Tag Archive: Gadgets

Some Experiments in Running and Technology

Okay, technically it was one experiment testing several hypotheses, but anyway.

Background for the experiment:

I used to run.  I had a Garmin Forerunner for a very long time that I loved very much and then I had a Garmin 220, which I also loved very much.  These both served me well before there were phones with GPS and apps and watches, oh my.  I also used to upload the data from these watches to the very awesome RunningAhead website.  I love the site, and especially the training log.   All my running data is on that site.

I now have an iPhone and an Apple Watch.  I haven’t been running, but I have become addicted to the “Activity/Move/Stand” stats on my watch and also some of the health stats like steps per day.

I also like to take walks and play Pokemon Go.

What I wanted to have happen:

I wanted to go for a run and NOT wear two watches (aka my Apple Watch AND my Garmin).  I wanted a way of tracking my steps taken during the run and have my run and steps count toward the Apple Watch activity/move stats.  I wanted a way to record all the great running stats that my Garmin normally tracks AND be able to upload it to RunningAhead.  AND, I wanted to play Pokemon Go during my run (gotta hatch those eggs!).  Oh!  And I also wanted training programs on the watch, like Couch to 5k or similar so I have cues to start/stop running.  No big deal, right?

Pre-experiment trial and research:

I tried a few apps with the watch to see what I could get out of the above requirements and had a really difficult time getting in all of my objectives.  If you open too many apps on the watch, they cancel each other out.  If I started Runkeeper and then the Workout app, Runkeeper stopped.  I tried different apps, same problem.  Then I found this awesome reddit thread, where someone experimented with several variations on recording a run and realized I needed to do.  Further research showed I could upload Runkeeper’s export to RunningAhead.  AND Runkeeper has several free training programs on the app.  Runtastic was in the running (pun intended) for a while, but their training programs all cost quite a bit of money.

Final experiment:

I loaded Runkeeper on my phone, which automatically loads it on my watch.  I made sure both were fully charged.  I started Runkeeper on my watch (but didn’t start a run).  I started Runkeeper on my phone in order to cue up today’s run per the training plan.  I tapped start.  I checked my watch to see that my watch was running Runkeeper, it was.  I went back to the phone and started up Pokemon Go.  I walked/ran for 34 minutes.  I ended the run on my watch.  Saved the run on my watch.  Sat down at my laptop, opened up Runkeeper.com, exported my run.  Went to RunningAhead.com and uploaded the file.

Experiment results:

Phone battery went from 94% to 55$ on a 34 minute run with Runkeeper running and Pokemon Go.  Obviously, this isn’t something I’ll want to do on long runs, but it worked and I’m happy.  My training run worked perfectly from the training plan on Runkeeper.  It “counted” on the Apple Health/Activity apps (and I’ll incidentally get two new badges this week since my run was included!).  Everything exported and imported beautifully to RunningAhead.  ALL OBJECTIVES ACHIEVED.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the results.  On longer runs, I’ll have to ditch Pokemon Go just for battery reasons, but I’m okay with that.  Extra super bonus that I’d love would be if Runkeeper could figure out how to get the running cues to use the haptic on the watch.  In a separate experiment I tried several apps to see if any of them would do that and none did.

Anyway, I’m back to running and hoping that all this technology keeps me motivated to stick with it.  Happy running!

I had no idea how much I needed this

Yep, put this in the category of “Things I had no idea I needed, but now I don’t know how I ever lived without it” – my new Apple Watch.

When they came out, I had very little interest.  First, I don’t wear a watch.  Secondly, I always have my phone next to me at all times, so a smart watch didn’t seem to do much for me.  Third, I have an awesome and dedicated running watch (and several different versions of things like fitbits that I never use), so the activity stuff didn’t do much for me either.  In the last few weeks, I started to get a bit more interested and considered buying one.  When I had a chance to buy one slightly used, I jumped at it.

I had the watch on for one day.  One day.  And I love it.  I can’t believe how useful it is and how much I already rely on it.  Some examples:

My car has bluetooth to connect to my phone, but it doesn’t always connect properly.  Half the time I can use the car controls to skip songs, but half the time I can’t and have to fiddle with my phone, which in New Hampshire is now illegal.  Apple watch has the “what’s playing” glance, so if the bluetooth didn’t connect properly from phone to car, I can just glance at my watch and skip the song.

I have a Ring doorbell.  When someone is at the front door, I feel a little pulse on my watch, which is actually less disturbing then the chime on my phone.

