Aug 132012
 

Chis Dwyer is the creator of One ___ at a Time. His blog One ___ at a Time is a big adventure into the little-known endurance sport of astro-athleticism and all things “stickin-it-to-the-man”. It intertwines his passion for planetary salvation, athletic empowerment, home-energy renovation, community enrichment, and general mischief. Chris is a regular and favorite blogger, Ironman extraordinaire, and close friend of us here at Fitness Electronics Blog. Today he is reviewing the Garmin 910XT, and giving us his real life experiences with the GPS multisport watch.  Check out his website at http://oneblankatatime.blogspot.com

 

For the last six years, I’ve merely trained and raced with a low-frill, yet trusty, Nike heart rate monitor and a not-so-trusty bike-mounted Sigma odometer.  Prior to this week, I was a complete virgin to GPS watches. The good news is that I’ve lost my GPS virginity and have found each experience with the Forerunner 910xt radically better than that first clumsy encounter. This review is certainly not exhaustive of all the features on the 910xt, but merely an introduction to the equipment coming from the perspective of someone who is generally a minimalist when it comes to training with gizmos.

Why I Don’t Have a GPS Watch
Being a triathlete, the Garmin Forerunner 310xt had been on my Christmas wish list for many years. But I could never bite the bullet financially, hearing tales from the tri community that the 310xt had trouble logging swim distance/pace. The satellite connection was supposedly erratic when the watch went under water. In truth, the 310xt “isn’t really a triathlon watch, but a multisport watch”, confessed the Garmin rep at a Spinning conference I attended in Miami. I felt almost-duped. She asked me, “Then, why don’t you just get a GPS watch for runners and forget the bike mount and the swim capabilities altogether?”  Instead, I decided, “I’ll just wait till the bugs are worked out, so I can get what the ‘triathlon watch’ is supposed to be.”

Why I Got the Forerunner 910xt
My good friends at the Fitness Electronics Blog were sweethearts last week and asked if I wouldn’t mind testing the Garmin Forerunner 910xt. It seemed like a peace offering given in place of what I really wanted—them, riding with me, in my first ever do-it-yourself ultra-distance triathlon I called DWYRMAN. Unfortunately, they couldn’t come due to their newborn baby, the bar exam, and general life craziness.  DWYRMAN was supposed to be a celebration of summer with some of my best cycling, swimming, and running friends. The course was to circumnavigate five state parks with lakes around Cincinnati, passing through Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, totaling 5 miles of open water swimming, 190 miles cycling, and 32 miles running. It was all theoretically possible based on my tinkering with maps and recon rides over the years. My Fitness Electronics Blogger friends thought the 910xt would be a cool addition to the DWYRMAN in their absence.

How the Forerunner 910xt Faired
As the host of DWYRMAN, my mind was primarily focused on making sure everyone was having a good time, being safe, and getting our mission accomplished. While riding without my glasses, I had difficulty navigating the digital architecture of the zillions of features. The additional stimuli on my wrist completely flustered me. I had a hard time figuring out what all the numbers meant and which of the six buttons did what. It was just information overload. Race day is not a good day for one’s first orientation to new gear. So when we got to the first open water swim, I had to ask for tech support from my buddy Rob, a Garmin-devotee, and he changed the settings for me to “open water swim mode. This is where it got cool.

We took off toward the opposite shore of the lake. When we got to the other side, the watch indicated that I had gone 506 yards. Rob’s watch said 501 yards, but I’m pretty sure he swims straighter than me, which could explain the discrepancy. Then we turned 90 degrees and swam along the shore and traced out a triangular path. The watch indicated ~28:00 and ~1600 yards back at the boat ramp, so we called it a “Kentucky mile.” From the image below, you’ll see I forgot to hit STOP on the watch.

At the upper left vertex of the triangle, the satellites think I went up on shore, but I didn’t. So the map features have bomb-dropping, but not fly-swatting, precision.

Throughout DWYRMAN race day, I basically ignored the watch except for the open water swim sessions. I’ve come to discover that there is basically a six-workout learning curve for a newbie to figure out the full power of A) the watch in the field and B) the Garmin Connect data analysis back home. I needed two workouts in each triathlon discipline to finally have that eureka moment.

