Category Archives: Gear

Review: Tuvizo Reflective Vest

When running in the dark as the season changes, it’s often most convenient to just grab something reflective, throw it on, and go run.

A lot of running clothes have reflective options, but they can come at a premium. This can really get expensive quickly. Especially when you have to buy high end items like new jackets and other winter gear. This is where a product like the Tuvizo reflective vest comes in. It is a very functional device that you can wear over the gear you already have and remain visible.

Tuvizo reached out to me to try out their running vest. We were unsure of what size I should use because there is some overlap and I fall in the middle, so they sent me both sizes of the reflective vest to compare.

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This was a good idea because it enabled me to see how each would fit, and I have to say, very well. I tried the S/M/L first and wore it with a Brooks running jacket and Under Armour fitted mock and it had no trouble accommodating me. I am fairly large at 6’2″, 195 lbs and wear a large t-shirt. The vest fit with plenty of slack.

I then tried the second vest the next night. This time, I was only wearing an Under Armour fitted Mock. I wanted to see how loose the much larger one was. This one cinched right up just as snug as the other. So, if you are in an area that gets extremely cold and have to wear very thick jackets, you may want to opt for the larger size.

What I liked about both vests were how easy they are to snug up. I don’t like to run with anything loose because it can cause chafing. With the Tuvizo, on the sides by the buckle, I just had to move the buckles and then pull the straps into place. I had them fitted to me in less than 20 seconds, and I’m the type who can get easily confused.

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Another feature I liked were the clasps. Sometimes gear like this is cheaply made and the clasps can come unsecured when you are shifting around or brush against it. This clasp closes up and you have to actually insert your thumb or finger into the top and squeeze both tabs for it to release. It’s very easy to do when you intend to, but won’t easily come apart accidentally.

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The actual elastic fabric is of a good quality. It is thick and feels very well made. I doesn’t seem like it will fray or lose it’s elasticity over time. Actually feel that I could strap a water bottle or the like to it and it would support it fine.

All in all, I think these vests are a really good buy at around $25 for such a versatile piece of equipment. You can wear one with anything and have it for years to come.

The vest is currently exclusively sold at Amazon and you can get it through my affiliate link below:

 

Review: FitBit Charge – Return of the Force

This may be the quickest review I have ever written. “Fitbit created a device. Fitbit recalled the device. Fitbit fixed the device and released it under another name for the same price. End of Review.”

I’ll start with a little history. Late in 2013, Fitbit released the Force. It was an update of the Fitbit Flex that added a screen to see your exact progress throughout the day and the ability to track stairs. It essentially was a Fitbit One combined with a Fitbit Flex. The other two features were automatic sleep tracking and incoming caller id when paired with an iOS device. The Caller ID feature was not available out of the gate and added later in a firmware update.

Then in February 2014, Fitbit made the surprise announcement that it was recalling all Fitbit Force devices due to many users suffering skin irritation as discussed in A letter from the CEO.

On October 27th, Fitbit announced three new devices, the Fitbit Charge, the Charge HR, and the Surge with the Charge HR and Surge being released in 2015. The Charge is available now.

What is the Charge? Well, it is the Force with a new band, better clasp and bit wider. If you own a Fitbit Force and have no skin issues, you have no reason to upgrade.

The Charge is .83 inches versus the Force at .75 inches or 2 millimeters wider (21.1 vs. 19.1). The Fitbit Flex is .6 inches or 13.99 mm.

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The clasp on the Fitbit Force was a source of aggravation as well. It was very easily unsnapped causing people to drop the devices frequently. The new clasp has addressed this and is much more secure. As can be seen in the image below, the new clasp on the top has the posts farther apart and a little thinner. They do noticeably hold the band together more firmly.

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As far as the rest goes, I have trouble finding differences between the devices. The software is the same as you can see below (Notice the firmware):

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It does seem like the Charge connects and syncs a little faster with the phone, so there may be some hardware tweaks inside, but really, the Fitbit Charge just seems to be the Force completed.

This makes it a bit less exciting. Technology has changed over the past year and Fitbit seems to have not put forth the effort to grow with it. One example is the fact that the Charge is still not waterproof. The Charge is also still priced at $130. This makes it tough to recommend when you have the Garmin Vivofit which has just had a price drop to $99 at Clever Training and on Amazon (both links are affiliate links which will give me a small commission at no cost to you).

