|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).
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).
. 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?
If I bike, I have to give up on Nike+ giving me any credit (lest I pervert my stats with insanely fast average paces vs when I run). MapMyFitness and dailymile both take cycling results and can connect to my Garmin Edge to pull in the computer data and maps. I also sync into the Garmin site (I wish dailymile and MMF would just pull it through automatically, or at least not make me re-connect the device and import the activity). It’s all a bit much, and I’m left feeling uneasy that Nike+ thinks I’ve been slacking.
Add to that uneasy feeling the fact that my FuelBand has broken yet again (this will be my seventh!), so I’ve been at zero for NikeFuel for a few days, and broke my streak. Can you imagine how horrible a problem this is?
Seriously, I actually got worked up about this a few FuelBands ago. Then I thought I was ridiculous.
And that’s the point of this post. It’s great to track things, and to get into the gamification and the badges and achievements of all of these ecosystems and social media. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying your activity. Or, worse yet, avoiding some activity because the ecosystem you are most in bed with doesn’t track it. I’m really enjoying biking, and it would be such a shame to swear it off because Nike+ can’t handle it (I really don’t know why – they need to get on board here). When I climbed the three tallest peaks in New England over three days, the thought crossed my mind about my lack of activity within the various ecosystems I’m part of, and I thought about using my SportWatch and a foot pod to at least get credit for the time and distance of the hikes. But then I decided against it out of fear of the detrimental effect a combined 20-25 hours of slow pacing would have on my lifetime average pace.
So, do track things, do get into these sites and do go public. Just keep your mind right and be sure you lose neither your perspective on reality nor your general sensibility. If you do, the exercise will quickly become work or at least a source of anxiety, and that’s completely the opposite of what it should be if you want to make it part of your life going forward.
Have some fun while you have fun. That’s a great way to enlighten.your.body.]]>
I’ve been eyeing the watch for months, but the $199 price tag always put me off. Well, two things happened – 1. they lowered the price to a more palatable, though still high $169, and 2. CitySports (which I love – great store with a great Outlet section online) gave me a $40 off coupon for spending too much money with them too frequently. OK, three things happened – my wife also went out of town, so I could get away with buying this without too much scrutiny. So I took the plunge. For the price, you get a Nike+ shoe sensor ($20 value), and a USB extender chord thing to make charging easier.
This review comes on the back of some fast walks rather than runs as I’m recovering from surgery and haven’t been cleared to run yet. No matter, I got a good feel for what the watch can do and how it will work in my workout routine. In a word, well. In two words, very well. I could keep going and adding the word ‘very’ more. You get the idea.
What it is
So, what is it. It’s a watch that is really not ideal for every day use as your core watch. It could work, but it’s not ideal in my eyes. More on that in a minute. It’s a wide, plastic band that has a large LCD face that displays the time on two rows in very big type. It looks bulky but doesn’t feel bulky once on (it’s really rather light), but can be a little annoying to get on due to the USB connector and built in cap on the end of the strap that I always seem to struggle to get through the closure mechanism. Once on, it’s all good, though. It comes in all black, black with bright fluorescent yellowy-green, bright fluorescent yellowy-green with black, or black with light blue. I’d have liked a more LIVESTRONG-esq yellow, and maybe a black with red and black with white option. I got the black with yellowy-green. I wanted to be bold but not ‘yellowy-green with black’ bold.
What makes it tick (no pun intended) is two things – one is that it packs a GPS receiver from TomTom, plus the smarts to know what the signal means to calculate things like pace, distance, speed, etc. It goes a step further by letting you mark laps, auto-marking laps at distance intervals, or giving you a worthlessly hard to hear beep at some time interval (which you can customize for rest and sprint timings if you’re into interval/HIIT/Tabata training, as I am). If you plan to use headphones while you run, don’t plan on hearing the beeps. They’re actually audible, but I can’t imagine relying on them. (I use the app Seconds Pro for the iPhone to do my interval timing instead, and built a custom interval program for my runs). It also has an alarm clock and stop watch, plus a backlight, which is necessary for LCD watches since there are no hands to glow in the dark to show you the time. I like being able to see the time in the middle of the night without having to fire up the backlight on my watch, and you can’t do that since this thing has an LCD. No day-glow hands here.
