Review: Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs. Apple Watch

When getting on my chubby girl journey I looked at wearables to help keep me motivated and focused. I landed on the Apple Watch. I’d already had it, it was connected to my phone, and I got all the data I thought I needed. Plus, it looked good on my little wrists.

Fast forward a year and I find I wanted something more. Tom has a Garmin Fenix 5. He also got a chest strap and sensors for his running shoes and the elliptical. He dumped and consolidated his data from Fitbits and his Microsoft wearable into a database and now has all his history together. I was educated daily on his fitness details with pretty charts and graphs in Garmin Connect. Why didn’t I get one of those? Simple, it is too big and manly.

So, when the Vivoactive 3 came out it looked interesting. Smaller, still stylish, and very much cheaper than my Apple Watch and Tom’s Fenix. But, I still loved my watch and the functions beyond fitness. The fact that I talk on my watch with my son in Nashville while cooking dinner is so cool. But, I was already switching off my iPhone for work to a Pixel2 and my cord to Apple is getting smaller by the day as I also no longer work on a MacBook Pro.

Again, the Vivoactive 3, was becoming more interesting and at about $250, while not cheap, trying it out seemed like a worthy endeavor. I broke down and ordered one. Took off my Apple Watch, and went Vivo for the week. Here’s what happened…

Vivoactive 3 Pros

Activities: I love that tracking activities is more granular. I have skiing and paddling as options now where Apple Watch only gave me Other. Somehow Apple thinks that the only way to exercise is in a gym, walking or running. Its just so urban.

Feedback: I love the breakdown in my workout intensity that Garmin Connect provides. I also like the intensity minute bonus for working in zone 4 and 5. Its much more motivating for little people. When apple tells says you only burned 190 calories in 30 minutes and you see for the same intensity your 160 pound husband gets 50% more calories, us competitive people go nuts. I still get my calorie feedback and love that there is a base and anything you do adds to that. Apple calculates your BMR and adds move calories. Somehow that always confused me even if maybe it is more accurate.

Sleep: With a longer battery life, I can now wear my Vivoactive to bed and get an understanding of my sleep patterns. A chronic insomniac, I’ve now gotten the feedback needed to adjust when I go to bed and recognize what wakes me up to help me actually get a decent night sleep. I got my first 8 hour sleep in I don’t know how long. Apple watch can do this to, but you need to download an app and then there is the issue of only a day’s worth of battery life. So, tracking sleep is not as easy.

Battery life: I can definitely leave my activity tracking on all day and don’t need to worry if my Vivoactive dies. I can’t run my Apple Watch all day on a hike or ski day, it’s dead by 3:00p in the afternoon. Charging the Vivoactive is also really fast. I took off one morning, plugged it in at 40%, took my show and got dressed, and I was at 70% in about 15 minutes. My Apple Watch takes a bit longer to charge but I just set it on its station at night and in the morning I’m all set. I only failed when I forgot the charging cord when camping on the weekend. Not going to be an issue with the Vivoactive.

Simple: It didn’t take reading the manual to know how to use my Vivoactive. The initial set up using Connect and then messing with the button was all the training I needed as I completed my set up. I like that you can click the button to move into activity tracking mode and with a few swiped on the face you see stats or can just slide your finger on the side to scroll. Apple Watch is easy as well, but scrolling with the side button isn’t optimal.

Simplifying: I already us the Garmin scale to weight myself. I always had to then enter that into MyFitnessPal then it got to Apple Health. Also, any activity I did I would have to open the Watch app and then it would push my activities to MFP. Now, Garmin Connect is my central dashboard. The issues I have with MFP connectivity are still wonky (I don’t get my food calories moving to Connect), but everyting else has giving me a single dash. I don’t need another app to get better more granular stats from my Watch. I don’t need to only look at my dashboards on a little phone screen.

Vivo Active 3 Cons

Funtions: Apple Watch wins out in apps and ease of use to take a call and text. I also have a better way to manage notifications so I’m not pelted every minute with something new. Vivoactive and Garmin in general need to work on managing notifications better. While I can respond to a call or text, its is not as simple. I also can’t talk on my Vivoactive. I need my phone with me at all times now. Yuck.

