Tech Review – BodyMedia FIT Link Armband

Logo

Never heard of the BodyMedia FIT Link Armband? I think you have. It’s the one that you see the contestants of the biggest loser wearing on their arms. You may have wondered, what is that? Simply put, it’s a calorie and step tracking device used primarily for weight loss and fitness. The first question you may ask is why would anyone want this? I’d counter that with a question back to you, can you tell me (with a high degree of accuracy) how many calories you burned yesterday? Can you tell me how many calories you ate? Did you end your day in a calorie surplus or a calorie deficit? The BodyMedia FIT Link when used in conjunction with their web, or iPhone application can tell you ALL of that, down to the last calorie you burn for the day.

When you set out to make a change in your life, it’s not an easy thing to do. My opinion is any tools or technology that help present you with a greater chance of being successful, you should consider using. I’m a huge proponent of better living through technology. I was the guy that stood in line for the very first iPhone (never again by the way) but at the time, it was so revolutionary; it changed the mobile phone market forever. The FIT Link Armband is something I feel strongly about as well, it’s an amazing piece of technology coupled with some very beautiful software. The technology itself is copied by many players in the market, but I think that BodyMedia is doing almost all of it perfectly. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some things I’d like to see changed, but the good overwhelmingly outweighs the bad, by a lot.

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Out of the Box Experience
When I got my band at home, I opened the box it was shipped in, and found a typical clam-shell package containing an Armband, the sensor unit, USB cable (a nice and long one too!), and a small set of documentation. There’s really not much more to say, very standard retail style packaging. Nothing super special about the box it comes in. I did think it was rather large for the contents, it would be nice to see a smaller package developed. It felt like there was a lot of wasted space.

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Setup
Being an excited techno geek, I tossed the instructions aside, and found the quick-start guide. In a perfect world, I love to have gadgets that don’t rely on my computer. My home PC I’ve built is kind of my 3rd kid, I don’t really install stuff on it much unless I’m sure that it’s something I’m going to use a lot, and software I trust. I’d read a bit about the Link Armband I had received and knew that it had the capability to link directly to my iPhone using Bluetooth. I figured I wouldn’t even use the computer with it. I’ll describe my experience, but I’m telling you right now, their software is good, trust it, and start with the computer first. I’ll describe my experience.

I knew I needed to setup an account first, so I went online and created my account. It’s your typical account setup, address, name, phone, email, etc. Nothing shocking. There’s some steps to tell them about yourself, birth date, gender, dominant hand, height/weight, timezone, and your sleeping habits (normal time to sleep, and time you generally wake up).

BodyMediaRegistration1

You then choose if you’re trying to lose weight, maintain weight, or just get active. I am currently losing weight, so I chose that option. You then get to select your weight loss plan which is very similar to many other web sites, or phone applications that set a goal to lose anywhere from .5lbs to 2.0lbs. per week. You also define how you want to do it based on the activity level you want to achieve, from light to extreme, or you can set a custom definition for this portion.

BodyMediaRegistration2

BodyMediaRegistration3

BodyMediaRegistration4

Once that’s done, this is where you should just connect the sensor to your computer via it’s USB port. You’ll need to snap the unit ‘out’ of the Armband, there’s a ring that goes around it the Armband connects to, just hold each side of the armband in your hands and use your two thumbs to depress lightly in the center, and the sensor unit will pop out. I was a little scared the first time, but now it’s no big deal, everything seems to be manufactured well, and I’m not worried about it breaking.

However, what I did was now jump right to the iPhone application. Step one pair it with your phone’s Bluetooth. I read the instructions, and set the device into it’s pairing mode. I had all kinds of trouble getting it to pair with my iPhone. So I started googling it. A lot of other people had run into this as well, I found a blog with great information that said, use the computer first.

So I installed the FIT Link software that is available once you create your account at www.bodymedia.com. Their software (for PC) runs in the system tray, and when you connect the sensor to the USB cord that comes with it, everything starts to make sense. It instantly connected to the FIT Link and asked me if I wanted to apply a firmware update, ahhhh why yes, I bet that would help with my Bluetooth issues. Let me say that 90% of the time when I run into syncing and pairing issues, I really think it’s with the Bluetooth protocol and software, NOT with BodyMedia’s stuff. It took a few times, but I finally got it to pair with my phone! The amazing thing is that it hasn’t decoupled this pairing once, ever. Most Bluetooth devices I own require constant re-linking or I have to repair them on a frequent basis, not the FIT Link, it’s one of the best Bluetooth devices I’ve owned.

I’ve installed it on my Macbook too, with no issues, works great. As I’ve said their software seems really good.

Steps / Instructions for pairing
The pairing process was a little difficult, but I think that’s more of a Bluetooth problem than an issue with BodyMedia’s software or hardware. I had to do these steps a few times, and ultimately it just ended up working, I’m not really sure why.