How you use it
You don’t set many things up on the watch itself, but instead use Nike+ Connect for Mac or PC to do a lot of customization and settings management. You also charge the watch this way. You can have the time auto-set or set it manually, do 24 hour time, units (miles vs km) and then you can customize the heck out of the running display. There are a lot of metrics to choose from – pace, average pace, distance, elapsed time, time, calories and distance.
You have to choose between pace (in minutes per mile or km) or speed (in mph or km/h) in the Connect app, too. I don’t really understand why you have to make this choice. If you choose speed, then you can see speed and average speed as two stats. If you choose pace, then you can see pace and average pace as two of the stats. Why can’t I see my speed and my pace? Why are these mutually exclusive? I’d like to see both. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Then that would be too much info to have to scroll through,” I’d say, “No, dude. You’re wrong. You get to select what info you want the watch to display, so you could just choose not to show one of those, and all would be well again.” But, you didn’t say that, so I didn’t say anything back.
You get to see 2 things at once on the Run screen, so you choose which you want to see in the big section (I like average pace), and then you can scroll through all other stats in a smaller area at the top of the watch screen. You also set the details on whether you want to be able to mark laps manually, automatically or not at all, or if you’d rather have the watch give you interval markers. I’m not sure why you have to choose one or the other, but this is typical of Nike. In their great (in my view) Nike+ GPS running app you can get info about progress, pace, etc every X minutes or X miles, but not both. I want both, dammit!
So, how did I like the watch when running, err walking fast? I loved it. While I like the Nike+ GPS app on my phone, taking the phone out of my pocket, or bending my shoulder weirdly to read it while it’s lashed to my bicep just isn’t a great option, and the app doesn’t give me feedback enough for me to adjust my pace proactively enough to get the performance I’m trying to get. The watch changes that. I had constant feedback on my average pace – the key metric I try to manage) totally on demand. I ended up shaving a half minute off my pace today as a result. That’s huge. I also found it more motivating to get the real time, on demand feedback, and ended doing another half mile on my walk. Yes, it was a bit of gamification as I was using the stats and feedback to try to outdo my performance, and that’s a very powerful and increasingly popular technique to get people to work out (and one that is at the heart of Nike+ and NikeFuel).
It can also connect to a heart rate monitor. I didn’t test this out, but I’ve seen people comment about this working well. Since I didn’t try it, I’m not sure where this info is presented, but I’d guess it’s one more stat you can cycle through during your run. It’s really easy to cycle through stats, and the watch is responsive and moves quickly through things which is critical to give you the info you need quickly so you can get back to focusing on your run.
After the run, the watch stores your stats, which you can review from your History screen. It also gives you some motivating words at the end of your run – very Nike+ to pat you on the back for everything you do. It can also remind you to run if you haven’t in awhile – also very Nike+ to try to get you active. It also tracks personal records (PRs), and obviously syncs all of this back to Nike+ so you can track your progress more richly, share your performance with friends, Twitter, Path, Facebook and on Nike+ itself. It also translates the GPS data into a map, showing where you ran, and color coding your path based on pace. If you marked laps, it will also denote those on your run route. I like it quite a bit. This is also where it adds NikeFuel to your data (the watch now ‘does’ NikeFuel after a recent update, but it really doesn’t as Fuel doesn’t show up anywhere on the watch – what’s ‘doing’ Fuel is the Nike+ website).
I have only two gripes. The first is the forced trade-offs, which is sort of a Nike+ issue overall. The GPS app does it by forcing you to get info spoken to you at distance or time intervals, but not both. The watch forces you to choose between speed or pace for no apparent reason, and also makes you choose between intervals or laps, but not both. Why can’t I mark a lap and get chimes for interval markers? This is by no means a deal breaker, but it’s also something I’d imagine Nike could fix with a software update. So, Nike, since I’m sure you have nothing better to do than read my blog, can you change this, please? (I was serious – I really don’t think Nike is too busy with running their multi-billion dollar company or anything. Lots of idle time on their hands, I reckon. OK, I wasn’t really serious.)
