Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Fitbit Ultra Review

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Just wanted to take a moment and give my initial impressions of the FitBit Ultra.  I recently got back into working out and walking, jogging, and running.  I've been feeling a little overweight and sluggish for the last few months.  I'd say I have probably been a little overweight for about the last year or 2 actually to the point I can actually feel it.  It was time for a change.

Well, the Fitbit has been out for quite a while now.  Maybe the last 4 years?  I've been looking to get one since it came out but decided on waiting on what other people thought, if there would be improvements, and to see if the price would come down.

The wait paid off in certain ways.  The Fitbit Ultra came out about a year or so after the original if I remember right and it tracks more things and does more things, like containing a clock, a simple feature I really like, which was mysteriously missing from the first iteration.  Along with tracking steps, it also tracks altitude and tells your distance in miles which is nice. 

I've always used Runkeeper on my Iphone since it came out and really liked how this app tracked your mileage as well as mapped your routes very accurately using the GPS in the phone.  Recently, I've gotten into the Nexercise app because I love the way it gamifies the exercising process and allows you to level up with increased workouts.  For a fan of role-playing games like me, that's just sooo nice.

I read in multiple posts that the Fitbit was supposed to work in conjunction with the Runkeeper app so now that I was exercising regularly and using all these apps anyway, I thought it would be nice to get the Fitbit and get rid of a few apps and just let the Fitbit control and feed info to them.  

When I finally got the Fitbit Ultra and worked with it these last few days, I found out that Runkeeper did not have an app or a tracking connection with the Fitbit any longer.  I wasn't able to find any information on why but, I gotta say, I still love the Fitbit.  The statistics it provides me on the steps I've taken, floors I've climbed, and about my sleep patterns have been invaluable so far.  I wouldn't say I'm numbers inclined enough to like statistics but I do like what the Fitbit is telling me.  I get to find out all this info on how I live and tweek myself in order to maximize my own workouts and life.  

An added bonus was finding this app/web service, which does have an app that connects with Fitbit.  I tried to use the "Loseit" app for a few weeks in the past to enter foods I eat to measure calories and how much I burn but it was a very cumbersome process.  Because the app didn't recognize a lot of things I ate, I had to enter some things by ingredient.  The first day, this took about an hour per meal, not to mention how many times I went back to tweek it thinking some of the ingredients were wrong (like baked potato + butter (1pat) instead of just potato). takes all your foods through the web or through the iphone app and feeds it into Fitbit so you don't have to enter it at the Fitbit site.  That's a plus because has a whole lot of foods that you can just type in that many other services don't.  For example, my first snack was a Chinese coconut bun.  When I typed that in, it actually had "Chinese generic coconut cream bun," exactly what I ate.  It even had some dim sum by the Chinese phonetic names for my next morning.  Not to mention the English named, Papa John's 12 inch pepperoni pizza, slice, it's so easy to enter.

So, as of today, I am loving my workouts using the Fitbit and all this info I'm getting from it.  Just a note about the sleep functionality, some people say it's not really reliable because it tracks your arm movement as you sleep but it does show up in graphs as movement or waking movement.  This is actually good information in my opinion.  Something while I sleep, causes me to move every now and then as I sleep and although I don't remember it, it might be, if it happens often enough, what causes me to feel tired in the morning or more tired throughout the day (times of less deep sleep).  I'm waiting to see what it looks like when I do remember having a rough night.  It seems to be able to tell how fast you go to sleep too which is nice and how much time you actually spend sleeping.  Another plus.  

So I guess my conclusion would be ... I love this thing.  It's a hundred bucks at most places so it's not cheap.  It's not bulky though either and it's very reliable.  I got mine at Bestbuy where I had a hundred bucks in gift cards over the last 3 years.  I thought it was finally time to use them.  I did look around though and the other simple pedometers were around 40 to 60 bucks so I saw this as a very good deal.  Although you could view it as a glorified pedometer, it's the software, wireless base, and the website and apps that make all the difference.  It really lets you use the information rather than just view it. If you have the extra cash lying around or think this info could help you, or just need a kick in the butt by seeing how much "sedentary time" it says you are experiencing, I say go get it confidently.  It's really cool, really light, and reliable.  

One thing of note though, I thought about the Nike Fuel band also, but I already have a nice watch and for 150 bucks, it doesn't do nearly as much as the Fitbit.  Also, those Nike Fuel points were a real turn off.  There's no way to tell how they're calculated.  I say just stick with real stuff like steps, mileage, and floors.

On things that it's doing wrong, one thing that can be fixed on it by changing your stride length, is the distance and steps it's tracking.  For me, the Fitbit seems to be tracking extra steps and extra distance by a few percent over what I'm getting from my GPS apps I mentioned above.  After the last few days though, I pretty much know to just subtract 200 steps and a quarter mile or so from whatever I get at the end of the day for the "real" totals.  In the end the GPS apps might be a little off as well so I just average out the 3, the 2 apps and the Fitbit.  As a side note, I'm still using Runkeeper because I like the maps it draws of my running paths that seem to change everyday.  And Nexercise is just fun, period.  It's just like government, I use all three to provide checks and balances on each other and it might seem a little OCD but it makes it even more fun.  I'll fix my "stride" next time I'm at a track.

If you guys have an opinion or tips on how to use this device even better, leave me a message.  And if you want to join my fitbit network, I should be under nyhunter77.  If I don't friend you don't feel bad, I haven't friended anyone yet.  Ok, time to go climb some stairs :D  

One more note about purchasing this.  Make sure you get the right one!!!  Bestbuy is selling the Fitbit and Fitbit Ultra both for 99 dollars because someone entered it into their system and website incorrectly (at least this past week).  They seem to only have old Fitbits in Blue and Fitbit Ultras in Plum.  I ended up getting a blue and having to exchange it and take a plum (or some would say pink) but who cares, it's just a color.  I found you can't even see the color most of the time.  Anyway, make sure you take a gander at that box!  Read Ultra before taking it.

Happy exercising!

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