Friday App of the Day: Mi Fit

wpid-miband.jpgThe app I am going to write about today isn’t just an app; it’s an app for a fitness tracker.  Around last Christmas I almost bought a Fitbit.  I really wanted something that would track my everyday fitness, my running and my sleep pattern.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that I really needed a gps watch to accurately track my running, something that I still haven’t acquired.  I was still on the fence about which fitness tracker to buy so in the meantime I looked for a cheaper alternative.  My boyfriend, Chris, had come across the Mi Band from a Malaysian company called Xiaomi.  He found them on a website for about $12, so I thought what could it hurt to try it out?  I am so glad I did!  This fitness tracker is very accurate and has some great features that I would like to tell you about along with the very user friendly app called Mi Fit that you have to use with the band.

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-25-15-13-25-1.pngStep Counter:  The reason most people buy fitness trackers is to count their steps and see how active they are during the day. The app shows your total steps and even updates live as you walk around.  One thing I love is that it shows a breakdown of your walking steps versus your running steps.  The running steps are also shown in miles and mine are usually only about .2 off from my Nike app which is great considering the band doesn’t have gps and even gps devices can be off by that much. You can set a goal for your daily step count and when you reach it, the Mi Band vibrates and the three lights on the band light up to let you know.  In the settings you can even change the color of the notification lights on your band.  Mine are Orange right now.

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-25-15-56-51-1.pngSleep Tracker:  If you don’t care about your daily steps, it is worth it to just get the band for the sleep features.  The Mi Band tracks when you fall asleep and wake up and even shows when you were in deep sleep or light sleep.  This is great to know because you should have enough deep sleep during the night so you are fully rested when you awake in the morning.  The band also acts as an alarm.  You can set alarms through the app and the band will vibrate to wake you up at your set time. You can also turn on the early bird feature which will wake you up according to which sleep cycle you are currently in.  It looks thirty minutes before your alarm is set and makes sure it wakes you up while you are in light sleep.  This will make you feel rested when you awake as opposed to waking up during deep sleep.

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-24-20-01-52-1.pngBattery Life:  Unlike most fitness trackers the Mi Band has excellent battery life.  It is said to last for a month before you have to recharge, but I have gone way more than that before charging.  You can check the battery right through the app.  It tells you the percentage of charge left and how many days since it has last been charged.  Currently mine is at 22%, but I last charged it 32 days ago when I was in Boston.  Also on the battery screen is an option that says Find Band.  When you select that the band starts vibrating and lighting up.  It can be useful if you misplace the band or have to distinguish it from someone else’s band.

Call notification:  The Mi Band has a great feature where it will vibrate and light up when you are getting a call on your phone.  This is great if you work in an office where you can’t have your ringer volume on, but you still would like to know if you are getting a call.  I am usually bad about not having my phone volume up or on vibrate, so now I don’t miss any calls.

wpid-20150925_155926-1.jpgChangeable bands:  When you buy the Mi band it comes with a plain black band color.  On their website you can buy extra bands in a variety of colors.  The tracker is also really easy to take out of the band and switch to another.  There are other sites online to buy accessories from.  My parents bought a paw print one for me from one of those sites that I absolutely love.

Other features:  I wanted to briefly touch on some extra functionality. There is a customized version of the Mi Fit app on the Xiaomi  forums that expands the notification features to let you set up customized alerts for anything on your phone. Another thing to note is that the Mi Band itself is IP67 Water resistant, so you can shower and swim in shallow water with it. Finally, the app can sync data with Google Fit.

I am so glad that I purchased a Mi Band.  It has been a great way to track my daily activity and sleep patterns.  It is also a great value for the price!  You can find out more information about the Mi Band and even purchase one on their site here.  The price of the band on the site is 59 Malaysian Ringgit which is about $13 USD.  To give you a comparison, it has all of the features of the Fitbit Flex and then some, with superior battery life, and the Flex retails at $99. If you are looking for a great fitness tracker go with the Mi Band.  You will not be disappointed!

Friday App of the Day: Runkeeper

I’ve talked about the Nike running app a lot on here because it is the main app that I use for logging my runs and training. There are some features that I would like implemented that are not in the Nike app, so I decided to try out other apps’ features and write reviews on them.  All week I have been trying out different features of the Runkeeper app.  I have been running both apps at the same time to see if the mileage matches.  The ending mileage has only been off about .2 which isn’t too far off.

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-18-18-21-59-2.pngThe workout summary shows distance, time, average pace, and calories burned along with a map of the run; the usual info expected on a running app.  In addition to that information there is also a page for mile splits and some useful charts including pace, elevation, and heart rate.  The elevation graph can be very useful if you are trying to train for a certain terrain in a race. My graph showed me that Florida isn’t as flat as I thought.

There is a training section of the app where you can have a custom plan created.  The app will ask some questions about your running and then it will come up with a plan to suit your needs.  One great feature in the training is the voice intervals. The plan comes up with certain intervals that you should run and the voice guide tells you when to switch and what you should do during each interval.  I just wish that you could pick your own intervals instead of the app doing it for you.

