Random thoughts from my kayak workout this afternoon

randomthoughts

It’s time for the first installment of what I think will be a recurring theme of this blog.

Welcome to installment #1 of “Random Thoughts from my Kayak.”

I headed out this afternoon in my Nelo 510 to get in my first paddling miles of November.  The weather was a chilly 45 degrees F but it was a sunny day with no wind.  I wore my 1/2 wetsuit and it was plenty good but at the end of my paddle when the sun went down behind the trees, my feet and fingers got chilly.

Now on to my random thoughts:

  1. The Nelo 510 is not a good Fall/Winter training boat for flat water.  In fact, no ski really is.  The nature of the beast is you will always get water in the bucket area of a ski and once the feet and the butt get wet and cold, things become a bit uncomfortable.  Add to that the fact that the bow of the Nelo 510 collects leaves like a Hoover vacuum cleaner and you’ve got a recipe for a less-than-optimum Fall workout. Bellagio_fountains_nightWhile the water display on the front of the boat when a leaf gets stuck is quite spectacular, akin to the fountains at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, the excitement wears off quickly once you realize how much the dazzling water display is costing you in terms of speed and efficiency.  I perfected a technique of quickly slamming my torso straight back while pulling on my legs to lift the bow out of the water to clear leaves, but that saps additional energy.  Therefore…
  2. There will always be room in the quiver of boats for a fully decked kayak for winter training.  I’ll be back in my Thunderbolt-X and Cobra Viper for the rest of the winter.  I like keeping my feet and butt dry and they seem to collect less leaves because their bows are much sharper.
  3. I tested out a new fitness watch that a company sent me for free in exchange for a review.  The iWownFit P1 has built-in GPS and actually counts paddle strokes as steps!  A full review of that watch will be forthcoming, but it appears to be a credible offering for kayaking.
  4. I wore the Amazfit Bip fitness tracker on my right wrist.  Its GPS locks onto satellites quicker than the iWownFit and strangely, it counted paddle strokes as steps on my right wrist when it did not count them as strokes previously on my left wrist.  Strange.

    GPS tracks from the iWownFit P1 and the Amazfit Bip

    5. Spotting an American Bald Eagle is always exciting.  Always.

 

 

Actofit: Take II, Actofit Rise review

Actofit just notified me that they are sending a replacement unit for my original device, the Gen 1 Actofit fitness tracker.

The new device is called the Actofit Rise and it looks good on paper with continuous heart rate, GPS and is IP67 waterproof.

rise

The thing I liked most about this device in its first incarnation was its ability to track reps and sets in the gym along with the ability to train new exercises, such as kayak paddle strokes.  Unfortunately, the first release of this product was buggy and not quite ready for prime time.

If this new device delivers on gym tracking abilities and is a reasonable all-day, every day fitness tracker then it might displace the Amazfit Bip as my main device.

We shall see.

Update 9/24/18: The device arrived in the mail today.

I was expecting to set it up through the app on the phone but it took me a while to realize the device itself runs a full version of Android and all setup of Bluetooth, Wifi, etc. happens through the device itself.

As you can imagine, my reading glasses were required once the keyboard popped up on the device and inputting things likes my Gmail user name and password and wifi password should qualify me as a world-class surgeon.  And, no, a stylus did not work, so it took me several attempts.

The device is large compared to the Amazfit Bip, the Atlas Wearables 2 and the first generation of the Actofit, yet the virtual keyboard on the device is very, very small.

I’m reserving judgement until my first gym workout, but I have visions of wearing reading glasses to the gym and fighting with sweaty fingers to input numbers for amount of weight used and correcting the number of reps in case it gets it wrong.

I can’t imagine battery life will be very good considering it is running a full version of Android, but the device is so big they might have a big battery packed in there.

I think the key is going to be keeping BLE and wifi turned off until I need to upload my workouts to the cloud to then be able to pull into the app on the phone.

Reserving judgement, but it is not at all what I expected.

20180924_155440Out of the box

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Size vs. the Amazfit Bip

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Size vs. the Atlas Wearable 2 (well worn!)

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Size vs. the Gen 1 Actofit


Actofit Rise first impressions and early review video

Update 9/26/18:

I was unable to get the device to track workouts and then Actofit informed me that freestyle mode is not available yet and will come in a future update, so for now you have to follow guided routines.  The good news, though, is that you can create your own, custom guided workouts.

Well, that didn’t exactly work at first either, until a new app update came via Play Store overnight last night.

So I updated the app today, created 3 different guided workouts, and when I hit the gym to start the workouts and track them, the Actofit Rise failed to recognize even a single rep of any of the 4 different exercises.

