Well, 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. :)
- 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.
- The 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.
- 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? :)
- Inaccurate 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.
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.
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?
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. :)
This past weekend I ran in the Chilly Chase Half Marathon, and it was by far my toughest (and most disappointing) race so far. I knew as I kept going with running, I wouldn’t be able to PR in every race, and that day was yesterday. :)
I had trained more for this race than any of the previous races, yet I ran slower than I ever have before, my pace varied wildly, and my legs felt like lead. After the 12km mark, it was a complete struggle and I contemplated quitting more than a few times.
There were a few reasons why I think I didn’t run as well as I could have:
I had tired legs. In the first two half marathons I ran last year, I did one or two short, slow runs in the week leading up to the race, and zero intense physical activity. During the 6 days leading up to this race, I played field hockey 4 times. This included a pretty tough game less than 24 hours before the race. My foot was bothering me, and my legs were not fresh at all… and I think this was the main reason why I ran poorly.
I didn’t have anyone to pace with. The problem with these smaller races is that the runners are so spread out. This was the first year the Chilly Chase event had a half marathon option (all other years it had been a 5km, 10km, 15km event). I ran by myself most of the time, and judging from my ridiculous range in pace (5’02” to 6’04”), I don’t know how to pace myself properly when I’m tired. During the Vancouver Historic Half Marathon, I ran with someone nearly the entire way, and I think that had a major impact.
I started out too fast. I don’t think this had too much of an impact on the overall race result, but it’s still something to note. During the first 12km of the run, I was averaging a 5’14” pace, which was faster than I had ever paced in a half marathon before. I actually felt pretty good! Then, around the 12-13km mark, I basically just imploded and my legs felt awful. I guess this also ties in with not being able to pace properly. :| But I also think that if I had been running on fresh legs, I would have been able to keep up that pace, or at least close to that pace.
So I ended up with an official time of 1:58:03 (11/24 in my age group). Now, it’s not a horrible time, but it’s a far cry from the 1:53:51 I ran in November. A few weeks ago, I ran my last long training run at a pace not much slower than my race pace, and I felt fantastic. So it was really disheartening that nearly the same pace was such a struggle for me during the actual race. For the rest of the day, I was feeling pretty down. It’s tough when you know what you have to do to athletically, but your body just won’t cooperate. It was just one of those days, I guess.
Still, there are positives from this race: 1) I finished and didn’t quit, and 2) I’m fired up to become better.
The next races will be the Vancouver Sun Run 10km (April) and the BMO Half Marathon (May).