1.) Put the armband in pairing mode. Hold the armband button for five seconds for an initial pairing. The status lights will alternate in amber color. It will remain in pairing mode for two minutes.
2.) Set your phone to discover the armband. For my iPhone I just went into Bluetooth, and it listed the armband as “JB’s Armband”
3.) If you’re prompted for a code, enter “0000” (all zeros) for the pin/pass code.
4.) If it doesn’t pair, go to step one. I had to do this a few times before it finally registered.

Using the Device
The device itself requires almost NO intervention to use. Just strap it to your left arm, halfway between your elbow and shoulder. I wear the sensor facing the back side of my arm as that seems to be most comfortable. BodyMedia says you should wear the device as much as possible, the longer you wear it, the more accurate it is. There is a button on the device that you can use to sync it’s data to the iPhone application if you don’t want to use the USB cable. The device is NOT waterproof, take it off to shower, but other than that, you should wear it all the time. I wear it to work, sleeping, and everywhere in between.

Battery Life
The battery life of the FIT Link is documented as 2-4 days. I’ve found this to be a very poor estimate. I’ve been wearing mine almost full time since I got it (almost two weeks now) without a charge. The software is reporting 50% battery life left. Battery usage is dependent on how often you sync to your phone, and how often you push data from the phone and armband to the BodyMedia online application. I’m beyond happy with how great the battery life is on this device.

Sensors
The Armband contains 4 sensors that measure motion, body temperature fluctuations, skin temperature, and skin conductivity (galvanic skin response). A proprietary algorithm uses this collected raw information along with your personal body parameters to deliver readings on calories, activity levels, steps, lying down, and sleep time. I’ve compared these to other trackers, and my personal feeling is that BodyMedia is the most accurate device available to consumers right now.

Sensors

The BodyMedia FIT Activity Manager
The online application that your armband sends data to (whether it’s via a USB sync, or it’s being pushed from your phone) is one of the best ones I’ve used period. The graphs, and display of your calorie burning data, nutritional information, and sleep patterns is better than any of the other sites that I’ve seen.

One of the coolest things that’s available in the online application is the “Fit Coach”. It’s a non-intrusive part of the application that gives you valuable feedback about your nutrition, eating habits, calorie burn, and reminds you of your personal bests. In each measured section of the summary screen numbered icons appear to the left of each section, when you roll the mouse over these sections you get useful feedback about your historical performance. Good stuff like you didn’t eat enough protein, or you ate too much cholesterol. There’s good things too, it will inform you that you’re on track to burn what you’re supposed to for the day. Some days it will even tell you how well your day before was. It’s so great to get this kind of feedback, as it’s not something that most people consider, and it’s useful in your efforts, it’s also something that I haven’t seen in other applications.

BodyMediaFitnessManager

There’s a great notifications system too. The notifications appear in the top of the navigation bar near the top of the browser window. You’ll get notifications like new personal records, and other pertinent information.

Capture

The BodyMedia Activity Manager allows you to even sync your Withings scale to their site. Nothing makes me happier than not having to enter data manually into applications. Every time I step on the scale, it’s automatically recorded and stored at BodyMedia. It’s a nice feature.

The Activity Manager’s summary page breaks down information for you in the following manner (data is displayed based on the last point it was synced to). The left numbers in each header represent the target, and the right side is the actual measurement.

  • Calories Burned – Directly computed from your armband, so wear it all the time.
    Expanding this section shows you the total amount of calories burned, and shows the level over time.
    CaloriesBurned 

  • Calories Consumed – The responsibility is on you to enter this information.
    Expanding this section shows a detailed nutritional breakdown of everything that you ate.
    CaloriesConsumed 

  • Calorie Balance – Hands down the best feature of the application, shows you Burned – Consumed. This is where you want to see a calorie deficit if your goal is to lose weight. Having the calorie deficit available to see anytime you want is huge for me. My FAVORITE part of the application.
    CalorieBalance

  • Physical Activity – Shows the total time in minutes that are spent in moderate – vigorous activity.
    Expanding this section shows detailed graphs of when you were active, and how active you were.
    PhysicalActivity 

  • Steps Taken – Number of steps for the day.
    StepsTaken 

  • Sleep Duration – Amount of time spent sleeping.
    SleepDuration 

  • Weight – Shows your current weight.
    Weight

The area where things start to get a little tricky is around food entry. The food database that BodyMedia uses seems to be small, there’s been several times that I have had to pick “something close” to what I really had eaten. That’s frustrating because things like cholesterol, fat, and sodium can be way off. It’s easy to control the calorie amounts by adjusting the serving size, but for me, an application like Lose It just nails the food entry. What I would really like to see is the ability to sync food from other applications, like Lose it. Right now I’m entering my food consumed in two applications, and it’s really time consuming and a duplicated effort. The Summary page in the Activity Manager is so polished and has gorgeous formatting, but then you go to the food section, and it feels like a different application. It’s by no means a deal breaker, just something I think could use some improvement.

iPhone Application
The iPhone application is very similar to the online application with a few exceptions. First of all, one of the very best things that has been added recently is the ability to sync the armband directly to the iPhone application. You can then in turn push the data from your iPhone to the BodyMedia Activity Manager. This is a recent feature, and when I first started using the armband, this feature was not available. I was so frustrated by this early on. Since BodyMedia charges a small monthly fee (around $7) they promise to improve their software, and bring new features to their customers without forcing you to buy new hardware every year. I was originally skeptical when I read this, however, I’ve now experienced it firsthand. I have no problem paying a small amount of money each month for something that solves a problem and offers me a useful service. Just eliminate eating out ONE day per MONTH, it’s seriously not a big deal.

