Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fitbit vs. Vivofit - Tracking the Trackers

I have been a loyal, and slightly addicted, Fitbit user for over 3 years. Fitbit was the first activity tracker I heard about and, until a few weeks ago, the only one I had ever tried. I was lucky enough to win a Garmin Vivofit from a Saucony regional #WHOAface contest (scroll to the bottom of the post for my winning photo), which gave me the opportunity to try a different tracker and learn about different features that you might want to keep in mind when you are shopping for an activity tracker.

Garmin Vivofit (left) and Fitbit One (right)

Location, Location, Location

My Fitbit One clips onto clothing. I typically keep it on my bra. This keeps it out of sight - good for not clashing with my outfit, bad if I want to see the display. Sometimes if I am wearing a silk blouse the bra placement doesn't work, but generally it's a good spot for me.

The Vivofit is worn on the wrist (as are other Fitbit models, such as the Flex and Charge). Guess what I found out - I can't stand having snug plastic on my wrist! It drove me crazy. I liked being able to look down and see the screen and seeing steps or the time...but I couldn't stand the sensation. 

My preference: clip-on, not the wrist


Do looks matter? It depends on whether you can see it, and what your daily dress code is. Since my Fitbit One is worn under clothing, the appearance isn't important to me. For something on my wrist, looks matter. I don't want to wear a plastic band to a Board meeting. If I were wearing a wristband, I'd buy a jeweled cover-up for work:

Bracelet coverup available on Etsy

Tory Burch for Fitbit Flex available at Bloomingdales

My preference: hidden, or disguised as jewelry

What Does It Track?

The Fitbit One tracks steps, floors, miles, calories burned, and sleep. The Vivofit tracks steps, miles, calories burned, sleep, and heart rate if you have and wear a paired heart rate monitor. I got similar data from both trackers. 

Here is a comparison of the sleep data from each. They both know I was in bed for 8 hours and 58 minutes (no, I don't usually get to sleep that long!), but Fitbit notes I was only asleep for 8 hours and 33 minutes. It's movement based, so not perfect, but I like the data.

Vivofit sleep (blue shows extent of movement)

Fitbit sleep (red shows movement)
My preference: give me as much data as possible! 


Fitbit One syncs wirelessly to my computer via a USB dongle, and over bluetooth to my iPhone. This happens automatically in the background. Vivofit syncs to my computer via a USB ANT device. It happens when I push the sync button on the Vivofit and am in range of the ANT device.

I used to prefer the ease of the Fitbit sync that happens automatically. There is, however, an unease in the back of my mind. I am wearing this device close to my heart and my breasts and it is sending out signals constantly. Is this dangerous? We don't really know. We assume it is safe. Probably it is. But...? So given a preference, I would actually choose the controlled sync of the Vivofit.

My preference: the controlled sync that limits wireless/bluetooth signals and activity 


Fitbit One requires charging every few days via a charging cable. I have established the habit of charging it when I am in the shower so this isn't an issue for me. The Vivofit never needs charging, although ultimately the battery will fail and that's the end of it.

My preference: this one's a toss-up. Not having to charge it is nice, but not a deal-breaker. 


Fitbit One is not waterproof. It's not an issue when I'm showering, since I charge it then, but it's kind of a pain when I'm swimming. When do I take it off? Right before the pool and risk forgetting? Well before the pool and missing out on steps? If I were a triathlete, I would want something that was waterproof. The Vivofit is waterproof to 50 meters.

My preference: waterproof would be nice, especially in the summer

Move Your Lazy A$$

Some activity trackers tell you when you've been sitting too long. Fitbit One has a flower that grows longer when you are active. A short flower means you should move - but this is a passive reminder and doesn't do you much good if you aren't looking at it. Vivofit has red bars that start to show across the screen when you need to move. Again, this is passive, but with the wrist display it at least catches your attention. Some trackers actually buzz when you should move - that would be cool.

My preference: I'd like a buzz or some kind of active reminder to move

Can You See Me Now?

The Fitbit One has a nice display where you can see & scroll through your stats. When you pick it up it even give you encouraging shout-outs like "Highfive Kimberly" - I like those! Of course, I don't see them very often since it is under my clothes. So I often check my iPhone app for a peek at my progress:

a recent screenshot

The Vivofit has a nice display, but it isn't backlit so it can be hard to see outside or at night. I had trouble figuring out if I had correctly entered/exited sleep mode because I couldn't see it. The Fitbit gives a nice buzz upon entering and exiting sleep mode, which I appreciate. Some activity trackers, like the Fitbit Flex, don't have a display at all.

My preference: a backlit display and a dashboard on my phone


I love badges! Give me something to aim for and I'm like a Pavlovian dog. Both Fitbit and Vivofit have badges. It is so fun to get a new badge with a fun message like the one my Dad just got:

You've earned the New Zealand badge
You've walked 990 lifetime miles—the entire length of New Zealand. And while that country's native bird the Kiwi might be flightless, you, my friend, are really taking off.

My Fitbit Badges for:
daily accomplishments,
lifetime accomplishments,
weight loss

My preference: reward me with badges!

What's a Little Competition Between Friends?