The Hardware
The night before DWYRMAN, John handed me a zip lock bag containing the Forerunner 910xt contents: 1) watch (with the rubber wrist-strap option)

2) heart rate monitor

3) USB recharger

4) ANT+ device

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strike 1 – The Software
I first went to the Garmin website and try to find a “Quick Start” manual, which was easy. But then I devoted 45 frustrating minutes proving that despite meeting the system requirements, my MacBook with Mac OS X 10.4.11 operating system was incapable of downloading the second of the two necessary software packages – 1) Garmin Connect for analyzing your data, and 2) ANT+ hardware installation (for wirelessly uploading the watch’s data to your computer).

It wasn’t until after DWYRMAN that I resorted to using my wife’s newer MacBook (with the Mac OS X 10.6.8 operating system).  It took about one hour to install the softwares and upload my first workouts. Since that first lengthy installation process, uploads from the watch to the ANT+ have been wireless and easy, which is cool. All you do is turn the watch on when it’s within 5 feet of the ANT+. By the time I checked my email for the day, my first 15 workouts were uploaded from the watch to my desktop. Details of each could be explored ad nauseam. The details are where it gets really fun and nerdy.

The Summary page in Garmin Connect shows all workouts and is sort-able– by date, sporting discipline, duration, etc. Workouts show up as “untitled” files, but can be re-named by route or date or whatever you like. They can also be exported as *.CSV files for easy manipulation in common spreadsheet software like Excel.

 

 

As soon as the workout is over, it’s fun watching the data re-tell the story of the workout.  Where was I trying my hardest to keep up with traffic? Did I let my heart rate sink too low while coasting down that hill? How long was that potty break at the gas station?

One weakness of the watch showed up in while lap swimming. The screenshot below is from a swim that lasted about 60 minutes. It included an extended warm up drill and then some 100 yard repeats—all freestyle, mind you. So, why does the 910xt think that I threw in a length of backstroke after completing a length in 0.0 seconds? I can only hope that the quirks like this average themselves out over the course of the workout.

 

Pros:

  • Accurate swim distance
  • Comfortable heart rate strap
  • Heart rate signal detected almost immediately
  • Heart rate strap is waterproof
  • The fully charged battery lasted just over 15 hours on day one of DWYRMAN
  • Not overly big and clunky like older Garmin watches
  • Can measure everything important in a multitude of ways:
  • Heart Rate (beats/min, % of max, zone #, average),
  • Speed (Instantaneous, average)
  • Pace (instantaneous, average)
  • Strokes, Power, Cadence, %Grade, Altitude, Position,
  • Communicates with other ANT+ devices (which I didn’t test)
  • Once you upload your data, at the GarminConnect.com website, you can name your routes, share them, and compare them to previous performances
  • The data analysis experience was clean and intuitive there
  • Personalized settings so I could share the watch with my wife who has her own settings

 

Cons:

  • Heart rate fabric feels wimpy and prone to stinking (compared to my durable 6 year old Nike HR monitor strap)
  • Heart rate monitor does not work under water
  • “Multisport” setting is not a convenient setting for a non-traditional triathlon sequence like DWYRMAN (i.e. bike-swim-bike-swim-bike-swim-bike-swim-bike-swim-run-bike)
  • Menu/buttons are hard to navigate for a newbie—(Would it possible to engineer a Blackberry-like trackball or scroll-button? It could be a business opportunity for the sinking ship that is Blackberry’s maker, Research in Motion. Or maybe touchscreen is the way and RIM is just doomed.)
  • Tough to read while riding the bike. The bike mount accessory (~$15) could be helpful but too timely to operate for a speedy race day transition. I’d rather just have a dedicated bike computer.
  • The Mode button is difficult to push without simultaneously pushing the “Scroll up” button, which is the top secret button sequence that inconveniently locks all keys when you don’t want it to
  • Can take several minutes to find a satellite connection
  • Battery did not last the claimed 20 hours on a full charge
  • The data experience at Garmin Connect was not a social experience like the experience at strava.com  or trainingpeaks.com, which deserve their own review in a future blog.

 

Conclusion
My favorite feature is the accuracy of the swim workouts, whether lap swimming or open water. Everyone knows they need to do more open water swimming and we’d all love to look at something other than the black lane lines at the pool. The watch can also push you to swim faster than your previous workouts by setting up the Virtual Partner feature. This is where it stands out from all other Garmin watches.

