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Remember the disaster I had with my Jawbone UP? Yeah, that kinda put me off activity trackers for a little while. Recently though I was approached by Health-on-Line about their Body Fuel campaign, offering a Vivofit – the one band I felt I could put my trust in, with it being made by sport watch powerhouses Garmin – so I decided to give it a go. And I’m glad I did!

I’ve been wearing it for a week now and overall I really like it. Whilst generally I think activity bands are good for encouraging mainly sedentary people to hit movement targets, I really enjoy having this gadget on my wrist and it’s actually shown me how my maintenance calorie target and step count differs from day to day.

Cons:

    As with all activity bands, it just records the calories you burn whilst generally moving around. Calories burned weight lifting, cycling, swimming and so on must be recorded manually. In isolation this doesn’t seem so great but this is the same across all fitness bands, and most don’t work as seamlessly as the Vivofit does.
    I created my Garmin Connect account using Twitter; trying to log in to the website version it just takes me on a loop and I can’t access the page. I’ve been using the app anyway so no big deal for me, just something to consider if your phone or tablet doesn’t have Bluetooth (sidenote: the pack comes with a dongle to plug into your USB port, which is useful and a cool addition).
    There’s a slight discrepancy between MyFitnessPal and the Garmin Connect information, though I’m sure I must just be missing something here. If you were using the band and app on its own it would obviously not be a problem. The only third-party app available to connect is MFP, incidentally, which is the tracking app I use anyway.

Pros:

    There’s potential for heart rate monitor integration – this means you get the full picture of how many calories you burn each day, rather than the calories you’ve burned by just walking. I feel this is what sets the band apart from the rest on the market; normally you’d have to wear the activity band plus a heart rate monitor, then delete the activity from your band for the given time period, making it all rather complicated!
    The battery lifetime is around a year, so you’re not missing any activity while it’s being charged. The display does not light up and there is no alarm facility to wake you up in the morning, though this is a small price to pay for such a long battery life.
    Connecting to the app is very easy via Bluetooth, and if you don’t have Bluetooth a USB dongle is included to sync with your PC. Garmin seem to have thought about this process to make it as simple as possible.
    The app made for the band is great. It syncs easily (it kept failing once and I just re-paired the devices), the information is clear, it appears to be accurate, and it’s well-designed.

Ease of use: 10/10
Ability to improve workout: 2/10 (but with the heart rate monitor attached probably 10/10!)
Value for money: 8/10

Overall, a great little band at a really decent price of £79. Activity bands are basically glorified pedometers and are not a necessity to everyday life – but what really makes the Vivofit stand out is the potential for integration with a heart rate monitor, giving you a true view of your calories burned throughout the day rather than just using the amount of steps you take. It also works perfectly with no bugs at all I could find, and having something attached to my wrist recording activity really appeals to my inner geek. Overall I’d give this band 9/10 – with the potential for top marks when I try the heart rate feature. Thanks for the gadget and opportunity, Health-on-Line!

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Manchester-based swimwear brand South Beach Swim are diversifying into fitness gear for spring/summer 2014. Crop tops, booty shorts and yoga pants are the first tentative steps into the buzzing fitness market, in bright, block colours with simple logos.

The crazy coconut guy above seemed impressed, and I was too! Although the range doesn’t boast any particular technology, the fabric felt very supportive to me, almost like compression gear. High street brands like H&M, Forever 21 and Primark are really going for the fitness gear nowadays, so I love that a smaller brand have taken a bit of a risk to make quality gear in a new market. Prices range from £15 to £22 so it’s highly affordable. Let’s hope it pays off and they create a wider range – patterned leggings in this fabric would be amazing.

The kit will be available through their website, SouthBeachOfficial.com, from early July.

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As with any good product launch there was cake. Oh boy, was there ever cake. Safe to say my self-proclaimed balance is a little out of whack this week, leaning more towards cheat than clean! With cake this good, how can you possibly resist?

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This was intended to be a thorough, detailed review of the Jawbone Up, as I feel these activity trackers cost a lot of money for something that is not essential for day-to-day life, so you need a lot of information before making your choice. As you might have guessed from the above image my experience with the Jawbone Up activity tracker was so bad that it didn’t last past three days!

Unfortunately, mine just didn’t work. At all. First up, although unrelated to the actual workings of the band, the sizing seems to be wrong. My wrist measurement should have fit comfortably into a size small, as it did into the perspex “try it on” hole, but when wearing the actual band the end bits stuck out uncomfortably and snagged on clothes and all manner of things, even pulling clean off at one point.

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Anyway, it arrived, I charged it, I read the instructions: of which there were few, but it all seemed very straightforward. I wore it for half a day then excitedly plugged it into my iPhone. No stats. Hmm… Must have done something wrong. Re-charged, reset, reconfigured; wore for bed and all the next day to make sure there was enough data. Still nothing. I start searching on the internet for solutions, and I read that I am to try “soft-booting” and “hard-booting”. Neither work – I figure out that the light isn’t flashing the colours it should flash, anyway. I emailed Jawbone support, telling them the things I’d already done, and received a reply days later simply telling me to do the soft-boot and hard-boot. Great! Thanks for nothing.

