Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Right after the first of the year, I received my Spark Activity Tracker. I was super excited about it, because I loved the idea of the little "light show" to help me track my fitness through the day, and I wanted something that would track my mileage when I went wandering.
I'm still inside my 30-day return, and I'm trying to decide if I want to keep it. I'm reviewing the pros and cons of it, and my major issues with it.
1. PLACEMENT OF DEVICE
The SPAT as they call it has to be worn on certain places in order for it to be accurate. (Okay, this isn't really that big a deal, but I was considering one of the bracelet style trackers, and placement for those is no issue.) The most accurate place to wear the SPAT is on your shoe, which is fine if you're wearing a shoe with laces, but not so good for boots or if you go barefoot around the house, as I often do.
HOWEVER, the SPAT tracks my steps when I'm pushing a stroller or my son's toy car, and the bracelet style trackers won't do that. They rely on the arm swinging back and forth to track your steps, or so I'm told. (I'm still trying to confirm that.)
I haven't tried wearing the SPAT on my hip or anywhere else. I'm still testing it, so I plan to do that this week. People tell me the bra placement is REALLY inaccurate, so I wasn't even going to try that.
2. INABILITY TO TRACK AEROBICS AND STEP WORKOUTS
This is almost the deal-breaker for me. My winter exercise routine does not usually involve long walks in zero temperatures, and I don't have a treadmill. I do have an exercise bike, and I guess I could adjust, but my favorite winter and rainy day fitness activity is Step Aerobics and Tae Bo. Well, for some weird reason the SPAT can't recognize the steps on a step bench as actual steps, so for an hour workout, I get "credit" for about 75 steps. Yes, you can go back into the log and reclassify your activity, but then the lights don't light up accordingly, which brings me to the next point.
3. LIGHT SHOW IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH WEBSITE TRACKER
One of the main reasons I wanted a Nike FuelBand or this tracker was the visual readout -- a progression of lights that would tell you how close to your "goal" you were.
The only goal you can set with the SPAT is your number of steps. I don't know what I was really looking for -- anything more complicated than that would have to be set up with a heart rate monitor, I guess, or require you to input a lot of your own data.
In any case, when you "reclassify" a workout (as I had to do when the SPAT thought my hour-long step class was nothing more than a walk to the mailbox) the website goal changes, but your lights remain the same. This isn't terribly motivating -- BUT, and I'll mention this in a minute, I might be able to adjust the "step goal" to reflect my desire to get off my butt more at home.
INACCURACY OF MILEAGE - resolved
This complaint actually isn't. It was more my misunderstanding of how to read the website.
I have a route that I walk/run, that is quite clearly defined in mileage. I've confirmed this with two different GPS devices and also the googlemap and mapmyrun programs. The distance is 1.25 miles, almost exactly. I run it four times for my 5-mile goal.
So I set out on the trail Sunday, pushing Little Bear in his toy car since the weather wasn't horrific. I only did one lap, then checked my results on the computer. The SPAT appeared to have given me credit for 1.75 miles -- almost a half a mile difference!!! I was very annoyed. Yes, I had the device on my shoe, properly placed, etc. How could it mistrack a whole half mile in only a mile and a quarter distance?????
I tried again yesterday, doing the same route. I got a much different result for the SPAT distance, and played around on the website for a bit. What was weird was that although the step counter told me I'd walked x number of miles, my actual "workout" mileage (SPAT only tracks a "workout" as something that is 10 minutes or longer. I like that about it.) was correct! Well, it told me I had walked 1.3 miles, which is pretty darn close, and I'll accept that deviation, considering I had to walk back and forth from the house twice to bring in and out the toy car.
So my "workout" miles tracked accurately, which made me very happy. Now I can wander the neighborhood and get a good estimate of how far I've gone :)
For that, the SPAT is good, and I'll probably keep it, especially since I have a different thought about the "goal" and the light-show thing.
CLOSING THOUGHTS ON STEP GOALS:
The first week of January here was a mess. We had the Snowpocalyse and ridiculously freezing temperatures, and mostly I just sat around the house reading to Little Bear, drinking wine, and eating a lot. When I got my SPAT, I stuck it on my shoe and went about business as usual. I was really surprised to see that a day without dancing or planned physical activity left me with a VERY low step count. Like REALLY low. Couch potato low.
I'm thinking it might be a good idea for me to try to get my step goal in WITHOUT trying to use the SPAT to track my planned fitness. What I mean is, I wonder if I should take off the tracker when I'm doing aerobics, and try to get the step goal from being more active around the house: cleaning, chasing Little Bear, walking at work, etc.
I guess all that is something I have to decide on my own, but as I'm writing this, I think I might keep the little guy for at least another week. All the different trackers have different things going for them (the bracelet ones that wake you up with a vibration is pretty cool) and Polar just released one that looks promising, but everyone says wait for the next edition. I may keep the SPAT and then "upgrade" in a year or so to a device that better suits my needs then. For the money, the SPAT isn't really a bad deal I guess. And if gets me off my butt, it's worth it, right? LOL. Plus the mileage thing is pretty cool.
Later I'm going to try tap dancing with it on to see how it reacts to that. That's the last activity I have to experiment with. :)