As a fitness enthusiast, I'm always looking for an intuitive way to track my activities and heart rate.
I've been wearing the Polar M400 but was getting frustrated with the large size for my small wrist size and tired of having to wrangle with a chest strap to monitor my heart rate.
After two days of research reading reviews and specs, I decided on the fitbit Blaze. After two weeks of use, I decided to write my Fitbit Blaze Review.
I've been searching for the perfect training watch since becoming a fitness enthusiast in 2003.
My biggest need is a heart rate monitor. I need something to track my heart rate with training zones and alerts to prevent over training.
This has become especially important as I near 50. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not 30 and it's time to listen to my body. With age comes wisdom, the wisdom to embrace recovery as much as I hate it.
My second most important need is activity tracking. I want to categorize my exercise sessions by activity. For instance, I do a lot of weight training, ice hockey, cycling and physical labor like yard work or moving furniture.
A third but less important need is GPS. Since I listen to music and podcasts off my phone I can use that to track my progress but that requires the ability to keep my eye on my phone. Hard to do when it's in a pouch, pocket or strapped to my forearm.
If the watch does not have built-in GPS, it has to have the ability to interface with my smartphone for alerts, music controls and tracking progress.
Of course it should also be a functioning watch with date, time, alarms, stop watch and timers.
Operation must be intuitive. I can't tell you how many watches I have purchased that do everything I want but needed a degree in buttons to work the darn things. They're now collecting dust somewhere.
After lots of research and the great reviews on Amazon, I decided upon the Fitbit Blaze.
This smart watch appeared to have all of the features I wanted in a sleek and minimal look without a big price tag.
I was sold when one reviewer commented: ...it has a larger footprint than the Apple Watch, but it's thinner and fits your wrist better. Not to mention it is much lighter. Shirt sleeves go on easy over it, as opposed to getting snagged on bulkier smart watches.
Ah, sounded like the perfect watch for me.
After a little price comparison, I ordered through Amazon Prime for $199.00. I love using Prime for their quick shipping and no hassle return policy.
My new fitbit Blaze arrived within two days in a nice sturdy box. Everything was nicely sealed and intact.
Of course I had to charge my watch before the first use. I plugged it in with the charging cable provided. I had to remove the "watch" from the band. Easy enough to pop it out the back and click into the charger.
There was no real instruction manual. Just a 5000 language safety precaution and warranty information booklet in print so small, you'll need a magnifying glass, tucked into a box labeled ftibit.com/setup.
There was also a small card that said let's get started with fitbit.com/setup. It didn't need my 14 year old's help deciphering that bit of information.
While my blaze was charging I decided to set up the desktop version to get a good look at what is available. I went through the set up wizard and created an account. My blaze was already linked from adding the app to my iPhone.
I was a bit leery of the heart rate sensor. It protrudes from the back of the watch a bit and I was fearful it would be uncomfortable. It was fine. Surprising since I am sensitive to pressure. I've been known to get a claustrophobic feeling from tight watches or bracelets.
The band is rubbery but not thick and is easy to maneuver. Like prayers answered after struggling with my Polar's beast of a band.I slept in the watch and literally forgot it was on my wrist. It's really that comfortable.
The touch screen worked well enough to scroll through heart rate, steps and calories burned.
My first experience was seeing text messages pop up on the screen. You cannot respond but you know what the message is and from whom. Pretty small print for my eyes. Same with phone calls.
I dabbled with the FitStar app that is included on the watch. It has pre-loaded workouts that are set to timer.
It's good if you're desperate for a workout and actually know what a cat-cow is. Had to google that one. I finally found an image and demonstration here.
After a week of wearing the watch to accumulate some data, I began to see how well it fit my needs as a trainer and fitness enthusiast.
I was disappointed that the watch does not store any data except current day. It would have been nice to compare past days with similar activities. This is important when energy is low to determine if you are over doing it or maybe getting sick.
What I do like about the Blaze is it allows you to quickly look at your heart rate at a glance.
What I'm skeptical about is the accuracy of the heart rate data. Heart rate is monitored optically with light with Fitbit's PurePulse.
I'm not convinced this technology is sufficient for exercise science monitoring but for general fitness purposes it appears to be fine. You'll have a good idea if you are in your fat-burning zone or getting into aerobic levels.
It's not a deal breaker but there are no apps for the Blaze. It will connect with your Strava account with some limitations. According to Fitbit and Strava, this is how it works:
Your Fitbit exercise activities containing GPS data will automatically show up on Strava for all your friends to see.
Runs and rides tracked via Strava will automatically contribute to your Fitbit all day stats like calories and active minutes as manually logged exercises. (GPS and heart rate data tracked via Strava will not be imported.)
Sleep tracking does just that. It tracks your sleep according to your heart rate and movement. According to Fitbit: "The motion sensor on your Blaze analyzes your movement patterns to determine whether you're asleep, restless, or awake. We use this data to calculate your sleep efficiency. You don’t need to press any buttons or otherwise enter a “sleep mode” to begin tracking sleep. Simply wear your Blaze to bed."
What can you do with the data? nothing really but see how restless you were or weren't. In a perfect world, it would track like SleepCycle to wake you gently at an optimum time. Curious? Here's what SleepCycle has to offer.
I've hit upon the pros in my Fitbit Blaze review, now for my cons.
The biggest reason I am dissatisfied with the watch is it's lack of activity options. I'm a data geek always trying to improve for personal growth but more importantly for my clients. . I want to know what I was doing and how I performed.
A hard effort on the ice rink is far different than a hard strength training session. Skating hard easily puts you close to your maximum heart rate. A strength training session is all about keeping the heart rate at 60-70% of max for the most beneficial workout.
The Blaze offers these exercise options, running, biking, cardio, weights, treadmill, tennis and workout. My perfect fitness tracker would allow me to add custom workouts like ice hockey, mowing the lawn, kickboxing, etc.
My second thumbs down goes to data storage. You cannot retrieve data from past days to quickly compare how you are progressing in each activity or if you are over-training and need more recovery.
I tried retrieving the data by connecting to my PC. Oh my what a headache. I run Windows 7 and no I'm not upgrading to 10, there are too many problems. And yes I wish I had a Mac. Moving on.
Fitbit kept asking me to plug in my dongle. Really? I didn't know or have a dongle that I knew of. I searched for help online and uh-oh, no real support for Windows 7 users.
I pulled up Amazon and began the return process. I need my data! Daily stats is not what motivates me it's the ability to scrutinize my progress or lack there of and make adjustments to optimize my fitness.
Yes I can pull up some data on my iPhone but it's simply not enough and there is no way to play with the data or compare data. For instance, Tuesday, I climbed 30 floors, had an hour and a half workout but I was only active 70 minutes. Wrong!
Maybe I'm too picky and require too much of my tracking devices. As my friend Grace told me, "Haha! Will anyone ever create a watch that meets your standards? I think you should make one! I'd buy it!"
And that was my inspiration to write a Fitbit Blaze review. I wanted to share my delights and frustrations in my search for the perfect smart fitness watch. I have already ordered a Polar 360. Look for the review coming soon!
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