Out of shape AWF - ISO wearable fitness device for long term partnership
June 8, 2013 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Seeking wearable fitness device, preferably one that integrates with Strava and more-or-less automatically dumps all the information into some centralized web-accessible resource. I've looked into the Fitbit Flex, the Jawbone Up and the Nike Fuelband and I'm now suffering from option paralysis. Should I aim a level up? Special snowflake details inside!

Before I began reading reviews I figured I'd buy the Fitbit Flex, but after reading them I am suffering Option Paralysis.

Background: I am about as out of shape as a 42-year-old woman can get. I am by technical definition obese. My physical activity is minimal - 12 miles round trip per day bike commute 3-4 days a week, plus occasional 3 to 4 mile walks in my pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.

I began using Strava as a method to track my biking and have found it extremely effective in improving my speed; the persistent awareness that I am measuring my ride and can check later to see how I did encourages me to go faster. I love how it's automated and how I can just look online to check my performance on various segments, no manual data entry required.

Before I began using Strava I had considered getting a Fitbit Flex to track the number of steps I took in a day in hopes of getting into shape. The benefits of being able to check how my last bike ride went on Strava has led me to want some sort of wearable fitness device even more, in hopes that it would allow me to pull more fitness elements together and hopefully encourage me to work out more.

Many reviews, however, have indicated that you would have to be even more of a couch potato than I to get anything out of the Fitbit Flex. I'd also hoped that I could dump my Strava data into the Fitbit system in order to track another element of physical activity and compile it into one central place, but it doesn't seem like I can. I really like Strava and don't want to give it up.

I strongly prefer a wearable fitness device that is specifically on the wrist, because anything that clips to my belt tends to pop off and fall to the ground as I move about (see: obese, above). My personal style is sufficiently eclectic that, so long as it looks a little techno-funky I'm fine to wear it all day, including at work. However, I would like one that would allow me to integrate my Strava data and perhaps correlate it with my heart rate during a bike ride. And I'd like it to track other physical activity. Sleep tracking seems like a bonus that is not required. Ideally, it would all dump into some magical online central repository without much effort being required from me. Even more ideally, it would surface salient data points from the morass that would allow me to improve my performance or increase my activity.

Key element to the tech I'm looking for: I'm uncoordinated and hopelessly unathletic but also absurdly competitive. If I compare myself to my own personal records I can feel good and continue to advance; if I compare myself to others before I've achieved a certain level of mastery I invariably wind up comparing myself to the Michael Phelps of whatever sport I'm participating in and quickly give up. Psychological defect? Sure. I've tried to get over it unsuccessfully for at least 10 years and failed, hence all the out-of-shape stuff above. At this point I'd prefer to work around it and arrange for a setup where I'm competing against myself, because under those conditions I improve relatively quickly, am psychologically bolstered and am actually driven to work harder and more frequently at improving my performance.

MeFites, what are your recommendations?
posted by rednikki to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I know nothing about Strava, but I'm really into your question because just last week I put together my Borg Fitness ensemble and I'm VERY happy with the results so far.... TONS of data for me to pour over.

Here's what I put together.

1. Endomondo app for my iPhone 5.
2. Bought a FitBit Flex.
3. Bought a Wahoo Blue bluetooth heart rate monitor (HRM).
4. Bought a tuneband arm strap that mounts my iPhone on my arm for exercise.
5. Bought an LG Tone bluetooth headphones. It's lightweight, rests on your neck like a collar with earbuds, and you don't even realize it's there.
6. Installed the C25K app on iPhone.

I'll probably get this out of order, but here goes.... The Endomondo and FitBit accounts can be tied together so that they share data. The HRM shoves a ton of input to the Endomondo app. Endomondo will record any variety of activities from walking to running, biking, etc and then sync those activities to your FitBit account. I start up the Endomondo app when I start a run/walk, then start up the C25K app and start my music. Both apps provide voice input as to distance, heart rate, etc (Endomondo) and when to run/walk (C25K).

When I'm done, I can log on to the Endomondo website and there's a map of where I went on my activity, as well as a TON of metrics. Heart rate zones I was in and for how long, calories, altitudes, distances, a whole bunch of info to geek out on. It's actually pretty inspirational as everything is tracked to show trends, personal bests, etc.

