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A review of the FitBit Flex

photoWell, I was going to wait another week until I posted my review of theFitBit Flex, but I think after 10+ days of continuous use, I can give you my first impressions about the device. :)

I’ve been wanting to get some sort of fitness tracker for a while now. Sure I run and play field hockey, but what about my activity level when I’m at my day job? I love that it tracks my steps, distance, and calories during the day, and at night it tracks my sleep quality – including how many times I woke up and how many minutes I was restless.

What also helped me make my decision was that BF has been using a FitBit Flex every day since I’ve known him. So I was able to get a lot of first-hand experience with how the app works, and all the features of the Flex before I bought my own.

I have owned the tradition pedometers before, as well as a super fancy high-end Garmin. Neither of them were what I was looking for, and this FitBit Flex seems to be the middle mark that I’m after. And at $100, it definitely didn’t break the bank.

Just as a side note, I bought the FitBit Flex with my own money – this post is strictly a review and I’m not getting compensated in any way. :)

Pros:

  • The iPhone app. The app is great – you can check out your details on the go, and sync your FitBit directly through bluetooth. It updates in real time as well, so you can start walking and see the step count increase right on the screen.
  • photo 2The sleep tracker. I’ve always known that I’m not that great of a sleeper. I routinely get 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and I’m always waking up. The app is great for tracking how many times I’ve woken up, and how many minutes I’m tossing and turning while asleep. Although BF did make a good point that even with all the sleep data, there’s nothing I can really do with it except be informed.
  • The silent alarm. I think BF likes this feature the best because he doesn’t have to be woken up by my annoying iPhone alarm every morning. The buzz from the FitBit is definitely enough to wake me up.
  • It makes me want to be more active. I think this is the biggest pro for me. When I check my iPhone app, or tap my Flex to see how active I’ve been during the day, it motivates me to get out of my desk and move around. I make excuses to walk more, and I’ve even found that I walk in place in my cubicle. Seems silly that a $100 device had to be the motivator for me, but it is, and I’m not complaining. :)
  • Easy to use and set up. There’s nothing technical about it. You just pop it into the USB charger, it syncs automatically, the app is easy to understand … it really just runs itself. I really like that, because there’s never any doubt about where I need to go to find a specific stat, or how to program something.

Cons:

  • It’s not pretty. I can (and do) wear it with everything, so it’s not that bad. Especially compared to a lot of other wristband fitness trackers. But it’s okay. At least it’s comfortable? :)
  • photo 3Inaccurate step count. I’m a bit sketchy about how accurate the step count and distance tracking actually is. Waving my arms around can generate “steps” when I actually didn’t move at all. Also I did a 6km run (checked the distance with Google Maps) with my FitBit Flex, and used the Nike Running app on my iPhone (which is what I normally track my runs with). The Nike Running app said I had run 6km on the dot, and the Flex had registered 5.8km. Okay, not a huge difference, but still something worth mentioning.
  • The calorie counter is a bit annoying. It’s tedious to track all of the foods that I eat during the day, but I guess at least there’s that option if you want it. I started using the calorie counter to log all my food for the first few days, but then got annoyed with it and stopped.

photo(1)The one thing I’ll say after continuous use is that it’s really difficult to get the recommended 10,000 steps per day – and I’d consider myself to be a fairly active person. During the work week, even with my walk to work, I only average around 5,000 to 6,000 steps per day. It’s a real commitment to try and be more active, and I really like that about the FitBit Flex. It’s giving me real proof about how much of a sloth I am most of the time, and that needs to change.

Anyway, I’m really pleased with the FitBit Flex so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing to track my progress. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in tracking their overall fitness level, as well as their health through calorie counting, sleep tracking, and movement.

