Monthly Archives: November 2013

First impressions of the Fitbit Force

Fitbit Force

I have a new gadget: the Fitbit Force.

Force is the newest addition to the Fitbit range of activity trackers, which aim to ‘nudge’ sedentary people to move more. It’s a pedometer, essentially, recording the number of steps walked or run, distance covered, calories burned, etc, with a small push-button display. The Force combines the functionality of the Fitbit One (with its screen display) with the sleeker look of the Fitbit Flex wristband. Read more about the Fitbit Force here.

Like a lot of women I rarely wear anything with pockets, so if I’m going to carry something around with me all the time, it really needs to go on my wrist (at least until the Google Glass becomes less douchebag-gy).

The relative puny functionality of the Flex had put me off buying one, but when I heard the more feature-rich Force had been launched I was keen to get my hands on one. It’s only available in the US at the moment, but it’s due for UK and international release in January 2014.

I love a gadget, and I especially like this kind of gadget as I like to measure and track things, but I’m not very good at remembering to do it. The beauty of the Fitbit and its ilk is you don’t really need to record anything – it does it for you.

For the past nine months I’ve been using the Pebble smartwatch, which can run native apps, but works primarily as an additional screen and controller for a smartphone. I find it a bit too chunky for general use, but it’s a brilliant device for runners – it allows me to skip tracks and keep an eye on my Runkeeper distance and pace via the watch, which means I can keep my phone in my pocket rather than on an arm strap, making for a more comfortable run.

Both the Pebble and the Force also tell the time. So if I want to know the time, I can look at my wrist, rather than getting my phone out. Revolutionary, right? I’m not sure it’ll catch on.

Early impressions

My early impressions of the Fitbit are good; it’s comfortable to wear, reasonably attractive, and the battery life is solid. It’s already making a difference to my activity levels; in my first three full days of usage I’ve found myself going out of my way to walk to places to bump up my ‘steps’ total.

The device works in conjunction with a smartphone app, which has a really clean, intuitive user interface. It also uses gamification techniques, awarding badges for achieving total or daily distance goals, and allows you to compete with friends. This feature brings out my worst competitive instincts; the three friends I run Intranetizen with are Fitbit users, and I’m determined to make my way up the league table.

Here’s my Fitbit profile – if you’re a Fitbit user, do add me. The more competition, the better.

But while the Fitbit seems effective at nudging users to be more active day to day, how useful is it for marathon training? I’m not sure. Number of steps isn’t a particularly useful training metric, and building two-mile walks into my working day is unlikely to prove a useful marathon training tactic.

Nonetheless, I like it. I’m about to head off on holiday, so there will be no running until mid-December. In the meantime, I’ll be using the Fitbit to track my holiday walks in Argentina – to make me feel less guilty about all the steak I’ll be eating.

First thing’s first

barnes towpath

On Monday night we went out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary – two years of marriage, and ten years together.

And what better way to celebrate than at Hawksmoor, with a giant steak and triple-cooked chips (plus some extremely creamy spinach, to give the impression of a balanced meal).

Over dinner I told D about my marathon plans.

“I need to buy a domain and sort out my hosting. I was thinking of creating a widget for the sidebar which shows miles run in training, and something clever to encourage donations…”

“Umm, don’t you think you ought to, you know… do some running?”

I don’t think he’s taking this seriously.

So, this happened

clean trainers

“Oh crikey” was my first thought when I opened the email from work saying I’d won a place in their London Marathon ballot.

Ok, so anyone who knows me knows that isn’t really what I said. A stream of expletives too rude to publish on a PG-rated blog went through my head and I screamed “SHIT” at the top of my voice. Fortunately I was working from home, or I’d have had some odd looks from my colleagues.

I ran through to my husband in the room across the hall and told him the good news.

“Congratulations!” he replied “I guess that means you need to get back on the training, eh?”

That bought me back down to earth with a very hard bump. I don’t really like running. I see it as a necessary evil, something to burn off a few calories and help in my endless battle between fitness and fatness. I tolerate it, and sometimes it even feels good. But training, to run 26.2 miles, well that’s a different story altogether, isn’t it?

You see, I’m 33. I’m a 5’0″, dumpy, slightly overweight woman in my mid-thirties. I’ve run three half-marathons before, but the last one was in March. Since then my running habit has waned. I developed a reasonable early morning gym habit over the summer, but as the mornings have got colder and darker and that’s been less appealing than staying in bed and reading the entire internet on my phone.

My recent lazy patch, together with my fondness for chocolate, means I’m tipping the scales at 63kg today. And I have to run a marathon in five months and two days’ time. Shit.

“I need to do something” I thought. So I did what any sensible runner would do: I posted the good news on Facebook so my friends could have a good laugh.

Then I toddled upstairs, and put on my running kit and trainers. My most recent run was barely 15 minutes. I could have gone further, but I couldn’t be arsed. But now I have to be arsed.

“Half an hour. Just keep running for half an hour,” I told myself as I strapped on my Pebble smartwatch and fired up Runkeeper on my phone.

And so, I ran. Through the recreation ground, past Barnes station and through the common all the way to the Spencer Arms in Putney, by some odd back route I’ve never come across before. Putney was where we had our wedding reception, and it was our wedding anniversary, so I kept going all the way to the riverside venue, where exactly two years ago we celebrated our marriage.

After that I looped back down the river towards home. 9k in total. 45 minutes. And it felt pretty good.

As I was running, I started to think “I can do this. I can run a marathon.”

In my head, I started making a plan. I need a training plan.

But more importantly than that, I need a website.