Monday, November 30, 2015

Intensity Minutes - Can you get them from an elliptical (and how does a treadmill run work)?

Yes, and here's how.

I started using the arc trainer elliptical machine at a 15 level resistance, working my way higher in order to keep my HR over 100.  I continually increased the resistance level up to a 25 in order to keep my HR above 110, below 120.  Since I was creating an activity, I wasn't monitoring the Intensity Minutes meter (IMM) during the session.  

Total elliptical time: 30 minutes
Total IMs: 31 minutes 

I was getting near 100% "Moderate" exercise minutes from an "easy" exertion elliptical session, keeping HR 100-120 (max 134) for the entire workout.  

The Strava heart rate chart from the elliptical.  

While on the treadmill earlier in the day, running at an average pace of 10:19 and as fast as an 8:20 minute/mile, keeping my HR above 130 (max 157), I was getting mostly "Vigorous" exercise minutes (22 minutes of vigorous, 13 of moderate exercise).

Total treadmill time: 35 minutes (incl. 3 cool down)
Total IMs: 57 minutes.

The Strava heart rate chart from a treadmill run.  

Please check out my final post on Intensity Minutes and the VHR in general:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Intensity Minutes -- Can you get them from treadmill walking?

Yes, and here's how.

I started walking on the treadmill at 3% incline, 3 mph.  A couple of times the Intensity Minutes meter (IMM) started flashing, but it wasn't a sustained flashing.  

I raised the speed to 3.8 mph, at which point the IMM stayed flashing continually, which was at about 20 minutes (my pulse was around 102 at that point).

The meter was running.  After the 30 minute mark, I started reducing the speed (I had earned 10 IMs).  It continued earning IM minutes until the speed was down to 3 mph, at which point the IMM stopped flashing -- around minute 37.

Total walking: 37 minutes
Walking before IMM continuous flashing: 0 to 19 minutes (speed <3.8 mph)
Walking while IMM continuously flashing: 17 minutes (speed = 3.8 mph)
Total IMs: 17 minutes

(the point at which the IMs started counting -- getting cred for the previous 10 minutes where the meter had been continuously flashing)

Please check out my final post on IMs and the VHR in general:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Vivosmart HR - resting heart rate

I find my VHR does a remarkably good job of nailing resting heart rate (rhr) day in, day out. 
My resting rate is in the 44-48 range, and usually happens within two hours of waking. I have been fascinated about the jumps during the day.
Sometimes getting up for coffee will result in a jump to over 100. An overnight awakening will show a rate jump to 70 or so. 
It's not a smooth graph. This is from Tuesday. The exercise and sleep periods are pretty clearly marked on the top of the graph.  To the left of the first alarm clock is a sleep period; to the right till the "zzs" is a waking period.

You may be interested in DC Rainmaker's post on rhr.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Vivosmart HR review -- more about Intensity Minutes on an arc trainer and stationary bike

This will be the final IM post for a while.  I'm having problems repeating patterns, which makes me think this is an algorithm issue not an exercising issue.

Today, I did 20 minutes on the arc trainer with an HR above 100 and got 15 minutes on the VHR and 10 minutes on Garmin Mobile and Garmin Connect web.

I did 20 minutes on the stationary bike -- hitting 130 hr -- and got 0.

I'm back to my original post -- this is an interesting metric for Garmin to introduce, but the lack of consistency of earning these minutes with similar time/pace/effort shows its not yet ready for prime time. 

For now, I'll be sticking with the total activity time widget on Garmin Connect web (unfortunately not shown on Garmin Connect mobile) to compare cross-activity exercise.  

(PS: It would be great if Garmin Fitness could make web and mobile consistent with each other, both in terms of metrics and look and feel).

Vivosmart HR review -- intensity minutes on a treadmill walk (0)

More experiential data this am:

Notes -- 

Went for a 40 minute treadmill walk.  
Earned around 4800 steps, 0 intensity minutes.
My HR was bouncing around 80-95, but had one spike (probably inaccurate) to 134 (when I started on the treadmill at a slow speed).
Started around 2.5 mph and worked up to 3.3 by the end, 0 incline with 3% by the end.

The IM meter started flashing a couple of times, but clearly not enough activity to kick it into counting.

Conclusion: a walk may or may not kick in the IM count.  I successfully had it count on an outside walk with some significant hills - distance of 1 mi, time of about 15 minutes.  A 40 minute walk on the treadmill didn't work this time.