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-18-18-27-33-2.pngThere are plans to train for different race distances.  Some plans are free while others are just for Runkeeper Go subscribers, their premium service.  I did find a free one for a sub 2:00 half marathon that I may try for my half marathon in February.  Choosing the finish time determines how advanced the plan is and each run during the plan tells you what pace you should run at, which is very useful to meet your goal time.  Each day you run, you have to select the workout on the home screen; it won’t automatically start when your run starts.

The music integration confused me a bit.  There is a music note at the top of the app that lets you choose a music player on your phone.  Apparently Runkeeper for Android does not have music integration; you have to start your music on a different app and then go back to Runkeeper to begin tracking your run.  I hope this is something that they fix soon.

For an app to track your runs this app works great.  The gps locks on faster than I am used to as well.  I will be interested to see how the training program is by actually completing it.  I may write about that in the future.  I really don’t like that there is a subscription for additional features, but I guess that is how they make their money  It also bothers me that the app doesn’t seem to have all of the features that the iOS version does.  More and more people are getting Android devices so I would expect the features to be evenly matched between the two platforms.  We’ll see if they improve on this in the future.

Nike + Running App Features

Disclaimer:  This is a review for the old Nike Plus app before it was updated to the Nike Plus Run Club app.  As much as it pains me to say, the new app is horrible and I suggest you don’t upgrade if you haven’t already.  Once upgraded, features like the shoe tracking and the old training plans are gone.  The old app that this review is about was great and can probably still be found online as an apk, though I am not positive that it will work the same.  For now I am going to use my Garmin Connect app for all of my tracking and training needs.  Garmin has never let me down.

The Nike + Running app has helped me so much in my training. I would like to share my favorite features of the app with all of you! Here they are in no particular order:

One of the speed workouts in the advanced half marathon training program

One of the speed workouts in the advanced half marathon training program

1. Coach – My absolute favorite part of this app is the coach feature. The coach is basically your own personal running trainer. There are four distances to choose from: 5k, 10, Half Marathon, and Marathon. Within those distances there are three experience levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. If you have run with the app before, the app recommends an experience level based on your previously tracked runs. After you pick a race distance and an experience level, you pick the date of your upcoming race. The app will then tell you when your training plan will start. The training plan runs right up to your upcoming race, with the last day being race day. Each day in the plan the app tells you what to do during your run, cross training, or rest day. The run days might consist of maintenance runs, speed workouts, recovery runs, and long runs. I will say that The 5k beginning training program might be tough for someone who hasn’t run before. I suggest beginners start with the Couch to 5k app and then progress to the Nike app.

You can turn on or off cheers on each run

You can turn on or off cheers on each run

2. Facebook Cheers – For each run you can turn on Facebook cheers. If your app is connected to Facebook and you start a run, the app will post to Facebook and let all of your friends know that you are out running. For every like and comment that the post gets a cheer is sent to your phone. So if you have your sound up or earbuds in you will here the sound of a crowd cheering for you! This can be great motivation on those long runs or hard speed workouts.

Map of one of my runs , showing the speed throughout

Map of one of my runs , showing the speed throughout

3. Map – The map in the app is very detailed. It shows your speed using a color gradient: green for your fastest pace to red for your slowest. This is very helpful to show where you slowed down on your route and what mile fatigue set in, or where you were able to run your fastest.

My distance splits from one of my runs

Distance splits from one of my runs

4. Distance Splits – In addition to the map view you can view a layout of your pace for each mile. It shows your pace each mile, how much you improved each mile, and it highlights your fastest mile. It is very useful to see a quick outline of your entire run.

 

Run recap showing the weather and my shoe mileage

Run recap showing the weather and my shoe mileage

5. Weather – After you save your run the weather shows up in the details. It shows the temperature and has a little graphic if it was sunny or cloudy out. This is a great training tool because if you go look at a run and see that your pace isn’t what you thought it should be, then look at the weather and that may be why. You should always run slower on the hottest days of the year. Living in Florida, my summer training paces are always worse than the rest of the year, unless I run on a treadmill.

6. Shoe Tracker – The app tracks how many miles you put on your running shoes. You can add multiple shoes and when your run has finished, pick which shoe you were wearing. I love this because it keeps me aware of how much I have used my shoes and when I should look at replacing them. Most running shoes last between 300-500 miles before they should be replaced.

7. Friends – You can add friends that also use the app. This is another great motivator because you are able to see your friends stats and how many miles they ran for the week or month. The app encourages you to try to run more than your friends.

My running stats

My running stats

8. Stats – On the profile page all of your stats are listed. I love stats! It is a great motivator because I am always trying to better myself. It lists your furthest and longest runs and your best time for each race distance. It’s great to have your training PRs all in one place. You can also level up, which is fun. Nike has different color levels depending on how many miles you have run with the app.