My Thoughts on the Fitbit Flex (Review)

Fitbit Flex review--what it's good for, where it falls short, and if you should buy oneI’ve been meaning to write this post for several months, but I’m actually glad I didn’t get around to it right when I first started using my Fitbit Flex because my feelings towards the activity tracker have changed a little. For those who don’t feel like reading this whole, long post, I’m going to start with my three-sentence summary:

Bottom line: It’s a fun gadget if you want motivation to move more during the day, and I’d recommend it if that’s your primary goal; but if you’re looking for any sort of data about your workouts, it’s not what you’re looking for. This is a step tracker, not really a fitness tracker, and I’ve ultimately found that I like my Fitbit best when I take it off during workouts so that it’s only used for what it’s really built for: tracking everyday movement. It’s essentially a pedometer with some additional cool features.

Still reading? Haven’t clicked over to a BuzzFeed list of Ryan Gosling memes? Shwiiing! Allow me to elaborate on my feelings about the Fitbit Flex…

My Initial Experience with the Fitbit Flex

I got my Fitbit as a gift from LUNA Bars on the Stitch Fix trip I went on this past June. When I first started using it, I was obsessed. I wore it consistently for about a month, as proven by its appearance in every embarrassing selfie on my phone during that time:

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I loved the challenge of meeting the 10,000 daily steps goal, and it made me more aware of daily patterns—when I’m super active, what everyday activities require the most movement, what days of the week I’m on the inactive side, etc., etc. It has the ability to track sleep (you use the app to let it know you’re going to bed and it will tell you how many times you were restless during the night, record your hours of sleep, etc.), but I only played around with that feature a few times. I’m very lucky in that I’ve always been a good, sound sleeper and have no problem getting 7-8 hours a night, so I wasn’t too concerned with tracking sleep stats.

Here are some takeaways I got from that first month of consistent Fitbit use:

  • Even if you set aside time each day for a workout, your overall daily activity level can still be really low. Even if I started the day out by taking a 45-minute Btone class and then doing a 20-minute HIIT workout in my living room, I wouldn’t even come close to meeting my 10,000 steps if I then spent the remainder of the day working at my computer. This, of course, is dependant on the type of workout given that Fitbit equates activity with steps—if I had gone for a run instead of doing Pilates, I could probably still meet the 10,000 steps goal. But still, it’s an awesome reminder that we should work on being more active all throughout the day, not just during the hour we set aside to workout.
  • I move way more than I thought while teaching at Btone. On Thursday mornings when I teach 6, 7 & 8AM classes, I blow passed those 10,000 steps before the last class is finished. Because I’m not actually doing the workout with the class (just demonstrating moves and then walking around the room to correct form/prevent people from cheating), I think I previously underestimated the energy required to teach.
  • Living in a walkable city is awesome. I found that the bulk of my daily steps came from walking around Boston—running errands, going to and from Btone to teach, grabbing lunch at Whole Foods, etc. Living in a walkable city where you don’t really need a car helps promote a more active lifestyle. Another reason I love Boston!

If I had written this post during that first month with my Fitbit Flex, it would have been a glowing, rave review. But I found myself wanting more from it as time went on, and I eventually started wearing it less and less. On days I teach or do a workout involving running, I’ll easily hit 10,000 steps, so I started to feel it was pointless wearing it then. I also wanted something that would give me better feedback about my workouts, and it become increasingly clear that a heart rate monitor would be better suited for my personal needs.

Because the Fitbit Flex equates steps with activity, many tough workouts and fitness classes don’t track towards your daily active minutes. The following before-and-after reading during a Barry’s Bootcamp class is a perfect example. If you aren’t familiar with the workout, you spend half the 50-minute class on treadmills and the other half on the floor doing various strength-training exercises. As you can see, only the time spent on the treadmill counted as “being active,” even though the strength work is hard as sh*t, too. Because of that, calorie expenditure isn’t totally accurate. When I wear a heart rate monitor during Barry’s, it tells me I consistently burn 550-700 calories a class. In the example below, Fitbit clocks calorie burn at just 349.

