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The Spark - thoughts after 3 weeks

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I’ve had the Spark Activity Tracker (Spark for short) for about 3 weeks now (I purchased mine before it was released to the public). To be honest, I would not have considered buying it had I not misplaced my pedometer just before receiving the offer. I found my pedometer shortly after receiving the Spark, so I was able to conduct side-by-side comparisons. Additionally, I was able to move the Spark around to see if I could find a spot optimal for me. There is a discrepancy between the number of steps recorded by the pedometer and the Spark, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

SparkPeople recommends carrying the Spark on one’s shoe, flat on the laces, but I don’t often wear lace-up shoes. I like to wear sandals or slip-on shoes to the office and sandals or lace-up sneakers (walking or running shoes – I think “sneakers” may be a regional term) on the weekend or Casual Friday. My sandal-wearing days are greatly numbered, though, for the rest of the year. Soon, I will be wearing boots.

I know the Spark is waterproof up to 100 feet, and I know that some people have worn theirs swimming. I just don’t like to tempt fate, and I like the security of wearing my Spark on my hip, on either the waistband or pocket of whatever pants I am wearing (I don’t often wear dresses or skirts). I don’t have to worry about what will happen if I step into a puddle or deep snow (though maybe if I think positively, we won’t get any deep snow this year).

It doesn’t seem to matter where I wear the Spark, the Spark will consistently record fewer steps than does my pedometer. When I wear the Spark on my waistband or pocket, as close to the outer edge of my body as possible, I can get a difference of 518 to 3220 steps. My pedometer uses dual-axis technology, and I don’t know what mechanism the Spark uses to detect steps. It does appear that my pedometer is much more sensitive to movement than the Spark is. I have seen posts from others on SparkPeople that they feel they really earn the steps they make with their Sparks. They have a point – we should be getting credit for exercise, not just gliding through life at a leisurely pace. It’s also nice to get data from the whole day, because some days, I put in a lot of steps just walking from my desk to the copier multiple times. It all adds up.

I still like that my Spark will upload data automatically, as long as I am near my computer and have the dongle installed. I did not realize this until other Spark owners pointed it out, but down past the steps, miles, calories, and minutes data on my Spark Activity Tracker page is a nice graph of my times of highest activity, and I can use the tabs to view steps, calories, and miles. I don’t know that I need all that information, but it’s interesting to view (and I’m bit of a data freak and have been keeping a spreadsheet of my steps and miles taken on my pedometer and now on my Spark, also).

I do hope that a future incarnation of the Spark (perhaps a Spark II in a year or two) will take into account that I and a great many other Spark users would like to have a display on the unit, also. Rather than watch the lights around the perimeter light up as we near our goals, we would like to see how many steps we have taken without having to be near a computer that can upload the data.

It is also frustrating to me and many others that we cannot take short breaks for any reason (to wait for a light to change, to pick up after a dog, to catch one’s breath), as the workout clock resets to zero in that break. We still have the total minutes for the day displayed, but the workout minutes may be less than what we hope for. For now, we will have to keep track of our true workout minutes ourselves.

Disclaimer: I purchased the Spark with no expectation from SparkPeople that I would post a review. All my opinions are my own.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • no profile photo CD8180433
    This is great Lauren. Thank you. I am writing to a couple of the responders here too. I guess I might wait for the Spark 2.0 or go for a Fitbit if I get anything. Doesn't sound like version 1.0 is the way for me to go.
    2560 days ago
    Your blogs have been really, really helpful and informative, and they also make me think that perhaps I'd like this device!
    2562 days ago
    Glad it seems to be working for you and I hope you're right and they take the short break comments to heart.
    2563 days ago
    I'm having fun wearing both my Bodymedia and my Spark and comparing the two. emoticon
    2564 days ago
    I actually appreciate how sensitive the workout timer is, it helps keep me accountable. When I have to stop for traffic or to clean up after my dog I don't let my feet stop moving so all my minutes count. Otherwise I would just stop and the whole point of cardio is to get the heart rate up and keep it up so now I take no breaks during a workout.

    This isn't to say that I think The Spark is perfect, I desperately want it to sync wirelessly (say with blue tooth and a smart phone). I travel, I use a home computer, I use a work computer and sometimes I'm away from a computer for longs stretches of time. It is not practical for me to carry the USB with me everywhere, I will lose it. Even if bluetooth technology would be too costly, it would be nice if you could plug the Spark itself into a computer to sync, that way it is just one piece and it clips to you. I have also had some technical difficulties but they all seem resolvable. My only other big complaint is that when you change your goal it changes it for past days too, for instance I just bumped mine from the preset 6,000 steps to 7,000 steps now all the days while it was at 6,000 and I walked at least 6,000 but not 7,000 say that I did not meat my goal, even though on that day it was my goal.

    That being said I can't argue with results. I find myself sneaking steps in where I previously would not have. I work in the middle of a 900,000 square foot building and I used to try and combine everything that I needed to do in the front into one trip and likewise with things that I needed to do in the back, now I try to spread them out so I'm taking the extra steps and making a more even bar graph by hour. I have also, on more than one occasion, taken quick walks around the block late at night or marched in place while doing laundry to pad my step count to reach my goal or the next milestone if the day was running short and I hadn't hit yet.

    Overall, I am happy with the purchase but I hope they are reading hte feedback and using it for Spark 2.0 designs.
    2565 days ago
  • no profile photo CD11898821
    Informative. Thanks.
    2565 days ago
    This is great information and certainly will be considered when I determine if I will get one!
    2565 days ago
    Thanks for such an informative blog! Today is my first day with the SPARK, so I'm anxious to learn as much as possible about it. I also have a FITBIT and will continue to wear it, so I can see the side by side comparison and like you I LIKE/NEED the visual of seeing my progress... hopefully the SPARK will help wean me away from this!

    Again, thank you for sharing your experience!!!

    Have a spark-a- riffic day!!
    2565 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.