Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Working out with AT&T, David Barton Gym and Jawbone UP24

Disclaimer: In trade for a pool of sweat, I received a Jawbone UP24 for review and one for a giveaway. Other than that, I was not compensated for this post and I'm sharing my opinions of the UP24 band.

At the beginning of June, AT&T invited a few bloggers to work out at the David Barton Gym in Bellevue and try out the Jawbone UP24 activity tracking band.  I was in... I like working out and I'm a big data nerd. Being able to easily collect information on my sleep and activity seems pretty cool.  And after almost a month of using it, I'm pretty impressed.

After a quick check-in at David Barton Gym in Bellevue, Noelle took us through a work out. A little warm up and BOOM, she hit us: squats, lunges, planks and more. It was an intense work out and I sweated for this band. She even had us do one legged burpees, which for the record, I never quite got. If you need your butt kicked, Noelle can do it for you.

The UP24 is a wearable, bluetooth enabled activity tracker. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), it automatically syncs with your phone without noticable impact on battery life.  Between the UP24 and the Jawbone MINI Jambox, I've started to leave bluetooth turned on on my phone all the time. It tracks your activity, in steps as well as your sleep, measuring light and deep sleep.  With subtle vibrating reminders, it will let you know if you've been inactive or even wake you up at the optimal time in your sleep patterns.

The band is discreet and, as a guy, I don't mind they way it looks on my wrist.  The band itself is very simple, with only a single button for changing modes and a small indicator light to let you know what mode it is in. The band gets about a week of battery life and charging is handled by small plug, hidden under a cover, that plugs into a USB adapter. All the magic happens on the app on your phone.

And a lot of magic there is. First of all, you get a visualization of how you are tracking to your goals for sleep and steps for the day. But you also get motivational messages and activity updates from others on your "team," kind of like people you follow on Twitter. You can track your meals through the app, though I find the interface a little cumbersome.

But the magic doesn't end there.  There are a whole slew of connected apps that can provide information to your UP24 and with you can connect even more.  When I weigh myself on our Fitbit Aria scale, my UP Feed is automatically updated with my weight. When I check in my CrossFit box, it posts to my UP Feed. I don't closely track my meals, but MyFitnessPal can connect with UP24 both ways, so you can see how your activity levels impact your net calories for the day.

Having all this information is great. The best features I've found so far are sleep tracking and the inactivity reminder. I do CrossFit every morning and eat clean, so I'm not concerned about the number of steps I take in a day. I really like being reminded to get up off my butt during the day, even if just to take a call standing up. Tracking my sleep patterns helps me commit to a consistent 10PM sleep time, something that Tim Howard does too.

Recall from earlier in this post that Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) was required. Its a fairly new technology and not all phones have the hardware or software to support it. BLE is available on the iPhone 4 and 5 and on some Android phones that are running KitKat. Luckily for me, AT&T and LG released the upgrade to KitKat for my phone around the time I got the band and I got it all up and running before the Seattle Rock N Roll marathon.  I ran the half-marathon and used the stopwatch function to track my run.

You see it calculated a distance of 17.17 miles, but a half marathon is only 13.1. I think that there is a little inaccuracy stemming from being on the wrist to track steps and it does have trouble tracking my CrossFit work outs. Just the other day, the inactivity alert vibrated as I was lifting my last set of power cleans, at my personal best weight.  But its still useful in comparing activity levels from day to day and as I sit at my computer coding and blogging, the inactivity alert is a nice reminder to get up and do something.

Just this week I started using the Smart Alarms, which wake you up close (but not later than) to the time you want, but do it when you have been in a lighter sleep state for some amount of time.  The idea behind this is that you wake up when you are ready to wake up, resulting in less grogginess and being more refreshed.  I'm still deciding if I want to maximize every minute of sleep or trade off some sleep minutes and get up at a better time. I'm having a little trouble coming to grip with getting up earlier might be better for me - I already get up at 5:22 AM on weekdays and I "sleep in" until 6AM on the weekends.

All in all, its a pretty neat device. It seamlessly tracks my activity and sleep with little fuss. As a data nerd, I like what I get from it and even though I'm still figuring it out, it is driving better fitness decisions from me. In fact, I learned yesterday that even a short walk, 13 minutes long, is worth just over 1,000 steps which is 10% of the daily recommended goal.

Would you like to win a Jawbone UP24, large size only? Register on the Rafflecopter form below and let me know in the comments what activity your fitness goals are and how the UP24 would help you achieve them.  I'll randomly select a winner on July 17th at 9AM Pacific time. If you don't win or are impatient, you can get one for $149 from AT&T, online or in your local store. AT&T has more than just mobile phones! If you've already got an UP and want to add me to your team, just look for Beau Raines.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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