My second favorite feature is the post-workout analysis. It’s so convenient that much of my training diary is basically written for me in a thorough and objective way. However, the analysis feature I was most hopeful for, but didn’t find, was a method of measuring and displaying the duration of time I spend in each heart rate zone. Even my low-frill heart rate monitor does as much. And that’s the most important metric I keep track of in my training diary. With the 910xt it would be possible to export the Garmin Connect data to an Excel spreadsheet and make the calculations myself, but it seems like an easy enough feature for Garmin to include in a future software update. Their inclusion of their “Training Effect” metric is a poor substitute that lacks the transparency and objectivity of a more thorough heart rate analysis.

After I conquered the initial software hurdles and figured out how to navigate the plethora of options, I really came to enjoy training with the 910xt. Then I made the mistake of letting my wife try it. She’s been hoarding it ever since.

 

 

We have been doing a lot of trail running this year in preparation for our first 50 mile race in Madison, Wisconsin, in September. She loves it so much, she just ordered the 910xt for herself, (since we have to give the demo watch back to Garmin, of course). Her rationale was that the battery life, unlike other Garmin models, would last long enough for the 50 miler cut-off time of 13 hours, which the other Gamin GPS watches would not. Also, since most of her training is on trails in Cincinnati parks, without the GPS it would be tough to measure distance and altitude, which are important metrics to her. All-in-all, my earlier excuse for holding out for a great “triathlon” watch is no longer valid. It’s even family-friendly.

Chris

As always,

Happy Training!!

 

May 252012
 

A few of you who are new to training have written in and asked if there is a good heart rate monitor training watch that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars. I thought I would pop up a quick post that covers the most popular watches under $100.00. Actually, the highest price for the watches shown below is $129.99, but this is the retail price of the watch. If you look around, you should be able to find them cheaper.

 

 

 

Here is the short list:

Polar FT1 – In depth review here

  • Retail price $69.95
  • For the first step into heart rate-based training.
  • Shows heart rate on large and easy-to-read display
  • Helps improve your fitness with manual heart rate target zone
  • Displays a summary of your latest workout
  • Simple one-button start and coded heart rate transmission to avoid cross-talk
  • Safely exercise within your target zone
  • Records average and maximum heart rate

 

Polar FT2 - In depth review here

  • Retail price $89.95
  • For recreational exercisers who want an easy start to fitness.
  • Shows heart rate on large and easy-to-read display
  • Helps improve your fitness with automatic age-based heart rate target zone
  • Displays a summary of your latest workout
  • Simple one-button start and coded heart rate transmission to avoid cross-talk
  • Records average and maximum heart rate

 

 

Polar FT4 - In depth review here

  • Retail price $99.95
  • For those who want basic heart rate-based features to keep their fitness training simple.
  • Shows when you’re improving fitness based on your heart rate
  • Displays calories burned
  • Comes with comfortable fabric transmitter and coded heart rate transmission to avoid cross-talk

 

Suunto M1 – In depth review here

  • Retail price $99.00
  • Real-time guidance: heart rate and calories burned
  • Automatically switches between three heart rate zones to help reach personal exercise targets
  • Suunto M1 comes with comfortable Suunto Basic Heart Rate Belt, compatible with most gym cardio equipment
  • Easy to use
  • 9 languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish and Finnish
  • With easy and comfortable monitoring of real-time heart rate and calories burned, Suunto M1 is equipped with the essential tools you need to reach your fitness goals.
  • It monitors you while you exercise to ensure you stay within the most effective training zone. If you’re going to burn those calories, make sure every move is a smart one.

 

Suunto M2 - In depth review here

  • Retail price $119.00
  • Real-time guidance: heart rate and calories burned
  • Automatically switches between three heart rate zones to help reach personal exercise targets
  • Suunto M2 comes with Suunto Dual Comfort Belt: comfortable textile belt, compatible with most gym cardio equipment and Suunto Fitness Solution
  • Easy to use
  • 9 languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish and Finnish
  • With easy and comfortable monitoring of real-time heart rate and calories burned, the M2 is equipped with the essential tools you need to reach your fitness goals.
  • It monitors you while you exercise to ensure you stay within the most effective training zone. If you’re going to burn those calories, make sure every move is a smart one.

