Entering the third week of 2012, many New Year’s Resolutions may be starting to lose their steam. One really effective way to reinforce waning initiative is to spend some money in support of your new behavior. Some people do it by hiring a personal trainer to encourage/guilt them into sticking with their new workout routine. For the tech crowd, buying a cool gadget might be a better way to boost flagging conviction. The iPhone already has a hefty selection of fitness apps to choose from, and the Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym Pack gives you tools to make those apps more useful.
Unboxing the Wahoo Run/Gym Pack
Cracking open the Pack reveals a chest strap heart monitor and a fisica Wahoo Key ANT+ module that plugs into the iPhone’s 30-pin connector.
Wahoo Fitness: Getting Started
Wahoo: Installing the Apps
The Quick Start Guide for the key module directs you to download the free Wahoo Fitness Utility app for the iPhone. This is the first confusing detail as there is a Wahoo Fitness app and a Wahoo Utility app. It probably makes sense to download both, but Wahoo Fitness is the app that will be tracking the workouts. The Utility seems more geared toward finding and linking to other compatible apps.
Wahoo: Putting on the Gear
The chest strap stretches around just beneath the pectoral muscles, its two ends snapped onto the Heart Rate Sensor Pod to complete the circuit and activate the signal. The electrodes need to be thoroughly wet to get a good connection to the skin. My prior experience with a heart monitor was a Polar unit with a chest strap and watch receiver. The Wahoo strap was much easier to attach and adjust, and it seemed to stay in place more securely throughout all kinds of workouts. I generally forgot I was wearing it after a few minutes, and I rarely had to reposition the strap or pod. The interface with the iPhone is pretty simple. It pairs almost instantly, unlike most Bluetooth devices on initial connection. Then it is just a matter of setting up your workout.
Configuring the Wahoo Fitness Workout
The Wahoo app includes support for Running or Cycling workouts, and in addition to the chest strap and iPhone GPS, it can gather information from a bicycle speed and cadence sensor or from a stride sensor. Alternately, you could opt for a Bluetooth-enabled chest strap and eliminate the need for the additional key in your phone. To set up your user profile, enter an email address (so you can send yourself the workout data), height, weight, age, and gender. It will automatically set your cardio zones and maximum heart rate. More advanced users can set those limits manually.
Working Out with the Wahoo Fitness Pack
Wahoo: Visual Data Reporting
So, onto the important business: the workout. I started out simply with an easy run. Not being accustomed to running with more than an iPod shuffle clipped to my shirt, I was surprised to see that my iPhone stayed pretty secure in my pocket with no unpleasant swinging or uncomfortable poking from either the earbud connector or the Wahoo Key sticking out the bottom of the 30-pin. Any or all of six configurable screens provide a constant stream of information on time elapsed, distance traveled, current/average/maximum heart rate, calories burned, pace, etc.
Wahoo: Customizable Fitness Coach
You can configure the coaching feature to give you audio cues with your workout stats using various triggers like time or distance traveled, a very handy feature that my heart monitoring watch couldn’t do. There are a lot of options for the reported data, and you may be tempted to select a lot of them. Not the best choice when you are listening to a podcast and a Siri-like voice talks all over it.
Wahoo: Post-workout Data
At the end of the run, you have a complete summary of your workout information, including a very accurate Google Map of the path traveled. All this can be sent to your email, or it can be shared with other fitness app accounts like RunKeeper or Nike+.
Wahoo: What Else Can You Do With It?
The strap and key are compatible with over fifty apps, so you do not have to use Wahoo Fitness if you prefer another one. Just for curiosity, I looked to see if the Wahoo key would pair with my Polar chest strap. Not an ANT+ compatible device. I am not a serious bike rider, so I passed on the cycling workout. I did run the system through a resistance and cardio workout, P90X Chest and Back. This was a challenge when I tried it with the Polar chest strap since all the pullup exercises tended to make the strap inch its way down my torso. The Wahoo strap stayed put. I also wanted to see if the range of the device would be great enough to let me set my iPhone on the table near my workout area rather than keeping it in my pocket the whole time. In every aspect, the Wahoo system performed beautifully. I had to leave it set up for a Running workout since there was no specific setting for this type of exercise, but since I was just trying to keep track of my heart rate, this captured what I needed. I still got a realtime update on my cardio activity and a final count of calories burned. Surprisingly, the GPS even traced my path around the living room with almost creepy accuracy.
What Could Have Been Better?
This system is not without flaws, though.
- The initial setup is a little confusing as the instructions do not match word for word with the interface on screen. It isn’t really difficult, but I prefer a little more clarity. A more complete walkthrough of the setup on the website or maybe an in-app wizard would have really simplified the process and gotten me on to the workout sooner.
- Apparently the sensor in can only pair with one app at a time. I tried running with both the Wahoo Fitness app and RunKeeper active, and the heart rate for Wahoo stayed set at my starting number.
The Run/Gym Pack retails for $119.99. That is pretty steep, but it’s about right for a non-discounted watch-and-chest-strap style heart monitor. Yes, you already have the investment in the iPhone, but with that you get GPS and many more ways to collect and analyze the incoming data. It is much easier to use than my watch-based system, and it takes much less work on my part to track performance from one workout to another. Optimistically, that would make me more likely to stick with that resolution to get back to P90X shape. If you are serious enough to want to spend this much on a fitness gadget, this is a pretty solid buy.