Review: Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale

Review Fitbit Aria Smart Scale

Back in 2010, I purchased a Withings WiFi Body Scale. I liked the fact that it would record my weigh-ins via WIFI in my Withings account. Later on, I was able to link it directly to my SparkPeople account too. I even set up a Twitter account so that the scale would tweet out my weight. Shocking, huh?

But, by the summer of 2014, the Withings scale was starting to have some problems. It wasn’t working the way it should and it finally ended up in our eScrap recycling box. So, when Verizon Wireless offered a chance to try out a Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, I jumped at their offer.

Set-up for the FItbit Aria was much less complicated than the Withings scale. Basically, you just place the scale on a flat (non carpeted) surface within WIFI range and make sure you have the password for your WIFI network. The Fitbit software provided walks you through the rest of the set-up. If you need more help, Fitbit makes detailed installation instructions and screenshots available.

Already having a Fitbit.com account and the Fitbit app on my phone also helped with set-up. Once the Fitbit Aria was ready to go, I could easily see my weight and percentage of body fat either on the web or the app.

When you step on the Aria, it goes through several phases as it comes up with your weight and body fat percentage. Multiple users can use the same scale and it will sense which one is using it each time. Be sure to wait until the Aria tells you to step off so that it has time to send your information via WIFI.

The Fitbit Aria doesn’t support as many of the third party applications as the Withings scale, but it does work with both SparkPeople and MyFitnessPal among others. When I started using the Apple Watch instead of a Fitbit Flex as my fitness tracker, I just added the SyncSolve app for iOS to make everything work together. It’s not a perfect solution, but that’s a review for another day.

The price of the Fitbit Aria is about $30-$35 less than the current Withings scale. Both are high compared to a plain scale, but if you are interested in easy tracking, the extra cost of a smart scale makes it worth the money.

My only complaint is that for the body fat assessment to work, you have to step on the scale with bare feet. As someone with poor circulation in my feet, that means taking off my socks and then putting them back on to weigh myself. It’s a small quibble but it may be an issue for some.

When I was done testing Fitbit Aria, I did something I rarely do – I asked if I could buy it. That’s how much I enjoyed using this scale. It’s been a great addition that I am looking forward to using for a long time.

Review: Garmin vivofit

Garmin Vivofit - grey

When you think of the original GPS units, one of the first names you think of is Garmin. It only makes sense that a pioneer in that market would move into the fitness tracking wearable market. The Garmin vivofit is actually just one of their ventures into wearables.

Garmin Vivofit - black

Unlike most of the other wrist band based fitness trackers available now, the vivofit comes with a battery that lasts over a year so you don’t have to worry about charging it every few days. For many folks, that’s a definite plus.

Because of that battery, the display is on all the time which means you can easily look at your wrist to see your exact step count or by changing the display, the time. This was one of my favorite features since it means that the vivofit can replace my watch. There are six different screens available to display: time, date, steps, steps goal (seen above), miles, and calories burned.

In addition, the elongated red arrow at the top of the display is a reminder to the user to move. The long main arrow means it’s been an hour. Each little arrow in front of the long one means that another fifteen minutes has passed.

Another plus is that Garmin makes XL bands easily available unlike FitBit. I wish they sold you just one instead of three in a pack, but at least you can get them without jumping through hopes.

Garmin Vivofit - red

Like the FitBit and some of the other fitness trackers, the Garmin vivofit will track your sleep though the results on the phone app aren’t as detailed as the FitBit. Holding the button on the band takes you to the sync mode, then sleep (seen above) and finally pairing mode which is only used infrequently.

The Garmin Connect Mobile app is used with several different Garmin devices and I think that’s part of its downfall. I had problems pairing it to the vivofit at first, but discovered by dumb luck that being out of wifi range seemed to solve the problem. As I mentioned before, the detail available could be better, but to be honest, I’ve seen first.

Also, with the current version of the vivofit, the device does not automatically sync with the app. You have to open the app, put the vivofit in sync mode and then make the app sync.

Another problem is if you want to track your food intake with the Garmin Connect Mobile app, the only way you can do it is by using the My Fitness Pal app. As a long time user of SparkPeople, that’s a problem for me and from what I’ve read, it’s a problem for other people.

While researching this review, I discovered that the vivofit 2 is coming some time this first quarter. With it comes the ability to auto sync and it appears to have a way to more securely attach the band to your wrist. While you may want to wait for the vivofit 2, you can get a really great price on the current vivofit model right now.