Style: I got the white version of the Vivoactive and the smaller face. It is still a bit bigger than I’d like but not horrid. I do wish the sides were not white and continued with the silver face down. I can change out the band for a stainless steel melenese or leather, but with the white walls of the watch it looks a bit strange. The Apple Watch gets points for style.

Waterproof: The claim that the watch is waterproof is generally correct and I and I am leaving it on while in the shower. However, the water dropping on the face does weird stuff and it will change modes, sometimes bringing up settings, that is a bit unsettling. I could use this time for charging, but I’m curious what will happen this summer when I am jumping off my paddleboard or body surfing through ocean waves. I didn’t have these issues with my Apple Watch.

Syncing: I really really really wish Bluetooth would take care of syncing regularly. I always seem to have to open the Garmin Connect app to bring all my vivo data into the app and connect. Maybe I need to find a setting. In the meantime, I like the auto syncing between the Apple Watch and the Watch app better.

Bottom line

I’m going to keep going with my Vivoactive 3 and live with the cons. I can’t say I’m not going to miss my Apple Watch and its BatWatch features or better style. But, maybe an upgrade to a stainless fenix will happen and style will follow. We’ll see. Right now, I recommend the Vivoactive 3 for women that want all the bells and whistles a sport wearable can give. Good price, decent style, perfect for upping your game.



7 Treadmill Training Tips

I didn’t think I would do this but I’ve shifted to the treadmill for running. As the cold is sweeping into New England I am chilled to the bone and shudder at the thought of running outdoors. I have outdoor running gear. I see other hearty souls with their hats and gloves journeying through town. Me, I’m content to hot house. I think my California roots are showing.

Anyway, if I’m going to treadmill it, I better find a way to keep my outdoor running ability for the time when spring comes and avoid boredom which takes me off track from healthy living. For the past month I’ve come up with ways to keep me going.

  1. Get inspired by music: A great playlist is mandatory. Running music-less outside works because there is so much more to look at and feel one with nature. I tossed my headphones a couple months back for my outdoor runs. Indoors and you have walls and metrics from the machine. My playlists are tuned for straight all out runs or ebb and flow from high energy runs to casual jogs. My mind tunes to the music and lyrics and I’m lost in the motion.
  2. Catch-up on my shows: My husband started watching sci-fi  while on the elliptical. That way I wouldn’t pull out my hair on the more hard core shows. I took his queue and started watching my late night shows – Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and SNL. These aren’t my all out runs, but it give me a good work out when I need slower resting days and its better than streaming from the couch. Besides, my husband can’t watch these shows like I can’t watch his sci-fi. (I do like sci-fi, it just has to be good!)
  3. Change it up: There are speeds and inclines for a reason. Don’t just think of the treadmill for HIIT workouts. Speeding up and slowing down, flat or climbing is just more interesting. You can adjust the treadmill manually during your workout or pick a program. Either way, it cuts the monotony and helps to avoid injury from overworking the same muscles and pressure on your joints.
  4. Grab a friend: I have a hard time running with people outside. It kills my Zen. But indoors and its much easier. I don’t have to keep pace with the other person and we can talk. It let’s me hang out doing something I love with those that have longer legs or are verging on Olympic athlete. (That is about 90% of the runners I know).
  5. Jump on anytime: I am either working from home or on the road. Even on days that I’m full on crazy with my schedule, it is nothing to throw on my workout clothes and get on the treadmill. I don’t need to drive to the gym. Or, I take advantage of the hotel gym. If you have a gym at work, use that. If you don’t have a gym, invest in a treadmill – they come in all price ranges.
  6. Jog out my meeting: In the early days of healthy living I would walk while joining my team conference calls. Later I got on the elliptical. Now I run on the treadmill. I have to pick my calls wisely. Internal team only where I don’t need to be the primary contributor. No client calls. Now Michele Show calls. For those hour long meetings, what better way than to get on your tablet, login to the Webex/GoToMeeting/LogMeIn and be active while doing so.
  7. Safety always: I slowed down on the treadmill initially because a 10 minute mile seemed fast compared to outdoors (I’m running at a 9 min/mile with bursts at 8 min/mile). I was, still am, deathly afraid of being thrown off. Also, when I dropped down a few too many pounds accidentally, I would get head rushes and a bit dizzy. Sometimes on the treadmill. There are those quick release safety magnets for a reason. When in doubt, connect. Its weird at first but if you need to get comfortable on the machine, pushing off a cold, or training went a little too far, better to look like a dork than get hurt.

