Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Armour39 Heart Rate Strap Product Review

This is part two of three parts of my Under Armour / Armour39 Cinderella for a day story

Today I wore the Armour39 Heart rate strap to my training session. The Armour 39 strap is designed to help you track your results for interval training in a gym setting.

I don't really do interval training in the gym (I have sort of an overabundance of cardio training in my life) but I do have "plyo sets" in between my strength stuff which drives my heart rate way up.
Here we are a group of happy learners. Listening to all the cool details.

I did not read the instructions before I started today so the results were mixed. But both my trainer and another trainer in the gym were totally enamored with the device and so we're using it again on Thursday but I plan to read the instructions before our second try. 

Armour39 Tour
Under Armour is well known for it's apparel line. But they have released a Heart Rate Strap called Armour39 and that's what I was invited to try last week in the Armour39 Product Tour.

One of my favorite features of this product is that the module on the chest strap which UnderArmour calls the "bug" lights up to indicate that it's working. This is nicely reminiscent of the marvel character "Ironman" who clearly has a soft spot in my life.

We were given a strap and an iTouch to use during the workout. Then the trainers from Fasttwitch Performance Training put us through the paces for an hour. At the beginning and end of each part of the workout we double tapped on the app and it created a new section of our workout.
This is the overview from my first workout.

Since my fun is endurance training I am familiar with training by heart rate. Almost all my workouts are structured by heart rate zone. So I wasn't starting from scratch here. We got a short (very short) presentation of the product. Here are the highlights that I picked up.

The strap is very comfortable. On first glance it looks bigger than what I'm used to but I wore it for the hour and had no issues. Honestly didn't even notice it was there. Which is a great thing.

The Armour39 band actually stores the data in the little gadget on your chest. So you don't have to be in range of your phone all the time. This is a pretty great feature. According to the Under Armour website it can store 16 hours of information which should be plenty for everyone. When you are in range of your paired phone/device it will automatically transfer the information by bluetooth.

The Armour 39 band records "tick-by-tick" that's my term not theirs but the idea is that they don't deliver averaged data but each beat of your heart is recorded so you are getting the most complete data. I have no idea how this compares to other heart rate monitors to be honest.
This is the summary heart rate screen from my workout.

We were told that the Armour39 has an accelerometer inside. This is a HUGE feature in my opinion. Accelerometers dramatically increase the accuracy of an exercise tracking device because you aren't limited to the intermittant signal matching of a gps connection. So when you speed up ... it just knows. Love it! It's also totally needed in this case because the band doesn't have a gps - users are relying on the gps in the phone and you may not be carrying your phone with you.

Armour39 is designed to be used in a gym setting. You could use it anywhere but that's what they designed it for and in my opinion that's a very good match for how the product was designed.

The software
It pairs with your phone and has it's own app called Armour39. It's easy to install. I installed my while eating breakfast this morning. Just make sure you spell Armour with the extra "u" :-)
I am pretty sure I don't have this part set up correctly since it's empty.

It's very easy to set up. Setting up your profile takes literally 2 minutes. The screen is clear and easy to read. The zones are color coded and the numbers are big and bright. All in all the only thing I would say is that you have to remember to double tap it at the start and stop of each section of your workout. Not a big deal certainly.

UnderArmour has purchased MapMyFitness so it works seamlessly with all those MapMyRun, Ride and other MapMyapps. DC Rainmaker wrote about this acquisition a few months ago here. DC Rainmaker is much more comprehensive in his reviews of GPS technology so if you have questions he's a great source of information.

Personally, I don't use Mapmyrun stuff often but it works really well so this is a good pair.

Data from your workout is stored in the UnderArmour cloud which is fine. But that's the only downside for me actually. I keep all my training results in one place so the only limitation of this software might be that I can't combine the data with my other data. But to be honest if this device catches on I'm sure my data holding program (training peaks) will work out a way to bring in the data. 

Price Point
In my goodie bag my unit had a sticker on it that says 99.99. Because it uses your itouch, iphone unit this is it. So it's a great price point.

In conclusion
Honestly I see products online and all over every day that I just don't understand (wetsuit shorts, triathlonbox, knee compression things, Dooney and Bourke Ironman branded bags). But this is really a well though out, well targeted product. For interval training in a gym or box setting you can easily use this to compliment your workout and add heart rate training to your workouts. Additionally this gives you a calorie and intensity result for your workout. Most people dramatically overestimate the calories burned in a workout so this helps keep you honest.
It was really fun. I mean I was sore for days but I've learned to smile through the pain. I was almost the only one smiling through the workouts.
In fact, what I see as being the perfect match for this is trainers using it to help their clients get the most out of what they are doing in a workout. Clients can either buy their own band or just use the trainers. It's a perfect match in my opinion.

Will I use it?
I'm not sure actually. I was all prepared today to try it once and say ... nope It is an overlap to what I currently use for training which is a triathlon specific gps watch. But I definitely could use it for my strength training sessions. So ... maybe, probably. we'll see. I dunno.

Now if I was a new triathlete or runner many of whom I know start with using runkeeper or other phone based applications I think this is a no brainer upgrade to start training with a low entry price point and growing off the equipment you already have which is a smart phone.

Many many thanks to Under Armour for including me in their Armour39 tour. Not only did I feel like a fitness Cinderella for a morning I really enjoyed trying the product.

Thanks also to the guys at Fasttwich Performance Training. Part three of the review will be about the location that hosted the event which was a pretty great place.

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