 

Garmin FR70

  • Retail price $129.99
  • Tracks your time, heart rate and calories burned inside or outside, while running, cycling or during other fitness activities
  • Calculates speed and distance when paired with our optional foot pod
  • Includes ANT+™ technology, which allows it to connect to other ANT+ compatible devices, such as the included heart rate monitor, optional foot pod or ANT+ compatible fitness equipment, and then share data wirelessly with your computer
  • Offers advanced training options, such as workouts, intervals and Virtual Partner®, when paired with our optional foot pod
  • Tracks weight, body fat, body water and 6 other measurements when used with the Tanita BC-1000body composition scale
  • Features 2 time zones, alarms, 20 hrs/100 lap memory, configurable training pages with Auto Scroll, Auto Lap®, 5 heart rate zones and alerts
  • Transfers data to your Windows® or Mac® computer wirelessly when in range. You can then use Garmin Connect to analyze, categorize and share in our online community

 

So what do you get in a watch in this price range? Here is a quick comparison of the watches:

FT1 FT2 FT4 M1 M2 FR70
Heart Rate x x x x x x
Average Heart Rate x x x x x x
Max Heart Rate x x x x
Heart Rate Zones x x x x
Calories Burned x x x x
Multiple Stored Workouts x x x
Display Backlight x
Optional Foot Pod x
Wireless Transfer x
Vitual Partner x
Bike Speed/Cadence Sensor x
Interval Training x
Customizable Screen x
High End HRM Strap x
Training Alerts x
Price $69.95 $89.95 $99.95 $99.00 $119.00 $129.99

 

 

 

Standout Features and things to look closer and check out 

  • I really liked the Suunto M2 comfort strap. It is definitely comfortable
  • I also liked the Polar FT4 comfort strap
  • I like the look of the Suunto  watches the best
  • They are all easy to use
  • The Garmin FR70 has the most features. I particularly like being able to download and connect to Garmin Connect, and I also really like Virtual Partner, and the capability of connecting an optional footpod. Of course, this watch is also the most expensive of the group.  If you don’t know what Virtual Partner is, check out the video below

Overall, if you are just starting out training, you can’t go wrong with any of these watches. Look closely at the features, and make sure you get the features that you really care about. You can also check out our more in depth reviews on these watches.

I hope this is a quick answer to your question.

Happy Training!

 

Here are a few videos of some of the watches:

Polar FT1:

Polar FT2:

Polar FT4:

Garmin FR60/FR70 Stup:

Garmin FR60/FR70 Heart Rate Monitor Strap Use:

Garmin Virtual Partner:

Suunto M2 – First Settings:

Suunto M-Series Exercise:

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May 212012
 

Hi all,

One of our daughters is about to give birth, so we’ve been traveling to Michigan this weekend!!! Pretty exciting! (BTW – if you’re a mother to be, check out her book, “Going To the Motherland”). Needless to say, we’ve been busy with other things, but we are almost ready to start our review on the Sportis 4iiii. Just as we were about to start, we received an email from Sportiiiis that the Sportiiiis is now available for $149. We are excited to review this product, as we see the cool possibilities with this device.

Stay tuned this week as we review more heart rate monitor apps, heart rate monitors, and a few guest blogs.

Here is the news on the Sportiiiis:

4iiii Innovations, a leader in providing visual intuition products for athletes, announces a new lower price for Sportiiiis (pronounced Sport-Eyes), a heads up display and audio feedback system that attaches to sport eyewear and provides athletes with real-time visual feedback of critical performance data. This personal feedback coach enables the athlete to maximize the benefits of their workout by providing updates on their heart rate, speed, power, cadence, pace and more while they maintain their form and keep their eyes on the road. This key visual feedback helps athletes reach their goals, shorten their race time and ultimately go faster. Sportiiiis is now availablestarting at $149 MSRP at www.4iiii.com .

 

Watch a video of it in action by clicking on the video icon below:

Features include:

  • Multi-colored LED boom provides instant visual feedback of critical workout and racing data including heart rate, cadence, power, speed, pace and other ANT+ compatible data
  • LEDs positioned in the athletes secondary vision guide athletes to their target zone to eliminate the need to take their eyes off the road
  • Powerful software enables the athlete to create personalized zone profiles for feedback on heart rate, speed, cadence, power and more
  • Sportiiiis allows athletes to maintain aerodynamically correct postures which can reduce their race time
  • Adjustable boom easily attaches to virtually any pair of glasses
  • TipTapTM technology provides audio feedback on critical performance zones and allows the athlete to change between display settings by simply tapping on the unit
  • Compatible with leading training software, simple to use with Mac, PC and Smartphones

 

For more information about Sportiiiis and other 4iiii training gear visit www.4iiii.com.


