Author Archives: Greg Myers

Tech Review: @Jaybirdsport Bluebuds Review

I’ve been eyeing up a set of Bluetooth headphones for a while. My wired headphones are light and comfortable, but the darned cable is consistently a pain while I’m running. It gets caught on my FuelBelt, or I snag it with my hands as they are swinging. I was looking at several different sets, but kept coming back to Jaybird and their Bluebuds X. Honestly, the only think that kept me hesitating was the price tag. Retailing at $169.95, it seemed a steep bet if I ended up not liking them. Plus add the fact that I have a headphone problem. I seriously have about 15 pairs of earphones. I have different sets I’ve bought, the sets that have come with devices… it is a tad silly.

That changed for me in November 2013, when I flew out to Las Vegas to run the Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon. While at the Pre-race Expo, I stopped by the Jaybird booth, and was able to try them out. I was really pleased at how they sounded and how they felt. I got to the Expo late in the day, and by then Jaybird was all sold out of their Bluebuds (which were nicely discounted), but to make up for it, they gave me a coupon code for the same discount so I could buy online. Hesitation over.

Product Overview:

I ordered my Bluebuds almost first thing when I arrived home from Vegas. I didn’t want to miss out on the discount. They were shipped pretty quickly, and I soon had them in my grubby hands. The first thing I had to do was open up the accessory pack and find the insert and ear “wing” that fit me best.

Accessory Pack

 

Inside the Accessory Pack

Inside the Accessory Pack

I had to pick the biggest ones, because, let’s face it, I have big ears. 🙂 Once assembled, here is what they look like:

Bluebuds out of the box

 

And here is how they look in my big ear

IMG_2912

 

That little wide box on the line you see there is the controller. Here is a closeup of it.

IMG_2909

 

The controller has three buttons on it. The top and bottom (or left and right as I have it pictured) are for skipping music tracks. The center button is for powering on and off, for answering a phone call, or activating Siri if you have an iPhone.

The headphones charge via USB. The right earbud has a little cap on the back you pop off and insert the USB plug.

IMG_2906

 

You can sort of see the red LED hidden in there, showing that the unit is charging. The LED light turns green when your Bluebuds have a full charge.

And lastly, they come with a nice hard clam-shell carrying case.

Carrying Case

 

I like the case quite a bit. It is easy to find in my running gear bag, and keeps my headphones safe from getting tangled up with all of the other junk I carry in there.

Okay, so that is what they are. Here is the lowdown on how I feel about them.

What I like:

  • They were really easy to pair with my iPhone. I turn them on, they connect instantly.
  • The sound is really good. I didn’t realize how little I could hear with my old pair. These sound amazing.
  • I can take a phone call with them. If I forget to turn on Do not Disturb mode while I’m running, I can talk easily with these. The sound quality is really good.
  • They are super-sweat-proof and guaranteed for life. If your Bluebuds bust because you got too sweaty, they’ll replace them.
  • They have “Jenna” inside of them. Yes, the headphones have their own voice, and she talks to me. Pretty cool.
  • The battery lasts a nice, long time. The site touts 8 hours. I haven’t tried them that long yet, but my Bluebuds have hung in for 13.1 with me so far.
  • There is NO CORD to plug into my iPhone while I run. I feel so free not having that tether in the way all of the time.

What I don’t like:

  • The “Signal Plus” feature touts that the headphones won’t lose signal with your device based on location. As long as your device is on your body, you’ll get a good signal. I haven’t found this to be true. I often get a choppy signal when I turn my head to look for traffic, or if I found my phone has slid around in my arm band and is closer to my body. Granted I have been running in very cold temperatures lately, so I’m open to give this some more time.
  • Again with the cold temps, these are sort of hard to put under your hat or headband. For me, my hats or headbands tend to push these into my ears a little too much, and after an hour or so of running my ears get sore from them.
  • When I don’t have my hat or sweatband pushing these into my ears, they tend to slip out once I get really sweaty. I have been wearing them under-ear and am going to try them over-ear and see if that makes it better.
  • They sound REALLY good. Part of that means, when I’m outside running, these really block a lot of the outside sounds I need to hear, like cars coming up behind me, or other runners telling me they’re going to pass. I find I have to keep the volume really low on these so it isn’t dangerous for me to run around outside.
  • They are still expensive. I got them at a discount (20% off from the race Expo), but these are not cheap headphones.