More and final thoughts for now:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Vivosmart HR review - intensity minutes part ii

I seemed to have maligned intensity minutes prematurely in my previous post.

From reading the Vivosmart HR (VHR) subforum on Garmin forums, I learned from a supermoderator that:

1) Intensity minutes can be triggered by arm movement/heart rate increases
2) There is no magical formula for how fast, but it requires significant heart rate increase (70% of maximum was one theory offered) to get the meter running.
3) People have earned intensity minutes on stationary bikes.  

I tried 15 minutes on a bike earlier this week, getting my HR averaging 118 to a max of 139, but failed to earn any minutes.

20 minutes on the arc elliptical earned me minutes, with an average HR of 108 and a maximum of 139 the same day.

So, either the bike session was too short, non-arm movement activity requires higher heart rate to trigger counting of intensity minutes compared to arm swinging like walking or running or elliptical, or...

Today, I did a bike session that was more intense.  I got average up to 121, max of 148, and did a bunch of hard one minute intervals thrown in.

And voila - I earned vigorous intensity minutes (vigorous are given 2:1 to moderate minutes according to Garmin Connect) -- I got 55 intensity minutes for 30 minutes of stationary biking - not quite 2:1 but close.  

Mr. Science was intrigued - exactly what is the point where it kicks the intensity meter to the point where it starts counting?  And where do vigorous minutes kick in, vs moderate minutes?

So I got on the treadmill and started a slow walk - around 2.5 mph, keeping my hr below 90. Even after 10+ minutes, the IM didn't start counting -- I started and it remained on 391 minutes. But at around 11:21, it started flashing (indicating the meter is either ready to count or actually counting)

Flash on.

Flash off.

But by after 14 minutes, the IM finally showed progress.  It hit 411, up from 391 (20 IMs in 14:40 minutes, meaning there was some counting of vigorous minutes in a walk that would not be considered vigorous by many of you).

At 26 minutes, the IM hadn't made much progress -- 414 after 26 minutes.  

A manual and VHR pulse check showed I was bouncing around in the 70s and 80s, so I decided to take things for a spin at minute 29:00 and do 20 at a run pace -- the VHR showed around a 7:55 pace, but it was definitely over 8:00 per mi by feel.  

I got my pulse going 125+ for the run but as high as 141 by the end, earning 28 IMs for a 20 minute run -- around a 1.5 ratio, so it though I was doing vigorous minutes for almost half the run which I would say is about right -- I did have to step off to tie my laces at one point.

To answer my questions:  I think that you need to plan on 10-15 minutes of walking at a brisk pace, 10+ minutes of running, or around 15 minutes of biking to trigger intensity minutes.  You don't have to start an activity for this to happen -- VHR will be activated from arm swing and/or increased H.  And for vigorous minutes to kick in, I think the supermoderator's comment that you need to be north of 70% maximum hr is probably right.

And day three of charge #2 comes to an end with still about 1/3rd of the battery life left -- on daily activity creation or hr broadcasting, with notifications, with weather screen, and fairly constant wrist play.  Get your minds out of the gutter.

 Back to resting (HR), even though Sunday is long run day.

See newer post: Intensity Minutes on a treadmill walk

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Vivosmart HR review of Intensity Minutes (So intense, so fail)

At first, I thought the Intensity Minutes (IM) feature was more Garmin Fitness bloat.  How many metrics do we really need? Aren't steps and miles enough?

Then, I started to warm to the idea, especially after understanding there are two types of IMs -- moderate intensity, and vigorous intensity.  Vigorous minutes count for 2 moderate intensity minutes.  This way, you can set a week's goal and hit it with some intense minutes, running, elliptical or hopefully stationary bike (not walking/running/ellipticaling exercise) in my case, or with some moderate minutes - like walking which I do a lot of - particularly in a two dog household 

and with a downstairs treadmill + flat screen TV setup.

So I did a little math (emphasis on little):

4 days minimum of 30 minutes running = 240 intensity minutes
1 day minimum of 90 minutes running = 180 intensity minutes
420 intensity minutes from running alone

That's what I set my weekly goal as, with the expectation on a good week I will hit 720 minutes from running alone -- a three hour run equaling 360 minutes all by itself - and four additional runs averaging 45 minutes = 360, plus another five days of 20 minutes walking per day or some biking could easily get me up to 720.  What good are Garmin goals if you can't smash them on a regular basis?

