fashion · feminism · fitness · gear · running · swimming

Bettina’s quest for a multi-sport watch – small wrists and designing with women in mind

Following the untimely demise of my wristwatch, I’m currently in the market for a multi-sport watch. Tracking can be problematic in a variety of ways (see posts e.g. here and here), but I like data, and I like tracking my exercise performance over time. So I’ve wanted a multi-sport watch for quite a while, but could never quite justify the expense because I had a functioning watch. There was also a second problem that persists and is currently thwarting my watch acquisition project. I have small wrists.  Very small wrists.

So I can’t find a watch that fits me. With some models, the body is literally wider than my wrist (I’m looking at you, Samsung Gear Fit Pro 2). It’s uncomfortable and looks ridiculous, but also has the potential to become dangerous since it increases the risk of getting caught on something, say a pool line. In the past I’ve owned a Garmin Swim that I wore exclusively in the pool. Tracking swimming was literally all it did, and even though it was chunky, it was just about ok. It did a good job at recognising strokes and provided other analyses I was keen on having, like stroke efficiency and such like. Later, I started looking into multi-sports watches more seriously, since I’d also gotten into running and wanted something that could track that too. This was the start of my sizing troubles. In the end, I settled for an activity tracker that counts lanes very reliably and does a reasonable job at estimating distance when running, although this is inaccurate enough to be annoying.

Bettina’s current fitness tracking setup: a Misfit Ray. Not bad, but there is room for improvement. Also exhibit (a): small wrist.

One would think that over time, manufacturers would catch on to the fact that there are people with small wrists around, but no. I still can’t find anything that suits me, and I’m starting to get quite angry. I’d really like a Garmin Forerunner 645 or Vívoactive 3, but even these smaller models are really too big. I might just about be able make the Forerunner 645 work – but it would be a big compromise practically and aesthetically.

I wonder why there are no suitable watches around. Yes, my wrists are small, but I wouldn’t say they’re extraordinarily tiny. One possible explanation for the lack of options is that manufacturers can’t currently fit all the functionalities one would want into a smaller watch. If someone can convincingly demonstrate to me this is true, I’ll rest my case. Another reason could be that you need a certain display size for the watch to be functional. I get that point. Still, I have trouble buying those arguments. The Apple Watch has loads of functionalities and is still relatively small. The difference: it is very clearly aimed at men and women. My hunch is that this isn’t exactly the case with multi-sport watches.

Yes, there are multi-sport watches out there with a more “female look”, usually rose gold and white. But they’re still massive! Even for instance the Garmin Fenix 5S, supposedly designed with women in mind. Not to mention that not all women are keen on the rose gold/white colour combo. My theory is that it still has something to do with “designing with women in mind”. I’m not talking about “shrink it and pink it”. That would probably actually imply a loss of functionalities. In fact, many activity trackers seem to fit exactly that purpose, and there are plenty available that are explicitly aimed at women. Fitbit even launched a “female health tracking” functionality earlier this year that attracted some excellent snark among our blog contributors (Would the messages come in shades of pink? Would it do emotional labour for you on the variance in your numbers? – It ended up reducing “female health” to “menstrual cycles”, which has a whole other load of problems, but that’s not under discussion here).

So is it carelessness? Or laziness? Are the people who design these watches a bunch of men whose effort to think about potential female customers stops at “oh, let’s slap some women-y colours on it and be done already”, combined with a dose of “women aren’t interested in a serious multi-sport watch anyway”? Is the number of women with small wrists and a desire for detailed sports tracking too small to make it worth the effort? Maybe. But I’d still like one. With swimming analytics beyond lane counting. With GPS. With music streaming integration. Yes, the full deal. Really.

If any of you have tips for a device that might fit the bill for me, please shout. I’d really appreciate it! Or are you running into the same problems?

fitness

Google Fit, I’m warming to you!

Google fit red heart logo
Google Fit red heart logo

With the ongoing left knee problems I had stopped step counting. It was just too depressing. I gave away my Garmin fitness tracker and just walked as much as I could without pain.

Things have been better lately with my knee brace. I’m dog walking a bit more. And of course, I’m still bike commuting.

So recently I decided to activate Google Fit. It’s a bit much putting on the Garmin bike computer for my 5 km round trip commute but I wanted some way to quantify daily activity. So I decided to activate Google Fit on my phone. I have to say I’m impressed. I like its focus on active minutes instead of steps and I like that it counts intensity too.

