In support of my training and getting selected for the ITF European Championships I was very kindly given a Microsoft band (for full honest disclosure I do work for Microsoft which is how I managed to get sponsored by the team, but this post is all my personal opinion). I’ve used an UP Jawbone band in the past so was very excited to start using this. I tried on the small and the medium but went with the medium. While it does stick out on my wrist a bit, it felt better to have it securely done up and able to move it further up my wrist when I wanted to put a pair of boxing gloves on for some padwork.
Firstly I did the normal girly thing of personalising the band and putting the tiles I wanted on the screens. Maybe not surprising the workout, run and sleep tiles are my first three, oh and they are all pink! Then I used one of my favourite images of a roaring lioness as the background:
That all sorted I just got stuck into using it in my training sessions. As Taekwondo is a contact sport, I unfortunately can’t wear the band for any of my sessions. However it’s given me a great insight into all my fitness training sessions and I’ve added some screen shots below so you can see the info you get.
Let’s start with the gym classes I go to. I love the Les Mills GRIT classes they run at my gym, Nuffield Health and try to go to 2-3 per week. These classes are all 30 minutes of intense exercise, with one focusing on strength, one on plyometrics and the other on cardio. All the classes are hard, especially as our amazing instructors Tom and Marty make sure your pushing yourself every second! I would probably say the cardio class is the hardest. When comparing the bands results for the sessions it’s not suprising I’m mostly working in the hard 155-173 heart rate range for all of them, with GRIT cardio being the highest. Having the band has given me that extra motivation to work as hard as I can each class, as I know if I don’t the results will confirm it afterwards. Which is all a good benefit for my Taekwondo, as you sure need strength, cardio and explosive power for that.
I also spend a lot of time practising my Taekwondo patterns, which are set movements starting and finishing at the same point – a bit like a dance of sorts. Now this sounds easy right?! Well they are knackering when you try to put full power in and do them all one after another (as I’ve got 12 to do and remember) and the band proved this:
I also like to go for the odd run and race, to keep my cardio up and to get out into the countryside. This is where the run app comes in as you can track your runs on the built in GPS. I recently ran the Ropley 10k as a bit of cross training fun and it’s a tough hilly course, which I managed to get a personal best of 43mins 17 seconds round. Looking at the band data confirmed how hard I was working and with all those hills it’s not suprising my pace was all over the place (note this is the band view but I’ve edited it using an Instagram app):
The insights get even better on the Microsoft Health dashboard, where you can see the overall observations. I’ve only had the band for just over a month and the first two weeks I had it out at the European Championships so I couldn’t track much. However now I’m back in training it’s really interesting to see the insights into my fitness training hours and how I’m working harder every week:
Along with which sessions cause the biggest peak in my heart rate:
And an analysis of my current fitness level:
Alongside the training, the other really important thing to ensure I’m getting enough of is sleep. So that my muscles can recover to keep up with my tough training regime. I wish I could get a few extra hours in each day to fit in more sleep, but with training sessions before and after work each day and often up early on a Sunday for squad training, a lie in only tends to happen once a week, if I’m lucky!
What I love about the sleep app is that it tells you your restful and light sleep. So even if I don’t get that many hours sleep in, if the majority have been restful sleep, I know it’s still ok to hit training hard the next day. Here is what a sleep report looks like on the phone app. This was a night where I was either well and truly knackered or just efficient at sorting my kit bag and food for the next day, as it’s not often I’m in bed close to 10pm:
Again that’s where the dashboard observations are so insightful as you can see the overall comparisons. Interestingly when I do have a lie in, my restful sleep often isn’t more than when I’ve only had 6-8 hours sleep. So it’s maybe just the lazy part of me that likes lying in bed for a bit longer every now and then:
I normally train till 9pm each night doing Taekwondo and by the time I get home, prep my food and kitbag for the next day, I know I get to bed later than I should. But this really confirmed that (the 3am and 5am anomalies are the European Championships after party and arriving back in the UK from the Euros on a very early flight – as I don’t have time for regular nights out on my schedule!) So it’s been a reminder to try and prep more of my meals on a Sunday evening so that I don’t get to bed too late each night and end up worn out for training by the end of the week. But then it is also why I plan my tougher training sessions for earlier in the week.
For the design, while the ergonomics of the band could be slightly better, for the amount of technology and functionality it has, it’s amazing it’s only a bit chunky. I also soon got used to the feel of the band on my wrist and now hardly take it off. I find it most comfortable to wear with the face on the inside of my wrist, but know people that prefer having the face on the outside. The battery is also really good as it does a quick charge in 30mins, so each time I have a shower I just leave the band plugged in charging (as it’s not waterproof) and then it’s all good to last me the rest of the day.
Getting call, message, calendar and Facebook notifications on the band is also really helpful as instead of having to check your phone every time it goes off, or if you’re like me ignore it and then miss something important! The little buzz on your wrist you can quickly glance at and then know how important it is.
I haven’t got round to trying the guided workouts yet and looking forward to having a go with those, to mix up my training sessions at bit and give me some new ideas.
Overall I would highly recommend the band and I’m looking forward to continuing to use it in my prep for the Taekwondo World Championships. If you’re interested you can find out more about the Microsoft band here: http://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-band/en-gb.