My other gripe is that I can’t use this as my only watch, so I have to put it on and take it off since I want to see the time at night without bugging my wife with some garish backlight (the backlight works really well). Gripes others seems to have consistently are around trouble getting a GPS lock. I got satellite signal lock literally in under 5 seconds every time. And I never lost the signal once, despite walking under trees for a few hundred feet. I didn’t through tunnels or anything like that, so maybe that’s what I needed to do to ‘break’ the signal. No, my trouble was with the shoe pod, and it’s likely user error. I couldn’t get it to be recognized by the watch. Now, I don’t know if the thing is asleep or what. Supposedly it wakes up when it’s moved around, but that didn’t work. So I tried the sleep/wake button (there’s no light or anything to tell you a) that pressing it worked or b) whether you just put it to sleep or awoke it). There’s nothing in the instructions about needing to use that the first time, but not using it wasn’t working, so I figured what the heck. Well, that didn’t work either. This means that I was totally reliant on the GPS. The shoe pod is meant to let you get going while you wait for satellite lock and to help when you lose the signal (like going through a tunnel). It also allows you to use the watch on a treadmill. So far, I don’t have those options. I doubt it’s the watch, though.
To buy or not to buy?
So overall, I’m very much a fan, and really glad I got it. Now, I ended up paying $108 because CitySports gave me the box to their demo unit, so when I came back to the store to get a box with an actual watch inside, they gave me $21 back for my troubles (thank you for that!) on top of the $40 I had already saved. To me, it’s a no brainer at $108 if you are a runner, into stats, and, well, have $108 you can part with and still pay your bills and eat. At $169, I would have to seriously think about, but would still probably go for it after forgoing a few other purchases or trying to cut back for a little while to justify it to myself. At $199, I’d say no way. There are other options out there for $99, and they seem to be well-reviewed (Garmin has a wide range of options starting around $99, for example – I know some folks with them that really like them). For me, I think the Nike+ SportWatch was the right move because I’m bought into Nike’s ecosystem for tracking things. It’s probably not as hard core as the Garmin stuff, and you’re definitely paying for ‘style’ and brand here. But that doesn’t make it bad.
I found this watch to be a great way to track your exercise. Another great way is with trackbodi.es – our iOS app that’s all about tracking your workouts, fitness, body stats, etc easily and clearly. Check it out at http://www.trackbodi.es! You can use the data from the watch as your running stats in a cardio workout – that’s what I do with it.
What it is
Enter Nike, or, more precisely, Nike+. The company has done a great job making tracking working out (and running, in particular) easier through their Nike+ sensors, sport bands, sport watches, iPod integration and website. Nike has gone one step further with their Nike+ Fuel Band. It still tracks standard things like calories and steps, but is the first to use Nike’s “Fuel” concept. It’s less dependent on the size/build of the individual or the exercise being done, and is based on science. As the user, you don’t care about any of that, but instead are focused on the metric it provides, and how you’re doing vs. a daily goal. You set your goal, and then sync to Nike+ (through a computer via the built-in USB plug on the band, or via an iOS device by using Bluetooth) to see how you’re doing. There is an animated character, Fuelie, who motivates you with little videos when you get milestones and achievements, and it even pegs your performance against Facebook friends (I’m kicking butt, by the way). It sounded silly, but I have to tell you, I’m totally hooked, and have stayed up walking around when I was near but not quite at my goal just to keep my streak alive.
So, with that background, let me go into a bit of a review. This review may not be as rich as many of the ones out there from folks who went to Nike marketing events for journalists to get to know the unit. I didn’t get to work out with any celebrities, but I did earn a ton of Fuel playing with my 3 year old (plus working out a lot). This is also likely to be a brief but honest take on the Nike+ Fuel Band. I’ll go into details by section below, but I’ll sum it up with a story.
My unit broke (it wouldn’t sync anymore). I was so bummed. Honestly, I felt as if I was heart broken. How pathetic is that? I got a replacement quickly, but it wasn’t quick enough to sooth my broken heart. If that doesn’t tell you overall how I feel about this thing, you read too quickly. Go back and read again. Now do you see what I mean?
