I’m a sucker for fitness gadgets. The geekier the better. I also have two very sedentary jobs (software by day and novels by night). That’s why, when I first laid eyes on the Fitbit Ultra two years ago, I knew right away I had to have one. I loved that little gadget. I wore it everywhere, clipped to my pocket, smug in the knowledge that my new toy was helping me to at least maintain some bare minimum baseline of fitness. And it worked - until one day, when I reached down to unclip my Fitbit and check my steps, and I discovered it was gone. Gone as is most likely lying in a parking lot somewhere, crushed into a million pieces. Panicked, I raced across town to Best Buy to get a new one, only to discover that there was a new tracker available from Fitbit - the Force. This tracker, Fitbit promised, would sync with my phone. And you know what - it did. Like a champ. The Ultra was dead to me. Long live the Force. I was happy. Very happy. But as the old saying goes - all good things must come to an end. Rumors started spreading on the net about the Force causing blistering. And then the rumors became fact, followed by a complete product recall. While I had never had a skin reaction quite as severe as I saw online (trust me - don’t Google it. You’ll thank me), I had experienced some unexplained redness in the same location as the pictures. I decided to look around and see what else was out there. As it turns out, the market had kind of exploded since I had last shopped for a tracker. Polar, Basis, Jawbone, Nike (glad I didn’t jump on that bandwagon)… and Garmin all had new trackers on the market, all promising to do the same job as my trusty Fitbit Force.
What followed next is pretty typical for me. I researched. Like a madman. I scoured the internet, reading reviews of all the different trackers, evaluating the pros and cons of each one, searching for the perfect tracker to take the place of my poor Fitbit. But during my research, I kept coming back to one tracker in particular - the Garmin Vivofit. You see, it had one feature that, for me, made it stand out above all the rest: a replaceable battery. You don’t have to charge the thing every five or six days. For me, this is huge. If there was one thing I hated about the Fitbit (the only thing, really), it was having to take it off my wrist every few days and plug it into a USB cable. Really? This, by the way, is why I think the whole smart-watch movement is doomed. Things you wear should fade into the background - not demand constant fiddling. The Garmin promised to last for a year between charges. I was sold. Off I went, to the nearby Tucson REI, to acquire my new Vivofit. I chose the base model, for $130. You can also get a version that includes an ANT+ heart rate monitor for an additional $40. I toyed with getting the blue strap, but ended up with the black one: (I know - boring, but functional)
The other neat feature of the Vivofit that intrigued me was the dynamic step goal. In addition to displaying your current step count, your daily step count goal, the time (yay!), mileage, and your heart rate (optional), the screen also displays a series of red bars across the top if you remain inactive for too long. The first bar appears after an hour, and every fifteen minutes another smaller red bar appears. These bars are you cue to get off your ass and move around for a little bit - to get your blood flowing. This is genius. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been sitting in my chair slinging code or working on a chapter, and meanwhile two or three hours have passed and I haven’t moved a muscle. Now all it takes is a casual glance at the Vivofit every once in a while and I know it’s time to get up and move.
You’re probably wondering if there’s anything I don’t like about the Vivofit? There is. And I can sum it up in two words. Garmin Connect. After using the Fitbit website and app for a year, switching to Garmin Connect feels like going from Gigabit ethernet to dialup. It’s just not there. And not only is the software still in its infancy, there’s no way to sync your data with MyFitnessPal. This, if anything, is the Vivofit’s achilles heel. Your data is stranded on the Garmin island, all by its lonesome, and aside from a few hacks I’ve read about (Garmin Connect -> RunKeeper -> MFP), that’s where your data will stay unless you do manual entry. Which is what I do.
That said, I love this device. It does what I was looking for: It tracks my steps and motivates me to move around on a more regular basis. It doesn’t cause my wrist to itch, and I don’t have to charge it every few days. Win. Win. Win.