I get message alerts on my watch.  Now here’s the interesting bit.  I had zero interest in that, as I said, I always have my phone by my side, why do I need message alerts on my watch?  Well, let me tell you, it just gives me a little pulse to notify me and turns off the notification on my phone, while wearing the watch, which is automatic, I don’t have to turn it on and off.  That’s brilliant.  As I said about the doorbell, the pulse is way less annoying than any sound notification on my phone.  Especially when I’ve forgotten that it’s on and I’m on a conference call and my kid has decided to send me 10 texts.

And much like any Apple product, you can customize it, but you don’t have to.  The notifications all start with “mirror my iPhone” as the default, so I don’t have to set anything, unless I don’t like it and want to change it.

I realize I’m late to the party, but I’m extremely pleased with my Apple Watch, and I haven’t even had it 48 hours.  I’m looking forward to what else I can do with it.  Speaking of, have a favorite use for your Apple Watch?  Let me know how you use yours!

More on Nike Fuelband

I wrote about my new Nike Fuelband here.  Now that I have had it for a few weeks, I wanted to say a little more about it.

I love it!

First, the battery life.  It lasts roughly 9 days per charge.  It charges up pretty quickly, and has a nice little reminder indicator as it is getting low.  For something I am using all day, every day, that seems pretty good to me.

I wrote about Nike Fuel in that post.  When you first activate your fuel band, you are asked to select a goal.  I picked the lowest goal “suggested”, which was 2000.  (Remember, these are not calories, but “Nike Fuel”, a converted number so anyone with a fuel band can compare on equal footing).  Sadly (and a bit surprisingly) I did not easily meet the lowest suggested goal every day.  Many days I had to do a little extra to meet it.  But in a way, that was exciting, that meant that thanks to the Nike Fuel band, I was moving a little more each day.  Also, that I wasn’t as active as I may have thought.

After a week at 2000, I increased it to 2100.  We’re doing baby steps here, people.  I made my goal every day except one!  Where I missed it by 7 measly fuel points, and only because I wasn’t paying attention and midnight passed me by before I noticed.

They track some fun stuff, for example my best day was 3,194.  I’ve hit the 10k, 25k, and 50k Nike fuel milestones.  My average day is 2,300.  I can track my fuel against Women age 30-39 and the entire Nike+ community.  I see I lag them in most fuel in a week, and average fuel per week, but I am smoking both comparisons in daily goals hit.  So no surprise there, I may do a little less, but I’m consistent.  Still, it’s motivation to beat out the comparisons in all categories.

So here I am at 27 days with the Fuel band and I still love it, and I still wear it, and it’s still motivating me.  I’m increasing my goal to 2200 today.  I’m hoping to increase 100 points every week or so.

Anyone else got one?  Want to compare stats?  Let me know!

Nike+ Fuelband

I recently received a Nike+ Fuelband (thanks Paul Steel!).  If you haven’t heard of it, it is a small wristband (slightly thicker than those Lance Armstrong type bands) with a three-way accelerometer to track your  movement throughout the day.  Go here for more info from Nike+.

It measures steps taken, “Nike fuel” (more on that in a second), calories, and displays the time.  You can connect the band to your PC or Mac via USB, or wirelessly sync to the iPhone/iPad app via Bluetooth.  From there, you can track your stats, share with friends, and earn badges/streaks, etc.

So what is Nike fuel?  A way to evenly compare activity.  A person weighing 100 pounds is going to burn less calories than a person weighing 300 calories even when they’re both just sitting on the couch.  So calories is an unfair comparison.  And not everyone does the same sports, so to say I ran a mile means nothing to someone who plays basketball for their activity.  Supposedly Nike fuel is a measurement that is equal for everyone, so you can start getting competitive with your friends.

You can pick a daily goal, and of course you get little visual rewards and badges for reaching it.

I am not so into the competitive thing.  So sharing to Facebook and comparing numbers with friends doesn’t appeal to me.  I do like having goals however.  And I really like getting rewarded for getting to those goals.  Now I’ve only had the Nike+ Fuelband for 3 1/2 days, but already I have walked a little more, or run a little more, or gone up and down the stairs a few more times, just to hit my daily goal.

Doing a little more is a big deal for me, as I’ve recently found myself in a bit of an exercise rut (and at the same time have found myself up quite a few pounds from my normal weight).  I’m looking forward to earning more badges, and maybe losing a few pounds in the process.

Now, if someone could just invent a gadget that measures everything I eat.