High-tech training "Smart" exercise gadgets offer digital alternatives to human trainers

High-tech training "Smart" exercise gadgets offer digital alternatives to human trainers

December 15th, 2011 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

It used to be that if you wanted to know how effective your exercise regimen was, you had to sign up for a gym membership or hire a personal trainer.

Thanks to the advent of miniaturized, "smart" technology, however, getting fitness feedback has never been easier or more portable.

Here are some of the latest gadgets to put a high-tech spin on working out.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

[Update: In the printed version of this story, the Jawbone Up fitness wristband was included. On Dec. 8, Jawbone issued a recall of the product, citing issues with its ability to synchronize data with users' computers and general technical deficiencies. It has since been removed from this list. Jawbone is offering a full refund to customers who have purchased the device. For more information, visit www.jawbone.com/up/guarantee]


* What: A touchscreen-equipped workout monitor and smart music player.

* What it costs: $250/$300 (8/16 gigabyte storage). The optional wristband is $30.

* What it does: The MOTOACTV will specifically monitor performance while cycling, walking, running or using elliptical and step machines. The device can store hours of music and features a smart player that monitors your workouts to learn the tunes that motivate you most. Users can set goals and upload their workout performance to the online MOTOACTV Training Portal.

* Why you want one: You love to rock out while exercising and you'll want a device that combines the two while also synching to your phone for answering calls or receiving texts.

* Where to get it: Best Buy or online retailers such as Amazon.com.

* Website: www.motorola.com/motoactv.

Striiv Personal Trainer

* What: A pedometer with interactive motivational features to encourage daily activity.

* What it costs: $99.

* What it does: Striiv offers activity-based games and challenges, such as walking or running a certain distance or climbing stairs in a certain amount of time, to motivate users to be more active. Striiv also has a built-in feature that donates after certain amounts of physical activity to charitable organizations. Gifts can include sending water to Bolivian children, preserving the Tanzanian rainforest and providing polio vaccinations to Indian children.

* Why you want one: You're charitable, competitive or like games but lack the time or motivation to get to the gym and want a way to visually monitor your daily activity.

* Where to get it: Online retailers only.

* Website: www.striiv.com.

Adidas miCoach Pacer Bundle

* What: An online workout tracking service and exercise bundle containing a digital coaching device, heart-rate monitor and stride sensor.

* What it costs: $140.

* What it does: The Pacer bundle tracks pace, distance and stride and heart rates during your workout and provides, via the Pacer itself, real-time digital coaching to improve your performance. Afterward, it can be synched with a PC and an online service for post-run analysis and to track workout history. The monitors can integrate specifically with Adidas-brand apparel.

* Why you want one: You're serious about getting in shape and want to maximize your workout but can't afford a flesh-and-blood trainer to give you real-time advice.

* Where to get it: Best Buy and online retailers.

* Website: www.adidas.com/us/micoach.

BodyMedia FIT Link Armband

* What: An online subscription service and Bluetooth-equipped, body-mounted device that aids in weight loss by monitoring activity, sleep and diet.

* What it costs: $250 (plus $7-$13/month subscription).

* What it does: Using four built-in sensors, the Link takes 5,000 data readings a minute to accurately measure caloric burn, step count, physical activity level and sleep efficiency. This data, combined with an online log of the foods you eat, allows Link to match caloric burn to caloric intake to help measure weight-loss potential. Through a Bluetooth link to a mobile app, the device will display real-time caloric burn on a smart phone.

* Why you want one: You want to lose weight and need to know whether your lifestyle is helping or hurting that effort.

* Where to get it: Target, Best Buy, Brookstone and via online retailers.

* Website: www.bodymedia.com.

Garmin Forerunner 405CX

* What: A GPS-enabled training watch that wirelessly links with your PC.

* What it costs: $270.

* What it does: The Forerunner can set automatic workout intervals and let you compete against a virtual partner. Through GPS software and the included heart-rate monitor, it tracks your route, distance, pace and heart rate. All features are accessible through a touch-enabled bezel. Via a wireless link, you can load data to your computer for analysis or, on the go, exchange data with other users to try to match or exceed their performance.

* Why you want one: You want a training device that doesn't look like a training device and want to track your running route but don't have a smart phone to pair a device to.

* Where to get it: Best Buy and online retailers.

* Website: www.garmin.com/forerunner405cx.

Fitbit Ultra Wireless Tracker

* What: A wireless, clip-on pedometer that tracks walking, stair climbing and sleep habits.

* What it costs: $100.

* What it does: A stylish take on the regular pedometer, the Fitbit Ultra uses 3-D motion sensors to measure your daily distance totals, steps and stairs climbed, which are displayed in bright blue numbers on the device's exterior. Slip the Fitbit into the included wristband at night to track sleep habits. Using free online tools, sync the Fitbit to keep track of sleep quality and activity at different intensity levels, from almost sedentary to very active.

* Why you want one: You're curious how far you walk every day or want a visual motivation to be more active, but you want something small and discreet enough to stow in a pocket.

* Where to get it: Best Buy and online retailers.

* Website: www.fitbit.com.