As I stated earlier, I wish the iPhone application could sync food logs from other applications. The other feature that is seriously lacking is the ability to scan bar codes using the phone’s camera. Other fitness and nutrition applications offer this feature, it’s so handy. There’s so many things we eat everyday that come pre-packaged, having the ability to scan a bar code, and have it log the calorie and nutrition information would be worth double the online price BodyMedia charges. Hopefully we’ll see this come in future versions of the software.

There’s a workout function, that allows you to record your workouts, I’m not entirely sure of why you need this, but there’s a screenshot below. It logs your activity as you workout, and you can start and stop it via the button on the armband.

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The graphs on the iPhone application are STUNNING.

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The nutrition section of the application is not as polished as the Dashboard. It’s very similar to the online application. It needs some work, it’s functional, and does not ruin the experience, it just takes a bit to learn to use, and the food database is not as big as other applications. It would be good to see some integration and user interface work here.

The Good
The iPhone and online applications are stunning. The software you install on your PC just works, and doesn’t get in the way. Having a calorie deficit available to see keeps me focused.

The Bad
The only area for improivement in my opinion is the food entry and food database that sits behind the applications.

Conclusion
The manufacturing, online experience, features and functionality of this device have surpassed my expectations. While I wish the food entry section was a little more polished, I would wholeheartedly recommend using this product. The biggest thing that I like about it is that it measures your calorie burn very accurately, all day long, and shows you the calorie deficit you’re creating. If you’ve ready my blog at all, you know this is my number one suggestion for losing weight, create a calorie deficit. Knowing each day that I’m creating at least a 1000+ calorie deficit is priceless to me. A lot of people may be concerned about wearing an armband all the time, but it’s super comfortable, and nobody notices it, even when I’m wearing short sleeves. The BodyMedia FIT Link sells for $149.00 with the first three months of online access free, after three months there is a  $7 per month subscription. If you’re on the fence about spending that kind of money, you should order one today, you’ll learn so much about your exercise and eating habits. If you stick to the plan you setup, you will lose weight. The device is not magic, you’ll have to be accountable, but if you follow it’s plan the weight predictably comes off. You can find BodyMedia on the web at http://www.bodymedia.com/, or you can follow them via @BodyMedia on Twitter.

Disclosure of Material Connection: BodyMedia sent me this Link Armband for free for me to review on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I would use and think you would find useful. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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The Gym as a Tool

Quite arguably the best tool in the arsenal to lose weight is your local gym. While it’s possible to lose weight and gain strength without one, I think that most people feel the need to have a gym at their disposal. I joined a gym years ago when I lived in Seattle that was acquired by 24 Hour Fitness. It worked out great for me, I have unlimited access to the majority of 24 Hour Fitness gyms for a mere $10 a month now. It’s a monthly fee I’ve often paid years for when I have never even used it. But now that I’m living close to one, and they seem to be more prevalent is the area I live, I don’t regret that the years of non use at all.

Most gyms are broken down into several distinct functional areas:


Weights/Free weights/Machines
– The main floors of most gyms have a free weights section comprised of dumbbells, weight benches, bars, and other types of interchangeable weight systems. They typically also have all the machines that can take weight plates and racks for doing squats. Weight training is good for burning calories and for building muscle.

Cardio Equipment – These consist of the machines used for doing cardiovascular training like treadmills, elliptical  stair masters, stair climbers, and rowing machines. These machines are great for cardiovascular training and fat burning. Cardio machines typically are a great way to burn a high amount of calories with the right type of workout.

Spin Bikes – Although technically cardio equipment, I like to break spin bikes out into their own category, as most gyms keep them all together. They are typically located near the other cardio equipment, but you’ll often find gyms that have rooms full of nothing but spin bikes. These spin studios are used for spinning classes and bike related workouts. Spinning is a great workout, and is ideal for almost anyone as they require no special skills to use.

Zumba/Pilates/Aerobics/Dance/Yoga Studios – Another thing that most gyms have is some sort of dedicated studio for Yoga, Pilates, Aerobics and Dance type of workouts. These type of workouts are great for people that like to work out with a group of others, and change up the monotony of being stuck on cardio equipment.