 

 

 

Until then,

Happy Training!!!

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May 182012
 

 

For those of you just joining us, we are on a continuing journey to learn more about heart rate monitors, and the best way to choose the right one. Our website covers all types of electronics and tech stuff, but overwhelmingly, triathletes and runners come to our site to check out heart rate monitors and GPS watches. We have had so many questions about using smartphones as a heart rate monitor device, which smartphone heart rate monitor straps to buy, and which apps to use that we decided we should start reviewing the the heart rate monitor straps, and the smartphone apps that work with them. Today, we are reviewing the Endomondo and Endomondo Pro apps for smartphones. 

Before we get started, we should tell you a little bit about us and how we perform product evaluations. We have a group of 4 people who do the evaluations of all of the stuff. One person is the lead on a piece of gear, but everyone gets a chance to evaluate the product. We have 2 guys and 2 ladies, so it’s a good mix of people. It gives us better insight, and we get a better review overall. Everyone has an input to the review, and if there is a major disagreement, we will note it in the review. If you want to know who these people are, check out our About Us page. Four of us are seasoned triathletes, and 2 of us are are also full time Pilates instructors. Jennifer Lynn, who is a guest blogger, is a full time Pilates/spinning instructor. All swim, bike, run, do Pilates and Yoga, and use all of the gear on a daily basis. Many of you have read the FitnessElectronicsBlog disclaimer, but here it is in case this is your first time reading one of our reviews. For the record,  we are in no way connected with Endomondo any of the companies whose gear we review. We remain disconnected, in large part, because we love playing with the latest technology, and we couldn’t keep our hands off this stuff if we tried.  We downloaded and purchased Endomondo and Endomondo Pro from the iTunes store. No give-us-gear for a favorable review, or anything like that. We call ‘em as we see ‘em. It keeps us honest. Typically, if we like the product, we will buy it to have around, use, and be able to check out software updates and answer questions.  So, enough with the babble. Let’s get to the review.

 

First of all, Endomondo works with the smartphones listed below:

On the Apple side, the app is compatible with iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G and iPad Wi-Fi + 4G. It requires iOS 4.0 or later. For our test, we are using an iPhone 4S and the Polar H7 Bluetooth low energy heart rate monitor strap (Last week, we reviewed the Polar H7 Bluetooth Low Energy heart rate monitor strap. The review can be found here.). The app is also made to work with ANT+ heart rate monitors from Polar, Zephyr, Garmin and other manufacturers. Other ANT+ supported devices like bike speed and cadence sensors will also work on ANT+ enabled Android phones. There are two Endomondo apps made for the iPhone; a free version just called Endomondo, and a paid version with added features called Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro. The Pro app costs $3.99.

So what are the features?

Here are the features of the free app:

  • Track any outdoorTrack any outdoor sport including duration, distance, speed and calories
  • Get audio feedback for every mile or km while exercising
  • Check out the newsfeed with recent workouts and other activities done by your friends
  • Send peptalks to your friends in real-time from the newsfeed (you write a message that is played aloud to them a few seconds later) and comment on their workouts
  • Track your heart rate (works with ANT+ heart rate monitors and requires a Fisica Sensor Key, more info at store.endomondo.com)
  • Set a distance goal and have the audio coach speak to that as your target
  • Study routes nearby and use the map to navigate your way around
  • View history of workouts and study split times per km or mile
  • Race against a friend’s time and have the audio coach help you perform better
  • Compete on a specific route nearby and Race against the route champion
  • Set the app to pause automatically when you are not moving
  • Enable countdown (customizable)
  • Customize the main screen to show the information that you find most valuable
  • Enter a workout manually, e.g., a treadmill run, spinning or weight training
  • Sign up with your Facebook account
  • Use Facebook and/or phone book to hook up with your friends on Endomondo

Here are the additional features that you get with the Pro version:

  • Interval programs: Choose from 3 programs or create your own with time & distance intervals (NEW)
  • Graphs: View graphs with your lap times, heart rate, speed and altitude throughout the workout
  • Beat yourself: Set a previous workout as your goal and the audio coach will help you perform better this time
  • Time goal: Choose a duration for your workout and the audio coach will help you reach the time goal
  • Calorie goal: Set a calorie goal for your workout and the audio coach will guide you

 

Using the app

Here is the main screen of the app. Before using the app, you will want to set up a few of the basics. If you want to use any of the sharing, friends, or storing features, you will need to create an account. It’s easy and free, and only takes a minute.

