This is the one: Connected scale edition (decision)

This situation escalated rather quickly. So last week:

  1. Monday: I log a return on Takealot for my previous scale. I had only used it about 5 times in the 4 months I had it. I could not get it to calculate my body fat % no matter how many times I reset, and it had somehow managed to drain its battery. When it showed my weight as 10kg less than it really is, that was the last straw.
  2. Tuesday:T he SO and I start researching alternatives. Some options appear promising, but we can’t really decide.
  3. Wednesday: I’ve chosen the Aria. I then remember that I’m kinda over Fitbit and I don’t want to give them so much money, so I change my mind to the Withings WS-30. I then realise that’s still more than I’m comfortable paying for a scale, so I settle on the Prestigio Smart Body Fat Scale, which is cheaper and does some nifty things like bone density mass as well. However, Computer Mania does not have it in stock, and the guy tells me that they are phasing out Prestigio items, so probably not the best choice.
  4. Thursday: I come across the Withings Smart Body Analyzer again, and discover that Incredible Connection is running an online promo for it. Which ends that day. The SO declares that since it’s for my (our) health, and since it’s top of the range it better bloody well last a long time, I order it.
  5. Friday: I pick up my scale.
  6. Fry scale


This is the one: fitness tracker edition #2 (review)

I’ve now lived with the Garmin Vivofit for just over 3 weeks, so I feel like I can say what I need to say about it now.

It is, quite possibly, 1 000 times better than the Zip.

vivofit  Greater thanZip

I’m not going to start moaning about the Zip again, but I do have to point out that these two devices are not in the same category. The Zip is an entry level device; the Vivofit is at the mid-high end. Comparing the two directly would be like comparing a budget Windows tablet hybrid to a current-gen iPad Air. Not that that has stopped anyone.

So, I will refrain from making the comparison, and focus purely on the features of the Vivofit. Again, I could never hope to cover the kind of detail that dcrainmaker does, so I will just detail how I have been using the device on my long fitness journey.

The Vivofit came with two bands, one for lady wrists, and one for dude wrists. I use the lady wrist one as my main band, switching to the dude wrist one when I’m boxing so that it sits on my forearm above my glove. It’s nice to be able to have a use for both bands, so it doesn’t feel like I’m wasting.

I leave the time screen on, so the band sits on my left wrist in place of my watch. I’ll cycle to the steps screen if need be, but I actually don’t get too torn up about number of steps any more. I glance over distance covered and calories burned with mild interest; those 2 figures never impacted me much anyway.

Which brings me to the main reason I bought this baby: heart rate monitoring. In conjunction with my Premium HRM monitor strap, I can now track my heart rate in real time. This became important to me because I need to know if my fat burning efforts were having any effect (they are).

When I box, I check the HRM screen to ensure that my heart rate stays within my fat-burning zone. My heart rate was maxing out at 189 bpm during a normal boxing session – signs of being unfit, and also far too high.

I do know that the fat-burning zone is somewhat a misleading term, but for someone like me, who has never had an exercise schedule and always detested any sort of sports, I need to have workouts which don’t destroy me completely. This is why I don’t do Tabatas for my entire workout.

Another reason I love the Vivofit is the fact that is is waterproof. When I swim, I make sure my ladders end at the shallow side, so I can get above the water so the heart rate signal can transmit.

When I sync the band using the USB dongle, I can view the data on graphs at Garmin Connect. Here, various reports can be configured using the web interface. The main reports I check are the average heart rate, and sleep tracker. What I have found useful is if I forget to switch the Vivofit into sleep mode (which has been happening a lot over the last 2 weeks), I can indicate my sleep time and the graph will recalculate the data. Brilliant.

Syncing with MFP helps also, and since it’s a two-way flow of communication, what I do on Garmin affects my calories on MFP and vice versa. The red inactivity bar also reminds me to get up from my desk at work, go downstairs and grab a glass of fruit-infused water. Overall, if I had a rating system, I would give the Vivofit 25 stars.