The Verdict

Despite their drawbacks, I really like these headphones. I’m willing to keep working with them to make them work perfectly for me. They sound great, they are guaranteed for life against sweat (and I certainly sweat a LOT while I’m running), and there is NO CORD holding me back. Did I mention that there was NO CORD? 🙂

You could do a lot worse than Jaybird Bluebuds X if you’re looking for a great pair of sports headphones.

Do you run with headphones? If so, which are your favorite? And why?

Tech Review: Virtual Trainer Bodyweight on the iPad

Every amateur runner eventually faces the fact that “just running” isn’t enough. If you want to improve your times and/or lengthen your distances, you must must must (must) cross-train. Cross-training strengthens your body in ways just running cannot, and helps you run better, stronger, and with less of a chance of injury.

But if you are like me, and have a demanding job during the day, it can often be a challenge to find the time to get a run in, let alone try to squeeze something else into the mix. Believe me, I get this.

I used to be strictly a morning runner. I’d get up, walk the dogs, then head out to clock my miles. I was easily able to get everything in, shower, and get to work on time. That was last year. This year, I’m training harder for a Spring Half-Marathon and eyes on my first full Marathon in the fall, so my training runs have become much longer, and I can not fit my runs in during that morning gap any longer. I’d either have to get up earlier and go run in the dark and freezing outside (I already get up at 5:45am on weekdays), or be late to work every day (not really an option). So I started moving my runs to later in the day, either during my lunch break (easier to justify a long lunch than being late in the morning) or after work. Which left me with a gap of time in the mornings that I could utilize for something else.

Here’s where I found the Virutal Trainer: Bodyweight for my iPad. I was searching for something I could do with little or no gym equipment at home, but would not take too much time and still be a good workout. This app delivers on that, and then some.

The app costs $5 in the Apple App Store, but is well worth the small investment. The main screen opens up to a large array of exercises demonstrated by human beings in HD.

VT Main Screen

 

You can tap any one of the exercises and the demonstration video begins immediately. There are a couple of pre-built workout routines on the right, and you have the ability to make your own.  I started with the Tabata Workouts. There are two inside there, a Full Body routine, and an “Ass & Abs” routine as well. If you aren’t familiar with Tabata, it is similar to CrossFit. You do an array of exercises for 20 seconds each, with 10 seconds rest in between. You run through your list of exercises multiple times (you choose when you start, the default is 3 rounds).

Before you start your workout, you can touch any one of the exercises, and the demonstration video pops right up and you get to watch a real human demonstrate for you.

"Prisoner Squat" demonstration

 

Once you are ready to start, you select the routine you want to use, how many cycles of the routine you want to do, and hit the “Workout” button. Another really nice feature is that you can Air Play the videos to your Apple TV or Mac computer, so you can watch the demonstration videos on a larger screen if you want to. I have 2 Apple TV’s in the house, so I use this.

Next Exercise Prep

You get a preparatory command for the next exercise you’re about to do. They show the name and a demo video while the timer counts your 10 second rest period, then it is time to GO!

Go Go Go!

 

You do the exercise at your own pace as much or as little as you can during those 20 seconds, then you get a very short 10 seconds to rest and get into position for the next exercise.

IMG_0421

 

I was amazed at how torched I was after the first time I ran through this routine. Doing 3 run-throughs of the Full Body Tabata workout took just 12 minutes, but I was drenched with sweat and muscles quivering. How efficient is that? Who can’t spare 12 minutes in the morning? I love it!

There are tons of other apps in their library. I like this one because it doesn’t require any gym equipment. I have a little at home, but not much. Here’s a list of their app library. None are free, but most are only $5.