Next you can change your sport by pressing on the running word or icon:

When you do this, you are able to change your sport, with 50 options available. Some of them are shown below:

 

Once you have your sport set, you might want to visit the settings screen:

Here you can login, set your weight, change the start countdown timer, connect to your heart rate monitor strap, and turn auto pause on or off. You can also change the map view from this screen. Here is the standard and satellite views of the map setting:

Once you have the chosen your settings, you can head back to the main workout screen. If you want to start working out, just press start, and you are on your way. You can change the screen to display duration, distance, calories, heart rate, speed, and average speed. Just press and hold any of the display boxes, and your choice of options will be displayed.

If you want to get a little fancier with your workout, you can click on the Workout: BASIC icon on the screen below, and choose different types of workouts.

Here are the options that you have for workouts:

We will run through some of the workout screens. Here is the Manual Entry workout screen. You can set starting time, duration, and distance:

Here is the Set A Goal workout screen. You can set a distance, time and or calorie goal:

There are also Beat A Friend, Follow A Route, and Beat Yourself workouts. These allow you to race against a friends’ time, or race against one of your previous workouts. You can also follow a route that you or someone else created, which can be a lot of fun. This allows you to race against someone else, on the exact same route that they used.

One of my favorite features of Endomondo Pro is the addition of Interval Training. This is one of the major difference between the free and Pro versions, and it is not available on the free version. Here are some screen shots of the available options:

There are three types of interval programming. There is a good description of each in the image above.

Choosing the Standard interval feature below gives you a 5 minute warmup, and then 1 minute on, with 1 minute rest, done 6 times, followed by a 5 minute cool down, for a total workout time of 21 minutes:

Selecting the Pyramid interval starts with a 5 minute warmup, 30 sec on, 1 minute off, 45 sec on, 1 minute off, 1 min 30 on, 1 minute off, 1 minute on, 1 minute off, 45 sec on, 1 minute off, 30 secs on, 5 minute cool down, for a total workout time of 22 minutes:

Selecting Tabata intervals feature starts with 10 secs off, 20 secs on, done 9 times, with a 10 second cool down, for a total workout time of 4 minutes, 10 seconds.

This is a great way to get started, but the best thing is that you can create your own interval workouts. Just click the plus sign on the Interval Training page, and you can create one like the one shown below:

Creating an interval workout is simple!

If you listen to music,by pressing the iPhone home button twice, and swiping to the right takes you to the iPhone music player, so syncing and listening to music is a breeze:

So, are you ready to workout?One last thing before you do –  You may want to set some audio alerts so that you know your time and distance on each lap. Click on the speaker icon on the main screen, and you will be taken to the Audio Feedback settings:

Having all of these selected will give you audible feedback at each lap, including all of the information above. If you are wearing headphones, the audio will be heard over the music, if you are currently listening. If no headphones are plugged in, the audio will come out of the iPhone speakers.

That’s it for the setup. It’s time to work out! Here are some screen shots off of the Endomondo site:

Here is a screenshot of the Friends tab:

If you log into the website, you can see a summary of your workouts, and a map of where you’ve been:

 

 

 

Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:

Pros:

  • The app is very easy to use and configure
  • Full featured
  • The app has a large selection of activity types
  • Great interval capabilities in the paid Pro version of the app
  • Nice online logging capability and views

Cons:

  • Some of our testers would like to have Facebook and Twitter upload capability.
  • Would be nice to be able to create workouts online, and download them to the iPhone

Overall, we really like this app. It works well, looks good, is easy to use, and one of our favorites for working out. Would we recommend it? The answer is definitely, Yes. We feel that paying the $3.99 for the interval and graph capability is well worth the money spent.

As an FYI, iTunes gives Endomondo a rating of 4.5 out of 5 star rating, and Endomondo Pro a 4.5 out of 5 star rating.

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Apr 112012
 

Today we are continuing on our  journey to learn more about heart rate monitors, and the best way to choose the right one. Today we are reviewing the Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym Pack. 

Wahoo Fitness is a company that makes fitness sensors and software that works with Apple iPhones. They make ANT+ and Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor straps and systems, waterproof bike mounts, and other accessories, all compatible with iPhones. Today we are reviewing the Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym Pack. The Fitness Run/Gym pack is a heart rate monitor strap using ANT+ technology that measures your heart rate, and sends the data from the heart rate monitor to the iPhone using the included dongle. The iPhone is used to display and log your workout. This product is designed to work with the 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S iPhones. Before diving in, I thought I would show you what you get with your purchase. So here goes!

