Straight from the heart, Wahoo Fitness Run Pack keeps your iPhone busy and training-smart.
Feb 2, 2011 (Updated Feb 3, 2011)
Review by Abraham Shield
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Easy to setup, comfortable for a chest strap, expandable, compatible with many iPhone fitness applications.
Cons:iPhone Fisika sensor-key easy to disconnect or lose when using without Wahoo running fitness case.
The Bottom Line: A great way to add heartrate monitoring to your iPhone fitness app. Easy to setup, use, and most importantly a comfortable chest strap! Highly recommended for the money...
My first experience with a heart rate monitor was about 9 years ago when I was bike racing. I picked up a state of the art (for the time) $150 Polar monitor with a watchband style readout. I was training 40 miles at a time and racing almost every weekend, naturally I assumed I should use a HR monitor for training. Well.... the Polar was finicky, chest band didn't transmit well at all without slippery conductive gel or lots of sweat, and uncomfortably tight when adjusted so it didn't slip down.
Recommend this product?
Like anything else in life, if it's uncomfortable and annoying to use, it's gonna sit on a counter somewhere. Yep, I used my Polar maybe a dozen times and then in the box of extra cables and spare batteries it went.
Fast forward almost a decade and I have a rather recent addiction to running and multisport challenge events. A little over a year ago I started using the iPhone/iPod Touch based fitness tracker Runkeeper to record my activities. It's a very simple app to use, seems quite accurate compared to the Nike+ system and iMapMyRun app.
Early this year Runkeeper anounced live streaming of heartrate using either the Wahoo HR monitor (iPhone) or Polar Wearlink (Android). Previously you would have to manually enter your average heartrate for every completed activity, not really helpful for training. Now with the live data you can look at your activity track and see elevation, speed, and heartrate on a flow chart with easy to read graphs. Naturally I decided to give HR monitors another shot and see how they had advanced since my ancient Polar.
-- Okay okay, how about the hardware? --
I purchased the Wahoo Run Pack since it included the heartrate chest strap and the Fisika ANT+ Receiver for iPhone. This sensor allows many different Wahoo sensors to be used including: Heartrate strap, blood pressure, stride (pedometer), and cadence and speed (cycling). The run pack is the simplest and cheapest ($130) option for basic HR monitoring.
I purchased directly from Wahoo Fitness and received my package in 4 business days, very reasonable in my opinion. The run pack consists of a soft heartrate sensor strap which is made of a stretchy elastic fabric with integrated sensor strips to pickup electrical impulses, in other words your heartbeat. The transmitter is located in the center of your chest and either end of the fabric strap is connected to the plastic transmitter body by a strong snap like you might see on a pair of ladies jeans. To wear the sensor, simply unsnap one side of strap, slip around your chest below your armpits, pull snug and connect snap back to transmitter body. The strap is easily adjustable to provide a snug but not restrictive fit. It's recommended to wet the transmitter nodes with either a bit of water or conductive gel. Since I hate slimey things and I'm not getting an ultrasound, I always choose water... which works fine and soon enough I'm sweating anyway. ;)
The chip inside the Wahoo transmitter compresses analog heartrate inputs into digital info which is then sent to the ANT+ sensor connected to your iPhone. Unlike many similar Bluetooth designs, the Wahoo transmitter continues to translate data even if it's disconnected from the receiver for a period of time. Once reconnected it "catches up" and no data is lost, nor do you need to re-pair the devices like many Bluetooth accessories.
The Fisika ANT+ sensor is the same size as the Apple charging plug, only without the attached cord. All you need to do is download the free Wahoo application from the Apple App Store, plug the sensor into the docking port on the bottom of your iPhone, and test operation of your heartrate strap. You'll see a live feed of your heartrate on the screen to let you know it's functioning properly.
-- Running yourself ragged, with proof! --
The first couple activities I tried were very different; running and XC skiing. Running is great test due to it's rather violent vertical motion and high impact for a casual sport. My chest is weirdly shaped as every heartrate strap I've tried doesn't want to stay put over my breastbone. They all tend to want to slide down and end up just above my abs after a 30 minute activity, not comfortable! I guessed pretty well on my initial adjustment to the strap length as it was quite snug but not uncomfortable.
I was so impressed with the comfort of this strap system while running and skiing, I was definitely aware it was there but only as a slight pressure and a firm feeling. It did slide down an inch or so but continued to sense fine the rest of the activity in its new position. Runkeeper did a great job at seamlessly integrating the heartrate tracking function into it's mobile app. Once you start an activity you'll see a little heart (looks like a video game health bar) with a number underneath, that's your current BPM rate. Now get out there and get active!
--- Downsides ---
One small beef so far, but it's a pretty minor issue. With the Fisika receiver plugged in to the docking port I can't use my Mophie Juicepack iPhone 4G case to get extra battery life. Most skins and protective cases will fit, for instance the Otterbox Defender is really close to not fitting but since the Wahoo receiver isn't any bigger than Apple's charging plug it works ok.
--- Bottom Line ---
For the price this is great way to get your fitness level recorded and keep you not only motivated but informed. Whether an athlete or everyday folks just trying to get healthy, the safety of knowing their heart rate while going through injury rehab or weight loss training is worth the price!
Just stop by a running store or even Best Buy, there's a TON of heartrate and fitness trackers out now. Nike+, FitBit, Garmin Forerunner, Polar, even Samsung has a tracking system now! While I wouldn't say this is best system out by any means, if you already have an iPhone/iPod Touch this is very affordable way to take advantage of your built in GPS tracking. Grab a Wahoo, strap on a stretchy band, and get outside! The world is waiting to be experienced... and getting fit just might change your life!
*** NOTE: As of this review the Wahoo Fitness Run Kit is only available for the Apple iPhone 3G, 4G, and iPod Touch. It's possible a Droid version is on the way, I'm not sure.
It's also worth noting that Runkeeper is one of over 40 apps which support the Wahoo Run Pack hardware. Whatever fitness software you use, it'll be supported already or very soon. Check the Wahoo compatibility page below:
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Thanks for reading and feel free to comment!
© Openroad 2011
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