Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Running Toy - LifeBEAM Vi

This week I started using 2 new toys. This post will focus on one of them.


This was a Kickstarter project my husband saw last year. He said "hey, honey, that looks like something you should get!" I love how my husband not only tolerates my obsessions of endurance running and endurance horseback riding, he downright encourages (enables??) them!

I've been running with a "necklace" bluetooth headset (the LG Tone Ultra) for about a year now. It's really nice not to have to worry about a cable winding around my body and attached to my phone.

So when my husband saw this bluetooth headset that also boasted HR tracking and a built-in running coach, he thought I'd like it. I wasn't convinced at the time, but after a few weeks of pondering, I put in a pre-order in January. I expected it to arrive just after my marathon in March, so I was hoping it would help kickstart (pun intended) my rear back into running after the marathon. Last year, I took 4 months off from running after the marathon and I didn't want to go that long this time.

After some back and forth with the LifeBEAM support team, during which some of the emails never reached me, I finally got a shipping tracking number and the device arrived this week. I got to run with it for the first time on my Friday evening 5 mile trail run.

There was no paperwork in the box itself. Just the headset, a charging cable (a standard micro USB cable), a soft carrying pouch and a large pod with various sized ear buds and fins to find that perfect fit. The box itself has text that announces the Vi (pronounced Vee) is already charged, tells you where to find the power button and says to go download the app. And that's it.

I downloaded the Vi Fitness app from the Google Play App Store for my Android Moto X Pure phone and started it up. The app advised to pair with the headset. I pushed that button and it popped me over to the standard Android Bluetooth settings. I tapped the item marked "Vi Earphones (35A)" and my phone connected and a voice in the headset cheerfully announced the device was connected. So I returned to the app. Which continued to insist I needed to pair with the Vi. I forced the app to close and then opened it again. Still said I needed to pair. Long story short, it didn't recognize the Vi being connected until I turned my phone completely off, then back on, made sure the Vi and my phone were connected via Bluetooth before opening the app again. Then things were moving a little better.

I couldn't figure out how Vi would get my heart rate, so I had to go to their site and look through their FAQ before discovering that the HR is an optical HR sensor built into the left ear bud. I had only the right earbud in during set up. No wonder it didn't see my HR. I popped the left ear bud in and almost immediately got a HR reading.

I headed to a nearby trail system for a run. I wasn't sure exactly how long I was going to run, so I just chose the "Free Run" option instead of a set distance or time.

Me wearing the Vi headset. I need to remove the tag!

The Vi voice talked to me during my run. You can change how much she talks in the app settings, but I just left it at the most talking. I figure I can also turn her down later if I want. I ran my podcast app which conveniently paused when Vi wanted my attention.

Vi gave me tips throughout the run about running form, running too hard and how to use the headset. Such tips as, hold the +/- buttons to skip forward/back on your music or podcast player. Or tap the right earbud so she'll listen to you.

You can say "Heart Rate" to get a bead on your heart rate. This is what I did often during the run so I could compare it to the optical HR sensor on my newly acquired Forerunner 935. They matched almost perfectly. I hadn't been expecting much, so that was a nice surprise.

Since I've only run with it once so far, I don't know if it'll turn out to be something useful or just a gimmick. I'm interested to see where they go from here.

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