This is the one: fitness tracker edition #2 (decision)

About 3 weeks ago, I went down one of my rabbit holes again, this time looking for my ultimate fitness tracker. I’ve been moaning incessantly about my Fitbit Zip, and now that the silicon casing is basically torn off (after 7 months of use), I need to give it the boot.

Now, I’m not asking for much when it comes to my ultimate fitness tracker:

  1. Monitors heart rate
  2. Waterproof (at least 30m)
  3. All the basics (step counter, calories burned, distance covered)
  4. Looks good on my wrist
  5. Integration with other services e.g. MyFitnessPal
  6. Sleep tracker
  7. Stopwatch
  8. Stair tracker
  9. Mobile app (Windows Phone preferably; Android in a pinch)

The first three items are non-negotiable. Numbers 4 – 6 are highly preferable, while numbers 7 – 9 are NTH. Notice how I put the mobile app as lowest priority. The availability of a 3rd party WP app (along with it being the cheapest, available in pink, and tiny enough to fit under clothes), and the fact that Fitbit was the first to eventually support Windows Phone officially was what drove me to buy the Zip in the first place.

However that was 8 months ago, and now as a veteran in the fitness tracker game, I needed to upgrade. After an intense Saturday Googling, Youtubing, Reviewing and trawling the interwebs, I found it.

Vivofit + hrm

I’ve been using it for almost 2 weeks now, so will be posting a full review soon.


The Fitbit app for Windows Phone 8.1 needs to be fixed

I was unable to sync my fitbit with my phone since mid-December, as the app crashed about 3 seconds after launching. The update last week fixed that issue, but only after 1 or 2 other updates in the interim which did nothing. Also, it took Fitbit a month to release a working update.

Now, I don’t want to pull a VLC here, but a core function of the Fitbit is the ability to sync your data. There is literally no other way to get your data off the device. Fortunately for me, I found my wireless USB dongle the other day, and I had been using my Note in the meantime to sync my Zip.

Also, my interaction with the local Fitbit team has been a pain. I’ll need to be moving on soon.


My Epic Revamp: Fitness Edition

I like how people call it “New Years Resolutions”. I suppose the general thinking is that it is because it is New Year, so the resolution is named after the day that is made. I like to think it is because the resolution is only valid for that one particular day, and is forgotten about by the morning of the 2nd.

So my resolutions are just that: resolutions. Or as I’ve decided to call them collectively, My Epic Revamp. There is no time limit on any of them, because I have found that as soon as you put deadlines on something, things come up to throw you off track.

  1. Use technology to the max: My Fitbit will probably be replaced by something else this year, seeing as I changed its battery again the other day, which brings it to a total of 3 battery changes in 6 months, as opposed to the 1 trumpeted by Fitbit. That coupled with the fact that Fitbit SA ignored my complaints email about the battery and the silicon tearing has sealed its fate.I will be migrating all my data to MyFitnessPal as they meet my requirement of having a Windows Phone app (which people complain about on Windows Central, but it seems ok), and it integrates with Fitbit. I’m logging my weight and body fat with my Body Scale (until I can afford a wireless scale), and I’ll be logging my boxing/Pilates/swimming as well.
  2. 8000 steps a day (minimum): Initially I had my step goal set at the default 10 000 steps a day, since this is what the “experts” recommend. I don’t trust people who call themselves experts though, because they’ve clearly decided they’ve learnt all there is to know in their field, and no one can tell them otherwise. I prefer the word “specialist”, but only by a small margin. The 10 000 step goal wasn’t really working out for me, as my job is desk-bound and I prefer the indoors as well. Once I changed it to 7 500 it became a more realistic goal, which I managed to hit a good percentage of the time.By changing this goal to 8 000, I’m hoping that over time I can build my way up to 10 000. My aversion to walking has long since been cured, so the only thing physically stopping me from achieving this goal is work. Since I’ve stopped working through lunch and actually left the building for lunch hour, my step count has drastically improved. Having a walking partner has helped a lot as well.
  3. Increase my overall stamina: My fitness levels have always been low, so the progress I’ve made over the last 6 months has been very encouraging. Starting out, my chest would pull tight after 10 minutes of mid-intensity boxing; I can now do a 40 minute session at mid-high (for me) intensity with high heart/breathing rate but no chest problems. In fact, the first time my chest has showed signs of pulling tight was the other day when I swam for the first time (and tried to do 10 laps in a row).I will be combining these two activities to increase my endurance. While it’s still nice and warm, I will do a 45 minute boxing session incorporating mid-intensity punches/jabs with HIIT mixed in, followed by 15 minutes in the pool.
  4. Increase my overall flexibility: Having started late last year with Blogilates, I will be trying to progress through Cassie’s videos to increase my core strength and flexibility. Again, the progress I saw by repeating the beginner’s workout about twice a week for a few weeks was phenomenal. I would have my legs almost straight up in the air when rolling up into a sitting position for balance; I can now do that with my legs firmly planted on the ground. By focussing up, I can improve a lot and move onto the other videos.
  5. Stick to my workout schedule: This one is a little tougher. Work always tends to throw my schedule off, particularly because I love what I do. If a challenge arose during the workday, I will not rest that night until I solve the problem, or optimise it. I’m going to treat my workout schedule like I treat my work: non-optional. Just like I have to get up and go to work everyday, when I get home I have to do my workout scheduled for the day. I’m looking at 4 days cardio, 2 days strength with 1 day off.