Here is the product box:

The contents of the box include the heart rate monitor strap, heart rate monitor transmitter, iPhone dongle, and instruction manual:

Here is a closeup of the heart rate monitor strap ANT+ transmitter. You can see that it has a user replaceable battery. The battery is a 3 volt CR2032:

The heart rate transmitter connects to the two ends of the heart rate monitor strap. The strap is soft, and has a wide range of adjustment for different sizes of people:

Here is a view of the complete heart rate monitor strap:

To use the device, snap one end of the strap to the HRM ANT+ transmitter, adjust the strap for your chest size, snap the strap to the other side, and you’re half way there. Next, you need to download an application. The device is compatible with over 83 iPhone apps. Your choices can be found here. Wahoo was very smart when they developed their products. They made their API public, which allowed third party app developers to make their software compatible with the Wahoo products. Therefore, many popular software applications are compatible with the Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym pack, including programs like RunKeeper, iMapMyRun, and Wahoo Fitness’ own program called, “Wahoo Fitness”. To test how well the product worked, I first needed to connect the ANT+ dongle to the 30 pin connector on the iPhone:

I chose to use Wahoo’s own program, the “Wahoo Fitness” program. The Wahoo Fitness app, and all of the compatible apps are downloaded from the iTunes store in the normal iTunes way. Once I downloaded the Wahoo Fitness app, I clicked on the icon, and it was up and running. I have included a few screens for you to get an idea how some of these programs work. After entering some personal information, like weight, height and date of birth, I was almost set:

Now the only thing left to do was to “add” the heart rate sensor to the program. Clicking “Add New” under the sensor heading added the Wahoo Fitness HRM sensor to my program. That was it! I was connected, and displaying heart rate information:

Here is a zoom in of the map screen (my house):

Here are some screen shots off of the Wahoo site, covering some of the capabilities of their app. Remember that this is not a review of the app; that will be covered in another blog post. But look at all of the data available! The data available is pretty extensive. Standard items like distance, heart rate, max and average heart rate, time, lap time, total workout time, and time in heart rate zones is all available. On the bike, bike speed and cadence are also available.

 

Here are some of the programs that you can share your workout data with:

 

Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:

Remember that this review is focused on the hardware, not any of the software apps. The apps will be covered in another review.

So what do I think of the hardware? I think the product is pretty cool!  I will admit that when I first started looking at using a smartphone to the display and log a heart rate monitor data coming from an ANT+ or Bluetooth heart rate strap, I was somewhat skeptical. Now I’m sold. This is definitely a viable option, and one that I will use. I love it at the gym, or on a run where I am running and listening to music.

Pros:

  • The heart rate monitor fits and feels really good. I always wear the heart rate monitor strap at work all day to get a feel for comfort. It definitely passed the test.
  • The iPhone is not waterproof, but Wahoo makes a water-resistant armband, and a water-resistant bike mount. If you get one of these, you don’t need to worry about rain.
  • The heart rate connection was very good. I didn’t have any dropouts, and I was up and running quickly. My wife loves how easy it is to use and set up.
  • There are a large number of apps that work with this hard wear. Wahoo Fitness claims 83 at this time.
  • Most apps have a music feature that you can play music directly form the app. If you listen to music with your iPhone, you don’t need to carry any additional hardware. And an all in one device makes it less likely to forget it at home.

Cons:

  • All of the data that is based on GPS location information, such as speed and distance, is only as good as the GPS capabilities of the phone. Typically, the GPS in the phone is not as good as the GPS in a good GPS fitness watch. Even so, I was pretty amazed at the accuracy.
  • You need to connect a dongle to the 30 pin connector on the bottom of the iPhone, so your iPhone is not as sleek as before. You can buy a Bluetooth version of the HRM strap that works with the 4S iPhone if this bothers you.
  • If you get a new phone, and it’s not an iPhone, you are screwed.
Overall, I really like the product. It is simple and easy to use, and has many of the most used measured metrics that I use most often for running and biking. With the optional bike sensors, you can measure a great amount of data for the run and bike. It is compatible with many of the popular software apps out there, and as a side note, the Wahoo Fitness app is pretty good.
The Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym pack retails for $119.99.
I will leave you with an introductory video of the Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym pack:

As always,

Happy Training!