VT App Library

 

I’ve been using VT: Bodyweight for 3 weeks now, and I can really tell a difference. The scale is creeping down again, my BMI is also creeping down. I’m definitely feeling stronger during my runs. I’ll probably stick with the built-in workouts for a while longer, then start to build a few of my own. There are some exercises in there I’d like to include, and one unfortunate app oversight is that you cannot edit the existing workouts, or even copy them to a new list to edit. Oh well. Small deal for me.

Are there any great apps you use to help you cross-train?

Gear Review: Nathan Transwarmer Convertible Mitt

The Problem

I live on the East Coast of the US, and it is Winter. If you live in this area, you know that this year has been exceptionally cold. I’ve been having a hard time this year with gloves and keeping my hands the right temperature during runs. I have thin gloves that breathe, but my hands can’t seem to stay warm enough in those, even after running a few miles and the rest of me is nice and warm. I have thick gloves, but those don’t breathe, and my hands sweat in them and get too hot, then I end up taking them off and my hands freeze even more.

The Solution

Last week I saw what I thought might be a solution for me. I’ve been reading that mittens are best when running in temperatures below freezing, because they let your fingers stay together and huddle for warmth. I found the Nathan Transwarmer Convertible Mitt on sale, and thought, for $12, why not give it a try.

Nathan Transwarmer Convertible Mitt

The gloves look great. Best of both worlds, I thought. Gloves when you wan them (with touch-screen fingers) and mittens when you need them. My box arrived with my mittens yesterday, and I gave them a try this morning.

The Verdict

It was 20 degrees Farenheit (about -7 Celsius) when I went out to start my 12-mile run this morning. I started up RunKeeper and slipped on the Nathan Transwarmers in Mitten Mode right off the bat. Brrr it was cold! My thumbs started getting cold right away, so I tucked them into my fist to keep them warm. All was well until about 2 miles in.

Just after my 2nd mile, I noticed that my hands were getting sweaty. And while the glove part of the Nathan mittens is “moisture wicking” the mitten shell is not. So my fingers were getting progressively wetter under the mitten shell, and getting progressively colder. I decided to take the mitten shell off for a while an see if the gloves would dry. The air is very dry and I hoped that the moisture would wick off and I’d be okay. I was wrong. The moisture on my gloves instantly started to freeze. My hands were not warm enough to stave off the freezing with temperatures so low. So I popped the mitten shell back on my partly wet, partly icy fingers and kept trudging on. I started putting my hands, gloves and all, into my pants pockets to try and glean some of the ample warmth coming off of my quads. That helped, but my gloves still wouldn’t dry.

This was bad. I had a lot more running to do, but there was no way I could keep going with wet gloves on such a cold day. My fingers were starting to get numb. Thankfully I was running near home today. I changed course and made a loop back to my house, and reached it about halfway through my run (6 miles, 1 hour). I popped in and changed out my gloves for my really warm, thick gloves. I don’t even know what brand these are. I bought them from a small, local vendor at a race expo last year. They are the ones that usually make my hands too hot, but this time they were perfect. My hands were so cold, my fingernails were blue, so when I got them into my warm, thick gloves, they were finally happy.

I’m happy to report that I was able to finish the rest of my run with very comfortable hands.

As for the Nathan Transwarmer Mittens, from me, they get a FAIL. I’ll be getting a refund on those for sure.

Inspiring Australian Couple runs 365 Marathons in a Year

A good friend of mine forwarded this on to me, and I couldn’t help but be inspired beyond belief.

A couple in their 60’s started on New Year’s Day 2013 from Melbourne, Australia, and ran a marathon distance every single day. They finished their coastal circuit of Australia earlier today, one year from when they left out.

And if that wasn’t enough to be impressed about, both have been diagnosed with cancer, and are fighting it off through lifestyle changes and exercise.

And if that wasn’t enough to be impressed about, they have done this on a raw, vegan diet.

Wow. Just wow.

Watch the interview and read the write up for yourself, and may your 2014 be inspired.

2013 Kris Kringle 5 miler

This has been my last race of the year for 2 years now. I’m kind of fond of it, despite how much this race tends to suck. Last year, this was my first time doing a 5 mile distance. I had only done 5K’s up until then. And for the 2012 race, it snowed quite a bit the day before the race, and much of the Kringle was run on a snow-packed trail. I thought 2012 sucked.

