Musings on Fitness Trackers

Fitness Trackers are currently my thing.   I have four now and I have plenty to say about all of them.  They are:

  1. Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular)
  2. Amazfit T-Rex
  3. Haylou LS05 Solar
  4. Garmin Vivoactive 4

Fitness Watches (click pics to enlarge)

Here are my thoughts:  You don’t NEED any fitness tracker.  You want one though.  Back in the day I ran and biked and swam with nothing electronic on me at all.  It can be done.

That being said, I do love tech. It motivates me to see my workouts and data and IMPROVEMENT.  I’m also on a diet and it is super convenient to work out and the watch automatically sends my calorie burn data to my diet program of choice.  Really, really makes it super easy and fun.  And it can be shared, not that anybody else wants to see it, but too bad for them 😃.

So.  That’s the upside.  What’s the downside?  The downside, I guess, is these things link to your phone and you allow them all kinds of tracking and medical permissions.  The data on some of these watches probably ends up in the possession of Google and the People’s Republic of China.  I’m not kidding.  I wish I was.

Seriously, you are providing an electronic trail of your whereabouts in near real time.  And some of these watches do more than heart beat.  My Garmin Vivoactive does Pulse Oxygen percentage and my Apple Watch does an electro cardio gram (ECG).

ECG from Apple Health App

While technically that is a marvel……….for privacy concerns…………not so much.   What if your insurance providers got ahold of some of this information that maybe indicated you weren’t as well as you should be or that your heart rate was a bit higher than it ought to be?

Okay, so it’s pretty obvious I don’t care about the risks.  I don’t commit crimes, I don’t cheat, I don’t even go places that I’m ashamed to go.  And all the Chinese will learn about me is that I’m a SEXY 57 year old in beast mode.

Let’s talk about the watches and what I want and need from them.

  1. GPS  –  I’ll say it again.  GPS.  A fitness watch without it is useless as far as I’m concerned.  The Haylou Solar I have does not have GPS.  While it looks great and seems crazy useful it might as well be a steaming turd.  I don’t want to pick it up.
  2. Heart Rate Monitor –  Being 57 and a bit overweight its a real great idea to keep an eye on your heart rate ESPECIALLY while working out and ESPECIALLY when you feel like a beast.
  3. Integration with fitness software –  The watch needs to upload to a viable service which I believe will be in existence in the years to come.  Garmin Connect or Strava or Fitbit (I don’t have any Fitbit devices).  I own something called a Nike FuelBand and Nike just dropped support on the Nike Connect app.  Now it is a steaming turd.  I can’t pick it up.  The Haylou Solar I have also doesn’t sync with anything.  Steaming Turd Achievement!
  4. Fitness software allows me at a glance to see improvement –  At a quick glance with Garmin Connect or Strava or my third party program RubiTrack I can tell if todays ride was faster than yesterday’s or if my heart rate was higher or lower indicating effort.
  5. Comfortable –  Silicone straps may seem on the cheap side but they are fairly durable and don’t slide and spin too much.    All the watches I own are very comfortable.
  6. Auto update data to fitness software and diet software –  For example by using Garmin Connect or Strava when I finish an activity on my Apple Watch, Garmin Vivoactive 4, or Amazfit T-Rex they just send that data right to my software.  Even on RubiTrack all I have to do is hit the sync button.  Not automatic but not a dealbreaker either.
  7. Ability to pause a workout –  While I generally think the Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a technological marvel…… can’t pause a workout.   If you stop the activity you can’t discard it or save it.  if you don’t do anything it autosaves in 5 minutes.   Can’t stop and take a break.  They have an auto pause setting but it literally pauses when my dog stops to pee or if I say hi to someone.  Not only is it annoying it engages too fast and re-engages a little too slow.

Here’s what I don’t need:

  1. Watch to tell me my stress level –  Sorry.  Not helpful to me.   Just a goofy add on.
  2. Pulse Oxygen –  Nice to have but not very useful.  That’s maybe a more professional athlete feature.
  3. Spotify or Music Control – I know a lot of people enjoy having music with them and that this is a must have feature.  Not me.  I slip a very small transistor radio in my pocket and listen to the classic rock station.  I don’t like headphones or earbuds when I work out.  Transistor pocket radios are old school but then, so am I.

Right after all this I can’t think of a whole lot.  I’m not a professional athlete.  I’m just an old slugger trying to not have a heart attack and lose a few pounds.  Oh and I love being outside and smelling the air.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Eastern North Carolina but God it smells good here and you can almost taste the oxygen.  Maybe a bit poetic but I love the feeling of being outside and I’m grateful to God for providing me a magnificent picture to look at and interact with.

Sooooooooo basically most fitness watches out there from the major brands will fit my needs.  I don’t NEED a Garmin Vivoactive 4 as my much cheaper Amazfit T-Rex does everything I want and more.  Heck, watches are even cheaper than it and have the same features I enjoy.  I wanted a Garmin Fenix 6x but those bad boys are like $700.  $700.   They are cool in that they map and do navigation but I have an old Garmin Edge 705 bike computer that does that.  And a Garmin Montana 680t, a dedicated, for real GPS, for hiking.  And an old Garmin eTrex 30 in my bug out bag.  I have plenty of GPS’s.  No need to re-invent the wheel.

Another thing to think about is “do you need to carry a phone with you with your device as well”.  In regards to most activities and most watches, the answer is yes.  Sure I can use my Garmin Vivoactive 4 with GPS on my ride with no phone but who wants to be 10 miles from home and crash and burn with no way to call for help.

Throwing a phone in the rack bag is no problem at all but I simply cannot and do not want a phone in my pocket when I jog.   Here is where the cellular Apple Watch shines.   Granted I only run a couple two or three miles and I’m basically in the neighborhood so I could run without anything if I wanted to but running is the most taxing heart rate exercise I do.  This is where I want a rough idea of how my heart is reacting to the stress of exercise.  I DO NOT want to have a heart attack.

My recommendation to someone on a tight budget who wants a dedicated fitness tracker………..Use your phone!  If you have a couple of bucks then buy an inexpensive fitness watch that has GPS.  Heck get an old device on eBay.  GPS satellites and GLOSNAS satellites have NOT changed, and neither has your heart.  That old stuff will work FINE.

If you want to have as much freedom as possible, travel as light as possible, and have communications then get a cellular Apple Watch.  It does everything and does it well.  Just wish they’d make a ruggedized version of it.

So essentially I need a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor that syncs with Garmin Connect or Strava.  You can get that cheap.  I bet you are just like me too.  You don’t really NEED that $700 fitness watch.  You can get by with a $37 fitness watch.

You only think you need cutting edge stuff.


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