Activity minutes seem to be activated, according to Garmin Connect, from ten continuous minutes of step activity.  I confirmed this today from a 10+ minute walk around the block with dog #1.  When I started walking, the IM screen on the Vivosmart HR started flashing.  And after ten minutes, the minutes started increasing.  This is what I'm talking about:

This is what Garmin Connect (web) looked like before my walk:

And after:

The math:

1180 fairly easy dog walking steps = 10 intensity minutes (and a heart rate spike to 98bpm). (Note - the distance on the band showed .38 miles on a 1 mile course, even though I've custom selected my step length properly.  Not sure what's going on, but I think the Vivosmart HR might be a little funky on the distance measurement - the Vivosmart classic was definitely better.  But I digress...

Now, for my next trick, a trip to the gym to see how a stationary bike ride (stepless motion but with an activity created on the watch) will work.

I hit the stationary bike for 15 minutes, creating an activity on the Vivosmart HR at the start, ending at the end, syncing when done.  I got a good HR reading, and pedaled away.  A few minutes into it my band slid down (I didn't take my own advice and tighten it a notch before exercise, serves me right) and had a little dropout until I readjusted it.  But it gave what seemed like an accurate hr reading which was expected.

Unfortunately, the minutes didn't show on my watch as Intensity Minutes.  Zero, zilch.  Let's examine what Garmin says about Intensity Minutes: "You must do at least 10 minutes of moderate or higher intensity activity at a time to get your health benefits and for your Garmin activity tracker to count it."  Meaning: waving your arms for 10 minutes, either running, walking, or ellipticaling but not biking, unless you pedal and flap your wings at the same time.

I repeated the exercise on an elliptical which bore this out.   20 minutes on the elliptical gave me 20 intensity (therefore they were moderate minutes) on the treadmill.  I kept my avg HR under 110 - not sure what the trigger is for vigorous intensity, but this workout didn't do it.

Garmin needs to allow the HRM to trigger activity minutes to make it useful.  Or bikers, yoga-ers, etc., will cry themselves to sleep at night onto their Vivosmart HR, possibly shorting out the Elevate HR modules on the fitband.

Otherwise, let's just stick to Total Activity Time (below, seen on Garmin Connect web), and Garmin should create a window for it on the Vivosmart HR and on Connect Mobile rather than the rather silly (in current incarnation) Intensity Minutes.

See newer post: Intensity Minutes part ii

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Vivosmart HR review - Garmin Elevate HR module tips and tricks.

Several things I've found to improve your happiness with the HR module at least as implemented on the Vivosmart HR:

1) Let it warm up when you first put it into broadcast mode before exercising.  It seems it takes a minute or two to calibrate properly - and during that time it gives it a chance to have a durable link to the paired ANT+ device (in my case, the 920XT).  Not sure if this is necessary, but I got more satisfactory results this run (no disconnect from the 920XT or funky readings in the first couple of miles.

2) Wear the band right above your wrist bone, but not too high on your arm.

3) Find a comfortable tension for the band for your non-exercise time.  Something tight enough where it isn't sliding around on your arm like a bangle, but not so tight that its noticeably tight.  This is enough for good resting HR readings most of the time.

4) For exercise, tighten the band up a notch.  Enough to feel snug, not so much you are tourniqueting yourself.   Enough so when you loosen it up after exercise and move the band, you leave a light imprint of the stay loop on your arm (see the imprint above the strap on the top right of the band).  This technique definitely keeps the HRM more "locked in" during exercise.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Vivosmart HR - broadcasting heart rate data

I bought the new device primarily to monitor resting heart rate, I didn't see the broadcasting feature - whereby the Vivosmart HR ("VHR") broadcasts the heart rate signal from its Elevate optical HR module over ANT+ - to be a major draw.  However, after wearing it for a 5K treadmill run, I am reconsidering it as a strap replacement.  While it doesn't seem as instantly responsive as my Garmin HRM Run (it has a slight lag time -- from my subjective sense), it does seem good enough for my daily use after its first real workout.

I put the VHR into broadcasting mode - pressing the side button, scrolling to the settings icon then sliding to Heart Rate, pressing it, sliding over to broadcasting and then pressing the check icon - paired with my Garmin 920XT in the same way you'd do any other HRM (I now have three devices paired).  I started running, thinking I was good to go, but it seemed that I must have missed a step or the initial pair didn't work - when I went into indoor running and started the activity on the 920XT, it wasn't showing my HR a couple of minutes into the run.  You can see this on the red chart below as its flatlining around 60bpm.