Pools/Sauna/Steam – The pool is one of the best low impact, high calorie burning workouts you can find. Swimming laps takes a significant amount of energy, and can be a very challenging workout. A lot of gyms also have some other pool related amenities available like Sauna, Steam Rooms, and hot tubs, which are all great after a tiring workout. They’ll make you sweat, and the heat feels great on sore muscles.

Basketball – Playing one on one, or traditional basket ball is a great way to raise your heart rate and burn calories.

Stretching/Floor Areas – There are typically multiple areas where you can do stretching and floor exercises like push ups, sit ups, and exercise ball work.

A lot of gyms also offer low cost day care that you can take advantage of for those times when you have your little ones with you. Finding the right gym for you is important, as if you don’t like the gym, you ultimately won’t go. Why would you want to spend your hard earned money each month for nothing? I know that memberships at my gym start at around $40 per month for unlimited access to that single location.

Watch for sales, and deals too. Costco is a great place to check, but make sure you read the details, some clubs have different service levels, you don’t want to buy a 2-3 year membership at a discount to find that it didn’t work for the primary location you were considering. Be sure to do your homework and ensure that the membership you purchase works for you. Also keep in mind that there’s generally some wiggle room when it comes to joining a gym. Be sure to remember you can negotiate some, if they won’t come down on monthly fees, or waving initiation/joining fees, ask for a few free personal training sessions. The gym should be able to do something to win your business!

Finding a gym with all of the things listed above is a great step in having the tools you need to create a workout routine that will lead to your weight loss success!

Tech Review – iPhone Nike+ Running Application

This is the second Nike+ running application that I have reviewed, you can read the previous article here. What’s different about this application is that it requires no external sensor in your shoe, it uses the sensors and technology built into your phone that the application is running on.

The application is very basic but works well. There’s several different ways to start a run:

Basic Run – A basic run is just that, no time, distance or speed constraints or goals.

Distance Run – Set a goal of beating a certain distance, the application will even note your furthest and average distances.

Timed Run – The application will stop at the end of the duration of the time you choose. It will also tell you how long your last run was, and encourage you to run longer.

Speed Run – Choosing a speed run will give you options of beating your fastest 1K, 5K, or mile, once you’ve established some runs.

Location – Allows you to specify your location, outdoors, indoors, etc.

Music – Let’s you choose if you want random music, a certain playlist, or none.

Get Cheers – If you elect to share that you’re starting a run on Facebook, anyone that “likes” or comments on your run, you’ll supposedly hear cheering during your run, I don’t think anyone has done that during my runs yet.

Once you’ve chosen a run type, and start your run, the application gives you a three second countdown, allowing you to put your phone where it needs to go. Any time while you are running you can look down and see your pace, distance traveled and the current song that’s playing. There are also controls to go back and forth between songs. There’s a power song button that will play one of your power songs that you setup in the application settings. The power song is helpful for when you feel like you’re about to run out of energy. You can also lock the screen to prevent any accidental changes being made during your run.

During the run, the application will audibly alert you at 10 minute increments of your time.

After the Run

There are several great features that you can check out after you’re done with your run. The achievements system in Nike+ is better than I’ve seen in almost any application. At the end of your run, it’s possible to get achievements based on your performance. There’s also celebrity athlete voices that will congratulate you on your new achievements. It’s kind of fun to get the recognition and unlock new achievements. Note the awful bug below, that shows my fastest 5K was 44:17 on the iPhone app, but login to the Nike+ website, and it says 30:08?

After any run is done, you can drill into your historical run, and see your pace on a graph, you can see areas where you ran faster, vs. slower, see your overall pace, and calories burned. If you want to track your mood, type of run, and what shoes you used, and any notes you may want to write. You also have the option to share the data on many social networking sites.

Nike+ Running is connected to your Nike+ account online, and run data is uploaded to Nike. The application displays your cumulative mileage total, number of runs, total calories burned and overall average pace. Turning the phone to the landscape position reveals a bar chart that shows runs on a graph, clicking any of the bars takes you to that run’s detail view.

The Good
The application is simple to use, shows all of the data after the run I like to see, and works well considering it’s using the built in hardware of the iPhone vs. a sensor in the shoes. I like the social media aspects of it, and think it would be cool to hear cheering while I am running.

The Bad
Overall the application is very good, I don’t like the fact that I have to dig it out of my pocket to see the distance, and pace. Pressing the “home” button on the iPhone does nothing during your run. The other Nike+ application announces time, distance, and pace whenever the home button is pressed, I really like that a lot better.

Conclusion
I probably won’t use this application much during the run. I will however use it after the run is uploaded from my other Nike+ running application. I wish the other application I use had the social media integration, but the fact that I can’t audibly hear my distance, pace, and time is a deal breaker for me.