OK, now you can read on for more details.
What it’s like
The unit is pretty understated, yet stylish. It’s like a thick LIVESTRONG bracelet, but black with a discrete button and matte silver buckle (that hides the USB adapter). Whether it’s rubber or TPU (or if TPU is just a kind of rubber) is beyond me, but it’s a versatile finish that’s held up well throughout my testing despite nearly 24/7 wearing through lots of workouts and other less than clean and safe situations.
It comes in three sizes (S/M/L), and each ships with two adapters (small and large), giving you three fits per size (none, small, large), though I’m guessing you could combine the two adapters to get a fourth, larger size. I found I’m sort of in between a ‘raw’ medium and using the small adapter. This is my main gripe with the unit. I wish it was just a hair looser without any adapters, or a bit tighter than with the small adapter. I find that my wrist hurts when using it without an adapter. That’s not a warning to people, though, as I’ve had two wrist surgeries including a bone removal, so my wrist is weird and sensitive. I use the small adapter to avoid pain, but just find that the band moves around a bit more than I’d like when running. No biggie.
In the box, you get the unit with a sizing adapter installed already, plus the larger adapter and a removal tool, a USB extension cable/dock thing, manuals that don’t tell you much more than that you need to sync the device, and that’s about it. It’s all very jazzy looking, and the USB dock is nice. Do I wish there was a how-to manual? Yes, but it’s really ok that it doesn’t have it. The whole thing becomes very self-evident quickly enough.
The buckle is pretty solid, and has a proper release button that seems to hold up well. My first unit actually didn’t, as I’d find it had popped open quite a bit. My second one has done better, but this could also be due to my not using an adapter/spacer with the first unit, so being tighter, the buckle was under more tension. The thing that plugs into the buckle is the USB adapter, which is really clever of Nike. I never liked how I needed a cap and a special adapter to sync and charge my Jawbone Up. Having it all self-contained is great.
Nicely done, Nike.
How you use it
The Fuel Band is pretty technically sound. As a former Jawbone Up owner (well, actually, I had four that all died within their first 10 days (at most), and still have the last one that died since they offered you money back without a return when they pulled it from the market), there’s only one thing I wish the Fuel Band could do, and several it does that the Up couldn’t. The Up’s best feature in my eyes was its ability to wake you from sleep with a vibration within a window of your wake up time by sensing when you’re at the right part of the sleep cycle to awaken and not feel miserable. This is so great for waking you gently and not having your spouse or partner kill you for waking them up with an obnoxious alarm when you want to get up at 4-something to work out. I’ve started using the app Sleep Cycle on my iPhone to get the same effect, but it’s not quite as easy to deal with as the Up was (have to plug the phone in, have it on the mattress while hoping you don’t knock it off or cover it with the pillow, and I’d recommend putting the phone on airplane mode so you aren’t frying your brain all night).
Speaking of Bluetooth, you can also turn BT on and off by entering airplane mode, pair with a new device, initiative a sync with the iOS app, reset the device or turn the device off completely – all by holding down the little button.
My impressions – Motivational
This is what the Fuel Band is really all about. It’s not about the technical side of the Fuel metric, or the accuracy of it per se. It’s about the motivation you get by following Principle #1 – track it! You will have a motivator with you at all times. I dare you to get a Fuel Band and not hit the button regularly. You can’t help it. Not only is the display cool, but you’ll find that you just want to know how much closer you are to your goal. You’ll feel like a giant when you’re blowing through it quickly on great days. You’ll feel a little worried on days when you’re not going fast enough to hit it. Some guy tweeted to Nike+ that he was doing air punches at Starbucks to get more Fuel. You can laugh at him. Then you get a Fuel Band and you will do them to. I won’t hide it. I went for a run at lunch one day at work, and when I got back into the elevator to go to my office, I turned to the mirror in the back of the elevator starting punching, looking like Billy Blanks in a Tae Bo video. Yes, I was alone. Yes, I felt great. Yes, I earned more Fuel.