I stopped the treadmill, re-paired, and started the run again (you can see where it happened on the upper (blue) chart.  

The monitor in the VHR broadcast to the 920XT worked like a charm -- it showed approximately 130bpm during my 9-10 min/mi pace on the treadmill, jumped up to around 155-160 during two 7:15 min/mi interval sessions.  I slowed down towards the end to a walk until I got my hr down below 100 - which usually takes about 2 minutes when running outside using the HRM Run strap, same with using the VHR.

The strap was not secured "very tight" -- tight enough not to slide loosely, but not so tight that it was uncomfortable for me (princess and the pea).

One side note:

When I ran on the treadmill, those minutes were reflected in "intensity minutes" metric, even though I didn't "create" an activity on the VHR, just on the 920XT.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Vivosmart HR - first observations

I've had a Vivo device since the Vivofit I was released in 2013.  First the Vivofit (v1), then the Vivosmart (classic) last fall.  It's become a must-have accessory for me, primarily for step counting and sleep tracking.  

A lot of people ask: why bother with steps when you do so much running?  First, walking is a great active recovery exercise on days off, and its nice to be able to keep myself honest - do enough walking that its significant, not so much that its not really recovery.  Also, with ultrarunning, you can do a lot of time on your feet that is walking or elliptical work -- less pounding than running, but still pretty useful on the longer races.  I find that if I get my average steps up to about 140K/wk, I can handle the physical demands of 6-8 hour races fairly easily.

I also like two handed device wearing -- being able to monitor mileage/pace on one hand, time or HR on the other.  Dork city.

So why upgrade from the Vivosmart - a really terrific device if its working so well?  I can't resist an upgrade - pretty much always have been an early adopter to a compulsive fault.  And I really want to track resting heart rate since I believe it is a great early warning system for overtraining/overdoing.

The Vivosmart HR jettisons the sleek and anonymous look of the Vivosmart classic and returns to the big bulky look of the Vivofit.  

Which is really not so bad... I never minded the size of the Vivofit - it still is a lot smaller than a running watch or a smartwatch.  It is light enough to sleep in without discomfort.   So the size bloat from Vivosmart to Vivosmart HR doesn't bother me much.

Plus: you get some added features from moving to the Vivosmart HR from the Vivosmart classic:

- Always on display (black background, white font - an LCD display that lights up when touched or when activity is started or notification arrives.
- Additional data (it can display weather on one of the swipe screens, transferred via Bluetooth when connected to your phone)
- And, drum roll please... Garmin's new proprietary optical HR monitoring that can not only take and track resting HR, but can also "broadcast" the HR signal to other ANT devices like any other Garmin HR strap would.  

Initial experience is positive and makes me think this might not end up back in the shopping cart behind the customer support counter at Best Buy.

1. The device is comfortable.  The strap is very soft, even when buckled with some firmness (which seems to help HR readings vs letting it dangle like a bangle on your forearm).  

2. Advantage to always on display.  One thing I forgot - whether its a fitness band or a running watch, the basic function of Time is underrated.  Its nice to see the time without having to raise your forearm on demand.

3. The HR monitor seems to work pretty well.  I've always been partial to chest straps, especially the new Garmin soft strap.  They do a good job for me in reliably capturing HR data, except when super sweaty.  Obviously, they aren't for 24 hour use.  Garmin's new optical monitor seems to be fairly reliable in both resting HR monitoring (its been showing an accurate resting HR) and for exercise (see below -- the first part around was an 8 minute brisk treadmill walk, followed by a two minute sprint at the end and a one minute cool down).

This isn't a hardcore workout/test, but it is a good sign.  Garmin is smoothing out the HR nicely in the graph, and the optical device is pretty responsive.  Better than a stick in the eye (fail) on day one.  

The only concern I have at hour 8 of ownership is battery life.  4-5 days is the claim; I'd hope I could get to the outer edge of that period on a regular basis since part of the charm of these devices is not having to do a nightly Apple Watch like charge up.  I'll report back here with updates by the end of the week about HR accuracy, broadcasting, and battery.  Over and out for now.

Edit: see new post on broadcasting HR data

Edit: See final post on VHR -