Another troubling development from Fitbit appears to be a dispute with Apple. Apple featured Fitbit at the 2014 World-wide Developer Conference (WWDC) which is a major boon for most companies as shown on the below slide from The Verge article Apple HealthKit announced: a hub for all your iOS fitness tracking needs.


After receiving all this attention, Fitbit mysteriously confirmed that they were not actively developing for Apple Healthkit as reported by MacWorld in the article Fitbit says no to Apple’s HealthKit for now. In response, Apple has pulled all Fitbit devices from their stores as documented in Apple Insider,

Considering that other players like Garmin, Jawbone, Withings, Strava, MyFitnessPal etc are all working with Apple HealthKit, it is hard to recommend staying with Fitbit at this point.

Review: Moov Activity Tracker – A FitBit with a bonus coach?

The Moov activity tracker was launched 02/27/2014 with a crowd funding campaign. They did the crowd funding on their own site, rather than using Kickstarter, FundAnything, IndieGoGo, or another crowd funding tool. I was super excited about the possibilities and signed on 2/28 as an early backer.

Gizmodo did a nice writeup Moov Might Be the Most Advanced Fitness Wearable Yet about the device and the company when it was announced in February 2014. The article is worth reading for more history and explains that one of the three co-founders, Nikola Hu was a former engineer at Apple who also worked on the Xbox HALO series.

The Device

The premise behind the Moov is that it will do far more than just count steps. It combines three sensors (magnet, angular rate and gravity sensors) in proprietary manner to create a “9-axis sensor.” This sensor can track the actual motion of movement. Their site states this technology is mostly used in strategic missiles — I like to think of my movement being compared to strategic missiles – powerful. Using an app, this data is interpreted and used to coach an athlete.

The initial app is for running, but Cardio Boxing is now out and there are others in development including swimming and cycling. Their timeframe for release according to the post When will more Moov apps be released? site is as follows:

iOS:
Swimming (late October)
Cycling (November)
Body Weight (December)

Android:
Apps for Android will be released in stages, the first of which, the Run & Walk app, will be released in November. Other apps including Cardio Boxing, Swimming, Cycling and Body Weight will be released 3 months after the iOS release.

Moov Run & Walk was released in July 2014. Cardio boxing will be released in September and the rest of the apps will be released one after the other with a month in between.

As an early backer, I received my Moov device in August and didn’t get the opportunity to really try it until September. This is my experience using it.

Unboxing

The unit comes in a nice looking box. Very Apple-like. It’s a box with a wrap around sleeve.

When opened, after pulling the paperwork, you see the Moov device on display.

The Moov itself is not too large, about the size of a small watch. Here it is with a quarter to get a size impression.

Underneath the Moov, there is are two bands. One for the wrist and another for the ankle. In the other compartment is the charging/sync cable.

The Moov snaps into a cradle at the end of the cable to charge.

When you have the Moov fully charged, you connect it to your iPhone. You will need to have downloaded the appropriate app. Currently that’s Moov Running and Walking or Moov Boxing – Cardio Punch. I tested with Running and Walking because that was the only app available at the time. I was planning to also test Cardio Punch, but having two Moovs is recommended, so I will hold off on that.

After downloading the app, it’s really simple to connect. First, create an account or connect to Facebook (that’s what I chose). Then, fill out your information and press finish.

Then you will be prompted to Press you Moov to connect and it will appear as an option. You can give it its own color and then press Go!

For running, you will need to use the ankle strap. It is definitely noticeable, but many people think us runners are weird anyway. What’s another piece of gear?

As soon as you hit the Go! button, you will be prompted to Allow Location Access. If you are on iOS 8, you will get a second prompt for you talk allow GPS access when you are not in the app.

Once you have granted access, you have four workout types from which to choose.

These are described in the app as follows:

Brisk Walking will challenge users with high cadence intervals. Fit for those looking to maximize their daily walks by increasing step count and calories burned.

Running Efficiency will train you to run further for the energy you expend and turn you into more efficient runner. Made for those who want to run long distance.

Sprint Intervals will challenge users with high speed, high cadence intervals. This program is for those looking to get the most out of a quick workout when time is limited.

Speed Endurance will coach you to run further and faster through intervals that challenge you to sustain a target pace. This program is for those looking to increase their personal running records in marathons, triathlons and other races.

I only worked with the last three workout types.

