When Microsoft unveiled its new Band activity tracker last year, I knew I wanted one. I had been ogling the Fitbit Surge for months because I wanted a tracker that could measure my heart rate. Also, I love watches. Brian pointed out that my Fitbit One was still functioning just fine, so I didn’t need a new gadget. He was absolutely right. I heaved a plaintive sigh and forgot about upgrading. (As a side note, I have the same problem with my phone. I desperately want a new Nokia Lumia, but my Moto X keeps chugging right along. Drat that reliable thing!)
The Band went out of sight, out of mind for the next couple of months as I concentrated on work and trying not to stress myself to death, which meant Brian was able to completely surprise me at Christmas. It was the last gift, and he said, “This one is just a silly little thing, no big deal.” You’d think I would know better by now, but nope. My squee of glee probably busted eardrums for eight square miles.
I’ve been wearing my Band religiously for two months now, and you know what? I’m still in love with it. Best. Gadget. Ever.
The Wearables Debate
My Band has generated a lot of questions from people at work, usually something along the lines of, “What IS that?” Reactions range from interested to baffled; a lot of folks just don’t see the value in tracking daily activity (or of daily activity in general, but that’s another subject entirely). These questions even show up on my favorite fitness forums. One person actually suggested that activity trackers do their users a disservice because the users might focus solely on Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) instead of following healthful exercise routines.
The forum response to that post was, “Bollocks!” But it did make me think about my own focus, and I have to admit he wasn’t completely wrong. More than once I’ve come home from a difficult day of braining, looked at my scheduled workout, and said, “Blargh, I already got 7,000 steps today. Forget it.” The counterpoint to that is the data provided by the tracker inspires me to move my carcass more throughout the day, so I think there’s a balance.
If you, like me, are fascinated and motivated by gathering and analyzing data, you’ll probably enjoy wearing a tracker. If you aren’t, it likely won’t be a worthwhile investment for you and you’d be chucking your new toy on EBay within a month. Marketing materials for the Band suggest it’s made for super-active athlete people, but I suspect the target market is really data junkies and nerdletes (in other words, My People).
My Favorite Features
I love everything about this gadget, but as an unrepentant data junkie I do love some features more than others.
- Charts! – Oh, the wonderful charts are my favorite part. Your data syncs to your Microsoft Health account and is parsed into charts you can view for a snapshot of your progress in steps, calories burned, and sleep quality. You can really drill down here and use the information to tweak your plan as required. Data is sexy.
- Guided Workouts – Microsoft Health has a metric buttload of guided workouts that you can download directly onto your Band. They range from cardio to bodyweight to full weight routines (complete with stretches!), and the Band buzzes to let you know when to switch to the next set. These were one of the main selling points for Brian when he bought it for me. I’ve been working on a starter bodyweight routine and it’s been pleasantly kicking my buttocks. I’ll be moving up to a freeweight routine soon.
- Pairing – The Band pairs with your phone via Bluetooth, and you can set it to receive every notification known to man: phone calls, email, texts, apps, etc. I have mine set to texts, phone, and a couple of apps just to save battery life, but the capability is quite varied. I love being able to glance at my wrist to see who’s calling or texting so I don’t have to dig out my phone if I’m in the middle of something.
- Tiles – After the initial screen that shows the time and your step count, you can swipe to the left to view activity tiles, which track and/or guide the activities you have set up. The selection of tiles is pretty big, from sport activities like cycling or running to information displays like weather and news. I keep mine to activity tiles, again to save battery life, but the variety is very cool.
- Customization – Along with selecting which tiles you want to display, the Band lets you change its background pattern and color. I love this because it feels more personal; I can make it mine, so to speak. I’m hoping Microsoft will add colors and patterns in future updates, but the current options are quite nice.
Progress to Date
I started wearing my Band on December 27, 2015, and have lost six pounds since. My weight-loss plan is set to slow, steady progress, so the Band has actually put me right back on track to where I was before The Great Suck of 2014. That is a huge bonus.
Also, I’ve increased my step goal from the default setting of 5,000 to a custom setting of 7,000 and am consistently hitting it each weekday. My calorie burn has gone up accordingly without causing mastodon levels of hunger, so that’s also a bonus. Having a more accurate estimate of my calorie burn has helped me really dial in my nutrition.
As the final bonus, the guided workouts have helped increase my craptastic levels of flexibility thanks to the stretches incorporated in the warmup and cooldown phases. Adding those phases was genius because I’m sure I’m not the only one who won’t warm up if someone doesn’t make me (don’t get all judgy; you know warming up sucks).
Seriously, the hardest part of using the Band is figuring out the right time to charge it so you don’t feel like you’ve “lost” steps. It will go two days on a charge, but I like to make sure I have enough juice to keep the haptics on when I work out in the evening (the haptics turn off when it goes into low-power mode).
Goals Going Forward
My goals are staying simple for now to build on the progress I’ve made since Christmas:
- Increase step count.
- Continue to use the guided workouts for cross-training.
- Start cycling training to prepare for the 2016 Dehydrator.
- Keep nutrition dialed in to avoid Mastodon Mode.
Good plan, great plan! Now to implement it.
The Name of My Next Band
If you spend much time on Twitter (at least in my circles), you see a lot of tweets along the lines of “_____ is the name of my next band.” Well, the name of my band is Later, because that’s what I’m about to say to these last 30 pounds. Thanks, Brian and Microsoft! I love this thing!