So for now, the product is useless and falls short on promises.  I’m shocked they took so long to develop the gen 2 tracker and it still has so far to go.

I’ll re-review it if and when they do any major upgrades or improvements, but it is going in a drawer until then.

I’d really like to hear from other users of the new device to see if their experience is any different from mine.  I suppose it is possible I got a faulty device.

Update October 24, 2018:

I’m continuing to play with the device and have learned you need to treat it like any other phone or Android device.  If you want reasonable battery life, make sure wifi, BLE and Location Services are all turned off.  It woke me up far too early the other morning as it chimed when the battery died. Quite sooner than I anticipated.

The step counter seems to drastically over-count steps but I actually quite like the on-demand heart rate and blood pressure measurements. Lack of sleep analysis is a major drawback.

More and more, I just can’t shake the feeling that a device so big and bulky just seems like a child’s toy.  I can’t imagine others seeing it on my wrist and thinking any differently.

I’ll keep you updated as I gain experience with the device, but it is still not a credible gym tracker for those who program their own workouts, it lacks sleep analysis and over-counts steps, so at this point it is little more than a novelty.

Lemfo LT02 Fitness Tracker Review

20180828_161806The Lemfo LT02 Fitness Tracker

Lemfo reached out to me and offered me a free device in exchange for a fair and honest review and that’s exactly what this is.

In my never-ending quest for the perfect fitness tracking device for kayaking, this device ranks highly in that it counts paddle strokes as steps.  Other than the Amiigo that I had to “train” to recognize paddle strokes, this is the first device I’ve had that actually counts paddle strokes as steps.

That’s a good thing.

Step counting seems accurate, sleep tracking is awesome and it can be set to automatically measure heart rate and automatically illuminate the display when you lift your wrist (I turn this latter feature off to prolong battery life.)

The band detaches and the device is charged directly on a USB port so no charging cable is included or required, which is a huge positive to me. One less thing to break or need to be replaced.

I ordered the black and green band and it also came with a spare grey/black one, which is very good to have a spare or switchable band.

The only downsides I see so far are the fact that sleep tracking can only take place during the hours of 10pm and 8am, so if you sleep outside of those hours or take naps, that sleep will not be tracked.  Also the device does not have built-in GPS.

But you probably don’t expect GPS in a device under $40, do you?

I like the looks of the tracker and it fits well on my wrist.

If you are on a budget or are looking for a basic tracker for steps, sleep and heart rate then I think this is a good option for you.

Readers of this blog get a special discount from Lemfo on this device.  Click the Amazon link below and enter code LEM66V88 and save $12.95.  That means you can get this device, regularly priced at $36.99, for only $24.04.  Exclusively for you reading this blog right now.

https://amzn.to/2N4f00c

My review of the Amazfit Bip

I’ve owned the Amazfit Bip smartwatch for well over 1 month now and it is the device that resides on my left wrist.

The battery life is phenomenal at greater than 30 days (I only use GPS minimally,) it has various different watch faces that can be installed (with many others available from 3rd party sources available for download and installation,) and it is stylish and comfortable to wear.

It has continuous heart rate mode that can be turned off or set to automatically measure at 1, 10 or 30 minute intervals or can be set to “Sleep assistant” mode which only measures while you are sleeping to improve sleep tracking accuracy.

It has become my main device, although it still comes off and the Atlas 2 goes one when I’m in the gym.

Definitely a great watch at its price point.

Amazfit Bip Smartwatch by Huami with All-day Heart Rate and Activity Tracking, Sleep Monitoring, GPS, Ultra-Long Battery Life, Bluetooth, US Service and Warranty (A1608 Black)

Great for kayaking in terms of GPS tracks and total mileage, but it does not count paddle strokes as steps, unfortunately.  For that I wear the Lemfo LT02 on my right wrist while paddling.

yacht

 

Reviews and the gear I use in my training

Most of you know I talk about brands I love and have no sponsorship arrangements with anyone.  If I ever get a free gadget for review I will disclose it.  If I ever have a financial incentive to promote a product I will also let you know.

That said, I post screen shots from some of my workouts while wearing the Atlas Wearables 2 wristband.

I’ve now been working out with it for a full year and it has been an integral part of my training and progression.

I have no ties to the Atlas Wearables company but just wanted you to know this is one piece of gear that has become an invaluable tool in my training regimen.

Here is my original written review and my video review is directly below.

 
Buy now through my Amazon Affiliate link:
Atlas Wristband 2: Digital Trainer + Heart Rate Band

Next generation fitness trackers

fitnesstrackers

We’re having a drought here in Central Virginia so I have not done much paddling during a time of year where I typically love being on the water and logging many of my annual kayaking miles.