When you choose one of the workout types, you will be asked a multiple choice question. These are shown below in the order previously listed.

How you answer the question will determine a starting level for the workout. The levels have a pretty broad range. In order to change them, scroll up and down on the screen. When your desired level is highlighted, release and wait for a second. The results will appear.

The images below show Running Efficiency options. If you choose Too Easy, you will start out in Level 3 and you have options all the way to Level 16. You can see that the intervals are quite a bit longer.

Levels can also be chosen for Sprint Intervals and Speed Endurance. Sprint Intervals have a ranges from Level 1 with 5 intervals of 30 seconds each at a cadence of 170 spm to Level 46 with 5 intervals of 2 minutes each at a cadence of 215 spm as shown in the following images:

Speed Endurance Intervals have a ranges from Level 1 with 3 intervals of 437 yards each at a pace of 13:00/Mile and cadence of 150 spm to Level 69 with 3 intervals of 1 mile each at a pace of 3:22/mile and a cadence of 180 spm as shown in the following images:

The mile pace for Level 69 of Speed Endurance intervals is quite hilarious considering the world records are as follows according to Wikipedia:

The current mile world record holders are Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj with 3:43.13 minutes and Svetlana Masterkova of Russia with the women’s record of 4:12.56 minutes.

Obviously it will be a while before anyone will be training at Level 69.

My Run

As an endurance athlete, I started out by choosing Running Efficiency.

Warmup was 2 minutes. Woefully short. This is a real concern to me. I believe that warmups need to really be much longer. They also can be enhanced with some dynamic stretching. I would recommend doing a warmup before running with the Moov. That will eliminate the concern. Here is an excellent article by Jeff Gaudette of Runners Connect: 3 Common Myths About Warming Up Before a Run (and How to Make it Work for You).

When I was running the intervals, a voice that sounds like Siri starts prompting you. If you are on track, there is a chime to help re-enforce your effort.

I got to hear the voice a lot. As I was running, I kept hearing that my cadence was low. Very low. Sometimes as low as 90 SPM (steps per minute). Then a few seconds later, I would hear that it was dead on. I would also hear that I was moving too fast. This was a challenge. When I increase my cadence, I run faster. I resemble what Alex Hutchinson of Runner’s World and Sweat Science and Pete Larson of RunBlogger have shown in their studies about stride rate and pace in these two posts The problem with 180 strides per minute: some personal data and Running Speed: Human Variability and The Importance of Both Cadence and Stride Length.

The Moov is set for arbitrary speeds and cadences. This makes it very difficult for me to dial in to the proper speed and stride rate. I wound up being constantly reminded that I am going too fast, or that my cadence is too slow. It can be a challenge. I really would love a way to customize the program.

I am embedding my marathon from earlier this year to demonstrate my average pace and cadence. You will be able to see that my pace is relatively quick at a moderate cadence of 164 average. I am 6’2 and this definitely may be a factor.

This is the workout I did with the Moov. My cadence was increased and my pace was quicker. This causes me to be reminded that I am running too fast to maintain the pace. It’s flattering, but persistent.

Another fluke was that even when I was told that my cadence was too low, I would look down on my wrist and see that my cadence was dead-on, or even higher. I would be running with a cadence of 178-182 according to my watch, the Fenix 2 (with Running Dynamics) and the Moov would be telling me that my cadence was 134 or the like. This happened frequently. However, I will say in the end, the outcome was pretty similar when I compared the results as shown below.

 

Battery Life

This is a real standout because they must have injected some real magic. From what I have seen, the battery life is pretty stellar. I only used the Moov for three workouts on two different runs, but that was well over a month ago and the battery is showing over 40% as I write this.

Conclusion

The Moov is a really interesting device with a ton of potential. Since it is controlled by software on the iPhone, I feel that they can modify the app to make it a true companion for extended training.

I think that the Moov can be especially helpful for those who are just starting out running. While the voice prompts can be frequent, they really do help keep you in focus with your form and activity with helpful guidance to pick up your feet and run lighter. I also like the G-Force measurements because the amount of impact can be detrimental to your legs. Running is a high impact sport and any way new runners can learn to lessen impact from the start is very welcome. This actually helps experienced runners as well.

If they were to add a way to customize the length of intervals and the paces, this would be an indispensable device that I would use for most tempo runs and the like. I am eager to see what comes out of development and in future updates to the app. I see the promise of it and with a few tweaks could grow to love it.

