Friday, January 16, 2009

Rage against the machines







I got a note from a reader who asked me about my experience with the Brookstone Heart Rate Ring. She had a similar issue and wanted to understand my specific problems with the unit. My experience with this device was similar to my experience with the HRM on my elliptical machine: inaccurate and inconsistent readings. It makes me wonder if any HRMs on the market are capable of performing their simple but important task of accurately reporting a pulse rate in real time. I have been frustrated lately by an astonishing number of technology failures running the gamut of high and low tech. A few examples are shade pulls so over engineered that breaking the cord requires a home visit by a company service rep. Other technology frustrations include my long term search for a programmable switch for my outside house lights that doesn't fail within eight months of installation and flush mounted clothing hooks that require the use of specialized Allen wrenches when a simple screw would do.

Bringing this back to running, I've found that my frustration with the technologies that quantify performance comes as a result of a need to measure progress. I've had the experience where I failed to trigger the start of a run on my Sportband (it requires about 1,000 lbs. of pressure to activate the button) only to discover the problem ten minutes into my run. My irrational response to this is that I wasted my time. If that part of my run wasn't recorded then it didn't happen. So the key issue is I subconsciously value the metrics of running more than the workout itself. When the technology fails to capture the experience or records it incorrectly, irrational or not, it diminishes the way I value the effort.

2 comments:

  1. I noticed you commented about the Nike+ Sportband and the Garmin 405 a few posts ago. You might also consider the Garmin 205 or Garmin 305. They can be had much cheaper now, and some people even prefer the 205/305 to the 405.

    I got my 205 for Christmas, and as a fitness technology and data nerd, I absolutely love it. I track my training at BeginnerTriathlete.com [ http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/discussion/training/index-weekly.asp?memberid=65102&year=&month=&day= ] and the log allows you to upload workouts and/or routes directly from the Garmin.

    Cheers,

    Brennan

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  2. Hi Brennan,
    I did see some great bargains on those units at Amazon and was tempted to get one. I've read that the 405 is really more of a design change than a technology change from the 305. What stopped me was the size of 305 and 205. They seem large in pictures and I'm sensitive to the weight and bulk. I do like the upload feature with the Nike+ but Nike provides little usable data back.

    I will consider these other models though. Thanks for writing.
    Peter

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