropped to 4lbs and no doubt a few other items bypassed the recording phase on their way to my mouth. So I think we are sufficiently within the bounds of acceptable data entry error for me to accept the data and start to draw some conclusions.

I haven’t exactly been hitting all my targets and the only one I’ve surpassed is the calories consumed target. Not the best one to pick.

I’ve run over my daily calorie consumption as well and looked back to the days where I came in under the 1700 cal target. I think I’ve got loads of room for improvement and I should be able to make progress without too much pain.

Over the next 3 weeks I’ll be making renewed efforts to hit my step target and to limit the food intake – I need to build that calorie deficit up.

I’ve found the KiFit experience to be fascinating. I really am quite a sedentary beast at heart. I’ve had 25 mins on the treadmill today, running through a high intensity routine and have still only managed to record 600 steps by 8pm. It’s easy to see how you could lull yourself into a false sense of security by partaking in the occasional gym based exercise and spend the rest of the day with your feet up consuming recovery drinks.

Ki Fit Body Monitoring Gadget

I’ve been watching back to back episodes of the Biggest Loser for quite some time now and in the later series the Bodybugg became an integral feature on the flabby arms of the contestants.

I’m not sure why the new gadget took so long to register with me but within three days of me acknowledging the device and researching it on the web, I was donning the British version on my own flabby arm.

The British version is sold as the Ki Fit and looks the same as the US Bodymedia gizmo but the subscription service has supposedly been optimised for the UK market.

It’s a fairly pricey piece of kit or at least it becomes so once you’ve bought the obligatory subscription to the web service. I went down the expensive route and bought the premium option with the shortest subscription. Everyone in this household was very keen to point out that gadgets have a notoriously short half life for me, so I compromised and committed to 3 months only.

The KiFit is a 24/7 body monitoring device. It has a number of sensors that pick up movement, skin temperature, conductivity and who knows what else to determine your metabolic rate or calorie burn per minute.

I’ve no idea how accurate it is. Of course the website claims its super accurate and clinically proven but I’m a little cynical. I’ve still be drawn in though and by day 4 I am loving it. As with most things, such as weighing scales, fat percentage monitors and skin fold calipers, it is consistency that holds the key, absolute accuracy is probably a pipe dream.

This gadget enables me to derive some form of analytical study of my lethargic body. Calories out, activity rate, sleep efficiency and providing I log my food intake properly I’ve got the calories in part, sussed as well. It feels as though some element of control has been handed back to me. There is no need to guess whether I’ve balanced the activity and food well enough to put me into a calorie deficit.

The web service is key to bringing the whole thing together and I am incredibly impressed with the system. It works so well – even on a mac!

Here is the activity breakdown from today. I’ve been trying to get on my feet a bit more than usual, so I had a very short stint on the treadmill at lunchtime and a walk around the common before tea. On a working day I’ve been shocked to find that my time at work is no more taxing than a night in bed, my activity level rarely moves above comatose.

I’ve set the target at 10,000 steps per day, and given my days are generally pretty sedentary, its a reasonably stretching challenge. I was still on the treadmill at 11:45 last night trying to reach the desired number.

The sleep monitor perplexes me somewhat, I can’t decide what it detects. This recording comes from Friday night so I managed a long lie in and the best sleep efficiency rating to date. The past two nights I’ve recorded less than 5 hours sleep and regardless of the duration, my night is always broken into multiple chunks. Is it normal to wake so often?

Monitoring the calorie intake is obviously a vital part of the equation and I’ve found the website offers the best interpretation of a food diary that I’ve tried to date. The search facility is fast and accurate and enables you to select items by serving size or weight, which is very handy if you are eating out or with friends and don’t feel able to pull out the scales. Where food items aren’t available you can enter them extremely easily. I actually prefer to do this anyway so that I can be sure the data is accurate and it is particularly useful when when you make up a meal from scratch.

My only problem is that I can’t easily access the website from work so I use the Tap and Track iPhone app to record my intake during the day and then manually transfer the details in the evening. I notice the US site is offering a native iPhone app for recording food intake on the go and hope the UK version isn’t going to be far behind.

I’m going to maintain a photo food journal and kifit stats resource on the semi-anonymous posterous site. If you are interested in seeing my daily intake, feel free to check it out.