My husband has had three FitBit units die on him so we’ve been looking for an alternative fitness trackers for him. After testing the Garmin vivofit, I think we may have found it.

Zombies Run 5K – Completed!

This past Sunday, I finally completed my eight weeks of training using the Zombies Run! 5K app. It felt really good to wrap it up and get ready to move on to the regular Zombies Run app.

I knew I could do the five kilometer length because I had done it before (soon after I wrote this post about my training). But one of the best things was that I also had my best pace of this training. In fact, my 18:40 min/mi pace was much better than my previous best of 19:03. And it felt good. That truly was the best part.

If you just did the math on when I started and when I finished, you may have noticed that it was longer than eight weeks. I ended up having to stop for over a month due to injury. Nothing serious, but I tried some different shoes that once again tore up my heels badly. In fact, six weeks later, I’m still having to cover my heels with large band-aids in order to be able to wear any walking shoes.

So, along with the red Fit-Bit wristband I treated myself to after completing the training, I’m also going to finally get some new walking shoes. I’ve got a recommendation for Tri-State Running in Edgewood, KY and hope to go there soon. I plan to take the two old pairs of shoes I’m currently using to show how shoes wear when I walk in them. Hopefully, they will have a solution to my heel issue. This keeps happening far too often.

I’ve purchased the regular Zombies Run! app and I was happy to see that all of my 5K training “runs” (I’m still walking) carried over to this app. I’m looking forward to starting this new program and hearing more about the adventures in Abel Township as they fight off the zombies.

Runner Five reporting for duty!

Zombies Run! App

More Thoughts on Walking and Zombies Run! 5K

Due to a bit of slacking off this weekend, I finished the fifth week of my Zombies Run! 5K training this morning. After my review of the app last week, I wanted to add a few more observations on using it as a walker.

Zombies Run 5K

1. I solved the problem I had with the app pausing over and over. Turns out the issue wasn’t the Mophie Juice Pack at all, but rather the juice pack headphone adapter. I ordered two replacement ones and they work like a pro. The old one has been pitched.

2. Because of my Chondromalacia patella, I am never going to be a runner. Even walking must be done carefully and usually combined with water aerobics.

Last year, when I was trying to use the Ease Into 5K app, I would try to walk faster when the disembodied voice told me to run. The problem was that I used up so much energy in those fast walks that trying to complete the entire workout was really difficult. One day, when the voice said to run, I said nope. And getting through the workout didn’t make me not to ever work out again.

With the Zombies Run! 5K, there are weeks where you are instructed to do heel lifts or leg lifts. While I ignored any run commands, I tried the lifts at first. But, I would lose my momentum and my pace suffered too. That’s when I realized what I really wanted to do was to build up my endurance and slowly pick up my pace.

3. So about my pace… Back when I was doing the training for Half Pig in 2009, my starting pace was about 18 min/mile and I was down about 16 min/mile after eight weeks of training. That’s when that nasty chest cold hit me hard and the few walks I had the next month were in the 17 min/mile range.

When I started doing Zombies Run! 5K, I was in the 21 min/mile range. This past week for the first time, I was under 20 min/mile for the entire week. That feels pretty good.

4. Before today’s workout, I got looking ahead to some of the future workouts. I’ve been averaging 2.66 miles in the 50-52 minutes allocated to the most recent workouts. I knew the last workout was a 5K so I wondered how much time was set for that. 51 minutes. Ouch. That means about a 16 min/mile pace. I don’t see me getting to that pace in three weeks.

But it did inspire me. Today, I concentrated on keeping my momentum up while adding on as many little side trips to me route to see how off 5K really is. Plus, when the workout was finished, I just kept walking. And I came really close. 2.98 miles or 4.8 kilometers. I can do this! Add another loop or two and I’ve got it.
So Wednesday’s workout goal is to reach 5K. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I think that’s it for now. And I’ve glad to get this written down. Even if no one else reads it, I have something to refer back to later in my training.

And if someone else does this? Hey, thanks! 🙂

— Carla

Review: Zombies Run! 5K

Last year, I tried out an app called Ease Into 5K. While it worked okay at the time, there were some things that I didn’t care for and I decided I wanted to try something else. A friend on Facebook recommended the Zombies Run! 5K app and I’m so glad she did.