Tech Review – FitBit “One” – Calorie, Step, and Sleep Tracker

Fitbit

The FitBit “One” is the latest calorie, step, and sleep tracker from the makers of FitBit products. It’s very similar to the FitBit Ultra but has several improvements. My FitBit Ultra I purchased years ago had finally died, so I decided to give the One a shot. You can purchase the “One” direct from FitBit at http://www.fitbit.com/one for $99 at the time of this post. (Note, this is not an affiliate link, and I don’t receive any monetary residual from FitBit, I’m just a fan of their products.)

What is this thing? What’s it used for?
The FitBit One is a small sensor that you wear all day long (and during the night if you want to.. more on that in a bit) that  tracks several activities. How many steps you walk, how many flights of stairs you ascend, the distance in miles you travel walking or running, how many calories you burn, and it provides a graphical representation of how active you are at any given time. It also has a clock, and alarm that can wake you up in the morning. Why? Well I’m a technology geek, and I like to be able to measure a lot of these things, and then use that data to correlate what’s working for my weight loss routine. It also keeps me accountable, I’m trying to walk 7,000 steps per day right now which is just about over 3.5 miles per day. Some days I destroy that number, others, I don’t even come close, but it’s a reminder, something to motivate me, and motivation is probably the number one thing that I struggle with.

What’s in the box
The box is small, it’s more box than product! Inside the box you’ll find the FitBit One, a clip that houses the unit for attaching it to your pocket, belt (uh no thanks), or for the ladies, their bra. It also comes with a small USB dongle, USB charger, and wristband for sleeping. The USB dongle plugs into your computer, and whenever you’re within 30 feet or so of your computer, the device will sync it’s data to the FitBit web site. If you have an iPhone 4S or later, the FitBit One will sync via Bluetooth to the FitBit application (free download) and then to the FitBit web site, you don’t even need a computer!

The box

The box.

FitBit Setup Card

Quick setup.

The stuff.

The stuff.

The device
The device itself is about the size of your pinkie finger, it’s smallI’m pretty sure I would lose this thing in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the very well designed clip that comes with it. The old version of the FitBit “Ultra” tracker was almost like a clothes pin, the clip was part of the tracker. The new “One” is almost like a skinny small stone, it has just a single button on it, and an OLED display. It weighs almost nothing, and again, is very very small. I was worried at first about this, until I saw how it worked with the clip. The battery lasts for about a week between charges, and the FitBit dashboard will alert you when it’s low. It takes an hour or two to charge.

It's small.

It’s small.

Clip front.

Clip front.

Clip back.

Clip back.

The Clip/Carrier (Pictured above)
The clip that comes with the “One” is brilliant. It has a very strong and flexible clip across the back of the housing that the “One” slides into. The front of the clip is a sturdy, but flexible rubber gasket that allows you to slip the “One” into it. You can then clip the whole unit to the inside of your pocket, or anywhere on your body. FitBit recommends keeping it near your torso for the best results. I’m a little worried that over time this clip will wear out, especially if you’re removing it every day to use it at night. Time will tell, and FitBit seems like the kind of company that would replace a broken clip if it was warranted.

Setup
Setting up the “One” is simple. You can use a computer, or if you have an iPhone 4S or greater, you can skip the whole computer part. You go to the following url: www.fitbit.com/one/start/ and their online web site walks you through the setup. After you’ve created your free FitBit account, you can download the iPhone application. Either method, app or computer setup, you’ll pick your goal, FitBit will calculate your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and then will ask you how aggressive you want to be in your weight loss. 2lbs of weight loss per week is the most aggressive you can get, and for me created a 1000 calorie deficit based off the calories I burn per day. It was actually within about 20 calories of how Lose It determined my caloric deficit, so the calculations must be pretty universal between applications. FitBit is working on Bluetooth Android and older iPhone support at the time of this writing.

Daily use. How do you use it?
There’s really nothing for you to do, other than wear the “One” and go through your normal daily business. You of course can look at the display on the device at any time by pressing the button on it and cycling through the various activities that it’s tracking. FitBit even has a sense of humor, I just picked it up off my desk as I’m writing this review, and it’s display   emitted “Bon Jour, John”. It shows other little funny sayings too, I still don’t think I’ve seen them all!. If you have the “One” linked to your phone, you don’t even have to ever look at it. I just open the iPhone FitBit application, and can see all the data there as it stays in contact with the iPhone application.

Sleep
One of the other things the FitBit one can do is track how efficient you’re sleeping, and while it’s not a replacement for an actual sleep study, you could gain insight about your sleeping patterns. People that are overweight on average have worse sleeping problems that non-obese people. Sleep Apnea is something that millions of americans have and don’t even realize it. The FitBit “One” comes with a small (soft) comfortable wristband, that has a pocket you slip the “One” into. You wear the wristband on your non-dominant arm (so if you’re right handed, you wear it on your left wrist) and just before you’re going to sleep, you hold down the button on the “One” for three seconds, you’ll see a stopwatch start. When you wake up in the morning, you hold the button again, and you’ll see the stopwatch stop. Once your FitBit syncs with your phone or computer, you can load the iPhone application, or go to the FitBit dashboard, and see how long you slept, how many times it thinks that you awoke, and what your sleep efficiency is. If you’re waking up A LOT during the night, it may be something you should monitor, or talk to a specialist about. There’s also a feature from the FitBit application that will allow you to set a silent alarm, so if you do sleep with it, you can have it vibrate to wake you, that’s kind of a nice feature if you don’t want to disturb your significant other.

