Gadget review: Garmin Vivofit


Garmin Vivofit, red

I recently tried Garmin’s Vivofit as a way to track my general daily activity levels and see if the information would be beneficial for someone who was not as active as myself. I could never use ‘just a pedometer’ but a fitness activity tracker sounded more  interesting. Unfortunately, I returned the device and am on the hunt for something more….

First off, I already have a fitness monitor and use it regularly to track my runs and ‘other activities’ but the bulky frames usually deter me from wearing them whenever I am climbing or training for climbing. This is a bummer, but what would the information tell me, anyway? Like the Vivofit, there is a place and a purpose for the use of the device. Running, cycling, hiking data is straight forward, but measure a push-up or a pull-up. What can you determine about energy output or difficulty of the exercise by a step?

Not to dig into that matter deeply in this post, but I believe there are some data points that an athlete (pro, amateur or casual) should have at their fingertips, ok, on their wrist. The Vivofit was attractive to me, not just by the look, but by the variable goal algorithm that determines your current goal based on past accomplishments –an adaptive way to train, that was alluring.

I’m an overachiever, therefore I could see how this could be motivating. However, I found myself discounting the goal and not paying attention to it simply because I couldn’t understand how this device determined steps or activity. If I’ve done some circuit training, the device might see my steps as lower than if I went for a run. Further, when I went for a run, the total number of steps  didn’t equate to the 2000 steps per mile rule.

This coupled with my difficulties getting sync to work with my desktop and the unavailability (for days on end) of the desktop app–to the point I stopped bothering to try and set it up (further complicated with the initial trouble getting the phone app to work)– affirmed my notion that this device is not one for the person for which I intended. If I was frustrated and having this much trouble, what would it be like for them?

The one question that keeps cropping up in my mind is how to get a sleek looking watch like this that means something. That I can wear and get basic data all the time, and maybe it is suitable for climbing or my training for climbing. If I want to go out and do something hard core, I’ll put the beast monitor on. What I want to track most regularly is my heart rate (HR), but I don’t want to wear a heart rate monitor all day every day. It’s that simple.

For instance, I don’t need a super accurate HR reading for sleeping, just consistency in determining the number so I can track it over time. The number one way to identify overtraining and track recovery is by HR. Give me this in a sleek looking wrist device without reliance on a HR monitor strap with your other features, a useful web app, easy syncing to device and desktop and I’m in!

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About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
This entry was posted in Climbing, Musings, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Gadget review: Garmin Vivofit

  1. Neal McQ says:

    Interesting post: this may be of interest (not specifically the Apple Watch, but the Rhythm+ that is referenced in it):

    Also, I don’t know if you’ve come across ithlete? I’ve used their app and hr monitor pretty frequently and had good success with it as a guide – put on for 5 minutes in the morning and get a good assessment of progress.

    Great blog by the way, keep it up 🙂

  2. Thanks for the tip. I’m using the MIO Alpha 2 and I like that I can see my stats on the watch as I workout, it can get my HR immediately without me having to wear or fuss with a cheststrap, and the battery life seems pretty good so far.

    A couple things I’m still trying to figure out: Vivofit had a good phone app, I have not found a decent phone app for the MIO. The closest is Wahoo fitness that a friend of mine with the Mio Velo and loves it and uses this app. I think I should have tried the MIO Fuse so I can sync my info. I can’t figure out how to do that with the Alpha 2 and that means to get my logs, I have to have my phone near me when I want to track something, which is not always the case. For instance, I never run with my phone.

    I am comparing the HR and data against my Polar RC3 and notice a discrepancy in HR numbers but I have come to no conclusions yet. I’ll look at this ithlete and see what I think, thanks for the referral.

    • Neal McQ says:

      Very interesting to note also, thanks. A pity about hr logging with Alpha 2….

      ithlete is slightly different in that it’s designed more to show you whether you’re recovered from previous workouts/sessions, not for real-time updates. They used to also have an app for real-time recording (all it did was record hr, nothing more) but stopped producing it, presumably as people were more interested on the general apps that will track runs, etc.

  3. HRV is perfect! The MIO connected with no issue and I did my first sample. I can’t wait to use it. I definitely need a way to measure recovery. Thanks for the tip!!

    • Neal McQ says:

      Fantastic! Will be interested to see results of it.
      I suggest doing a small bit of reading up on HRV – if the MIO is accurate enough, it can give results that may seem unusual at times (HRV numbers can include training load, life stress, illness, etc.).
      Happy climbing!

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