Fitbit Flex reading from a Barry's Bootcamp classNow, this reading is not necessarily a bad thing, I’m just reiterating that the Fitbit Flex isn’t meant to accurately record workouts. Before buying one, just ask yourself what you want out of a wearable tracker.

What I Like about the Fitbit Flex (Pros)

I mentioned most of these above, but let’s break down Fitbit Flex’s strengths.

  • It helps you make those little, everyday choices that add up to an overall more active lifestyle (taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the bank instead of driving, etc.).
  • It helps you identify activity level patterns (and sleep patterns).
  • The silent alarm is awesome. It wakes you up by vibrating on your wrist—such a soothing way to end a night’s sleep.
  • It’s fun—and if you have friends with Fitbits, it’s even more fun (competition!).
  • It’s easy to set up and use. The app and website make tracking your progress and identifying trends a streamlined process.
  • It’s comfortable and adjustable—it even fits my baby-sized wrist.

Where the Fitbit Flex Falls Short for Me

Again, some of these aren’t necessarily “cons” if you aren’t looking for a device that tracks and gives feedback about your workouts.

The only workouts that accurately contribute to your daily activity goals are walking, hiking and running. You could do 18 consecutive hours of yoga and Fitbit Flex would probably tell you that you’d logged 0 active minutes and maybe a couple hundred steps tops. It’s frustrating when you finish a killer weight-lifting workout or Pilates class and find that it’s done absolutely nothing towards your daily activity and step goals. Check out the before & after reading of a 45-minute megaformer class I took at Btone:

Fitbit Flex readout before and after pilatesNow, I know these step results are to be expected seeing as the workout is low-impact and done on a machine that slides—no stepping necessary for most exercises—but seeing ZERO active minutes earned for a class that (literally) kicked my ass is a bummer. That’s where heart rate monitoring capabilities would be awesome.

To add on to the previous point, it doesn’t track running mileage accurately. I wore my Fitbit on several runs (along with a GPS to accurately track my mileage) and the Fitbit miles were always short by .5 – 1.5 miles. That being said, you can link it with Run Keeper if you use that app, so while I haven’t tried it, I’d assume that could help with mileage accuracy.

It’s not very—err—stylish… The black wristband is definitely more inconspicuous than my red one, but it’s still not the prettiest thing going. For the majority of the time, who really cares? Not me—I wear yoga pants for a living. But it can be a deterrent to wearing it during dressier occasions. Tory Burch did design a metal hinged bracelet for Fitbit Flex that’s cute, but it’s almost $200—eek.

Fitbit Flex review--what it's good for, where it falls short, and if you should buy one My best attempt at Fitbit camouflage..

So … Should You Buy One?

Depends on what you’re looking for. If you want fitness technology to accompany your workouts, you want a heart rate monitor—not a Fitbit. If you want something to motivate you to be more active throughout the day (outside of your workouts), then I think you’ll love the Fitbit Flex. It’s fun trying to meet your daily step goals; you’ll become more aware of inactivity and poor sleep patterns (and therefore better able to correct them!); and if you have friends with a Fitbit, you can compete with them on step goals and other challenges.

Today, I only use my Fitbit occasionally. On rest days when I’m not planning to workout, it’s fun to wear it as motivation to stay active in other ways. I also will wear it to bed sometimes solely to utilize the silent vibrating alarm if I’m concerned about waking up my boyfriend (e.g. when I used to get up at 5AM on Mondays to teach). Other than that, I’ve found I’m more interested in the feedback a heart rate monitor provides as opposed to an activity tracker. I wear my HR monitor during workouts (I did a review of my Polar FT60 here—I love it).

Do you have a Fitbit or other activity tracker? What do you love about it? Where do you think it falls short? Leave a comment!

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Mini Superset Pyramids Workout

mini-superset-pyramids-workout-16Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Target® C9 through their partnership with POPSUGAR Select. While I was compensated to write a post about Target® C9, all opinions are my own.