That was until the 2013 race. This year, instead of snow, we were graced with just-slightly-above freezing temperatures and a steady, soaking rain. Runners are a stalwart lot, however, and the crowd seemed undaunted.

Just a tad less than 600 runners showed up to race in the cold December rain

Just a tad less than 500 runners showed up to race in the cold December rain

I’m not one to complain. I learned during my years in the U.S. Air Force that people are waterproof. But I really, really dislike being wet. Just a preference thing. I bundled up as best I could.

Multiple layers to combat both cold and rain, but not turn myself into a furnace during the race.

Multiple layers to combat both cold and rain, but not turn myself into a furnace during the race.

When the race started just after 11am, it was 38 degrees Farenheit ( a tad over 3 degrees Celsius) and the rain was coming down light but steady. Just enough to get everything nice and wet.

Runners starting to gather in the cold rain

Runners starting to gather in the cold rain

Waiting at the starting line as the rest of the runners make their wet way

Waiting at the starting line as the rest of the runners make their wet way

I’ve been running 5 miles as my go-to distance lately as I’m ramping up for my spring race goal, so I wasn’t worried about making it to the finish line this year because of the distance. The conditions, however, really gave me a challenge this time:

  1. About 15 minutes in my iPhone did a panic shut down. I think it must have gotten moist in my “waterproof media pocket”. But this left me with no RunKeeper stats, and no music for the whole race. Not unbearable, but different from my normal. Not good for race day.
  2. Did I mention that I really dislike being wet? Bad military training memories. I got soaked. My older and well-traveled rain coat I was wearing totally failed me. I was soaked all the way through everything I was wearing on top. I would have been way more comfortable if my rain coat had worked.
  3. My running shoes are not waterproof. Puddle after icy puddle I stepped in bathed my feet in their frigid wetness. My toes started going numb just before mile marker 4. They didn’t get really bad because I kept moving, but each puddle made it a bit more miserable for my toes.

Okay. Enough whining. Here’s the stuff I really love about this race, no matter what the conditions are:

  1. You get a hoodie instead of a race shirt. I love seeing the older ones appear on race day, and really enjoy wearing mine throughout the colder months.
  2. The race starts out flat, but within 5 minutes goes up a really challenging hill. I train hills all the time, and just love leaving people in the dust as I power up the big hill. It gives me a real boost.
  3. It is the last race of the year. It is awesome to cap out the year’s races with a good distance like this.
  4. Even though it is after Christmas, the festivities continue for a bit. I love seeing the costumes and jingle bells out one more time for the season.
  5. I improved my time a little over 7 minutes from last year. 2012 time was 54 minutes. 2013 time was 46 minutes. Yay!

This really is a great race, and despite my grumbling about the conditions each year, it is a good challenge. There certainly are times when you have to dig down deep and get your mind over the matter. And as my training instructors in the Air Force used to say, “People are waterproof as long as they keep their mouths shut.” 🙂

How do you like to wrap up your racing year?

 

 

 

 

A Year In Motion – My 2013 Wrap-up

This has really been one heck of a year for me for running. Considering I only started running in the fall of 2012, I think I can take a few minutes and be proud of what I accomplished.

Personal Running Goal of 700 miles

So first thing in January 2013, RunKeeper started bugging me to set a goal for the year. I figured it was worthwhile, because I am an extremely goal-oriented person. I need to have that target in mind or else I tend to just flounder. I knew I wanted to run my first Half Marathon in 2013, but wasn’t sure when, so I made a semi-educated guess that I could run 700 miles throughout the year. Sounds a little ambitious, right? Yeah, it probably was. So here is where I ended up for the year:

Running Goal 2013

As of today, December 24th, 2013, I have run 607 miles. Yeah I still have a few more days left in the year. I’ll get a little closer to the goal, but there is no way I can run 100 miles in the next 6 days. I’d die.

I’m going to keep the goal of 700 miles for 2014. I want to try harder to hit that this coming year. I’m pretty sure I can do it this time.