Where and When To Fit In Exercise?

Last week I was back on the road for work after 6 weeks and had to relearn my travel tricks. The difference is that I’m in maintenance mode. You’d think this could be easier as I don’t have as much to worry about with counting those calories and keeping to my macros. And you would be right. I just go vegan or add some lean protein and keep portions in control. Its the exercise that’s the killer.

The trade off is always, do you stay where it is easy to go for a run outside but is far from where you need to be each day, or do you stay somewhere that is close and rely on the hotel gym? I had one of those weeks.

You would think that staying in the Bay Area would be perfect. If I am downtown, super simple. Head out to the Embarcadero. But, in San Mateo you are in an industrial zone. It may not be shady (Trader Joes was right around the corner), but it is industrial and shady enough that this little girl was not going to run through the streets alone. Call me crazy, or recognize that I probably have too much of an exurb mindset from living in New England hamlets.

In the end, the Marriot gym and I got to know each other pretty well. I checked into the hotel and immediately threw on my workout clothes, pulled back my hair, and grabbed my headphones and iPad then headed to the gym.  40 minutes later, my treadmill run was done. The next day, I got back from my client meeting and again, without so much as a thought, got my act together and met up with my treadmill from the day before for another 40 minutes run. The trick, just do it. Don’t think about it or you’ll only find an excuse.  Mine was all too easy, I hate treadmills.

That’s the travel side of things, but I am also realizing that as the summer turns to fall, and Jose is kissing our New England shores, the weather and length of day is no longer my friend. I can’t get out for a run anytime I want. And with the water getting colder, so my SUP will see more time in my garage than the lake and river. Outdoor stuff is still possible, just a bit more challenging or I can’t do yet because snow has not yet arrived (need to ski! need to snow shoe!).

What’s a girl to do? Use my work at home days to my advantage! I had a 50 minute call with my team today where nothing was to be presented and all we were doing was grocking on a strategy to cover an evolving technology space. I could either sit at my desk with my phone in my ear, or I could get off my lazy a$$. I chose the latter. With 7 minutes to spare before my call, I threw on my workout clothes, grabbed the phone, and headed to my elliptical.

The call was interactive, engaging and actually fun. I went back and forth muting and unmuting my phone as I would jump in to contribute so as not to distract the conversation with the sound of my machine. I also did what I thought was a decent job of speaking and sharing, although a bit breathy.  Alas, it didn’t go completely unnoticed. Back at my desk my colleague Cinny had shot me an email…”Are you running or biking during our call? love it! <end>”


I have to say though, it was a great workout, one of my better elliptical workouts. I upped my calorie burn by about 50 calories for the same amount of time and got my heart rate up to 134 when I’m typically in the low 120s. Maybe I should do this more often! Those meetings must get me riled up.

Machines aren’t my favorite workout mode, but when all else fails I need to not think about how I’m getting exercise time it and just work on making it happen. It really is a lifestyle change that thankfully isn’t as hard to do anymore. I feel good after my workouts just as I do when I run, SUP, hike, and bike. I also get the benefit of keeping my weight off. Over the past month I hold pretty steady at 111 – 112, and that is with the Five Guys burger a week ago and the over indulgence on pigs in a blanket and Guinness this past Saturday night at a hockey party.

Life is good.


The Fitness Watch

If you read my past posts you know I’m a little obsessed with my Apple Watch. Watching me close my rings and hit my step goal has caused me to do some crazy things (like hit the treadmill or elliptical at 9p). For all the talk of getting 150 minutes of exercise which can be done in under 7 days per week, my Apple Watch shames me into daily exercise.

