When it comes to living the active lifestyle (or at least attempting to) in this era, fitness and tech have been hand in hand. Our phones are equipped with free and/or paid apps that measure anything from our hearbeat to our steps. Our runs are documented into a virtual copy of the lap/s we just finished. Our cycling sessions are laden with heart-pumping music particularly remixed to get us into that adrenaline zone. But in the wake of so many new technologically advanced gadgets catering to fitness and health, how do we know which ones really work?
Aptly as we redefine ourselves a.k.a. "Operation: New Year, New Me" for 2018, we've narrowed down three relevant smart watches/fitness trackers for some honest review. We've studied each based on novice activity, intermediate activity, and advanced activity, respectively. We've got us some experts—seasonal tri-athlete and active sports writer Noelle de Guzman and ultra-runner, bacon pusher, and skirted trail-dirt queen Jeri Chua—help us with their thoughts on these gizmos, too!
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Samsung's new Gear Sport is a shiny new upgrade of the brand's bulkier first smart watch offering. We managed to give this sleeker version a go for just a little over two weeks, sans the underwater testing. Its water resistance is certified for about a max depth of 50meters (under the ISO standard 22810:2010). It is okay for shallow free-diving, swimming, and snorkeling, but not recommended for scuba diving or other high-pressure underwater activities. For the screen to work, your hands and the device itself ought to be completely dry.
Noelle received the opportunity to try out the Gear Sport as well and shared a couple of honest observations. "The Samsung Gear Sport is quite sleek and with the right accessory wristband would be at home at both a dinner party and a gym."
Having competed in Ironman races, Noelle certainly knows her expectations when it comes to gadgets as a multi-sport athlete. "It definitely tries to pull off being both a smartwatch and a sports watch, but is just a bit more successful at the former than the latter. It needs more granularity in the data it presents as a sports watch. The screen lock function is okay while swimming but [to note] it doesn't track lap times and rest intervals." Battery life is what may remind you that this isn't a regular watch and like a cellphone by the end of the day, after around 10 to 12 hours with frequent use will need to be tucked into its stand charger by bedtime. The stand charger works with a micro USB input.
In our own experience with the Gear Sport, we appreciate its mobility reminders when we've been sitting just a tad bit longer than usual.
It's certainly an anti-couch-potato gadget with its scheduled prompts to bust out a few lunges or torso twists if you haven't been moving in over an hour. The scheduled event notifications synced with your mobile calendar are quite helpful in keeping you on your toes on a jam-packed work day.
The pairing with a nearby bluetooth speaker you may have is also a talking point with friends and quick way to impress them by changing the music on Spotify directly from your Gear Sport. Staying actively productive was much easier with it on our wrist and it was nice to finally help strangers tell the time without pulling our phone from our pocket. The Gear Sport is currently available in retail at your local Samsung Experience Store and also at partner retailers like Lazada, and Abenson.com.
The Fitbit is quite obviously the more minimalist wrist lifestyle tracker that discreetly makes itself a part of your day-in and day-out activity. Seen as a slim band over the wrist in a number of its models it might look itty-bitty but for intermediate fitness buffs it provides quite a detailed health and fitness tracking experience.
There are a number of Fitbits to choose from but the best-selling ones are the simpler looking band-style ones like the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Fitbit Alta HR, which Noelle owns and puts to good use. "I have a Fitbit Alta HR which is very thin on the wrist so it doesn't take up too much space, I like that it detects my workouts and sleep automatically. The heart rate data display on the phone app is also good. If I didn't already have a Fitbit the (Samsung) Gear would have been a more attractive option"
In today’s new world riddled with tons of distractions, decent sleep is often hard to come by which is possibly why the Fitbit's ability of tracking sleep quality as well as your workout progress and other details has become all the rage with the rise of wrist trackers. There’s also something we find thrilling about waking up to information recorded about you while you were unconscious.
