Last year I got a Fuelband and have been wearing it quite regularly since. I have to admit it was more of an aesthetic purchase and I got it for two reasons: one – I wanted a thinner watch and I actually liked the idea of a Fuelband as a watch (although it can be a pain when travelling to change timezones and to constantly activate to check the time). The second reason is that at the time I was in a bit of an OCD mode on getting my weight down and I wanted to get a better sense of my caloric activity and the Fuelband seemed to be a good, user-friendly way of giving me a general sense – if not an exact science.
I know someone who worked on the Fuelband so I am not naive to the fact that despite their flashy ad campaign and claims of being “scientifically tested” with high-performance activities, the Fuelband is basically an accelerometer that is estimating your activity based on your movements. Which means that it can be highly inaccurate and frequently gamed if you so desire (which kind of defeats the purpose but hey, we all know what happens when we start tracking, the competitive streak gets going, etc.).
However I didn’t really get a sense of how inaccurate the Fuelband was until I signed up for Bootcamp.
While in London, I had gotten into quite a good zone in terms of my diet and exercise. My weight had finally come down to my target that I had been chasing for years, and I just felt generally good.
However, ever since I came back to Toronto – I’ve been heavily self-medicating on beer and barbecue while catching up on all the good Asian food I had been missing out on in London. My activity level has also dropped precipitously now that I’m driving again and I’m basically reduced to taking my bike for a ride once in a while.
No surprise, all of which has led me to gain 15 pounds (ouch). Deciding it was time to do something about it (of course right as summer ends), I decided to kick start my new phase of activity by signing up for bootcamp.
Mat is a trainer that I know in Toronto who also occasionally holds bootcamps that are focused on short, high intensity, burst workouts. Slow burn is not really in Mat’s dictionary. What it means is you’re usually ending the session on your knees and dry heaving. So with a three-week commitment, I showed up for my first session last week.
Needless to say, Mat’s sessions were just as punishing and knee buckling as I remember them to be. To the point I actually drove home with a throbbing headache due to all the sudden bloodrushes. As you can imagine, after such a brutal workout I was keen to see my Nike Fuel burn as I had my Fuelband on the whole time. With breathless (more due to lack of air) anticipation, I pressed the little black button.
Three red dots.
Pardon my French but WTF!
Nike was essentially telling me that I burn more “fuel” walking with my electric lawnmower than I do through an hour of constant, high intensity cardio workouts. Now I knew the accelerometer was never going to give an exact measure of my activity but I didn’t realize it was this off. It’s the sacrifice I suppose you make to get a nicer looking form for measurement without having to strap nodes all over your body.
I’m a big fan of quantified self and the current movement but it’s apparent we have a long way to go still to marry form and function before we get to a true state of quantified self. Meanwhile, I’ll still wear my Fuelband and track my progress because ultimately it’s still served its purpose: getting my ass in gear.