This marks my third time teaming up with Target® and their C9 collection, which is pretty exciting—if you had told me when I first started this blog that companies as big-time as Tar-jey (I prefer the classier French pronunciation) would want to work with me, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. For today’s post, I got to pick out a couple items from the C9 line and went with the Short Sleeve Slub Yoga Tee in rain cloud and white and the Premium Leggings in stately blue (it’s more of a purple in person though).

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I thought the pattern of the leggings was fun and different from any other pair I own, and they proved to be super comfortable—very supportive and with a super wide waistband (a must!). I chose the tees because of how versatile they are and liked the rolled sleeves look. I can wear these when working out or teaching, as well as with jeans for a casual everyday look.target-c9-style-haul

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Today I’m wearing my Target® C9 picks in a bodyweight workout made up of five mini pyramids. I did a similar one with my Tone ‘N Torch class at Btone the other week and it was a winner. I’d say if you’re advanced, you could finish it in about 20 minutes. If you’re a beginner, set aside 30+ minutes for sure.

Mini Superset Pyramids Workout

For each of the following supersets (pairs of exercises), you’ll do a 10-to-1 pyramid. That means 10 reps of each, then 9 reps of each, and so on, down to 1 rep of each. When you finish a superset, take a 30-60 second break and then move onto the next superset.

Mini Superset Pyramids Workout

Superset 1 | Jump Lunges & Mountain Climbers

  • Jump Lunges: Start in a split-stance lunge: right foot in front, ball of left foot planted on the floor behind you. Both knees should be bent to 90 degrees with the front knee aligned over ankle and the back knee hovering just a couple inches off the floor. From here, push off your feet to jump up in the air, switching feet mid-air and landing back in a lunge with left foot forward and right foot planted behind. Continue, alternating feet with each jump. Each set of jumps = 1 rep (every time right foot is in front = 1).
  • Mountain Climbers: These are like doing high knees in a plank position. Start in a plank, hands stacked underneath shoulders, core squeezing in tight (don’t let your low back sag or your butt stick up in the air). From this position, drive one knee at a time up towards your chest, like running horizontally. The pace on these should be quick. Each set (left, right) = 1 rep (every time right knee is in front = 1).

Superset 2 | Jumping Crab Kicks & Side-to-Side Elbow Plank Hops

  • Jumping Crab Kicks: Start in a crab position: feet on ground, knees bent, hands on ground underneath your shoulders, body facing upwards. Lift one foot into the air, straightening that leg. This is your starting position. From here, you’re going to alternate kicking one leg into the air and then the next, switching feet mid-air so that there’s never more than one foot on the ground at a time (hence jumping crab kick instead of just a crab kick, in which you’d return the foot to the ground before kicking up the other). Your whole body will be working during these: you lower your bum and bend the elbows (almost like a triceps dip) to prep for the jump kick, and then push through the hands, thrusting the pelvis upward to give you time to switch feet mid-air before landing. Each set (right, left) = 1 rep.
  • Side-to-Side Elbow Plank Hops: Start in a forearm plank (elbows stacked underneath shoulders, core pulled in tight—don’t let your low back sag or your butt stick up in the air). From here, hop your feet in unison to the right, back to center, to the left, and back to center (that’s one rep). While you hop, try to hold your body in a straight line, not letting your bum pike up into the air. One rep = right, center, left, center.

Superset 3 | Skaters & Jump Squats

  • Skaters: These are like side-to-side leaping curtsy lunges. Leap to the right, landing on your right foot and bending down to touch the ground by your foot with your left hand as you swoop your left foot behind the right (think of a curtsy). Come up, leaping left and reversing the move. Keep it going quickly, back and forth, trying to never let that back foot come to rest on the ground—keep the weight in the foot you land on. Each set (to the right, to the left) = 1 rep.
  • Jump Squats: Feet about shoulder-width apart, squat down, sending your hips and butt back and down (not the knees forward!). Bring your hands in front of you as you sink down. From there, explosively jump straight up, swinging your arms back behind you as you do. Land softly and sink right back into a squat, hands swinging forward.