***EDIT (04/22/2014)***

I wanted to add a short comment about the accuracy of the steps/distance. BF and I both had our FitBits on the entire time we were in Vegas. We were together for 2.5 days straight, and walked the same distance. Our step counts were nearly identical for each day, but our distance walked was always off by a lot. His distances were always much more than mine. But, we think we’ve figured out why:

The FitBit website says it calculates your distance walked based on your height and predicted stride length:

Fitbit trackers calculate distance by multiplying your walking steps and walking stride length. Similarly, your running steps are multiplied by your running stride length. By default, stride length is determined using your height and gender.

Which is all fine and good. But if you shorten your stride length (like when BF is walking with a short person like me, or if we are stuck in crowds of people), it still calculates your steps as if you were walking at your predicted default stride length. It doesn’t know that you’ve altered how you’re walking. This can lead to a pretty inaccurate reading.

BF and I wore our FitBits all day, and while our step counts were basically the same (off by a few hundred steps – not a lot considering we walked over 20,000 steps each day), the distance it said we walked varied by as much as 2km! That’s a HUGE discrepancy. And we realized that whenever BF and I go walking together, our steps will always be accurate, but the distance walked will always be wrong. Either my stride will lengthen, or his stride will shorten. We will never be walking together at our default stride length that FitBit determined for us.

Anyway, I thought this piece of information is worth mentioning. It doesn’t take away from what the FitBit does for me personally, but it might for some.

Do you use a fitness tracker like FitBit?

What are the pros and cons you’ve found with devices like this?

Spending Recap: April 7-13, 2014

Monday 7th
$20 birthday present

Tuesday 8th
No Spend Day!

Wednesday 9th
$112.44 FitBit Flex

Thursday 10th
No Spend Day!

Friday 11th
$5.68 Menchie’s

Saturday 12th
$15.70 Craft Beer Market
$15.44 groceries

Sunday 13th
$21.24 London Drugs
$14.46 Noodle Box

Freelance Income: $0
Expenses- $204.96

TOTAL: - $204.96

This past week I bought a Fitbit Flex. I’ve been debating between the Flex and the Nike Fuelband for a few weeks now, but in the end, the Fitbit won out. BF has one and wears his every day, so my decision was partially influenced by him. But mostly because the FitBit seemed to be the most comfortable to wear, and wouldn’t seem out of place when I wear it in the office. In the week I’ve been using it, I have nothing but good things to say about it. And actually I’m surprised at how big a motivator it has been to move more often. After we get back from Las Vegas this weekend, I’ll be sure to post a review with all the pros and cons I’ve found so far. So, if you’re a FitBit user, add me as a friend! :)

Over the weekend, I ran 6km (pain-free!) to meet Blonde on a Budget for brunch. I am so happy to be pain-free that I wanted to keep on running… but from past experience, I know I need to take it slow.

On Sunday, instead of running, I went for a long walk (FitBit says I walked for over 15km) and listened to some podcasts. I’m a little late on the podcast bandwagon, but am really liking Under the Influence, as well as Freakonomics. So if anyone else could recommend podcasts similar to those two, that would be awesome!

How was your week of spending?

75 days later

New runners: Brooks Adrenaline!I haven’t gone on a run since January 26th. That was 75 days ago.

This is probably the longest I’ve gone without running. Sure, at least a couple times each week over the last month, I’ve gone walking for over an hour. But that’s not exactly the exercise I want to do, and it’s not what I’m used to.

So I used my foot injury as my excuse. It’s a pretty good excuse; a nagging injury that hasn’t gotten any better since September. But I could have been doing more – like going to the gym and using the elliptical machine, or riding a bicycle. It’s even less of an excuse now that I have access to a free gym in my office building.

The BMO Half Marathon that I registered for in February isn’t going to happen. It’s in less than a month (May 4), and nowhere near ready. Sure, I could likely run/walk and finish, but it’s not going to be pretty. And the chances are pretty high that I’d just injure myself even more. Not worth the $136 registration fee. :|

I met someone recently who is running the Boston Marathon this month. We chatted about running and injuries, and he’s in the same boat as me – trying to prioritize a team sport with running. He said he eventually had to give up his team sport because the practices/games conflicted too much with a running program. And it’s true. It’s something I really struggled with this past year. Playing field hockey 3-4x/week does not give much time for a proper half marathon training program.