Zombies Run 5K

The idea behind Zombies Run! 5K is that it puts you in the middle of a science fiction zombies story. You are being trained as one of the runners used by a post zombie apocalypse settlement in England to retrieve needed items like medicine, food and so on. The program is eight weeks long with three workouts scheduled each week. There is also an intro workout that provides you much of the exposition for the story plot. And the British accents just add to the fun for an Anglophile like me.

Zombies Run 5K Workouts

Within the app, each workout is represented by a notecard pinned on a cork board. Before you do that workout, you can see what it will involve. After you finish it, the card shows a summary of what happened during that workout and the date you completed it.

Zombies Run 5K Week 2 Workout 2       Zombies Run 5K  Heel Lift

Tapping on the workout card gives you even more information.  When there is an exercise in the workout, you are shown instructions on how to do it correctly. Then, you tap on the “Start Workout” area at the bottom and go to one more screen before starting.

Zombies Run 5K Start

This was one of the things I liked better than Ease Into 5K. You have the option of changing your playlist each workout instead of having to go to the Settings for the app to change it. The Shuffle option is really nice too. You can even choose no music if you prefer. I also appreciate the GPS check before starting.

Zombies Run 5K Log Story

After you complete the workout, you can click on the workout to see the log and story update. For more detail, synchronize your data with the Zombies Run! web site using Zombie Link. There is also information there on the more substantial training program you can use after finishing the 5K version.

Zombies Run 5K - Problem

The only problems I’ve had using Zombies Run 5K were caused by issues other than the app. As you can see above, the app kept pausing on me one day. Turned out that the problem was with the ear buds adapter I have to use when my iPhone is in the Mophie Juice Pack Plus case. By switching to another case that doesn’t require the adapter, the problem was solved.

This morning, I finished Week Five Workout One. Once I got really going with the system, I haven’t missed a single workout. The story keeps me interested and I keep walking. And that’s what really matters.

— CG

Review: FitBit Force

NOTE: On February 21, 2014, FitBit issued a voluntary recall for all FitBit Force units.

Tech Review FitBit Force

As the new year came along, there was a sudden surge in interest in some of my tech reviews, specifically my reviews of the UP by Jawbone and the FitBit Flex. But, wait! There is a new fitness tracking piece of wearable technology from the folks at FitBit. Behold, the FitBit Force. Thanks to Verizon Wireless, I was sent a demo unit to try out and compare.

For the most part, the Force has the same functions and capabilities as the Flex, but better. In addition to tracking your steps, distance, calories burned and sleep, it also tracks when you go up a flight of stairs. As you can see from the photo above, the Force is a bit wider than the Flex and has a watch built in. By pushing the button on the side (you can see it below), you can scroll through the information that you have to sync with your smart phone to get on the Flex. No more trying to remember what the dots mean. I was disappointed that the watch display wasn’t on all of the time, but I understand why. The battery life would drop dramatically if it was. But, I’d love to be able to make that choice myself. Perhaps on at work and off for night time. A toggle switch on the smart phone app would be perfect.

FitBit Force Cord

To charge the Force, you connect the cord that’s included to the back. Unlike the Flex, you can’t change your wristbands. You have a choice of black or slate and that’s what it’s always going to be. But the battery life for the Force is about double that of the Flex. That’s a definite plus.

Because I already have a Flex linked to my FitBit.com account and my FitBit app, I tried something different this time. I created a new account at FitBit.com for the Force and used the wireless sync dongle to sync to an older Windows laptop we had. Conclusion? Unlike the Flex, the Force is a great option for people who don’t have a smart phone. You get so much information displayed on the OLED display that having the smartphone app is nice, but not a must have.

FitBit Force Back

So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. If you’ve been on social media much or watching Good Morning America, you may have heard that some people are having problems with the Force giving them a rash. The issue seems to be with folks who have nickel allergies. The back connector where the charging cord connects contains some nickel apparently and is considered the culprit.

So, here’s my experience with the Force. First of all, I have skin problems to begin with. I’ve had eczema and acne all my life. I wore the FitBit Force on my left wrist for one week solid and never had an issue. In fact, because it was where I usually wear my watch, the skin on my left wrist was actually a bit better. Now, it may take more than a week for rash to show up, but I saw no irritation of any kind.