First 10K

So yes, I was setting goals for a Half-Marathon and 700 miles for the year before I even ran my first 10K. I was doing 5K’s pretty easily and knew I was ready for the next level. It didn’t take long. In early January, I decided to go around the chute at the Shiver by the River 5K and go back out for another lap and finish the 10K. I finished in 1:01:34. Not too shabby for the first time out.

First 10-mile

I decided to push my luck in March and go for a 10-miler. At this point I had signed up for my first Half Marathon in June, and I needed to start pushing the distance to see if my body was getting ready. It wasn’t. My first 10-miler was miserable. I went up to Quakertown for the run, it was very cold and even snowing a little, and I was still learning how to fuel my body. I hit the wall. Hard. I finished the 10-miler in 1:54:01, which was just abysmal, and dedicated myself to learning how to fuel myself or a run.

First 1/2 Marathon

I wasn’t quite ready to sign up for this, but a good buddy of mine wanted to run this together, so I caved. Unfortunately, he got injured before the race and was not able to compete with me. Boo. But I understood. I trained my backside off, learned how to fuel my body for the run, and trained some more. I went out and hit this one with all I had, and learned a ton. I ran the ODDyssey Half in Philadelphia, which wound the 13.1 miles through beautiful Fairmount Park in early June. It was simply gorgeous. I finished in 2:15:05, and I was quite happy with my time. Very decent showing for a 1st-timer.

This was ~Mile 9. I was feeling good and charging on towards the finish line.

This was ~Mile 9. I was feeling good and charging on towards the finish line.

Second 1/2 Marathon

This one was my little sister’s fault. She’s been running longer than me, but wasn’t going past 5K for the longest time. She decided she wanted to do the Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas in November and asked for takers to go with her. I bit. I started training in July a little after a month of downtime after the ODDyssey. Again, trained my butt off. This one really bit me. First I think because of the time zone difference, and second because the race is run in the evening which felt even later to my body because of the jet lag. I had finished my 13.1 training run in 2:09:00 and in my head I wanted to finish Vegas in under 2hrs. Unrealistic goal I see in retrospect. I fueled as best I know, but the factors were against me and I hit the wall hard at about 11 miles in. I just couldn’t pick my legs up anymore. I was hot, sweaty, tired, and just beat. I had a blast though. That was a race for the bucket list. Amazing scenery and crowds. I finished in 2:12:02.

Probably hard to tell from the picture, but I seriously could barely stand up at this point. I gave it everything I had.

Probably hard to tell from the picture, but I seriously could barely stand up at this point. I gave it everything I had.

Started this blog

I blog professionally quite a bit. Ok well not so much this year as in past, but it is a part of what I do. I realized I had a lot to say about running and getting fit, and my journey towards all that, and started up this blog.

 2014 Goals

  • I’m going to carry over the 2013 goal of running 700 miles in the year. I’m going to hit it in 2014.
  • I am going to run the Garden Spot Village Half-Marathon on April 12th. I am going to have a realistic goal of finishing under 2 hours. I started a Sub-2hr Half training program today.
  • I am going to run my first full Marathon. I don’t know which one just yet, but after my spring half, I plan to choose a fall marathon and then get to training. The Philadelphia Marathon in November perhaps? I might not be able to wait that long.

What fitness goals to you have for 2014? The hardest part of the journey is the first step.

The New Multi-Vitamin Debate

 

It’s been all over the news lately. The latest research on multi-vitamins is saying that not only do multivitamins have no measurable benefit, but can also cause harm in the long-term and everyone should stop taking them.

Does this seem strange to anyone else? I certainly accept that as we advance in science and medicine that new things will be discovered to challenge conventional wisdom. But this one really leaves me scratching my head. Every family doctor I’ve ever seen has encouraged me to take a daily multivitamin even as recently as this year.

How should we interpret as athletes? Here’s a few questions I have heavy on my mind before I take any action:

  • This research were based on “three big studies”. Ok. I want to see hundreds of big studies on all types of people.
  • I want to see a study specifically done on athletes (or even better, runners). I cannot believe that the vitamin requirements of an extremely active person are the same as someone who is sedentary.
  • I want my doctor to tell me to stop taking my vitamins based off of hard data in my own blood chemistry.