 

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Jan 162012
 

If you are a triathlete, there are many devices that can help you train smarter. After you get all of the basic equipment, you start to look for a way to monitor your progress.  Most triathletes start with a GPS heart rate monitor so that they can accurately measure heart rate, distance and pace. This works well for running, but when it comes to biking, most athletes wish they had a better way of monitoring progress.Wind and hills make it hard to measure how hard you are actually working, and whether you are getting any better. That’s where a power meter can help. A power meter can measure how much power your body is putting into the pedals of your bike. If you go out for a ride, you can pedal at a measurable power, independent of the external factors like wind and hills. This is an accurate measurement of how hard you are working.

What is the downside of a power meter? The big one is cost. Most power meters cost thousands of dollars, which is a big investment for many triathletes. On top of this, power meters have typically been built into the rear wheels of the bike. This means that if you train with one set of wheels, and race with another, you would really want to have a power meter in each wheel set. That’s why power meters like the Garmin Vector, and the Polar LOOK Kéo Power , which are power meters built into pedals, are so exciting.  A triathlete can purchase these new power meters, and install it in the same time it takes to install a normal pedal. In this post, we will be discussing the Garmin Vector.

The Garmin Vector was first announced in September at Interbike 2011. Here is a picture of what the pedal looks like:

The pedals are carbon fiber, and are Look Keo compatible. They transmit data using ANT+ technology (see my earlier post on ANT+ hardware).The pedals are calibrated at the factory, so it’s install and go.If you want to know how the pedals work, it may be best to quote Garmin.

” Vector works by measuring the normal deflection in the pedal spindle as you pedal, throughout your entire pedal stroke. By comparing the measured deflection to a factory-calibrated deflection caused by a known load, Vector can determine how much force you’re applying to the pedal. With force measurements, the cadence measurements from Vector’s integrated accelerometers, and time, Vector accurately calculates watts. The force sensors are permanently and securely sealed within the pedal spindle, one of the most robust components on the bike.”

If your eyes are glazing over, you pedal, the sensors measure the flex in the pedal, transmit the data to a logger and display, and you’re set to go!

So what do you use to log and display your data? You can use a Garmin Edge 500 or Garmin Edge 800 to log and display your data. It also works with the Garmin Forerunner 910XT, all of which need to be purchased separately. Since the data is transmitted using the ANT+ protocol, there is the possibility of the Vector being compatible with any ANT+ head unit. We let you know as more details become available.


 

 

 

 

 

Once you get home from your workout, you can download your data into an updated version of Garmin Connect to view your workout in detail. The new version of Garmin Connect , and Training Peaks, can display both left and right foot power, Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF), and Training Stress Score (TSS). The data can also be uploaded into Training Peaks, or other popular programs.

Screen shot of Garmin Connect:

 

Screen shot of Training Peaks:

Both of these programs are great at logging your workouts and tracking your progress. You should check both of them out in detail to see all of their features.

According to the Garmin representatives at the CES show, the Garmin Vector will be available in March for $1499.99. You will still need to buy a Garmin Edge or Forerunner product for display and logging.

We will do an in depth review of the Vector when they become available.

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Dec 222011
 


Are you looking for a great gift idea for the cyclist in your life? Look no further than the Garmin line of bike computers. Garmin currently makes three different versions of bike computers; the Garmin Edge 200, the Garmin Edge 500, and the Garmin Edge 800. The Garmin Edge 200 retails for $149.99 (check here for a cheaper price), and measures time, distance, speed, location and calories burned. At the end of your ride, you can upload your workout to Garmin Connect for analysis,mapping, and sharing. Here is a quick video that shows the Garmin Edge in action:

The Garmin Edge 500 has all of the features of the Garmin Edge 200, and also includes an altimeter, the logging of an optional wireless heart rate monitor, and it works with third party ANT+ enabled power meters.The Garmin Edge 500 retails for $249.99 (click here for a lower price).

 

 

The Garmin Edge 800 has all of the features of the Garmin Edge 200 and Garmin Edge 500, along with GPS navigation with color street maps. You can use Garmin’s free BaseCamp software to create a route and load it into the bike computer. The Edge 800 tracks and measures just about anything you would want to. The Edge 800 retails for $449.00 (click my Amazon link here for a cheaper price). Here is a video of the bike computer in action:

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