So in the absence of much to talk about in terms of my kayaking and on-water adventures, let me  explain several of my recent posts involving fitness tracking technology.

I started searching for a fitness and gym tracker a few years ago in order to log and track my training both in the gym and on the water.  Being able to track paddle cadence on the water and progress in the gym would be very useful.

I started out with the Amiigo device, then moved to the Xiaomi Amazfit Arc followed shortly thereafter by the Atlas Wearables Wristband 2.

As a result of reviewing those units in YouTube videos and on this blog, two other companies reached out to me and sent me devices to evaluate in exchange for fair and honest reviews.  Those devices were the Actofit Wearables tracker and the MBHB Sport Smart Bracelet.

I have also researched countless other devices to find the right one.

So far not a single device meets all my needs.

Many of them do not count paddle strokes as “steps”, some are not reliably waterproof, and some do not have the battery life to last for an all-day outing or ultra-marathon kayak trip or race.   Some let you train new movements or exercises while others do not.

The one device I am truly in love with is the Atlas Wearables wristband for in the gym.  It recognizes my exercises, lets me train new ones and allows me to enter the amount of weight on the bar or edit the number of reps right on the wristband during my workouts.  It has completely replaced my clipboard with paper exercise log in the gym and the online dashboard lets me review my training progress and areas of focus over time.  It is a great training tool for the gym, but is not intended for all-day wear.

I am looking forward to seeing what Atlas Wearables comes out with next.  This is the one company that seems to be truly innovating and delivering on their promises and their customer service and support is awesome.

Aside from the Atlas device, there are many, many other fitness trackers out there that all do the same basic things and maybe have one or two unique features such as blood pressure measurements that set them apart.  There is no lack of affordable trackers with basic functionality if that is what you are looking for.

But, again, I have not yet found one device that meets all my needs.

I have also been approached by a few companies doing market research asking me what I’m looking for in a fitness tracker so I thought I’d share what I’m looking for in a next generation device.

My ideal next-generation fitness tracker would be/have:

  • Waterproof
  • Comfortable and stylish enough for all-day wear even in professional settings
  • 5+ day battery life before the need to recharge
  • Good tracking exercises in the gym and allow you to train new, custom motions/exercises (such as kettlebell sumo squats and the kayaking wing paddle stroke)
  • An online dashboard that allows you to track progress over time
  • Export capabilities of all data so data can be imported into a spreadsheet for long-term tracking and analysis
  • A display on the device that allows you to edit exercises and change functions during exercises and activities without access to the paired phone (my phone is either in a kayak hatch inside a dry bag or in a gym locker people!)
  • Automatic sleep tracking
  • Ability to measure blood pressure on-demand
  • Heart Rate (HR) capabilities both on-demand and automatically at pre-set time intervals
  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measurements to better understand recovery
  • Basic functions such as steps, calorie burn, distance, etc.

I just don’t understand why this device is so elusive.  There are trackers already that do all of these things, but not one single one that does them all.

If you find it or know of this elusive beast, please let me know.

 

 

Fitness tracker review: MBHB Sport Smart Bracelet

The company sent me a free unit for review so I reviewed it.

I love the large display and blood pressure measurement.

It has become the device that has taken up residence on my wrist.

The only problem I have with it is it seems the calorie burn calculation is waaaaay off, but the sleep tracking, blood pressure, heart rate, and large screen size outweigh that issue in my mind.

MBHB Stylish Waterproof Fitness Tracker, Superior Heart Rate / Blood Pressure / Sleep Monitor, Anti-Scratch Smart Wristband for iOS Android Smartphones, Black

Good sleep, good workout

I finally got a good night’s sleep and then had the gym all to myself this evening after work.

Great bookends to the day, heart rate from 50 to 168.

And by the way, the Actofit Wearables fitness tracker that died when it got condensation inside dried out and came back to life.

I like it.

