Activity Tracking with the Garmin Fenix 3 HR

Image Source: Youstatement

So Chinese New Year is officially over and with it goes the feeding frenzy. It’s time to claw my way back to some semblance of fitness with the new bling on my wrist from DH who heartily encourages my obsession with stats.

The Good

Yes. We’ve traded the Apple Watch for the Garmin Fenix 3 HR which has some advantages, namely:

  • Longer battery life – based on my usage, about a week – give or take – before it needs to go back on the charger.
  • Sleep tracking – which I can actually do now that I don’t need to take it off to charge everyday. Although I have some doubts about accuracy, but more about that later on.
  • It is waterproof so I can track my swimming as well – big plus! If you really want an activity tracker, how can you leave watersports out?
  • Better hiking stats – something goes awry with the Apple Watch whenever I hike and the stats are impossibly way off.
  • It doesn’t get smelly like the Apple Watch – don’t ask me why the difference but the Apple Watch would start smelling funky by the end of a day’s wear. This doesn’t happen with the Fenix.

New bling

The Bad

What’s not so good:

  • It makes my wrist itch – perhaps because I wear it all the time now and I have a natural skin sensitivity to certain jewellery. I get past this problem by switching the watch from left to right wrist and back again before my skin gets irritated.
  • It’s way bigger than the Apple Watch which means my chances of bumping it on something increases ten fold. Yeah, I’m clumsy like that. You can probably already see the scratches on the face in the picture above.
  • I mentioned the problems with sleep tracking above. A couple of times, the sleep tracker has me going to sleep at 8 or 9 pm. I never sleep earlier than 10 pm unless I’m sick. Perhaps because I was so comfortable in front of the idiot box that my vitals dipped to sleeping range?
  • The range of activities is severely limited. I supposed because it’s a serious watch for very active people. Nevertheless, it would be nice if I could record all kinds of activity, including pilates and regular walks (not hikes) but there is no facility for that unless you manually include it.
  • I confess I miss those lovely activity rings on Apple Watch that allow you to check at a glance how many targets you managed to hit in a month. There is something encouraging about it that prompts you to keep moving to make sure you hit all targets.

Fenix 3 versus Apple Watch Tracking

Given the gross discrepancies in tracking between the Polar Beat versus the Apple Watch, I figured I should do a couple of side-by-side comparisons of the Fenix 3 against the Apple Watch. The following images show the stats for our Valentine’s Day Hike (Left – Apple; Right – Fenix):

Hiking stats Hiking stats

Everything is out. The Fenix 3 tracks higher on every measure – active calories, distance covered, and elevation gain. Even the pace is faster. About the only thing that was fairly similar was my heart rate. The Fenix 3 recorded an average of 130bpm.

Next up, I compared a regular day’s worth of movement without a workout from wake up to dinner time (Left – Apple; Right – Fenix):

Activity trackers Activity trackers

This time, we have the Apple Watch tracking higher on calories burnt and steps taken.

Finally, I tried to compare an indoor walk but the Apple Watch ran out of batteries before I was done. Based on what I did see while I was working out, the Apple Watch was tracking higher than the Fenix 3 in both steps taken and calories burnt. In other words, the Fenix 3 is a tougher personal trainer. Aside from the hiking activity, the Fenix 3 forces me to work harder to hit my minimum daily targets – which is not really a bad thing. The next thing is to check if this holds true for other activities, like running and biking.

Tales from a Flycycle Neophyte

Ever a glutton for punishment, I went back for my second dose of pain at Flycycle. I even got a poser picture for the memories because I am never ever coming back…

Tales from a #Flycycle neophyte - we came, we rode, we posed. #poser #spinning #cardiofitness #workout

…except, of course, that I will. Didn’t I just say I’m a glutton for punishment?

I was all prepared to take another beating and crawl home with my tail between my legs – but… it was okay. I don’t know if our instructor just decided to go easy on us; whether the routine suited me better than the previous one; whether the extra breakfast I had gave me the added boost; or whether it was just in inexplicably good day for me. The funny thing is that even though I felt better than I did last week, my Polar Beat heart rate stats state otherwise. There were a number of times when I exceeded the recommended maximum heart rate for my age (oops, did I just give my age away? Shhhh).

Flycycle beginners workout

Even when I compared the same stats – Apple Watch vs Apple Watch – I was still tracking higher this week compared to last week:

  • Average heart rate – 158 vs 143
  • Maximum heart rate – 185 vs 179

Flycycle round 2

Last week, I didn’t even cross over into the red line and I felt like I was dying. This week, I hit the red zone and I didn’t feel it. Well, okay, I lie. I did feel it but not as badly as last week. I actually felt like I was keeping up with the class for the bulk of it. So what’s going on and why should I be concerned?

Up until the Mamil gave me a heart rate monitor, I’d never really bothered with stats. I would push myself when I exercise, but rarely to the point of nausea. I listened to my body and I stopped when things are starting to feel bad. I never really considered the whole maximum heart rate issue because I was sensible – or so I thought. It was until I realised how easy it is to exceed my maximum heart rate without realising it.

