My personal fitness tracker/app throw-down (Part Three)

Like I said in Part Two (and Part One is here, if you haven’t read that), even though I bought the LetsCom tracker in November or so, I had also contemplated the Bellabeat Leaf at the same time. I went with LetsCom because it was $25 and not $100, but… But.

Here are my overall thoughts about the LetsCom –
— the first thing you get when you tap it is a clock. Awesome. I’m down with that. Second, what I’d like are my steps (that’s actually the only other thing I’m interested in) but first you have to go through heart rate, and it takes a while to take your pulse. You can keep tapping through, but for some reason I never remember that.
— it would randomly come on in the middle of the night, shining a bright light in my eyes. I could never figure out why it did this (movement? really excited to tell me what time it is?) or how to turn that “feature” off.
— it does a lot of things I didn’t need, like telling you when you have a phone call or text message, whatever notifications come to your phone. This may be a selling point to some of you but I never even bothered to look into those settings.
— the app is (VeryFitPro) … broken English, at best. If you want to search for something in the FAQ, or read the instructions, don’t get too wrapped up in things like correct tense, using of articles, or noun/verb agreement.
— let’s face it, if class and style are what you’re looking for, none of these plastic band trackers are going to make you happy. It looks like a plastic band tracker. Fine; serviceable; but not …. ugh, I hesitate to say “pretty” because I’m really not a girly girl, but … if I’m holding a mug for work and taking some product photography, I just don’t feel that it looks professional.
— it does somewhat sync to Google Fit, if you use that, which somewhat talks to Samsung Health? I think? I’m so confused about what talks to what, I should almost write an entire post on that.

So I started thinking… what, exactly, do I want to track? What data do I care about aggregating and what else “extra” (if anything) do I want a tracker to do? I mean, I don’t need it to tell me I have stuff on my phone to look at… my phone already does a fine enough job telling me on its own. I started thinking about it the same way I’d thought about exactly what I wanted from Noom vs some other plan. Not what were the trackers offering me… but what did I want to be tracking? Do I want to log food? Do I care about an extended heart rate? Do I exercise a lot and want to log it all?

Hahahaha. Nope to most of that. I mean, I should log food, right? If you’re trying to even roughly count how many calories you’re consuming in a day, you should log food – granted my diet plan doesn’t really change around a lot so once I get an idea, I should have an idea. I think I’ve already mentioned not needing/wanting/caring about heart rate for an extended time. Pulse and blood pressure at the doctor’s office are good enough for me. I do want to be tracking step count, but that’s more because I have an inflated idea of how many steps I take. I think it’s like 8000, and it’s like … 2000. So learning what is real needs some help, and a pedometer would help with that. Yes, there’s one on my phone, but I don’t always have pockets.

Anyway, the more I thought about it the more I decided I wanted less of a FITNESS tracker and more of a WELLNESS tracker. I don’t want to be fit, trim, perfectly bodied. I want to be WELL.

So I went ahead and got the Bellabeat Leaf, as seen in the above photo, on my wrist, looking like a pretty bracelet and not looking at all like a fitness tracker.

What does the Leaf track?

Activity tracking – including step count (today and 7-day average) , activity intensity level (on a graph), active time (today and 7-day average), distance walked (today and 7-day average) and calories burned (total for day, also active calories vs resting calories).

Sleep – including times went to bed and woken up, levels of sleep (light vs deep vs awake), you can set a goal if you’re trying to get a certain amount of sleep per night (and it gives you the % of your goal), sleep duration
(today and 7-day average), and how much is considered “deep” sleep
(today and 7-day average)

You can track how much water you’re drinking (by the day/week/month). This is both tedious and interesting. I’m always forgetting to log my water, which means it looks like I drink nothing all day and then 48 ounces right before bed… sigh… but one thing my kidney doctor wants me to do is to think about how much the average person should drink in a day (64 oz) and then double it. He says to double it not because he really wants me to double it, but because people typically drink half of what they think they’re drinking (it’s so easy to sub in whatever water was in that coffee, right? But it doesn’t count!). To help me with this I recently bought two refillable water bottles, each marked with how many ounces they hold (24 ounces each) and my plan is to drink three a day, rotating them in and out of the fridge as I finish one and refill it and grab the other.

Meditation – As with sleep, you can set a goal; it will tell you the percentage of your goal, the duration (today and 7-day average) , and how many sessions (today and this week). It took me a hot minute to figure out the mediation app, because I thought it was just a log – like, you type in when you’ve meditated. And I love the idea of meditation but the instruction to “sit there and think of nothing” really sort of hurts my brain. Well, it turns out that the Bellabeat phone app has a wide selection of guided meditations in it, that you can run on your phone, from the app. BellaLady talks to you (I don’t know her name) guiding you through various meditations that differ in length and focus. I’ve only done two so far (because like I said, it took me a bit to figure out they were there) but I’m very happy with them. Those two lessons have taught me more of what meditation really is.

