Ask and ye shall receive

Last week I moaned about how nice it would be to get a FitBit Alta HR. When the primary activity you plan to do is yoga, a step counter is pretty pointless, a heart rate monitor make loads more sense. I could only moan about it though, because I didn’t happen to have an extra $150 to go buy myself a shiny new toy, even if it would be a useful one.

But, BUT you guys, my lovely, supportive husband arranged a whip-around with his family and they got me one as an early birthday present! I was super excited. Not just to get something I really wanted, but also that it was a true surprise.

After 15 years of marriage, shared bank accounts, shared Amazon accounts, hell, shared memories sometimes—in the sense that we argue over which of us experienced something and which was just there (it was totally me who got hives from the soft-shell crab, not him)—it’s not often we manage to get one another presents without one of us at least suspecting it. But he did. Plus, he handed it to me when I was distracted and focused on something else. So, I honestly just stood there and gaped at it for a moment before I processed what was happening.

That was last night, and after a bit of hassle to get the silly thing to update its firmware (really, we thought it was just broken for a while) I got a full days use out of it today and I thought I’d report back.

This isn’t quite a review and probably more of an advertisement for FitBit that I’d like. So, keep in mind I’m just talking about my experience with the tracker available to me. I’m not making any claim about how it might compare to another brand or endorsing anything. (I have no idea why I feel obligated to make that assertion.)

So first, it’s just plain cool to have an actual screen. Keep in mind that I was previously using a Flex, which just had a row of lights to indicate steps. It relayed very little information. But when all I needed was a pedometer, it did the job just fine. But I’m really enjoying having an actual screen that relayed actual information.

And I wore it to yoga today, so I got to see how it’s going to work for tracking my activity level beyond simple steps and I was pleased. It still only logged 90 steps in the hour I was there and the FitBit dashboard still only shows steps when you look under the activities page, which I admit is a bit disappointing. But it does show me as active.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 6.06.27 PM

Which, when compared with just a chart of steps, is a lot more useful, as far as I’m concerned. Because if you just look at steps, I seem sedentary during the time I was working out, which was from 10-11. The spick you see there is me walking from the car to the gym, then to the car and back again because I forgot something. There is no evidence that I spent an hour moving.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 6.07.31 PM

An additional funny story: the Alta also has periodic reminder-to-move feature. Every now and again it will vibrate with a little message that says, “Care to stroll?” or “Reminder to move.” I like this, because I often do get up when it does goes off, even if just for a few minutes. But the reminders must be associated with steps, not heart rate, because after 50 minutes of yoga, just as I was settling down into Savasana, it vibrated with a remember-to-move.  “Dude, I’ve been moving for almost an hour,” I thought. It amused me.

But seeing what my heart rate does during a yoga class also showed me something else. My heart rate goes up, that’s good, but it doesn’t stay up. It’s great that I appear to have a pretty good recovery rate, because the HR drops pretty quickly, but seeing this up-down-up-down is a visual reminder that I really do need to do some cardio that will keep my heart rate up in a sustained fashion. Yoga is great in a lot of ways, but it’s obvious that it’s not doing that for me. It’s not that I didn’t know I need at least a little cardio, but seeing my heart rate go up and down instead of go up and stay up for a while, as is needs to for good health highlights that yoga won’t be enough on its own.

I haven’t sore the HR monitor for  tae kwon do class yet though. It’ll be interesting to see what happens there. But again, I doubt it’ll keep my heart rate up. I suspect it’ll be very similar to the yoga class, with more steps involved. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Having the heart rate option also added a resting heart rate box to my dashboard, which I’ve yet to figure out the use of. I have no doubt there is one, maybe as I improve my resting HR will go down. That’d be a verifiable improvement. Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 6.10.13 PM

A minor criticism is that I do find that not being able to control when it tracks sleep is problematic for me. (Or I haven’t found a way to tell it when I’m going to bed, which I could do with the Flex.) It’s embarrassing to admit, but when I read, I’m still for long enough that the motion tracker thinks I’ve gone to bed. So, if I plan to try and accurately track my sleep I anticipate having to correct it regularly.

Part of the reason I don’t know about putting it in sleep mode is that it came with very few directions, none actually, and I can’t say I appreciated that. I mean this is it, just a note to download the app.


I especially didn’t appreciate it since the very first thing the app wanted to do was update the firmware on a product that is brand new and hot off the assembly line. And even more since downloading that firmware was problematic.

It failed half a dozen times before it worked. And in the end, I don’t know if it finally worked just because I tried it six times and it randomly happened to succeed the last time, or because I restarted the phone with the app on it, or because I rebooted the Alta, or because I pointedly moved the old Flex farther away, in case it was interfering somehow. I don’t know why it didn’t work the first five times or why it finally did on the sixth. That was an inauspicious and annoying start. But I’ve been happy with it since then. (You know, for the past 24 hours, which is hardly a very long test period.)

Any-hoo, I’m still feeling inspired to get moving and the new FitBit looks to be a good addition. Honestly though, I’m finding this whole blogging this helps too. Maybe it’s just who I am, but this putting things in words seems to work for me.



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