So what’s the deal with maximum heart rate and why should we be concerned about exercising in the right target zone? According to Live Strong:

Exceeding 85% of your maximum heart rate is hazardous to your health because it can precipitate a heart attack. A 2002 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that exceeding the 85 percent recommendation leads to poor heart-rate recovery (it takes longer for heart rate to return to normal) which is a measure of cardiovascular fitness. The study also revealed increased incidence of non-sustained ventricular tachycardia and ST-segment depression among people exceeding the 85 percent recommendation, both of which are indicators of increased risk for cardiac mortality.

Even if you don’t have coronary artery disease or risk factors for a heart attack, it is still not a good idea to exceed 85% of your maximum heart rate because you are more likely to suffer sore joints and muscles and it raises your risk for a musculo-skeletal injury. It also puts you at risk for over-training which weakens the systems in your body get instead of making them stronger. In turn, that leads to increased fatigue and decreased performance. Over-training also makes you more prone to injury and illness.

Although there is some challenge to the maximum heart rate, I’m afraid my Mamil’s kiasi-ism has infected me. I am well aware that age is no longer on my side and some caution is warranted. Since I am looking for health and fitness rather than sports performance, there is little sense in killing myself to match the class pace and intensity.

Will I don my cleated shoes again after this? Perhaps, I will.

Flycycle at the Verve

There’s a new fitness gym at the Verve called Flycycle. It’s basically a studio devoted to spin classes with a spin (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun). Anyway, here’s what they have to say about their classes:

“…we take indoor-spinning to the next level by combining dynamic 45 minute full-body workouts, neon lighting and the latest beats. Our adrenaline-charged high intensity sessions are specially designed to strengthen your body, tone your core and burn calories.”

Ordinarily, this is the sort of gym I stay far away from. I’ll be honest – I’ve never liked spin classes and the only association I have with bikes are leisurely rides through a picturesque countryside. My Mamil husband has been trying to convince me to get on a bike for the longest time and I have resisted thus far.

Then a friend asked me to join her. Keep her company – she said. Stupidly, I did.

Signing Up for Flycycle

I must be getting old because I managed to bungle up the sign-up process which was clearly too tech-savvy for the likes of me. For newbies, this is the order that things must be done in:

  1. Sign up to create an account
  2. Purchase miles – in other words, buy a pass for your class. 1 mile = 1 class.
  3. Book a bike – reserve your slot for your desired class at your preferred date and time.

You cannot book a bike until you purchase miles. You cannot rock up on the day to attend a class without booking a bike first – although you could do it on a smartphone if there are still empty spots available.

Newbie Package

If this is your first time ever, you can purchase the “first fliers” package which gives you two classes for the price of one.

Newbie Welcome

First timers are encouraged to attend class 15 minutes earlier so the studio manager can help you get acquainted with the way things work. They’ll show you how to adjust your bike, where to get your towels and weights, and how to clip in and clip out of your pedals because you’ll be riding with cleated cycling shoes.

If you don’t know what cleated cycling shoes are, they are just special biking shoes that have these clips under the ball of your foot that clips onto the bike pedals so your foot doesn’t slip off while you’re pedaling. The Mamil has them but that doesn’t mean I know anything about getting them on or off the bike. Plus it’s so dark in there, I don’t even know what I’m doing half the time.

Perhaps it was my air of confidence or maybe I was supposed to flag down the studio manager personally but I didn’t get the welcoming memo. Thankfully, I was next to a lovely lady who showed me all those little things.

  • Bike Seat – needs to be hip height.
  • Distance from Bike Seat to Handlebars – should be the length of your forearm from elbow to fingertips.
  • Handlebar Height – needs to be slightly higher than your bike seat.
  • Clipping in – align the ball of your foot onto the pedal and push down and forward until you feel it “click” in.
  • Clipping out – twist your heel to the side until it comes lose.

Paying to Get Tortured

It was only a beginners class and I thought I was dying! I mean, I can’t believe people pay to have this done to them. Oh wait, I did that.

I left the Polar Beat at home so these were the stats I managed to record with the Apple Watch:


I must confess that this is probably not even an accurate depiction of the workout because I cheated. Instead of increasing the resistance by full turns like I was supposed to, I did three quarter half alright! quarter turns. If we had been a group of bikers on the road, I would have been left in the dust a long time ago. Our instructor would tell us to pick up the tempo, but my legs just would not go faster. I couldn’t even match pace at my reduced resistance! And that threw me out because I couldn’t follow the rhythm – if everyone counted 4, I probably did 3 actually make that 2.

They say that you can dissociate your head from your body and imagine that the pain your body endures is not really happening to you. I tried that. It didn’t work. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. The only light at the end of the tunnel was that the class runs for 45 minutes. Not that it stopped me looking at my watch every two minutes to count down the minutes to the end of class. And now I have one more “mile” to go before I can officially hang up my cleated shoes.