I also will be testing the cycling and swimming apps when they are released. Since I am a newer rider and a hopeless swimmer, I hope to benefit from the device. I am really curious about how it will give feedback for swimming. I don’t have waterproofing for my headphones or iPhone. That app may have to be different.

The Moov can be pre-ordered through this link https://moov.cc/getmoov/5DF0A58A07. That link also gives me a $5 credit toward a second device so I can review Cardio Punch later. Thanks for your support.

Five Running and Riding Gear Items for Fall

As Daylight Savings Time is coming to an end, it’s time to start thinking of colder weather and shorter days. Here are some gear items I used to get through the season.

1. Knuckle Lights – I cannot praise these lights enough. I am someone who cannot stand wearing a headlamp. It makes me crazy and gives me a headache. Plus I find it tiring on my eyes as the light bounces around. And if that’s not enough to make it tough, I seem to keep hitting reflective surfaces and blinding myself.

Enter Knuckle Lights. I first heard of these on the Marathon Training Podcast, a forerunner to Steve Carmichael’s RunBuzz Radio. After he described them, I immediately went out and got a pair. They may be my favorite piece of winter running gear.

I run in an urban environment that is kind of unique. It is combination of city, a college campus, a hospital and a decommissioned military base. By being such a varied environment, there are different lighting conditions. I have street lights for big chunks of my route, but there are dead areas within. I also have some really dark areas as I get out to the end of Fort Monroe. The knuckle lights offer great versatility.

When I enter a dark area, I simply click on one or both lights and see my path. I love the fact that they light the path and don’t bounce off of hard surfaces back into my eyes. I also like that there are two, so if the batteries die in one, the other is likely to be available. This has happened to me in the past.

2. Nite Ize LED – Nite Ize sells several products that help you remain visible when out riding or running. My wife made it clear that I will not be riding my bike especially without being visible. The Nite Ize make me look like a Christmas tree, but I think I would rather have the red lights on my bike and person instead of the top of the ambulance as they take me away. I use the four lights to the right. The SlapLit lights I wear on my ankles when riding. I wear the helmet light on my bike helmet. The Clip-on marker I wear on my backpack when I am carrying stuff, otherwise I wear the Sport Belt.



3. 180s CRG (Convertible Running Gloves): I got these gloves last year and they were wonderful. They are a combination of very light running gloves and mittens. The mitten part folds up into the glove when not being used, but pulls over the fingers to block the wind and add warmth when needed. Believe me, these are warm. What is wonderful is that they cover you for a wide range of temperatures. I have worn them from the 10s – the 40s F. They also have terrycloth on the back where you can wipe your nose. Unfortunately I can’t find the pair I own any longer, but they have an updated version that includes an LED light on Amazon.

4. Brooks Men’s LSD Lite Jacket III: Where I live in Hampton Roads, VA, we usually have moderate winters with a few days of real cold. This jacket is a wonderful ‘tweener. It fits somewhere between cool and cold when you where something warm underneath. The biggest benefit is that it does a nice job of blocking the wind. I like to wear it with an Under Armour Cold Gear Fitted Mock. This combination keeps me just warm enough, but if I feel like I’m going to overheat, I can pull the LDS jacket off and tuck it into my waist pouch or vest. I also have worn the Jacket in snow and light rain. I will warn you that it is water resistant, not water proof. But worn with a running cap and the hood up, it helps keep the water out of your face.

5. Brooks Running Head Gear: These next two items, I alternate back and forth depending on the weather. These hats I especially like because of the Brooks’ motto “Run Happy.” I sometimes have to remind myself to do this when the weather is terrible. The Wanganui Fleece Hat is quite warm, but light and breathable and the Run Happy Mesh Cap is really good to keep rain or sun out of your eyes. I wear mine year around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: All of the links on this page are affiliate links and I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you when you use them. Thanks for your support.

FlipBelt Review – It’ll fit the iPhone 6 Plus

 

Like I found with LaceLocker, sometimes the simplest ideas make the best products. In a day when we are trying to figure out how to carry many varied items, it can be a struggle. We often have to leave something behind.

For example, when I ran my first marathon, I had to make some decisions. Do I want to have my car key and all the gels and skip my iPhone, or do I want to leave a couple gels out. I wound up putting a couple in my short pockets and hoping for the best.

