Nike+ FuelBand: real stats or just marketing?

The Nike+ FuelBand is a high-priced, high-tech toy you wear on your wrist to collect data about energy, or “fuel,” that you burn throughout the day. It’s about output, pure and simple — not what you’re eating or how you’re expending energy. While FuelBand data may be imperfect, the concept fits perfectly with the company’s “Just Do It” mantra.

You wear the FuelBand on your wrist.  It has a unisex, sporty look that works with casual attire — although I’ll admit, it’s not the best fashion combination with the bracelets I always wear on my other wrist.  The FuelBand’s clasp is a USB plug, which is how you charge its battery, and also how you sync it to your computer.  If you have an iPhone, you can  sync wirelessly so you are always within reach of your FuelBand data.

One hundred white and twenty red, yellow and green LEDs communicate your progress throughout the day. You press a button on the band to toggle through its settings: Fuel, Calories, Steps, Time. Time is time of day, so the FuelBand replaces your need for a watch. Steps — that’s obvious. Calories are an approximate measure of calories burned through physical activity.

NikeFuel is a proprietary calculation based on Nike’s “sport-tested accelerometer,” whose algorithms translate your movement into “fuel points.” You set your own goal — 2000 for an “average day,” 3000+ for days with greater levels of activity.

In my first three weeks of wearing the band, I’ve found the NikeFuel calculations associated with different activities to be rather misleading. Here’s a sample from my own experience (“fps” = “fuel points”):

  • Ride stationary bike (at target heart rate) 30 min: 145 fps
  • Walk from bedroom to kitchen, feed dog, make coffee, eat fried egg and homemade doughnut: 242 fps
  • Fold 3 baskets laundry 45 min: 400 fps
  • Make and serve dinner 1 hr: 750 fps
  • Walk dog 1 hr: 800 fp
  • Play doubles tennis 2 hrs: 1800 fps
  • Play singles tennis 1.75 hr: 2800 fps
  • Hike 1 hr 45 min at brisk pace: 3000 fps
  • Sex: my husband wanted to collect data here, but sorry, this is a G-rated blog . . .

The band awards more points for moving forward through space than it does for things like riding a stationary bike. If I were to live according to my FuelBand’s data, though, I would spend more time folding laundry, making dinner and eating doughnuts than I do at present.

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P90X-ing the midlife body

Most of us have seen the infomercials with the “before” and “after” shots: ugly folks with bad hairdos and fat that spills over their shorts, transformed in only ninety days to svelte people with rock-hard abs, biceps and bikini-ready bodies – not to mention cute hairstyles and good skin. Too good to be true?  Yes, but not entirely.

I started on P90X because I was fed up with being out of shape (see this post, for example), and because my college kids told me it might be too hard for me. In other words, the gauntlet had been thrown! I went online and looked at testimonials. I  was hooked when I saw the cute Asian guy, a self-proclaimed “computer nerd,” who used to sit in front of his screen and eat junk food all day, but now does P90X and looks like someone my daughter should meet. I ordered the DVDs and figured I’d give it a try.

I took my “Fit Test” on December 31 and passed it, barely. At least I was fit enough to start P90X’s “extreme home fitness!” Monday, 1/3/2011, was the start of my New Regime. I skipped the recommended “before” photos, as I didn’t want a potential source of blackmail. On Day 1, you do “Chest & Back,” a one-hour workout consisting mainly of push-ups and pull-ups. I had little prior experience with either. (Read: this was hard!) Then you do the sixteen-minute “Ab Ripper.” Enough said. I finished at 11:30 a.m. and went back to bed for an hour. I made a note to myself, “Must cheat. Must take breaks.”

Day 2 was better, as the workout was cardio that, while difficult, was not as foreign to me. I thought, “Well, maybe I can do this after all.” But Day 12 came, and I still wasn’t feeling more fit. Plus, doing P90X was taking 1 to 1 ½ hours per day. But I made up my mind to keep going.

It was probably around Day 20 when I decided P90X was okay. My husband encouraged me, telling me he thought my body was getting more toned. My teenage son was less generous, choosing to mimic my least-favorite workout, “Kenpo X.” Whenever the subject of P90X comes up, he calls out, “Hook, undercut, sidekick,” punching and kicking the air for emphasis. [Read more…]

Am I out of shape or what?

A week ago I did a fitness and conditioning class for tennis players.  Now that I’ve rested up from that, I ‘m ready to get going on a more structured exercise plan.  My first step was order some books from Amazon, which conveniently delivered them to my door in two days (no exertion required).  I thought that since I like to play tennis, I should make tennis conditioning the goal of my fitness program, the thing that would motivate me and keep me going after the first couple of workouts when I knew I would feel sore and completely out of shape.

So these books sounded perfect.  My favorite is Complete Conditioning for Tennis, which is published in association with the USTA and has a lovely photo of James Blake on the cover.

It also includes a DVD, so you can not only be a couch potato and read the book (as I have done), but you can watch fit people doing the exercises and imagine that you would do them with just as good form.  Unfortunately, James does not appear inside the book or on the DVD — it appears he lent his image and endorsement for the cover to help the USTA sell more copies.

Another good one is The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Tennis, which can help you figure out what to do in the gym besides chat with other people who, like yourself, are there to socialize or waste time while pretending to work out.  I’ll warn you, however, that this one is more intense, as it includes quite a few grids with small print concerning reps and sets.  For me, it’s a bit much.

So at least I’ve been THINKING about what I’m going to do to get into shape, and I suppose that’s a start.  But really, rather than work out hard, it’s so much easier just to check my email for the umpteenth time, write a blog post about exercising, and maybe cap that off by walking the dog around the block.

I realize that over the years my kids and I have collected a lot of the basic equipment I can use to get in shape at home: a jump rope, cones, assorted dumbbells and ankle weights, stretchy bands, you name it.  It’s simply time to put it all to use.

Maybe writing these confessions online will help me get past them.  Maybe my friends will hold me accountable.

In the meantime, let me know if you’re free for coffee or lunch — but maybe not for a hike, and definitely not for a run.