Recently, Time magazine did a ranking of 26 fitness trackers from worst to first. Of the three I’ve reviewed so far, the UP was ranked 8th and the FitBit Flex was ranked 6th. The top ranking fitness tracker? Yep, you guessed it. The FitBit Force. It’s that good.

I am actually getting my own Force as a hand-me-down from my husband soon. You know if I develop a rash later on, I will be sure to update this review. But, to be very honest, I’m really looking forward to having one of my own. Now, if they would only fix that watch issue…

— Carla

Review: UP by Jawbone

Review: UP by Jawbone

As you may remember, I recently reviewed the FitBit Flex and mentioned that I was able to track mine down at my local Verizon Wireless store. The kind folks at Verizon Wireless liked my (unsponsored, unsolicited) FitBit Flex review so much that they offered me an UP by Jawbone demo unit to try next.

The UP Health Wristband comes in five colors (light grey, blue, navy, light mint, hunter green, orange, red and onyx/black though many locations only have grey, blue & black), three sizes (small for wrists 5.5-6″, medium for wrists 6-7″ and large for wrist 7-8″) and runs about $129.99 most places I checked. The textured appearance, especially in the black, reminded many of the people who saw it to a tire. The color is solid and can’t be changed without buying another unit.

The silver JAWBONE cap you see above removes to reveal a mini-stereo plug that goes into the headphone jack of your smart phone to sync. It also connects to the charging cable (included). A quick review of Jawbone forums showed that there were many incidents reported of UP owners losing their cap. The Jawbone store online sells replacements in a pack of three for $9.99.

The UP by Jawbone is listed as water resistant, but several official comments on the UP forums said that you couldn’t swim with it on but you could leave it on in the shower. Some users reported being able to wear it in a pool with no problem. However, some also reported wearing it in the shower caused issues.

The demo unit I was sent was a large sized one which was good since I have large wrists. The spring motion that allows you to open it up to put it on also applies slight pressure at times.

UP App

The UP companion app is available for both iOS and Android. The colors are bright and bold and the app is set up like a vertical time line with your information. Swiping to the right makes your account information, lifeline, trends, team, apps, notifications and other settings available. Swiping to the left shows your goals, gives you the sync button, lets you set sleep alarms or idle alerts, use the stopwatch, take a power nap or log a workout or your sleep.

Food is logged by tapping the small knife & fork icon on the main timeline page. You can enter it manually, scan a bar code or take a photo of your food with your phone. Companion apps for the UP include RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, Withings, IFTTT, Wello, notch.me, Lose It!, Sleepio, Maxwell Health, CarePass, TicTrac and GymPact.


For me, I found the slight pressure from the UP wristband to be a bit annoying at times. I found myself taking the wristband to rub my wrist because I thought the skin was getting irritated.

While I liked the option of an idle alert or setting a power nap alarm, I didn’t care for the food logging aspects of the companion app and I could never get the “take a picture of your food” part to work correctly. I also thought the app was a bit garish, especially on iOS 7 now.

One of the interesting things I ran into was inconsistency on the number of steps counted. Since I’ve been wearing the FitBit Flex since June, I have a good idea of how many steps I take in a typical day. I wore my Flex on my right hand and the UP by Jawbone on my left. The first day there was a difference of 1,000 steps. I mentioned on Facebook that I only took the UP off to shower and someone asked how big my shower was! The next day, there was only a difference of 28 steps which made more sense.

I’ve tried to avoid comparing the UP by Jawbone to the FitBit Flex as much as I could. But, another post will be coming with a feature by feature comparison of the two devices. For me, since I need to be able to wear it in the pool, the FitBit Flex was the only choice. But the UP by Jawbone may be more to your style. My suggestion is to try them both on and see which one suits your lifestyle.

Review: FitBit Flex

Wearable computing is one of the hottest topics in technology right now and the health & fitness segment of this area is one of the biggest within that sector. Lord knows I love a gadget, but other than the occasional pedometer (which usually didn’t work correctly), I always passed on the various version of fitness wearable computing because they didn’t work in water where I do the majority of my fitness training. Until now, that is. FitBit recently released their new Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband and it’s water resistant! Finally, a fitness gadget for me!