That’s where FlipBelt comes in. It is a really simple concept. It is a band made of EPA Certified, Odor Resistant, Pilling Resistant, Anti-Bacterial High Tech Poly Spandex Fabric as described on the product information page.

All along the belt, are slits that act as pockets. This offers an ingenious method of storing items like your phone, keys, gels and more. There are even hooks to help prevent your keys from slipping out.

One thing really nice about the setup is that the FlipBelt will hold a smartphone quite securely. It also allows you to shift it to nearly any location along your waist. This is especially important if you are using bluetooth headphones like the Thump BLU. You may have to place the phone in a good location to prevent clipping.

Perhaps the most important feature is that the FlipBelt will fit many different sized phones. I tested it out using my iPhone 5s, but with the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus just introduced, I was very concerned about how I could carry them. So I tested with a co-worker’s giant phone – the Samsung Note 2.

Even though FlipBelt does not claim to fit the Note 2 in their FAQ (with some qualifications). I was in fact able to fit the phone — although the FlipBelt looked like a snake consuming prey.

With the iPhone 6 Plus being even thinner than the Samsung Note 2, it should fit in the FlipBelt. It may be a little bit of a squeeze, but the FlipBelt is a definite accessory you can use to carry it while running.

The only issues I can find with the FlipBelt is that it is a quick wicking material and will absorb your sweat. After a hot run, mine becomes a DripBelt. So make sure that you put your electronics (i.e. phone) in plastic bags if that is an issue. They also claim that they will provide a free plastic bag with your purchase in their FAQ, but when I went to the checkout, I only saw the option to buy a three pack. I will email support about that.

Overall, the FlipBelt is a very good product that serves a need for flexible, light storage. It is very comfortable to wear and delivers on its promise.

FlipBelts can be ordered at flipbelt.com or from Amazon below. I will get a small commission for the sales.

 

 

Sof Sole Running Select Sock Review

I managed to score a couple pairs of these socks at the Expo for the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll Half Marathon. I was nervous about fit because I am a size 12 shoe wearer, but use a size 13 running shoe. They were kind enough to let me open a pair and try them on the spot. They fit great, so I bought two packages of 2 pairs each.

I was a little worried and restrained myself from buying more. Because sometimes socks fit well   fit well at the store and then give me problems on the run.

I wore them on a 10K training run and they felt great. I didn’t want to drive down to the convention to get some more, but I really liked the socks and the price, so I got my buddy to pick up three more packs. He got two of his own on the recommendation as well.

As a Swiftwick customer, I found these socks to be comparable or even superior at a bargain price. They are less than half the price of Swiftwick.

They have a very comfortable form-fit that is snug around the arch of the foot without being too tight. The top of the socks have a very breathable mesh and stay very cool. And I like the slightly extended top that helps protect the achilles tendon from rubbing, not to mention prevents the sock from getting pulled down into the shoe.

The socks worked out so well, that I raced in them the next day for the half marathon. The race was a disaster, but the socks worked out great.

They come in multiple colors and are available at https://sofsole.com/product/running_select.

Pafers XSPIN/XKIT – A Tracker for Indoor Equipment? [Updated]

It was with great excitement that I read about the Pafers XSPIN on Gearist in the post Winter Fitness Survival Accessories. A device that worked with elliptical trainers and stationary bikes using iPhones and Bluetooth LE to track workouts. Ah, such great promise. But such a challenging experience to set it up. This was so drawn out that I will have to heavily edit myself or this could become a novella.

 

UPDATE

In the next section of this review, I describe the difficulties I had getting a reading from the Pafers XSPIN. This was due to my installing it incorrectly. It has to be installed to have radial movement. I had it installed 90 degrees off. This was pointed out to me in the comments for which I am thankful.

 

I connected the XSPIN to my elliptical trainer in the manner shown in the directions. It was clear of any bar and could spin full rotations.

Next I had to connect to an app. The Pafers XSPIN comes with two apps Cycle on Earth and CycleRush2. My experience with Cycle on Earth was short lived because I was aggravated immediately.

When the app is opened, the default profile is Guest as shown above on the left. You can fill it out with your information. The problem? When you leave the screen and come back, it reverts to Guest. Extremely annoying. I moved on to CycleRush2.

In order to get the full benefit of the device, I wanted to track my heart rate as well as my speed and cadence. This involved getting a Bluetooth Heart Rate strap. I bought the least expensive one that I could find, an Oregon Scientific SZ999.

