I love my gadgets. And I especially love fitness gadgets. So when the opportunity came along to try out the Tractivity activity sensor, I jumped at the chance.
What is Tractivity?
The Tractivity product has two parts. The first is the Tractivity sensor, which tracks your activity and movement throughout the day. The second part is the Tractivity Online website, which collects the data from the Tractivity sensor and shows you how you’re keeping up with your activity goals. I love anything that gives me more reason to fool around on the Internet!
I love getting stuff in the mail. So as soon as a box came in the mail with “Tractivity” splashed over it, I eagerly tore it open and checked out the contents. My first thought was “Jeez, this thing is tiny!”
The entire Tractivity product fits on one small card. That includes the Tractivity Sensor, the sensor lace clip, the sensor ankle band, and the USB sync dongle. How awesome is that? No crazy amount of overpackaging — just the basics. And I can fully recycle the card that it came on. It’s the little things that make me happy.
There’s a quick start guide included; and let me assure you, it’s definitely quick. I placed the battery in the Tractivity sensor, plugged in the USB stick, installed the Tractivity Connect software, and walked through the steps of creating my Tractivity Online account.
And like that, I was up and running. Well, technically, not running, as I was sitting in my office chair at the time. But that’s the next part of the story.
So I grabbed my trusty pair of running shoes, used the lace holder to clip the sensor onto the tongue of my shoe, and set out my running clothes for the next day, when I would arise bright-eyed and bushy-tailed early in the morning and go for my morning run.
At precisely 6:15 am the next morning, I got out of bed. Not exactly bright-eyed. Not exactly bushy-tailed. But early? Nailed that one.
To be honest, it was so early that I initially forgot that I had the Tractivity sensor on my shoe. But as I mounted the treadmill and bumped the speed up to something I could manage in my bleary-eyed state, I caught sight of the little purple sensor out of the corner of my eye. I realized that this little purple companion was now watching every step I make.
Just as guys suck in their stomach when a good-looking girl comes around the corner (oh, don’t lie, men, you know you do it), I picked up my pace on the treadmill and bumped the speed up by another 0.5 mph. Oh yeah — hardcore. I know. But I was going to impress the hell out of this little purple gadget even if it killed me.
Halfway through the run, I bumped the incline up to 10%, gave the Tractivity sensor a knowing wink and nod, and continued pounding away. Two minutes later, I dropped the incline back down to 3%, looked down at the sensor, and gasped, “Interval…hill…training. Trust…me.” The sensor said nothing. I think it was just being polite.
I figured a 35 minute run was enough time to impress my new purple friend, so I walked upstairs to my computer, fired up the Tractivity app, and wirelessly synced my sensor’s data to my online account. And there on the screen was a fantastic little graph, showing the distance I’d run that morning, the total number of steps, the total time I’d been active, and the calories I’d burned:
HOW COOL IS THAT? I’m a huge proponent of tracking things related to personal health and wellness, but it’s super-awesome to have it done for you, automatically, in the background. All you need to do is sync your device from time to time, and POOF, your info is there to guilt you into moving more.
The Lace Clip vs. the Ankle Band
Believe it or not, I do have a 9-5 job where I need to show up once in a while. I don’t just sit around this site all day making cheap jokes and reviewing awesome products. So I had a bit of a conundrum when it came to putting the Tractivity sensor on my dress shoes. As nice as the purple is, it just looks a little out-of-place on a set of shiny black dress shoes.
An ankle band is included in the package, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to wear it all day. I can’t bear to wear a watch on my wrist all day, so I was doubtful that I could stand to have a bracelet hanging from my ankle all day. However, I tucked the Tractivity sensor into the little pocket on the ankle band, wrapped it around my ankle, and headed off to work.
Holy carp, peeps. This ankle band is INCREDIBLY comfortable. In fact, it was so comfortable, I totally forgot that I was wearing it until late that night when I was taking my socks off for bed. The band has a simple Velcro closure, and no matter what I’ve put it through — running, walking, or construction projects — it hasn’t come undone once.
I find the band equally comfortable on bare skin as I do when it’s wrapped around socks; it never gets hot or uncomfortable. As an added bonus, it’s black, so that when I’m wearing it around the office, it blends in nicely with my black dress socks. Otherwise I might have people wondering if I’m under house arrest or something.
Motivation is a big thing for me. That’s why I was glad to see that Tractivity grants you “awards” based on milestones that you’ve achieved. You’ll get your first award at the 10km and 10,000 step mark, and every 10km or 10,000 steps after that. It’s a small thing, but for me it’s a big thing.
Sometimes I get a little frustrated on days where I don’t get out from behind my desk much. However, the milestone awards remind me that little efforts all add up, and that it’s the big-picture approach to wellness that is important. Plus it motivates me to get off my butt and move some more.
The Social Aspect
Tractivity has a great little challenge system built right in to the website. Each challenge is based on a well-known route around the world, ranging from a quick 5.3km jaunt around Toronto Island Park, to a 804.7-mile challenge representing the laps in the Indy 500, all the way to the Great Wall of China walk, which totals 21,196km of walking.
You can take the challenges solo, make a challenge a friendly race among friends, or even work collectively as a group and combine your distances to achieve a common goal. I think this was a great bit of planning on the part of the Tractivity folks. Some of us love to work out by ourselves, and others need the motivation and support of a group to keep them moving. Great job on that, guys.
If you just can’t get enough Tractivity in your life, then you should take a look at the Tractivity store. Here you can buy extra sensors, as you can have multiple sensors on all of your footwear and link separate sensors to the same Tractivity account. Apparently even if you forget and wear two sensors at the same time, the Tractivity Connect software recognizes this and takes the best minute-by-minute data from all of the sensors and combines them into one set of data. Neat.
Another great little offering is the set of Tractivity insoles. Not only are they great performance insoles, but they have a special recess on the bottom that can hold your Tractivity sensor nice and snug. So there’s no chance of losing your sensor, or forgetting to put it on your shoe — it’s always there. I haven’t tried out the insoles myself, but I hear they are damn comfortable.
The Bottom Line
Here’s why I love the Tractivity: it’s dead simple. You wear it and forget about it. It does one thing, and it does it well. There are other products out there that do a lot more, such as the Fitbit and the Nike+ FuelBand, but they’re a lot more complicated — and a lot more expensive. The Tractivity simply tracks my activity, charts it for me, and allows me to work on my goals solo, or in a group.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a little purple friend who’s been insisting that I get back on the treadmill.