This and Fitbit (maybe) being hackable may lead to the end of my dual fitness tracker days. I’ve got years of data invested in my Fitbit, but it’s only a matter of time. Fitbit can integrate with my Apple watch and maybe keep its spot in my pocket. Or it can compete with my Apple watch, in a drawer somewhere.
Try as I might- and my love of all things Apple mandates that I try- I just can’t get excited about the Apple Watch. Granted, I haven’t worn a watch in decades, but I have worn a Fitbit for over two years and track my exercise and sleep patterns daily. So while I’m not a watch guy, I’m a prime candidate for a better and more powerful fitness tracker, with communication and timekeeping features to come along for the run. The thing is, based on everything I’ve read, the Apple Watch (at least in the absence of an associated iPhone) doesn’t do much from a fitness tracking perspective that my Fitbit One doesn’t already do. Sure, it tracks steps and stairs, but it has no independent GPS functionality and, because it is not waterproof, it doesn’t significantly increase the universe of activities I can track. Let’s take a look at some things the Apple Watch can do all by itself, without relying on a nearby iPhone.
1. It can tell the time. Well, that’s great, but I don’t want a traditional watch and if I need to know what time it is, my Fitbit One can tell me. As an aside, I can’t remember the last time I was working out, didn’t know what time it was (or close enough), and just had to find out the exact time. There are clocks, other people, and the sun, everywhere.
2. It can play some of your music and show you some of your photos. OK, I’ll admit the music capability is intriguing, especially if it includes podcasts, which comprise 95% of my workout listening. The thing is, none of this streams. You have to create some sort of playlist and store it in the 2 GB of space available on your Apple Watch. Maybe, in theory, that would be awesome. In actuality (based on my history with iTunes playlists), I might do it once or twice, and then never again. As far as photos, if I were to list the things I want to look at while working out, my iPhoto library would be at or near the bottom. And if I were to list the manner in which I want to view photos, on a watch-like size and form factor wouldn’t even make the bottom of the list. It simply wouldn’t occur to me.
3. It can track your heartbeat, steps, stairs, and stand-sit ratio. Granted, my Fitbit One does not (at least as far as I know) have the ability to track my heartbeat or stand-sit ratio, but it tracks steps and stairs just fine. If the Apple Watch had the ability to record and display my route (e.g., independent GPS functionality), that would be an improvement over my current process (my Fitbit can’t do that either, so if I want to I have to use my iPhone). I suppose it would be nice to monitor my heartbeat, but that single additional feature isn’t going to get me in line to buy one. I can see data that roughly correlates to my stand-sit ratio via my Fitbit dashboard. In other words, these are relatively small and incremental gains that don’t seem like enough to warrant a third workout device (along with my Fitbit and iPhone). Again, if the Apple Watch either allowed me to leave my iPhone at home or completely replicated and improved on the data tracked by my Fitbit, it might be a candidate to replace one or the other during my workouts. But it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. Sure, if enough third parties play ball, the Apple Watch will one day allow a lot of health and medical tracking, but that’s not something that affects my actual workouts, and by the time all the players are in place, there will likely be newer Apple Watches and all sorts of other options. In sum, I can see how the Apple Watch would appeal to people who are really into traditional wristwatches (except, you know, for the obsolescence problem), but I just don’t see how it is going to revolutionize fitness tracking.
4. It can use Apple Pay and Passbook. This is neat, I guess, but I’m a huge Apple geek and I have used Apple Pay exactly four times: twice in an Apple Store and twice in a Walgreen’s (and Walgreen’s makes you sign something, even when using Apple Pay, which is a huge buzz kill on the entire process). Nevertheless, I think Apple Pay is the future of mobile payments. So, if I were willing to bet my right arm on the future, Apple Pay might be the Apple Watch’s quickest route to my wrist.
Rene Ritchie, at the always reliable iMore, has an article today about the Apple Watch as your new fitness trainer. He makes as compelling a case as can be made that the Apple Watch will evolutionize, if not revolutionize, personal training. Maybe, but I’m not seeing any giant leaps forward, though I will admit that the potential for the Apple Watch to learn how to track your workouts more accurately over time is intriguing. Mostly, I see some incremental gains, some sideways leaps, and the allure of Apple. If I could swim with an Apple Watch, that would be one thing. If it could seamlessly manage my music and podcasts, that would at least replicate what my iPhone does now, on a smaller device. The fact that you can only shower with it seems like a missing feature, as opposed to a benefit.
Having said all this, I am realistic enough to know- and years of Apple experience has taught me- that feelings can change. It may be that when I see an Apple Watch in person, and put it around my wrist, I’ll conclude I can’t live without one. A year or two ago I would’ve told you that I will always be primarily a desktop computer user (long live the iMac). My retina MacBook Pro has since taught me otherwise.
But here’s what I do know. With the large majority of previous Apple devices, I have counted the days between the event announcing and showcasing the device and the day I could pre-order one. Alarms clocks were set. That’s not the case with the Apple Watch. I’m going to need some convincing.
I still love my Fitbit. My only complaint is that the device continues to fall out of the holder on a semi-regular basis. I had another near-loss at a gas station the other day. I’ve started clipping it on my pants pocket, with the device on the inside. Not the end of the world, but it makes it hard to check on stats during the day.
I thought about getting the new Fitbit wristband, but I don’t like wearing things on my wrists or fingers. I don’t wear any rings and take my watch off as soon as I get home. I’m also suspicious of its ability to accurately measure steps on a treadmill, where your arms don’t move as much (e.g., when you’re holding on to something trying not to have a heart attack, and so forth).