From the app, “Being active is important to our health, but how much or what kind of activity do you need? Google Fit worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop two activity goals based on WHO’s physical activity recommendations shown to impact health – Move Minutes and Heart Points. When it comes to your health, it’s important to move more and sit less. Earn Move Minutes for all your activity and get motivated to make small, healthier changes throughout your day, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or catching up with a friend over a walk instead of a coffee. Activities that get your heart pumping harder have tremendous health benefits for your heart and mind. You’ll earn one heart point for each minute of moderately intense activity, such as picking up the pace when walking your dog, and double points for more intense activities such as running. It takes just 30-minutes of brisk walking five days a week to reach WHO’s recommended amount of physical activity shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve sleep and increase overall mental well-being.”

I’ve set my move minutes to 90 a day and my heart points to 20. I’m still fiddling.

I like the clean interface. It’s clearly focused on activity instead of weight loss. And it automatically detects my two main forms of activity–biking and walking. I like not having to wear a watch and I have my phone with me pretty much all the time I’m walking and biking. I mean, yes I walk around inside my house without my phone but I am happy not tracking that activity.

Read another review here.

Have you tried it? What do you think of Google Fit?

fitness

Move! F**k you!

So I asked here recently about buying a new FitBit.

We’ve all got opinions. Michelle just ditched hers. Tracy hates all forms of tracking. Other Tracy is on a FitBit holiday. Not me. In general, I’m a fan of tracking and of fitness tracking gadgets.

Unlike Michelle, I think it does influence my behavior positively. And I like the information. Unlike the the Tracys I never feel haunted by it. I seem to be able to pay attention when it’s useful and look away when it’s not.

But this time I didn’t buy another FitBit. I’m rough on things. I break them. And the durability reviews of the various FitBits weren’t great. For running (when I’m running, which isn’t often these days, I use a Garmin running watch) and for cycling, I’ve got a Garmin bike computer. So why not try a Garmin fitness tracker?

I opted for the inexpensive, small, Vivosmart 3. There’s no GPS but it does pretty much what my old FitBit did.

There is one exception that I might just have to turn off.

That’s the reminder to move.

The watch vibrates and displays the word “MOVE!” on the screen when you’ve sat still for too long. It did it during a recent concert, on a car trip yesterday, and while I was helping to install flooring on the 3rd floor of my house.

It turns out that’s just a bit too bossy for me. I kept wanting to explain myself to the watch. Yesterday in the car I actually swore at it. I said the words, the full words, that are in the title of this post. And I’m not a casual swearer.

I think maybe without the exclamation mark it would be okay. Maybe they should add a question mark, like a gentle invitation to consider moving.

How do you feel about being told to move by your watch? Like the reminder or find that steps over a line?

fitness

Fitness Data Spoofing?

Wow. Faking your FitBit data for insurance purposes. It had to happen. But so soon?

This actually touches a few of my research interests. I teach a class in ethics for a digital world and it certainly works as a case study there. Now that companies are giving bonuses to employees who track fitness and share the data, there’s an incentive for fraud. Maybe “fraud” is too harsh but “spoof” seems a tad light.

Here’s the company’s promo: “At Unfit Bits, we are investigating DIY fitness spoofing techniques to allow you to create walking datasets without actually having to share your personal data. These techniques help produce personal data to qualify you for insurance rewards even if you can’t afford a high exercise lifestyle. ”

UNFIT BITS

Free your fitness data from yourself.
Earn insurance discounts!
A guide to fitness tracker solutions.

“Does your lifestyle prevent you from qualifying for insurance discounts?
Do you lack sufficient time for exercise or have limited access to sports facilities?
Maybe you just want to keep your personal data private without having to pay higher insurance premiums for the privilege?

Fitbit Spoofing provides solutions. At Unfit Bits, we are investigating DIY fitness spoofing techniques to allow you to create walking datasets without actually having to share your personal data. These techniques help produce personal data to qualify you for insurance rewards even if you can’t afford a high exercise lifestyle.

Our team of experts are undertaking an in-depth Fitbit Audit to better understand how the Fitbit and other trackers interpret data. With these simple techniques using everyday devices from your home, we show you how to spoof your walking data so that you too can qualify for the best discounts.

Free your fitness. Free yourself. Earn Rewards.”

Now the site’s main purpose seems to be education about data privacy.The solutions are pretty low tech and mechanical. No digital hacking here.

There’s also a good further reading list.

It’s worth having a look to see the bike in “motion.” Wonder if it could get some Strava QOMs while it’s at it? That would definitely count as Strava doping!