Actofit fitness tracker review – follow-up

~~~ Update Dec. 26, 2017 ~~~
Actofit have reached out to me to let me know they were not able to address the production issues with their first generation tracker but they are coming out with a gen2 device, The Actofit Rise, in Q1, 2018. They have emailed all their backers to let them know there is a plan for free upgrades to the new device. If you were a backer and have not heard from them you should reach out to them to let them know. It sounds like they will take care of you.

UPDATE Dec. 9, 2017:
After repeatedly reaching out to Actofit, they finally responded and stated,

Over the past few months, we have tried to fix certain things with our assembly line and production control processes based on feedback we have had from our initial batches. However, our current design does not allow us to maintain quality at higher production volumes. To improvise on these design defects and to enable us to fight the struggle between manufacturing yet delivering a world-class product, we have had to make the hard choice of discontinuing the first variant of the fitness tracker. This was a tough decision and let we assure you, our future products will be more powerful.

The new, next generation Actofit Blitz is expected to launch in January/February 2018.”

Original post:

My regular readers will recognize that I am a data geek and believe that if you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it.

As such I’ve been looking for a fitness tracker that can do everything I want including:

  • Be a good gym tracker in terms of exercise recognition with easy entry of weight lifted
  • Waterproof so it can go kayaking and be underwater for short periods of time
  • Learn new activities so I can “teach” it the kayaking wing paddle stroke
  • Accurately track sleep including resting heart rate (RHR)
  • A bonus feature would be for it to also provide heart rate variability (HRV) while sleeping to provide an indication of stress and recovery

The Actofit company sent me their tracker to evaluate in August and I was very hopeful.  I even did an initial review (embedded below.)

Since that review I’ve communicated with the company and they were responsive.  The inaccurate weights that I reported in my initial review was the back-end server assuming incoming data was in kilograms, so even though I chose pounds as my units for weights, their servers assumed my pounds were kilograms and then converted them to pounds.  They fixed that problem quickly.

They also responded and cleared gym sessions that were “stuck” in synchronization mode.

Then my Samsung Galaxy S5 updated to Android 6.0.1 and all communications with the device were lost.  In fairness, that updated also bricked my Amazfit Arc tracker.

Then after I upgraded the the Galaxy S8+ both tracker apps worked fine once again.

I started wearing the Actofit again and was using it as my every day and night fitness tracker and it showed signs of being a very good gym tracker.  I did not get it wet or take it kayaking but was hopeful that once I had put it through its paces on land that it would then perform well on water.

Well, water then became the issue.

As my local weather started getting cooler and drier, I noticed condensation forming inside the unit.

afitcondensationCondensation forming inside the Actofit screen

Then last week I went out to California where it was even drier and the condensation built up to the point where it shorted out the device.  Almost all the LED elements lit up and then it just went dark–for good.

So after approximately 6 weeks the device is dead.

It was obvious to me the device was manufactured in a high humidity environment and once my local weather got cooler and drier the humidity inside the waterproof device condensed to the point where it shorted out the device.

The company has since confirmed they rejected a lot at QC for this very issue. (Why they sent me one of these units for review I’ll never understand.)

I felt I owe my readers a follow-up to my initial review to let you know how it turned out.

If Actofit are willing to send me a new device for review again I’ll be happy to give it another try because it had become the device that stayed on my wrist 24/7.  I was very happy with its sleep analysis, loved the measure of RHR, successfully taught it custom exercises and its exercise recognition was adequate so I was satisfied with its gym tracking capabilities.

But at least for now, it is back to the Amazfit Arc for 24/7 wear and the Atlas Wearables 2 for in the gym.

Why can’t somebody come up with a device that does it all well?

 

 

Training and tracking

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I am a firm believer in tracking and measuring as much as possible when it comes to training.  If you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it.

bodyfocus

That’s why I was one of the first people to buy a Skulpt Aim when it came to market. (I actually pre-ordered it before it was commercially available.)

SkulptAimHand

The Aim is a small, handheld Electrical Impedance Myography (EIM) device that attempts to measure body fat and muscle quality.

I very much loved the device when I first got it but then they changed the firmware at one point and the measurements for body fat were significantly higher than they were before the firmware upgrade. (Less accurate in my opinion.)  For a device that claimed to be more accurate than a DEXA scan when it launched, I couldn’t but wonder, did they lie to me about that accuracy before the firmware update or are they lying to me now?

Within the past few days they’ve rolled out a new version of their app and I’m happy to see they now allows users to export historical data.  It is important to see how you are trending and performing over time because measurement-to-measurement variations seemed to be fairly high in my opinion.

Now that the device seems more useful, I’m blowing the dust off it and will start using it again in my training in addition to the Atlas Wristband tracker for in the gym, the Amiigo wristband for Heart Rate Variability (HRV) while sleeping, the Amazfit Arc for general steps and sleep tracking, and GPS and heart rate monitor while I’m training on water.

Yes, I’m a tech geek and a gizmo guy.

NewSkulpAppMy user history from the Skulpt Aim (last used in January) at least indicates I’ve been moving in the right direction, body fat down, muscle quality up.

I’ll keep you posted on how I like this device post-software upgrade after I return to using it for a little while.

PS – And after a new, full body measurement tonight and only plotting the data since November, I can see I did indeed make progress in the gym over the winter. Now let’s see how much I can make that body fat % drop in the next 6 weeks to be lighter on water.

skulpt3-20