Apple Watch and NordicTrack with iFit

The Treadmill

We recently upgraded our treadmill to a NordicTrack Commercial 1750.

I bought a year of iFit not knowing what to expect. iFit is a subscription service ($99/year) that tracks your workouts, provides workouts and includes video and Google StreetMaps workouts. The iPad app looks terrible (it’s still designed for iOS 6) and has low ratings, but the NordicTrack includes a nice 7″ screen for web browsing, FaceBook, watching Fox News (ok, no thanks, but it is a feature) or letting you see what it is like to workout around the world.

iFit comes with a number of workouts, such as around lakes or popular cites. I have not used them much yet, but StreetView is what you would expect. It updates the image as you walk around the map. You can even make your own maps, and if StreetView data is available, you can use that. I can’t wait to be that guy who virtually walks around his own neighborhood instead of going outside to get fresh air. Ok I’ll do it just once.

The reasons we settled on this treadmill are:

  • Quiet – It’s not silent, but this treadmill is much quieter than our very old Proform
  • Heart rate strap – Having gone through some scares, I wanted this to go along with my Apple Watch (more on this later)
  • Cost – At $1500, this treadmill was not the most expensive, but had the features we wanted at a fair price

Getting My Max Heart Rate

I recently had a stress test and the Apple Watch was very accurate compared to the EKG. It was sometimes 12 bpm behind, but caught up quickly. I was pleasantly surprised to also see how close to the iFit chest strap the Apple Watch was. Anecdotally, the Apple Watch was +-4 bpm to the iFit, and usually +-2.

I am tracking all of my workouts with the Apple Watch, as I like the fact that the phone will keep a record of all of my health data (Be sure to restore from an encrypted iTunes backup to restore your health data!) However, the iFit has one advantage over the Apple Watch at the moment. I can specify a heart rate workout, set the max heart rate, and choose if I want to optimize for performance or endurance. iFit will work with the NordicTrack to keep my heart rate at an optimal level.

Before you can do this, iFit wants to know your max heart rate. I think this is really my max comfortable heart rate, as the calibration let me choose the speed. iFit ran me through a 10 minute program with a several minute warmup. iFit increased the incline to 2% and then to 10%. 10% was very comfortable and did a good job increasing my heart rate. I settled on 3mph, which was very comfortable in my Brooks walking shoes.

Now that I have my max heart rate, I can apply it to various workouts. I am looking forward to collecting this data to see how my fitness improves.

Apple Watch Advantages

This may seem like a silly excuse to own an Apple Watch, but Apple Watch is fitness through convenience. I have to charge it every night, but I bought a nice stand and the time from wrist to stand is about 5 seconds. The iFit strap is good, but to use it I must:

  • Resize the strap if Elizabeth has used it last
  • Wet the pickup strips with either contact solution or saliva (yecc)
  • Strap it on
  • Clean it after each use

I already strap on and clean my watch after each use, so this is double the effort. This is minimal effort, but when trying to form habits (especially before work) every little thing counts.

I think as the Apple Watch improves in sensors, size, battery life, and most importantly, performance, we may see more manufacturers like iFit working with Apple to support the watch as an input device.

However, if the quality and age of the iFit iPad app is any indication, I may have a bit of a wait ahead of me.