This is my point. The thing works for its core purpose. And it works really well. Really well. It just gets you so conscious of movement and activity. A good friend of mine just got one, and he’s decided that he will be trying to do 100 more Fuel points each day as he tries to be more active. He was originally just curious and interested in the device and didn’t go into it with a goal of getting more active so much as being conscious of his activity. The fact is, you can’t help it. You will get more active. And you’ll love it. And Fuelie will dance his glowing green Nike’s off celebrating with you. He also has glowing green boxing gloves, ostensibly for getting Ventis or whatever a large size coffee is called. That’s another story, though.
One gripe – the performance is mind boggling inconsistent sometimes. For example, today, I worked out more than I did on Monday. However, Monday’s Fuel reading was nearly 6500, and today, it’s 10:23pm, and I have yet to hit my goal of 5k (I’m about 130 off). Same for calories. Two 20 minute runs around Boston yielded 547 calories one time and 390 another. The 390 is pretty accurate given past experience, and corroborating evidence from my Nike+ GPS app. I ran faster the second time, too. I think the unit fit is a part of this. If the band is swishing around on my wrist more, then the accelerometer is picking up more movement, and thus ticking up the Fuel faster. Who knows, maybe I was swinging my arms around more one day vs the other.
But, who cares. Taking each day in and of itself, the little black rubbery thing and its cartoon mascot motivated me. The days it wasn’t reading as aggressively got me pushed even more because I couldn’t stand the thought of breaking my streak of hitting my goal. Plus, my son loves watching the little Fuelie videos, and I would be a horrible father if I disappointed him by not earning new ones from reaching longer streaks and higher goals.
My impressions – Ecosystem & Portal
Nike+ has a really solid ecosystem and great apps to support your activity. That’s no different for the Fuel Band. They’ve invested a lot of time and money in making the experience feel very complete and well designed. Literally – the graphics and UI are really gorgeous. I also use the Nike+ GPS app on my iPhone, and am really impressed with that, too. The two parts of Nike+ aren’t integrated today, but that’s about to change (June 2012), so that just reenforces the value of the ecosystem of the Nike+ program.
For the Fuel Band, there’s a dedicated iOS app which works really well. It’s not a universal app, so those with iPads who want to use it will have to make due with one of those little windows or a pixel-doubled experience of running an iPhone/iPod touch app on their iPad. nikeplus.com mirrors the iOS functionality pretty closely, though with a slightly different user experience. Both ways of interfacing give you the motivating achievements (including Fuelie videos), and let you post achievements to your Facebook wall or tweet them out.
To buy or not to buy
In the end, I’m incredibly happy with this. It can be corny, it may be sharing a meaningless metric that it tracks inaccurately. Who cares. What it really sets out to do, it does, and it does it really well.
An inevitable comparison always comes up in reviews between the Fuel Band at $150 and the FitBit at $99. Is it better than the FitBit? I haven’t used one, so it’s hard to say. The FitBit does sleep tracking, unlike the Fuel Band. But the FitBit has a habit of getting lost or falling off the wearer (from what I’ve read over and over in reviews, and then seen first hand as a friend who has one scrambled around looking for it when he went to reach for it in its belt holster to show it to me). The FitBit is also $50 cheaper. From what I’ve read, though, I’d still go with the Fuel Band as I think the ecosystem Nike has developed around Nike+ is much richer and more motivating. If I wasn’t as into working out as I am, though, I might feel differently. Also, I believe FitBit’s site ties into other devices, making the term ‘ecosystem’ that much more powerful. In the end, check ’em both out and decide for yourself. I did.
While they were in very short supply for a while (it took me 3 months of trying to get mine), they’re in stock on Nike’s online store and in their NYC NikeTown, with supposedly good quantities of all sizes. If you can afford the $150, this is a great way to track it!
Another great way is with trackbodi.es – our iOS app that’s all about tracking your workouts, fitness, body stats, etc easily and clearly. Check it out at http://www.trackbodi.es!
Have you tried it, or used a competitor product? Let me know your thoughts? Will it help you enlighten.your.body?]]>