The more I pry around the internet, the more I read terrible reviews about this activity band. That when it works, it works great, but users have to send their bands back every few months for a replacement. One review even says that after the warranty on the band was up (after several replacements) Jawbone refused to send any more out. Could I really deal with that amount of hassle.. just for an activity tracker?

Needless to say, the band went back. I bought it from Very who took it back no-hassle, despite claiming on the site it was excluded from their regular guarantee – clearly there had been a few issues previously. I am idly considering the vívofit from trusted brand Garmin although this experience has burned me somewhat. Who really needs one of these things, anyway?!

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Sweaty Betty headband / Sweaty Betty tank / Adidas leggings / Nike Lunarglide 5

The past few weeks have been totally crazy for me, at work and at university – and I have finally come down with a cold. Boo to you, body! I decided to be kind to myself though and take a few days off training in the hope my body will heal in enough time for a 5K park run on Sunday.

At least this gives me chance to share photos I took a few weeks ago, when the sun was shining and my boyfriend and I did plyometrics in the park. It also gives me a chance to give you the lowdown on my recent kit purchases!

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The Sweaty Betty Athlete Workout vest was my purchase in Harrogate. I couldn’t really afford it, but how could I leave such fantastic ice-lolly colours behind?! It’s comfortable and sweat-wicking, though the issue I have with all Sweaty Betty tanks is that they are very clingy around the midsection. I get that you don’t want your top riding up during an inverted yoga pose, but I had to get a medium so that it wasn’t too tight, which means that it’s baggy up top. I can get over this slight niggle though as it’s such a fantastic print!

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My next most recent kit purchase were these snazzy Adidas leggings. I’d had a faulty pair of gym leggings I sent back which were £60. I picked these up for a mere £30 instead so had enough change for an extra PT session! These are a real showstopper and I’ve had people stop me in the gym to ask where they’re from. I don’t think they will last forever – the waistband is already a little overstretched with bobbles on the fabric here and there – but for thirty quid for a pair of fashion leggings, I really don’t mind. FYI these are a small – size down if you’re between two sizes.

Now, let’s hope this cold clears up and the sun continues to shine, so we can squat, push-up and run in the great outdoors!

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It was only a matter of time before Topshop sealed a sportswear deal, and this week it was announced they have designed a collection in collaboration with Adidas Originals. With sorbet colours and graffiti-inspired prints, the kit performs well for the gym, but its modern, slim silhouettes are perfect for the street, too.

In a fashion world mad on joint ventures and collaborations, I’m not surprised that this is Topshop’s way of dipping their toe into sporty waters. But I also think an own-brand luxe, trendy sportswear line is on the cards for Topshop: they’d be daft to miss the fitness boat that’s so strongly sailing right now.

I have my eye on the running shorts.. But I hope they come in pink as well as coral! Shop from March 20th.


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Neon pink LunarGlide+ 5s by Nike, neon pink face courtesy of the Women’s 5K series at Manchester’s Alexandra Park

That twinge in the shin after a run is a feeling that sends anxiety coursing through the most seasoned of runners. I experienced that last Saturday, so I gave myself a week off pounding the pavement and promptly bought some new running shoes – my New Balances have been extremely well loved (ie, they are now old and the midsole is probably non-existent) so it really was time for a new pair, shin twinge or not! I love the feeling of running on the treadmill in Nike Frees but I also need stability for mild pronation, so after reading a ton of reviews I went for a nice bright pair of LunarGlide+ 5.

Firstly, I was really pleasantly surprised by the colour. Shopping for trainers online is hard because I find the colour is often misrepresented – although the purple is darker than shown in my photos, it’s accurate to the colour shown online, and the pink highlight is eye-popping. We all know how I love my pink workout gear!

When walking around my flat in these to test for size I was a little worried they’d be too cushioned for me – after all, the whole reason I’d bought these was because I liked the barefoot feeling of my Frees. Realistically stability shoes are always going to be quite well cushioned, and when running in them I found this translated to a nice, smooth ride. Speaking of size I’d read online to go half a size up. Being a 6.5, and finding size 7 Frees a bit of a struggle to get in the first few times, I decided to get a 7. There’s plenty of room around my toes without any movement around the heel when the laces are tied up tight, and I didn’t get any tingles in my toes that I often get with new running shoes.

I ran a 5K time trial today and clocked in at 26:45 with the first and fastest kilometre being 4:30, which is an excellent time for me. Whether it was the power of the new shoes or attempting to keep pace with my super fit running buddy was irrelevant (I suspect the latter, but we’ll give the new shoes the benefit of the doubt) I was just pleased to have a comfortable ride without any shin pain afterwards!

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