$32.36

It was a great price and it connected to Strava, Runkeeper, Runtastic, MapMyRun and other apps. The one app it wouldn’t connect with… Yep. CycleRush2. I had to get another Heart Rate strap. This time I got a Polar H7 figuring that Polar is likely the most compatible strap out there. After all, they did introduce the first wireless heart rate monitor.

It was picked up immediately and I could pair it with no problem. So I then hit the button on the XSPIN and selected it as well. It gave me the option for either a bike or an elliptical and I chose the elliptical.

I decided to use one of the built in classes. Chose Rookie’s Ride from the Beginner section. It looked like a good 30 minute workout which should give me plenty of data. And I started my workout.

The workout was short lived. Almost immediately I had problems. The app was not picking up the cadence sensor consistently.

I got the message that it was unable to get the sensor data. Then there would be an RPM value, then it was 0. The heart rate was reading just fine. It picked up my spikes from annoyance right away.

The elliptical itself of course was showing my RPM just fine.

After moving the iPhone all over the place trying to get a consistent signal, I started to get desperate. I held the device in my hand and while using the elliptical handles. Surprisingly, it consistently read the RPMs. I got industrious and strapped it to the handle using velcro tape.

So I was off and running. I was going to get a full workout in and have some lovely data to track finally right? I wish. First I had to get set up to collect the data. The CycleRush2 app allows connectivity to Facebook, Twitter, Runkeeper and DailyMile. I was happy. I have a Runkeeper account along with DailyMile. I connected to them and begin the workout.

While working out, some good data is available. The display shifts between Speed, Watts (it actually approximates a power meter), and Distance. The RPMs and Pulse remain constant along with time elapsed.

As you progress in the workout, the bars fill up and you move to the next one in the sequence on the bottom of the screen. Between each target, a screen appears with a graphic of a rider on a spin bike. This display advises the Target RPM and Resistance settings.

During the workout as well, you can shift the bottom half of the screen to look at the progress of the workout. The screens show the average heart rate, the RPMs and the recommended resistance for each stage completed.

So far so good. A lot of great data is being collected and displayed. After 30 minutes, the workout is complete and it’s time to send the information to RunKeeper.

The workout does not automatically share to any of the services when complete. You will need to go back into History, pick the workout you wish to share, and click the SHARE button on the bottom.

Once the workout has been imported into RunKeeper, you have the ability to change the type to Elliptical.

But that isn’t enough to be excited about. Remember that heart rate? Gone. All the other info in the workout? Gone. The only thing that comes over is the bare basics of the workout. That, and a truly over the top pre-populated message:

I just finished the “Rookie’s Ride” Beginner Class with Cycle Rush 2. It’s the best indoor cycling app with great music tracks with 27 audio-guiding training programs. Download the app and try it now!

The message is just ridiculous. The initial message when connecting to RunKeeper is even worse:

THE BEST APP FOR INDOOR CYCLE TRAINING HAS ARRIVED! Cycle Rush 2 provides a gym-like experience without needing to leave home. The app is packed with great features that will keep you both motivated to work out and on track with your fitness training. Cycle Rush has lots of GREAT features: **Professionally recorded training music tracks** **In-session audio coaching** **Compatible with Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Sensors and Cadence/Speed sensors** **27 training sessions in 5 levels** **Exciting training music tracks**

I am a believer in plugging your product, but that is just ridiculous. I have an idea, instead of writing over the top ad copy to insert into Runkeeper, how about if you send the freaking heart rate? Sound good?!

Well, obviously the CycleRush2 app and Runkeeper won’t work for the tracking purposes. We have to come up with something else. Sadly, DailyMile does’t offer much more.

That means another app will be needed. When I was researching the XSPIN, I read that it was compatible with Strava. That sounded fine because I already have a Strava account and you can always export a workout from the tool by adding /export_tcx to the end of the url. That will download a TCX file that is compatible with most online services.

So, I connected Strava to my HRM and the XSPIN. Both were detected and the RPMs were available. I started working out. I was going nowhere. No distance was being recorded. I touched the screen and confirmed that both devices were being read.

I started researching the problem. It appears that Strava will not track a workout without a GPS signal. REALLY?! Are you kidding Strava?! I guess no one is supposed to work out indoors.

Well, time to move on yet again. The cash register rings and I get MapMyRide.

