Give Me Back My Five Bucks

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

Soup & salad at Earls

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!

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. :)

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