So here’s my plan. Now that my foot is feeling a bit better, I’m going to slowly ease back into running. That means forcing myself to go slower than I want to. Taking a lot of rest days in between runs, and really listening to my body when it tells me to take it easy.

Saturday will be my first test. I’m meeting up for brunch with my pal Cait from Blonde on a Budget. Instead of driving there, I’m going to (slowly) run the 6km there. Then leisurely walk the 6km back. BF and I frequently walk 10km+, so I know it’s not too big of a stretch. I’m excited to start excercising again, and am really looking forward to being able to run distances again. :)

Spending Recap: March 31-April 6, 2014

Monday 31st
$35.12 groceries
$57.10 oil change

Tuesday 1st
No Spend Day!

Wednesday 2nd
No Spend Day!

Thursday 3rd
No Spend Day!

Friday 4th
No Spend Day!

Saturday 5th
+ $400 freelance income
$18.65 Pearl Hot Pot
$4.71 Value Village
$29.30 dinner

Sunday 6th
$20.31 groceries

Freelance Income: + $400
Expenses- $165.19

TOTAL: + $234.81

For the month of April, BF has decided to give up a lot of things that we’re so used to consuming – coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, and alcohol. I’m not that hardcore, so I’ve only cut out coffee and chocolate. But since we’re together so often, I find myself consuming a lot less sugar and alcohol as well. Meanwhile, I still knock back 2-4 mugs of green tea per day. :)

But, not going out to Starbucks during the work week, plus my goal of bringing my lunch to work every day, has resulted in a significant increase in No Spend Days.

Over the weekend, I finally got around to doing my taxes, and am expecting about $800 back. :) $400 of it will be earmarked for travel later this year, and the other $400 will go towards retirement.

2014 Annual Goals: Q1 Review

I saw on Twitter that someone had posted that they were late with their quarterly review of their annual goals, and I started to panic because truthfully, I haven’ t really thought about my annual goals much over the past month. But now that I’m working full-time again and chugging away with my freelance income, I can refocus on what I had wanted to accomplish this year. Maybe the 6 weeks off is going to affect a lot of my financial goals, but I’m okay with that because I think I’m in a better place than I was when the year started.

This year has been going by pretty quickly, but I couldn’t be any happier. I feel positive about the future, and I love seeing my friends and family achieving their goals as well. I’m excited about what the rest of the year has to offer because I have a sense of freedom. Freedom in having a job that’s so generous and flexible with taking time off, and freedom because I’m (trying) not to stress about money every day anymore.

Anyway, onto the review of my goals…

Financial

  • Stay debt-free (aside from my mortgage). ON TRACK! This is a pretty obvious goal, but it needs to be said. The number one goal is always to stay debt-free. :)
  • Increase my income by 10%. NEEDS WORK. Losing work for 6 weeks in Q1 has definitely hurt this goal. But, I have much more earning potential at this new job, and I’ve already taken on some fun freelance projects, so I’ll have to keep plugging away at this and not let that setback bring me down.
  • Increase my net worth to $115,000. NEEDS WORK. This is an increase of approximately $22,000 from 2013. So far, I’m off pace but I’m going to try to increase all of my automated savings to try to make up the difference.
  • Buy stocks. ON TRACK! I’ve already put $600+ into my Questrade account this year. I’m never going to be big into stocks, but it’s fun to learn and play around with it.
  • Save at least $750/month into my RRSP/TFSA. ON TRACK. I’m giving myself a pass here because I was doing this until I got laid off – saving $600 into my RRSP, and $150 into TFSA.
  • Save at least $50 bi-weekly into a long-term travel fund. ON TRACK. Surprisingly, I’ve saved over $1,100 already this year. It’s all thanks to banking a whole freelance cheque, and any ING Direct referral bonuses I’ve been getting.
  • Stay on budget every month. FAIL. I’ve already failed at this goal because of my job loss, but I’m still going to work hard at making achievable targets each month and being super conscious with my spending habits.
  • Sell at least one item every month. ON TRACK. Well, I’ve technically only sold one thing. But I’ve put items up on eBay every month, and I have given away a ton of stuff to goodwill, so that counts for something. At least for me, anyway. :)