Try it out!
posted by matty at 6:44 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have a FitBit One and I love it. Based on that, I am confident the FitBit Flex is worth a look.
posted by Silvertree at 6:50 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh meant to add...

I've tried the Nike Fuelband (worthless), Jawbone UP (pretty cool) and the FitBit Flex.

Hands down the FitBit wins for me... While the Jawbone was cool, it doesn't have the website like the FitBit - although it does sync with a lot of other apps like the FitBit does. Also on the downside... Jawbone doesn't do wireless syncing.

I'm VERY happy with the FitBit Flex so far....
posted by matty at 6:53 PM on June 8, 2013

I've had the Fitbit One for over a month and it really does make a difference in my activity level. I was already running several days a week, so I wasn't at couch potato status. I have found, however, that the Fitbit motivates me to boost my non-workout activity. It's funny, my house is actually tidier because I'm more likely now to put stuff away because I know it will earn me a few steps.

In terms of which one to choose, I am happy I went with the Fitbit because it offers one feature the Jawbone Up doesn't (the Fuelband wasn't in my consideration set because I don't like the proprietary "fuel" count): bluetooth syncing. I like that I can just open the Fitbit app on my iPhone and see right there how many steps I've taken. It becomes kind of a game. If I had the Jawbone, which requires taking off the band and plugging it into the phone, I think I'd sync less often and, as a result, stay less motivated to track. Also, the Fitbit integration with MyFitnessPal is seamless.

The one thing the Jawbone Up has that the Fitbit doesn't is the sleep cycle alarm clock. I wore the Fitbit to bed a few times but, without the sleep cycle alarm function, it didn't seem that useful.
posted by missjenny at 6:56 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry to keep commenting, but wanted to touch on what missjenny just posted. I wear my Flex on my left wrist... I actually caught myself switching a bag of groceries from my left hand to my right today so that I'd be sure to have my 'steps' counted as my arm swung back and forth!
posted by matty at 7:03 PM on June 8, 2013

I'm gonna jump back in, too and say that I wear my Fitbit One on my bra. I just clip it right to the center part and it stays super snug and totally incognito (and I don't have a whole lot to hide it, ifyouknowwhatimean).
posted by missjenny at 7:06 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's a good article comparing various devices.
I went with the Jawbone Up, because I wanted a wrist device and I liked the sleep tracking features. I've been really pleased with it so far, but had the Fitbit Flex been available at the time, I might have gone that route.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:10 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should also add that the lack of a wireless sync hasn't bothered me. I've gotten into the habit of syncing it regularly throughout the day. It seems natural to plug it in right after walking to see how many steps you've taken, and first thing in the morning to check my sleep stats. The other think I like about the jawbone app is that it has a barcode reader on the food tracking section, so if you've just eaten something that comes from a package, you can just scan it to find it in the food database to log it.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:17 PM on June 8, 2013

There was a fair bit of discussion on Fitbit vs the alternatives in this recent MetaTalk thread seeking Fitbit friends.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:20 PM on June 8, 2013

I love my Jawbone Up. Biggest perks for me-

-you can set an alarm so that the band vibrates after you have been idle for xx minutes. I'm in front of my computer for long stretches of time, and this has been very helpful.
-Looking at my sleep habits has been very interesting.
-I like personalizing my goal for how many steps to take each day. I usually plug it in to update around dinner time. The data definitely influences how long of a post-dinner walk I take my dog on.

Downside--I haven't worn a wristwatch in 10+ years. But somehow my brain equates something on my wrist = watch. I *still* glance at it at least once a day thinking it will display the time (it doesn't). I think the Nike Fuelband does display time.
posted by aviatrix at 10:17 PM on June 8, 2013

Love the FitBit One.

I looked a the Flex to replace the 3 Ultras I lost in the past 2 years. I went with the One as it has an altimeter and tracks number of floors.

It really does help me get off my butt a bit more. And I like seeing my sleep data and other information. This level of tracking has totally been a net-plus in my life.
posted by chiefthe at 7:35 AM on June 9, 2013

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