I adore my Pebble Smartwatch. When I take it off for a few hours to charge my wrist feels lonely! It’s quickly become an integral part of my daily life, and a big part of that is how I use it to keep myself accountable to fitness goals. It’s not perfect, but what it does do, it does quite well!
Here’s the thing to remember about why I love my Pebble SmartWatch-it was only $100. That’s $50 less than a Fitbit Charge HR, and $150 less than a Fitbit Surge or a Garmin VivoActiv. But what you get for the price is a device that rolls a whole lot of features into one small package! It’s been a few weeks since I started Pebble-ing, and my initial hunch that it would make a great fitness tracker was definitely true.
1) Fitness tracking: The Pebble isn’t going to be as accurate as a Fitbit or dedicated tracker. And you won’t be able to monitor your heart rate. However, for basic pedometer measurements, each of the Pebble apps work quite well. I vacillate between the Jawbone UP watchface and the Misfit app, but after carefully tracking them against my HTC One running the Fitbit app, it’s mostly a case of personal preference. Both are usually off by a few hundred steps vs the Fitbit, but that’s ok with me. What I am seeking in a fitness tracker is simply a constant reminder to keep active throughout the day. If I am hitting 10,000 steps or 9,500 steps isn’t as key as the idea that glancing down at my wrist and seeing that I haven’t moved in a while acts as a reminder to get up and walk around. I don’t log my steps each day in everyday life, just purposeful activity like hiking, running, lifting, etc.
2) Running and hiking: Pebble has some tricks up it’s sleeve for GPS-based activities as well. If your Pebble SmartWatch is connected to your phone and you fire up Runkeeper, MapMyRun, MapMyHike, or several similar apps, your Pebble becomes a reflection of the apps. You get elapsed time/distance/current pace, meaning you can toss your phone in a bag or pocket and still comfortably track your ongoing activity. We used this yesterday during a 3 mile hike, and it worked flawlessly with MapMyHike. My phone stayed safely stowed away, but we still knew things like distance and time. It helped gauge where we were on the trail (very important by the end of the hike, when carrying 30lbs of toddler on my back was getting a bit heavy) and it meant we knew how much we picked up the pace on flats versus hills and rocky areas. What I really love is that all this happens automatically; I don’t have to launch a companion app on the Pebble or do anything, I just start my preferred app on the phone, stash away the phone and go. Yes, you need your phone nearby for this, but I rarely run without my phone anymore-I have a wonky knee and run with a toddler in a stroller often, so I prefer the safety of being able to call for help if anything goes wrong. Given that, I can have my phone do the heavy lifting behind the scenes and my Pebble keeps things streamlined during the activity.
3) GymTimer/weight lifting: When you’re lifting weights, you typically need to time sets of lifts and rest times between sets, and GymTimer lets you do this easily, and even save favorite combinations (I do a lot of 5×5 [5 reps for 5 sets] so I have this programmed as one of my main timers). This is an app that could easily be done via my phone instead, but I prefer to do it via the Pebble for two reasons. One, I find it’s very distracting for me to use my phone too much at the gym. It’s far too tempting to check email, Facebook, etc between sets instead of resting and regrouping for the next round. Two, I love that GymTimer gently buzzes me a 10 second warning and a longer buzz at the end of rest times. This way if I’m pacing the gym trying to stretch between sets, I have a warning that it’s almost time to start again. It’s also far more discreet than my phone chiming at the end of a rest period. There’s actually a number of different ways to track your lifting via the Pebble, and while it’s not perfect, it’s probably one of the few activity tracking devices on the market currently that can track anything weight-lifting related.
4) 7 Minute workout: 7 Minute Workout is a decent bodyweight circuit workout that is great for travel or when you can’t make it to the gym. A big part of the circuit is that you perform each exercise for a set period of time until you’ve completed the circuit (in 7 minutes), at which point you are either finished or you repeat it again until you’ve worked out to your liking. Having it on the Pebble means silent buzzing for each exercise change, as well as a quick little graphic showing what workout you’re on. Again, this can be done on a smartphone, but it’s extraordinarily convenient to have it as a reference right on your Pebble watch. It’s less distracting, and you can easily move from one workout to the next without breaking your flow.
5) Silent Alarm: Sometimes working out means doing it early. I’m usually at the gym at 5am, and surprisingly Sarah doesn’t appreciate being woken up by my alarm clock shrieking at 4:45. I’ve tried alarm clocks with vibrating pads that go under your pillow, but those make the whole bed vibrate and wake Sarah anyway. Pebble’s vibration is very strong, and there’s no ignoring it when it starts buzzing your wrist. It’s minor but incredibly helpful, and a key reason I can manage to quasi-silently escape from the bed to get to the gym!