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June 8, 2012 / lynnettedobberpuhl

The Numbers Game: Wordtabulous Meets MOTOACTV

When I bought my first bike as an adult, my friends encouraged me to get a cycling computer, a small electronic device that was wired to a little plastic doo-hickey (I am pretty sure that is the term) which registered how fast a magnet attached to a front wheel spoke swept past it. The computer gave me numbers for how long a time period I rode, distance I covered, my current speed while riding, my average speed over the entire trip, my max speed, and an odometer that collected all the miles I ever rode (when I remembered to turn the thing on.) I hadn’t even been sure I wanted one of the things–they seemed suspiciously fancy, but once I had a computer, I was hooked. Suddenly I was ALL ABOUT wanting to ride longer distances faster. When I got tired, I could see the numbers getting lower as I slowed, and it inspired me to fight through the fatigue and press on. When I wanted to be done, but saw I only needed three more miles to hit a nice, even number on the odometer, I’d add a side trip to get a little more distance. Training involves at least as much mental dedication as it does physical toughness, and numbers are a way to distract a person from the discomfort of a grueling workout, or help them focus on the results they want. Numbers are our friends.

I have had several different computers over the years, but they were all pretty much on the same level as that first one. Priorities shifted, and I started riding more sporadically. When I did get out my rides were slower and shorter. For a time I was taking a lot of group fitness classes like Kettlebell and Pilates and TRX, but when I got a job (in addition to the freelance work and the domestic engineering I already do,) my new work schedule and life in general conflicted with the classes. I began spending more and more time sitting in front of the computer or on the couch. When I rode the Tour de Cure last weekend, it seemed obvious to me that my new sedentary lifestyle had taken a toll. Fortunately, a friend at work had a connection to someone at Verizon Wireless, who was willing to loan me a Motorola MOTOACTV device for a week, to see what I thought. Great opportunity! So here’s what I think:

The package I got from Verizon Wireless included the MOTOACTV device, which is about 1.75 inches square, and the following accessories: a wristband, an armband, a belt clip, earphones, a bike mount, and a USB cord and wall charger. The device charged up in less than two hours. It was pretty easy to navigate through the various menus. There is one for Settings, where you can sync the device to a heart rate transmitter, and add personal information like height, weight, gender and age. There is a Workout menu under which you can choose to look at data from recent workouts or start a new workout by choosing running, cycling, walking, elliptical or step machine. The Main screen shows the time, date, estimated calories burned (either for the day, if you are using all day monitoring, or for a workout you are doing if you are trying to conserve battery life,) and a pedometer readout. There is a Music menu (I loaded a playlist from my iTunes,) and Notifications, which I never used. The device is cool, but where things got  amazing was when I hooked it up to my computer (to load music and see what there was to see,) and then went to the MOTOACTV website (https://motoactv.com/) From then on, the device synced all my data wirelessly and automatically.

I used the MOTOACTV for four workouts: a 45 mile long bike ride (Tour de Cure,) a three-mile walk, a fit-test run (I know-me running? I am a very dedicated data gatherer,) and a 21 mile bike ride I took by myself. I had trouble getting things rolling at the Tour, I was leaving the start line on a winding path and since I’d only gotten the device the day before I was unfamiliar with it. There was the GPS to connect to, and the start button to hit–no biggie but a little bewildering the first time, particularly with other bikers riding alongside. I had left the device on “all day monitoring,” the bluetooth was activated and I hadn’t charged it again since the day before, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised when it died 28 miles in. There was a lot of data flowing when it WAS working: all the usual stats mentioned above, plus  data for speed broken down by each mile ridden. When it shut down, there were 28 discrete pieces of data waiting for me to analyze, and when I recharged the device, it was still there along with a tiny little route map!

When I checked on the website, the info was waiting for me, no cables or button pushing required, all wirelessly updated. Nice. I borrowed a Garmin heart-rate transmitter from a neighbor (thanks, Lynn!) to do the Fitness Test (an eight minute run) so the website could set up my Carmichael Heart Rate Zones. Within a hundred yards I was reminded of how much I dislike running, but I cranked out my fast-as-I-could-go for eight minutes and was rewarded with a bunch of new data that seemed very compatible with the  “perceived exertion” levels I generally use. In a Wordtabulous first, I am inserting a video below to show you my favorite features.

Things I didn’t try, but wish I had: the device will compare what music you are listening to, to how well you are performing which can help you build a list of power music. Competition could be fun, although I would be more likely to compete with my own results rather than someone else’s, which is an option they offer. I didn’t use Notifications or link the device to my smartphone, but I am curious how that would all work.

Things I would want that I either didn’t figure out or the device doesn’t offer: a workout setting for monitoring heart rate and calorie burn during group fitness classes. I also think it would be interesting to see heart rate over the course of the day so you could assess your true resting heart rate and exactly how stressful certain times of your day are, but the only heart rate info I could find seemed to be attached to workouts.

In summary, a week was only long enough to dip my toe into what MOTOACTV has to offer but I was really intrigued by the versatility of the device and the wealth of data collected and organized. The battery running out was a newbie user issue not a product problem. I loved the wireless syncing aspect and the GPS tracking and route display. If I owned this device, I KNOW I would get out and do more. The belt clip made the device unobtrusive for all day wear, and the wristband is comfortable and kind of attractive in a chunky way. For my purposes I would want the bike mount and heart rate monitor, but not being totally hard core I don’t know if I would need the cadence meter. The MOTOACTV is spendy at $249.99, or $399 with the sports pack including accessories, but if numbers and high tech visual affirmation of your effort help get you off the couch, it could very well be worth it.

Thank you, Verizon Wireless, for the loan of the device!

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