Personal

  • Go on one big trip. ON TRACK. Well, originally I was going to Sweden this year for a work trip, and that was going to be where I based my vacation from. But now, I can go anywhere. Still thinking Europe, because I’m planning this trip with BF, and he hasn’t seen much of Europe before. We’ve tossed around a bunch of different itineraries, but haven’t settled on anything yet except for the timeframe – likely in late September for 2-3 weeks. Originally I was thinking it would cost less than $2,000 because work would pay for my flight to Europe… but now I’m thinking it might cost upwards of $4,000 because of the added cost of the flight, and the potential change from 2 weeks to 3 weeks. If 3 weeks is the case, then I’ll use the $$ in my long-term travel fund to help with the additional cost. :)
  • Run in four half marathons and set a PR. NEEDS WORK. Well, I’ve run in one half marathon already this year, but it was rough, and I haven’t really gotten back on track since that run. I’ve been nursing a foot injury for a couple of months, but I still have aspirations of running in at least two more half marathons this fall. My stretch goal is still to run one in 1:48, but realistically I just want to stay healthy for the rest of the year.
  • Read 20 books. NEEDS WORK. I haven’t really been into reading the past couple of months, even though I have a huge pile of books just begging to be read. I actually think it’s because I don’t spend much time alone these days. But I just need to get into the habit of reading a little bit before bed each night. Traveling helps too, and when we go to Vegas this month I’ll get to catch up on some reading while in the air. :)
  • Spend less than $1,000 on clothing/shoes. ON TRACK. Well, surprisingly I’ve only spent $38.22 on clothes this year – and they were on nylons. I don’t know why I insist on buying nylons since I’m so clumsy and end up ruining them before the day is over. :| And they’re so expensive! But I do know I need to update my work wardrobe since the place I work at now is a bit fancier than my last job.
  • Make one new recipe every monthON TRACK. I’m still vegetarian, and it’s been fun to experiment with new recipes and ideas in the kitchen. BF is a meat eater though, so sometimes it can get a bit tricky. And I do find that I need to eat a lot more to stay full.
  • Tackle three household projects. NEEDS WORK. Well, I’ve done none of these things. The closest I’ve gotten is discussing painting my bedroom with BF, who said it would be an easy job and we could get it done in a day. It’s not that I haven’t thought about refinishing my cabinets or getting blinds installed, it’s just that I keep flip flopping about what I want to do with my home in the long-term. If I want to sell in a year or two, then there’s no point in putting in that money, because I won’t get it back at all. But if I plan on staying long-term, or if they change the complex rules to allow for rentals, then I would definitely get going with these projects. So I’m going to give it until the end of Q2 to see if I can make any progress in my decision.

Professional

  • Research project management programs. ON TRACK. I’ve looked into project management and marketing management certifications through BCIT. They’re something that I’m interested in doing for sure. Originally I didn’t think I needed to do anything to advance my career, but over the past few weeks I’ve gotten a clearer picture of where I want to be in 5-10 years, and I know I’ll be better off with more education.
  • Take a French language class. NEEDS WORK. If I do end up taking a management program, I might drop French language lessons. It was a good goal to have in the last industry I was in, but I’m not sure it’s needed in the direction that I’m headed. It’s still worth taking a look though, because a second language is always beneficial.
  • Get published 4 times. ON TRACK. I was published once this quarter, but I don’t have anything lined up for the next 3 months so I should start thinking and pitching some ideas. :) I also got back to doing some media interviews – once for MoneySense Magazine, and one for a podcast.
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