The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Garmin Venu vs Fitbit Ionic short walk head-to-head

Yeah, the Garmin wins, hands down.

After realizing that my first head-to-head test pitted an Ionic whose GPS was failing against a treadmill exercise, I went out for a quick loop around the block with both trackers correctly set to "Walk."

The Garmin found a GPS signal in about 20 seconds. The Fitbit never did.

After the walk, the Garmin produced this delightful map, complete with weather report and options for different maps:

Right on the activity view, I've got a gear icon with these options:

Fitbit only exports TCX files. Or you can export your entire account archive, become a programmer like me, parse your archive, and extract the relevant item.

But the map and export options just scratch the surface. Look what the Fitbit Web app gives me for this walk (since it didn't have GPS):

And here's the Garmin:

I mean, that's not even fair. Garmin even gave me the weather report, fer gassake. (It did not give me the step count for the activity, though.

Yeah. Fitbit, you were great, but I've grown; you haven't. You fell so far behind Garmin that I don't know how you're going to catch up.

Tonight, I'll see how differently they track sleep. And I hope that I can re-import today's Fitbit steps, else I'll lose the 7,000 I had before I set up the Garmin. Also, Garmin only imports step counts, intensity times, and body mass from Fitbit, not sleep data, so I'll have to find a different solution for that.

A tale of two fitness trackers

I have argued with Fitbit customer service for about as long as I've had a GPS-enabled device, to no avail. Their GPS chips die slowly until they die abruptly. And every time I've complained, they've instructed me on how to get a clean GPS reading. I've noted at those times that my phone, camera, car, and drone all connect to GPS within a few seconds (even from cold start), while my Fitbit Ionic can't connect no matter how long I let it try to find satellites. Or it does this:

I've even tried to troubleshoot this problem for them. I've run experiments on my Fitbit: battery level, sky conditions, clock synchronization (my Fitbit clock is almost always a few seconds behind GPS time). Nothing.

So you know what? I'm done with Fitbit.

Today I received a Garmin Venu, and in the first three hours of owning it, I've realized how far Fitbit is behind Garmin in technology:

  • The Fitbit only has GPS, and it almost never works. The Garmin has GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS. (You get to use two at once.)
  • Fitbit syncs time from phone; Garmin from GPS.
  • Fitbit's software has maybe half the features as Garmin's.
  • Fitbit has no concept of time zones, so all their data are stored as simple date-times, meaning traveling between time zones screws up your counts unless you take specific steps ahead of time. Garmin knows what a time zone is.

Plus, Garmin made it trivially easy to import all my step records, so I get to keep my personal records. (July 2018 was intense.)

I will say this, though: the Garmin led me down a garden path when I first tried to record exercise. I wanted to test the mapping features alongside the Fitbit, so I set them both to record walks and started a 3 km blast through my neighborhood. The Fitbit never connected to GPS, and the Garmin thought (for reasons I don't understand) that I was on a treadmill.

I'm about to try again, but with a shorter walk, because it's brutally hot out there.

Mostly tangential news

Today I'll try to avoid the most depressing stories:

  • The North Shore Channel Trail bridge just north of Lincoln Avenue opened this week, completing an 11 km continuous path from Lincoln Square to Evanston.
  • Experts warn that herd immunity (a) is an economic concept, not a health concept and (b) shouldn't apply to humans because we're not herd animals.
  • Wisconsin remains in total chaos today after the state supreme court terminated Governor Tony Evans' stay-at-home order, approximately two weeks before a predictable, massive uptick in Covid-19 cases.
  • Delta Airlines has decided to retire its fleet of 18 B777 airplanes years ahead of schedule due to an unexpected drop in demand for air travel.
  • The pro-contagion, rabid right-wingers flashing placards saying "Be Like Sweden" clearly have no comprehension of Sweden's efforts to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
  • US retail sales declined 16.4% in April, pushing the total decline since February to nearly 25%, the worst decline in history.
  • Wired has a portrait of Marcus Hutchins, the hacker who stopped the WannaCry virus from killing us all and then went to jail for his previous activities designing and spreading malware.
  • Andrew Sullivan tells the story of Samuel Pepys, "the very first pandemic blogger."

Finally, Vanity Fair has reprinted its 1931 cover article on Al Capone, which seems somehow timely.

Fifty days in

Illinois has had a stay-at-home order in effect for over seven weeks now, though last week the state and county opened up forest trails and other outdoor activities that allow for proper distancing and discourage people clumping together in groups. So today I drove up to the northern suburbs to the site of the largest Civilian Conservation Corps project undertaken during the agency's run from 1933 to 1940.

It was good to get outside. Not my fastest-ever pace, but still respectable, and somehow I got over 10,000 steps just on the walk.