I’m pretty good at seeing my doctor every six months. It usually includes blood work, and so far there are no signs that I am anything but healthy. For me, I’m going to continue taking my multivitamins every day until I have more concrete evidence that I shouldn’t. For the record, I take GNC MegaMan Sport Vitapack. I still feel that this is an essential part of my health and wellness routines.

What do you think?

My Love Affair with @FitBit Continues with the FitBit Force

My nearly 2-year-old FitBit Ultra finally bit the dust. It is pretty obvious to me that there were design issues with that model. First because I know several people who had them and the result was the same, the housing would crack and the device would fall apart. Second, because FitBit stopped making them, and the newer models are totally redesigned.

I struggled for a while deciding on how to replace it. I replaced my wife’s broken Ultra with the FitBit One earlier this year for a Mother’s Day gift, so I knew all of what that could do. I was intrigued by the FitBit Flex, but could not live without the altimeter counting my elevation and floors of stairs. I considered the Nike FuelBand second generation, because I heard rumors there was going to be a heart rate monitor built in, but when it finally released without the HRM, that was quickly kicked from my list. At almost the same time, FitBit announced the Force, which really was the answer for me. It had all of the functionality I wanted from my broken FitBit Ultra, but in the wrist-band style of tracker I had a feeling would be more to my liking. Through all of my deliberation, I did not place my pre-order for the Force on the first day. I waited a couple of weeks, and for that I had to wait over a month for it to ship. First world problems, I realize. But it is finally here, and I’ve had a couple of weeks to play with it.

Showing my step count for the day, and the little bar across the bottom shows progress towards daily goal

Showing my step count for the day, and the little bar across the bottom shows progress towards daily goal

 

What I like about my FitBit Force:

  • I never have to wonder where it is. I can feel it on my wrist.
  • It is comfortable to wear. I often forget it is even there.
  • It is WAY more accurate than the Ultra. There used to be big differences, especially while running, between FitBit and RunKeeper. No more.
  • It syncs wirelessly with my iPhone. My Ultra needed to be near the base station.
  • The charge lasts a long time, and the device will send me alerts when the battery gets low. Way cool.
  • The clasp is nice and secure. I never worry about if falling off.
  • When I registered the device late in the day, it asked if I was replacing a device, which I was, and it automatically transferred all of the data from my old Ultra tracker to my new Force. That was a NICE touch!
  • The Force will vibrate when you hit your goal for the day, and you can configure what you want that goal to be. I have mine set for my 10,000 steps per day. The buzzing cheer surprises me, but I like it.
  • The first item to display is the time. I have found that the Force has replaced my watch for most intents and purposes.
  • I have heard that in an upcoming update, the Force will do some things like my Pebble smart watch does, like vibrate and display text messages, vibrate when I get a phone call and display the name or number, and alert me to incoming emails. This could be pretty cool.

What I don’t like:

  • It is not “waterproof”. It is “splash and sweat resistant” but you can’t submerge it. The charger connection on the back is bare metal. I only take it off when I get in the shower, but part of me would prefer to just never have to take it off. The FitBit Flex, by contrast, is waterproof and can be worn in the shower or in the pool.
Here's the back of the Force. You can easily see why it isn't waterproof.

Here’s the back of the Force. You can easily see why it isn’t waterproof.

  • The clasp was REALLY hard to fasten the first couple of times. I thought I would never get it on right out of the box. It has since broken in nicely, but was a downer at first.
Here's the clasping mechanism. You have to fit the two metal "teeth" into the appropriate holes. Good luck with that the first few times.

Here’s the clasping mechanism. You have to fit the two metal “teeth” into the appropriate holes. Good luck with that the first few times.

  • Although it is really comfortable to wear all day, I find it not so comfortable to wear to bed to measure my sleep. I think part of that is the metal back on my skin. I get kinda tired of it by the end of the day, like a watch. I have been toughing it out for the data, however.

Overall I really like the device. I have loved FitBit for nearly 2 years now, and I’m going to keep on loving them for a while more. Do you use a FitBit yet? Or do you have another type of tracking device you prefer?