Both Fitbit and Vivofit allow you to link up with friends who are also using the devices and compete to get the most steps. On Fitbit you can also cheer/jeer each other and create daily or weekly challenges. Again, I love the feedback and incentives of cheering on/competing with my friends and family.

Looks like I'm falling behind....

My preference: I love the social aspect, which requires having it available AND having friends that use the same platform

App Interoperability

Many fitness trackers play nicely with other apps. The most important app to me is MyFitnessPal, where I track my food/beverage intake. Fitbit has its own calorie tracker, but I prefer MFP. Both Fitbit and Vivofit work with MFP. I lost 15 pounds in 2013 through the combined feedback of MFP & Fitbit. I slacked off in MFP tracking in 2014, and I gained 5 pounds back. 

There are other apps I've used in the past - HealthMonth, Everymove, and Higi are a few that come to mind. HealthMonth is great for establishing healthy habits (or getting rid of unhealthy ones). Everymove and Higi were two good places to get rewards for exercising, although Everymove seems to have discontinued their rewards and Higi has fewer than they used to offer.

My preference: connect to MyFitnessPal and I'm a happy gal

Speaking of happy gals, here is my winning #WHOAface:

Thank you to Saucony and Michael Knestout for awarding me the Vivofit! I appreciate it!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Juggling Running & Coaching

This past weekend was an exercise in fitting it all in. I absolutely love coaching. It brings so much joy and meaning to my life. It also brings challenge to my life - the time that I worked so hard to carve out for running & training is now primarily dedicated to coaching. There is some running involved in coaching, but it isn't far enough or at the right intensity to completely account for my training for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. So I'm having to be a little more creative to squeeze it all in!

Planning is Key

Planning ahead is critical for me. For Saturday, I was looking at 5-6 miles and I knew that I could only get in 3-4 during coaching. I can spend part of my coaching time running on the trail and checking on my people. And I spend the rest of my time at the coolers to see how their runs went and answering questions.

Most weeks I will just move my long run to Sunday, but we were looking at dangerously cold temperatures for Sunday. So cold that all of the local races were cancelled. So I planned to get up early on Saturday morning to run 2 miles on my treadmill before heading off to coach. I am not a morning person, so laying everything out the night before helps ensure I don't forget anything or waste precious time trying to find something.

All of Saturday's gear laid out

Treadmill clothes

Coaching clothes

Additional coaching gear

Run #1

I got up at 5:30(!), had a chocolate raspberry Roctane Gu, and hit the treadmill with a big bottle of water. I entertained myself by watching Covert Affairs and motivated myself by wearing my fun new pink Nike spring outfit (thank you PR Fairfax for talking me into it & PR Apparelista for selecting it) that is still a long way off from being worn outdoors.

my new outfit - think spring!

ready to hit the treadmill in my basement gym

Run #2

I had a quick shower, ate a Clif chocolate chip bar, and drank some coffee with dark chocolate almond milk. I generally aim for whole, unprocessed foods, but when I am time-crunched and training I am grateful for Clif and Honey Stinger products! I headed into PR, helped Sarah make the Gatorade, checked the roster and reviewed the runs on the training schedule with Meghan, and answered questions as people trickled in. Then we headed out to the trail and I got in 4 miles with Karen, Christina, and Kris.

Bringing the Valentine's Day spirit to our run!
photo courtesy Laurentina photography

Coach Meghan rocking the V-Day tutu
photo courtesy Laurentina photography


After my run I stayed at the coolers until all of my Cherry Blossom runners were finished with their runs. It was really cold out there and I was grateful that one of the runners gave me her hot hands when she was finished with them and that Coach Mike had a blanket I could borrow. People had great runs that morning and felt proud about toughing it out and running in the cold. (Note: *cold* is relative. Toughing it out on Saturday when it felt like single digits temps is reasonable. Doing so on Sunday when it was closer to -20 in feel would have been risky and unsafe).

Scenes from the coolers, from upper left clockwise:
1. Pam, Laura, and Debbie post run
2. Matt telling me about his training
3. My running buddies Christina & Karen
4. Coach Mike stays warm in his sleeping bag
photos & collage courtesy Laurentina photography

Bonus Fun!

I fit in an additional fun activity before enjoying a family Valentine's dinner with Rick and Freddy. (Thank you, Rick, for the delicious meal!) I met Brooke, the mom of one of Freddy's favorite friends, for tea at Starbucks. I so rarely make the time to get to know other moms and it is always such a rewarding choice when I do so. It was an hour well spent that passed all too quickly. Brooke is an Arbonne representative, and she brought me some samples of skincare and nutrition products that I am looking forward to trying. Thank you Brooke for the presents and the company!

Goodies from Brooke:
I'm looking forward to trying the protein shakes especially

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Recap: Run Your Heart Out 5k

We had beautiful weather and lots of spirit this morning for the Run Your Heart Out 5k. This was my third year running this race, although there was a location change this year. I set a personal course PR and matched my pace from last year's race, so I'm quite pleased with today's performance! And it was FUN!

waiting in the corral for the race to start
(photo courtesy of Potomac River Running)


I planned to warm up ahead of the race for a change. My fastest 5k was in the middle of a 10k, which suggests that I would do better with a warm up. Although my plan was to run 1-2 miles ahead of time, I got caught up in socializing and only warmed up for 1/2 mile. Better than no warm up, but not optimal. Baby steps.