What’s automatically tracked? What do you have to manually add?

Automatically tracked. (No data entry)

  • Calories Burned
  • Steps
  • Floors Climbed
  • Distance Traveled
  • Activity Level
  • Sleep (you have to start/stop it on the “One”)
Requires entry via app or web site.

  • Water Consumption
  • Weight
  • Food Consumption*
  • Specific Activity (Biking, etc.)
  • Setting a Sleep Alarm

*Note: I enter all my food in my application called Lose It. Lose it provides the ability to sync my food log to FitBit, so my calorie count is very accurate in both places. It’s nice to see the full calorie burn provided in FitBit vs. Lose It. Lose It only shows you the food you eat less the calories you burn working out. FitBit shows you your full burn, even the calories you burn while at rest. I also like the fact that I can track how much water I’m drinking, it’s a great reminder to keep drinking it!

Privacy Settings
This is a good point to talk about privacy, you’re potentially tracking and logging a lot of personal sensitive data. The FitBit web site has a VERY SIMPLE and easy to understand section that allows you to see exactly how your information is stored and potentially shown to friends, or other people.

FitBit Privacy Settings

The FitBit Web Site
The FitBit Web site is a massive dashboard that conglomerates all of the data gathered from the FitBit tracker, and the data you may (or may not) enter manually via the iPhone application or FitBit web site.

The FitBit Dashboard
The dashboard provides the quickest “At a glance” data about everything for your day. There’s all of your step, stair, distance, calories, and activity level goals in one place. They provide the actual data, and a “fuel gauge” style bar that shows you how close you are to meeting each goal. They also have incentive badges that you can obtain for meeting daily, weekly, and life goals. Between my two FitBit trackers I’ve logged 250 miles of walking/running on them now, and this ‘badge’ is displayed on my dashboard. You can also friend other FitBit users, and it will show you their steps in relation to yours, which is fun to create a little rivalry.

Dashboard - Goal Snapshot

Goals and progress.

Below the goals are detailed charts for each of the major activities that FitBit tracks. Very detailed statistics on caloric burn to five minute increments, when you climbed stairs, when you took the most steps, and what percentage of the day you were sedentary, active, or extremely active.

Calories burned.

Calories burned.

Steps taken.

Steps taken.

Time active.

Time active.

The food plan is below that, and it shows you how many calories left you’re able to eat, as well as other graphical views of your calorie status, and what your goals are for weight, and caloric intake.

Calorie gauge.

Calorie gauge.

The Body section shows your current weight, and details your latest results. There are also graphical representations of your current BMI and your weight goals.

Weight.

Weight.

Logging Food
The food section of the web application is huge. It allows you to log anything you’ve eaten, the quantity, and for what meal. It’s smart enough to know all the nutritional information, like calories, fat, sodium, etc. and will log all of this data, you just have to keep track of what you ate and enter it. I use Lose It’s application and like their food entry system a lot better, it’s just easier for me. It’s also nice because Lose It will sync this data from the Lose It application to the Fit Bit web site, this way I’m not having to enter it twice!

Logging Activity
If you wear your FitBit all the time, then theoretically you shouldn’t need to log activity, in fact if you wear the FitBit, AND log the activity, it will be essentially double counted. I’ve read that some people take off the FitBit when they swim for example (it’s not waterproof), and still want to log the caloric burn. The activity section allows you to log whatever you want. I don’t use this section at all.

Tracking Weight
The weight section of the logging tools provides a nice graphical chart of your weight logs, and your goal weight. It will even let you enter your body fat percentage if you know it. My scale automatically logs my data to Lose It, but this data does not yet flow through to FitBit. So this is one thing I have to remember to manually enter at FitBit, I guess I don’t really have to, but it’s nice to see the full picture on their dashboard. You can also see your BMI, and it will show your overall BMI change which is kind of cool to see.

Tracking Sleep
The sleep section is very similar to the dashboard view, and allows you to see your sleep pattern and also enter start and stop sleep times manually should you forget to track it with FitBit.

Journal
There’s even a section that allows you to journal anything you want to, whenever you want. There are options that allow you to note your mood, allergies, and any text notes you may want to add. This is not something I’ve used at all.

Heart
The heart section allows you to log your resting, normal, and exertive heart rates. I don’t use this feature.

Blood Pressure
Should you want to log your blood pressure, there’s a section to do that as well, and as often as you want. This is not a feature I’ve used.

Glucose
For diabetic users, There’s the option to log your morning, afternoon, and evening glucose levels.

