Get Ready for Spring: Fitbit Coach and Plantronics BackBeat FIT Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
I know it has been a while but I finally have a couple of minutes to spare between some client work and a birthday party pickup. During this break in the action I took a run. On the run the Fitbit Coach app virtually coached me. I am a Fitbit Coach premium member ($7.99/month, $39.99/year plus tax). I listened to my coach through my new Plantronics BackBeat FIT Wireless Bluetooth Headphones. Overall I was impressed with both of these products.
Fitbit Coach is an all around virtual coach, which can be helpful for both indoor an outdoor workouts. When using the program you are able to choose from different difficulties and lengths of workouts. I typically like to keep my workouts short since doing various aerobic moves can get tedious and boring over long periods of time (at least to me). Today was the first time I used it for a run.
As a child I had a friend who as a pastime we would call the local “Dial-a-Hymn” number and imagine that by calling the number frequently we would frustrate the lady playing the hymn over and over again. She never seemed to lose her cool, though I suspect this was due to the fact that the hymn was in reality a recording and not an actual performer. Fitbit Coach is sort of the same idea. For the indoor workouts there are prerecorded sequences performed by “athletic-type” individuals in some spartan warehouse-turned-workout room. If you use your imagination enough, it is easy to place yourself inside this environment and follow along with them and their “coach” who also guides you through each workout.
Even within the easier workouts, there are definitely hard parts. Many of the exercises require high levels of coordination and/or balance in order to be completed successfully. Both of these skills are not something that come naturally to me, though they are so hard as to be impossible to master. Unlike other training programs I have tried, the goals are not set ridiculously high, and you have the opportunity to give feedback to the program after all the reps of each exercise are completed. It is not clear to me how or if this feedback is incorporated into the overall workout or future workouts. I felt good after each workout, and I see them being easy to complete even in a spaces such as a small loft or 1-bedroom apartment. I would think they would also be a good alternative for non-run days if you are an avid runner, or if the weather is just so dreadful that you don’t want to go outside.
Personally, I think the run coaching was executed much better than the aerobic exercises. This review is based on the “Ladder Up” workout in the premium version of the app. One of the things I like best about both the aerobic and run workouts is that they choose the music for you. I am not a big music listener, so having good music in the background that isn’t obnoxious but is also encouraging is a huge plus. The “Ladder Up” workout took 22 minutes and had different intervals of power walking, jogging, and runs. No one section was too long or too hard, which is definitely something I struggle with when on the treadmill in the gym. The “coach” was generally encouraging, but I felt that he chimed in too often to the point it interrupted the music.
Overall I think $7.99/month is a fair price to pay for a “virtual personal trainer”. The non-premium level of the app contains too few workouts to make it variable enough that you don’t get bored. I would like to see the option to buy individual workouts without having to commit to a monthly payment. Regardless, $7.99 is way less than any gym membership (even those $10 deals at Work Out World or Planet Fitness) and most gym memberships don’t include any personal training (virtual or otherwise). Having “someone” be with you while doing it also helpful and of course there is no extra-trip to the gym when it is essentially with you in your pocket. This app is a good investment for someone looking to save some time and money, but still stay in shape.
Plantronics BackBeat FIT Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
Ever since I started taking the train to work again I have been in the market for a good set of Bluetooth Headphones. My previous favorites were Sony MDRJ10 earphones, but now with Apple iPhones having no headphone jack (and my utter reluctance to use a dongle) I had to find a suitable Bluetooth replacement. I did have a generic, bulky, and uncomfortable pair of headphones, but they we not good for working out and often lost the connection when trying to adjust them. So began several months of spying on other commuters to see what they were using to listen while on the train. For basic criteria I wanted a similar design to the MDRJ10 and I did not want super bulky earpieces for the battery and controls. One day I came across a pair from Plantronics (affiliate link) and immediately saved it to my wish list on Amazon.
Two weeks ago I came into possession of several Amazon gift cards to the point that buying the Plantronics BackBeats wouldn’t break the bank, so I went ahead and ordered them. This was definitely another example of Amazon sending something in a box too large as when I opened up the box, there was another box inside which contained the headphones. Anyway, the images on the instruction booklet made it look like you had to hold down the phone button in order to turn them on, though no matter how long I held down the button, they did not seem to power on. I went to charge them a bit, but even after doing so, holding down the phone button did not work. Neither did holding down the play/stop button seem to affect any response from the headset. Turns out that what I originally though were just some tactile cues for where to place you fingers in order to operate the device were actually themselves buttons as well. It was this area/button on the phone which turned them on and off. From there, it was simple to pair them up with my iPhone.
Sound quality is overall good, and while I think I have a sense for what sounds good and clear, I don’t profess to be any sound expert. Certainly it was pleasurable to listen to my workouts, podcasts, and YouTube videos with them. I don’t speak on the phone that much, but on the one test call I made to my wife she said I sounded clear and was able to hear my voice even though the microphone resides in one of the earpieces and not near the mouth. This was certainly not the case for my generic brand headset I had previously.
Of all the headphones and earphones I have encountered on the train, these to me were the most elegant and efficient that I saw. After purchasing and using for a week, I only have two qualms with their design. One I mentioned before in reference to the ease of turning them on and off. The second is that the length of the earphones is not adjustable so it can be slightly uncomfortable if wearing them along with a coat and a scarf, but not to the point that you don’t want to wear them anymore. They are easy to store and carry around in your breast pocket or other pocket and can also remain temporarily around your neck with out falling right off and onto the floor.
Again, just like Fitbit Coach this is another solid product that meets all the requirements for a pair of Bluetooth headphones. For someone who wants decent sound quality and comfort I would definitely recommend these to someone else.