Stress Levels – this is one thing that kind of caught my eye when reading about it. It doesn’t, like Samsung Health, take your pulse and extrapolate stress from there, dependent on your pulse rate and breathing. It assesses your stress sensitivity and how resistant you are to it by combining your tracked step count, activity levels, sleep patterns, meditations, and your menstrual cycle. So far I haven’t played around with it a lot (I’m too busy, hahahaha!) mostly because I wonder if me being sick right now has any bearing on it – like, I’m not exercising on the treadmill because I just get wheezy too quickly, so how does that have an effect on my activity levels, etc.

Oh! And menstrual cycle. That’s right, people-with-uteri — this baby tracks your period. Ever since that mammogram/biopsy thing, I’ve had more people ask me when my last period was than ever before in my life… and let me tell you, like, yes, I know it happens? But it’s not like I’m trying to get pregnant, I don’t exactly set a clock by it. It’s sort of like … eating breakfast. A few weeks later I can tell you I ate breakfast, but what was it….? And what time? Meh. So I had to download an app just so that when the doctor asks me when my last period was, I could say (yes, I suppose you could write this down on a piece of paper and carry it around in your wallet, but… why would you?!). So for a couple of years I used Clue, and y’all I should write an entire other post on period trackers because there needs to be less of them decorated with pink flowers and more of them decorated with sharks. WTH app designers, there are people with senses of humor out there. ANYWAY. If you’ve used Clue, the Bellabeat tracker is very rudimentary compared to that – really just tracks period days/fertile days/ovulation – but Clue offered a whole lot of things to track but was terrible in compiling all the info. So I’m happy just having the dates.

You can wear the leaf three or four different ways. Here it is clipped to my bra, which is how I wear it most of the time. In the photo at the top, I’m wearing it like a bracelet. You can also clip it to the collar of your shirt (that’s how I wear it when I’m sleeping); or to the waistband of your pants or skirt; or it also comes with a necklace, so if you want to be super fancy you can wear it like jewelry. It’s versatile, is what I’m saying, and doesn’t look like a clunky fitness tracker, as if you just got back from a run or are on your way to the gym. Y’all know I’m not a girly girl, but …. this is really appealing to me. Maybe because I’m approaching it more as wellness and not fitness, but I don’t want to have to talk to people about my plastic watch fitness tracker all the time. I don’t mind talking about the Leaf – in fact, a few people at the doctor’s office this week have asked me about it and I can’t shut up about it…! But if I’m at the grocery store, tired, in line…? I don’t want to be wearing something that opens me up for conversations about gym memberships and fitness goals. So this is … well, honestly, just damn lovely. I dig it a lot more than I thought I would.

One thing about tracking location – you can adjust the settings in the app to indicate where you wear it for tracking, and you can choose active time and sleep time in case you wear it different places. If you change it during the day (move it to the bracelet from the shirt, for example) you should sync the Leaf to get your settings right. Otherwise your numbers might be weird.

Oh! Speaking of syncing! It does not sync automagically, you do have to sync from inside the app (tap the sync button in the app and then double-tap your Leaf). You can sync as much or as little as you want – I think it holds memory for about a week, but I sync twice a day (more on that in a second).

Like the others, it has alarms. That’s not a feature I’m using so I can’t really speak of it, but I’ve read you can set as many as four, and they’re typical vibrate alarms like with other trackers.

If you’re interested in more of how the Leaf works with the phone app, Bellabeat has a pretty in-depth article here.

Lastly – why do I sync twice a day? When I first got my Leaf, about the middle of March, I had trouble syncing. It says to tap twice, but I’d have to tap five or six times, really hard. And bluetooth didn’t always pick it up. I mean, it got to the point when I’d had it about ten days, and we were up in Indiana, I went out and got new batteries and a tool kit to get it open (it comes with a tool but I’d left it at home, I mean, why would I think that within the first two weeks of owning it, I’d need to get into it? When it got to the point where it wouldn’t pair or sync at all, I broke down and contacted support, which let me tell you is a last resort with me because yes, I have turned it off and turned it back on again, I did not just fall off a turnip truck. WELL. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT BELLABEAT SUPPORT. They are possibly staffed by magical fairy unicorns because they actually listen to you and agree that this is frustrating and ask you what you’ve tried and don’t ask you try things you’ve already tried and they listen to you (did I say that already?!) and they’re polite and funny and earnest and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever had a better customer support experience. You can contact them from inside the app, and that sends them an email, and then everything else is done by email. It only took a couple of days of back and forth and she was like, yep, this one is defective… let’s send you another. They did, it got to me in like two days, and the second one has worked perfectly. However I’m still syncing twice a day for the first month or so… then I’ll probably go to once a day, about the middle of the day, to check on my step count.

This is a screenshot of my “Health” app folder. Oh good lord, this is already a post more than 2000 words long. Stay tuned, I guess there’s going to be another post next week, just about apps…..!

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