Measuring every aspect of our lives with wearables

Being an avid runner (to be honest travel has stalled my training of late) I thought the recent infographic from Freescale, the official sponsor of the Austin marathon, was pretty interesting. I know a number of people that wear Garmin or Soleus GPS watches on their runs, others that have adopted Fitbit or the many other activity tracking devices. Preferring to run with an old school stop watch I’m still very impressed with the positive changes in behavior these devices result in for many people. It’s the combination of the device, the easy access to information via phones and of course the web that make them so effective. The infographic below highlights most of the devices in this area (from GPS watches, to activity trackers, to weight scales) so I won’t try and describe each of them.

Over dinner at a recent work event I was talking to a collegue who uses a Fitbit. With daily steps targets, and ability to easily know what his activity level is at any give time he described how he would decide to add a 30 minute walk over lunch if he didn’t get in what he needed to in the morning, or extend his run after dinner at night. This combined with an improved diet allowed him to reduce his weight in a controlled and steady manner. That individual story, and the impact convenient information that fits in with peoples daily routines makes me a believer in the future of these connected activity and health monitoring devices.

Garmin Vivofit Application Screenshots

Garmin Vivofit Application Screenshots

For me, training with Rogue Running in Austin I know I’m getting enough activity with a group that runs 50 to 90 miles a week (I’m on the lower end these days) so I haven’t had the need to track my activity. But I am getting curious about these devices will continue to evolve and work into helping people improve their performances in addition to the positive impact they are having on general health already.


Running Garminless a little more

I’m glad and somewhat surprised that I’ve been able to ignore and even not run with the Garmin after I bought it. I set a goal for not using it on critical runs where pace is a big factor, so I can run by feel and not become a slave to the geek-o-meter. The tempo run course on Shoal Creek when we ran it had cones at every mile mark and instead of using the Garmin for the mile marks I used the cones Steve set out, next time I won’t wear a Garmin at all but a regular old stop watch. On my runs I also don’t use the Garmin for instantaneous or lap pace, I look at it at each mile when it auto-laps to see where my pace is and then adjust if I need to.

This weekend is our first “key workout” (a.k.a. Soul Buster). It’ll be 20 to 24 miles with 6 to 10 at marathon goal pace. The MGP portion starts 8 miles into the run and Steve plans to have a cone at the 8.5 mile point and then at 10, 12, 14 … The cones may not be dead on but it’s close enough and in the ball park. This Saturday for the run I plan to use my regular stop watch, the same one I plan to run the Portland Marathon with and the Garmin will be charging at home. It’ll be a good test of where I really am fitness wise by trying to go on feel and not pace. Of course, I think enough people around me will have a Garmin so I probably will know what pace I’m running 🙂

Garmin 405: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly (Product Review)

I’ve gone for years without wearing a Garmin or other gps device to track my paces or distances. Earlier this year I finally took the plunge and bought a geek-o-meter, more specifically a Garmin 405. This post is about two things, one what it’s like to run with a geek-o-meter and then more specifically the Garmin 405.

Running with a Geek-o-Meter
I’ve dreaded buying a gps watch, mainly because I don’t want to become a slave to the watch on what paces I’m running. As you may have guessed from the title of my blog I have a reputation for being able to lock into paces. My reason for getting the Garmin was to run more varying paces and not get locked into my comfortable paces. I wanted to be able to know if I was really getting out of my comfort zone … yes not a normal reason.

I have the Garmin configured to show me my lap paces (each mile), and then the current lap and overall pace. I don’t have it show me my immediate pace since I think I can manage how I feel. I have decided that I won’t wear one on races though or during track workouts.  Even with my attempts at not relying on the Garmin I have to say that I do rely on it now more to know what pace or effort I’m running, something I used to be able to do without needing a GPS before.

The Garmin 405
The 405 looks like a regular watch. That’s a definite highlight. Now for the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

  • Size like a regular watch
  • Lots of settings and customization options to change what information is displayed on the screen and options to have upto three screens you can go between … you should be able to have whatever you want show up
  • Good integreation with a website to log your runs (includes, mileage, splits, map) (see an example)
  • Transfer of data to you computer wirelessly (mac and pc)

The Bad

  • The placement of the button to lap versus start/stop seems to be the opposite of other stop watches.
  • Getting all the settings correct can take some time, especially if you’re not into gadgets
  • Digits on the screen when you have two or more things displayed can be a little small. Stop watches for running seem to have better sized numbers.
  • Turning on the back-light makes use of the bezel. The bezel with it’s touch feature is how lots of navigation is done.
  • Locking the bezel  requires pressing both buttons, but that for me ends up stopping the watch … annoying

The Ugly

  • The watch fritzes out when it gets wet, pretty much when you sweat. After about an hour, the bezel stops working at times and a few times it’ll just start beeping and switching screens on it’s own
  • The getting sweaty wet on some recent runs at the end of the run the button to stop the watch hasn’t been working immediately

Even though it looks like there are more “Bad” then “Good”, that’s me being picky and the Good items out weight the Bad … BUT and it’s a BIG BUT  … the Ugly is too much to ignore.  If I had it to do again I wouldn’t buy the Garmin 405 until they figure out the issues with the sweat and the bezel freaking out.  But for now since I have it I’ll keep wearing it on easy runs, but not on track workouts and definitely not during races where that last thing I need is to worry about my watch freaking out on me.