While I gravitated toward the Apple Watch, I have also used the Fitbit Charge HR  (the 2 is now available). My husband recently moved to the Garmin Fenix from the retired Microsoft Band and before that used the Fitbit Surge  (which I also tried before the Charge HR). So, I’ve gotten a good look at some options out there over the long term vs. the limited evaluation period.  Rather than rehashing the finer points in comparison, I thought I’d put a review together based on what goals you are trying to achieve. That’s the real reason for a fitness watch, right?

Apple Watch Series 2: I moved up from the Series 1 in January when Apple finally added in GPS. I chose the Apple watch for form over function when it came to healthy  living. It has all the basics I was looking for: steps, heart rate, exercise tracking, syncing with tracker apps and it also tied in with my iPhone apps for additional function I’ve come to rely on for work and travel.

Pros: After understanding how the rings are calculated, I really love the simple way Apple let’s you know if you are really getting anything out of your exercise. The more fit you become, the harder it is to close your rings which is a big motivator for me to actually push myself while working out. I also like Workouts, which lets me choose between indoor and outdoor activities for more effective tracking and granular details to track speed, route, and intensity. Again, it is in a very easy to understand way. Add to the fact that I can buy watch bands cheaply on Amazon, my diva self is content to switch between outfits, workout, and seasons and thus always have it on.

Cons: This really is a form over function watch and really only let’s you scratch the surface in monitoring your activities. Knowing more now about intensity levels, heart rate tracking, and the wider variety of workouts I do, I get a little disappointed I don’t have more analysis to review that is in line with traditional methods of charting health. It is also annoying that the only way to view detail is through the screen of an iPhone. Even with all the calls to have access through an iPad and even iCloud, Apple remains obstinate in its iPhone only stance even stating its a security concern (really????). You can export data, and those of you out there like my husband that enjoys coding on the weekend will love figuring out how to set up regular exports and writing a python script to convert files for usable analysis. I for one would rather spend my time focused on a workout and not wrestling with my data. The other issue is that I feel like if I want more I have to download another app and link. Interval training? Get the app. Track food? Get the app. Special workout? Get the app. Sleep tracking? There’s an app for that.

Fitbit Charge HR 2: Fitbit is one of the more popular fitness watches out there. My company even gifted them to all employees one year and I see them pop up regularly at events as chochkies. The Charge HR was the first fitness watch I used regularly and if it wasn’t for a clunky design, I would probably still wear it.

Pros: Tracking is so easy and the fact that the battery lasts forever, you can even wear it to bed and track your sleeping habits. The feedback in the app and online provided perfect graphs that immediately told me how my exercise level was affecting my sleep. A constant insomniac, it proved what my husband always told me, get more exercise and sleep better. The band screen provides the basics for tracking that let me see my progress quickly for steps, heartrate and floors climbed. Getting notifications that I had a call was only a bonus. Ultimately it forced me to get walking.

Cons: The rubber band, even in my pretty purple, clashed horribly with my work cloths and always felt unprofessional. I always thought that if a client saw me with a band it provided a window into the fact that I was thinking more about non-work related activities rather then helping them. Totally crazy, but I’m a type A and this really didn’t work. Ultimately, it caused me to ditch the band except for weekends and vacations and eventually all together. What point is a tracker if you don’t wear it?

Fitbit Surge: This was my husband’s first fitness watch and he lived by it for a year. With GPS and big screen to track progress, he was able to get all the details about his trail riding and hikes in the woods along with our walks on the beach. His first watch was too small and he gave it to me to try. Too big for my wrist (clunky, not circumference), it gave me enough to encourage me to try the Charge HR.

Pros: The Surge covers everything you would want to track and tie in with all the great charts Fitbit offers through their portal. The added feature of the GPS makes it great for the outdoorsy type to track both distance and routes. The larger screen gives you everything at a glance and even makes it easier to notices coming in from a paired phone. It is a great entry watch for fitness both in terms of function as well as price.