Run Santa Run 5K

This past Saturday, December 14th, 2013, I finally made it out to West Reading to run the “Run Santa Run 5K”. I wanted to do the race last year, but already had a race scheduled for Sunday and was really unsure about running a race two days in a row. This year is a different year.

We started in front of my favorite running store, A Running Start, in West Reading, PA. The store is small but fabulous. The staff are all avid runners and can steer you to the right gear. They are also huge supporters of our local running club, the Pagoda Pacers (of which I’m also a member). Everyone racing was unsure if we were going to race at all because of an impeding snow storm. We lucked out that the meteorologists were wrong and the storm didn’t really start until well after the race was done.

The race started on time in the frigid cold. My intrepid wife, Gia, has been joining me for races this winter. I love doing this stuff together.

Waiting in the starting line for the gun. Brrr.

Waiting in the starting line for the gun. Brrr.

I’ve done a few other 5K races in the West Reading area, and remember it as being a little hilly. In case you were wondering, it still is. 🙂

There were over 600 Santas out there on Saturday. It was a really great race. West Reading is very charming, and there is really no better way to see it than out and around on foot.

Waiting near the finish line for Gia to arrive. Run, Santa! Run!

Waiting near the finish line for Gia to arrive. Run, Santa! Run!

 

We both turned in respectable times. I came it at 26:54 and Gia got 33:31. Not a record for me, but I’m happy with it. Gia’s been training up for the last 6 weeks or so, and I’m really proud of how well she’s doing.

I’m already looking forward to next year! Do you have a favorite holiday run?

 

A Week With Argus

There are a bazillion fitness apps out there to help you track your activity levels and healthy lifestyle. This one caught my eye a few weeks ago, and I decided to spend a week with it and see how it went. So here is my week with Argus by Azumio software.

Argus claims to be a “life tracker” instead of just a fitness tracker. I installed Argus on my iPhone 5 from the App Store (link above). You’ll note that it is not free, but at $2 I figured it was worth a shot. After a brief registration process, you can begin to hook Argus in to your other existing personal sensors. I linked in RunKeeper and FitBit. Argus needs to keep running in the background so it can track your step count. The main interface is pretty slick:

Argus Main Feed

 

You hit the little plus hexagon in the upper-right corner to add additional metrics to your feed. It looks like this:

Argus Add Activities

 

It has more if you scroll down.

Things I Like:

  • I already mentioned I like the interface. I find the sliding hexagons pretty cool and refreshing as a news feed.
  • While again not free, I like the integration with Instant Heart Rate, also by Azumio, which can take a pulse reading using the phone’s LED light and camera. Very cool. I shelled out another $2 for the heart rate app.
  • Argus automatically pulls in the weather for the day. Over time that could be neat to run some metrics on (assuming I can get to the data somehow)
  • It has the ability to tie into a Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor (which I don’t own yet) and track your workouts in real time. It has quite a breadth of workout types available.

Things I Don’t Like:

  • If you keep Argus running in the background, it is a battery hog
  • Since I have the iPhone 5 and not the 5s, I’m assuming it is calculating step counts using the accelerometer. It is not very accurate.
  • Instead of ceding the step metric to a superior device, I have 2 step counts in my feed. The Argus count, and since I linked, the FitBit count. I don’t need both and would like to choose.
  • It nags. If I shut it down from memory to save my battery, it complains about being shut down. It also nags me about drinking water throughout the day. While some people might find this useful, I already drink a ton of water every day, and don’t always remember (okay, never…) to hit the little button to log it. I wish I could turn that off.

Overall

I think Argus is a pretty cool tracking app if you aren’t already invested in some other app or tracker device to quantify your fitness. For $4 you can get Argus and the heart rate app and have a really great platform to get started. For those who are more serious about their personal data, there are better choices out there. Personally I’m going to stick with FitBit and RunKeeper. FitBit tracks my activity without having to be told anything. RunKeeper has been my staple app for tracking my runs for over a year now, and I’m not likely to switch any time soon. Between the two of those, there is really little else I need. I’m going to keep tinkering with Argus for a while though, and see if it grows on me.