Shannon & Natalie picking up their packets before the race;
I checked in with my running buddies before warming up

I met this mom & daughter before the race.
They weren't sure they were runners yet.
They are - everyone who runs is a runner!

Some of my favorite partners in crime - Reston Runners BFFs!
from left: me, Laurie, Andrea, Vee, Lynn, Susan, Molly

I caught a quick selfie with my buddy Gina from Team Rabbit

Go Time!

I ran with Shannon and Natalie. We planned 5:1 run:walk intervals. We pushed ourselves to the edge of our comfort zones and maintained a challenging pace. Natalie kept us going at the hills with Brena's little ditty from the day before:
Just another hill, just another hill. My legs are rubber, my feet are glue; I'm holding back a great big poo, just another hill.
That really made me laugh! Thank you Brena for sending your infectious positivity. It was almost like you were there with us.

We kept a consistent pace, supported each other, and turned out a solid race. My Garmin reports a pace of 10:43, identical to last year's race when my brother paced me. Yay us!

The three musketeers, pushing the pace
(photo courtesy of Potomac River Running)

Finish Line Photos

Here is a round-up of (free!!) finish line photos from the Potomac River Running flickr page. Thank you PR for the free pictures that post within mere hours of the race finish. I don't know how you do it - but I appreciate it!

I don't know this dude, but seeing Superman high-five
little Spiderman is awesome any day

Susan and Lynn looking strong

Gina representing for Team Rabbit - both feet off the ground!

Tina & Angela always have fantastic outfits - they inspire me

Lisa came in 3rd in her age group - love the pants

This is actually Andrea at the start, not the finish.
She came in 5th in her age group

Looking good Laurie

Molly came in 5th in her age group, with feet in the air

We cheered until the end and these two ladies were inspiring.
They looked proud of their accomplishments.
They are not last - they are ahead of everyone who is too afraid to show up.
Big shout-outs and props to you both!!

My smiling finish

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What's a Big Game Runch?

Training for my big spring race, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run (CUCB), began this weekend. I'm excited that training began, I'm excited to be coaching the training for Potomac River Running (PR) in Reston, I'm excited to be part of the official race blog team! That's a lot of excitement.

I'm also a little nervous about fitting in my long runs. Last year, I ran my long runs with PR training. This year, since I'm coaching, I will need to fit my long runs in elsewhere on the weekend. Fortunately, there are at least a dozen Reston Runners BFFs who are running CUCB and they are doing long runs on Sunday mornings. I am so grateful for the serendipitous scheduling (and my husband's flexibility and my dad's willingness to help babysit). Coaching on Saturday mornings and long runs on Sundays!

Part I - BFF Run 

Today I split my long(ish) run into two so I could enjoy time with the BFFs who started at 8 and the PR "Big Game Runch" which started at 9. I was grateful that Lynn was up for the double duty and joined me for the juggling of runs.

We are currently doing 2:4 walk:run intervals, so we did 12 minutes out and 12 minutes back with the BFFs before driving over to PR. It was nice to have some one-on-one time to catch up with Lynn while we maintained the conversational pace of an easy long run.

Part II - Big Game Runch Run

What is a Big Game Runch? It's a fun run, followed by brunch, to kick off Super Bowl Sunday. The festivities were co-hosted by PR Reston and Nike. Nike rep Ashley brought three kinds of shoes to test, including the soon-to-be-released Lunar Tempo. Since I'm a stability kind of gal, I stuck with the Air Zoom Structure 18. I was pretty psyched that Ashley had brought them in a size 6 for my Cinderella feet. I swapped the standard insoles for my Superfeet and thoroughly enjoyed running in test shoes for the second part of my run.

We stuck to 2:4 and did 18 minutes out, 18 minutes back. We covered the same section of the trail as we had run the day before during PR training, and it felt downright balmy after the frigid temperatures of the preceding day.

Ashley & new PR Reston employee Max show off the shoes

Jen & I display our test shoes.
Jen made a joke about baby shoe & mama shoe...

Marian, Jen, Lynn, me & Gina ready to hit the W&OD trail

After the run we got to enjoy the brunch. Beverages ranged from coffee & water to mimosas & Shock Top Belgian White. Coach Shannon noted it has an orange on the label, so it is clearly a breakfast beer. Food included bagels, scones, doughnut holes, a variety of fruits & veggies, and some cookies. It was quite a spread and definitely hit the spot after my back-to-back runs. In addition to the brunch, Ashley raffled off five prizes - that's a lot of prizes for a fun run! Three half-zips and two pairs of shoes.

My friend Gina won a pair of shoes!
(photobomb courtesy of Coach Shannon)

Unknown feature of  Nike "ninja" jacket: beer smuggling

Thanks to PR Reston and Ashley from Nike for the fun run, great brunch, and generous raffle prizes! It was a great way to start a Sunday.