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There are helpful basic notifiers as well, and while they won't show you the message itself certain models will alert you when you've received one or if your phone is ringing. The thing lacking in general, however, about almost all the Fitbits, save for their new release, is they’re only splash, sweat, and rain resistant, not waterproof. The new flex 2 Fitbit is their waterproof offering but without a data screen. Noelle points out, "Fitbit also released a swim band but I already have my Garmin."
Garmin is not necessarily the most affordable, but it's an award-winning, advanced sports watch among the world's top outdoor athletes. For its third year in a row, it has won the Manufacturer of the Year award, an honor bestowed by the National Marine Electronics Association. For those of you who only know them as sports watch developers, they do way more than that. They take pride in developing and innovating navigation and communication devices that aid their customers in whichever recreational pursuit they choose; whether it be automotive, aviation, marine, fitness, or whichever outdoor sports. Choosing to own a Garmin is like recruiting a solid ally for advanced fitness.
For serious runners and multi-sport athletes this is one watch brand that allows you to navigate via GPS in topographical detail, withstand exposure, sweat, water, and getting banged up here and there. It does the basic timekeeping bit while most accurately calculating distance, pace, calories burned ...recovery hours needed and a number of other measurable data categories you wouldn't suspect something on your wrist would do all together in one go.
This Garmin ambassador's introduction ought to be just as robust. Jeri Chua, the Singaporean lady who at age 41 last year completed the 400 kilometer Gobi Desert trail-run while reportedly losing 10 percent of her body weight, is a brand ambassador.
Jeri began ultra-running after a long high-fashion editorial career (the September Issue lifestyle, seriously). But it was appropriately enough as a sports science graduate with a master's degree in nutrition. She had the proper educational background to make a solid career shift. In October 2017, she was given an Outstanding Career Achievement Award by the Singapore Women's Weekly for her contributions to Health, Sports, and Wellness.
To fuel her trail lifestyle in ultra-running and enrich the lives of pro and novice runners alike following her fashion career, Jeri became the founder of Red Dot Running Company. It began as an online site but recently she birthed a physical store. Red Dot Running Co. is a well-curated running lifestyle retailer which, thanks to Jeri's style background, not only sells items that are effective and tried-and-tested to the bone but also apparel and accessories that look good on-the-go.
Jeri expressed to us on a trail-running excursion that she enjoys and endures in ultra-running because as an introvert the long lapses of solitude she finds on the trail are what she really craves for. Being alone means of course requires ensuring you don't get lost and Jeri's Garmin watches have always helped this she-Sonic find her bearings. "My favorite feature on my Garmin fenix 5X has to be the topographical maps—a godsend for someone like me who gets lost in a paper bag! It kept me on track for the self-navigated Monster 200km in Singapore earlier this year, I didn't get lost once!"
Her Garmin fenix 5s sapphire rose gold, a stylish take on the other models, is the one that goes with her everywhere at the moment. "I recently updated the software on my fenix 5S (totally loving the white and rose-gold...looks so chic!) and added the Stress Level widget that tracks your stress levels. There's also the Garmin Face-It app, you can any image to your watch face, sometimes with hilarious results. I secretly added my face to my friend's Garmin as a joke. Imagine looking at your watch and seeing someone else's face grinning at you!"
What usually daunts people when it comes to Garmin sports watches (also sold here via RDRC-scroll down on site) is the hefty price tag, but Jeri says novice runners in particular shouldn't feel pressured to get the latest model with all the bells and whistles. Garmin offers a few other options, Jeri shares.
"Newbie runners don't need a lot of fancy features on a new watch, and I'd totally recommend the Forerunner range, especially the Forerunner 235. It's got everything you'd need to start and looks great too, and it's likely to be a while before you'd need to upgrade. For those [who are] a little more budget conscious, try the Forerunner 25 or Forerunner 35. Great choices for beginner runners." When it comes to being one of Garmin's women of adventure, Jeri takes the cake for sure.
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Photography by author and from: Instagram.com/jerifatburd, Instagram.com/reddotrunningco, Instagram.com/thefitamazon, Instagram.com/kikayrunner, Instagram.com/samsung_news_pro