FitBit Flex Tracker

I first got to check out the FitBit Flex when my friend Julie let me check hers out. I was a bit worried about the actual wristband fitting my larger than average wrist. Not to worry! Each FitBit Flex comes with both a small and a large wristband. And, if the large still doesn’t work for you, FitBit will send you an XL wristband just for asking (you do have to send them a copy of your receipt). The wristband comes in black or slate when you buy the initial FitBit Flex and you can buy additional wristbands in teal, tangerine, and navy as a three pack or individually online at the FitBit Store. The actual tracker (seen in the blowup circle above) can be easily moved from wristband to wristband. The tracker needs to be charge about every five days using the USB dongle provided.

For a while, it was hard to find the BitFit Flex in stores due to high demand. I wanted mine before a trip I had planned and it was quite the search to find one. Luckily, my local Verizon Wireless store had just got in two of them when I called so I snagged one up for $99. I also learned to check the Verizon Wireless store for more than just cell phones.

My trip was a travel agent training at the Disneyland Resort. Having previously done one in 2005, I knew that we would be walking A LOT so I knew it would be a great time to try out the FitBit Flex.

You can see how you are doing towards your steps goal by tapping the wristband twice. You can also put it in sleep mode by tapping it quickly five or so times. I have problems with that myself so I just mainly use the FitBit app (available for iOS and Android).

FitBit Flex App

By default, the FitBit app shows you your steps, distance, calories burned, weight, very active minutes, sleep and water. You can modify these as you prefer. One of the benefits of the FitBit Flex is that you can add non-walking/running activities on the app. Again, perfect for someone who does water aerobics like me. Yes, you need to enter your weight for the app to be able to correctly calculate how many calories you have burned. It will also track your weight if you enter it on a regular basis.

FitBit Flex Sleep

The sleep function is one of the best parts of the FitBit Flex. Ever wake up and feel like you didn’t sleep at all even though you don’t actually remember waking up? This will try you why that is. As I mentioned before, you can put Flex in and out of sleep mode by tapping it briskly about five times. When it is in sleep mode, two separated dots on the wristband will move from side to side. Warning! You can put your Flex into sleep mode during normal daytime activities by hitting against things like walls. Check it throughout the day and be sure to take it out of sleep mode as soon as possible.

The sleep monitor diagram shows you your periods of sleep, restlessness and being awake. It uses that information to tell you how much actual sleep you got the night before. This side view (just turn your iOS or Android device horizontal) gives you more information than the standard view.

The food portion of the FitBit app isn’t the best. But, because you can link your FitBit.com account with your SparkPeople account, I just let FitBit log my fitness minutes on SparkPeople and enter all of my food intake using the much more robust SparkPeople app on my phone. There are many other applications that you can link with your FitBit account. You can also add friends who have FitBits and see how they are doing each week. The web dashboard on FitBit.com is very nice, but honestly I mainly just use my iPhone.

I thoroughly enjoy using the FitBit Flex. It encourages me to park farther away and walk a little more each day. I even bought one for Tom so now we often compare steps and sleep patterns. I finally found the fitness gadget for me!

— Carla

Fat Person’s Clothes Dilemma

It’s August and it’s back to school time, even for college instructors like me. And, since my classes start in just a week, even I am thinking about whether I need some new clothes for the school year. But clothes shopping always leads to what I call the “Fat Person’s Clothes Dilemma” or FPCD.

First of all, understand that it is a rare person who is happy with his or her body when he or she is overweight. There’s always the next diet or the next workout plan hovering in your future and that will change everything (supposedly). But that uncertain future leads to unrealistic expectations related to future weight loss and what clothes sizes you can wear in the future. That thinking, in turn, leads to FPCD, i.e. “I’m going to lose weight so I should wait and buy new clothes then.”

Right now, I’m suffering from some of the worst FPCD I’ve ever had. I know I need to get some clothes that fit me better and generally look better than what I’m currently wearing. But I hate to shop as it is and the thought of shopping at my current weight makes me want to scream. Loud.

It doesn’t help that the clothes in women’s sizes seem to be made for short people. Short people who like sweatshirts with cat appliqués on them.

So, tomorrow, I’m going to try to find some new clothes. I can’t buy pants off the rack because my legs are so long, but I can try to pull together some pieces. At this point, I’m thinking tops and maybe some crop pants.

But I could use some help. What are some good pieces I should look for? I tend to wear neutral solids with one brightly colored or patterned item like a t-shirt or maybe a scarf. Should I be trying something else? Current plans are to start at Target, then jcpenney and finally Dillard’s.

God help me.

— Carla