All the things I’ve listed here are doable, particularly because I’ve actually been doing them already for the last few months. The foundation has been laid – I already went through the “argh exercise is so hard and stupid I’m just gonna stuff my face now” phase, so switching into this mode full-time now is not a problem.


Life’s a bit zippier now

My Fitbit Zip has changed my life. Just putting that out there. Who knew that all I need to kickstart my fitness was seeing a bunch of stats about it? I’ve lost 10kg since June, have dropped a dress size and (anecdotally) am feeling fitter. I had my Zip synced with Vitality to get points as well.

So it is with a heavy heart that I start moaning about it. I’ve been suspecting that Fitbit has been lying about the expected battery life of the Zip – I only had mine for 3 months before my battery started flashing, and it died shortly thereafter. 2 months later, this week it switched off twice due to “empty battery” (both times while I was boxing), and just looking at this SparkPeople thread confirms that there is an issue.

It would appear that the Zip wants a battery change every 3 months, not 6. This is half the time that Fitbit says, and at R25 a battery each time, the cost saved initially by choosing the Zip over the Flex will quickly be negated by buying these batteries. I was thoroughly impressed by the whole Fitbit concept, but I’m not so keen anymore. I have been waiting for the Microsoft band anyway, or the PULS.

I had been hoping to really to buy into Fitbit fully, was planning on getting the SO one of the new bigger bands, and passing my Zip onto my sister once I had upgraded. The silicon on the Zip also started tearing after 3 months, purely from taking it on and off each day. Methinks once I’ve found my ultimate smartband, the Zip will go into the back of a drawer.


Adding some Cyan to my life

My dad’s Lumia 1020 has been having the “random reboot requires soft reset” issue since being on the Developer Preview, so I bit the bullet, looked up Paul’s article and began the process of downgrading to 8.0 to force the Cyan update.

To my delight, after plugging the phone into Nokia Software Recovery, the available firmware indicated that it was waiting to download the Cyan update immediately. Yay! To my chagrin an hour later, I realised my stupid useless uncapped 2mb home adsl line was going to take 6 hours to download the 1.5gb file. This of course included multiple failures, which fortunately resumed after I clicked Retry.

Now my dad has had Cyan for 3 days, and no issues yet. So why was I suffering without it? Yesterday I googled a way to use the current downloaded file to flash my phone instead of having it download it off Nokia’s servers again as the tool wanted. This lead me to this XDA post with a very detailed, long tutorial.

To my delight again, after plugging my phone into Nokia Care Suite, it picked up the previously downloaded file. 5 minutes later, Cyan FTW! I immediately logged my phone back into the Developer Preview to get Update 1, so now I am on the latest firmware and OS version.

I would have waited until the powers that be eventually released Cyan to the DP users but there was a critical feature I was waiting for in Cyan: Bluetooth 4.0. Finally I can sync my Zip with my phone. Yet another reason my Note is becoming useless to me.