Community
There’s a huge community of FitBit users. The community section of the web site houses a plethora of online message boards to discuss weight loss, the FitBit products, or just about anything that you may be looking to find related to health.

Premium Features
If you’re looking to get even more detailed reports, statistics, or other features, you can pay a monthly fee to expand the capabilities and services of the FitBit web site. This is not something I’ve elected to do at this time, and can’t really be an expert on explaining in this review.

The iPhone Application
If you have an iPhone 4S or later, you can directly communicate via Bluetooth to your FitBit tracker. There’s no need to have a computer at all! The application is pretty much identical in functionality to the FitBit web site, here are some screenshots of it.

iPhone Dashboard 1 iPhone Dashboard 2 iPhone Activity

iPhone Weight iPhone Food Intake iPhone Water Consumption

Alarm Settings FitBit Settings

The Good
The “One” does everything that FitBit advertises, it’s incredibly simple to use. When I get something like this, I ask myself, could the average user, or my mom be successful with something like this, and I feel like it’s that simple. It’s small, seems very accurate, and I like the fact that it will show a full day’s caloric burn vs. a program like Lose It that just shows food calories consumed minus exercise. The clip that it comes with it is designed well, and overall looks to be a better design that the original “Ultra”.

The Bad
Sometimes it has issues syncing to the iPhone application, it doesn’t happen very often though, and coupled with the USB dongle on my computer, it’s more of an annoyance at times than a ‘deal breaker’. It’s small. I’m afraid I’ll lose it. Other than that, it’s all good so far.

Conclusion
The FitBit One is a great tracker to carry around and gain insight into your daily exercise, calorie, and distance routines. The FitBit software, hardware, and web applications all seem to be top notch, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase FitBit products in the future! They also sell a wireless scale similar to the WiThings one that I own. I’d love to get my hands on one to review for a few months, but ultimately wouldn’t buy a second expensive scale. Hey @FitBit, send me a scale to review? 🙂

Get Rid of TV

About eight months ago, I did something drastic. I got rid of cable. I got rid of the boxes, the DVRs, and the hefty $150 a month cable bill. I only have Internet service, and I pay about $45 a month. Let me explain this to you, I was a TV junkie. I used to record so many shows, that my dual tuner DVR would be recording two shows, and I’d be watching another in the other room, while it was recording the others.

I never really realized how much time I had invested in front of the television, easily 3+ hours per day, if not more. I originally dropped TV to save money, but I got something back that’s even bigger, I got time. I really feel like if I still had cable TV I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, motivated to make big changes in my life, and losing weight.

Now, that I have more time I’m not chained to a television, I can easily spend more time working out, doing yard work, riding my bike, or spending it in the gym. It’s been a very empowering decision, one that I thought that I’d regret, but it has been one of the best ideas I’ve had. My kids don’t miss it at all, we still have Netflix and Hulu, and I do buy a season or two of some of my favorite shows that I just can’t miss. The upside is that even with Netflix, Hulu, and an occasional series purchase, I’m still saving a TON of money, and I have more time to focus on my goals.

So if your excuse is that you can’t afford a gym membership, or that you don’t have any time to work out, dump your cable, you’ll find the extra money for the gym and be able to pay for some alternative streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, Crackle, etc.) AND you’ll be saving money. Be honest about your TV habits, really honest, and think if that’s somewhere you could make a change. In our lives of DVRs and on demand TV services, there’s hardly a show that you really have to be sitting there to see when it airs.

You might laugh, but every now and then I hit the gym when a show I like is on, I’ll run on the treadmill and watch the world series of poker, or “Gold Rush” on discovery! Ask yourself this question, has anyone towards the end of their life ever said “I wish I would have watched more television?”

Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale

Hands down the tech tool I use the most, besides my iPhone and it’s applications is my Withings wi-fi body scale. I have to keep myself focused, and the biggest factor in that daily challenge is measurement. Whether it’s good news or bad news, that number that I see every day is one of the key factors that drives me to keep working at this.

The Withings scale is just a typical bathroom scale when you see it sitting on the floor, but there’s so much more to it. It has wi-fi networking built into it. When you set it up, you can have it join your wireless network, and the scale will get an IP address and be a client on your network.

So what? What does this mean? It means EVERY time you weigh yourself, the scale connects to your network and stores your weight data on the WiThings web site. Don’t worry it’s all secure, nobody can see your name or weight online. Knowing everyday that number will be recorded and stored, where I can see it and know that it’s always there, is a huge motivator for me.

The scale provides your weight, current body mass index (BMI), muscle mass, and fat mass too. There’s a wealth of information. Use the online web site to see your progress over time, or use their iPhone or iPad applications too! There’s even a way to link the data to your medical records with certain healthcare providers. I have not tried this feature, but I use the rest of them. The scale is smart enough to recognize up to 10 different people, which is nice if multiple family members want to use it. It will also graph and store this data online for those users as well. When you get on to weigh yourself, you’ll see your initials come up, or any three letters you specify to identify you.

