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

Re-post: A Kick in the Butt

While cleaning out my Google Reader subscriptions in preparation to move to another RSS reader, I came across this post I wrote for the non-extinct Cincinnati Losers blog a while back. I recently added a piece of technology that builds on what I discuss here. I’ll be reviewing it very soon.

Four years ago, I weighed 281 pounds. For the second time, Tom and I began a liquid diet through a local hospital and, by April of the next year, I weighed 221 lbs. for a loss of 60 lbs total. (You can read about our journey on that diet at Diminishing Returns.)

As of this morning, I weigh 303 lbs., 22 lbs. more than when we started the liquid diet four years ago and 82 lbs. more than my lowest on the diet. A lot of things happened between then and now (my mother died, we started blogging about beer, my work stress level got even higher), but it all comes down to me and what I was doing. Or rather, what I wasn’t doing.

In the beginning of 2009, I started training for walking the Flying Pig half marathon in addition to continuing our water aerobics. I got all the way to walking 8.5 miles one Saturday. But, I made the mistake of walking in cold, damp weather with a chest cold. It got much worse and I got to stop training for a while to recuperate. The slide that had already begun got steeper at that point.

Since that point, I have started and re-started SparkPeople more times than I can count. Last year, I was asked to join Cincinnati Losers and I managed to post all of two times. Our trips to our local Y to do water aerobics got so infrequent that we tried taking the months of January and February off this year to see if that would help push us a bit when March arrived.

All this time, I kept thinking something’s going to happen to get me back in the weight loss mode again. I won’t buy new clothes so I’ll have to diet to fit in the ones I have. Yeah, right… That didn’t work. When I go over 300 pounds, it will shock me into losing weight. Well, that happened in last September and I’m still there.

It was a conversation on Twitter that made me think I need something more. As you’ve already read, I’m not shy about sharing my weight unlike most people I know. About a year ago, Leo LaPorte of the TWiT Podcast Network was talking about the Withings Scale on This Week in Tech. This scale can be set up to send your weight directly to SparkPeople or even tweet your weight. In my search for the something that will make me get serious again, I bought one and set up a twitter account for it – https://twitter.com/#!/carlas_scale. I was talking with someone who was interested in the scale and he mentioned being reluctant to tweet his weight. I pointed out that “Not saying the number out loud doesn’t make it not true.”

That phrase kept sticking in my mind. And then, over this past weekend, I realized why certain diets and plans worked for me and others didn’t. I need accountability. Not so much public humiliation, but being held accountable for my actions. So when Shannan asked about creating a Facebook fan page for Cincinnati Losers, I was one of the first to say “YES!” I need that kick in the butt every once in a while that gets me back on track. I need to know that someone is paying attention and someone is watching my journey.

So, I’m asking… both my fellow Cincinnati Losers and those of you following us on Facebook… please ask if I got to the Y this morning. And have I tracked my food on SparkPeople. And did I get my water in today. And, most of all, please kick my butt when the need arrives. My goal is to make it a smaller target to kick as each day goes by. Many thanks in advance!

– Carla

Walking: In Water

So, today’s update is a bit of a good news, bad news thing.

Good news – I made it to the pool five times last week for a total of 255 minutes of water aerobics and 2,397 calories burned. (Thank you SparkPeople for doing those calculations for me!)

Bad news – In order to not re-injure my heel before my Disneyland trip, I’m going to have to put my walking regimen on hold until I get back.

The reality is that I really wasn’t ready to start a walking program like Ease Into 5K yet. I was just too out of shape. As Tom said at the pool this morning, I needed an Ease into an Ease Into 5K program. And that’s exactly what the water aerobics is for me. It’s the exercise I like the best and it’s the one I keep doing once I get back in the rhythm. And, to be honest, I burn more calories in the water than I do walking.

Once I get back from Disneyland, I’ll probably re-start the Ease Into 5K program. I do like it very much. I just wasn’t ready for it.

— Carla