Big Peach Running Company in Brookhaven shows off some of its running watches and fitness tracking devices.
Photo: Jenni Girtman
Photo: Jenni Girtman

Fitness gadgets to keep you on track for the new year

Sarah Funderburk’s present to her fiancé, Will Weston, turned into a friendly cross-state fitness rivalry. For their three-year dating anniversary, Funderburk bought Weston a Fitbit about 18 months ago, and he quickly became hooked on counting steps and upping his exercise game.

This story originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Living Intown magazine.

“Will enjoyed using it so much that I decided to buy myself a Fitbit, too,” says the 27-year-old public relations practitioner, who lives in Midtown. This summer, the couple’s enthusiasm inspired Weston’s family in New Orleans to purchase their own wearable activity trackers. “We’re back and forth on social media and our apps every weekend to see who does the most steps,” she says. “It really is fun, and it’s a great way to stay connected.” Funderburk admits her goals are more about walking a bit more every day, but Weston uses the Fitbit to keep in shape. “With a relatively sedentary job as a real estate broker, I want to get back to my fitness level when I was in college,” says Weston, 28. “Our family competition really keeps me motivated.” Funderburk and Weston aren’t alone in starting new exercise regimens, especially this time of year. Nearly 40 percent of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions related to health and fitness, according to the Nielsen research firm. Myriad gadgets, apps and new technology across all price ranges accommodate the person who wants to rev up his daily activity or the competitive athlete working to improve her training and performance. Two keys to success are knowing your goals and linking to the right tools.

Accelerometer-based trackers

Fitbit and Jawbone activity trackers use accelerometer methodology to track motion in three dimensions, measuring stride length and the number of steps to calculate approximate speed and distance. Worn all day, they provide an overview of activity levels, heart rate and sleep quality. While Fitbit is the dominant brand in the marketplace — with prices that range from around $50 for the clip-on model to nearly $250 for its Surge Fitness Super Watch — other brands, such as Misfit, Basis and Striiv activity trackers, are comparable. Some people combine technologies to access more health information. At the suggestion of her chiropractor, marketing and communications consultant Karin Koser started using the ithlete app last fall to occasionally track her health. A fitness app that works with a selection of monitoring hardware, ithlete measures her resting heart rate and heart-rate variability at select times during the day. She can record her sleep time and eating habits. Koser, 56, recently added the Fitbit Surge to track her daily steps and monitor her heart rate continually throughout the day. “With ithlete, I was still curious about my daily step counts and my quality of sleep, so now I have a more complete picture,” says the Decatur resident. “I’m not a huge athlete, but using ithlete and Fitbit certainly help me manage my own health better.”

GPS-based trackers

Beyond basic fitness goals, amateur and competitive athletes turn to training tools that incorporate GPS technology. In addition to accurately measuring distance, many GPS-capable products include measuring in-depth physiological information and keeping records to analyze workout effectiveness.

“GPS technology seems to appeal to serious athletes looking to up their performance,” says Dave Martinez, general manager of Big Peach Running Co. in Brookhaven. “Because they use satellite information, they’re more accurate in measuring distance and elevation. They also can provide information about your running dynamics, from the duration of ground-contact time to the exact place that your foot meets the ground. These devices can also be used to develop training routines, measure the pace of your workout and measure improvement.” Among GPS devices, Garmin’s newest Forerunner products can pair with smartphones or connect with apps to monitor heart rate, determine workout intensity and running dynamics, and report recovery time. “Some of the higher-end models can also monitor physiological factors that indicate the efficiency of the runner’s workout,” Martinez says. “It really helps people develop a more effective training program based on heart rate and other data.” Where to buy Atlanta-based WAHOO Fitness makes hardware such as the Kickr Smart Trainer, a computerized indoor cycling trainer that can be wirelessly connected with smartphones, tablets and other equipment. Paired with WAHOO apps, these trainers can be programmed to control workout intensity, measure resistance and create interval-based sessions. “Our devices and apps are designed for people who want to track their workouts on the road, in the gym or at home,” says Taryn Lushinsky, product manager with WAHOO Fitness. With products available at such local retailers as Atlanta Cycling and Podium Multisport, the company has also developed apps for use with workout tracking, training routines and guidance for all levels of athletes. Apps can be adapted for various levels of training and include the company’s 7-minute Workout and Runfit apps and the capability of linking to third-party apps like Map My Run, Runkeeper and Strava Running and Cycling. “It is crucial to understand your objectives so that you can select the right technology to help you achieve your fitness goals,” Lushinsky says. “Using technology can help you reach your fitness goals more quickly.” Funderburk’s goals, with her recent engagement, include stepping up her fitness routine. “It looks like now I’ll need to use my Fitbit to get me wedding ready,” she says. “I’m glad that I have a good supportive group of family and friends to keep it fun.”

Big Peach Running Co. 705 Town Blvd., Suite 340, and other locations. 404-816-8488.

WAHOO Fitness. 1-877-978-1112.

Insider tip

Choose an accelerometer-based device like a Fitbit or Jawbone if you’re working out on a treadmill, stationery bicycle or elliptical machine. The motion-activated step counter will record your steps and estimate your distance. If you’re using a GPS tool, your distance won’t register, because you’re basically staying in the same location.

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