Both sensors are picked up and it has no problem tracking indoors. It even offers to turn off GPS tracking on the phone during the workout. Very courteous.

The screen display changes to reflect Distance with Duration, Current Speed with Calories, and Current HR with Cadence. Everything I could ask for. And when the workout was completed, all the information was both retained and viewable. But there is no real way to get all the data out. MapMyFitness only likes to export GPX files which just show the route.

Time to move on yet again. Next app up is Runtastic Road Bike. What’s that sound we hear? Oh, yeah. The cash register again.

I decided to try the free version and of course, as soon as I started to connect the sensors, I was informed that I would have to pay for the Pro version. So I coughed up the cash and bought it. It picked up my HRM, but alas, it would not pick up the XSPIN. Moving on again.

This time I decided to look at Digifit. I quickly saw that I would have to pay to play and gave up.

Late breaking news!

The hero Mike Palumbo created a MapMyRide conversion tool. He writes about it in his post MapMyRide to Strava.

Maybe he saved the day. The plot thickens and this journey will continue.

 

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Garmin Vivofit, or Farewell to my FitBit Flex [Updated]

It pains me to say, but I think I am moving on. I have been using a Fitbit device every day since January of 2012 as I mentioned in my two podcast appearances on RunBuzz and Everyday Runners. It was a critical device that combined with MyFitnessPal enabled me to lose substantial weight and ultimately become a runner.

But, sadly I have now gone through 3 of them and they are not cheap to replace. The first one a FitBit Ultra literally broke to pieces and I had to strap it together with packing tape. The second one, the FitBit One squirted out of the stupid belt clip and vanished into the ether. And now the third one, a FitBit Flex will not hold a charge. Of course I am outside of any warranty.

This got me looking around and I started to really wonder about the Garmin Vivofit. Pete Larson wrote the review Garmin Vivofit Activity Tracker Review: A Runner’s Perspective and that sent me into action. I had a rewards kickback from BJs and they just started carrying them, so I decided to try one.

Since I am already in the Garmin ecosystem, it was really the only other option for me (I had a Striiv for a while and had a terrible time with it).

Since I am a bit obsessive about my step tracking, I decided to wear both of them on my wrist for the rest of the day when I bought the Garmin. Then I decided that I really should keep wearing them both overnight and all day the next day so I could get a true side-by-side comparison. My wife thought I looked quite silly, but she is getting more used to my foibles.

The first day I wore them together, I didn’t do any running. The step count was extremely close Fitbit 6127 and Vivofit 6105. Now, I did have to bounce the Vivofit up and down just over 2000 times to get the steps to sync when I got the new device, so obviously, it’s not apples to apples.

On the second day, I started to see the real differences between the devices. First, the way they handle sleep tracking is different. Fitbit gives specific data along with graphs while Garmin Connect only shows a graph. I find this to be a real shortcoming for the Vivofit.

Vivofit sleep information appears on Garmin Connect. It looks nice, but lacks the specificity of Fitbit.

Notice the problem with the type of data. The chart on Garmin Connect looks nice, but it lacks details. This causes the results to be misleading. If you go by the Garmin Connect chart, I slept 7 hours and 25 minutes. A decent nights sleep — I prefer 8, but can get by on 7 fine.

But the Fitbit data shows a different story. It has a total of actual sleep being only 6 hours and 43 minutes. This is a big difference. It also gives actual times awake and the number of times being restless. You can try to extrapolate this information from the Garmin chart, but why?

Since Garmin has the data to make the chart, why can’t they just provide the raw data?

The stats also diverge when it comes to trends over time. Garmin gives the very basic number of hours.

Fitbit on the other hand gives very specific information. I find it remarkable that Garmin makes watches that track numerous variables like heart-rate, cadence, time, distance, and now even vertical oscillation, VO2 Max and ground contact time. Yet, they give such rudimentary information for the Vivofit. It’s almost like there are different development teams for each device. Hopefully this changes over time.

Moving on to step tracking. This gets interesting. On day two, I ran just over 6 miles and had both devices on. The rest of the day was moderately active. Fitbit steps versus Vivofit. They don’t exactly line up (Fitbit is on the left).

There’s almost a 2000 step difference or nearly a mile. What is really interesting is that I decided to compare the Fitbit app alone using the M7 chip in the iPhone 5S against the Garmin Vivofit. The resulting discrepancy is reversed as shown below.