Cons: This thing is huge! I lasted a week so if you want longevity and have small wrists and care how this looks, not a great motivator for tracking and fitness. Diva points aside, the pro of covering a lot of the basics well is also what will frustrate those that want more detail from their workouts and activity. You can get at some of the detail through exports and run your own analysis, but this requires some effort and coding.

Garmin Fenix: My husband needed to switch from the Microsoft Band when he’d gone through several replacement wrist bands and then Microsoft announced it was retiring the product (BTW – he loved the Band). He spent hours researching fitness watches and landed on Garmin’s Fenix. Already an avid user of a Garmin GPS tracker for hiking and biking and the fact that I’d read great reviews, when the recent version came out, he pre-ordered. Not to be outdone by me with my Apple Watch band assortment, he is waiting patiently for the knockoff bands to show up on Amazon with quick release on the new Fenix version.

Pros: I’ll be honest, I’m a little jealous. If this was in a woman sized watch, I’d seriously consider ditching my Apple Watch. It takes a lot of the simple visualizations like rings for various tracking and goes even deeper by not only tracking but tying together heartrate, distance, activity, etc for a really good analysis on workout intensity level. Leverage the wide range of activity selections and the tracking detail is even better. Going for hikes in the woods, use ‘hiking’ to account for the uneven terrain. In comparison, my Apple Watch only gives you ‘outdoor walk’ that doesn’t care if you are on pavement, dirt, or sand. The GPS let’s you trace your route, including discrete elevation, and relate back to your intensity. What I really like is that the intensity tracking shows the typical levels for fat burn, aerobic, anaerobic, etc. I think there are 4 total. Add the Garmin Scale and you have a pretty cool portal view in Garmin Connect.

Cons: It’s still a little big for me and pretty masculine so women may not want to wear it. There are some tracking issues where auto pause doesn’t turn back on in time or consistently. When working out on exercise machines like the elliptical, it is best to add in sensors on the machine and link the app back to Garmin for an accurate reading of distance and steps.

Treadmill Desks – Fad or Fabulous?

Can a treadmill desk help me hit my goals?

Each day I track my activity on my Apple Watch. No matter what I do, during the week I can never seem to close all my rings except for standing.  Movement and exercise, even with 30 minutes of exercise, are my downfall.

The idea of walking my way through work on days that I work from home is intriguing. So, I started taking a look at the options on Amazon and my heart sank. I just want a piece that goes across my hand bars to lay my laptop! The plastic shelf seemed small and ergonomically challenging.  The option for about $450 was this massive desk that spanned across your treadmill – essentially a desk that just happens to be high enough to slide your treadmill underneath. Then you get the whole thing for about $1000. Nothing seems worth the money.

Now that I had a sense of cost, I looked for information on the benefits of treadmill desks.  Those promoting the health benefits had an ulterior motive of selling the treadmill desks. Not a good source for unbiased information.  Tracking down the few independent studies out there brings some concrete findings – good and bad. (attribution to these studies is available in the source links below).

  • A study  from an article in the journal Obesity, showed that participants lost as much as eight pounds over the course of a year
  • There may be an increase in productivity by 0.69 based on walker input
  • Over a 12-month period participants using treadmill desks increased their daily activity and lost weight.
  • Health benefits include lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • 10% loss in performance of fine motor skills
  • increase in treadmill accidents

The studies done are small and the predictions of changing work environments where employees have treadmills embedded in the floor as part of their desk and cubicle areas. It also seems that the cost-benefit isn’t compelling enough to those looking at significant weight loss. One could also argue that a .69 increase in productivity  may not be worth the investment, disruption, and employer ‘mandates’ to work in a walking style for the business gain.

Maybe you can now see my cynicism. I’m not convinced that a bigger investment in a treadmill desk is really going to make a huge difference for me if it is only a day or two per week. Better to be patient as my interval routine ramps up and I can go longer and at higher intensity. No need to waste money on gimmicks.

It can be frustrating at the beginning when the pounds start to come off.  You get excited and want to build momentum and get to your goal faster. I need to remind myself that this is a journey, was always supposed to be a journey, and that I have 11 months to go. This way, I don’t just lose weight, I gain a healthy lifestyle I can stay with.

Chubby girl out…