Pretty good week. The floor counts are wrong. Fitbit is great at tracking sleep, very good at tracking steps and miles, and terrible at tracking stairs. In no way. shape or form did I have a 50 floor day this week. Or ever.
Raina and the kids got me a Fitbit One for my birthday. I was skeptical at first, being a dedicated MyFitnessPal user (the iPhone app is phenomenal), as fitness tracking goes. But I set it up, clipped it to my pants pocket and have grown to love it. In fact, I have developed an involuntary pocket touch, to make sure I have it clipped on.
A Fitbit tracks your steps, stairs, distance, and estimated calories burned (as well as weight, BMI and a lot of other stuff I don’t track). Best of all, the Fitbit One tracks your sleep. Based on when I know I am awake, it seems to be amazingly accurate. It automatically syncs to your computer and/or your iPhone (via bluetooth). It generates daily, weekly and monthly reports, with lots of detail. Here’s a summary of my current weekly chart.
I woke up a lot Friday night, and fell below my typical 98% sleep efficiency.
It also awards you badges for the number of stairs and steps you take in a day. This sounds sort of dumb, but is strangely effective. I don’t often have a 40,000 step day, but I often do a little extra if I’m closing in on 30,000.
I still use MyFitnessPal to track my food and my runs and walks. But I have integrated my Fitbit into my athletic nerdity. It probably does more to motivate me than anything else. I believe the distance numbers it reports are a bit high, based on how far I run each day, but it’s close enough and clearly gives you a baseline to work towards or improve on each day.
I recommend Fitbit highly, but beware of its power. Once you get a string of high step days, the idea of missing a day is really troubling.
I was late to the reality show party, but at the same time I cannot stand it when a bunch of eggheads blather on about how reality shows are beneath them, and all that. I already have a job, so what I want from TV is entertainment. Mindless entertainment is much preferred over some high-brow nonsense that reminds me how much I hated all those books they made me read Cliff’s Notes for in English Lit classes.
So, once I discovered Survivor and The Amazing Race a few years ago, I became a fan of both. In fact, I bought bootleg copies of some of the old seasons that aren’t on commercial DVD.
I was even later to The Biggest Loser party. I started watching a year or so ago. First last season on TV (how awesome were Danny’s and Rudy’s final numbers!?), then a couple of seasons via iTunes, and finally some bootleg DVDs of other seasons.
Good stuff, and here’s why.
1. Physical Reality TV is My New Pro Sports
When I was a kid and a young adult, I loved pro sports. Football, basketball, baseball, I watched and followed it all. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being about the game and became about the bling and the money. That stuff doesn’t interest me. I still watch a lot of college sports, and a little Major League Baseball. But, other than the occasional game I attend for business purposes, I haven’t watched 5 consecutive minutes of an NBA game in close to a decade. After my fantasy football league folded last year, I didn’t watch one minute of an NFL game this past regular season. And only the second half of the Super Bowl.
Over time, reality shows that emphasize physical challenges have filled the void left by pro sports. Survivor (which also has significant outdoor and camping elements, which also appeal to me), The Amazing Race and The Biggest Loser have become my new pro sports.
And let’s not overlook the actual sports embodied in many of the challenges the contestants face. Marathons, rock-climbing, etc. The actual sports elements of The Biggest Loser are often more interesting that what passes for pro sports.
Which I guess makes Rupert, who I happily get to watch tonight, my new Kenny Stabler. I think that’s just fine.
2. It Generally Shows the Good Side of Human Nature
Sure, there’s a game element to it, and some people play the game full-on. But there are many more examples of people being supportive, and doing the right thing. Last season, among others, contestants actually asked to be voted off, because others needed more time with the trainers. People generally support each other, both physically and emotionally, which is uplifting. It’s nice to see people on TV making, for the most part, good decisions. Sadly, that’s a rare thing these days.
A related element I really enjoy are the emotional transformations people often go through while on the show. For many, weight gain is a symptom of some other problem. For others, weight gain causes emotional issues that further complicate recovery. I love to see someone get their head on straight while getting their body fit. Mark in Season 5 and Courtney in Australia’s Season 2 are great examples of this.
It’s really cool when these transformations are embodied in amazing feats. Consider Courtney, who faced- in epic fashion- a fear of heights.
3. It Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle
Without going into the rant that I could easily give, I think just about every single thing we see on TV these days promotes an unhealthy lifestyle in one way or another. So a show that teaches people how and why to exercise and eat right is a fresh and much needed change of pace.
I have learned a little about training, and a lot about nutrition from watching the show. My kids like the show for the drama and the excitement, but I have seen them, perhaps subconsciously, using things they learned from the show, in the kitchen and at snack time.
4. It is Great for Multi-tasking
One of my core approaches to life is to try to do more than one thing at a time, where reasonable to do so. I don’t have a ton of free leisure time, so what time I have needs to be used wisely. As a result, I watch the lion’s share of my TV in the garage, where we have set up a family gym. I can run on the treadmill and watch TV at the same time.
Some shows (think Lost) just aren’t conducive to multi-tasking. The Biggest Loser is perfect for it. Plus, you can’t help but be inspired to work harder when watching others working out.
5. I Really Like the Trainers
I really like Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels (even if she does make some interesting endorsement choices). I think they care deeply about the contestants, and I think they do a good job of being tough (in a world that needs a lot more of it) and supportive. I loved it when Jillian refused to back down from her statements this season about Melissa’s game-playing failure to lose weight while having immunity.
When I think of people who have positively affected a lot of peoples’ lives, Bob and Jillian always end up near the top of that list.
So, yes, I’m a Biggest Loser fan. Sure, there’s a lot of manufactured drama and a few too many tears shed, but for my money, it’s among the best entertainment out there.