The difference is nearly a mile and a half… How far did I walk? I have no idea. I guess I will just have to try and make it a lot and let the differences sort themselves out.

When it comes to a step breakdown throughout the day, Garmin Connect does an excellent job of displaying data.

You can easily see how your activity is spaced throughout the day and each bar displays actual numbers if you hover. I especially appreciate the Breakdown screen which offers a basic snapshot of activity balance in a day.

Fitbit does a great job as well, giving a straightforward view of activity throughout the day, but I give Garmin the edge.

Another option that both Fitbit and Garmin Connect offer are badges. I stopped tracking my Fitbit badges a while ago because I have had one a long time and attained many of them.

My Garmin badge collection has just started, so I’ll have to see what they offer over time.

The big differences between the Garmin Vivofit and the Fitbit Flex has to be the screen and battery life. The Vivofit has an easily readable screen that even has a red bar that builds across to help inspire the wearer to get moving.

The Flex has a series of dots that symbolize 2000 steps for each. The Vivofit also has screens to display the number if steps away from your goal, the number if miles, calories burned, time of day, and date.

For me, the blockbuster feature that has sold me on the Vivofit is the amazing battery life and the fact it is replaceable. The Fitbit Flex has a built in battery that I had to charge every 4-5 days. Of course, it would lose it’s charge at the most inconvenient time. I would forget that I had it charging and then start walking around without it — thus not tracking my steps.

Garmin claims that the Vivofit battery can last up to a year. If it only lasts half the time, that’s a huge win for me. Plus, the battery is replaceable. Maybe I won’t have to replace this device. I can just change the battery.

It wasn’t an easy decision to go with the Vivofit, but the battery life is what ultimately won me over. Now I just have to find more stepping friends who have the Vivofit…

For an extremely thorough review of the Vivofit and it’s functionality, you may want to check out DCRainmaker’s Garmin Vivofit In-Depth Review.

UPDATE: Ray Maker aka DCRainmaker also reported that you can get the Vivokeeper, a free safety band to prevent the clasp from popping apart accidentally for free from Garmin.

You can purchase the Vivofit from Clever Training now for $99. I receive a small commission for any that you buy at no added cost to you.

Vivofit available now at Clever Training
Vivofit available now at Clever Training

 

LaceLocker – One less thing to worry about

Sometimes, the highest praise I can give something is that I don’t notice it. It seems contrary, but it’s often true. Brilliance comes with the obvious. If you can look at something and say, “well, that’s obvious and someone would have come up with it in anyway,” ask yourself why no one has. That is good design.

LaceLocker is a simple product that perform a basic task – you just attach it and forget about it. Here is their video that sums up the process of putting them on your shoes. The video is 18 seconds long and a fair gauge of how long they take to install.

StashSports sent me a pair to try out for review. After receiving them, I decided to use them on three different pairs of shoes made by three different companies to see how they performed with different footwear.

I started with my Brooks PureCadence 2s. As you can see, they hold the laces in place and when I ran, there was no flapping about. Overall they were a great success – super match.

However, when I used them on my Saucony Kinvara 3s, they don’t fit quite as well. They only held on to one row of laces. The tongue holder prevents the device from sliding under a second row, and it’s not quite long enough to catch the third row. I wear a size 13 running shoe, so that may not be an issue for smaller feet. Also, even though it was only being held with one row, it did hold the laces securely for a good 10 mile run with some definite headwinds. It just wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing.

For my third set of shoes, I chose my Altra Torins. On these shoes, the tongue holder was in the way again, but there was plenty of room to slide it under on the side. Again, the laces stayed in place and there was no trouble.

I really like the fact that I can move the LaceLockers from one pair of shoes to another with ease, so one can buy a single pair and get full utility out of them if on a budget. I think that they are priced very well and can represent a savings from having to buy special non-slipping laces for each pair of shoes. I also like the fact that you retain the ability to retie and adjust your laces quickly. When I have my shoes double-knotted, I have to almost make sure that they are welded perfectly in place because I won’t be changing the configuration any time soon.

The product is actually so simple that I could have summed up the whole review in a short tweet – “LaceLockers, they’re simple and they work.”

They can be purchased for $7.95 and up on their website – http://www.lacelocker.com/purchase.html.

One interesting option is that they allow custom orders – http://www.lacelocker.com/customorders/ That could be a really neat item given out at races.