Superset 4 | Burpees & Full-body Crunches

  • Burpees: Start standing, feet about shoulder-width apart. Squat down, bringing your hands to the ground by your feet and jump both feet back into a plank position. Quickly jump your feet back up by your hands and shift the weight into your feet, bring torso upright into a low squat position. From here, jump up, arms overhead. Land softly on your feet, sinking right back down into a squat and starting from the top.
  • Full-Body Crunches: Start in a seated position balancing on your tailbone, hands lightly on the ground by your side for support, feet lifted off the ground and torso leaning back, core engaged. Extend your legs out straight in front of you as you lean back further (feet should be hovering), and then crunch everything inward, bringing your knees into your chest and sitting up a little straighter, abs in tight.

Superset 5 | Reptile Push Ups & Jump Tucks

  • Reptile Push Ups: Start in push up position (a plank with hands aligned under shoulders). As you lower down, crunch your right knee forward, in towards the right shoulder, squeezing those obliques. Return the foot back to the ground as you press back up into high plank position. Repeat, this time on the left. Each push up = 1 rep.
  • Jump Tucks: Jump up into the air, using your core to pull your knees up towards your chest. Lower them quickly in time to land. You’ll want to bend your knees, sinking into a squat to prep for the jump, and you’ll land this same way, sinking into a squat to absorb the landing. As you jump up bring your hands in front of your rib cage and try to hit them with your knees.

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Panasonic #OpenYourEars Headphones Review (Plus a Playlist)

Panasonic Open Ear Headphones Review (plus a playlist)

This post was sponsored by Panasonic. I was compensated and given the product free of charge, but all opinions—as always!—are my own.

Lately I’ve gotten the chance to try out a lot of fitness-related technology and gadgets, and I’ve been loving it. In fact, I’m actually heading to NYC a little later today to attend a health and fitness demo event (more on that to come!). Most recently, I was given the opportunity to check out Panasonic’s Open Ear Headphones as part of their #OpenYourEars challenge. These headphones actually transmit sound through the cheek bones, leaving your ears open to hear surrounding noise (car horns, people calling your name, etc.).

Panasonic Open Ear Headphones Review (plus a playlist)

As shown in the above picture, the speaker part goes in front of your ear opening, and the headset then goes over your ears and connects behind your head. They’re comfortable, and I found they stayed put well during activity (I went for a run to test ‘em out). They’re sweat and water resistant, and have reflective strips for outdoor nighttime visibility/safety.

When Panasonic first reached out to me, I thought these were essentially mini speakers (i.e. everyone around you would also be able to hear your music). How else would you be able to hear the music if your ears aren’t covered, right? Wrong. Just like regular headphones or earbuds, only you can hear the music (unless of course you’re that annoying person on public transportation blasting your music at max volume). The sound vibrations go directly to the cochlea through the cheekbones, so you can hear the music without clogging your ear opening, and on songs with heavy bass, you can sorta feel the vibrations through your face—it’s pretty cool!

From a workout standpoint, I think these would be ideal for someone running/biking/etc. outdoors during quiet hours who is concerned about being able to hear surrounding noise for safety. I tested these out on a run around the city and along the Charles River and found that the noise from cars actually drowned out the music a bit, and even at max volume, the headphones couldn’t get my playlist quite as loud as I would have liked it (I do admittedly like loud music during workouts though).

I also think these are perfect for the work day—especially if you work in an office. I remember I always liked to listen to music through headphones in my cube, but then I could never hear when a coworker was trying to get my attention or ask me a question. These would have solved that! Listening to music without bothering anyone and still able to overhear workplace gossip: Win! ;)

Panasonic Open Ear Headphones Review (plus a playlist)

Since we’re talking about jammin’ out, I wanted to leave you with a playlist of mine. These aren’t necessarily workout songs (although, depending on what you like to listen to when you work out, you might find some in here), but these are the songs that are currently on repeat for me when I’m working at my computer, walking around running errands, getting ready in the morning, driving in the car, etc. Enjoy! 

 

What do you think–would try these headphones out? The Panasonic Open Ear Headphones retail at $79.99 and are available in multiple colors HERE. You can follow Panasonic at @PanaAdventure.

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