fitbit, fitbit charge HR, running gear

Fitbit Charge HR: Equipment Review

I haven’t reviewed any exercise gear in a while, but I have a new toy to share!

There’s a lot of hype lately about “wearable technology,” especially with the upcoming release of the Apple Watch.  Now, I’ll admit that the Apple Watch looks very cool, but it’s really out of my price range.  However, I love gadgets, so I decided to spring for the new Fitbit Charge HR.  For those of you not familiar with the Fitbit, it’s sort of like a pedometer…but so much more.  Yes, it counts your steps.  It also estimates your calorie burn, miles walked, flights of stairs climbed, and active minutes per day.  All of the information syncs with your phone or computer.  You can “friend” people for some friendly competition.  I used to have a Fitbit One, which you clip onto your clothes, like a traditional pedometer.  However, when I heard about the Fitbit Charge HR, I knew that I had to have it…because of it’s new feature, a heart rate monitor.  
I’ve been working out with a heart rate monitor for years.  It’s a great way to make sure that you are working out within your aerobic range, and I’ll do another post soon on training with a heart rate monitor.  Traditional heart rate monitors are a chest strap that sends information wirelessly to a watch.  I’ve used a Polar monitor in the past, and you wear the chest strap like this:
That’s not a picture of me.  I wish.
The chest strap is very accurate at transmitting the heart rate.  There are, however, some significant drawbacks.  First, the contact points need to be moistened to work.  Once you’re sweating, you’re pretty much good to go, but until then you need to wet the transmitter.  Which basically involves licking your fingers and sticking them up your shirt.  This is occasionally an awkward thing to do.  Next, once you’re sweating, the band can slip down a lot (at least it did on me).  This can become pretty irritating.  Speaking of irritating, you can also develop quite a bit of chafing after a long run.  I actually have scars just below my breastbone from chafing from my heart rate monitor.
The heart rate monitor on the Charge HR works differently.  It’s an LED light that measures the blood flow in the capillaries below the skin (it works kind of like a pulse oximeter works at the doctor’s office).  Therefore, you don’t need to have a direct skin contact point for it to work.  The light is green, but I don’t find it to be noticeable unless I’m in a dark room and my wrist is flexed.  Here’s what the lights look like- they’re on the underside of the watch.
And see?  You can’t see them while you’re wearing it.
There’s a button on the side that you can press and the face will display the time, steps, calories, heart rate, and stairs climbed.  You can also just tap on the face and get one of those displays to show up (mine shows heart rate).  

I’ve been pretty impressed with the accuracy of the monitor.  I tested it against my chest strap and it did pretty well.  The only spots where it had trouble was if my heart rate was changing really rapidly (like I was running really fast and then stopped to walk) and in my spin class where it sometimes had trouble reading the rate because of how my wrist was flexed against the handlebars.
When you do a workout, you press and hold the button and it will start timing your workout.  This will allow you to see what your heart rate does:
Fun!  When you set up your account and put in your age, it’ll calculate out your heart rate zones.  You can also manually set the zones.
If you wear it to sleep, it’s great for seeing how your resting heart rate decreases as you get more fit.
Speaking of wearing it to sleep, it’ll also tell you how well (or how badly) you’re sleeping at night.  Bonus for its ability to set an alarm to wake you up with a buzz at your wrist.

The Fitbit app also integrates seamlessly with MyFitnessPal, which is a terrific calorie tracker.  Using the two apps together is a really powerful tool to help lose or maintain weight.

The battery life is surprisingly long.  I’ve gone 4 1/2 days without charging it, which is pretty impressive for something that is monitoring your heart rate 24 hours a day.  
Overall, two thumbs up.  I’ve been really impressed and I’m having a lot of fun with this little gadget!

running, running gear

What to wear while running in hot weather

Happy 4th everyone!  The heat is on.  We’ve had temperatures well into the upper 80s and 90s for the past few weeks.  It’s tempting to skip your run on hot days, but with the right clothes and gear, you can still keep moving.

Proper clothing is key.  Cotton, while soft and natural, is the devil when it comes to running in hot weather.  When you sweat in cotton, it gets sopping wet and stays that way.  This leads to chafing.  OUCH.  Look for synthetic fabrics.  Coolmax is one of my favorites.  It is soft and light.  As you sweat, it wicks the moisture away from your skin to evaporate rapidly.  Awesome.  Dri-Fit is another one.  However, most lightweight rayon or polyester will do fine.

Socks.  SO, SO important.  If you’ve ever run with a blister you know this. Again, cotton is evil.  Look for synthetic socks made of a wicking fabric.  My favorite are socks that are in a double layer- these are my favorite.  True, you can’t pick them up at the dollar store,  but they won’t break the bank, either.  Investing in a couple of pairs of these is well worth it.  I have 2 pairs and just rotate them.  Obviously, with 2 kids I’m doing lots of laundry anyway.

A hat.  Here are some good choices.  Look for a hat made out of a lightweight synthetic material.  These will wick sweat away from your head and hopefully keep it from running into your eyes.  If you get really hot, a neat trick is to dump water onto your hat and put it back on your head.  As it evaporates, it will cool you off nicely.

Sunglasses.  Look for a lightweight pair.  Now, you can spend a lot of money on a fancy pair, but it’s really not necessary.  Just look for a light pair that has UV protection and fits decently.  I usually pick up a couple of cheap pairs at the drugstore.  I have a habit of constantly losing sunglasses, so I don’t invest in anything expensive.

Sunscreen.  Need I say more?  High SPF, waterproof version.  Re-apply partway through your run if you are doing a lot of sweating.  Get something like this– a little travel size sunscreen with a carabiner so you can hook it onto your belt.

Finally- water.  Lots of it.  I’ll do another post about hydration belts, but for now, just make sure you are carrying water!

Now it’s time to get out for your run. Enjoy, because before you know it snow will be flying.