Why I Left Nike+

For those who haven’t seen it, I did a review of the Nike+ FuelBand when it first came out.  Don’t read it.  I’ll save you the trouble.  That’s not to say the review wasn’t good, but it’s not relevant anymore.  I’ve decided to move on from the FuelBand and Nike+ (not quite 100%), and it seems like Nike has sort of decided the same thing.
For background, the FuelBand was a sought-after piece of wearable fitness tech.  It tracked your daily activity in units called NikeFuel that weren’t as direct as steps or calories (though it could track those, too) like other fitness trackers (FitBit, Jawbone Up, etc).  It was on the more expensive side, but had a great, fun app and large ecosystem since Nike+ had been around for years and was a thriving community of runners (mostly).  Nike+ devices were all over the place since many iPods, iPhones and Nike shoes were ready to track activity right out of the box (or with a $20 footpod inserted into them).  Nike partnered with TomTom on a GPS watch, too.  Basically, you had an existing community to add NikeFuel and the FuelBand to, unlike competitors who were starting from scratch.  That was attractive.
Nike+ website at 6:20am on 10/25/14

Fast forward two years, and Nike had iterated the FuelBand once (with the SE), yet didn’t add anything revolutionary to the mix (ok, much better battery life, BTLE, activity session tracking – which is both good and bad), and had basically stopped developing the Nike+ platform.  In fact, a key part of the FuelBand at launch was the little motivational mascot named Fuelie who you would unlock videos of based on how active you were.  He was hokey yet fun at the same time.  Fuelie videos disappeared from the app and site, and you basically started getting these weird badges and awards for odd things (you were active twice today), and often a different badge was awarded for the same thing (or seemingly the same – it was more confusing than it needed to be).  The site also became increasingly slow and unresponsive, or wouldn’t load at all (see what it looked like the morning I posted this blog entry).  The performance issue seemed to be mixed for various users, and seemed to be tied to those with higher NikeFuel scores (I am at about 5.2 million right now).

The sessions functionality was perhaps the most maddening since you need to tell the FuelBand that you are working out.  Well, you don’tneed to, but you should so you can get more credit for your activity.  See, I am very active and typically earned 8-9k a day with my first gen FuelBand.  When I switched to the SE, I’d struggle to get to 3,500.  When I did 30-45 minutes of high intensity intervals on the elliptical, gen 1 would give me 1500 (or so) NikeFuel and the SE would give me 200-300.  They changed the algorithm supposedly to be more accurate (I brought this up to Nike and they kept telling me I was wrong and this was more accurate).  No way.  A 10 minute run was worth the same as 45 minutes on the elliptical?  Not possible.  And, yes, I use my arms on the elliptical.  They said I should use the Session feature since some activities get higher NikeFuel scores.  Great.  Well, only three activities do – running, swimming and cycling (I might be wrong on swimming).  Running is only slightly higher.  Cycling lets you assign an intensity rating that then dictates how much NikeFuel you get.  The problem there is in the descriptions.  Low intensity sounds like you basically are coasting, doing nothing.  Medium says you barely break a sweat, if at all.  High is hard work.  Well, I don’t do low or medium often since I generally sweat and make myself pant now and then, so everything is high for me.  But that high score seems too high relative to – again – what I do on the elliptical or running.  30 minutes of high cycling effort is over 1,000 NikeFuel, versus 600-800 for running and 200-300 for the elliptical.  No way.

And that would be lovely if I could actually set the parameters of each session, but I couldn’t do that online since the Nike+ portal would never load the session for me to edit.  I would have to sync the device, and then go to my iPhone and edit the session (I couldn’t do it all on my iPhone since I was testing iOS 8, and there was a Bluetooth issue that Nike had to fix, so you couldn’t sync the device via an iPhone – they’ve since fixed it).

Then the biggest let down, and the straw that broke the camel’s back for me came when I was doing the Canary Challenge.  103 miles of cycling with some very intense efforts.  I set a session to start as I left the start of the ride.  I shut the session down when I came through the finish several hours later.  I synced my device expecting to get like 20-30k NikeFuel.  I went to edit the intensity, but was told that you can’t edit intensity for sessions over 6 hours.  What?  Why?  Who decided that and for what purpose?  Net result – I got 11,311 NikeFuel for the entire day, with about 10,000 for the ride

.  Looking at my Strava account, I burned 5,262 calories on the ride.  Do you think I really only did 10k NikeFuel over 7ish hours?

So, I was left with something that wasn’t accurately capturing my efforts and took a lot of effort to deal with.  I realize these aren’t major life problems, but the issue is that this is meant to be a motivational tool.  Not only was it not motivating me anymore because of what was taken out of the system (both the reward of points and of videos and encouragement that made sense), but the effort you had to put into dealing with it was too high and getting higher, which was demotivating.  I had to retire my FuelBand (and actually sold it).  I wish it had worked out differently as I liked a lot of things about it (built in USB plus is BRILLIANT).  I made a switch, and am rocking a Garmin vivosmart, and really liking it.  It actually tells me to move if it senses that I’ve been inactive for certain amounts of time, and it seems to be fairly accurately tracking my steps regardless of what activity I do (not to mention it’s quasi-smart-watch feature set).  More on that in another post, but I wanted to update you on the FuelBand since I gave it such a glowing review early on.  With our health, we have to keep moving ahead and not lose focus or drive.  I feel Nike did that with the FuelBand, so I can’t recommend it as a tool to help you enlighten.your.body.

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of newbodi.es, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

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