One of the graphs from the Withings web site.

The Withings web site is an amazing online tool that shows your data graphically. There are several graphs and ways to slice your data and see trends and patterns. I’ve had the scale for quite a while, and I’ve been able to see patterns over time, around specific time periods where I get better at losing weight, and then times where I get worse. It’s interesting to see this kind of info, whereas you normally wouldn’t know.

One of the last things I like about the Withings scale is that it seamlessly ties into my favorite calorie and weight tracking application, Lose It. Everyday when I weigh in, that data is also synced to Lose It, and then the gain or loss is sent to Twitter. You can see it on the left hand side of the site.

It runs on AAA batteries, and it’s beyond efficient. I’ve replaced the batteries once in a year and a half. The scale is not cheap, $149, but I use it every day, it’s accurate, reliable, easy to setup, and motivates me. Is there really a price that’s too much for a product that accomplishes all of that? I don’t think so.

Nike+ iPod App & Running Sensor

One cool thing about having an iPhone is there are hundreds, if not thousands of applications for calorie tracking, weight loss, and food preparation. One of the apps I was most excited about when I started running were the Nike+ suite of applications for the iPhone.

The shoes are Nike+ ready!

I’ve had a pair of Nike running shoes for a while that had this Nike+ logo on the bottom. What I understood when I bought them, that these shoes had a Nike+ sensor BUILT into the shoe! Well I was a tad wrong, but I got it all sorted out. I first got the shoes, and fired up the Nike+ running application.

The application told me to walk around to activate the sensor in my shoes. I walked around a bunch. Nothing happened….. then I walked around some more… nothing happened. I started to doubt that the application was working, I restarted my phone, and fired up the application again. Nike+ told me to walk around to activate the sensor. I started walking around again, and… nothing. I must be doing something wrong I thought. I had ruled out the phone, right? restarted the phone and application. Maybe I had a bad sensor in my shoes? These shoes were not brand new, maybe if it had batteries, the sensor had gone dead? I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me, I was going to figure it out! I’m a geek, I couldn’t let a pair of shoes and a sensor beat me.

Sensor goes here.

I sat down, and took my shoes off. It didn’t make sense. My shoes have the Nike+ logo on the bottom. The engineer in me kicked in and I started to think about things logically. “Would Nike really put sensors in all those shoes? What about people that don’t even use them? It seems like a waste.” So I looked at the left shoe, and lifted the insole out.  Hey there was a plastic area that was hollowed out with something gray inside of it. I pulled out the grey piece, it was a piece of foam, but it was about the size that a sensor would fit in. I think I found where the sensor was supposed to go.

I started googling it, and found that yes, DUH, I needed to buy a sensor that fit into the shoes. I started to get mad, thinking it was probably like $100. I was able to locate one at Best Buy, for $19. I ran out and got it, opened the package, and slipped it into the cavity in my shoe. I replaced the insole, and fired up the application. After two steps the Nike+ application was registering my steps. I kind of felt silly that I was missing hardware… come on, I should have thought of that!

App looking for sensor.

It’s great for running on the treadmill. After a few runs, you can start to gauge the distance against what the treadmill says, and calibrate it so that it gets your running distance closer to what it actually is. The application runs on your phone, and keeps track of the distance that you run. I run with the phone in my pocket, and listen to music. You can reach down while you’re running and press the iPhone’s home button, a voice will tell you how long, how far, and what pace you’ve been running.

There’s also a “Power Song” option that you can set. So when you’re starting to get tired, and feel spent, you can have it play a song to energize you. It’s funny that when you have good songs playing, it really does help you lose focus on being tired and allows you to push forward. There’s been runs where I thought that I was done, and I’ve gone for my “power song” (Chemical Brothers – Galvanize) and been able to continue on. If your power song is “Oops I did it again” I won’t hold it against you. I need a song that’s energetic, and long so I can get back into my stride. What is your power song? Techno? Top 40? Maybe some old 80’s music?

The run screen.

During your run, you can press the ‘home’ button on the iphone, and the Nike application will announce your time spent running, pace, and distance. It’s nice to be able to hear where the application thinks you are in relation to what the treadmill says.

At the end of your run, you can upload the data to Nike’s web application for running where it will show you a statistical break down of all your runs, your pace, calories burned, and other great information. It’s really satisfying to see the cumulative miles you run add up and see the progress you make. The Nike+ web site which you upload data too has some REALLY cool stats. They have an achievement system that will keep track of things like your fastest mile, fastest 1K, longest run, longest time spent running, and there’s a bunch of celebrity voices like Lance Armstrong (maybe they pulled his now though) that congratulate you on your achievements and victories. I’ll review a second Nike+ running application for the iPhone in the future, that requires NO sensor in your shoes.

Here are some more screen shots from the application. It’s very simple to use, is one of my favorite tools that I am using right now in my weight loss goals.

Run summary.

The running program options.

The sensor.