And when I got back, this was waiting in my inbox:

How shelter-in-place has affected sleep

Fitbit reported earlier this month that, following shelter-in-place orders, people go to sleep later but sleep more:

Based on our review of aggregated and anonymized data, we saw that in locations with shelter-in-place mandates, bedtime and bedtime consistency shifted. 

For the most part, people are going to bed later but getting more sleep, as well as more quality rest. For those whose quality of sleep has improved, they have been spending more time in deep and REM sleep.

Even though sleep duration has been longer, it is still important to maintain bedtime consistency for many health reasons. While going to bed later and waking up later makes sense for now, it will be important to try to keep up that consistency even when our schedules change.

According to my Fitbit, I've increased my average night's sleep by 4 minutes and got to sleep an average of 9 minutes later between Decemeber and the last 30 days. My "sleep score" (a proprietary Fitbit metric that ranges from 0 to 100) also went up an average of 4 points also. I'm actually trying to increase my average night's sleep by another 10 minutes, but it's harder than it seems.

Five years with Fitbit

Yesterday was my fifth anniversary using Fitbit products. Since 24 October 2014, I've walked 24,814,427 steps over 21,129.14 km and climbed 32,002 floors. In those 1,828 days I've hit 5,000 steps 1,825 times and 10,000 steps 1,631 times (and 193 days in a row as of yesterday).

So, barring injury, I should hit 25 million steps in about 11 days. Cool.

World record set at today's Chicago Marathon

Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei ran the course in 2:14:04, setting a new world record fastest marathon for a woman:

Paula Radcliffe held the previous record (2:15:25), set at the 2003 London Marathon.

“I’m feeling good and I am happy because I was not expected to run like this,” Kosgei said during a TV interview.

Kosgei also broke the course record (and what was for a year the world record) that Radcliffe first set 17 years ago to the day in Chicago (2:17:18) in 2002.

Conditions in Chicago are ideal: at race time, the course temperature was around 4°C, warming to 9°C by 11am. There's a bit of wind but also a good cloud cover, keeping runners cool.

This comes just a day after Eliud Kipchoge became the first runner ever to break a 2-hour marathon time, completing the INEOS 1:59 challenge in Vienna in 1:59:40.2. However, that race was specifically designed and he was specifically supported during the race to give him the best chance of a sub-2-hour time.

Really taking a day off

Thursday, I hit a new PR for total steps over 7 days. Yesterday I said if I got 22,149 steps I'd hit 175,000 for the week, averaging 25,000 per day.

Sadly, I only got 18,327 yesterday. So I did hit a new PR for 7-day total, 171,122, but I fell almost 4,000 steps short of 175,000. Boo. My 7-day average was just 24,446.

Right now I'm waiting for my co-worker to sync up his steps from our Workweek Hustle step challenge. As of 10pm he had 104,720, and as of midnight I had 105,523. That's a lot of steps for a workweek. I'll be OK if he beats me in the challenge, but only just OK.

OK, enough PRs for now

In the 7 days through yesterday, I walked 169,083 steps, a new personal record (PR). That averages out to 24,154 per day.

On the one hand, I can set a new PR of 25,000 per day, or 175,000 for 7 days, by walking 22,149 steps today.

On the other hand, or if the shoe is on the other foot so to speak, my feet do not like this idea. Nor do my calves, quads, hams, or glutes.

On the third hand, if I don't hit that PR today, I won't have another shot at it without either walking 25k consistently for a week, or doing another pair of stupidly long walks within a 7-day period. Now, it's entirely possible I'll hit 50k in one day sometime this summer. But after all the walking I've done this week, I'm not that excited by the prospect.

So: any steps I get above 16,289 for today will set a 7-day PR, which is great. But I'm not going to take that in stride.

Also, yesterday bumped up into my top-5 days. Pretty soon they're all going to be over 35,000 steps:

My top-5 single-day step records are now:

2018 Jul 7 47,452
2016 Jun 16 40,748
2018 Jul 12 38,246
2016 Oct 23 36,105
2017 May 27 33,241

Fast walk from the dentist

My dentist is all the way up in Hubbard Woods, which turns out to be a 21.3 km walk from my house. I know that because I walked it this morning. In fairness, I did it in two roughly-equal parts with a stop in downtown Evanston for lunch.

But my total time for the walk, 3:12:36, over what was almost exactly a half-marathon, implies a legal finishing time for the Chicago Marathon (6:30 allowed for the 42.2 km course).

I'm in a step challenge with a co-worker who got 11,000 ahead of me yesterday. Let's see how he does with the 28,000 I've gotten so far today.

And, as predicted, I have already blown away my 7-day personal step record with 159,083 so far this afternoon.